Taking the First Step to Start a Business

January 25, 2019 Tampa Business Management 0 Comments

Business.com
Taking the First Step to Start a Business

I've always wanted to start a company. I had many ideas and wrote most down. For some, I even drew up business plans and purchased URLs. Papa, however, was the one that really clicked.

At the time, my grandfather, whom we called Papa, needed assistance. He wasn't as independent as he had always been, and I knew he could use someone who could help him. A college student – someone my Papa could chat with, but whose presence wouldn't be an everyday reminder of his age – seemed like the perfect fit. I posted something on my personal Facebook page to find our first student.

Our first Papa experience was with a pre-med student who initially spent just a few hours with my Papa. My grandfather really enjoyed it. The student (a future doctor) loved it just as much as he did. She gained relevant experience and earned some extra money while my grandfather was able to share skills and get some assistance to feel real independence.

Then I looked closer at the data. The one that always sticks with me: 10,000 people turn 65 every day. There is a huge shortage of home care providers. People are living longer than ever. After witnessing the concept in real life and understanding the bigger opportunity, it became obvious Papa was something I needed to make a reality. Here's how I did it.

Taking the first step

People have great ideas every day, but the key is acting on it. None of my other ideas got past my notepad. But Papa felt different, and I got to work right away. It just made sense, and it helped solve an issue I experienced firsthand.

The first thing we did was create a crappy mobile app. Looking back, building the app right away was a mistake. We didn't understand our customers' needs. We needed to learn more about them before we could build the perfect product.

We did, however, get one person to use the app. It was my good friend's grandmother. This was our first real customer, and I was going to ensure the experience was amazing every time. On more than one occasion, I visited her myself, because I couldn't find a student who was available. Looking back, I realized how critical these moments were, and still are, for Papa.

We quickly learned what our customers needed. How the technology should adapt to support them. How the service should be provided. The amount of learning you gain from these early days is incredible. With this early knowledge, we were able to build a great solution around our members' needs.

Being scrappy

One of the most important lessons I've learned so far is the importance of being scrappy. I only had three members who used the service once a week, every week. I wasn't sure this would work on a large scale, but I knew one thing – our three members absolutely loved it. This gave me enough confidence to quit my full-time job and focus on Papa full time. 

Shortly thereafter, I met my co-founder Alfredo, who today serves as our company's chief operating officer. Together, we were determined to get Papa off the ground. We updated the website, grew our network of students and started to market the service.

Learning your value proposition

After officially launching last January, we are off to a great start. In the past year, Papa has grown to support older adults throughout Florida. We have proven this is a necessary solution for the community. We are now partnering with Medicare Advantage.

Through this process, we learned our true value proposition, which is to reduce loneliness and social isolation. We are excited to expand to other markets and continue to learn from our customers and partners. I'm excited about the future of Papa to support older adults and their families throughout the aging journey.

Buying vs. Leasing a Time Clock

Starting a business can be a large feat that comes with small decision making. Some of the fine details, like keeping proper track of how many hours each employee works, may seem like an insignificant part of the big picture. However, choosing a time and attendance system that makes time tracking a smooth process can be a big decision. 

When it comes to your time and attendance solution, one key question you need ask yourself is whether you want to buy or lease your time clocks. There are pros and cons to each option. Knowing what those are can help you make the best decision for your business.  

Type and quality of time clocks

Before deciding whether to buy or lease a time clock, it is important to know which type of time clocks are available to you. Along with type, you will need to assess what quality time clock your business needs. 

Time clocks range from economy class, to mid-range, to high-end. Economy time clocks provide the most basic level of functionality and are optimal for temporary usage. Mid-range combine the lower cost of the economy models with the more advanced functionality of the high-end ones. These are generally easy to use and offer many features, such as automatic identification and internet compatibility. High-end are the most expensive and will include the most advanced functionality. These have features such as kiosk displays and touch screen options. 

Editor's note: Looking for a time and attendance system for your business? Fill out the questionnaire below to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

 
Buying options

One option to consider when acquiring a time clock is to buy it outright. This is the ideal option for some, but not everyone. Consider the cost, pros and cons associated with buying a time clock. 

Cost

The type and quality of time clock you purchase will factor into the price. Life span and malfunction rates are important considerations when estimating the total cost of purchase, not just how much you will be spending up front. 

"Buying a time clock is no different than any other purchase – you get what you pay for," Ryan McColgan, vice president of sales and marketing for Accu-Time Systems, Inc., told Business.com. "It might be tempting to spend less money on a time clock in the $200 to $300 range, but those devices will often end up running you well over $1,000 due to higher failure rates and short life spans … a well designed and built time clock will live up to a decade." 

Ed Squires, CEO of Acumen Data Systems, said when considering costs, businesses must factor in all the add-on equipment that is needed. 

"Pricing includes a time clock, wall mount and power pack," Squires said. "Options for auxiliary ports, power over ethernet, UPS batteries and industrial enclosures could add to the pricing where applicable." 

According to Squire, purchasing prices range from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the quality. For example: 

Economy Class – $150 to $895 Mid-Range – $995 to $1,795 High-End – $1,795 to $2,795 

When choosing which quality is right for you, be sure to assess your needs. If your business only requires the simple use of a punch in / punch out time clock, it might be best to purchase an economy class. On the other hand, if your business requires a high-functioning, high-security level time clock, expect to spend the money on a high-end one. 

Pros

Buying a time clock will likely cost you more money up front than leasing, but it does have its benefits. 

"The main advantage of buying a time clock is that the company will not have to sustain any costs other than the retail cost of the system and regular maintenance," said Jacob Seiter, financial expert and CEO of My Best Wallets

Owning a time clock gives you 100 percent autonomy over that device for the extent of its life cycle, and it means no monthly rental payments to worry about. 

Cons

The biggest downfall of buying a time clock is the initial cost. If you do not have the cash up front to buy a time clock, this might not be the right choice for you. It is also important to consider the amount of money and energy you might spend on maintenance, as this is solely your responsibility. 

Additionally, if the technology becomes outdated or your business needs change, you will be left searching for a new time clock.  

When you should buy

If you have the money available up front, it is best to buy a time clock. If you only need one single economy clock, it wouldn't be worth the headache of remembering the monthly lease payments. 

If you need to purchase a high-end time clock, it is best to buy from a company that is known for excellent customer service to ensure that your maintenance repairs are as seamless as possible. The amount you will save in monthly lease fees should be more than enough to cover maintenance costs. 

If you know exactly which model you will need and don't intend on scaling, it is best to buy a time clock, as it will eventually pay for itself. 

Leasing options

The other option is to lease your time clocks. This is a better option for some, but not everyone. Consider the cost, pros and cons associated with leasing a time clock. 

Cost

A major difference between buying and leasing a time clock is the cost. Leasing a time clock comes with a perpetual monthly payment, as opposed to a one-time purchase. 

"Each vendor will have a different pricing structure for additional services, like support and hosting fees, in addition to the monthly fee for the time clock," McColgan said. 

The cost of leasing a time clock will vary by type, quality and provider. According to Squire, there are several ways a time clock lease can be structured. The leasing can be broken into hardware as a service (HaaS) or typical leasing structure. 

Squire said HaaS, like cloud-hosted software as a service (SaaS), allows for a low barrier to entry into the market. 

"It is a little different than [typical] leasing as it is a perpetual rent of the time clock at a fee that basically warrants the time clock for life," Squire said. "If you have a failed clock through normal wear and tear, the clock is replaced free of charge." 

Estimated costs associated with leasing and HaaS, according to Squire, are: 

Economy Class

Lease: If a single clock is leased it most likely will not qualify for leasing. HaaS: $15 to $35 per month

Mid-Range

Lease: $1.00 buyout; 36 months: $35 to $60 HaaS: $45 to $75 per month

High-End

Lease: $1.00 buyout; 36 months: $60 to $95 HaaS: $70 to $110 per month 

Lease terms can be extended based upon quantity and total price. 

Pros

Leasing a time clock is like leasing a car. It allows you the flexibility to choose something now, without consequences for wanting to change it later. This is especially beneficial if you foresee your business needs changing vastly over a short period of time. 

"By leasing a time clock, the company will have to pay a monthly fee; however, most businesses leasing time clocks include maintenance and repairs in the contract," Seiter said. "It is also easier to change the system once it's outdated." 

This means less stress when something goes wrong with your device. The flexibility and peace of mind alone may be enough for you to choose to lease.     

Cons

Leasing a time clock may have a smaller price tag upfront, but it will cost you much more in the end. You are essentially paying a larger fee for the added convenience, new technology and routine maintenance. 

If you are looking to acquire a large number of time clocks at once, leasing can result in unmanageable monthly fees. Leasing structures can often be more confusing than purchasing structures, which makes it hard for direct comparison for the exact time clock you might be considering. 

When you should lease

If you aren't sure what type of time clock will be most beneficial for your company, or you think your needs will change over a short period of time, it is best to lease. This will give you the option to switch time clocks after your lease is over. 

If you don't have enough money to outright buy the time clock you want, leasing gives you the option to acquire it without compromising.

Whether you are a first-time consumer, or you are looking to replace your current time clock, explore all your options. Your company size, industry type, documentation needs and security level will all factor into what type and quality time clock you need, as well as whether you should buy or lease it.

5 Ways Data Science Will Reshape the Workplace

"Data scientist" is among the most in-demand and highly paid jobs available right now, which tells you a little about how many industries are prioritizing data science. That’s because it can mean the difference between stagnating and skyrocketing if you know how to wield it.

Companies seek out data scientists to help bring greater insight to their efforts across departments. They can provide everything from broad market predictions to granular audience behavior analysis, and arm research and development, sales, marketing, and customer service teams with the information they need to be more efficient, effective and fulfilled at their jobs.

While many organizations understand that data and insights are important to them, many are still hesitant of or unsure how to start and how, specifically, it will affect their day-to-day operations. Here are some ways data science will reshape the workplace in the coming years.

1. Data Science Specialization

“Data science” has become a broad-sweeping term for anything related to the collection and analysis of data. Not all data science and data scientist roles are the same, however, as there are dozens of applications across industries, companies and departments. Some data scientists are tasked with examining patterns and identifying problems in an organization; others might be tasked with figuring out why those problems are happening. Others focus on innovation, determining what the company’s consumer base wants and needs and making recommendations to C-suites and product development teams.

As such, many people could call themselves data scientists simply because their job, like most jobs, incorporates data. Today, however, we’re putting finer points on data science and determining how to use it. Look for increased specialization in the field of data science and more ripple effects throughout organizations as a result.

2. Shifting Company Structures

Data scientists have proven invaluable in recent years in not only identifying strengths and weaknesses in a company’s offering, but also in identifying those things internally. This insight has led to changes in how companies get structured, both according to those findings and in order to support the process of data gathering and analysis itself. This means establishing new departments, bringing in new equipment and training, and creating new processes that both support and implement data science.

3. Who Gets Hired

For companies to leverage data science, they need, obviously, data scientists. As noted above, data scientists are highly sought after and well compensated, so there is a growing influx of talent moving into that field. HR departments will need a solid understanding of the data science field to determine the most qualified candidates for every specialty.

Data science can also inform hiring practices in other areas by determining specific company and department needs, and analyzing how well applicants suit those needs. It won’t replace in-person interviews, but it will help narrow the field and find the best people.

4. A Different Review Process

Not only will data scientists change who companies hire, but they'll also change the way we understand our workforce through a new perception of data analytics. New measurements for employee data can determine how work hours are spent and help teams develop new operational efficiencies. A data-centric review approach can help quantify productivity, identify areas for advancement and improvement and streamline annual reviews and raises. This could lead to new hierarchies, new processes, reduced meeting times, increased promotional opportunities, decreased attrition and an overall change in the approach to work scheduling and performance evaluations.

5. Tech-Forward Workplaces

Data science doesn’t occur in analog, so companies are beginning to structure their companies and workspaces to keep technology at the forefront and ensure the insight derived from their data scientists is appropriately utilized. This could mean project management and CRM systems that automatically populate with information from the data science teams, workflows designed around data science, and an investment in new tools and training to optimize those efforts.  Data scientists at data focused companies will have this built in, but those companies in other industries that are just beginning to embrace data, will also have to embrace the tools and structures needed to make them work for you.

Data scientists create a path for forward thinking by analyzing past patterns and current trends. They find ways to make things work better, and more efficiently. They make the lives of their colleagues easier and drive measurable success for companies, whether those companies are data/tech-focused or not.

The startup world, in particular, has embraced data science. Companies are finding new ways to manage data in order to change industries, introduce new products and revolutionize tradition. Emerging technologies have almost created a divide, and to survive, organizations of all ages, sizes, and industries will have to evolve in a way that incorporates this change.

Considering Launching a Retail Website? Before Diving In, Follow This Advice

While e-commerce platforms come in various shapes and sizes, they all have one thing in common – they allow entrepreneurs to sell their goods directly to consumers without the need for a physical retail location.

The truth of the matter, though, is that the online stores I have seen that have succeeded have done so because they followed one of the two following principles:

1. The website sells a single product or a very limited number of different products, but the site is recognized as a leader (or seller) for that specific product.

2. The website is an online storefront for existing brick-and-mortar locations.

When you're creating an online store, the actual store and inventory only reflect a small aspect of the important considerations and decisions you will reach about your online store.

It's important you treat your online store the same way you treat any new business. This includes addressing the following questions:

What is your business plan? What product(s) will you sell? Why would someone buy from your store versus Amazon or other online stores? Can you compete on price? Can you compete on logistics? Can you compete on customization level? What is your marketing plan? How will you make your first sale?

Do you plan on doing a launch event or a soft launch to gauge what works and what doesn't as you go? Note: Each method has its own advantages. A traditional launch helps you ascertain quickly if your store/product is ready for market. The drawback is that if it fails, it can cost you a pretty penny, potentially limiting your ability to use funds for inventory or operations.

Soft launches can help you tweak your offering, but they can also make it difficult to determine whether you have an ideal solution/product or not. Compared to the typical promoted launch, a soft launch is a less risky and less-rewarding approach.

After you launch your online store, always think of ways of how you can improve it. Don't be afraid to look at what other stores are doing (and this could be in different industries altogether). Consumers expect perfection. If something goes wrong during checkout or if they receive an erroneous order, they likely will never purchase from your store again.

In summary, creating an online store should be treated like running a regular business. Do your research, determine which solution is right for you, but don't believe for a second that your product will "sell itself" simply because it's listed online.

Creating a retail website might be the right choice for your business model, but depending on your level of experience marketing new products or brands, it might be easier to leverage existing websites or platforms that have visitors already. This strategy can make it easier to get a foothold online by allowing you to focus on the product or brand you want to create.

Let's consider using Amazon for instance. The basic fees for a business selling on Amazon are either $39.99 per month or $1.00 per item sold. This means if you sell more than 40 items in any given month, it becomes advantageous to sign up for their $39.99/month plan. The other fees associated with sales come in the form of referral fees. These are fees that Amazon charges you for bringing customers to your product. These fees range from 5 to 20 percent.

For medium-size or large businesses, the $39.99/month fee becomes negligible. The affiliate fee, on the other hand, is significant, but it does come with some "promotional value." Think of how often you've received emails from Amazon-recommended products after you searched for similar products online. How awesome would it be if perfect strangers received emails from Amazon about your product after searching for products similar to the ones you sell? This is the power of Amazon and what it brings to the table. Besides Amazon, there are other platforms, such as Etsy, or even marketplaces launched by Best Buy or Walmart that allow third-party sellers to list their products on their site.

Now that you have a few different options to think about, do your research and figure out which path is the right one for your business!

MIT Sloan Management Review

As we begin 2019, Fortune 1000 companies are accelerating their investment in big data and artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives, with an astonishing 91.6% of the executives indicating that their companies are accelerating the pace of their big data and AI investments. This is a principal finding of the NewVantage Partners 2019 Big Data and AI Executive Survey, which includes 65 Fortune 1000 or industry-leading organizations. C-level executives comprise 97.5% of survey participants, representing companies including American Express, Capital One, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Mastercard, and MetLife. When we look at the main drivers for this focus on AI and big data investment, one clearly leads the pack: the fear of disruption.

According to the 2019 survey, Fortune 1000 companies are now recognizing that they must become more adept at leveraging their data assets if they are to compete successfully against highly agile data-driven competitors. Over the past decade, exponential growth of data, coupled with access to much larger data volumes and data sources, has enabled rapid evolution of AI capabilities — with the result that organizations are now able to apply AI capabilities at scale to deliver business value.

Three-quarters of the executives surveyed in 2018 cited fear of disruption as the principal motivating business driver as they enter 2019. This fear has built an increasing sense of urgency across companies and industries — with 87.8% stating there is a greater urgency to invest in big data and AI initiatives now more than ever. In order to continue to compete in a turbulent landscape, an overwhelming majority (91.7%) of executives identified the need to transform their organizations to be nimbler and more data-driven in order to keep pace with competitors.

The dollar investments in big data and AI initiatives are also increasing. The percentage of companies reporting investments of greater than $500 million increased from 12.7% in 2018 to 21.1% in 2019. This increase highlights the momentum that AI investments are gaining in just the past 12 months. At the top end of the range, 8.7% of executives reported investments exceeding $1 billion.

AI as a Force for Disruption

AI is perceived by executives as being a highly disruptive capability at a time when companies are concerned about their own risk. When asked to identify the principle driver of investments in big data and AI, 91.7% of executives cited the need to transform their businesses and become increasingly nimble to face off against highly agile, data-driven competitors.

The survey confirms that there has been a steady increase in investments in AI and machine learning from 2017 (68.9%) through 2019 (96.4%), reinforcing the view that investment in AI has become nearly universal. Similarly, executives identified AI and machine learning as the most disruptive of emerging technologies when looking out across the horizon of the coming decade. Other potentially disruptive capabilities, including blockchain, cloud computing, and digital technologies such as mobile and sensor devices, lagged behind in the single digits respectively.

Importantly, executives are reporting measurable returns from their investments in big data and AI, with 62.2% reporting favorable results. Areas of notable benefit include: advanced analytics (79.8%), which can help improve customer engagement; investment in customer service processes (57.1%) to help companies roll out products and services faster and create customer self-service capabilities; and the low-hanging fruit of expense reduction (59.5%), which encompasses automating processes and tasks.

Improving AI Business Adoption

Tom Davenport and I wrote last year about the problem with AI pilots and some of the challenges to business adoption that companies were facing. In the article, we noted that production implementations of AI technology remained relatively scarce, citing factors such as the changes required to existing business processes, as well as potential skills gaps. These impressions are reflected in the 2019 survey’s responses, as 77% of executives reported that business adoption of big data and AI initiatives remains a challenge for their organization. Survey results also reinforce the gap in business processes and human resource skills, with 95% of the executives citing people and business process issues as the primary obstacles to business adoption of these initiatives.

Factors that continue to plague business adoption efforts include lack of organizational alignment and agility (cited by 40.3% of executives), cultural resistance to the pace of change (named by 23.6% of executives), and a lack of understanding of data as a business asset (identified by 13.9% of executives). Companies need to begin to address the cultural obstacles to business adoption if they aspire to be successful. In short, it’s not technology that is proving a stumbling block for big data and AI adoption, but rather process and people issues.

The true test of ultimate business value will come in the months and years ahead as organizations leverage AI and data to transform their businesses to successfully compete with their data-driven counterparts.

HBR.org

When the two work in concert, they can create a powerful advantage.

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