How to be seen as an expert

You can gain more respect in your area of expertise by using a few basic strategies, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.

Start by narrowing your field of interest, then follow up by writing articles, speaking to groups, and doing podcasts and radio.

Micro-specializing is key. An interior designer might know generally about home and business design. But the idea is to become an expert in one particular type of design. Choose fitness centers or CEO offices, for example, and know everything possible about the needs in the niche.

Publish your results, observations and advice on your specialty in trade journals, or other professional media. This way you become known in the industry.

Once you’ve established yourself in an industry, you could consider taking your most popular or even controversial topics and delving deeper into them with a book focused on solving a problem or informing an audience.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to become an expert or even a celebrity in your field is to move into speaking engagements at professional conferences.

Some brick-and-mortar stores thrive

In small towns and cities all over America, malls are closing, shopping centers are vacant, and the cause is e-commerce.

But physical stores still have power and some sectors are showing resilience, according to Forbes.

Nine companies on the list of Top 10 U.S. retailers is made up entirely of players that rely on foot traffic: Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, Home Depot, CVS, Walgreens, Target, Lowe’s, and Albertson’s.

The principal markets for these retailers are groceries, clothing, and home improvement supplies — all more desirable when purchased in person. Consumers still want to examine fresh produce.

They would rather try on new clothes before they buy. Home improvement products such as lumber and tools are still get-it-now items.

In addition, according to a study by the CBRE Group, 70 percent of Millennials — the largest, most connected consumer base — still prefer to shop in stores.

Amazon, the big destroyer of retail, must know that too. Their recent purchase of Whole Foods for $15 billion is a dramatic example of their play in the brick-and-mortar space.

When the kids can’t come up with a down payment, parents can share equity

Parents can help with a down payment on a house for the kids, while protecting their money, with a shared-equity mortgage.

It’s not a common way to help the kids get in a home, but it can give parents some security when they loan money for a down payment.

In a shared-equity mortgage, parents pay a portion of the down payment and are promised a percentage of the profits when the kids sell the home.

The percentage depends on the agreement, according to mortgageloan.com.

Upon sale, the parents could recoup their entire investment or even make more if the value of the house rises. On the other hand, if the home isn’t well maintained or if prices drop, parents could lose their investment.

The key is frank communication between family members and an agreement that all parties understand and agree to. The agreement might require the kids to sell the home by a certain date, or it might require them to refinance. It should also spell out what will happen if the kids default on the mortgage. Will the parents take ownership of the property, or will they lose their investment?

What if real estate prices drop, leaving everyone with less money than they started with?

What are the general maintenance requirements that all parties agree to?

What say will parents have over optional remodeling?

Perhaps for these risks, this type of mortgage is unusual. Today many alternatives exist for first-time home buyers, including FHA loans and special state programs.

The One-Year Plan for better credit:

1. Go to annualcreditreport.com and get a free report. Correct any errors.

2. Pay your bills on time. You must never be late even once. Set up automatic payments.

3. Work on getting your credit balances below 30 percent of your maximum credit limit.

4. Do not apply for new credit, but if you are offered an increase in credit limits on your existing accounts, take it. This can raise your score, but remember you still need a clean record of payments.

5. Do not make new credit charges.

6. If you have unused credit accounts, don’t close them if you are planning to apply for a mortgage. That can actually make your score drop.

7. During your credit improvement year, don’t buy a car. Lenders don’t want to see buyers committed to several new, large credit accounts. Never finance a car before you apply for a mortgage. Never take out new credit card accounts before you apply for a mortgage.

8. Use caution with store accounts that offer a hefty discount on purchases if you apply for a card. Although some stores say they do not make a hard credit inquiry, a new account on your credit report is probably not what you need if you are trying to improve your score.
However, if your credit history is thin, you might take out a store account, providing you make several payments on time and then pay off the balance.

Problems with partners in a small business

Starting a small business can be a daunting task that has led about 1.6 million owners to seek out a partner to add leadership support or to help provide skills that they lack, according to Forbes magazine. While teams formed around a common business goal are likely to be well-aligned and full of trust in the beginning, there are many reasons the relationship can fill with doubt, frustration, and disrespect over time which can ruin a business quickly. According to Entrepreneur magazine, starting a business can be extremely stressful even without worrying about coexisting with a partner and differences in leadership style, skills, commitment, and even personal habits. All of these can cause tension.

Having two bosses with entirely different styles, for example, can negatively affect everyone in a company if they are sending mixed signals or spend too much time arguing. One might be a task-oriented disciplinarian that values efficiency and order over the laissez-faire, creative mindset of their partner who would rather make sure employees are happy and having fun. Perhaps the partners come from a background of management and design, respectively, and they tend to lead based on the skills they are already familiar with from their past. Each person will privately value their own perspective more than the other, leading to conflict.

As the initial stages of a startup wind down and time goes on, the commitment and personal habits of each partner become a more significant factor in maintaining a successful relationship. Two people will likely have different coping mechanisms and work-life balance priorities along with changing ideas on their role within a company. In this situation, it is incredibly easy for the 50/50 balance of a partnership to swing in one direction or another, leading to feelings of guilt or resentment as the inequality builds.

Although there is no perfect system, it is recommended that partners talk openly at all times about their expectations, feelings, and sense of progress while being careful to avoid unproductive ‘mudslinging.’ Be prepared not to find agreement on every issue, and the more willing partners are to discuss matters, the better their chances of long-term success. If an owner feels like there is an unresolvable impasse looming, they should consult with a lawyer on an exit strategy and be prepared to leave an unreasonable partner.

Time for the appraiser? Make your home shine

If you are selling or refinancing, the lender will have your home appraised.

It’s different from a home inspection. A home inspector is primarily preoccupied with the internal workings of a home, and looks for current problems or things that could become a problem.
An appraiser is trying to determine the value of your home, comparing it to prices of similar homes in the area, and weighing the location of the home including neighborhood and proximity to schools.

The appraiser will look at the size of the lot and the condition of the home itself.

An appraisal is key to selling a home, since a low valuation might force the seller to reduce the price. A higher valuation might come in handy, however, if you are refinancing, giving you extra equity in your home and making a loan deal easier.

Some say there is no point in doing a complete house cleaning for an appraiser, but that isn’t necessarily true. A clean, well-groomed home inside and out, can help boost the evaluation of how well a house is maintained. They look for signs of neglect such as appliances that don’t work, floors that are damaged, carpets that are torn or dirty. Even paint can be a factor.

If you are preparing for an appraisal, do make sure your home is clean and tidy inside and out: Mow the lawn, pull weeds, put away lawn equipment. Get rid of clutter.

Remember the appraiser will take photos. Tidy up the pool area, if you have one, as well as the bedrooms and baths.

If you have pets, be sure to confine them during the appraiser’s visit, if for no other reason than to be polite. But you might also consider how the cat’s litter box will look on film.

The appraiser will also find out the age of your home and evaluate its effective age. Doors, lights and windows should all work.

It’s best not to trail the appraiser around the house, but you could point out things like a recent renovation of a kitchen or bath.

Just try to make your home appear maintained, loved, and up-to-date.

How getting married affects car insurance

This blog explores how getting married affects car insurance rates and coverage. In addition to lessening the likelihood of developing dementia or heart disease, getting married can lower your car insurance premiums. Insurance companies love statistics and statistics show that married couples simply have fewer car accidents. No one knows for certain the why behind this. Theories abound. The theories include married people drive less and they’re more stable and less risky. One study conducted in New Zealand drivers who never-married had twice the car accident risk of married drivers. For this reason, getting married usually results in a discount on auto insurance – even for males younger than 25 who normally get stuck with the highest premiums. To maximize your benefits, discuss your plan with your InsureUS representative in Cypress, TX. They can help you determine which method works best for lowering your rates. You could:

  • combine auto insurance policies,
  • add your spouse as a secondary driver,
  • add your spouse’s vehicle to your policy,
  • not add your spouse at all.

That last one may seem confusing, but if your spouse has a poor driving record, for example, a DUI or speeding ticket, adding them negatively affects your policy. Also, don’t combine if one of you recently experienced a gap in insurance coverage. A divorce results in the loss of these discounts.

We’re not saying run out and get married to lower your car insurance but do come talk to us at InsureUS in Cypress, TX a few weeks before or after your wedding. Also, come chat if you don’t already have combined or multi-policy car insurance and already married.

Toughness, compassion can lead to success

Success requires a balance of being tough on yourself with a capacity for self-compassion, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.

Becoming too tough on yourself can lead to a path of self-destruction. Being too compassionate can lead to poor performance.

Becoming tough on yourself means making decisions even when they are difficult. When making hard decisions, don’t let lack of information, fear, or regret over past mistakes stop the truth from coming through clearly.

Raise your standard of excellence and demand the same from everyone else. The best people will appreciate the firm leadership.

In the long run, a business profits when people are tough because they will continue to improve over time and create a culture of high standards.

While being tough on yourself can drive strong results among a team, having compassion for yourself is equally important, according to The New York Times. Humans are naturally prone to obsess over their flaws and shortcomings. Unfortunately, dwelling on these issues can lead to depression, anxiety, negative self-image, and even lower productivity over time.

Acknowledgement of past mistakes is key to improving but remember to approach yourself as you might approach a friend with the same problem — by providing support and encouragement without apologizing for their behavior.

The basics of changing ownership in an LLC

It is typical for a small business to have some ownership transfer or sale during its lifetime, and it is crucial to know the differences between selling, transferring, or closing your business, according to the Small Business Administration.

Selling a business will require a lot of work upfront to ensure that everything is in order before the sale such as legal documents, proof of ownership, and the correct valuation. During this phase, experts recommend that the owner seek out a lawyer and a qualified business appraiser. The business appraiser will consider all physical assets owned by the company as well as things like brand value, intellectual property, and the book of business or projected future earnings. Typically, they will value the company based on future revenue (income approach), comparisons to similar business sales (market approach), or a basic subtraction of all liabilities from assets (assets approach).

When transferring ownership of an LLC, the most critical factor is who the current owners are and who the future owners will be, according to LegalZoom. Typically, a transfer of ownership that isn’t an outright sale involves adding or removing members such as when bringing on a new partner, buying out an existing one, or when there is a death. When the LLC formed, especially when there are multiple parties, there should have been an operating agreement signed by everyone that outlines how such a transfer will work through the buy-sell section. This section might include the requirement to buy out shares of a departing member or stipulate that a certain party will always be the majority owner. In some states, the entire business must be dissolved and recreated any time there is a change of ownership.

The decision to close a company could stem from the desire to retire or just to quit a business that isn’t working out. All owners must agree to the closing, and there are dissolution documents required to be filed in every state to prevent future tax filing requirements. Any licenses, permits, and other business registrations will need to be cancelled and final employee checks issued. The final tax returns for the last operating year must be filed as usual to fulfill any obligations to the IRS and records should be maintained for at least three years.

Payroll options for small business

Managing payroll for a small business can be a complicated and expensive task, but new online payroll solutions are available that can bridge the gap for many small business owners, according to Inc. Magazine.

Many business owners try to handle the paperwork and regulatory compliance on their own, and the IRS has shown that about 40 percent of them are incurring average penalties of $845 per year due to filing errors, omissions, and lapsed deadlines. The best services are those that are specifically geared towards small business, set up employee wage rates, track benefits-related hours, and withhold taxes automatically while providing online access to both employers and employees.

Most small business owners could benefit from a digital solution that will save them money compared to a traditional full-service provider while saving them time and eliminating the risk of potential legal troubles for mistakes they make on their own. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, one of the most popular and highly rated examples of these services is Intuit Payroll. Their product starts at just $20 per month with an extra $2 per employee, and it runs the entire payroll system and calculates taxes, but does not file them. Their full service, meanwhile, costs $79 but automatically files taxes and can fully import data from a pre-existing payroll provider. Other options to look for include check printing, direct deposit, and 24/7 customer support.

For owners that want to add additional benefits for their employees, a few new digital online providers have entered the market to make the process as intuitive and straightforward as possible for owners while meeting the high expectations of this generation’s tech-savvy entrepreneurs, according to Forbes Magazine. One such company, JustWorks, can pool employees from different companies together in its network to get better prices on things such as health insurance, vision, and dental insurance as well as access to 401k’s. They also track and automate paid time off, commuter allowances, workers’ compensation, and more.