SEO…You get what you pay for

My friend, Chris Leone, just wrote a great article on the changing face of SEO. It’s good enough that I feel compelled to share it here. Not a week goes by that I don’t get personally solicited by off-shore agencies offering cheap SEO (search engine optimization) using dated tactics.  The effort required to achieve meaningful SEO result has increased significantly over the last 2-3 years. Part of it is because the landscape has changed and the other part is because is much more competitive.

Anyone investing in or considering SEO for their business should READ THIS ARTICLE.

Confused or ready to get started? Contact Us, the most experience SEO company in Greenville, SC.

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Why Hosted Exchange Email Might Be The Best Thing You Didn’t Know You Needed

Note: The following post is a guest blog from Mike Kushner of Bay Area Computer Solutions in Palo Alto, Ca.

Of all the important business technologies there are to worry about, perhaps none are as important – or overlooked – as email is. In virtually every company, from the smallest to the largest, email is the single default method of communication, more valuable to your employees than even the telephone or printed mail.

Given that most organizations come to a grinding halt without email access, doesn’t it make sense to get the best email hosting you can?

Although good business sense suggests that a company should do everything it can to get the most out of email, the reality is that it’s a bit like web hosting – an afterthought for most owners and executives, which leads to them choosing the lowest-cost option, instead of the most cost-effective one.

For that reason, we often talk to our new clients about hosted exchange email. In essence, it’s a platform that allows you to have your own dedicated server (or virtual server) for your company’s emails. In business terms, that means you can get more from your email package, including:

  • Better email speed and reliability. Most small companies that rely on POP email systems – or worse, email hosted through Gmail or other public services – have become accustomed to slow delivery, daily message limits, and regular email outages. With hosted exchange email, these issues are incredibly rare, so you can put your focus back in your business.
  • Improved antivirus and anti-spam features. As a rule, hosted exchange email tends to process requests, spam filters, and security updates more efficiently than public servers do, so fewer “problem” messages get through. In addition, a hosted exchange package lets you customize your settings so you can ensure that you’re getting the communications you want without having to worry about everything else.
  • Real-time synchronization with mobile devices. Perhaps the best feature of hosted exchange servers is that you can link and sync multiple devices together in real time. That means tablets, smartphones, and other email-ready devices can all be updated, so your team is never out of touch.
  • Access to online folders and more. Beyond the email advantages of a hosted exchange system, there are other benefits, such as the ability to share files and folders. If your team collaborates on large projects or updates files like contracts or proposals together, this could be just as important as improved email functionality is.

As with dedicated hosting packages, hosted email exchange represents a huge upgrade in capabilities for a very small monthly expenditure. In other words, it might be the best IT solution you didn’t even know you needed.

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Why should I invest in a business instead of finding a new job?

With companies downsizing to adjust to their shrinking budgets and the national unemployment rate at 9.7 percent, job security is a thing of the past. That’s why many individuals are taking control of their destinies and investing in a business with a proven model – especially the baby boomer population.

Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those aged 20 to 34 every year from 1996 to 2007, according to a 2009 report by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Do You Have What It Takes?Investing in a franchise is a great way to create wealth and build equity. As an aging society, the older population is now more active and has the desire and need to generate additional retirement income due to economic factors. But not only are more seniors investing in franchises; franchisors are actively recruiting the baby boomer population as well. Older franchisees tend to have a great work ethic; they are dependable and have a knowledge base of life and business experience. Additionally, the older generation approaches and handles risk well in that they will thoroughly investigate the franchise and business opportunities at hand.

There’s never been a better time to satisfy your personal and financial goals. In previous economic slumps, franchising has rebounded faster than other industries. After the recession of 2001, for example, franchise companies added 1.2 million jobs over a five-year period, and grew at an average of 9 percent a year, according to the International Franchising Association. And 2010 looks to be just as promising.

Is not controlling your future more secure than waiting for someone else to determine your fate?

Read more in a recent article in Baby Boomer magazine.

Business ownership is an important decision. I am Doug Fowler, Senior Consultant with MatchPoint. I am ready to put my years of franchise experience and success at your disposal.

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Debunking Franchise Myths

Starting a business requires a lot of time and effort. That’s why many people choose to invest in a franchise due to the added support and training in place. But before you get started, we’d like to debunk some myths that every potential franchise owner should be aware of before starting on his or her journey.

1. Franchising is all about restaurants. While many of the best-known are restaurants, there are actually approximately 3,500 franchise concepts in 75 industries. From home care to automotive, several non-food franchises have experienced growth in 2010 and this is expected to continue in 2011. When researching the best concept for you, make sure to consider all of your options.

2. The more you spend, the more you’ll make. There is no correlation between how much money a franchise costs and how much money it makes. Most importantly, you should base your decision on whether or not the franchise fits with your lifestyle and finances you have available.

3. You must have experience in the field. Experience isn’t necessary; in fact, many franchisors prefer new franchisees to have backgrounds outside the industry. For instance, those with experience in sales and marketing many times have the skill set to excel in just about any sector. Plus, the franchisor will supply you with training and support needed to get your business off the ground.

4. All franchises are created equal. Some franchisors will take on every franchisee that can sign a check, which makes for a weaker organization overall. The franchises that vet prospective franchisees get the best candidates and have the strongest system. MatchPoint franchise consultants help wean off the weak, so you are presented with the best options available.

5. A franchise will run itself. Just because you have the support of a larger organization and ongoing training programs, owning and operating a franchise is still a huge responsibility and takes a lot of work – especially at the beginning – to make it successful. Just keep in mind that once you’ve settled on a concept, the work isn’t over. Nonetheless, with the right amount of work, success should ultimately follow.

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Franchising will help to boost economic recovery

While some franchisors are reinvesting in their franchisees as a way to stimulate the economy, others are offering discounts towards initial investment costs and royalty fees.

The digital marketing firm WSI, for example, just launched its Investing in America Program—an initiative aimed to give back to the community and help re-build the U.S. economy after the recession. Through this program, WSI will be offering U.S.-based young entrepreneurs and military veterans the opportunity to invest in the franchise for a 50 percent discounted franchisee fee.

WSI has set aside 30 single unit franchises for this program, each available at a discounted franchise fee of $24,700. Young entrepreneurs can qualify for this opportunity if they are under the age of 28, have completed their high school education and can provide proof of said qualifications. Meanwhile, military veterans can qualify by providing valid proof of completing military service.

Read the complete article.

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Why use a Franchise Consultant?

Disclaimer: I am a franchise consultant/broker so my opinion is somewhat biased. However, I am also a franchise owner and have the unique perspective of seeing the value of a franchise consultant from both perspectives. In this post, I’m speaking more from the perspective of the potential franchise owner.

When searching for a franchise, people often come across various franchise consultants and wander: “Why should I use their services?” It’s a great question. so I’ve compiled a list below of my own reasons why someone should use a franchise consultant.

  • You don’t know what you don’t know. Do you realize there are over 3,000 different franchises in the US alone?  Franchise consultants understand the industry and opportunities that are available.
  • Save time and money. A franchise consultant’s services usually come at no cost and we’re a good source of information since we regularly spend hours interacting with people who buy and sell franchises. Consultants provide information at no cost with a plan to pass along a qualified candidate to the Franchisor.
  • Manage the investigation process. The franchise consultant guides a potential franchisee through the entire process of deciding whether to become a franchisee, and how to go about finding the right fit in a franchise business. MatchPoint franchise consultants utilize a workbook to help guide prospects through the investigation process.
  • Find the Right Fit. A detailed profile including an evaluation of a potential business owner’s experience, interests, and goals is complied in order to match the new franchisee with the most suitable opportunity that will allow them to meet their objectives. Every franchise brand knows what their ideal franchisee “looks like”. Franchise consultants help match you up with opportunities that enhance your chances for success.
  • Education. Franchise consultants can educate you on the various types of ownership and investment options.
  • Representation with the franchisor. Franchise consultants can assist you in managing the investigation process with franchisors. Franchisors know that if a consultant brings a candidate to them that the candidate has already been determined to be qualified for consideration. A consultant can also communicate on your behalf with the franchisor on any issues.
  • One stop advisor. The franchise consultant acts as the one-stop shop, answering questions and referring potential owner to other resources as necessary, such as financial or legal advisors.
  • Avoid the headaches. Complications and confusion are virtually eliminated by having an expert assist you in the investigation process.
  • No Obligation / Win-Win Scenario. There is NO Charge to work with a franchise consultant. Most franchise consultants are compensated solely by the franchise companies themselves. Not using a consultant will not save you any money. The amount someone pays for a franchise is the same whether they use a franchise broker or work directly with the franchisor.

    In summary, a franchise consultant will help you determine if franchising is right for you and if so, what type of franchise opportunities you are most likely to succeed in. If you are serious about buying a franchise and approach the process thoroughly, the information obtain will definitely help you become a better, more educated buyer. As long as candidates remain open-minded through the process, the information franchise consultants can provide will help them save time and money. In the end, the choice belongs to the candidate. Franchise buyers are responsible for the due diligence, analysis and, of course, their money. However, understanding what franchise consultants do and utilizing them as a tool in a franchise search process can be very valuable, indeed.

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    Boiling the Boomers

    Thought you might enjoy this short webcast on the economic impact of today’s trends and opportunities.  View it here

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    Are you an Explorer, Pioneer, or Settler?

    When making a discovery of something new in their lives, most people find that they can be identified in one of three of the following groups.

    To help make that determination, let’s draw a comparison between you and the people who made the early discovery and development of our country.

    The three different groups were Explorers, Pioneers and the Settlers.

    EXPLORER:  Their desire was to be the adventurer, to go where now one had gone before, to explore the new land, determine if it’s a place of opportunity, willing to risk all for the sake of great reward.

    PIONEER:  Their desire was to follow on the heels of the Explorer, to take a calculated risk, to grow and expand what had already been developed, to take an established system and make it stronger, to create new ideas and opportunities.

    SETTLER:  Their desire was to follow the Explorer only when the way was determined to be safe, to mitigate their risk by seeing solid proof that the establishment is secure and functional, to follow clearly the well defined plan in order to ensure success.

    What group of people do you identify with and why?

    When looking into franchising, it is important to determine what group you fall into because certain franchises attract certain kind’s of people, i.e. explorers, poineers, and settlers. Listed below are some key characteristics of franchises for each type of person.

    Franchises for Explorers: This is a new system, not many franchisees, non-proven track record, huge opportunity, niche opportunity with flexibility in the operating system.

    Franchises for Pioneers: Established system with several franchisees at a minimum, solid track record, great opportunity, and some flexibility.

    Franchises for Settlers:  Well-established systems, scores of franchisees, proven track record, well defined operations, solid opportunity and limited flexibility.

    Determining the group you fall into is one small piece of the puzzle in finding the right fit in a franchise business. Contact a franchise consultant today for more information.

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    Has the recession caused you to fall off the corporate ladder?

    You’re not alone. After years spent building a successful career, people across the country are experiencing uncertainty, anxiety, and unemployment in the worst cases. Many people have seen their professional lives slip away at no fault of their own. In wake of the worst global recession in decades, many individuals are left asking themselves -  What’s next?

    Is the answer to find another JOB?

    Maybe. A vast majority of people will do just that and continue to bounce from job to job with little control over their job security and financial future.

    It’s no longer enough to simply “go to school, get a good job with a good company, work hard and retire with a good pension”.  Did you know that the average person will now have as many as 10 different jobs and 5 entirely different careers over the course of their working life?

    Breaking away from the perceived security of a corporate job is an overwhelming fear for many people. This fear is something that limits people and keeps them from achieving their dreams. For most people considering business ownership, that fear of failure and financial insecurity – especially in challenging economic times – often keeps them from taking that first crucial step. Remember that some of the most successful companies began in an economic decline. Microsoft, for instance, started operating during the recession and oil crisis of the mid ’70s.

    Deciding to start your own business is a huge decision and you must weigh the benefits over the risks to determine if owning a business is right for you. One way to reduce the risk of failure is to purchase a franchise. Buying a franchise is no guarantee that you’ll be successful – franchise owners do fail. However, unlike starting a business from scratch, franchising provides an excellent opportunity for someone that can follow a proven system to be in business for themselves — but not by themselves.

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    Can you follow a proven system?

    One of the key factors in determining whether a franchise business may be right for you is your ability to follow a system. What makes someone good “franchise material”? Statistics show that franchise businesses may have a greater potential for success than start-ups, but how do you know you’ll “fit the mold” of a franchise business concept?

    Good franchise owners have an ability to follow a defined system. This may be the number one consideration of franchisors. They are looking for “team players” who recognize that they are part of a system and are willing to follow it. If you are a true entrepreneur and like to blaze your own trail, then franchising may not be right for you.  In fact, one common reason for franchise failures is that owners fail to follow the proven system that they purchased.

    Somehow these owners thought they were “smarter” than the franchisor and wanted to re-invent the system. Makes me wonder why they bought the franchise in the first place? Maybe they didn’t understand the scope of the business model to begin with.

    So how much “following” do you have to do to be a franchise owner? Well, it depends on the franchise concept. Some franchises are far more flexible than others. Here is where you need to take a close look at the FDD (Franchise Disclosure Document) and study the business model so you can choose a business that is in your personal comfort zone. If you’re not familiar with FDDs, then it’s a good time to enlist the help of an advisor or coach. Franchise consultants are experts in the franchise industry and they can educate, advise and assist you in your investigation to find the business that fits your interests, skills, passions, lifestyle and investment level.

    A good franchise business is “awarded” not purchased. Franchisors want their owners to be successful so they choose who they allow into their systems very carefully. Franchisors interview candidates at the same time that potential owners are evaluating them — it’s a two-way street. Only when both parties agree that there is a good fit is a deal offered.

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