What Every Business Owner Must Know About the Offline Issues of an Online Business

Several generations have now grown up in the “PC era,” which dates to the 1970’s. Even the great inventions of the early 1980s, in fact, are obsolete already, from VCRs to brick-size portable phones. These new generations see PCs as a part of everyday life, and are completely comfortable with highly advanced video games, smart phones, netbooks, WiFi, satellite radio – and, first and foremost, the Internet.¬†Constant virtual connection to anything you need is now a way of life.It’s almost magical, that word “Internet,” and it certainly was the center of much fantasizing in the late 1990s. At that time, you could get a start-up fund of several million dollars by tacking a “dot-com” suffix on the end of anything – Sports.com, Poker.com, Ideas.com, whatever – and reminding the “old fashioned” bankers and businessmen that the World Wide Web had a new type of economy. Profits were not the most important thing, apparently, and were supposed to simply appear as a result of one’s being hip, slick, cool and relevant.Reality strikesThe “dot com bust” of 2000-2001 put the lie to the fantasizing, of course, because hipness, slickness, coolness and relevance don’t keep the doors open and bread on the table. Profits do. Yet even with that big, well-documented burst of the tech-stock bubble, a certain cachet still attaches to the Internet, and the businesses that operate there. This article, then, covers what every small business must know about the offline issues of an online business, in case you are thinking of starting a web business or taking your present business online.You are encouraged, of course, to study further about the various things that will be mentioned, since a thousand words can cover only so much territory. However, that’s enough space to get you well grounded, hit the major points and get you headed in the right direction. You will find that much is common sense (which is increasingly uncommon, of course) as well as some surprising comments, too. Do as much research as you need to do to understand exactly what it is you and your company are getting into.Truisms of businessRemember now, this is not a “how to start a net business” advice article, but more of a collection of alert messages, such as, “Hey, don’t forget this problem,” or, “Avoid this mistake.” You know you have to have a business plan, you are doubtless aware of the technical challenges of building and running a website – and if you don’t have that plan and don’t understand website construction, put articles on those topics at the top of your reading list.Perhaps the major offline issues of an online business involve marketing, Although the Internet’s reach is vast, and people will often find your online business while online – through links, banners, referrals, search results, etc. – there are many more people that you can reach offline. Do not neglect the traditional avenues of marketing, advertising and promotion, or you will seriously undercut yourself and narrow your reach considerably. In fact, some of your customers will be people who go online only for certain activities, such as sending/receiving e-mail and making specific purchases.Capturing customersMost customers for your online business will not be “cruisers” who simply stumble over your site, although there is a new online “marketing community” that is trying to find a way to make money off, well, stumbling around the World Wide Web. More often, though, customers will head to you directly, straight to your URL. This should clarify for you the type and scope of marketing that you need to do.Some business advisors dispute the notion that there are separate models for online versus offline business. “Business either is or is not,” writes Andre Gofman at Vmarketing.biz, although he notes that “implementation” of certain activities will certainly vary according to the business location. In addition to marketing efforts, some online business people may neglect financial discipline, specifically in the area of vendor and supplier costs.Negotiation, virtual and otherwiseAnother important area for online business owners to focus on is vendor relations. The best business relationships are personal ones, and the old saying – “People don’t do business with businesses, they do business with other people” ¬≠- is as true as ever in cybercommerce. The offline issues in this case involve personal contact with vendors and suppliers, rather than reliance on e-mails, chat windows or the telephone.Just because your business is online, and “virtual” in some ways, does not make you or your suppliers any less real and human. And real humans want to shake hands, look each other in the eye and get “a feel” for each other. As a great amount of our communication with others is non-verbal, it really is important to get out and meet your vendors, suppliers, clients and customers face to face. There is nothing that can replace that “up close and personal” touch.Bottom line is the bottom lineFinally – although there are many more issues you will run into in your continuing research into the matter – there is the matter of financial reporting. It doesn’t matter to the IRS where you do your business, they want their cut, as do the sales tax authorities, license bureaus, etc. You may be used to a computerized, paperless business model, but tax agencies and bureaucracies live on paper, forms, ink and envelopes. Regardless of how efficient your computerized records are, one of the important offline issues for online businesses is record keeping.Sure, your Excel and Quicken and Peachtree Accounting files are fine sitting on the hard drive of your office PC, but the IRS wants hard copy of some specific things. You will need to develop, process and provide various other figures, reports and lists for local, regional, state and federal organizations of different kinds, depending on your line of business and a host of other factors. Business owners who spend too much time cruising in “the parallel universe” can forget that there are some very important things to take care of right here in our four-dimensional lives (that’s the three dimensions of space, plus time, which there is never enough of). You would be well advised to take care of the offline issues of your online business before they become real problems. Any number of mistakes might get you grounded, and keep you from your next cyberspace journey – and that would really be an issue, online and off!

Four Misconceptions About Replacement Windows

There are many misconceptions that homeowners have about replacement windows that can keep them from choosing to replace their windows. The four misconceptions below touch on a few (but major) issues that are commonly brought up by people hesitant to replace their windows. By dispelling these misconceptions about replacement windows, homeowners will feel more comfortable making the decision to start a window replacement project.1. U-value is the most important factor to determine energy efficient windowsU-value is defined as the measurement of the amount of heat transfer through the window. The lower the U-value, the less heat is transferred across the window. While it is a good measure for the window, the U-value is only one factor used to determine the energy performance of a window. Other measures like the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) and the visible light transmittance are also used to determine the performance of the window.In addition, the climate you live in will also determine how important U-value is to your situation. If you live in a colder climate you will want the lowest U-value you can find. A low U-value means that the heat inside the house will stay inside. However, if you live in a warmer climate, the solar heat gain coefficient is more important because it measures how much of the sun’s radiant heat is transferred across the window. The lower the SHGC the better the window is in a warmer climate.In a colder climate you want to try and capture as much of the sun’s radiant heat as you can so a better SHGC number is not as important as a good U-value rating. While U-value is important when selecting a replacement window, it is not the most important factor when determining energy efficiency.2. You must use vinyl windows if you want replacement windowsWhile vinyl is the most popular material used in replacement window frames today, there are other options for replacement windows. If you live in an older home you have the option of replacing your old wood windows with new, energy efficient clad/wood windows. These windows can often times be installed inside the “pocket” of your old windows without having to tear into the house or disturb the existing trim. The windows have a clad exterior, usually vinyl or aluminum that protect the windows from the elements, and a wood interior to keep with the look of your existing windows.Fiberglass is a newer material available for replacement windows. It has thermal properties similar to wood window (wood is the best insulator available) and it is stronger than vinyl or aluminum. Fiberglass is very durable and is hard to dent or scratch. The material is also paintable which gives you options other than the standard white and tan offered by most vinyl window manufacturers.You will pay more to have wood or fiberglass replacement windows. Vinyl is the least expensive of the three, but you also have product limitations, and quality issues with vinyl that you do not see as much in clad/wood or fiberglass replacement windows. You should always look at all of your options for replacement windows because vinyl is not the only choice.3. Replacing windows will require extensive renovation to your homeMany people are hesitant to undertake a window replacement project because they are afraid that it will require tearing out brick, stucco, sheet rock and more to have the windows replaced. Usually this is not the case. Most good window installers can replace a window without disturbing the existing structure. This is nice because it limits the amount of finish work required and it allows the project to be done fairly quickly.Most window installation projects are complete within two days and do not require any additional masonry, stucco, or sheet rock work. Find a window installer that is comfortable explaining their installation process to you so that you know what to expect when they start installing windows.4. Anyone can install a replacement windowThis, unfortunately, is the biggest misconception people have about installing replacement windows: anyone can do it. While it is not rocket science, installing windows is an acquired skill, and the better you are at it, the better the installation will be. There are many contractors out there that say they can install windows, but few that will say they can do it well. It is important that you determine your window installers comfort level with installing replacement windows before you hire them to do the work.A window will only perform well if it was installed correctly. A poorly installed window can be difficult to open and close, it can leak, it can be drafty, just to name a few. It is as important to find the right window installer as it is to find the right replacement window for your project. Take the time to find the right window installer and ask the right questions before they start the work. This will insure a well executed window replacement project and long term performance of your replacement windows.SummaryThere are a hundred other misconceptions that homeowners have about replacement windows, but these four detail some of the most common. The process for replacing windows is not that difficult, however, it pays to know the facts about the product and the process. Research for yourself before you select a replacement window, and you will be sure to make the right decisions, from energy efficiency, to product choice, to how they are installed, to, finally, who installs them for you.