Which is a Better Caricature Maker: Caricaturer vs. PhotoCartoon vs. Toonme

posted on January 28, 2022

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A caricature is a kind of drawing where a person is drawn with exaggerated or overemphasized features while also oversimplifying other features. These drawings are usually found in editorials or magazines and are most likely based on well-known figures or celebrities.

What is an Example of a Caricature:

Based on the previous samples, caricatures include some overemphasized body parts of a person and use bold lines and colors. These body parts could be significant features that make a person well-known, such as their eyes, nose, lips, and the like.

How Does Caricature Work?

As previously mentioned, caricature works by emphasizing a person’s distinguishable features. Besides, what’s the point of making a caricature of a person if the drawing isn’t recognizable, to begin with?

This is why it’s a must to get the elements of the face right and emphasize significant features to get that caricature effect. To make your caricature successful, you can also capture the personality of the person you’re trying to draw through various props and different styles.

Furthermore, caricatures don’t have to be based on famous personalities. In fact, you can create a caricature of yourself or another person.

How to Draw a Caricature By Hand?

To draw a caricature by hand, you can go traditional using any pencil and paper to make your sketch. You can also draw a caricature through digital art by creating digital caricature through software such as Photoshop.

Image courtesy of Pexels

Disadvantages of Drawing Caricature by Hand

Of course, if you’re not a skilled artist, to begin with, drawing a caricature from scratch will be a difficult task. It will take some practice to polish your drawing skills and get the output you desire, so constant practice is essential if you want to create a caricature that looks like you or the person you’re trying to create a caricature of.

How do AI Caricature Makers work?

AI caricature makers work by using tools and techniques where machines produce caricatures based on how artists typically draw. For instance, a particular system would use hundreds or thousands of caricatures made by professionals to generate a caricature based on a single photo.

So, if you want to enjoy caricatures but can’t make one on your own, it’s highly recommended that you use free caricature maker apps that are available online.

3 Free Caricature Maker APPs for Caricature Lovers:

Of course, suppose you’re not a naturally-skilled artist and still want to enjoy portraits of yourself, family, or friends in various caricature styles. In that case, you can commission an artist that draws caricatures for reasonable prices.

But if you don’t have the money to commission an artist, you can also use free caricature apps available online. Below are some free caricature apps for every caricature lover out there, including steps on how to use them.

1. Caricaturer.io

Overview of Caricaturer.io

Caricaturer.io is a free caricature app that you can use online. You can get more than 60 caricature images generated by the app’s AI technologies by simply uploading an image.

If you’re interested in using this caricature maker, here are the simple steps you can use to turn your photos into caricatures.

How to convert a photo to caricature

Step 1: Start by visiting Caricaturer.io‘s website.

Step 2: Once the website is loaded, upload or drop any photo of your choice on the “Upload an Image” button.

Step 3: Now that you’ve loaded your chosen photo, you can click on the upload button to process various caricatures of your image. All you have to do is wait.

Step 4: Depending on your internet speed and other factors, waiting times for your processed caricatures can vary. So with that in mind, you can create an account in order to receive notifications about your photo, even if you’re not on the website.

Step 5: Finally, when your caricatures are done processing, you can download them with the styles you prefer.

Step 6: If you want to download all the available caricatures produced by this site, you can sign up (if you haven’t done so) for a ZIP download and take the necessary steps to create and verify your account. Once you’ve done that, you can download the ZIP file which will contain all 60+ caricatures of your photo.

Before and After effects:

Caricaturer.io provides you with a ton of cartoon effects, color styles, and backgrounds to choose from. Here’s a sample set of caricatures from the website. Just look at all the fantastic caricatures you can choose from!

2. Photocartoon.net

Overview of Photocartoon

Photocartoon.net is another free caricature maker that lets you turn your images into a cartoon or painting.

How to convert a photo to caricature

Step 1: To begin, go to Photocartoon’s website at Photocartoon.net and upload your chosen photo from your computer or a URL.

Step 2: After uploading your chosen photo, click on the “Cartoonize Online” button to begin your image’s “cartoonizing” process.

Step 3: Photocartoon will now provide you with several cartoon styles to choose from. To choose from different styles, go to the left side of the app to find the box containing the various cartoon styles that you can select for your desired output. You can scroll up or down to browse through several cartoon styles.

Step 4: Additionally, you can also include text in your photo and customize it with various fonts, colors, and sizes by locating the text box at the top-right.

Step 5: If you want to adjust the photo’s brightness, contrast, saturation, and hue, you can go to the bottom-right portion of the site to find the Equalizer section. By default, the settings of each aspect are set to zero.

Step 6: Once you’re satisfied with the result, scroll down to find the download button to save your caricature.

Before and After effects:

Here are some sample photos created by Photocartoon’s app using different styles and adjusted brightness, saturation, contrast, and hue. Look at how the head is oversized from the drawing while still looking like the person in the given photo.

3. Toonme

Overview of Toonme

Toonme is another free caricature maker where you can convert your photo to a caricature online. And just like other previous apps we’ve discussed and used, it also makes use of AI technologies to turn all your photos into caricatures!

Here’s a helpful guide down below on how you can use Toonme to create amazing caricatures of your images.

How to convert a photo to caricature

Step 1: Go to Toonme’s website at toonme.com.

Step 2: Once the site is loaded, simply click on the upload button (the blue circle button with the “+” sign) to upload your photo for cartooning.

Step 3: You will now be directed to Toonme’s photo lab. From here, you can select a variety of cartoon styles based on your preferences.

Step 4: When you’re done choosing your preferred styles, click on the download button to save your created caricature.

Before and After effects:

Voila! Here are the generated caricatures from the Toonme website. Toonme also includes full-body caricature styles for you to try out, where the head is oversized, giving it that caricature effect characterized by such drawings.

Which is The Best Caricature Maker: Caricaturer.io vs. Photocartoon vs. Toonme

Caricaturer.io is Preferred

Caricaturer.io wins due to its wide caricature styles produced for you in just a matter of minutes. Besides, all you have to do is upload your chosen photo and let the AI do its work. After some time, you will have over 60 caricatures to choose from and download the styles to your liking. And if you like them all, you can easily download all in one ZIP file.

One downside of using this caricature maker, however, is its speed. The site says that it only takes half a minute or more to finish the caricature-making process, but from my experience, it takes quite a while. This is most likely due to internet speed which can greatly affect the time needed to create all 60+ caricatures.

In addition, another turn-off about Caricaturer.io is its inability to cancel the current ongoing process. For instance, if you wanted to cancel the process and use another photo for caricatures, closing the website doesn’t work. As previously mentioned, the process continues even after closing the site, so there is no way to cancel once you’ve started it.

Photocartoon is Preferred

Photocartoon is preferred if you want to further customize your caricature by adding text and adjusting its brightness, contrast, and the like. Photocartoon also comes with several options for cartoon styles and other effects, so using it is easy and fun.

The downside to Photocartoon is its big watermark right on top of the photo which can look very disruptive. To download your caricature without a watermark, you have to purchase the full version of Photocartoon Pro.

Buying Photocartoon Pro will give you watermark-free images, allow you to download HD images, and let you produce unlimited caricatures. Photocartoon Pro, however, can only be used with the Windows operating system, so non-Windows users cannot enjoy the pro version’s software perks.

Toonme is Preferred

Toonme is the caricature maker for you if you want several styles to choose from and to download a photo with a less disruptive watermark. Toonme is also easy to use and doesn’t require prior editing knowledge to generate a caricature of a photo or two.

Besides its website, Toonme also comes in a free mobile app, so you can use it on your mobile devices. So whether you’re an iOS user or on Android, this app is easily accessible by anyone who owns a device and has Wi-Fi.

Toonme’s stumbling block compared to apps such as Photocartoon is its limited customization options on the website, unlike its downloadable application. Still, the app is free, so you can freely download and use the app and its features as much as you want.

Wrapping Up

Overall, drawing a caricature on your own requires a bit of skill and mastery before you can successfully create one for display, but thanks to free caricature maker apps such as the three above, you can access amazing caricatures free of charge.

It’s amazing how far AI technology has come in our generation. Thanks to its capabilities, you can produce cartoonized versions of yourself. So, if you want to create a caricature of yourself or someone else, you can use the above caricature makers and produce your desired caricature in a few easy steps.

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Tips on Starting a Consumer Class Action

posted on November 16, 2021

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Have you and your friends wanted to sue a shady business, producer, or manufacturer of goods, products, and services? Do you know of others who share the same stories of hurt and betrayal caused by the dangers of capitalistic entities? Well, then you probably know that a class action lawsuit would be the best course of action to take. Remember that a class action lawsuit is several lawsuits by multiple individuals combined into one. Any group of individuals can file a class action lawsuit if they are harmed, injured, or had their rights violated by the wrongdoings of another entity or organization.

However, the lawsuit that the group files must fulfill certain criteria before what they filed officially becomes a class action lawsuit. For a group to be considered a “class,” the individual members of the group must meet specific legal requirements. The class then designates an individual or two to be their lead plaintiff or plaintiffs to work with their lawyers and represent them in court. It must be specified that in a consumer class action lawsuit the lead plaintiff/s must be the consumer/s.

If you know how to start a class action lawsuit, then you have it in you to apply the necessary tips & tricks to get through a consumer class action lawsuit smoothly so that justice may be truly served.

Consumer Class Action Starter Tips

1. Know your consumer rights!

Before filing a consumer class action against a bad business or consumeristic corporation, it is of utmost importance to know what you and your fellows are fighting for. Knowing your rights is essential to making a stand. To know them is to be responsible for properly exercising and upholding them.

Your rights are as follows (as standardized by international consumer groups and government organizations):

  • The right to safe goods, products, and services
  • The right to complete and factual information from businesses, sellers, and manufacturers to make informed consumer choices
  • The right to choose from a variety of goods, products, and services at fair prices
  • The right to have your complaints heard and addressed
  • The right to be remedied or compensated by businesses, sellers, or manufacturers if they are found guilty of harming you and other consumers
  • The right to basic necessities (food, water, clothing, and shelter)
  • The right to a safe and healthy environment

Consult with a lawyer if you believe that one or more of the universal rights mentioned were violated.

2. Learn more about what was done to you and others

Some consumer rights law violations can be plainly described as unfair business practices, while other violations are just outright consumer fraud. The shadiest kinds of business practices occur when consumers are in particularly vulnerable circumstances. For example, when people fall behind on their bills, or when they’re in the dark with regard to the nature of the good, product, or service they have availed.

Some of these shady activities are:

  • Consumer fraud

– occurs when an entity or individual willfully deceives consumers for monetary gain (examples include: false or misleading advertising, selling of faulty products, and identity theft)

  • Negligence (medical or pharmaceutical)

– happens when a medical or pharmaceutical company neglects to warn consumers of a good or product’s side effects, or when said company’s research into the potential side effects and dangers of their good or product is misinterpreted

  • Predatory lending

– covers a wide range of misconduct, such as overcharging interest rates on credit cards, giving unfair loan terms to consumers, and hiding fees & penalties in the fine print of agreements and warranties

3. Get those receipts

Supporting documents like receipts, policies, or warranties will be invaluable should you find yourself in a situation wherein a defective product was given or a service rendered wasn’t up to par. If you’ve lost the physical copies of these documents, digital copies or photocopies will do (depending on the leniency of the company or organization involved). However, consumer fraud cases require photographic evidence of the fraudulent activity or faulty item/s dealt with by the consumer. Writing down all the details of a problematic purchase and organizing the necessary documents involved will help you plan how to start a class action lawsuit.

4. Have your own lawyer present

You can remain a part of a consumer class action lawsuit, and be part of the class, even with a separate lawyer solely representing your interests. This ensures that the consumer class action moves forward in a fair and just manner for everyone.

5. Send notice

Before filing a claim, you must send a notice to the court. In the legal notice, state what you believe the business, producer, or manufacturer did wrong and how it affected you and others. You may also give the amount of damages wanted. Send the notice sixty (60) days in advance via certified mail.

Seeking justice as a consumer collective will put you on the path to filing a consumer class action lawsuit. A consumer class action enables the legal process to proceed more swiftly and economically, particularly in cases against large businesses and companies. Filing one is less costly for the plaintiffs and can provide the only means for some individuals to pursue matters legally. Without people complaining about goods, products, or services, it would have been impossible for leaders of nations and global organizations to come up with rules and regulations that protect us from various forms of misconduct done by malicious capitalistic entities. So, dear consumers, do not be afraid to take a stand and fight for your rights. It could change someone’s life.

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Remote Workforce Demands Biometric Identity Assurance

posted on November 5, 2021

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This recent rapid and increasing shift to a remote work model, however, can pose security risks to companies, especially if they are still using inadequate digital defenses. With remote working practices, there could be increased attempts to circumvent conventional security measures or use stolen data to impersonate legitimate employees to perform illegal acts.

Infographic Courtesy of: authID.ai

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The 10 Best CMOS Batteries that You Must Know About

posted on October 23, 2021

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If you’ve had a laptop for quite a while, it’s conceivable that the CMOS battery has died and your machine is malfunctioning. Unfortunately, the CMOS battery is a component that is only found in laptops. So it’s possible that when it fails, your computer will have trouble booting up.

But, wait, my laptop has many batteries? In a nutshell, YES. But, the primary laptop battery powers all parts from the CPU to the hard drive and is one of your laptop’s most significant and heaviest elements. On the other hand, a CMOS battery supplies power to just the BIOS and is generally coin-sized and located on the motherboard. So, you may have guessed by now how important it is.

What Is A CMOS Battery? Overview and Definition

A computer, be it a desktop or a laptop, has a Motherboard on which the BIOS configurations are installed in a little amount of storage called CMOS. BIOS settings include hardware settings, system time, and date. When the device is turned off, the BIOS protects the data. In addition, the system clock restarts if the CMOS loses power.

A northbridge motherboard connects the CPU to the faster components of a PC, while a southbridge motherboard connects the CPU to the slower parts. But, the CMOS battery feeds the BIOS firmware in your laptop, which is responsible for starting it up and setting data flow. So, if your computer has trouble booting up, or your drivers disappear, or the date and time on your laptop are inaccurate, it means your CMOS battery is expired.

How to Know if your CMOS Battery is not Working?

Even though CMOS is a tiny battery, it performs admirably as a backup battery. It is necessary to protect data from being disrupted. There are many instances when your PC will indicate to you that your CMOS battery has failed. The instances are;

Boot Up Problems

BIOS is primarily accountable for powering up your computer. Therefore, your laptop may have 

a tough time starting up without the battery, or it may not start up at all. You could also hear a persistent beep sound coming from the motherboard, another sign of a dead battery.

Incorrect Time and Date

BIOS has a real-time clock that records the time and date even though your machine is turned down. The method is maintained by CMOS. So if the date and time have suddenly changed, it’s a solid indication that the CMOS battery has failed.

Keyboard Becomes Less Responsive

It’s conceivable that your keys aren’t working; for example, you can’t move your mouse or click on any icons, or the laptop isn’t reading your keyboard inputs. Alternatively, your peripherals might be thrown out of sync, your cursor is imprecise, and your key inputs cause weird operating system reactions.

Disappearing drivers

It may happen if your CMOS battery has died that the drivers you installed are disappearing on their own. For example, we sometimes install drivers for our home printers, and if you see them disappearing all of a sudden, it may be because of a CMOS failure. 

No Internet Connectivity

You might be unable to connect to the internet if your CMOS battery dies. BIOS is in charge of keeping hardware and network drivers up to date. As soon as you replace the battery, you’ll have access to all of your photos, movies, and documents.

What are the Best CMOS Batteries?

A new CMOS battery may be purchased online at a meager price, generally between $1 and $10. In addition, many local businesses, including Target, Fry’s Electronics, Best Buy, and office supply stores, sell these along with ESD pads. Let’s take a look at a few CMOS battery options. 

1. Duracell Specialty 2032 Lithium Coin 

Key Fobs, tiny remotes, scales, wearables, sensors, and medical equipment- everything is compatible with this CMOS battery. The package is tamper-proof, with a double blister to prevent unintentional opening. It comes in various size options such as 1220, 1620, 1632, 2016, etc. It costs $6.42. 

2. GP Battery Lithium Button Cell

This CMOS battery is a crucial source of power for a variety of gadgets. They’re tiny in size but quite firm in performance, and there’s no mercury added to them. This battery comes in a set of 5 batteries with a unit count of 5 and a voltage of 3 volts. It costs $4.67. 

3. Panasonic CR2032 Lithium

These tiny batteries are of supreme quality because they are manufactured by Panasonic itself. It comes in a set of 6, and it is compatible with toys. With the lithium 3-volt battery and 4 unit counts, this is a pretty safe option for any device. It costs $5.27. 

4. New For DELL 8.5cm CR2032

This CMOS battery is compatible with laptops like Toshiba, Lenovo, HP, Asus, Sony, Dell, Acer, etc. Some customers have complained about the wrong arrangement of the black and red wire of this battery. But, other than that, it is a pretty good deal for only $3.64. 

5. Energizer 2032 Lithium 

There are two energizer 2032 lithium coin batteries available in this set. With 10 years of shelf life, this CMOS battery is a good deal for just $4.06. The battery cell is composed of lithium manganese dioxide, so you can guess how good its quality is.

6. LiCB CR2032 3V Lithium 

It costs $8.11. Strict Quality Control Standards are used to test it. Longer battery life and power are ensured using Grade A CR2032 batteries. It is compatible with motherboards, watches, calculators, toys, MP3 players, games, digital voice recorders, medical devices, etc. 

7. VARTA Batteries CR2032 Lithium

This CMOS battery is of premium quality and has a long shelf life, even for everyday use. The power source is quite reliable, and it has a warranty of 10 years. From toys to remote controls, from car keys to electronic clocks- it is compatible with everything. Moreover, it costs only $2.70.

8. COMPAQ CQ56 CQ62 Battery

This CMOS battery comes with a cable and a connector packaged in a secured manner. It comes in a set of 1 battery. It is pretty lightweight for 3 volts of voltage. As Compaq manufactured it initially, it is trustworthy in the market. It costs $4.45.

9. Duracell 2032 Twin

From wearables to scales and from medical devices to sensors-this battery is compatible with all. In addition, the power preserve technology guarantees a 10 year warranty period for this CMOS battery. It also comes with tamper-proof packaging and costs $5.68. 

10. Panasonic CR2032 3 V Button

It comes in a set of 20 batteries, and it is the most expensive CMOS battery on our list. It costs $11.23. Since it is composed of lithium manganese dioxide, the quality is guaranteed. With Panasonic as its original manufacturer, the battery has a good reputation in the market.

Signing Off

There is a separate CMOS battery linked to the motherboard in laptops and desktops by two cables. When a device’s passcode is set, the CMOS battery keeps track of it. So, you may have understood by now why a CMOS battery is so important. You can buy any of these CMOS batteries that we have mentioned here online at a lower price. 

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Businesses That Made It Big With an Mvp and How You Can Get Started

posted on October 22, 2021

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Minimum viable product refers to a product with the bare minimum features required to test the market potential in a given region. Basically, an MVP is cheaper to build than the final product and a useful concept to test the profitability of an innovative idea before investing millions in production. Thus, it creates a safe space for entrepreneurs where they can freely experiment with their creative freedom and try out business ideas.


Some benefits of using MVP to test market viability are feedback generation from early adapters, faster development and increased chances of securing generous investment. Before establishing a successful business, several big names in the world also started their journey with MVP development.

Some of the Companies that Started with an MVP Are:

Amazon

One of the world’s leading eCommerce companies and also a household name, Amazon started its business operations back in the year 1994. Its owner Jeff Bezos launched the company to sell books, and it only had 5 products to sell. Later Bezos looked for some other categories and collected consumer feedback. Gradually, Amazon started selling various types of products including furniture, food, toys, electronics, etc. and gained worldwide success. 

Twitter

Twitter started in 2006 as an idea of a platform that allowed people to send messages to a group. It was capitalized by its four board members, who launched it first for intra-business communication and then made it public in July 2006. A year later, Twitter was recording 60,000 tweets a day and had already become a successful social media platform. Currently, Twitter is available in over 200 countries and records 500 million daily tweets on an average. 

Groupon

Similar to Twitter, Groupon was executed on an intra-business structure. Before jumping on to the final product, Groupon’s founder Andrew Mason released another software named ‘The Point’ that sent coupons to around a 1000 employees. Mason received feedback on the software for 10 months. After catching up with the exact user demands, Mason launched Groupon in 2010 and made it one of the world’s leading daily deals platforms. Not to mention, it only took Andew Mason a month to turn ‘The Point’, his MVP, into the final product ‘Groupon’. 

AirBnb

Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia were two friends who were having some budget problems to pay the rent of their apartment. However, they had some free space and some mattresses to offer. They tested out their idea at a tech conference and offered people resting space at $80 per night. At this point, their MVP had no website or a full-fledged team of customer support. Later on, they tested on sellers if they’d be willing to let strangers stay in their houses in exchange for some payment.

Facebook

Before being a global hype in the 2000s, Facebook was launched as ‘TheFacebook’. Meant to connect college students with each other, Facebook simplified the approach to socialize and disrupted the way popular social media sites of that time worked. With time, it became a social media giant that also connected family, friends, businesspeople and even strangers with each other.

How to Modify your MVP?

MVP takes the form of iterative development. However, there are also three simple concepts that you can remember. These are MUP (Minimum Usable Product), MMP (Minimum Marketable Product) and MLP (Minimum Lovable Product).

MUP:This product has all minimum features to make the product usable for the targeted consumers. 

MMP:This product has all the features and defined USPs to make the product fit for marketing

MLP:This product focuses on those minimum requirements that are necessary to make the product lovable. 

How to Find a Reliable Agency for MVP Development?

Entrepreneurs cannot develop an MVP on their own. They are required to hire a mvp software development company. Excluding the time and budget constraints, there are some suggested measures that you can take to find a reliable MVP development firm:

1. View the Case Studies: Case studies stay true to the capabilities of a firm. They are a direct indicator of the skill set of a company.

2. Critic Reviews:Truspilot, Clutch, G2 and UpCity are reliable critic websites who constantly review software development companies to save the trouble for entrepreneurs like you. 

3. Talk to Sales:Discuss your idea with the company before selection. They can guide you about all the complications while allowing you to evaluate their expertise in real time.  

4. Consider Multiple Options:Consult multiple companies before selecting your MVP development firm.

5. Ask for Demo:Some companies provide demos of their products and services. In the end, it is the demos that leave a major impact on a business prospect and help you make an informed decision. 

6. Technical Support: Technical support can be as costly as the development itself. You want to hire the company with the most favorable technical support policies. 

Conclusion

Although the main purpose of an MVP is to validate a market idea, it may fail to do so. However, you can still capitalize by collecting consumer feedback and continuously improving your product like the aforementioned companies did. In the end, they were able to gain success due to validated ideas, iterative improvement and consistency in their approach.

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Legal Contract Lifecycle Management: Traditional vs. Digital Approaches

posted on October 2, 2021

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The traditional approach of legal contract lifecycle management is outdated. Using a digital method shortens your contract lifecycles and simplifies their management.

The Benefits of Contract Management Software for Legal Teams

Digitizing Your Legal Contract Management Process

Today’s fast-paced world requires law firms to have an effective contract management process in place to satisfy their clients’ needs. However, traditional management methods are outdated and inefficient, meaning firms that use them will fall behind their competitors. The digital approach to legal contract lifecycle management is far more efficient, making it a worthy investment for your company. 

What is legal contract lifecycle management? 

Effective contract management is essential for law firms because it allows them to rapidly and accurately create or revise various agreements and avoid liability. The elements of proactive management include proper creation, negotiation, adherence, oversight, and documentation. In the modern world, proper management is essential for satisfying clients, as it is nearly impossible for legal times to form successful agreements without it. 

The stages of legal contract lifecycle management

If you want to manage your contracts efficiently, you must understand the different legal contract lifecycle management stages. You must carefully manage each phase to ensure that the arrangement is completed successfully and compliant with regulations. 

Some of the most critical phases of a contract lifecycle include:

  • Creation
  • Review
  • Approval
  • Execution
  • Performance
  • Expiration

It is difficult for legal teams to keep track of each phase of the contract lifecycle manually. This is especially true for firms that handle a large load of agreements daily. However, almost every law office can significantly benefit from digital administrative tools as they streamline each phase of the agreement process, saving your company time and resources. 

Traditional vs. digital legal contract lifecycle management

Law firms have two options for contract management, the traditional approach, and the automated approach. Traditionally managing agreements relies on manual processes, physical files, and email to manage vital documents. On the other hand, contract automation allows you to use technology-based tools to streamline your contract lifecycles. Features such as cloud service, templates, and eSignatures give teams that utilize management software a competitive edge over other law firms.

The advantages of using contract management software for legal documents

Today, most clients expect law firms to manage each stage of the agreement lifecycle using contract management software for legal documents. The reason being that the digital platform enables them to draft templates, review terms, and deliver their obligations more efficiently than a firm that relies on traditional management. 

Here are some of the benefits of using contract management software for legal agreements compared to traditional management:

1. Organize all your documents in a secure repository

Using a legal contract lifecycle management program means that you can store all of your documents on a centralized cloud service. This will make them more accessible and also reduce the chances of losing any critical documents or information. When you have a single repository, multiple attorneys and departments can securely access any information they need when working on a case at the push of a button. 

2. Monitor contract approval time

Many clients want contracts approved as quickly as possible, which is challenging to do when you rely on manual management practices. Using a legal management platform allows you to keep contract approval time down and, as a result, keep your clients satisfied with their experience. Additionally, locking down an agreement early ensures that you won’t waste time going back and forth over changes and waiting for approval.

3. Utilize updated contract templates

Using contract templates is one of the best ways to reduce your agreement lifecycles and liability. For instance, legal contract lifecycle management software lets you create one template that you can amend to fit different clients’ needs instead of editing various documents. However, for templates to remain compliant and practical, they should be updated every three to four months. Without smart management, you rely on memory to draft contracts, leaving room for loopholes and liabilities. 

4. Include compliance management in your administrative tasks

Integrating compliance checks into your contract life cycle effectively ensures you aren’t vulnerable to any legal issues. Compliance requirements should be looked over thoroughly, which is difficult for firms that use traditional management techniques. Legal contract management tools help you identify any compliance issues and quickly make necessary adjustments to your document. 

5. Create a standardized contract negotiation process

A standardized negotiation process lets non-legal professionals such as accountants and paralegals specify contract conditions with your clients. Rather than wasting an attorney’s time with non-essential tasks, you can give non-lawyers a negotiation blueprint, allowing your firm to work more efficiently. When the negotiation process is kept short using automation solutions, you can push agreements forward without wasting time and money.

6. Route request to the correct party

When you utilize a new document management platform, you must forward contractual requests to the right person. This is a strenuous process with manual management as you may not know which department handles certain documents. A legal contract lifecycle management solution will automatically send requests to the correct individual. This ensures that your attorneys only deal with the information they need rather than sending documents around to other departments.

7. Utilize eSignatures

The digital approach of legal document management allows you to use eSignatures to sign contracts. Electronic signatures are as legally binding as pen and paper signatures. But, the benefit of them is that you can sign documents right on your automation platform. Integrating digital signatures into your practice ensures that contracts are signed off on efficiently to streamline your administration process further.

Automation is the future of contract management for legal departments

Streamlined contract management for legal departments is critical for delivering compliant contracts efficiently. Digital contract management allows you to manage your agreements from a top-down perspective, letting you see the big picture while focusing on what matters to your client base. This approach to management isn’t possible when you rely on traditional pen and paper techniques, opening your firm up to financial and legal liability. Therefore, if you want your law firm to remain competitive, you must invest in legal contract lifecycle management software.

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No More Business As Usual When You Double Down on Remote Sales

posted on September 28, 2021

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The enterprise sales cycle is typically measured in months, if not years. Products and services are often complex, and when you’re helping companies automate their vendor payments like I am, you’ll end up working through some process changes. Quite often, the sale involves a significant amount of dialogue around changing the “status-quo”. As with most enterprise offerings, there are multiple stakeholders and decision makers, each with their own concerns about the impact of change. 

Expert guidance at every step

To make sure everyone understands the value of change, and is comfortable with it, I like to bring in many people outside of the sales team at different points during the cycle. These include our internal subject matter experts and company leaders who can speak directly to their peers in the prospect organization.

Early on in the sales process I usually bring in someone from our operations or solutions consulting team to help us dig deeply into the prospect’s current vendor payment setup. It helps to learn where the prospect is at, where they’d like to end up, and how our solution can take them there. 

As people start to think about how their process is going to change, I bring in people from implementation, supplier enablement and/or operations. This helps to better explain what the impact will be to their suppliers, and what implementation will look like for their users. Later in the process, I bring in customer success and tech support people to talk about what they can expect after they go live. 

Last year a government subcontractor client of ours was very concerned about risk and about information security. I brought in the head of our information security team to talk to their Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). They spoke each other’s language and our credibility skyrocketed.

The idea behind my process is to provide different perspectives, and to let people talk with others who have insights into their work. Similarly, to many salespeople in this kind of collaborative selling scenario, I act as master of ceremonies, bringing together the right people and putting together the right agenda for each prospect. 

Frequent flyer miles

Before we moved to a more digital sales process, we were racking up those frequent flyer miles. Sometimes we’d fly to a far-away town for one meeting. We might end up spending several days somewhere between travel and meetings, keeping us from other work and costing the company money. We might also do it the other way around, flying prospects to our HQ. Taking up three days of their time, multiplied by however many people they’re bringing out.

We also used to spend a lot of time, effort, and money going to trade shows. We’d ship in booths and equipment and team members to man these booths to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. After a year and a half of remote selling that looks really inefficient, even a bit antiquated.

The only digital part of our sales process was bringing in executives or subject matter experts remotely.

Effective but not efficient

Last year, when I was succeeding at sales without ever leaving the house, I had a lightbulb moment: Do clients even want to have face-to-face meetings?

According to research by McKinsey, more than three quarters of buyers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions, even in industries where field sales have long been the norm.

Don’t get me wrong–there’s value in meeting folks face to face, depending on the situation. In-person meetings are especially important for big deals where you need to establish a high comfort level. However, face-to-face sales meetings are a very time consuming, expensive way to sell, not to mention that some of the people you want to have there are going to have to dial in remotely anyhow.

Challenging Sales

Many of us who are in sales practice are at least familiar with The Challenger Sale. In a nutshell, it’s about understanding the customer’s problems, challenging the current way of thinking, and articulating things that they haven’t even thought about. Maybe it’s time to apply those principles to ourselves. We’re selling change to the enterprise, but how much have we changed our own processes in the past decade? 

For example, look at how cars are being sold now. In the old days you’d have to go to the car lot, kick the tires, fill out paperwork, and sit for hours while the salesperson went to the back room and talked to their managers. I bought a lot of cars that way and every time it was an awful experience. Now you can pick out a car online and have it delivered to your home for a test drive. This process update had my gears turning (pun intended).

Better remote selling

It’s time to double down on remote sales and improve our processes. We’ve reached a point where we can sell pretty effectively using videoconferencing technology, but we can do even better. We can work with marketing to help us brand our online presentation materials and backdrops and level up our sound and lighting. We can use time not spent traveling to organize, polish, and practice our presentations and make them better.

Scheduling is the hardest part of team selling, since there can be as many as 10 or 15 people that need to be on the call, but that was hard with in-person selling too. We can use calendar software to help, or hire someone that’s dedicated to helping set up these meetings for the whole sales team. We can make better use of expert and executive time by establishing regular office hours where multiple sales people can bring their prospects to ask questions. We can do more frequent live demos and take questions from the audience. I’ve got a lot of ideas about how to improve remote sales. They’re all absolutely attainable, especially with the time we get back by skipping travel.

A team sport

Enterprise sales is a team sport. People buy from you first. Then they buy from your company and your product, more or less in that order. Personal relationships are primary, regardless of whether you’re remote or in-person.

I believe that there’s more of an opportunity to make these kinds of connections, and build confidence and trust, remotely. Partially because we already are succeeding at this, and because remote sales are less of an ask on the prospects’ time.

Virtual sales are efficient for sales people too. We can service more customers faster, which helps us accelerate the transition to automated vendor payments, or whatever kind of change for the better, that we’re selling.

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5 Best Media Players Which You Should Use

posted on September 25, 2021

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If you’re seeking the best media players, you’ve come to the right place. We have information about the best media players, which can be found right here.

The greatest media player will provide you with a major streaming experience. Moreover, people are willing to watch live online streaming videos because internet speed improves day by day.

There are so many options nowadays that choosing one might be confusing as well as stressful. Check here for the best tips and tricks in the tech world. We have an enormous list of articles, posts, how-to guides, and tutorials for all things related to tech. AMTricks will be the best tech site you’ll come across.

For your convenience, we’ve compiled a list of the top 5 media players from which to choose.

Our Top 5 Best Media Players Are As Follows

  1. VLC Media Player
  2. 5K Player
  3. KM Player
  4. PotPlayer
  5. DivX Player

1. VLC Media Player

VLC is a free media player, and we all like free. It’s a free, open-source multimedia player that can play practically anything and almost all types of video file formats. Without a doubt, the greatest media player is VLC Media Player, which is at the top of this list for a reason: you can use it for years. In addition, you can use the VLC media player on various systems, including Android, Linux, Unix, iOS, and macOS, thanks to its cross-platform availability.

VLC Media Player also provides superb features for fine-tuning video and music playing. It can play formats that haven’t been mentioned in years. It is lightning-fast and does it all without malware, advertisements, or anything else.

2. 5K Player

The 5KPlayer has a very clean and straightforward user interface. It’s also noted for having a wider range of streaming alternatives. As the name suggests, 5K Player is a top-rated video player for Windows 10 because it is incredibly compatible with numerous video codecs and formats. Moreover, you can also import films and music from websites like Vimeo, Facebook, MTV, and YouTube using 5KPlayer.

While it lacks the capabilities of VLC, it can play most audio/video files without the need for extra plugins. It also supports DLNA and AirPlay wireless streaming for simple media streaming. 5KPlayer is especially fun because the primary player UI includes convenient options for rotating the screen, recording videos, and taking photos.

3. KM Player

KMPlayer is noted for its extensive format compatibility and is another great and free Windows 10 media player, playing almost all popular video and music formats. Users have a wide range of audio and video effects to choose from, ensuring that no functionality or support is lacking.

In addition, it has 3D, 4K, and UHD capabilities and a 64-bit version that can play films at up to 8K 60 frames per second on PCs with sufficient hardware. To improve compatibility, you can use external codecs. You can also make favorite parts of videos repeat, remap the keys for the remote interface, and so on. Inside KMPlayer, you can also edit video subtitles.

Moreover, KMPlayer is unique in that it allows you to make GIFs from videos. To open the GIF creation interface, press Ctrl+G on your keyboard. KMPlayer can also be used to download YouTube videos.

4. PotPlayer

PotPlayer is a South Korean media player app. PotPlayer would undoubtedly take VLC’s place as the king of the free media players if VLC didn’t have such a strong brand name. You should, however, be aware that PotPlayer is free yet proprietary software, meaning it is not open source. For Windows 10, it’s a fantastic free media player.

PotPlayer and VLC have a lot in common, including that they both function as simple all-in-one media players for users looking for ease of use. PotPlayer, however, unlike VLC, never fails when dealing with huge files or cutting-edge video formats.

PotPlayer also allows you to change options and customize them to your taste. It has more options than VLC and includes advanced features such as scene previews, bookmarks, clip recording, and more. It also uses fewer resources than VLC, which is crucial.

5. DivX Player

DivX is an excellent streaming media player that enables you to stream video, music, and photographs to any device that supports DLNA. Advanced features include Trick Play, which allows you to navigate to your favorite sequences quickly. It bills itself as the first media player of its sort to enable free HEVC playback.

Moreover, this media player also supports UltraHD (4K) playback, making it a versatile and valuable tool and, of course, specializes in playing video files in the most popular formats, including DivX, MP4, AVI, and MKV.

Lastly, because various audio formats are supported, you can easily swap between different soundtracks. Its intelligent media library keeps track of both private and paid video content.

Conclusion

With that, we’ve come to the end of this article. We know that there are many media players out there, so picking the right one for your system isn’t easy, but we’ve put together a list of the top five media players you should use.

Furthermore, you can now stop looking and rely on the selections listed above.

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Have You Thought of the Name of This Country That Tops the Crypto Trading Leaderboard?

posted on September 22, 2021

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The protracted adventure of Bitcoin and its numerous challengers and copycats in the $2.22 trillion worldwide cryptocurrency market appears to have no end in sight. Despite this, only a small percentage of Americans have any functional or direct experience with it. In 2020, just in the USA only a small number of people have knowledge about cryptocurrency. However, it is catching on far faster all over the world.

Statista aggregated 55 separate research reports from the Statista Global Consumer Survey to find the nations where Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are most popular, providing some of the most comprehensive statistics on the issue. The findings demonstrate a clear pattern. Africans, Asians, and South Americans are far more likely than Europeans, North Americans, and Australians to own or utilize bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, Cardano, TPR Coins, etc.  

Introducing the King of Crypto Leaderboard

The king of cryptocurrencies is Africa’s greatest economy. In Nigeria, nearly one-third of respondents — 32 percent — said they had used or owned any form of cryptocurrency in 2020. In comparison, only 6% of Americans said the same thing.

Nigeria’s particular culture and circumstances, as per Bitcoin.com, are propelling the movement. Poverty, which affects 87 million of Nigeria’s 200 million people, is a significant factor, and crypto transactions are inexpensive. Another explanation for the development is that Nigerians are far more likely to use their phones to make payments and send money. Finally, in Nigeria, double-digit inflation is the norm rather than the exception, and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which are limited in number, act as a hedge against inflation.

Almost a third of Nigerians agreed that this was true of them. According to Bitcoin.com, the hefty expense of transporting money across borders in the traditional manner has prompted many people to turn to local bitcoin exchanges that cater to overseas workers and their families. Businesses in Nigeria have recently begun to include crypto plugins in their phone payment options, providing yet another method for Nigerians to use bitcoin in their daily lives.

Case Study

Abolaji Odunjo, a tiny businessman selling mobile phones in a bustling Lagos street market, made a significant improvement to his business by beginning to pay his suppliers with bitcoin.

Odunjo gets his phones and accessories from China and the UAE. For speed and convenience, he added, his Chinese vendors requested payment in cryptocurrency.


He has increased his profits as a result of the change, as he no longer has to buy dollars in Nigerian naira or pay money-transfer costs. It’s also an illustration of how bitcoin, the world’s first and largest cryptocurrency, is finding practical applications in Africa that it hasn’t found elsewhere.

As per statistics given by roughly 20 bitcoin users and five cryptocurrency exchanges, Odunjo is one of many persons at the core of a stealthy bitcoin explosion in Africa.

According to data from U.S. blockchain research firm Chainalysis, monthly cryptocurrency transfers to and from Africa of less than $10,000, which are often conducted by individuals and small enterprises, increased by more than 55 percent in a year.

The number of monthly transfers increased by about half, to 600,700, according to Chainalysis, which claims the study is the most comprehensive ever to map out global crypto use. Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, as well as South Africa and Kenya, saw a lot of action.

This is a significant shift for bitcoin, which, despite its origins as a payment instrument over a decade ago, has primarily been utilized for financial speculators’ speculation rather than commerce.

Why is Africa seeing such a boom?

Some factors are working behind this boom. Young, tech-savvy people; difficulties buying USD from local currencies; and the complicated and costly money transfer process.

Bitcoin users in five nations, ranging from Nigeria to Botswana, said that cryptocurrency was assisting them in becoming more flexible and profitable in their enterprises, as well as allowing those working in Europe and North America to keep more of the money they send home.

However, dangers abound

Many nations do not regulate bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, and their legal status is unknown, so there is no safety net and limited redress if you lose money.

Many people rely on unofficial brokers to change their native currency to and from bitcoin. Prices fluctuate, and buying and selling is a technological procedure that necessitates technical understanding.

In June, minor bitcoin transfers in Nigeria totaled about $56 million, up nearly 50% from the previous year. The number of transactions increased by more than 55% to 120,000.

However, determining how cryptocurrencies are used in specific places is difficult. Digital coins provide a high level of anonymity, and while the value of transactions may be monitored on the blockchain, a user’s identity or location cannot.

Chainalysis, which tracks crypto movements for financial institutions and law enforcement in the United States, collected the information by analyzing web traffic and trade trends, despite the fact that virtual private networks can disguise locations. It distinguished between transactions of less than $10,000 and higher quantities commonly used by professional dealers.

Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy has been battered by low petroleum prices and COVID-19, prompting the central bank to weaken the naira twice this year. As a result, Odunjo and other importers are having to spend more to buy dollars that are becoming increasingly scarce.

Rise of Bitcoin in Nigeria

Because of the naira’s depreciation, many Nigerians are turning to bitcoin as a way to buy items from other countries without having to acquire dollars.

Yellow Card, which has offices in five countries, projected a five-fold rise in monthly crypto volumes in 2020, from $5 million in August to $25 million in August. According to the research, workers utilizing bitcoin for remittances was a key issue.

Bitcoin fees vary based on the exchange or broker, but for shipping 100 pounds, they would normally be around 2%-2.5 percent.

Conclusion

Exchanges and over-the-counter (OTC) brokers, on the other hand, are both vulnerable to hackers and scams.

And, while bitcoin is useful for transfers, it isn’t widely accepted on the ground; for example, stores and landlords rarely accept it. This means that monies sent by workers must be converted back to regular currency by friends or family, frequently through a broker at their end, posing added risk.

However, the majority of bitcoin users claimed that many OTC brokers, who rely on word-of-mouth evaluations, operated reliably in an increasingly competitive industry and were hesitant to jeopardize their reputations.

And for an increasing number of people, the benefits exceed the risks.

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4 Hiring Tips for starting a Company in a New Country

posted on September 18, 2021

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Whether you already have an existing business abroad or are starting up an organization, you will need to hire employees who will make up your workforce. It is essential that you familiarize yourself with the process of engaging in a new country and how to get the best talent for your business.

You need to familiarize yourself with the labor laws guiding the recruitment process in another country, especially if you are a foreigner. You do not want to run the risk of breaking the rules and restrictions for hiring in the area. You also want to get acquainted with the general customs and practices of hiring before commencing the recruitment process in any particular place.

Ways to Handle Hiring and Human Resource Management 

There are common ways to go about hiring in new places, which we will be discussing in this article.

1. Internal Human Resource Management

Conducting your recruitment process using your resources is one of the cheapest options when hiring employees. If your business or organization can handle its employment processes internally, you could go for this choice.

This approach is mostly suitable for a well-established business, considering how many laws and regulations govern foreign employment processes. You have to use experts in your human resource department to ensure no stone is left unturned in all practices demanded by the labor laws.

It helps if you have adequately planned for payroll management, allowances, taxes, and insurance as well as considered all mandatory social benefits for each employee, compensations, and have adequate documentation of each employee’s profile in your organization.

2. Use of Listing Site

There are many listing sites available for you to use when you want to hire workers in a new country, either full-time, part-time, or as contract staff. These sites are common ground for employers and employees to meet. 

You can use these job posting sites to create an awareness of vacancies in your organization. Often, skilled laborers visit these sites when in need of employment, and they can see your advert, the requirements, and the conditions of service.

These sites help you fill up openings faster than you could without them. Their popularity in the local market contributes significantly to this. Examples of such sites include; Indeed, Glassdoor, Jobable, CPjobs.com, etc. 

Some of these sites even offer free job postings, while you may have to pay to use others’ services. Whatever your budget and needs are, there is always a job posting site for you.

3. Use of Talent Dispatch Services

If you are running a foreign business or company, you can also use talent dispatching services to locate licensed Human Resources Agencies to outsource your hiring and employment recruitment process. 

These HR agencies will handle all your hiring, staff management, and recruitment processes, serving as a front for you on employee matters. While these employees work for you, these agencies directly interact with them to manage remuneration and documentation.

The only way for a foreign organization without a legal entity to hire in China is by using these talent dispatch services. 

4. Outsourcing to HR Agencies

If you know you do not have all the resources, legal back-up, or experience required to handle your hiring process, you can outsource your Human Resources department. While this might cost some more than internal recruitment, it saves you a lot of stress and risk of operating in contravention of local labor laws and regulations.

You can make your hiring process a lot easier by using Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs). These organizations help businesses handle their employee recruitment and management process. You can get the kind of employees you want by using a Chinese-based PEO. It is the best way to hire foreign employees in a new country.

Global PEOs can help you set up the best application process to hire abroad, train your employees, handle payroll services, tax filing and payment, and other functions relating to human resource management.

Final word 

With these organizations, you can rest assured of safe practices that can save you from lawsuits because they operate within the law’s confines, complying with all labor rules and regulations. It is one of the most significant advantages of working with PEOs, particularly for new businesses that are yet to familiarize themselves with laws guiding operations in a foreign environment.

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B2B Sales Fundamentals

posted on September 16, 2021

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B2B (business-to-business) sales refer to companies or salespeople who sell products and services directly to other businesses.

In B2B sales, the transactions occur between two businesses. In simple words, one company or business sells a product or service to another business. For example, if a ketchup manufacturer sells its ketchup to various fast food outlets, that’s a B2B sale. Generally, this type of sale is considered to be complex, however, the sales process is pretty much the same; you need to generate leads, create awareness about the brand and sell it. 

These sales need effective sale strategies to convince all parties involved in the business deal. They are often more complex than B2C sales because of their higher-order values and longer sales cycles.

Following are a few fundamentals of creating a great B2B Sales Strategy.

Focus on Customer Need

The whole B2B sale starts by identifying a customer’s need and then planning out a solution to cater to it. For a B2B sale, your solution will need to increase revenue, decrease cost/expense, improve productivity, or avoid something bad. These are the key benefits that B2B organizations are looking for.

The Ideal Customer

It is essential to find the right organizations and contacts for sales success. There are many sale strategies to reach out to targeted clients.

Strategies that can be implemented to generate leads via marketing include:

  • Onsite and offsite content marketing
  • Personal branding
  • Search engine optimization
  • Influencer marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing 
  • Cold Calling
  • Advertising 

Study the Buyer’s Behavior 

How great would it be if you could just read the customer’s mind, right? Well, the best we can do is make assumptions based on data. Consider how your potential customers make decisions? The key to mapping out your sales process is to understand your customers. Understand the steps, information they need, and the people involved. This allows your organization to align your sales and marketing efforts.

This chart from the Content Marketing Institute shows how B2B content marketing has changed from 2017 to 2018 by customer need. 

Build Your Sales Team

The efforts of good teamwork always go a long way. At the start of your organization’s sales efforts, it is important to plan out the type of future sales and related skills that you will be needing. Hire a team according to your business demands and equip them with the means and technology to build a trustworthy B2B impression on potential clients.

Set Realistic Targets and Goals

Organizations will typically have a revenue target for their sales effort. Revenue is a lagging result. There are activities that need to come first that lead to sales. This could include things like booked meetings, demos, proposals, and other steps. You should have targets set on these activities to ensure you are making revenue.

Conclusion

While planning to initiate B2B sale strategies, ensure that you have budgeted enough for the activities essential to B2B marketing. It’s a process that needs to be optimized from time to time, in that customer needs are constantly evolving, and B2B companies that do well are those with the capacity to quickly adapt.

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How to Build a Winning Remote Tech Team

posted on August 21, 2021

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Remote working is slowly becoming the norm for some companies especially with the ongoing pandemic. People were left with no choice but to adapt and make this setup work for them. Thankfully, many studies prove that those who are working remotely are happier, more productive, and efficient with their work. One of the things that can be attributed to this is the elimination of the tiring time spent on commute which allows them to focus and fix their schedule. However, the challenge of managing and leading a winning remote team remains with a lot of factors to consider. 

It is critical to build a tech team that has support functions, always ready to resolve technical issues such as hardware and software problems over the phone or online regardless of time. They serve as a backbone to ensure that the company functions like a well-oiled machine. Some of their support could be data restoration, software troubleshooting, and remote training among others. A remote technical team is a lot more cost effective than an office-based team. 

Before doing a deep dive into how to build this important remote team, let us first look at the basics of leading a team and some remote work hacks that  should be applied every step of the way.

Alignment of objectives. Operating a business in the midst of all uncertainties requires trust. Though, nothing will be done if employees are not sure about their exact roles and the directive from top management moving forward. It’s crucial that leaders can clearly set expectations, outlining the responsibilities and timelines to be able to give everyone the trust they need and deserve. Nothing is wrong with being upfront about what needs to be done and when it is due even if it means pressuring the team members a little bit. 

Contextualization. What people need nowadays is a sense of purpose especially when the world is basking in disheartenment. You must clearly communicate with your team members why and how they matter, serving an invaluable role to make the big picture come to life. Some of the things that must be clarified are their mode and frequency of communication, overall business goals, and the role of the team as a whole in the company. Giving them this context can help them define their own version of success.

Respecting boundaries. Even while on a work-from-home setup, there should be a distinction between personal and business hours. Employees shouldn’t feel obligated to respond all the time especially after they have logged off. Encourage them to turn off notifications and to communicate if they feel that they are being overworked. Open communication is key when it comes to establishing reasonable boundaries. 

Accountability. Since boundaries are to be respected, schedule regular check-in meetings where everyone can agree on timelines and talk about how they are doing thus far. It is also important to communicate who will be held accountable for what to manage expectations. A progress tracker would be helpful as well to see how everybody is managing and to get insight if someone needs help on a certain task. This will encourage the members to up their performance and do better.

Image Source: Pexels

Now that the fundamentals are covered, it is time to determine a couple of ways to strengthen a remote tech team. Remember that those who are part of this team are more likely fixed in front of their computers to answer calls from anyone anytime. Their soft skills are therefore as important as the technical know-how they bring. Holistically honing their talents will take some time but will surely be worthwhile and beneficial in the long run.

Updated infrastructure. Due to the nature of their work, remote employees must have the right equipment and a reliable internet connection to efficiently function. Many challenges are out of the question if these basics are not already covered. HR should also take the initiative to ask if there are other things that they need which could be provided by the company to ensure that everyone in the remote tech team is feeling optimal and properly supported. 

Online project management tools. Message boards and applications are useful not only in tracking progress but also communicating with fellow team members. They might as well use their time to connect with others not only to make them feel that they are part of the team but also to evaluate their respective points of improvement from time to time. The centralization that project management tools offer also help in managing the influx of inquiries. Implementing an effective follow-the-sun-model could bring significant benefits as well since it allows the company to pass along the work at the end of a workday to someone in another time zone. These systems can permit the team to also find information that they need without spending too much time looking for it, as well as have a bird’s eye view on how everyone is faring. 

Reasonable KPIs. This is one of the first things that the team should agree on in order to have clear goals to pursue in a specific amount of time. Defining KPIs will allow the team to know exactly where they are headed and reward the individuals who are exerting the needed effort to achieve a common objective. This will allow them to also identify and concentrate on essential tasks and be encouraged to achieve greater heights when they know that they are significantly contributing to the business.

There will always be room for growth when leading a team. The points for improvement can be identified and objectively assessed through adequate communication armed by an efficient system. It can be difficult to navigate through a remote work environment, but going the extra mile of doing whatever it takes to make it work will cultivate not only employee trust but also a healthy corporate culture.

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5 Ways Satellite-Based Technology Is Empowering Medical First Responders in Remote Communities

posted on August 10, 2021

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First response teams working in remote, regional communities across the Middle East and Africa have been a vital part of the COVID-19 response. First responders have been a crucial part of managing and containing localized outbreaks, and providing urgent care and advice outside of hospitals. However, these teams face significant challenges that affect both their welfare and the work that they do.

Here we look at common challenges faced by remote first responders, in the MENA region especially during the COVID-19 crisis, and how technology is helping them overcome these. 

The challenges

The remoteness of the regions set significant difficulties to first responders. These include:

1. Communications challenges

Using standard GSM networks in populated areas means that it is straightforward to set up quick and reliable communications in these places. However, in remote areas, the opposite is true. The lack of even a 2G connection makes it impossible to communicate with people outside the area, unless there is a different system set up. 

Poor communication systems cause enormous hurdles for remote first responders, who should be able to liaise with medical colleagues freely, transport agencies and others to provide the best care for their patients. 

2. Personal challenges

First response is a demanding line of work. The personal challenges are numerous: burnout and exhaustion are common; family and friends are far away; professional support and counseling are difficult to access. 

What is the solution?

First response teams need access to new technologies and communication solutions that enable them to communicate with ease. 

Thankfully, new satellite communication systems are available that are already making a vital difference to the work of first responders in remote regions. 

SATCOM technologies are recognized by the United Nations COVID-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan as being a crucial tool for the fight against the new coronavirus pandemic. They are designed to improve the efficiency of communication across first response teams in remote, regional communities and are already being utilized across the MENA region.  

The most up-to-date satellite communication systems being used by first response teams offer the following features:

  • Operate from a virtual platform 
  • Can be stationed or be used in vehicles
  • Agile, compact and lightweight
  • Offer large data transfers
  • Video-calling enabled 

Nabil Ben Soussia is the CEO for Asia, Middle East, and CIS for IEC Telecom Group, a provider of this type of technology. 

He said, ‘Successful operations during the COVID-19 pandemic are dependent on timely and proper communication in affected communities. This is especially critical to first response groups or mobile hospitals who need to act fast in areas with no infrastructure. Now more than ever, telecommunications in general and satellite communications, in particular, are critical to support frontline workers. Our network management system OneGate, was designed to support communications in areas with no/limited GSM coverage. We can achieve this by enabling easy to access satcom connectivity to support a wide range of optimized communication applications. Operating from a virtual environment, all system updates and upgrades can be applied as and when required by a remote IT manager, eliminating a need to keep extra staff onsite”.

4 ways this solution is making a difference

How are these systems working at such a critical time?

1. Keeping teams connected on the go

Bridging the divide in digital reach has never been easier, with the use of global satellite connectivity. This helps to keep teams connected at all times and, in the event of any government or humanitarian situations, remote areas can always stay connected and be a few clicks away from communication.

By using the vehicular solutions like Voyager Edge V, any car/van can be transformed into a remote office. Thanks to the automated failover between GSM and satcom mode, this new system will ensure reliable connectivity for mobile units no matter how remote. Not only does Voyager Edge V expand the scope of operations, it offers a completely new perception of service delivery and creates new opportunities for public and private sectors.

2. Setting-up remote offices 

For long term deployments, high broadband data connectivity can be enabled via VSAT solutions. Such a setup may offer office-alike connectivity, including VPN and enabling big data transfers.

In this context, the ability to manage communication links and consumption limits is of essence.  A digital dashboard, like the one offered by OneGate, provides full control and visibility over existing traffic channels. Therefore, during periods of heavy usage, connectivity resources can be channeled to mission-critical operations.

All these features mean that first response teams can operate more efficiently and effectively. 

3. Enabling remote training and counselling

Social distancing required because of the pandemic has made it more difficult to provide staff with adequate training and counseling. 

In the past videoconferencing was reserved for GSM connected areas or VSAT-equipped humanitarian camps. Today, remote counselling is possible for any type of operation be it fixed or mobile – and no matter how remote. Optimized videoconferencing, like the one offered by OneTeam, will connect team members across the world over an encrypted channel with minimal bandwidth requirements.

4. Offering access to telemedicine

Telemedicine services are a fast-growing part of modern medicine. It gives people access to specialist doctors and health professionals from wherever they are. Many medics feel it is a valuable tool in ensuring that limited hospital resources are saved for the most acute cases, that medical services operate efficiently, and that access to healthcare is made more equal.

Satellite communications networks enable telemedicine to reach the most remote areas, potentially giving their populations access to the same or similar medical care that could be offered in urban areas. While there is still work to be done to ensure all the population has fair access to medical care, modern satellite communications are taking it a step closer to reality.  

5. Raising morale

Prolonged isolation away from loved ones is something that all remote teams must cope with. However, it is an issue where telecommunications is keen to help. Supporting front-line staff with both their work and their welfare is important. 

Wi-fi enablers built into SATCOM systems mean that a dedicated welfare network can be set up. Staff can connect their own personal devices to this network. Modern satcom solutions also support voucher functionality. It is an important welfare component, as each team member can be granted with communication credits as part of their social package. In addition, they may opt to purchase additional data bundles online staying in control of personal communication limits and however the ability to increase when needed.

SATCOM technology is enabling staff of medical organizations to communicate better, both amongst colleagues, patients and loved ones back home. It is envisioned that the use of this technology will grow further, continue to make a difference and ultimately save lives.

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How to Build Your Marketplace MVP

posted on August 6, 2021

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An MVP (minimum viable product) is a product with the bare minimum features required to perform the main function(s). It is used for the market validation of an idea. For example, if you have a new business idea in your mind, like a new service or a product, then instead of spending your resources on the full-fledged development of the service/product, you can prepare an MVP to test your idea’s market potential first. 

This MVP is released to a subsection of your target market and user feedback is collected and analysed. If the idea is validated and there is a demand for the product, you can move on to the next stage of materializing your business idea. 

However, there can also be other reasons to develop an MVP

  • Investors often require a complete POC (proof of concept) in order to invest in a startup organization or new product. MVP is an important part of POC development. 
  • Entrepreneurs wanting to expand their business to new markets also use MVPs to test their product in new socio-economic systems. This prevents the risk of launching a product in an unfavourable market. 
  • The user feedback gathered during the deployment of MVP highlights the scope of improvement. Iterations can be made to bring incremental improvement and release a high quality product in the market. 

In case the market validation fails, you can always make adjustments in the service or product based on user feedback and relaunch the MVP.

MVP for a marketplace

A marketplace is a website where multiple vendors can sign up and sell their products. The marketplace owner mainly earns through sales commissions. Today, there are various types of marketplaces available, such as furniture marketplaces, electronics marketplaces, cosmetic products marketplace, etc. Two most popular examples of marketplaces are Alibaba and Amazon. 

If you are looking forward to releasing a similar marketplace in a new market or have a completely new idea for your marketplace, then a marketplace MVP will help you confirm the profitability of the market. If there’s no demand for your marketplace service, for example, neither vendors are ready to sign up nor can you find enough buyers, then you can look to release your marketplace services in some other region. 

Let’s discuss the MVP development process


The actual development of a minimum viable product (MVP) depends on various factors including the number and complexity of features, the selected development technology, number of developers and testing/QA rounds. 

Along with the aforementioned, the feature selection round in itself is time consuming. Entrepreneurs often require professional IT consultants to find the right set of features for their marketplace MVP. Then, there are various approaches to software development that also impact the overall time. 

The following are the two most popular software development approaches

Waterfall Development: This approach follows a linear method from the requirement gathering stage to the product delivery stage. As every stage in the waterfall method is based on the output of the previous stage, any changes during the development process are not possible. 

Agile Development: The agile development approach is based on incremental improvement and includes various sprints. Each sprint has different backlogs to be tested and developed. Any changes can be introduced in these backlogs in agile development. 

Although agile development is a lengthier process, it is more suited for MVP development. This is because an MVP also includes the collection of consumer feedback, which may indicate some changes and scope for improvement. 

However, there is even a faster approach for MVP development, which is using readymade MVPs. Several companies develop these MVPs and sell them to entrepreneurs for business idea validation. In the market today, you can find an MVP for various kinds of business ideas like online food delivery, home services booking, cab booking, eLearning, rental marketplaces, etc.

These MVPs comprise all essential features to facilitate your business operations and can be quickly deployed in your desired market. On validation, you can further customize or enhance these MVPs to launch the final service or product.

Now you have a clear idea about MVP and its development process. If you are looking to find a professional MVP development company then you have to do proper research. As per my research, FATbit Technologies is one such MVP development agency that caters to the diverse needs of entrepreneurs. It has a wide range of eCommerce MVPs with free-to-use demos that you can try on its official website and use to validate and launch your business. You can check its full range of MVP products online.

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5 Facts about Startup Investments that will Help You Choose Your Future Investments

posted on August 1, 2021

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Whether it’s Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook, they all began as startups. Those who invested in these startups are multi-millionaires, and, of course, the founders are a step above. But that’s not the story for all startups.

For every successful startup, there are thousands that fail. Investing in the wrong startup could mean losing all your money. So how do you choose the right startup to invest in? Read on to find out five facts about angel investing. 

Fact 1: More Failures than Successes

Every successful startup needs a clear business plan and vision. There needs to be a feasible business model, sufficient research needs to be carried out, a well-organized team must be put put in place, along with a proper allocation of capital. When these factors are not in proper order, the startup fails.

Here are some of the reasons why startups fail: 

No Clarity in Business Model

A clear business model is the blueprint for the success of any business, and it’s no different for a startup. The right business model will generate sufficient revenue to sustain the business over the long term. When the business model is vague, the startup will fail to reach its monetary goals, and investors will find no reason to invest.

Unable to Create an Organized Team

The success of a startup depends on the team created by the founder. The organization must have professionals in all disciplines like marketing, administration, and Information Technology (IT). Proper coordination between the team members is important for the business’ success. If the founder cannot afford to pay competitive salaries, they should offer equity to the team to ensure continuity. 

Poor Market Research

If the startup has failed to conduct market research before launching a product, they have a product that does not meet the market’s needs. A product needs to be technically sound and marketed effectively to be successful. The founder needs to study the market and the competition to know what will sell. The product needs to solve a problem in the market, not fulfill the interest of the founder. 

Lack of Leadership and Management Skills

A startup might have a great product, but that does not mean it has the right leadership skills. The CEO needs to know about planning, staffing, organizing, and execution. You need more than brilliant ideas and soaring ambition to run a company.

Costly Decisions

When a startup can’t decide on its priorities, decisions can prove to be costly. Examples of such decisions include miscommunication, hiring the wrong staff, inefficient leadership, and more. Spending too much time on a decision can also affect the business. 

Insufficient Capital

The success of a startup or any business depends on proper capital allocation and having sufficient capital at every stage. Most startups fail because they don’t have the required capital at every stage.

Not Factoring in the Competition

If there is an opportunity, there will be many players to seize it. Startups need to find a niche market and get the early mover advantage.

Putting Personal Goals First

Startup owners need to have the motto, ‘business before self.’ They need to focus on achieving success under all circumstances.

Fact 2: Most Startups Begin Modestly

Startups never have a grand beginning; they often start in a humble way. Think of all the big names like Amazon, Microsoft, or Facebook. While Amazon and Microsoft started in a garage, Facebook was created in a dormitory at Harvard.

Apple and Starbucks, too, had a humble beginning before they became the iconic brands they are today. Facebook was meant to help university students connect with each other; it ended up connecting 2.8 billion users worldwide. Most startup owners try to emulate the ‘start small’ philosophy.

Fact 3: Meant For Risk-Takers

Startup owners never play it safe. They take calculated risks that pay off. They looked for unexplored risks in niche areas. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk believed in their ideas and went ahead even when others were not so confident. 

Jeff Bezos started Amazon as an online book store when the internet and e-commerce were in their infancy. Today, Amazon is a multi-product global online store that has patrons in all countries. The innovation in rocket-launching technology through Space X has made Elon Musk billions of dollars – the reward for his entrepreneurial mindset. Both Bezos and Musk were ahead of their time and implemented their ideas to become successful startup owners. 

Fact 4: Founders Don’t Remain CEOs

While startup owners might have to multitask when they are starting their venture, as the business grows they need to delegate the company’s operations to a qualified professional. They either don’t have the background to manage a company or would rather focus on their primary goal – developing and improving their product. 

This benefits the startup since each member of the company, including the founder, is working on their strengths. This ensures the highest productivity and revenues. 

Fact 5: College Dropouts Win the Race

It’s surprising but true. Most of the big names in startup history are college dropouts like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. There are some school dropouts too. However, not all dropouts make it. Only those with business acumen, the ability to work hard, and a unique business idea made it big.

In Conclusion

The success of a startup depends on a sound business plan and passion on the part of the founder. It takes immense time and effort to build something from the ground up, but dedication is key to helping you achieve success. We hope this guide helped you with some of the key facts about startup investments. Good luck!

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Are NFTs a True Store of Value?

posted on July 26, 2021

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For someone new to the world of cryptocurrency and blockchain, the rapid growth of interest in the non-fungible token (NFT) and its trading volume can seem outrageous. What’s more, the amount of money that’s been spent on a single individual NFT and the overall value of NFTs can seem shockingly high. 

So are NFTs really worth what their buyers think they are? 

The short answer is yes, they can be. A more accurate answer is that it depends on what you’re using them for. 

So how can NFTs indeed constitute a value that stays? First of all, the world that birthed the non-fungible token phenomenon has itself shown substantial maturity. After all, cryptocurrency has become more established over the last few years. It can be used to buy a widening variety of goods and services, from something as special as a Tesla to something as prosaic as a smartphone bill. Crypto has a sometimes volatile but established value as an investment, and Coinbase’s IPO, not ICO, didn’t hurt. 

However, is cryptocurrency really that different from what all of us are used to? We are all accustomed to money that’s not even backed by a gold standard, and even stable coins can be backed by collateralized fiat currency of the kind that we all spend and that governments back, as well as more tangible materials

But it’s the specific difference between a crypto coin and a non-fungible token that makes the latter both more and less valuable. The NFT is more valuable in the sense that it represents something unique, but not as something tradable for another of its kind as a crypto coin is. 

Any NFT has an inherent value in its rarity, and it doesn’t require liquidity to keep it viable the way cryptocurrency does. 

What makes it potentially less valuable and more uncertain is how unsettled is the new kind of market that NFTs are creating for works of art. Anyone with an internet connection and at times just a few thousands of an Ethereum coin can create a non-fungible token on websites such as Rarible or OpenSea. It’s become one of those things that you learn how to do on YouTube and try to sell on your own. This makes it very hard to appraise a piece of NFT art compared to doing so with a piece of art sold in the traditional way.

That being said, is the experience of collecting non-fungible token art really much different than that of traditional art? What’s experienced with NFT art, especially in a virtual gallery, is not inherently different from a work viewed in a brick-and-mortar museum. A digital certificate of ownership proves that an original non-fungible token is authentic and can be bought and sold, and is backed by a piece of code that is guaranteed to be unique and not require a complex chain of provenance.

Moreover, even the relatively high unpredictability of an NFT’s value may be part of what makes NFT art and more unusual NFTs so appealing. 

Anything can be made into a non-fungible token, from tweets to farts  $85 farts. And what about a urinal, a painting of Campbell’s soup cans, a banana taped to a wall  aren’t those pieces of what’s acceptable as art just as arbitrary? Don’t they show that the market for art as a commodity is distinct from any kind of rationale of sensual experience one might have with a piece of art?

Much More Than a Pretty Picture

Eventually, the uncertainty of how to value non-fungible token art will have to settle down, and when it does, it will be a more stable investment for the long term. 

Beyond NFT art as a commodity, the other pieces of the NFT pie are much more well-cooked when it comes to sure long-term value. Even within the NFT art sector, securing value can be ensured, such as with ways to recoup money with smart contracts that require the original owner of an art NFT to receive a percentage of subsequent sales.

Apart from art, there’s definitely long-term value in sports collectible NFTs, as they authenticate a physical item for the buyer and prove it to be a genuine and unique thing. 

Talk about staying power. 

A sports fan is a sports fan forever, and a sports star is a sports star forever, too. And that applies to all kinds of sports collectibles, from what players wear to baseball cards with their faces on them, which no longer need to suffer from wear and tear when they are NFTs.

Another sector for NFTs that has staying power relates to one of the most established non-fungible tokens’ use cases  virtual spaces. 

From SimCity to Second Life back in the day to more recent additions such as Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox, participation in online worlds has been important to many, including the buying and selling of virtual real estate NFTs, and selling items no longer needed in online games through NFTs is another way for NFT HODLers to recoup money.

The Ultimate Proof of NFTs’ Staying Power  Providing Unique Experiences

The staying power of online worlds and their communities underscores the current success and future promise of another fast-growing non-fungible token sector  virtual real estate NFTs. Sites such as Dependaland, Cryptovoxels, Somnium Space, The Sandbox, and Etherland provide virtual spaces that are becoming highly valuable. Even during a recent period when other NFT sectors saw values go down, values in the virtual real estate NFT sector rose.

Online worlds, also known as the metaverse, are not just about intricate castles and ogre-bashing weapons anymore, either. They are also about virtual worlds where “residents†and visitors can experience what they can’t in the physical world, with aspects of “real†real estate such as advertising helping buyers to recoup money in the virtual world, too. Furthermore, the element of community, such as that found in virtual worlds, has self-perpetuating staying power, with a virtually unlimited wealth of potential experiences to have with neighbors in virtual communities  as well as endless possible ways to monetize them  within the NFT economy. 

In this regard, the up-and-coming virtual reality platform Republic Realm aims to build community engagement across a variety of platforms, providing a real-time output of underpriced virtual real estate listings and using findings to identify attractive acquisition targets. 

And the Greatest Proof of NFTs’ Staying Power? They’re Useful! 

Other companies, such as the Italian company Genuino, which is using non-fungible token technology for ensuring food safety, and AIKON, which will be integrating Republic Realm into its barrier-busting blockchain soon, show the more practical side of NFTs and represent not just financial value and the value of unique experiences but also value in ensuring security and safety in people’s daily lives.

Essentially, AIKON has created a seamless protocol and blockchain secure authentication with its API and ORE ID (a secure login tool for blockchain), as well as a super-secure multi-signature functionality with its ORE Vault (a multisig non-custodial crypto wallet for enterprises). 

ORE Network transactions flow through the ORE Chain, a blockchain to handle the identities and digital assets it protects. The ORE Chain is designed to integrate with other blockchains, allowing one to use multiple apps, on multiple chains, with a single email address, SMS, or social login. 

As long as making value from unique experiences and investments continues, blockchain developments such as non-fungible token technology that can breathe new life into them are bound to stick around  especially when they secure those experiences and investments.


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We are AIKON. We believe in the decentralized future. A world where everything will be digitized - and tokenized where every asset and service can be managed more safely, easily and without middlemen. We provide ORE ID which is a blockchain login authentication system that helps users access blockchain applications by email, phone, or social media accounts.

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6 Priority Areas for Reinvesting Your Small Business Profits

posted on July 22, 2021

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As a small business owner, there’s nothing more satisfying than looking at your balance sheet and spotting a net profit. If you’re in this situation, it’s rather exclusive company as only 40% of American small businesses are actually profitable.

What you do with your profits will determine the future direction of your small business. Smart reinvestment could take your company to the moon, or it could see it take two steps backwards.

Let’s examine the main priority areas for reinvesting your small business’s profits.

Should You Pay Yourself First?

The main goal of any business owner is to make money and enjoy a higher standard of living. Paying yourself is an essential component of allocating your end-of-year profits. However, taking out too much can leave your organization stagnant.

In particular, many inexperienced entrepreneurs experience “lifestyle creep†whereby the more they make the more their living expenses rise.

Paying yourself is important but keep tabs on your living expenses and never pay yourself more than you need to enjoy your life.

1. Expand Your Business’s Infrastructure

Small businesses that turn a profit have often reached capacity. Upgrading your infrastructure for expansion could allow you to improve the customer experience, enhance efficiency, and take on greater levels of capacity.

For example, if a furniture store has a long customer waiting list, this is not a good thing. It means customers who don’t want to wait for that custom wardrobe will go elsewhere.

By expanding your business’s infrastructure, you can take on bigger and better projects, which means greater profits.

2. Upgrade Your Existing Equipment

Most entrepreneurs opt to bootstrap their business because they have no other choice. When starting, the chances are you’re purchasing older, used equipment to get your organization off the ground.

Unfortunately, older business equipment is often slower, performs to a lower standard, and breaks down more often. This can cause significant disruption and costs to spiral.

Take a restaurant kitchen as an example. If the old grill or deep fat frier breaks, how much money would that restaurant lose from the loss of custom and repair costs?

Reinvesting your profits by upgrading your existing equipment now can make your operations more efficient and more reliable.

3. Hire New Employees

Hiring new employees is a big step to take. Small businesses are often hesitant to make new hires, even when they need additional staff to handle increased workloads. Much of this is due to the hidden costs of hiring.

Companies spend an average of $4,000 to recruit, hire, and train new employees, with new hires taking an average of five months to reach full productivity.

However, the right hire could transform your business in anticipation of major growth periods. Reinvesting profits into new hires could be the best move you make.

4. Go Into Marketing

Marketing should make up the majority of your expenditure. The days of free, organic marketing are gone. Whether it’s on the street or social media, we live in a pay to play environment.

Much of the reason for this can be traced back to 2008, where the great recession forced tens of thousands of people into self-employment. The trend towards self-employment hasn’t relented. This increased competition means you need a big budget to set yourself apart from your competitors.

Reinvesting a portion of your profits into marketing could bring in more customers, as well as up-sell existing customers.

5. Improve Your Cash Flow

Did you know that 82% of small businesses closed their doors due to a lack of cash flow?

Plenty of profitable businesses have fallen by the wayside with great ideas and big clients simply because they lacked the funds necessary to maintain themselves. When outside funding isn’t available, entrepreneurs often turn to their personal bank accounts.

Improving your cash flow when the sun is shining could protect your business from future failure.

6. Pay Off Your Debts (When it Makes Sense)

Given the circumstances, small businesses that pay off their debts are often in a better position to elevate themselves going forwards.

Paying off outstanding debt is an option when there are minimal early exit penalties. If you can minimize your interest payments by eliminating a portion of your debt now, it could make sense. Alternatively, you may be able to pay off part of your debts via consolidation.

Before making this decision, calculate the total value of your interest payments in the long term and what you need to do to reduce or eliminate this amount.

For example, it makes little sense to avoid $5,000 in interest payments as a small business if you’ll need to pay a $60,000 lump sum to do it.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to reinvest your small business’s profits. If you’ve had a bumper year, take the time to sit down and reflect on where you want your business to go.

Contemplate what you can do right now to get the biggest returns in the following year.


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Bob Haegele is a personal finance writer who contributes several finance websites, including Modest Money and GOBankingRates. Bob writes about investing topics such as The Motley Fool and M1 Finance. He also specializes in budgeting and banking.

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Simple Microsoft Outlook Tricks for Increasing Productivity

posted on July 13, 2021

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Microsoft Outlook is a well-known personal information manager and also an important component of Microsoft Office suite. It offers a wide range of functions to make the management of emails, tasks, calendars, etc. easy. However, there are some Microsoft Outlook tricks and tips that can enhance your experience even further. In this post, we’ll be discussing some simple Microsoft Outlook tricks for increasing productivity.

1. Focused Inbox

Microsoft Outlook allows you to create a Focused Inbox which divides your mailbox into two tabs – Focused and Other. Your important emails are displayed in the Focused tab and the remaining emails are displayed in the Other tab. This is a smart way to organize your emails and stay “focused†on the important communications. 

To enable Focused Inbox in Microsoft Outlook, open the View tab and click the Show Focused Inbox button. Once you do this, you will see two tabs on top of your mailbox – Focused and Other. 

2. Keyboard Shortcuts

There are many keyboard shortcuts in Outlook that can save your time and make you more productive. Some examples include:

  • Ctrl + Shift + M: write a new email
  • Ctrl + Shift + Q: create a meeting
  • Alt + H: go to the Home tab
  • Ctrl + Shift + C: create a contact
  • Ctrl + B: open your address book
  • Ctrl + E: search for an item
  • Ctrl + 2: open your calendar

You can refer to Microsoft’s official resource for more Outlook keyboard shortcuts. 

3. Conversation View

Outlook gives you the option to group emails together by conversations. Enabling this option can help you go through conversations quickly. To enable it, open the View tab and select the Show as Conversations box. 

You can also set conversation settings to read Outlook emails as per your preferences. For instance, you can select the option Show Messages from Other Folders if you want to also include sent emails. 

4. Outlook Rules

You can create Outlook rules to make your work simpler. For instance, you can create a rule to send emails with a specific keyword to a particular folder. Similarly, you can create a rule to play a sound when you receive an email from a specific person. There are many ways to make Outlook more manageable with custom rules. 

To create an Outlook rule, follow these steps:

  • Open Outlook and go to File > Manage Rules & Alerts.
  • In the Rules and Alerts window that opens, open the Email Rules tab. Then click New Rule
  • Select Apply rule on messages I receive or Apply rule on messages I send
  • Select the appropriate options for the rule.
  • Click OK once you are done to save the rule. 

5. Task List

Many emails you receive in Outlook don’t require immediate response, but these have to be dealt with nonetheless. To manage such emails, you can move them to your to-do folder. You can then add a reminder to these emails to ensure you deal with them within a certain period. To do this for an email, follow these steps:

  1. Drag and drop the email on Outlook’s task list icon ().
  2. Enter a due date and also date and time for reminder.
  3. Save the task. 

6. Dictation (for Office 365)

Apart from typing an email in Outlook, you can also compose it through dictation. Outlook offers a speech-to-text tool that you can use to draft emails and reply emails with your voice. To use this tool, follow these steps:

  1. Open Outlook and click New Email
  2. Ensure mic is enabled and then go to Message > Dictate. If you can’t find the dictate button under the Message tab, check the overflow menu. 
  3. Wait for the dictate button to turn on. Then move your mouse’s cursor on the subject line, body, etc. and dictate your message. 

7. Inbox Repair Tool 

Outlook saves mailbox data in OST files (for IMAP and MAPI email accounts) and PST files (for POP3 email accounts). If your Outlook data file (PST or OST) gets damaged or corrupt, the application may throw errors or prevent you from accessing the mailbox. 

Microsoft Outlook offers a free tool called Inbox Repair Tool (ScanPST.exe) that you can use your Outlook data file in a few simple steps. This tool is located in the default Outlook’s installation directory. It can easily fix minor corruption from Outlook data file. However, if it fails to repair the file, then you need to use an advanced Outlook recovery tool from a third-party developer. 

Conclusion

There are many Microsoft Outlook tricks and tips that can help you save time while using the application. Above, we have shared some of these tricks that can improve your experience with the application. These tricks will also help you to make the most of Outlook and be more productive.


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Neha Gaurav is a technical consultant. She enjoys writing about MS Outlook tips and tricks to fix errors and repair MS Outlook pst file. In her spare time, Neha likes traveling extensively to learn about new cultures and traditions.

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Is a ‘truly global’ Minimum Tax on the Horizon?

posted on July 7, 2021

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The global minimum tax accord reached by the seven wealthiest nations doesn’t automatically translate into the Digital Services Tax (DST) going away. The Group of Seven (G7) cannot alone shape up global tax, but the recent deal can guide how the Group of Twenty (G20) countries reach a consensus on the thorny issue of taxing multinationals. The global minimum levy is broader than the DST, which is presently levied by a handful of countries on tech giants such as Google and Facebook. It has been a bone of contention between the US and the countries levying it.

In the run-up to the G7 Summit this year, the US announced a 25 per cent tariff on imports worth US$ 2 billion from nations levying DST. These tariffs were, however, suspended in the wake of the upcoming G7 meet. But it set the stage for discussion around taxing US multinationals.

Pandemic, economic fallouts and tax revenues

The economic fallouts of the pandemic have shifted goalposts. The global minimum tax could have evaded the broad consensus had in the pre-pandemic world. 

But the reality is different. The US, the UK, Canada and all other developed or emerging market economies have loosened the purse strings to lift their economies out of slowdowns. Employment figures are yet to reach the pre-pandemic levels, and price rise has breached permissible limits. 

Central banks, including the Fed and Bank of Canada, have repeatedly calmed nerves by saying that inflation is transitionary. The markets, however, have braced themselves for a sooner-than-expected rise in policy interest rates.

Taxing big tech firms that shift profits to other jurisdictions with relatively lower corporate tax rates is the easiest way to fill coffers without antagonizing the electorate. For example, levies on American tech giants can bring C$3 to C$4 billion in new tax revenue to Canada over five years if implemented at a 3 per cent rate from 2022. Besides, any hike in tax rates on domestic companies will translate into price rise for consumers, and governments across the world may want to avoid such a situation.

Hurdles to clear before going global

The global minimum tax has to overcome many hurdles before becoming a truly global tax regime. 

First, it will be debated at the upcoming meeting of 139 countries negotiating tax rules under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) framework. Keeping aside the differences between the US and other nations over DST, the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework has long been debating on tax challenges due to the digitalization of the global economy. 

After discussion on this forum, the G7 tax proposal will need an endorsement from G20 finance ministers. India, a member of G20, already levies DST, and others, including Russia and Indonesia, plan to boost revenues by taxing foreign digital companies.

The G20 comprises the world’s largest economies, and the upcoming July meet in Venice can translate into a global tax with genuine international impact. The stumbling block can be nations like Ireland, Netherlands and Switzerland that offer attractive tax rates to multinationals. In Ireland, for example, tech multinationals like Apple and Google account for nearly 80 per cent of corporate tax revenue for the government.

Separately, Republican Senators have also mounted a challenge to the G7 tax proposal citing the deal as anti-competitive and harmful for the US economy, which is already reeling from pandemic-induced fallouts that have resulted in alarming debt-to-GDP ratio. They also fear that the global minimum tax of at least 15 per cent may take away revenues from the US. Moreover, to implement it in spirit, the US may have to enact a new international tax treaty that would require two-thirds of Senators’ approval.

Is a broader consensus possible?

Despite hurdles – including the OECD framework, a consensus among the G20 nations on taxing tech giants, and US Republicans opposing any likely shift of revenues – the global minimum tax accord can become a reality soon and replace DSTs levied by individual countries. This argument is backed by the economic conditions prevalent created by the pandemic.

An amicable solution to the never-ending DST dispute lies in global minimum tax that can pave the way for levies on drug patents, royalties on intellectual property rights (IPRs) and other intangible sources of revenue. American tech giants shift revenues from their operational nation to tax-friendly geographies, and so far, DST was the only remedy available. 

However, the US has unequivocally disputed DST as anti-competitive and imposing retaliatory tariffs on imports from levying countries. At this time, when government revenues are already subdued, a dispute over taxation may not translate into better prospects. Instead, it can damage international trade relations with countries resorting to tariffs and other trade barriers.

Countries in the OECD framework and G20 economies are familiar with this. Hence, in the coming months, we may see wider adoption of global minimum tax and a consequential going away of DST.


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Kunal Sawhney: Entrepreneur with revolutionary ideas; financial professional with wealth of knowledge in Equities, aiming to transform the delivery of equity research through tech-driven digital platforms With his knowledge, skillset, and overarching vision, Kunal established one of the fastest growing equity market research firms across Australia in year 2014; and subsequently, in other emerging & developed markets – Kalkine - A business that is based on Digitally Powered Architecture and Extensive Data Science led Premium Research. Kunal’s entrepreneurial and commercial skills backed by the passion to establish a tech-empowered research platform, helped in building Kalkine’s global presence across diverse geographies - Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Further, the plans for the US launch in 2021, have set the premise for attaining an all-encompassing client reach for Kalkine’s Subscription and Media Operations. With a Master of Business Administration degree from University of Technology, Sydney; Kunal’s business acumen has enabled his brainchild, Kalkine, help clients navigate through equity related matters in a proficient and seamless manner. Kunal is featured regularly on CNBC, Sky Business, Biz News, Daily Mail, Yahoo Finance, KCBS Radio (Audacy), Bloomberg, Sydney Morning Herald, Global Banking and Financial Review and many more.

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What is Data Annotation and How is it Used in Machine Learning?

posted on July 1, 2021

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Any data scientist building an Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Machine Learning (ML) based model will require a huge amount of labeled data befitting the model training requirements. This is where data annotation comes in, making information understandable to machines. Data annotation, in this case, refers to the task of making the data in different formats such as audio, images, texts, and videos recognizable to machines.

In this blog, you are going to learn:

  • What data annotation is and what role it plays in Machine Learning
  • The available fields of Artificial Intelligence
  • Who data labelers are and what they do
  • Whether there is an alternative for the role data labelers
  • The overall benefits of data labeling

What exactly is data annotation and what role does it play in ML?

Data annotation is synonymous with data labelling, which is the process that revolves around adding tags to a dataset when preparing to train an ML model. Annotated data simplifies the training process as it teaches the AI to recognize patterns. When the training process ends, any new data, unlabeled data added will automatically lead to predictable tags. In other words, AI or ML models learn through examples, meaning data labelers add labels or tags to a dataset and set a target. When the image annotation period ends, for example, the machine can easily spot the presence of a ‘traffic light’, ‘dumpster’ ‘person’ or a ‘car’ in the new images. In addition, trained ML models can be deployed in complex forecasting assignments like stock market price predictions or give suggestions for additional products and services for a customer.

That explains why data annotation is critical during the data preprocessing stage due to the fact that supervised ML models learn to ‘remember’ recurring patterns in labeled data. The logic is simple. After an ML algorithm has processed sufficient annotated data, it begins to recognize similar patterns when new, unlabeled data is presented. That is the reason as to why data annotators are advised to use clean, annotated data when training their ML models.

What are the fields of AI?

Data annotation is used for any data type, including audio, images, text, and videos. However, there are two main fields of AI that are used regularly, and include: Computer Vision (CV); mainly used for image and video annotation, and Natural Language Processing (NLP); used to annotate audio and text data. Below is a brief look at these two common fields:

Computer Vision

A single, still image is more effective in conveying information than a lot of words. This is one of the reasons as to why data scientists teach machines to understand visual data. Humans understand with ease information shared through images and videos but that is never the case for machines. For a machine to be able to understand and interpret an image or a video as we do, it needs to learn from thousands of pieces of the same content. For that to happen, human annotators use annotation types like bounding boxes and polygons to identify an object, define its shape, and also track its position in space. That is how CV works in image and video annotation.

Natural Language Processing

NLP is used exclusively in audio and text annotation, basically explaining the language people use to machines. While people have the ability to communicate in native languages, machines communicate in artificial computer languages. However, through audio and text annotation, machines learn to identify different meanings. An easier example is how audios are transcribed into texts. However, a more complex example is how machines are able to carry out intent and sentimental analysis in audio and text data. In the latter case, machines determine the mood the text has and what objective the author of the text has.

Who are data labelers and what do they do?

Now you know what data labeling is and why it is significant in ML, and also the common fields in AI. It is imperative to understand that the brain behind all this process is the data labeler, a human expert who manually arranges and annotates the data by tagging labels to each piece.

The work of data labelers cannot be underestimated. As aforementioned, labeled datasets are used in supervised ML models, thus, human supervision is basically a human labeler helping the machine during the training process. Note that human supervision is paramount because machines are not as capable as we are, and they need human effort. For instance, voice recognition is a simple process that even our babies can do quite efficiently. 

But for machines to discern different voices of people, a lot of training needs to be done. And that explains why human annotation is pivotal in the training ML models.

Can human labelers be replaced?

This is always an intelligent question to ask because there is a human factor to consider, and certainly there is a downside to human annotation. Of course, a machine can do a great labeling job at a lesser expense than humans, but there is no evidence yet as to why using such efficient tools is more advantageous than human labelers. Moreover, it is all about finding the right data labeling process for your ML project, and in this case, human labelers are more effective. And to avoid putting too much pressure on your technical team, and on budget, outsourcing or crowdsourcing your project to a professional data label center is always a good strategy.

Benefits of data labeling

There are numerous benefits to reap from data labeling to ML algorithms that are responsible for training data. Here are some of the benefits from this process:

Improves the accuracy of data

Whenever data is labeled to train a ML model, the accuracy is always high. The end result of this high accuracy is good performance from the ML solution, producing the desired output for the users.

Better user experience

The more accurate and quality data is used in ML algorithms, the more enhanced the use experience becomes. For example, chatbots’ ability to give accurate answers to end users is as a result of ML-based trained AI models.

Better quality training data

The quality of training data can be improved with advanced data labeling methods through an interactive way after human correction. In any case, the quality of training data determines the overall performance of the ML model.

Conclusion

To sum up, you now understand that the output of a ML model is as good as the quality of data used to train them. High-quality datasets produce top-performing ML models; and thus, crowdsourcing or outsourcing the services of human data labelers is the recommended way for your ML project.  At the end of the day, we all want better end user experience and better outcomes from our projects, don’t we?


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Melanie Johnson, AI and computer vision enthusiast with a wealth of experience in technical writing. Passionate about innovation and AI-powered solutions loves sharing expert insights and educating individuals on tech.

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