Expand Your Brand Using Other People’s Money by Using Franchisor Strategies

Back many years ago, I met a fellow franchisor, he’d built a nice company with 250 franchisees which operated Kiosks in shopping malls – you know those carts in malls that sell various wares. What he did was make each Kiosk its own business, at first as “independent contractors” but later as Franchisees due to the Franchise Law rules. Each franchisee had to sign a two-year franchise agreement with non-automatic renewal, where the Franchisor could merely take over the business, location, as he already had the lease-space agreement with the malls, including the corporations that owned many malls around the country.

After two years, he stopped renewing franchise agreements, took control of all those little businesses, and then sold the whole thing and retired a very wealthy man. Unfortunately, many of the independent contractors, turned into Franchisees were forced out after building up their businesses and providing a substantial amount of goodwill. The franchisor’s concept was built by the blood, sweat and tears of all those individuals, who did make decent money in the meantime, but were then basically terminated when their franchise agreement term ended.

Recently, there is an interesting company in the “Handy Man” sector which has a franchise agreement that states it may unilaterally buy back the franchisee’s business at any time after 2-years of operating. In the Franchisor’s option to purchase there is a mathematical formula for valuation of the Franchisee’s business that negate the value of any “goodwill” and allows the Franchisee to choose if he will see at “Fair Market Value” of assets (used equipment, office furniture) or twice the earnings before interest, taxes, and amortization (EBITA).

Why would a Franchise Buyer buy a franchise like that? I suppose there might be a few situations where it makes sense for instance, the Franchisee just needs a couple of years of income and believes they can build up a good “book” of business, and if it starts to go South, the Franchisor may buy him/her out and they can move on, less risk? But what if the Franchisor chooses not to buy and the business fails? What if the business succeeds wildly and the Franchisee is forced to sell-out a thriving and growing business?

If you think about it, it is a brilliant strategy for a Franchisor, have others build your business, take all the risks, and if they succeed, you terminate their franchise agreement instead of renewal, and if they fail, you simply let them fail, then sell that territory to a new franchisee, until one succeeds and then you just keep winning and building on the backs of others. As a franchisee buyer it may be wise to recognize such strategies and be weary of them, unless it serves your temporary purpose of a short term business and solid temporary cash flow based on your abilities and the Franchisor’s model. Think on this.

Designing Small Outdoor Spaces in Your Hospitality Business

Every outdoor area, no matter how small it is, deserves to be treated with attention. This need amplifies when it comes to restaurants, hotels, cafes and resorts. So hospitality businesses should be extra careful when designing a small outdoor space like a balcony or even a limited terrace.

In order to turn a narrow area into an attractive place to hang out, two steps must be applied: choosing the right outdoor furniture and installing them effectively.

How to choose the furniture?

Selecting small furniture

When you have a narrow area, you can still furnish it with small items that fits. For example, instead of cramming the balcony with a single sofa, use a couple of chairs and a round coffee table so guests can enjoy a relaxing morning. Don’t forget to take measurements, here a few centimeters can make a difference.

Using multi-functional outdoor furniture

A small area limits the use of several furniture to suit all needs. Therefore, an effective solution would be to use multi functional patio furniture for your restaurant, hotel, resort or cafe. A modular outdoor setting allows you to have a minimum of items with the most uses possible. For example, if a daybed and living set don’t fit together next to the pool, replace them with an outdoor furniture piece that gives you both. In that case, Skyline Design’s Bishan can be an appropriate way to combine the two, as it can be used as a daybed or a sofa set.

Going vertical with decorations

One of the latest garden design trends is the adoption of the vertical space in the outdoors. In other terms, exploiting placing decoration accessories or even plants on the walls surrounding the outdoor living area. In addition, due to this new “wave”, brands are now creating items for vertical use. For example, the famous French brand, Maiori, produced chic planters that can be placed on top of each other, in order to save horizontal space.

How to design the small space to make it look wider?

Designating a focal point

Installing outdoor furniture in a small area can be messy. A bit of organization will turn a chaotic setting into a comfortable and relaxing spot. One of the first steps to take is to focus all the outdoor chairs and sofas to one direction. A focal point can either be external like the sea, the garden or a specific landscape, as well as internal like an outdoor lounge or a hanging chair. You can add accessories according to your needs, but make sure that you still have only one focal point.

Paving the path and the living area

Another way to embellish a small outdoor space is to pave the path and the living area. However, this is a delicate task that can either break it or make it. How? Applying geometrical designs in the pavement can make the outdoor area look smaller. And most probably, that’s not what restaurants and resorts are looking to accomplish, on the contrary.

Keeping it simple with only the needed furniture

One of the main issues in small areas is the lack of space for people to move around. This is mostly due to decoration items that can be dropped out. Therefore, removing all unneeded elements, like decorations and plants, will make the small area more spacious, allowing people to be more comfortable.

Designing a small outdoor space is definitely a challenge for any interior designer or hospitality furniture company. However, choosing the right outdoor furniture, and efficiently designing the area will transform your small outdoor space into an endless paradise. So don’t miss out on this opportunity.

Best Accounts Payable Processing Practices

When it comes to working in accounts payable, there are a dozen things that can happen to cause a good day to become a bad one – and these things are often actions that took but a second or two to happen. These mistakes often occur not because of a lack of training or due to faulty practices but often because people are unaware of ways to improve the work situation.

Thankfully, there are many actions that can be taken to ensure that your business is using the best accounts payable processing practices available. By doing this, you can minimize the risk and exposure that result from not having a totally secure system and effective recovery process. While there are many different steps you can take, one of the most important things is that you track a number of elements in the accounts payable processing department.

· Keep up with the number of invoices that come into the accounts payable department in given period of time. The larger your company the more of these there will be. Tracking these will give you a baseline and make it easier to track other items within your department.

· How many invoices are processes as a percentage of the total number of invoices during a specific amount of time. Tracking this helps measure how effectively and efficiently your department is getting the work done. If you feel that the work being done is not enough, then sit back and determine what can be done to make your department more efficient.

· Pay attention to the rate of wrong payments as a percentage of total payments. You need to be aware of any over or under charges. Using a HER program can minimize occurrences such as these.

· Figure out how much it is costing you per invoice processed. Be sure to note things such as software costs, IT support, hardware, and any other types of overhead. There are a number tools that can help you be effective and yet still keep the bottom line in the black.

· Track how many invoices are electronic versus paper. It is cheaper to process an electronic invoice than a paper one. In addition, the electronic invoices require less time to process. Hence, the more electronic processing and information storage is a better way to improve your budget and work efficiency.

Having the best accounts payable processing steps in place, you can be certain that you are doing all you can to protect your business. Talk to a team of business management specialist and learn how you can begin to better protect your company.

Designing Your Best Work Life

Many people in the corporate world start off with the intention to only work the standard hours yet somewhere along the way, they become completely consumed by a never-ending To Do list. Suddenly they find themselves leading a life that is based on trying to survive rather than thrive. This constantly switched-on mode can start to wear thin very quickly and wear them down just as fast.

I have worked in the corporate world for over 22 years as a consultant for various large companies. I was soon spending so much time and effort in the workplace jumping through hoops and doing whatever it took to climb the corporate ladder that my personal well-being began to suffer greatly.

Each time I planned a well-deserved break, I found myself getting sick. My body soon stopped running on the adrenaline high of corporate life, and my immune systems began operating at critically low levels. Somewhere along the way I had lost my connection to the reason why I was working so hard.

Today I run a successful business that still requires dedication and commitment, but my physical, mental and emotional state is nowhere near where it as when I was in the corporate world. What I learn from this experience is that there is no point having a great job with matching salary if all you are able to do at the end of the day is collapse onto your couch.

So here are my four steps to reconnecting with what is important to you and designing a work schedule that works for you.

STEP 1: CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK
Breaking your thought pattern is the first step towards designing your best work schedule. There is so much social pressure to be part of the rat race, and you should analyze whether succumbing to this thought pattern is working for you. Ask yourself these questions:

Are you willing to live on the edge?
Are you willing to substitute happiness for monetary gain?
Do you want to leave behind a legacy?
Do you want to travel and work from wherever you are in the world?

Your answers will form the basis of your blueprint of your ideal work life.

STEP 2: THINK LATERALLY
You have your own unique abilities. Learn how to make them work for you. If you are an accountant and you are crushed with deadlines at the end of each quarter, then plan your life in a way that allows you to work hard during those times and keep normal work hours for the remainder of the year.

The Internet has made traditional jobs much more flexible. If you are a teacher and do not want to be tied to a classroom then consider online teaching. A computer and an Internet connection is all you need. You can design your life around your workload so that you are only working the number of hours you want. Remember, this is your life and you call the shots.

STEP 3: SCHEDULE IN WHAT REALLY COUNTS
There was a time a couple of years ago when I did not schedule a break for 15 months and ended up severely ill. So before you schedule anything else into your calendar, make sure you schedule what really counts first. This includes events that will make a positive difference in your life such as:

Time for yourself to unwind, relax and recharge.
Vacation time. Long breaks should be a minimum of two weeks twice yearly and mini breaks such as weekends away should be scheduled every two months. Studies show that people are more likely to remain happy when they schedule in frequent short holidays than infrequent longer ones.
Family time and date nights.
Time with friends. Schedule the next catch up in before the night is over so that it does not get lost in the work life.

STEP 4: START SMALL AND SLOW
Start the ball rolling slowly so you can easily notice things gaining momentum as you make your schedule work for you. For instance, you could set a goal of winning 10 clients and turning away any extras because you know you do not want to dedicate more hours to work. Dedication to your personal wellbeing and who you are as a person instead is what will guide you towards creating a schedule that works for you rather than against you.

A Perfect Sales Training Coach

Even though there isn’t any formal education required to be a bigwig in sales, it is true that most of the people are involved in selling products and services. One can find several people performing sales tasks and each and every one of them are trying to complete with one another. In order to stand a class apart from others, it is important to acquire some excellent selling skills, determination and the perfect mindset. It is very important to move along with the change, as the environment keep on changing. So, it is essential to think out of the box, as it helps to stay ahead of the business rivals. So, it is essential to stay equipped with some of the effective sales tips by availing the services of a sales coach. Only those who are well trained to perform such tasks must perform the task of sales. This task should be performed by the experts in sales training. When you are in search of an expert, you must know that there are several speakers across the globe who claims to be the sales coach. However, make sure that you choose a perfect person offering useful sales tips programs to enjoy the maximum output. You must consider certain aspects while selecting the perfect sales training coach to save your money and time.

About Choosing the Right Sales Training Coach
It is important to consider the right kind of issues prevailing in your business to get the perfect solution immediately. There might be many areas in your business that require improvement. Generally, your sales managers would need you to enhance the performance of their team. So, it needs you to redefine the current sales process and the way through which it is executed. So, make sure that you hire the services of a best sales training coach who can improve the sales strategies as well as the selling skills of your workforce.

Top qualities of a sales training coach
The sales training coach whom you are choosing must have the following qualities to prove that he is a sales pro.
1 Highly experienced: The sales training coach whom you approach must be the one who has immense years of experience to handle the sales process. Observe the training coach’s path of career and check his achievements in the career timeline. Choose the person who has a lot of professional experience is the proof that this sales coach is reliable and credible.
2 Interaction with sales team: The expert sales training coach must know the secret of winning the trust of your sales team. He should have handled several sales teams in his career and must be able to interact with them in a positive fashion. This quality of a coach can help your sales build the trust on the tips for selling he teaches them.
3 Should provide intelligent coaching: The sales coach must hold intellectual sales training sessions that have activities which can kindle the sales skills of your work team. The training sessions or coaching classes that the coach conducts should be related to the specific industry of your business to improve the sales wing of your business. The sales coaching should be aimed at helping your work team members become experts in their related field.

The sales training program that the coach offers should have several components that are essential for the growth of the organization. So, it is important for you to avail the services of a sales coach like. We to give your sales team the much needed push.

A Virtual Assistant

In this year and age, everything is related to the internet. From shopping, banking, bills payment, social interaction, communication and every bit of actions we humans do nowadays was somehow linked to the use of the internet. For several years I had been working a very traditional job in retail. However, personal circumstances made me re-think my current situation. A part of me always feels that traditional jobs here in the Philippines are very time-consuming. With a standard 48-hour work and a 1-day off per week, quality time with family and peers seems unlikely. So if work schedules are eating much of our time, is it after all worth it? This question bugged me for a lot of months. Then one day I came across KOM Academy’s Facebook posting for a free seminar on “How to be a Virtual Assistant.” Curious, I immediately inquired and pre-registered for this event. That’s when I realized that there are a lot of opportunities outside the traditional work environment.

What is a Virtual Assistant by the way? These are smart individuals offering administrative, creative and technical skills to remote clients. So what made me think this virtual job is kick-ass better than my old job? Reason number 1, “I am my boss”! As VA, as they call it, you work as an independent contractor to the client. Which means that you don’t work for a company or an employer, but instead they outsource you to render them the services they require. About this, you are not limited to work for a single client. Hence, the second reason – more clients, more income. By this I mean you can are not limiting yourself to only one source of income. You have the control to expand your financial gains as you deem fit. The third reason, it is home-based. What is not to love working at the comforts of your space? No hassle from commuting, dealing with worsening traffic situation of the city, increased transportation expenses, annoying amnesiac office mates who always borrow your things but never bothers to return them are just a few to mention.

If there is a convenience in the environment, work schedule is something that is flexible as well in this industry. That is the fourth reason why I considered engaging into this business. The chance to be given a schedule that is favorable to your liking is something that is highly unheard of in traditional jobs. Often you must be employed a full-time job to get a decent salary. Whereas in VA, even part-time jobs can still get you good pay. Mainly because you are paid based on the quality of your work output and not just merely on the number of hours you spent. Furthermore, output-based jobs present more opportunity for workers to get promoted as evaluation is real-time.

The fifth reason I seriously consider is that this job is never boring. As mentioned earlier, VAs provide different service from administrative, to creative and even technical for those highly-skilled individuals like the programmers. Thus, this job can present you wide range of tasks that you can explore and hone your skills.

These things cited above are just a few of the factors why I considered becoming a Virtual Assistant. To have the convenience of time and place in your hands is a privilege that an ordinary worker won’t be able to experience in a traditional work setting. As I go along my journey into this business, I am looking forward to discovering more things to love and enjoy.

To be successful in business, sometimes the wisest move to make is to ask for help. Remember that you don’t have to do it all alone. Get a co-worker from a distance!

The Dangers Of Overhead Power Lines Best Practices

Every year people at work are killed or seriously injured when they come into contact with live overhead electricity power lines.

If a machine, scaffold tube, ladder, or even a jet of water touches or gets too close to an overhead wire, then electricity will be conducted to earth. This can cause a fire or explosion and electric shock and burn injuries to anyone touching the machine or equipment. An overhead wire does not need to be touched to cause serious injury or death as electricity can jump, or arc, across small gaps.

One of the biggest problems is that people simply do not notice overhead lines when they are tired, rushing or cutting corners. They can be difficult to spot, eg in foggy or dull conditions, when they blend into the surroundings at the edge of woodland, or when they are running parallel to, or under, other lines. Always assume that a power line is live unless and until the owner of the line has confirmed that it is dead. This guidance is for people who may be planning to work near overhead lines

where there is a risk of contact with the wires, and describes the steps you should take to prevent contact with them. It is primarily aimed at employers and employees who are supervising or in control of work near live overhead lines, but it will also be useful for those who are carrying out the work.

Types of overhead power lines

Most overhead lines have wires supported on metal towers/pylons or wooden poles – they are often called ‘transmission lines’ or ‘distribution lines’. Most high-voltage overhead lines, ie greater than 1000 V (1000 V = 1 kV) have wires that are bare and insulate but some have wires with a light plastic covering or coating. All high-voltage lines should be treated as though they are uninsulated. While many low-voltage overhead lines (ie less than 1 kV) have bare insulate wires, some have wires covered with insulating material. However, this insulation can sometimes be in poor condition or, with some older lines, it may not act as effective insulation; in these cases you should treat the line in the same way as an insulate line. If in any doubt, you should take a precautionary approach and consult the owner of the line.

There is a legal minimum height for overhead lines which varies according to the voltage carried. Generally, the higher the voltage, the higher the wires will need to be above ground. Equipment such as transformers and fuses attached to wooden poles and other types of supports will often be below these heights. There are also recommended minimum clearances published by the Energy Networks Association.

What does the law require?

The law requires that work may be carried out in close proximity to live overhead lines only when there is no alternative and only when the risks are acceptable and can be properly controlled. You should use this guidance to prepare a risk assessment that is specific to the site. Businesses and employees who work near to an overhead line must manage the risks. Overhead line owners have a duty to minimize the risks from their lines and, when consulted, advise others on how to control the risks. The line owner will usually be an electricity company, known as a transmission or distribution network operator, but could also be another type of organization, eg Network Rail, or a local owner, eg the operator of a caravan park.

Preventing overhead line contact

Good management, planning and consultation with interested parties before and during any work close to overhead lines will reduce the risk of accidents. This applies whatever type of work is being planned or undertaken, even if the work is temporary or of short duration. You should manage the risks if you intend to work within a distance of 10 m, measured at ground level horizontally from below the nearest wire.

Remove the risk, the most effective way to prevent contact with overhead lines is by not carrying out work where there is a risk of contact with, or close approach to, the wires. Avoiding danger from overhead power lines. If you cannot avoid working near an overhead line and there is a risk of contact or close approach to the wires, you should consult its owner to find out if the line can be permanently diverted away from the work area or replaced with underground cables. This will often be inappropriate for infrequent, short-duration or transitory work. If this cannot be done and there remains a risk of contact or close approach to the wires, find out if the overhead line can be temporarily switched off while the work is being done. The owner of the line will need time to consider and act upon these types of requests and may levy a charge for any work done.

Risk control

If the overhead line cannot be diverted or switched off, and there is no alternative to carrying out the work near it, you will need to think about how the work can be done safely. If it cannot be done safely, it should not be done at all. Your site-specific risk assessment will inform the decision. Things to consider as part of your risk assessment include:

the voltage and height above ground of the wires. Their height should be measured by a suitably trained person using non-contact measuring devices;
the nature of the work and whether it will be carried out close to or underneath the overhead line, including whether access is needed underneath the wires;
the size and reach of any machinery or equipment to be used near the overhead line;
the safe clearance distance needed between the wires and the machinery or equipment and any structures being erected. If in any doubt, the overhead line’s owner will be able to advise you on safe clearance distances;the site conditions, undulating terrain may affect stability of plant etc;
the competence, supervision and training of people working at the site.

If the line can only be switched off for short periods, schedule the passage of tall plant and, as far as is possible, other work around the line for those times. Do not store or stack items so close to overhead lines that the safety clearances can be infringed by people standing on them.

Working near but not underneath overhead lines – the use of barriers. Where there will be no work or passage of machinery or equipment under the line, you can reduce the risk of accidental contact by erecting ground-level barriers to establish a safety zone to keep people and machinery away from the wires. This area should not be used to store materials or machinery. Suitable barriers can be constructed out of large steel drums filled with rubble, concrete blocks, wire fence earthed at both ends, or earth banks marked with posts.

If steel drums are used, highlight them by painting them with, for example, red and white horizontal stripes.
If a wire fence is used, put red and white flags on the fence wire.
Make sure the barriers can be seen at night, perhaps by using white or fluorescent paint or attaching reflective strips.

Avoiding danger from overhead power lines

The safety zone should extend 6 m horizontally from the nearest wire on either side of the overhead line. You may need to increase this width on the advice of the line owner or to allow for the possibility of a jib or other moving part encroaching into the safety zone. It may be possible to reduce the width of the safety zone but you will need to make sure that there is no possibility of encroachment into the safe clearance distances in your risk assessment.

Where plant such as a crane is operating in the area, additional high-level indication should be erected to warn the operators. A line of colored plastic flags or ‘bunting’ mounted 3-6 m above ground level over the barriers is suitable. Take care when erecting bunting and flags to avoid contact or approach near the wires. Passing underneath overhead lines, if equipment or machinery capable of breaching the safety clearance distance has to pass underneath the overhead line, you will need to create a passageway through the barriers, In this situation:

keep the number of passageways to a minimum;
define the route of the passageway using fences and erect goalposts at each end to act as gateways using a rigid, non-conducting material, eg timber or plastic pipe, for the goalposts, highlighted with, for example, red and white stripes;
if the passageway is too wide to be spanned by a rigid non-conducting goalpost, you may have to use tensioned steel wire, earthed at each end, or plastic ropes with bunting attached. These should be positioned further away from the overhead line to prevent them being stretched and the safety clearances being reduced by plant moving towards the line;
ensure the surface of the passageway is leveled, formed-up and well maintained to prevent undue tilting or bouncing of the equipment;
put warning notices at either side of the passageway, on or near the goalposts and on approaches to the crossing giving the crossbar clearance height and instructing drivers to lower jibs, booms, tipper bodies etc and to keep below this height while crossing;
you may need to illuminate the notices and crossbar at night, or in poor weather conditions, to make sure they are visible;
make sure that the barriers and goalposts are maintained.

Avoiding danger from overhead power lines

On a construction site, the use of goalpost-controlled crossing points will generally apply to all plant movements under the overhead line. Working underneath overhead lines. Where work has to be carried out close to or underneath overhead lines, eg road works, pipe laying, grass cutting, farming, and erection of structures, and there is no risk of accidental contact or safe clearance distances being breached, no further precautionary measures are required. However, your risk assessment must take into account any situations that could lead to danger from the overhead wires. For example, consider whether someone may need to stand on top of a machine or scaffold platform and lift a long item above their head, or if the combined height of a load on a low lorry breaches the safe clearance distance. If this type of situation could exist, you will need to take precautionary measures.

If you cannot avoid transitory or short-duration, ground-level work where there is a risk of contact from, for example, the upward movement of cranes or tipper trailers or people carrying tools and equipment, you should carefully assess the risks and precautionary measures. Find out if the overhead line can be switched off for the duration of the work. If this cannot be done:

refer to the Energy Networks Association (ENA) publication Look Out Look Up! A Guide to the Safe Use of Mechanical Plant in the Vicinity of Electricity Overhead Lines.2 This advises establishing exclusion zones around the line and any other equipment that may be fitted to the pole or pylon. The minimum extent of these zones varies according to the voltage of the line, as follows:
– low-voltage line – 1 m;
– 11 kV and 33 kV lines – 3 m;
– 132 kV line – 6 m;
– 275 kV and 400 kV lines – 7 m;
under no circumstances must any part of plant or equipment such as ladders, poles and hand tools be able to encroach within these zones. Allow for uncertainty in measuring the distances and for the possibility of unexpected movement of the equipment due, for example, to wind conditions;
carry long objects horizontally and close to the ground and position vehicles so that no part can reach into the exclusion zone, even when fully extended. Machinery such as cranes and excavators should be modified by adding physical restraints to prevent them reaching into the exclusion zone. Note that insulating guards and/or proximity warning devices fitted to the plant without other safety precautions are not adequate protection on their own;
make sure that workers, including any contractors, understand the risks and are provided with instructions about the risk prevention measures;
arrange for the work to be directly supervised by someone who is familiar with the risks and can make sure that the required safety precautions are observed;
if you are in any doubt about the use of exclusion zones or how to interpret the ENA document, you should consult the owner of the overhead line.

Where buildings or structures are to be erected close to or underneath an overhead line, the risk of contact is increased because of the higher likelihood of safety clearances being breached. This applies to the erection of permanent structures and temporary ones such as polytunnels, tents, marquees, flagpoles, rugby posts, telescopic aerials etc. In many respects these temporary structures pose a higher risk because the work frequently involves manipulating long conducting objects by hand.

Avoiding danger from overhead power lines. The overhead line owner will be able to advise on the separation between the line and structures, for example buildings using published standards such as ENA Technical Specification 43-8 Overhead Line Clearances.1 However, you will need to take precautions during the erection of the structure. Consider erecting a horizontal barrier of timber or other insulating material beneath the overhead line to form a roof over the construction area – in some cases an earthed, steel net could be used. This should be carried out only with the agreement of the overhead line owner, who may need to switch off the line temporarily for the barrier to be erected and dismantled safely.

Ideally, work should not take place close to or under an overhead line during darkness or poor visibility conditions. Dazzle from portable or vehicle lighting can obscure rather than show up power lines. Sometimes, work needs to be carried out near uninsulated low-voltage overhead wires, or near wires covered with a material that does not provide effective insulation, connected to a building. Examples of such work are window cleaning, external painting or short-term construction work. If it is not possible to re-route or have the supply turned off, the line’s owner, eg the distribution network operator, may be able to fit temporary insulating shrouds to the wires, for which a charge may be levied. People, plant and materials still need to be kept away from the lines.

Emergency procedures

If someone or something comes into contact with an overhead line, it is important that everyone involved knows what action to take to reduce the risk of anyone sustaining an electric shock or burn injuries. Key points are:

never touch the overhead line’s wires;
assume that the wires are live, even if they are not arcing or sparking, or if they
otherwise appear to be dead;
remember that, even if lines are dead, they may be switched back on either automatically after a few seconds or remotely after a few minutes or even hours if the line’s owner is not aware that their line has been damaged:
if you can, call the emergency services. Give them your location, tell them what has happened and that electricity wires are involved, and ask them to contact the line’s owner:
if you are in contact with, or close to, a damaged wire, move away as quickly as possible and stay away until the line’s owner advises that the situation has been made safe:
if you are in a vehicle that has touched a wire, either stay in the vehicle or, if you need to get out, jump out of it as far as you can. Do not touch the vehicle while standing on the ground. Do not return to the vehicle until it has been confirmed that it is safe to do so;

Avoiding danger from overhead power lines, be aware that if a live wire is touching the ground the area around it may be live. Keep a safe distance away from the wire or anything else it may be touching and keep others away.

The Cybercrimals

The mindset of an individual who would want to attack the computers and networks owned by others is, without question, criminal. The act of intruding upon another confidential personal or business information requires a pre-meditated and calculated act. Its purpose is to inflict financial or personal harm on others by stealing money, denying the use of their information or to gain illegal access to proprietary plans. The cybercriminal is totally cynical and strives to remain in the shadows.

People who attack the information assets of others are on the prowl for system weaknesses to exploit. The prime targets are unsuspecting individuals or businesses that are vulnerable to the attack modes chosen by cybercriminals. They are deceitful and seek the cloak of anonymity.

The true nature of someone who would access, use and exploit your private information is a mixed bag. His or her character is between that of a person who would enjoy searching through your personal items and an employee who would embezzle money from a corporation.

The focus of crackers and hackers is to use their specialized knowledge to encroach upon the private lives of people and organizations. Electronic thieves seek to take advantage of people who are without information needed to fight back and block them. Cyber criminals are true low-life.

Digital bandits are sociopaths who ply their trade without regard to the harmful effects they have on others and truly lack remorse. What’s particularly unsettling about felonious computer whizzes is that they are usually very intelligent. They are without a conscience and enjoy stealing and hurting others.

Computer crooks can be ranked on a scale from “less skilled” to “expert”. Anyone can download basic cracking software from the Internet. The real pros, however, study their targets over time in stealth mode. The highly skilled cracker plans and analyzes the victim to get the maximum effect.

Preying upon unsuspecting users is among the most disturbing behaviors of the PC and mainframe pirates. Most computer users are unaware of how many threats and vulnerabilities that they face when they power-up their computer or go online. Lawless computer users thrive on the ignorance of others.

So how do you fight those who would breach your personal data with the purpose of stealing or hurting you in a variety of different ways? Presume that the bad guys are trying to break into your system. Use your knowledge and security best practices to block them.

You should:

1. Develop a security mindset
2. Assess your risks
3. Use complex passwords and phrases for your system(s)
4. Identify and eliminate common vulnerabilities
5. Routinely update software patches and fixes
6. Probe and test electronic systems
7. Use appropriate security-related hardware and software (e.g. anti-virus software, firewalls)
8. Lock your computer screen when you leave your work area
9. Encrypt and back up all of your data
10. Practice good cyber hygiene (e.g. avoid clicking on email links and attachments)
11. Avoid maintaining a persistent Internet connection

You can defend against those who would try to harm you using digital technology and the Internet. Obstruct the pathways that are followed by lawless information thieves.

Plans for Your Business Venture

Whatever the health and condition of your business venture, it will benefit from planning. Business planning of all types provides a road-map that guides the leadership team to successfully achieve business goals.

I’ve taught business plan writing for more than 10 years and I’ve also developed a one-day business plan writing workshop. As I see it, the process of business planning gives company leaders opportunities to see the big picture and remove “magical thinking” from the process. Business planning first reveals if the proposed goals are potentially viable and second, requires that we devise strategies that will make them a reality.

What your team wants to achieve will shape the plan that is written. For example, if the mission is to launch a start-up that will require significant outside investment, then the plan will include detailed financial projections. Additionally, marketing strategies that delve into customer acquisition, the competitive landscape, the logistics of the product or service launch, messaging and sales distribution, along with operational aspects such as manufacturing, staffing and quality control, must be thoroughly detailed.

Solopreneur consultants will focus heavily on marketing, in particular defining the target clients and client acquisition; providing services for which there is adequate demand; and appropriate pricing. Financial planning will focus on allocating the budget to support promotional strategies and marketing campaigns.

Whether the plan will be used to launch a big venture and attract outside investment money or open a boutique-style consulting service, include the following elements:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Present the business mission statement here. Include as well the date the business was formed; the leadership team and other key management personnel; the credentials or experience that make you and the leadership team uniquely qualified to launch and successfully run the venture; the business legal structure (LLC, Sole Proprietor, or Corporation); the products and services; one or two key competitive advantages; a concise overview of sales projections; and the amount of capital needed if recruiting investors or obtaining bank financing is a goal.

BUSINESS DESCRIPTION

It’s traditional to present a brief description of your industry and its outlook, nationally and regionally. Give the details of your products and services and briefly discuss how they’ll be used by target customers. Identify whether the venture is B2B, B2C, or B2G. If the organization holds a patent, review the competitive advantages that it will convey. Have there been any technological advances that will help or hinder the enterprise? Divulge the details here.

MARKETING

This element is a big tent that encompasses sales, product or service distribution, competitors, advertising, social media, PR, networking, branding, customer acquisition and pricing. Plans written for a small organization will spotlight the role of marketing because for Solopreneurs, success hinges on identifying and reaching paying clients, as well as pricing the services advantageously.

FINANCE

Whether you’re wealthy enough to self-finance or the venture is small and not especially demanding of capital investment, the leadership team nevertheless needs to know with a reasonable degree of certainty how much money will be required to achieve important goals.

The plan might be written to support financing for the acquisition of new office space, additional staffing, or manufacturing equipment. Bank loans typically require a business plan to demonstrate how the investment money would be used and how the organization will generate funds for loan repayment.

If the goal is to attract investors, they’ll need to be convinced by the projected sales revenue figures (as will the bank), so they’ll know when their investment will be repaid and when to expect profits if they are made co-owners of the business. A break-even analysis, projected income statement, projected cash-flow statement and projected balance sheet are required by those who will need significant money.

OPERATIONS

How will day-to-day business processes function? Tell it here, along with providing the organizational chart, the business location, the method of producing that which you sell (if you are, for example, a freelance book editor or graphic designer, you produce the service yourself), your usual sub-contractors (if you are a special events organizer, who are your preferred caterer, florist and limo service?) and quality control methods. This element is about logistics.

The Alternative Investment Fund Regulations

What is an Alternative Investment Fund (AIF)

AIF is an Alternative Investment Fund Regulations privately pooled investment vehicle which collects funds from investors, whether Indian or foreign, for investing it in accordance with a defined investment policy for the benefit of its investors. AIF may be in the form of a trust or a company or a limited liability partnership or a body corporate.

Why AIF

AIF Regulations endeavor to extend the perimeter of regulation to unregulated funds with a view to ensuring systemic stability, increasing market efficiency, encouraging the formation of new capital and consumer protection.

Who are not covered

Currently, the AIF Regulations do not apply to mutual funds, collective investment schemes, family trusts, ESOP and other employee welfare trusts, holding companies, special purpose vehicles, funds managed by securitisation or reconstruction companies and any such pool of funds which is directly regulated by any other regulator in India.

Categories of AIFs

An AIF needs to seek registration broadly under one of the 3 categories –

Category I AIF: The following are covered under Category I

1. Funds investing in start-up or early stage ventures or social ventures or SMEs or infrastructure

2. Other sectors or areas which the government or regulators consider as socially or economically desirable including the Venture Capital Funds

3. AIFs with positive spillover effects on the economy, for which certain incentives or concessions might be considered by SEBI or Government of India or other regulators in India

Category II AIF: The following are covered under Category II

1. AIFs for which no specific incentives or concessions are given by the government or any other Regulator

2. Which shall not undertake leverage other than to meet day-to-day operational requirements as permitted in these Regulations

3. Which shall include Private Equity Funds, Debt Funds, Fund of Funds and such other funds that are not classified as category I or III

Category III AIF: The following get covered under Category III

1. The AIFs including hedge funds which trade with a view to making short term returns;

2. Which employ diverse or complex trading strategies

3. Which may employ leverage including through investment in listed or unlisted derivatives

Applicability of AIF Regulations to Real Estate Funds

After knowing what an AIF is and its broad categories, we analyse whether AIF Regulations are applicable to the Real Estate Funds

Firstly AIF has to seek registration under AIF Regulations under one of the three categories stated above. Therefore if a Fund does not fall under any of the three categories stated above, then it will not seek the registration with SEBI.

If we look at the Category 1, registration is required by funds which invest in start-up or early stage ventures or social ventures or SMEs or infrastructure

If we look at the definition of infrastructure, Explanation to Regulation 2 (m) states that Infrastructure shall be as defined by the Government of India from time to time.

And in the normal parlance, the term typically refers to the technical structures that support a society, such as roads, water supply, sewers, electrical grids,

telecommunications, and so forth, and can be defined as “the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions.

Therefore infrastructure does not include the real estate or construction activity since this activity deals in investing in land, developing the land by way of construction of flats, townships and other residential and commercial projects.

But if the real estate fund carries on certain projects for a social purpose like purchasing land for charity etc.; then the fund may be covered under social venture funds.

The clause further states that ‘or other sectors or areas which the government or regulators consider as socially or economically desirable and such other Alternative Investment Funds as may be specified;’

The AIF Regulations have been notified just a few days back and till date, no other AIF funds have been specified in the Category 1 by the Government. Further what the government or regulators consider as socially and economically viable is a very broad concept. However, till the Government specifically comes out with specific inclusions under Category 1; a Real Estate Fund will not be covered under Category 1 and therefore would not require Registration.

Further, the clause also states that – Alternative Investment Funds which are generally perceived to have positive spillover effects on economy and for which the Board or Government of India or other regulators in India might consider providing incentives or concessions will bee included

By adding these lines to the Category 1, SEBI has made the category 1 very vague and open to dispute and litigations since what SEBI intends with positive spillover effects on the economy is not defined or clarified. Different people or organizations may have a different opinion on this which would lead to unnecessary litigations and hardships to business owners. However, till any clarity comes on this, the business owners need to take a cautious approach to the decision of seeking Registration under AIF Regulations.

Category II AIF

Now we examine whether a Real Estate Fund falls under the Category II AIF

If we look at the funds covered by Category II above, they

1. Shall not fall in Category I and III

2. Shall not undertake leverage or borrowing other than to meet day-to- day operational requirements and as permitted by these regulations;

3. Shall be funded such as private equity funds or debt funds for which no specific incentives or concessions are given by the government or any other Regulator

For Real Estate Fund under Category I, we notice that at present it does not fall under Category I and it also does not fall under Category III since these are basically hedge funds. Further, no specific incentives or concessions are given by the Government to the Real Estate Sector. Therefore if we look at the applicability of Real Estate Fund under Category II, these funds may fall under the Category II AIFs if they do not take leverage or borrowing except for short-term requirements.

Impact of AIF on the Real Estate Funds

Under these Regulations, the minimum investment amount has to be Rs 1 crore from each investor. Therefore attracting the funds from the investors would become tough for the real estate funds, who used to raise amounts as less as INR 1 million from the investors. Now they would need to find high-value investors though this is not the only challenge that lies ahead for those raising domestic corpuses. They now also have to invest 2.5% of the corpus or Rs 5 crore, whichever is lower, to ensure that the managing company’s risk is aligned with that of the investor. Moreover, a single investment in a company or a project cannot exceed 25% of the entire corpus.

Further a Real Estate Fund registered in the form of an LLP also would be covered under the AIF Regulations. In an LLP Structure, since the investors are also partners, the risk to the rights of the investors being misused is very minimum. Therefore applying the AIF Regulations to the LLP Structure would reduce the flexibility available to such a Structure.

Conclusion

If we look at the AIF Regulations from a short term perspective, in light of the difficult fund raising environment today, the higher ticket size for investors could potentially throw up some challenges and could in a manner constrict the growth of the asset class, but clearly, in the long run, these regulations appear to have an element of maturity to play a pivotal role in the development and shaping up of the future of alternate asset class in India. It is also clear that alternative investments are more sophisticated and risky as compared to investments in equity and debt and till market matures it is advisable that only HNIs and well informed investors make an investment in this asset class and once the market matures it is made open to all. In the long run, we may see more investments in the Alternative asset class (in terms of quantum and maturity) due to the increased investor confidence in these funds.