Articles by Shane Ede

How Smart Are You With Credit Cards?

Personal finance is something you might call a hobby of mine. I’ve written on the subject here before, and on a couple of personal finance blogs that I own. One of the things that constantly gets batted back and forth between the experts in personal finance is the use of credit cards. There are some that will tell you that you shouldn’t use any credit cards at all. I happen to not be one of those. I think that credit cards can be a valuable tool. Emphasis on can. Used properly, a person can take advantage of the many available interest free credit cards to pay regular bills and then pay one large payment to pay the card off each month. It can help you with your budget by turning a handful of payments to different places into one payment to the card company.

There are other ways that you can use a credit card wisely without running up the debt. Obviously, the first step is to pay the thing off every month. Another step is finding a card that works for you. There are all kinds of cards that are available that have some sort of rewards system in place. They range from a simple percentage in cash back to much more complex point reward systems. Which one you might want to take advantage of will depend on your personal preferences. You might travel often, and make good use of a card with reward miles attached to it. I travel rarely, and have little to no use for miles. Instead, the main card that I use is an Amazon rewards card. I get a small points amount back for every purchase that is then tied to my Amazon account and used when I make purchases on Amazon. I read quite a bit, and buy plenty of stuff from Amazon, so this works out really well for me.

If you have credit card debt, like me, you’re not using your credit cards as wisely as you can. In the last several years, I’ve paid off a large portion of my credit card debt, but not all of it. I’m still working on the rest. One of the tools that I’ve used, with some success, are 0% balance transfer deals. Credit card companies make money on people like me (and probably you) who maintain balances on their credit cards. Each month, the earn that high interest rate on the remaining balance, while we whittle away at it with the small required payment. With the transfer offers, I’ve been able to maintain a 0% or low interest rate on my debt for over a year. Each time I’ve had to transfer the debt to a new card, I’ve paid a transfer fee of about 3%. Small price to pay for no interest for a year, if you ask me.

Of course, with anything, even the transfer deals can be hazardous. If you aren’t making any progress on paying the debt off, you’re really missing the boat. Used as a tool, the deals can be valuable in eliminating debt. Another pitfall of the deals can be that if you use too many of them, your credit rating can suffer. If you’re credit rating starts dropping, the new offers in the mail will stop coming, and there you are paying interest again.

Used properly, credit cards can be a tool. Building up rewards and cash back on cards you pay off every month can be a nice bonus at the end of the month. I still maintain that you should have as little credit card debt as possible in order to reduce the amount of interest you pay each month. Be smart with credit cards, and use them like a tool, and you’ll have much happier financial situations in your future.

Entreleadership


Entreleadership

By: Dave Ramsey

I’ve made no effort in hiding the fact that I’m a fan of Dave Ramsey.  His book “Total Money Makeover” made a huge difference in the way that I handle my personal finances.  So, when I heard that he was coming out with a book on leadership, I added it to my wish list.  I’ve finally gotten far enough along in my reading to have made it through the book and was really impressed.

Dave has been running his company for something slightly longer than 20 years.  In Entreleadership, he give us the rundown on how he runs the company. It’s far from your typical book on leadership in that he isn’t talking about theory, but actual practice.  He covers pretty much everything about running a company, and not just one that is a multi-million dollar company like his, but has several bits that look at the topic from a start-up perspective too.

As is typical with Dave’s writing, it’s easy to read, and easy to understand.  I’m sure he’s got plenty of editors to keep the typos and grammatical errors to a minimum, so that’s not really a problem either.

One of the things that bothers me about books like this one is that many of the practices are a hard sell for companies.  Too few companies buy into the culture movement and are only in it for the profits.  I hope that many leaders start seeing that light though.  Dave’s book should go a long way towards that.

I’ve seldom read a book that covers such a broad spectrum of the business leadership world.  Even when I do find one that encompasses as much, it’s pretty rare to find one that gives examples and lays out a strategy for employing the practices in your own company.  Dave does both in Entreleadership.  I found chapters on time management, hiring, firing, asset management, expanding, salary, and overall compensation.

If you’re a leader of your company or aspire to be, I think Entreleadership is a must read.  It’s one that will be staying in my library for quite some time and is pretty likely to get a re-read or two.

 

Cloud Computing: Locking Us Into the Matrix?

Cloud computing is being called the best thing that’s hit the technology sector since multiple core processors.  It gives small businesses the ability to tap into super computer power without having the cost of building the super computer.  The business pays for usage of the cloud rather than for all the hardware and upkeep of the computers. An example of a sector that’s rising in its use of cloud systems is the accounting world where we’re seeing a lot of cloud accounting software rolling out. It’s a good deal; giving the small-timer the ability to handle spikes in computing need without breaking the budget.

Is cloud computing a trap though?  Richard Stallman thinks so.  In a recent interview with The Guardian, Stallman called cloud computing “stupidity”.  He’s in good company too.  Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, is quoted in the same article as calling it “complete gibberish”.  Stallman is the founder of the Free Software Foundation and the creator of the GNU operating system so he knows a bit about free and community supported softwares.  Of course, just because they say it’s so doesn’t make it so.

Cloud Computing MatrixBut, he and Ellison bring up some good points.  If we’ve got all our data in the cloud, the cloud becomes a pretty good sized target for those who would like to have our data.  The most convenient cloud application in the world isn’t going to seem so convenient when someone is leaking your customers emails all over the internet.  Or worse, their passwords and credit card information.

Or, what happens when you’ve stored all your data in the cloud and the cloud goes away.  Or when you depend on the cloud’s computing power to maintain your business, and it suddenly goes away?  You might wish you had a little bit of that control back in your own data center.

Truthfully, I’m like a lot of people in the digital world today.  I use gmail, store quite a few of my files on Dropbox, and count on any number of sites and services that use that same cloud technology.  And when I stop to think about the cost of replacing any of those with the hardware and software to recreate those solutions, I shudder a bit.  I’m payment averse, so it’s not like I’d be replacing software and services that I already pay for.  No, I’d be replacing software and services that are free.  Maybe they’re ad supported, or limited in some way, but they work.

I like being able to access my data and information from any number of places just by logging into a website.  I understand that there is a risk of my data being compromised.  But, I’m a personal user.  Very little of what I have out there is so personal in nature that it would compromise me if it was hacked and released.  Any business taking the same risk has to weigh that against the cost of replacing the software and services that they are already using.

For many small businesses, it’s likely worth it.  Larger companies might think nothing of it, but should.  It certainly calls for some serious thought on the type of data that you’re storing in the cloud, and the type of information that you’re passing back and forth to a cloud computing source.  You never know when the NSA is watching… 😉

Another concern, brought forward by Stallman, is that of the proprietary nature of many of the softwares and services.  Google Drive, for instance has it’s own format (much like Microsoft Office does) that doesn’t transfer well to any other service.  Many other services make it overly hard to retrieve all of your data from the service without a lot of hassle.  What risk is there in having your data locked into the “Matrix” of cloud computing?

What do you think?  Is cloud computing truly the wave of the future?  Or is it going to become so risky that it fails due to lack of use? Does the proprietary nature of many of the services cause undue hassle?

Original image credit:Matrix Readout – Seamless texture by Patrick Hoesly, on Flickr

Stop Blocking Employee Social Media

I’m entertained by all of the corporations that are still blocking employees from using social media.  There are a couple of instances where it does make some sense.  Defense contractors, for instance, probably shouldn’t have a whole bunch of employees running around using twitter and instagram.  I don’t think Uncle Sam would like it much.  But the rest of you?  What’s your excuse?

Not that very long ago, before the invention of social media, it wasn’t an issue.  After all, there wasn’t really an easy way for an employee to share something with hundreds or thousands of people in a few seconds.  They might be able to text or send a picture with their cell phone, but it wasn’t likely to go very much farther than the original recipient.  Yes, there were a few cases, and usually, those companies (and many more) followed up with disallowing cell phone usage on premises.  And it worked.  Mostly.  Unless you count the hordes of unhappy employees it created.  Most of which would have never used their now banned cell phone for anything more than sending a grocery list.

Social Media: Corporate Chaos Maker?

And then, blogs came along.  And social media.  Suddenly, the whole world had a way to communicate, almost instantaneously, with everyone.  It no longer mattered if you were in Texas or Timbuktu.  You could talk to each other.   The conversation could bounce back and forth in seconds.  And the majority of corporate headquarters around the world collectively gasped!  They fell over each other in a rush to develop policies to restrict these new playthings their employees had.  Fear of losing productivity, company secrets, and proverbial “face” meant complete bans on the whole lot.  And it worked.  Mostly.  Except, this time, you haven’t just (I say just, like creating unhappy employees won’t ruin your company eventually anyways.) created unhappy employees.  You’ve lost valuable marketing.  You’ve lost a public voice that could be all about singing your companies praises.  (You do have to be a company who has praises are worth singing, however.)

Social Media is a Toolset

What you should be doing, instead of being afraid of what your employees will do with these new tools, is to treat them like tools.  When you deploy a new tool, whether it be software, machinery, or policy, you provide training to your employees on it’s usage so that you can avoid losses of productivity, injury, and turnover.  Social media is just another tool.  Instead of developing policies that forbid it, develop policies that embrace it.  Provide your employees with the training that they need to employ social media tools for the betterment of the company.

Employees are your voiceEmployees are the Voice of your Company

Whether you like it or not, your employees are the real voice of your company.  Spend as much as you like on your next marketing campaign.  It won’t matter a bit if enough of your employees start talking poorly of your company.  Not only will they drive away potential employees, but they will also start driving away potential customers.  The people that you need to pay you, can be directly affected by the people you pay.

Adding policies that allow social media isn’t going to cure a cancerous company.  But, then, I wouldn’t expect a company that’s cancerous to be considering any sort of favorable social media policy in the first place.

Give your Employees a Voice

Allow your employees to be a public voice for your company.  They’ll hear complaints.  They’ll hear compliments.  And, if you empower them just a little bit, they might fix the complaints, and enhance the compliments.  Humans are social beings.  From the dawn of time, we’ve acted within a social hierarchy.  From tribal relations, to corporate ladders, we respond to social ques.  Set some standards and guidelines, and then let your employees loose.  Correct when necessary, but give them the ability to make a few mistakes.  Instead of corporate time-clock punchers, you might find that you have real people working for you.  And those real people, given a little freedom, might just respond by being a better marketing team than your marketing team.

img credit: quickredfoxandkits on Flickr.