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business strategy

What Your Business Should Do Before The End Of January

Using last year’s failures as a roadmap to success: What your business should do before the end of January.

The beginning of each year brings new opportunities and challenges for business owners. Some of us are dying to put last year behind us, while countless others feel inspired by the way their business year ended.

There are three things I would suggest every business owner do before the end of January:

  1. Assess your past,
  2. Plan for your future, and
  3. Move on.

While 2012 is still fresh in your mind, as painful or pleasant as it may have been, it’s time to sit down and access what worked and what didn’t for your business — and most importantly why. Dig in, and be certain why it was a success. Was it a new hire? Better technology or training available for your employees? Perhaps the price was right and your business was on point for a top trend of 2012.

Be determined to start the New Year knowing what works and doesn’t for your business, and find your next course of action — whether it’s maintaining established goals, adding an employee or implementing new technology.

Often times business owners/managers are spread too thin. Is now the time to hire that assistant manager to help keep all of the balls in the air? Although we’re passionate about many things our businesses have to offer, some items just don’t have enough margin of profit to continue. January is a perfect time to assess your financials on main items and see what your true margin is and if it’s best to continue or discontinue the product.

One great universal truth that is hard for business owners to accept is that there are several operating costs outside of our control, including business fees, taxes, accounting etc. We have to do our best to divide and distribute those costs in order to make the year a success. If you haven’t already, now is the time to educate your employees and, when necessary, customers about the cost of doing business. We’re all here to help and serve the community — while making a profit.  The profit must be planned and be within industry standards; too high and you’re a thief, too low and you’re out of business.

In a service-driven business, like mine, it’s imperative that I understand the labor, the payroll taxes, the wear and tear of maintenance for the truck, the cost of the added miles to the truck, the liability I take on, the insurance incurred, the gas, the loss of it not going to another call, etc. I have to respond to these costs, and for my business that meant implementing a service fee; it helps keep my job costs lower. Others in my industry offer free service calls and oftentimes show up to a situation where they aren’t really needed or there is minimal opportunity for work. In some cases, these competitors pass the cost off to another area of business or simply aren’t offering the level of customer care I’m committed to maintaining.

Now is the time. This is the year for your business to be profitable by knowing what has and hasn’t worked in the past, how much your jobs cost, and knowing what you can offer as a leader. Let’s make 2013 the best year yet for your business.

For more information about Benjamin Franking Plumbing, visit benfranklinplumbingaz.com.

Eric Marcus, CEO of Marcus Networking.

Tech Q&A: What is cloud computing?

Question: What is cloud computing?

Answer: Everyone is talking about cloud computing.  So, what exactly is it and it is right for your business? Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet).

The real question is should you use a hosted or non-hosted cloud? In other words, does your company want to own the system or lease it?

We’re firm believers that owning is a better solution. There are so many variables in cloud computing that no one takes into consideration. Where are you geographically located? How reliable is your internet connect? Can you survive without access to your cloud system? These are just a few things to think about.

Some benefits of cloud computing are lower overhead and system maintenance. Lower cost of ownership and upgrades. To determine which solution is best you really need to sit with a IT consultant and map out the big picture of your company.

Eric Marcus is CEO of Tempe-based Marcus Networking, which specializes in telecommunications centered on phone systems, cabling, and the network infrastructure also known as the “backbone.” Read more about Eric Marcus in the January issue of Az Business magazine.

Eric Marcus, CEO of Marcus Networking.

Tech Q&A: Outsourcing vs. consultant

Question: In this economy, does it make more sense to outsource IT or utilize a consultant?
Answer: Outsourcing is more cost effective than a full time person and you gain 24/7 support, whereas an employee only works a certain shift like 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Outsourcing means you are getting more than just a single person who manages your network. You are a getting a team of experienced technicians who can handle all areas of telecommunications and technology.

Let’s say you have an IT issue in the middle of the night, Marcus Networking has the ability to connect remotely to most computers and take control of the user’s session and see what’s going on.  We can provide hands-on support without being onsite. Most issues are resolved within 15 minutes and that’s faster than it would be to wake a sleeping employee, have them get dressed and drive to the office.

If we find a problem with parts or equipment, we can generally purchase a replacement component and be on-site and have the issue fixed within an hour or two of the diagnosis.  Again, much more efficient than waiting for the employee to get to work and diagnose what’s going on.

In today’s marketplace, outsourcing is about 45 percent less than the cost of a full time employee.  When you consider salary, benefits, payroll taxes, mandatory workman’s compensation, vacation days, sick days, 401K’s or a bonus plan it adds up quickly. Outsourcing is an affordable option for many businesses who wish to get a higher level of work.

Eric Marcus is CEO of Tempe-based Marcus Networking, which specializes in telecommunications centered on phone systems, cabling, and the network infrastructure also known as the “backbone.” Read more about Eric Marcus in the January issue of Az Business magazine.