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IT support requires a wide range of skills and expertise, including technical and people skills. Firms that possess both of these will experience success in their business of IT support.

IT Support: What Expertise Do You Need?

IT Support: What Expertise Do You Need?When it comes to small business IT support, expertise is relative and exists at all different levels. In this article, you'll learn more about expertise within your IT support business and what other skills are desirable for you and your employees. You'll find experts at every level of IT supportIn a big-enterprise IT organization for example, you find everyone from level one help desk technicians up to senior systems engineers, all the way up to the CIO. Of course, you'll find a lot of gradations and a lot of variations in between those levels. Ideally, each will be an expert in their own specialty. The same will usually be true among your IT support contractors and staff. More than likely, you have some technicians who can handle real simple things like a hard drive installation or a LAN adapter installation. You probably have some people on staff who can handle installing a simple peer-to-peer network or maybe a basic dedicated server. Then perhaps you have someone on staff who works with server-class firewalls and setting up VPNs and other more intricate, advanced networking technologies.Don't Forget People Skills Most of the people that are successful in IT support for small businesses are either really strong on the technical side or really strong on the sales side. Consultants who are phenomenal on the sales side and phenomenal on the technical side are a rare commodity in IT support. The best technicians and systems engineers, however, also have good people skills that come into play during a big project, for example, when installing a 10- or a 25-node network. In a situation where there are vendor products and solutions from many different vendors, a tremendous amount can go wrong. So, project management, administrative management, and account management skills are all important in IT support.The Bottom Line about IT support In this article, you've been introduced to the successful traits in consultants providing IT support.Copyright Notice:Copyright MMI-MMVI, Computer Consulting Blog. All Worldwide Rights Reserved. {Attention Publishers: Live hyperlink in author resource box required for copyright compliance}

A Call to Action

A Call to Action

Because of a recent boom in business, my company needed to update our office phone system. We had a very nice system in place already, but our business had tripled within a matter of months. Since we rely on phone orders for the vast majority of our sales, we needed to upgrade in order to handle the increase in call volume. We were lucky to have a great relationship with our telephone equipment provider, as within days we were able to have a new system ready to put in place. It's not often that businesses find themselves in situations like this, but when they do come up, it's important to know that the companies you have chosen to do business with are capable of meeting your needs in a timely manner. Prior to this happening, we had a trunk study performed, after which we were told that we were losing business as a result of not having a new phone system in place. Anyone who has ever run a business knows that losing money because you are ill equipped to handle your customer's needs is the worst way to lose money. Being able to make a phone call and knowing it would be taken care of quickly and efficiently was a great relief to me. I knew that with every passing day, thousands of dollars were being lost and that's something I couldn't afford to let happen. The whole situation made me think about the importance of knowing qualified vendors who can get you the products you need, when you need them. I soon began looking into other areas where we were dependent upon other companies for goods and services to see if we were utilizing vendors who could facilitate the changes our growing business was experiencing. After a long, hard look, we decided to switch shipping companies and to switch to a new overnight call center operator. It's not that our needs weren't being met at the time, but that if things continued to grow, we would likely outpace our current vendor's ability to provide service. Being proactive in your business relationships is just as important as being proactive about your business. After all, most companies depend on other companies to make their operations run smoothly. I encourage all business owners to seek out the service providers and vendors that can handle your needs both now and in the future. When your business grows, you'll be happy you did.

Insider Secrets about Corporations: Or, Why Should I Incorporate?

Insider Secrets about Corporations:  Or, Why Should I Incorporate?

-"Why should I incorporate? I can just do this business as a sole proprietor, right?"-"Isn't it complicated and expensive to form a corporation?"-"I run my business with my spouse, and we have a partnership. Why would we need to have a corporation?"These have to be the most frequently asked questions that I--and my own financial and legal advisors--get from our clients. The vast majority of people who operate small business or home-based business are sole proprietors or mom-and-pop shop-type partners. Yet, leading authorities on "small business" estimate that at least 90% of all small business and home business entrepreneurs would benefit from incorporating and using a corporation as an essential component of their overall business structure.If this is true, why do so many entrepreneurs elect to operate as sole proprietors and general partners anyway? And why would you be better off incorporating?The answer to the first question is usually either (1)ignorance of the tremendous risks of operating in this manner or (2) lack of familiarity with corporations and other legal entities and the ease with which they can be established. I should add that if the sole proprietorship is perilous, the partnership is more than twice as bad. This is because in the partnership is by default a general partnership, in which each partner is responsible for all actions of the company, including decisions made by the other partner in which she did not participate. Now that's frightening!To answer the second question, we must first establish what a corporation is precisely. A corporation is an artificial legal entity that is separate from its owner/shareholders in the eyes of the law. The wealthy have learned that there are at least three major advantages that make the corporation anessential component of your business structure.1. Asset Protection.The single most important benefit of the corporation is protection it affords for your personal assets.The corporation is created when you file appropriate documents--"Articles of Incorporation" in the United States--to the appropriate state legal authorities. A corporation cannot be formed through some private agreement between the parties who elect to form it. It can only come into being by the state in which it is formed creating it, and it has the rights and obligations established by the laws of that state.Most important here is the notion of the corporate veil--this is the shield that separates your business assets and activities from the private person and assets of the owner/shareholder(s). Because the corporation is a separate legal person, if you are a consultant or translator, for example--or own a small store--and someone claims that that they have suffered injury from your business (say, from a poor translation or a slip on your wet floor), and files a lawsuit, only the assets of your business are in jeopardy. The claimant cannot touch your personal residence or your automobile if these are owned by you and not your corporation.There are significant differences among individual states and the degree of protection that they afford to the corporate veil. In California, for instance, there are a number of occasions--too many for comfort--in which the corporate veil has been pierced, thus allowing financial predators to seize the personal assets of an entrepreneur. This is almost never happened in Nevada, making it the state of choice for entrepreneurs seeking asset protection.We will be devoting a separate article to the Nevada corporation in depth in a future issue of this eNewsletter. It is important to note for now that an additional advantage of the Nevada corporation for many is that Nevada has no state income tax. If you use a Nevada corporation to conduct business in your own home state outside Nevada (such as California, our own home state), you may still be subject to state income tax. Because of the superior "asset protection" afforded by the Nevada corporation, however, it may still be worth while for you to establish a Nevada corporation. Large numbers of entrepreneurs from other countries as well as other states establish Nevada corporations for precisely this reason.2. The S Corporation versus the C Corporation: Know Which is Right for YouThe issue of the personal service corporation only comes up with respect to the C corporation. The other type of corporation is an S corporation, which, like the limited liability company and the limited partnership is a pass-through entity. That is to say that the corporation is itself not taxed as an entity--instead the net income passes through to the shareholders (such as a husband and wife), and is taxed on the individual tax returns of the shareholders/owners.There are situations in which establishing an S corporation would be preferable to using a C Corporation. If you have significant income from a job, for example, and you anticipate significant losses in early years and you don't anticipate that your business will earn over $150,000, an S corporation will be your best choice. However, there are limitations on who can be members of an S corporation, and there are limits on employee benefits in an S corporation.A sophisticated business structure will probably make use of both the C and the S corporation. On the other hand, because of the nature of corporations, you will never want to use either type of corporation to hold real estate. Instead you will want to use a "limited liability" company or a limited partnership. However, if you are a real estate investor, there might still be room for an S- or C-Corporation in your overall business structure. For example, a corporation could be used to manage your properties held in another entity.Or--and this is a strategy that could be used for conducting various sorts of business-the corporation could be part of another business entity. For example, if you wish to operate a limited partnership, you will need to have a general partner. But the general partner is responsible for all decisions made and all liability resulting therefrom--the general partner, in short, has unlimited liability. Thus, an intelligent option is to use an S- or C-corporation to be the general partner. This way you have a general partner with the limited liability associated with the corporation.3. Know How to Manage Your Corporation Properly to Keep the Corporate Veil IntactRegardless of where you establish your corporation, you will need to make sure that you observe appropriate formalities--otherwise your corporate veil can be pierced very easily, thereby defeating the entire purpose of setting it up. Even if you have an accountant who handles your bookkeeping and tax returns, it remains your responsibility to assure that you are doing this correctly.This involves holding regular meetings and maintaining minutes in your record book, issuing stock certificates, and other formalities. We recommend that you consult one of the resources recommended on our resources pages for help in doing this (http://www.wealthstrategies202.com/resources.htm).The Personal Service CorporationA final issue that may arise, particularly for independent consultants, translators, and other professionals, concerns the "Personal Service Corporation." There are two separate categories of professionals who may be affected by this problem: Those, such as lawyers, accountants, psychologists, and health care professionals, who are required by their state laws to incorporate as professional corporations. These corporations are automatically classified by the IRS as personal service corporations.In addition, the IRS has broadened the definition of "personal service" to include any work, such as translation or consulting, that is personally rendered by the owner/shareholder. This is of particular concern if you are operating on your own as an individual or as a couple. If 95% or more of your earnings come from work in that personal service activity, the corporation becomes qualified as a personal service corporation.The reason that this is of concern is that a personal service corporation incorporated as a C corporation is subject to a flat 35 percent tax rate and to a lower ceiling ($150,000) for application of the accumulated earnings tax (normally $250,000). However, this is not an insurmountable obstacle to enjoying the benefits of incorporating:1. First, the other advantages of incorporating still render the C corporation preferable to operating using another structure, such as the sole proprietor. It may be especially attractive if otherwise a high earning couple might be subject to a higher tax bracket.2. Secondly, it is possible to structure your activities so that more than 5% of the activity is derived from work that falls outside the scope of personal services rendered by the owner/shareholder. For example, a translator or consultant might have a branch of the business involved in network marketing--as a medical professional might have a health food store or other income producing activity--so that the corporation is no longer qualified as a personal service corporation.As you can see, the corporation is an extremely valuable tool, one that the wealthy have used extremely effectively. If you are operating as an independent entrepreneur and are not using a corporation or the popular alternative of the limited liability company, you are most likely handicapping yourself, limiting your profitability and paying excessive taxes. With the resources that we have available today, especially over the internet, there is no reason that the average individual cannot easily begin to take advantage of this valuable tool. We currently have 3 entities that we formed ourselves and that cost us just the cost of the various resources that we purchased plus the filing fees required by the State of California and postage to get these set up. And we have made sure to obtain the proper forms through the sources we list on our Resources page so that we can maintain the legality of these entities."Can't I wait and start out as a sole proprietor or partner and incorporate later?" we are often asked.Certainly, if you don't mind exposing all your personal assets to risk, paying higher taxes, and finding yourself more likely to be subject to an IRS audit. Some people prefer to do things the hard way--but, armed with the right information and resources, there's no reason why you should have to.Even if you decide to allow a tax attorney to help you with the formalities, it is better to do so armed with the knowledge you need to judge whether the recommendations she makes are in fact in your best interest.At the very least, you'll know enough to head immediately for the nearest exit if any expert you consult tells you that you don't need to establish a legal entity to run your business.Copyright 2006 Azur Pacific Associates

Computer Consultant Startup: Identify Your Business Skills

Computer Consultant Startup: Identify Your Business Skills

Since you're taking the time to read this article right now, it's a good sign that you have what it takes to become a computer consultant. You're in the small minority of people who have recognized that this is a business and needs to be run like one.A Good Computer Consultant Has More Than Just Technical SkillsIt's not about playing with the latest routers or wi-fi device or VPNs or firewalls. Sure, you have to have a certain amount of skills to make a successful "computer consultant" because people are buying your expertise. At the end of the day, though, it's a business.In order for the business to be successful, you have to know a few things about getting revenue in and keeping your expenses down. You also need to forecast and be able to bill, negotiate, and network properly.There are a lot of stubborn techies out there who think that studying the Windows Server Resource Kit is going to tell them what they need to know about running a business. Not true. It's going to teach you about registry keys and directories and things like that.Even a Computer Consultant Needs a Good ResumeIf you're currently self-employed, you may not have an up- to-date resume, but for most people looking to transition into the business to become a computer consultant you probably do have a resume. Take out a copy of your resume and a yellow highlighter marker and go through and highlight every sentence or phrase in your resume that describes a project or a job or a skill that you think would be relevant or marketable to the owner of a small company.Categorize the Items on Your ResumeGo through it and look for all the phrases and the jobs and the projects that you've worked on for the past couple of years and think about what's going to catch the eye of a typical small business owner or manager. Once you've done that, go back through each highlighted item and mark whether it was IT related, whether it had to do with understanding how to run a business or whether it had to do with being able to communicate effectively.Copyright MMI-MMVI, Small Biz Tech Talk. All Worldwide Rights Reserved. {Attention Publishers: Live hyperlink in author resource box required for copyright compliance}

Disaster Preparedness in a Post 9/11 World

So much has changed in the last several years after 9/11, and yet most businesses are still inadequately prepared for disastrous situations. Not only are they vulnerable from the threat of terrorism, but from security and natural disaster standpoints as well. While a terrorist act poses a substantial threat to business operations; data loss, internal and external theft, floods and fires can be just as harmful. Unfortunately, of the few businesses that have some semblance of a disaster preparedness plan, there is still little consideration given to business continuity management. When disasters happen, not only do businesses need to be prepared to immediately offset the effects of the detrimental event, they must do so while maintaining core operating functions. Disaster preparedness without continuity management can be likened to fortifying a strategic position without a progressive plan of action. What can make things more complicated is the tendency for businesses to implement a disaster preparedness plan without fully considering the consequences. A good disaster preparedness plan shouldn't hinder a businesses ability to continue functioning. Initiating a disaster preparedness plan that will protect the interests of the business should be an all inclusive affair, with due diligence given not only to limiting damage from the situation at hand, but to keeping operational status. Given the uncertainties faced by businesses in the post 9/11 world, continuity management can often mean the difference between success in the face of adversity or a complete loss of business. So often, companies take steps to limit their loss liability, but rarely consider the fact that most loss liability can be avoided altogether with the proper safeguards in place. A well thought out "business continuity" management plan, which should include a contingency centered around disaster preparedness, can prove triumphant in the face of what would otherwise be considered tragedy. As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".

How to Obtain Grants for Your Child Day Care Center

Today childcare centers are gaining importance as a profitable business. Many people are seeking advice to obtain grants to start their own childcare center, expand their program, or upgrade their facilities.One way to locate financing for your childcare business is to:Check with your local bank Research and obtain venture capital Seek gifts and loans from family and friends Look for advice from incubator organizationsObtain counsel from local small business and women's associationsIn a few states, special loan programs have been developed to help childcare centers access immediate funds at affordable rates, like Washington and Oregon's Cascadian Child Care Fund.On-line ResourcesIndependent childcare business owners can also try the Foundation Grants to Individuals Online, a service of The Foundation Center at http://www.fdncenter.org. For a small fee per month (payable by credit card), the Foundation Center offers online listings of Grants to Individuals in the U.S. Requesting Guidelines and ApplicationsOnce you have completed your initial research and found potential grant funding, the next step involves contacting them and request their latest application and funding guidelines. If the program is operated by a foundation, also request their annual report. It is a good idea to view some common grant applications online so you know what to look for when your information comes in. Grant/Funding Information ProcessingOnce you have received various funding information packets and applications, read them carefully and make notes about specific guidelines. Review which of the funding opportunities are available for a childcare center and whether your business plan fits their criteria. Examples of information you would find on a funding information packet would be: the type of program for which funding is available, eligibility requirements, location and populations served, and application deadlines, and so on.Contact Funding Agencies DirectlyFunding guidelines and applications can be quite extensive. While reviewing the guidelines and application, make notes of any questions you may have. Most funding agencies will assist you in completing your application for funding, and will appreciate that you have taken the time to get all the facts before submitting your proposal. Funding proposals are often set aside and not reviewed due to incomplete information, therefore it is critical to review your application to ensure you have met all the eligibility requirements and submitted all the necessary paperwork.Prepare Your Cover Letter and ProposalA cover letter is usually required with each proposal submitted. Again, check the guidelines of the funding agencies. Each agency will have different paperwork requirements. Don't Give UpThe best advice you can receive as you begin your quest for funding for your childcare center is not to become discouraged. Funding agencies typically receive a lot more proposals than they fund. So apply to more than one funding organization, and follow each organization's instructions very carefully as to what they want in a proposal, and you will have a much better chance of obtaining funding for your childcare center.

Summary

IT support requires a wide range of skills and expertise, including technical and people skills. Firms that possess both of these will experience success in their business of IT support.