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It is fair to say that the vast majority of organisations today are completely reliant on technology in some way. But over the past 20 years or so, the business world has been completely transformed as a result of state-of-the-art gadgets and trailblazing computer systems.
With this in mind, here is a look at some of the top technologies and gadgets that have had the biggest impact on business.
Never before has there been such an extensive and prosperous platform for businesses to take advantage of. Thanks to the Internet, any organisation can sell and market its goods or services on a global scale.
But in spite of the incredible opportunities that exist, succeeding online is easier said than done due to considerable competition from companies wanting to reap the same rich rewards.
For some companies, smartphones remain an unwanted distraction in the workplace. For others, they are an essential communication and computing device, capable of receiving crucial emails, monitoring stock market activity, accessing work documents, and staying in touch at all times.
However, the incredible multitasking ability of most smartphones might not have come to fruition if other influential devices like the iPod, which you can buy at Tesco, and satellite navigation systems didn’t push technology in the right direction.
Security concerns may have hampered its widespread adoption at first, but countless companies now see the cloud as indispensable. With the ability to share and access private information at any time and from anywhere, cloud computing can noticeably increase productivity levels for any business.
Furthermore, the cloud can bring about greater collaboration, better communication, and open up more remote working possibilities. In turn, this can reduce an organisation’s overheads and improve profit margins.
Images by archie4oz, used under Creative Commons license
Although several workplaces still use desktop computers, the same level of performance can be provided by laptops. All the while, these ultra-portable machines are much more versatile and flexible to the ever-changing needs of your average office environment.
In the not too distant future, laptops may even be replaced by touchscreen tablets, which are becoming increasingly capable, can still feature essential peripherals like keyboards but are easier and more engaging to interact with.
While social networks like Facebook and Twitter are great for keeping in touch with friends or discovering the latest news stories, they have also proven to be incredibly effective from a marketing perspective.
In addition to connecting and interacting with customers in real time, businesses have access to an untold amount of information regarding audience location, interests, and demographics.
Although some believe that technology has shut down certain industries and contributed to the downfall of various professions, a study by Deloitte recently revealed that technology has actually created more jobs than it has destroyed.
The amazing feats that today’s devices are capable of completing can only be a good thing for business going forward.
Keeping accurate, complete records is the cornerstone of any business worth its salt – without them you could land yourself in serious trouble.
Banking info, proof of income, expenditure and wages – all of these things need to be thoroughly documented to make your life easier when tax time rolls around.
Mechanical time clocks, like so many other aspects of the traditional workplace, are fast becoming a thing of the past. Punching cards only works well for on-site workers, and recording employee attendance on paper to be hand-keyed into a payroll system later has its pitfalls. If your company hasn’t switched to using an online time clock yet, it’s time you considered it.
Despite the much-lauded recovery from the Great Recession and all the talk of economic growth in the UK, significant numbers of British households have not really experienced much of a recovery. Recent research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation suggested that nearly four out of 10 households with children, or 8.1 million people, live below an income level regarded by the public as the minimum needed to participate in society. The working-age poor seem to be particularly hard hit; households with members aged under 35 are now over four times more likely to be below MIS (minimum income standard) than pensioners.
Even amongst those who could not be classified as poor, the economic meltdown brought job losses and other problems from which recovery can be painfully slow. As a result many are struggling with credit problems and because their credit records are less than perfect, many have trouble getting a conventional loan. For some of these people a guarantor loan may seem to be the answer. This is an unsecured loan requiring the borrower to have a second party acting as a guarantor should the borrower be unable to pay back the loan. In other words both the primary borrower and the guarantor sign up for the loan.
Although they have become quite popular in recent years, guarantor loans are not a new concept. In the days before computers and credit scoring that is essentially how banks lent money. The entire transaction was based on trust. Those days are gone, but today’s guarantor loans operate on the same principle – well, sort of. For the borrower there are definite advantages to such a loan; handled properly it can help build or restore the borrower’s credit, whilst avoiding the usurious rates attached to products such as payday loans. For the guarantor, however, there are risks.
Whom do I choose?
Lenders have specific requirements for guarantors; at one time most of them required a guarantor to be a homeowner with an impeccable credit rating, but that is no longer the case. Guarantors do still have to have quite a good credit history but increasingly lenders are willing to consider tenants as guarantors. Generally the guarantor will also have to have a regular income and an active bank account, and must be at least 21 years of age but not older than 75 by the end of the loan term.
Asking to borrow money isn’t an easy thing for most people, and approaching someone to guarantee your loan can be awkward. Clearly you need to choose someone whom you can trust, but remember that trust works both ways. The guarantor is the one who is really taking the risk and if you are unable to make your loan payments it falls on your guarantor’s shoulders. Both you and your guarantor need to assess the situation and figure out if you can afford to enter into this transaction – emotionally as well as financially. Will your relationship be decimated if you are unable to meet your obligations? That question is as important or perhaps even more important than the matter of financial affordability.
A choice not to be made lightly
Even if you and your prospective guarantor trust each other implicitly, the choice to take out a guarantor loan is not one you should make without carefully studying your options and being aware of the disadvantages. For one, interest rates are quite high; although not as extravagant as payday loans they can be 46% a year or higher. Furthermore they don’t offer the same protections to consumers as regular loans do.
Earlier this summer the debt charity Citizens Advice warned that guarantor loans have the potential to be just as damaging to borrowers as payday loans. In many cases reviewed by Citizens Advice, the guarantors were not completely aware that they were signing up for large debts, and many weren’t aware that some of the debts could be legally pursued by debt collectors even if the borrower passed away. Citizens Advice and other consumer advocates have been pressuring the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to put more protections in place for people who take out guarantor loans, but as of now it’s very much a case of caveat emptor.
One way both the borrower and prospective guarantor can protect themselves is to be informed consumers. Before resorting to a guarantor loan, always research other alternatives. If a guarantor loan seems to be the best choice then you still need to research your options by comparing lenders.
If building or rebuilding your credit is important to you, you must do two things: start with the best information available; and make a commitment to handle all loans responsibly. That way you will avoid making your credit problems worse than they already are.
Every customer relationship starts somewhere. Classic “in person” questions like “so, what do you do?” rarely lead to memorable conversations that can get the small business leaders noticed. Some awkward questions can even lead to making a bad first impression that ends the relationship even before it starts.
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