Importance of Free Online Business Directories

A lot of free online business directories are getting full attention right now because a lot of customers are getting several benefits from it due to the fact that they hold a compilation of information for different businesses. However rampant these online directories are in our time today, many small businesses still cannot afford it because almost all of them are requiring payment. Given this fact, the question now is despite being required to pay a certain amount, why should people still depend on these directories?First of all, these online business directories are a very good form of advertising for a lot of online businesses out there. Even though the business is just a small one and is just starting out, the fact that a lot of people look into these directories daily already increases the chance that these small businesses will receive more traffic. The job of attracting a lot of people will already be done by these directories given the fact that many people consult them; the only thing you have to do is back this up with interesting enough advertisements to succeed in convincing people to check out your online business. In addition, people will have the liberty to place in as much links they want in these online directories as long as they can really afford it. These directories do not impose limitations to entrepreneurs because anyone who can afford it can simply do as they please with their links.And speaking of limitations, people who visit these directories are not faced with limited choices of online businesses that are already huge and famous. Either small or large businesses are given an equal opportunity when their links are placed in these online directories. Therefore, if you are an entrepreneur who is just starting out with your brand new business, it is a good idea for you to start with online directories because here, it doesn’t matter how long you have been running your own business as long as you choose a field that generally interests a lot of people. Besides, instead of spending your money just to print out advertisement flyers, you can just save them and use them for other things related to making your business more successful. At least with an online directory, even though you spend a small amount for listing your link, you are somehow assured that people will really see your link because people visit these directories daily. Unlike with manual advertising, you will not be sure that people will be able to find their way to your flyers. Therefore you are not assured that the money you spent will really benefit your business in the long run.For those people who are thinking twice about listing their business link to free online business directories, just think about how your money will be more worth spending on them than on the manual process of advertising. Obviously, these online directories will bring in more profit for your business because of how much people patronize them.

Everything You Need to Know About Investing

To become successful with your money, you have to make your money work for you. You sell your labor which in return makes you money. By making each individual dollar work for you, this in return makes you wealthy over time. There are a plethora of investing opportunities out there. The key is to figure out which one is the right one for your financial situation.Stocks
The most popular of all investing opportunities, are stocks. Stocks are probably the main thing you think of when you hear of investing. When you buy a stock, you buy partial ownership of a company. Stocks range anywhere from $2, to $12,000, which can appeal to a large variety of people. To be successful when trading stocks, you have to buy low and sell high. Of course this isn’t easy, considering the market is always fluctuating. You need to watch the history of the company, know the PE Ratio, the day range, the 52 week range, etc. Knowing this information can help you predict if the stock will go up or down. You can make a lot of money investing in stocks, which means you can also lose a lot of money. You want to keep in mind that most investments in stocks are long term investments. It is very risky investing, but if you do the proper research of the history of the company, you can get a very good return.Stock Investing Tips1.) Have the Right Expectations
When you are investing in stocks, you want to make sure you aren’t expecting to become Warren Buffet over night. It just wont happen. You want to make sure you do the proper amount of research, and make sure you know the history of the market as well as the company you are investing in. When investing in stocks, the return is around 10%-13%. You don’t want to make hasty decisions and buy and sell a lot just because you aren’t making the money you expected. Make sure you know how long you are keeping an investment, and then make a commitment. This will help you focus on the principles.2.) Don’t Listen to the Media
Don’t get caught up in what everyone is talking about and what is being said around you. It will take your decision from being based on research and history, to just “hear-say”. This will hurt your investments immensely. Most of the hype and other things that are being said are just the daily fluctuation of the market.3.) Stay Focused
You want to make sure you are putting all your effort and focus into your investments. Once you buy a stock, you own part of a company. Make sure you treat it the way it is and make sure you do the proper research of all aspects of what you’re investing in. Doing your research can change your investment of making a profit of $15,000, to losing $15,000. In the end, it’s always worth it to do the extra work.Mutual Funds
When you invest in Mutual Funds, you are pooling your money with a number of other investors. You then pay someone to professionally manage and choose each individual security for you. There are a variety of different mutual funds you can choose to invest in, which range to fit your investment strategy.
3 Types of Mutual Funds
1.) Open-Ended
2.) Unit Investment Trust
3.) Close-EndedMutual Fund Investing Tips1.) Look at the Fees
Always look at the fees involved when investing in Mutual Funds. When you pay more for something, this usually means that you are going to be getting a better product or service, right? Yes! Makes sure you find the best deal, but make sure you are investing the right amount of money in the right places. It can change the course of the whole investment in the long run.2.) Research the History
One thing you can do to prepare an investment is to check out the history of the Mutual Fund. Just like anything, the history shows how well it has performed, and can be a good indicator. This can directly tell you if it will be a good investment whether it be long term or short term. Another thing you want to look at, is the asset of the fund. If it’s doing good, and there is a community of people investing in it, it can tell you if its a smart idea to invest yourself. Always check the history of any investment before you decide to purchase.3.) Look at the Contract
You never know what is all involved until you take a detailed look at the prospectus provided by the fund. You want to make sure you don’t just know bits and pieces of what’s involved, but everything there is to know, and then some. Make sure you know all the fees involved with buying and selling funds, and if there are international fees required. Knowing this can help you determine if the company is a solid company where you can make money, or if you are getting into something you will regret in the future.Bank Investments
Bank accounts are one of the simplest form of investment. Most banks give you a very small percentage for opening a bank account and giving them your money. This percentage barely beats the rise of inflation, so unless you are keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, you won’t be creating any wealth from this form of investment. Another way to invest in your bank is a CD, or Certificate of Deposit. A CD if very similar to a bank account, but they are usually for a fixed amount of time. They can be monthly, every six months, a year, etc. the CD is then held until its maturity date, and paid back with interest. A Certificate of Deposit usually earns more money than an account at which you can withdrawal the money at any time, like a bank account.Alternative Investments
Apart from the basic investments, there are other special securities. These investments include gold/silver, real estate, etc. These investments are speculative and can be very high profit, however; you need to have the knowledge.1.) Gold & Silver
The first thing you want to do before you invest in gold or silver, is to look at the market and decide if now is the best time to invest in precious metals. You can also talk to a professional and decide when the best time to buy and sell would be. You want to make sure you are familiar with the variety of ways to invest in silver. You can invest in silver mining companies, silver ETF’s, silver futures, silver bullion, and also silver coins. You want to make sure the Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) are backed by physical gold and silver. Another thing to remember, is to not just own a paper owning, but the actual precious metal as well.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.