Written by guest blogger Marissa Perez
It’s no secret that big retailers like Amazon are challenging small business owners. How do you compete directly with a powerhouse like that when your business is more of a pipsqueak? Read on for insights that will help your business shine, even in the shadow of the retail giants.
Spruce up your space
Even if websites like Amazon have changed the world of retail, The Balance points to statistics indicating brick-and-mortar sales are alive and well. Even shoppers who research online are more apt to make purchases in a physical store. With that in mind, consider making upgrades to your space. Four walls gives you a solid advantage over major online retailers, and the more attractive and well-designed your store is, the more you’ll catch shoppers’ eyes - and their business. For layout ideas, check out this smart infographic from Napier Marketing Group.
Funds might keep your ideas in check, but there are a couple of agreeable types of SBA Real Estate Loans worth considering in order to make improvements. The SBA 7(a) loan program and the SBA CDC/504 loan program are both designed for real estate, but thanks to the 7(a) line, they can potentially fit your circumstances. These loans can be hard to qualify for, but the payoff is their excellent rates, and the facelift could strengthen sales in the long run.
Level the playing field
Big dogs like Amazon have one obvious advantage over brick-and-mortar establishments: e-commerce. A website is a chance to stay open 24/7, letting customers shop whenever and wherever they choose. In order to level the playing field, a top-notch website is a must-have. Don’t fret if you’re not a computer guru, since there are plenty of ways to get a store online without knowing computer coding.
The best place to start is with a reliable website hosting service. Do some research to ensure you’re choosing a service that will be professional and dependable, since the last thing you want is your site to crash when customers start shopping. For instance, in reviews of InMotion, you can see they offer reliable and secure hosting, provide excellent customer support, and offer a 90-day free trial. Explore your options to ensure you get the best bang for your buck! And if you have a current website that is clunky or outdated, consider investing in bringing it up to speed.
If you build it, they will come
The website itself is one of the biggest factors that can make or break a business, so you want to make sure yours is as attractive and easy to navigate as possible. You can DIY a website using a website builder, which is essentially a drag-and-drop creation. These tend to be easy but lack flexibility, and might not look polished on all types of devices. Ideally, your new site will look great on laptops, tablets, and smartphones alike, so keep that in mind as you explore possibilities.
If you know a bit of coding, you can create a more tailored-looking site using a content management system (CMS). Business.com explains some are more e-commerce-friendly than others, so if you go that route, weigh the pros and cons carefully, and examine the features associated with each option.
Of course, you can always pay someone to build a website for you. Top web designers can ensure that your website engages its visitors and keeps them coming back to do more business with you. When you’re searching for an expert to hire, look for key skills on their profile, including experience with creating an effective user interface, knowledge of web fundamentals, and familiarity with web-design platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, and Squarespace.
Small businesses still have certain advantages over mega retailers like Amazon. Capitalize on your brick-and-mortar experience, and invest in a competitive website. With the right strategies, your small business can outshine the big dogs!
Featured blog post by Robert O. Peruzzi, PhD, PE, R. Peruzzi Consulting, Inc.
Professional Engineers, and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)
The state of Wyoming, in 1907, was the first to enact an engineering licensure law. Now every one of the United States, through licensing, grants only Professional Engineers (PEs) the authority to offer their services to the public or to sign and seal engineering plans. There are exemptions for engineering licensure for employees in certain situations, but obtaining a PE license is a legal requirement to practice as an engineering consultant.
Several steps are required to become a licensed PE. First, one must earn an engineering degree from an accredited engineering program. Second, one must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam to earn the title “Engineer in Training” (EIT). (The best time for engineers to take the FE exam is during their senior year of undergraduate Engineering study. The second best time to take the FE exam is now.) Four years of progressive engineering experience are required before one may take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to earn the title “Professional Engineer” (PE) and obtain the PE license. Beyond obtaining a license, continuing education is a requirement in most states including Pennsylvania. See www.NSPE.org for further information on licensing.
Independent Practice as an Engineering Consultant
After more years of experience, and perhaps after a nudge by one’s employer, many engineers go into private practice. Depending on an engineer’s skills, experience and interests, opportunities are found in project management, project evaluation and planning, engineering design and engineering inspection and verification. Situations span the spectrum from contract engineer for hire to validation, inspection and sign-off on large complex projects. Providing an unbiased outsider’s opinion can catch errors and flaws that might have otherwise gone unnoticed, saving millions of dollars.
Forensic Engineering, and the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE)
Forensic engineering is defined by NAFE as the ‘application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution’. NAFE is a chartered affinity group of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Its members and associate members must be licensed PEs and have experience in forensic engineering case preparation. Full members must have testified as an expert witness in at least two cases. NAFE has continuing education requirements which are similar to those of NSPE. NAFE membership enhances one’s credibility as an expert witness. See www.NAFE.org
Testimony by Expert Witnesses:
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
In addition to engineering, expert witnesses practice in areas such as medical, business/financial, human resources, family/custody, insurance, police/penal, real estate and more. There is no defined requirement for declaring oneself an expert, however, the expert and his/her retaining attorney must convince the court of their expertise.
Engineers of any engineering discipline can and should enhance their career by obtaining their PE license, whether or not required by their present employer. Engineers well-established in their careers may see expert witness cases fall into their lap without any effort. To seriously pursue this path, search online for “Expert Witness Training”. A licensed PE with some expert witness experience may apply for NAFE membership to further establish their career as a Forensic Engineer and Expert Witness.
Featured guest blog post by Crystal S, author at LATRO Cellular Forensics Lab
Recently I read an article on Psychology Today that triggered some thoughts about kids, teens, and cell phones. Being a millennial, I identified with many things I read in this particular article. It also pointed out that kids and teens use their cell phones eight or more hours a day which was mind-blowing. According to PT, “kids are using their cell phones way too much and putting their mental health at terrible risk. National surveys are showing that kids today are more anxious than ever before, with spiking rates of depression and suicide.”
But Why Are Kids and Teens Reaching for their Cell Phones More Than Ever?Is it because of boredom, addiction, or for social interaction? I’ll be the first to admit that when my cell phone dings, I immediately reach for it. It is a crutch when it comes to a long day of working to space out on social media during my lunch hour. Kids and teens do the exact same thing. When you give a child a cell phone without any restriction, they treat it like candy. Kids love candy so they will eat and eat until they get sick and the same analogy can be said for their cell phones.
Also, addiction can be a scary word. I knew I was addicted when myself and our team experimented and put parental controls on our phones. To read the full experiment, check it out here. I reached the parental control limit before lunch so unfortunately cell phone addiction is real and alive and not just in our kids and teens.
But it seems our youth seems to be reaching for their cell phones more than ever because it stimulates their pleasure centers and sends waves of excitement throughout their bodies. Getting a cell phone notification whether its a text, DM, like, or comment makes kids and teens feel wanted, needed, liked, and accepted. This has been happening since social media skyrocketed back in the Myspace days. Millennials would race home to check their Myspaces to see their new notifications. Now its even easier because we all carry little computers in our pockets and get instant notifications and instant gratifications.
What’s Happening with their Social Skills?
It also seems that the younger generation is petrified of picking up their phones and calling family and friends. Its as if phone calls are only made when there is an emergency and instead of saying “hello” we say “what’s wrong, who died?” It is easier to send a text and get an instant answer but we see it more than ever with Gen X kids. They need to mentally prepare themselves to call people on the phone especially when its someone they don’t know or if they are asking for help. They will use technology such as email and instant chats before they ever pick the phone and call.
Even full on discussions and even arguments happen via text instead of sitting face-to-face and communicating. “Rage texting” is also another form of fighting over cell phones: inessentially sending vicious texts to one individual over and over again with no resolution. The problem with this is that the recipient isn’t able to retaliate their feelings or their answers go unread. Another problem is that the sender cannot see the recipient’s reaction so they send extremely hurtful texts that they might regret later.
Social skills are also hindered when kids and teens are in public. They tend to bury themselves in their phones instead of interacting with others around them. They could be missing out on normal social cues that help mature them.
What’s the Solution?
There are solutions for the world of social skills in our kids and teens: limit the cell phone use, add in other forms of excitement and pleasure inducing activities, and lead by example.
Limiting the cell phone use will challenge your kids and teens to fill their time with other activities but it can be hard especially if the cell phone was given without any restrictions. Putting on parental controls is an option but there’s ways around the locks so be cautious with that approach. If you believe your child is missing out on life and too plugged in, then take the steps necessary to help them which might include taking away their cell phones or even making them pay for it.
Adding in other forms of pleasure inducing activities is also another route to take. Replace the cell phone use with sports, after school clubs, new hobbies, family nights, game nights, and all without any cell phone use. Let your kids and teens show off their skills and talent through new sports and hobbies. This will also ensure constant human interaction and face-to-face connections for your kids so they don’t lose out on those key social skills.
Challenge yourself to regulate your cell phone use too. Pick a set time for no cell phones like dinner time, family activities, and an hour before bed. If you find it difficult to not check your phone every few minutes or to even put it down once you’re on it, then setting a routine might be the answer. You are leading by example for your kids so lead in the direction that will allow them to excel at life.