When Should You Call an Interim Manager?

It’s not uncommon for businesses to run into problems they don’t have the institutional knowledge to solve. Sometimes this is a natural evolution that leads to a growth of the business and its operational capacity. The rise of the IT department is something that has happened within living memory. It required businesses to take a risk, employing full time staff who were specialists in a new field, and sinking resources into equipment and training. The result of this, however, was increased efficiency; better problem-solving capacity; and now it’s impossible to imagine any business of any size without an IT support team.

Similarly, absorbing new expertise is part of the growth of a business. Start-ups and small businesses often make do without full time HR staff. This works as long as you have a small number of employees and can extend them flexibility in return for commitment to a growing business. Once you start to grow, processing payroll can be too much for an overstretched founder to handle, quite apart from tracking holidays and staff sickness. It makes sense as a business grows to transition into having dedicated HR staff to handle that side of a business for you, and is part of the foundation for future expansion and success.

Sometimes, however, businesses face a problem that doesn’t justify taking on new full-time staff. A project failing or overrunning, or an urgent to break into a new market represents an acute need, rather than a chronic one.

It’s in situations like these, when you need a short term dose of additional knowledge and resources, that Interim Managers are a good idea for your business. Experienced in adapting to business needs quickly, they are a solution that’s available immediately, and provides practical support rather than the recommendations you would receive from a traditional consultant. If you have a failing project you need to turn around, an Interim Manager wouldn’t simply make recommendations about how to bring it under control, they would work closely with you and the project team as a project manager.

As long as you have a quantifiable aim in mind like increasing your revenue by a set amount, or facing a particular crisis, an Interim Manager is a good solution for your business. If you have more diffuse goals like broad improvement or simply ‘growth’ without figures attached to these aspirations it’s unlikely the practical skills of the Interim Manager can help.

Popular Cruising Myths Debunked: Why Cruises are Ideal for the Adventure Holidaymaker

Cruise holidays have, over the years, become surrounded by a number of misconceptions, myths and stereotypes. That’s why we’ve decided to debunk some of the myths and explain why cruises are still great for all types of holidaymakers, including those looking for an adventure.

I Can’t Afford a Cruise Holiday

Granted, some cruises can be expensive, but this doesn’t mean all cruises are out of your price range. In most cases, a cruise holiday will cost the same as a package holiday to a beach resort, while sometimes, you may even find that they’re more affordable.

A lot of cruise companies, like Bolsover Cruise Holidays, for example, include a variety of things within the total price, such as meals, evening entertainment and tours. Furthermore, when you’re on a cruise, you aren’t limited to one destination, which provides you with far more value for money than a single-destination holiday.

I’ll Be Bored While We’re at Sea

Even though some cruises do involve a lot of time at sea, this by no means implies that you’ll be bored. Cruises have been specially designed to cater for a whole host of needs, offering entertainment, shows and activities throughout the day and night. That’s not to mention the added bonus of leisure activities, sun loungers, bars, spas and much, much more.

Every ship provides its cruisers with unique entertainment, which is why you’ll want to investigate this before you go so you’re choosing something that’ll entertain you throughout your trip. And don’t forget that, when you’re sailing along on your cruise ship, you’ll often be taking in a lot of the sights that you’re passing along the way.

We’ll Only Stop Off at Beach Resorts

This is another huge myth surrounding cruises because even though many Mediterranean and Caribbean cruises will visit beach destinations, some cruises will offer you other unique destinations. For example, you could choose to sail to the Middle East, sail along the Mexican Rivera or take in the sights of Asia. Cruises definitely aren’t limited, which is why any you’re sure to find a holiday that feeds your sense of adventure.

I’ll Find the Food Options Limited

Our final myth couldn’t be further from the truth because the majority of cruise liners come complete with their own on-board, high-quality chef. This tends to mean that the restaurants on the cruises liners give many dry-land eateries a run for their money. Not only do they offer a variety of food but it’s all freshly served to you throughout the day.

Many years ago you may have found cruises limited, boring and expensive, but today, they’re a favoured holiday for all types of travellers, with cruises to suit everyone.

 

Professional Support Every Musician Needs

Being a professional musician is a difficult path. It’s a long journey from playing small pub gigs for nothing more than the joy of playing to a crowd to building enough profile that you can support yourself on your musical earnings.

On the way to this dream, you’re going to need support from some professionals to keep youself safe and avoid some of the pitfalls that are waiting for you in a creative career. Fortunately, lots of professional bodies, charities and other organisations exist to make sure you get the support you need to navigate this difficult world.

Union Dues

If you work regularly as a musician you may wish to join the Musician’s Union.  As well as being a good hub to connect musicians with resources like rehearsal space, tuition and of course each other, they also ensure good standards throughout the music industry. If you’re being forced to work extra hours without overtime pay, for example you can appeal to the union for representation and advice.

They also campaign about issues affecting musicians. For example, the Musician’s Union is campaigning for better provision for musicians traveling on airlines with their instruments.

Lawyers

While no one wants to encounter legal problems, being self-employed and working for many different clients means the possibility to run into difficulties are multiplied. If you have a contract to sign that you are uncertain of, run into the problem of non-payment for your services or need to protect your intellectual copyright, you may need to consult a music lawyer.

Lawyers who specialise in performer’s issues are available, or you may wish to use a less specialised lawyer who you already have a relationship with. Using an online lawyer rather than a high street firm can help you keep costs down by making sure you only pay for the service you need, rather than a whole hour’s appointment. Reading and advising on a contract before you sign it likely be a quick job, and using a lawyer who will only charge you for the time taken puts this service in your reach and makes it more financially justifiable.

Other support can be found through ISM, the professional body for musicians. Even if you’re not sure what sort of help is appropriate for you, joining and making contact with ISM gives you access to people who can identify who can help you, and connect the two of you.

Thank EU for Cheaper Roaming

The day has recently arrived. After years of phased of reductions, and gradual moves, on the 15th of June, roaming charges were banned across the EU, so you can use your phone in any EU country without paying additional charges for calls or data. You just pay the standard amount you would at home.

This is a huge boon to business travellers and holidaymakers, but there are some hidden strings attached you need to be aware of to make sure your bill holds no nasty surprises at the end of your trip.

Switzerland isn’t in Europe

Check your destination before you travel. Some countries are geographically very much in Europe, but not part of the European Union or the European Economic Area. This means they aren’t bound by the EU ‘Roam Like at Home’ legislation that has abolished roaming charges, and if you stray into them, you’ll be subject to big fees for using your phone.

It’s a confusing area, as different countries have different relationships with the EU even when they aren’t in the Union. For example, France, Germany and Italy are in the European Union and so you can use your phone there without any penalty. Norway isn’t in the EU, but the agreements that allow it to trade with the EU mean it has to accept many of the EU’s regulations, including ‘Roam Like at Home’.

Switzerland, meanwhile has a series of bilateral agreements allowing it work with the EU (fortunately, as it’s surrounded by the Union at every border), but which don’t oblige it to work accept every EU regulation so trying to use your data there will see you hit with big charges.

Similarly the Isle of Man is a British Crown Dependency, and near the geographical centre of the British Isles, but it’s independently governed, and sits outside the EU. This makes it popular as a banking hub but also somewhere you can’t use your phone without additional charges.

If you’re traveling and aren’t certain your destination is in the EU, check with your network provider to find out their policy on charges for that country, to make sure you are getting the best deal.

And if you find yourself in need of extra airtime when you’re traveling you can use a secure overseas top up service like Senditoo to get the extra credit you need, wherever you are in the world.

What You Need to Know About Setting Up an Office

All businesses of some sort end up needing an office. This can be as small as the corner of your den, an office in your home, or actual space that you lease to run your office out of. Why you need this office will depend on the nature of your business. Most offices are taking care of the administrative and financial aspect of your business. Before you decide to open an office, there are a few things you need to take into consideration.

What Size Do You Really Need?

Determining who is using the office is going to give you an indication of what size you need. If it’s just you so that you can handle your bookkeeping and emails at the end of a work day, then a simple home office will do. If you have human relations, accounting, IT, and marketing, they will indicate the leasing or purchase of your space. If you are going this large, make sure you have plenty of space for growth and stay well within your budget.

Shop for Internet

No matter what you are doing in your office, you will need internet. There are a slew of office internet providers and it takes some time to find the best ones. You are looking for a reliable service in all manner of weather. You also want a fast service so that you can get through your tasks with efficiency. It also helps to find fiber optic service rather than cable or DSL. Fiber optics are simply faster and ensure transfers of data over long distance without degrading the data. Fiber optics are not available everywhere and can be expensive to install. Be sure you can get fiber optics and that it’s within your budget.

Furnish It with Necessities

Shopping for office furniture can cause anyone to get caught up and swept away. Keep it simple and takes care of your needs. If you are leasing or purchasing a space, all of your furniture should match among the departments. For storage, get what you need plus one year’s worth of growth so that you are not constantly purchasing more filing cabinets. All chairs should be comfortable and provides support so that no matter how long you are seated, you are not straining your body too much. If your office space is carpeted, floor mats at the desks will allow for rolling chairs to move easily. If you have overhead lighting, you can avoid desk lamps.

Keep Office Equipment to a Minimum

Purchasing office equipment is yet another expense that is easy to get carried away with. Get exactly what you need to perform your duties. If you are in a home office and travel a lot, skip the desktop pc and opt for a laptop. If you are leasing/purchasing office space, desktops are more efficient for your employees. Sales teams of course would benefit from laptops rather than desktops. Printers for a home office should only include extras you use. No need to get a scanner option if you will never use it, unless the printer with the scanner is a less expensive option! Printers for a larger office space often need more bells and whistles but you can minimize how many printers you obtain. Many can be hooked into a network and folks can share the printer. One other option you can consider is leasing equipment, rather than purchasing it.

Office Supplies Are Your Friend

Office supplies can be your most costly expense in an office. Of course, you should buy exactly what you need and keep them plentiful in the supply closet. No matter what size office you have, getting a rewards card to your local office store will be greatly beneficial to help you save on your supplies. Look for those deals and watch how much waste you create. If you can avoid printing on paper, you should.

Hopefully, your endeavor into opening an office is an exciting time for you and your business. Take these extra steps to pay attention and make the most of your space without breaking your budget!

What to Do if You Owe the IRS Money

Let’s start with this: the IRS is the biggest, best resourced, and more powerful collection agency in the world. So, while I’m not suggesting that you’d otherwise try and avoid a debt to any person or organization, if you’re typically the procrastinating type that needs things to get serious and urgent before you’re motivated to take action, then please allow me to be your wake-up call: this is serious and urgent. The letters and calls won’t stop, and when the IRS threatens wage garnishment, tax levies and other collection action, they mean it. It’s not an empty threat.

With that being said, you shouldn’t feel as though your (financial) world is coming to an end, and that it’s only a matter of time before black tie and sunglass-wearing IRS Special Agents show up at your door and haul you to debtor’s prison.

According to Jeff Kahn, principal of the Tax Law Offices of Jeffrey B. Kahn and host of a weekly ESPN radio show that covers tax law and audit-related issues, here are two things to do if you owe the IRS money:

  1. Confirm that the IRS’s math adds up.

This just in: the IRS makes mistakes (and in other breaking news, water is wet, the sun is hot, and sarcasm never goes out of style). As such, start by confirming that the amount that you allegedly owe is indeed correct. Keep in mind that a single missed checkbox on a tax form can result in a deduction being denied.

  1. Minimize penalties and interest.

If you confirm that you do, in fact, owe Uncle Sam some money, and presuming that you cannot pay the full amount by the due date, your next step is to minimize penalties and interest. There are a few options here that may be applicable to your situation, including: asking for an abatement, seeing if you qualify for an installment plan, and seeing if you qualify for an offer-in-compromise (this is basically asking the IRS to settle for less then the amount owed because full payment is unlikely). Keep in mind that the paperwork required for each of these options — especially the offer-in-compromise — is complex, and most people who try the do-it-yourself route get things wrong and have their application or petition rejected.

Some Final Words of Warning

Before wrapping up: be very, very careful when speaking to IRS agents. Once again, I’m not trying to freak anyone out. But facts are facts, and you need to know that speaking with an IRS agent to get more information on your tax situation isn’t the ordinary call center “how can I help you today?” conversation that you’re used to. While you aren’t under oath or giving a deposition, anything you say — including the questions you ask — can and will be used to trigger a deeper examination of your filings (the IRS can go back much further than three years if they suspect fraud or tax evasion). And in extreme cases, your matter might be referred to the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division for potential prosecution.

 

So yes, it’s fine to simply ask ordinary questions (e.g. “where can I find this form?”), but anything else should be handled by your tax attorney — not by your accountant, whose conversations with you and work product isn’t protected by attorney-client privilege.

Renewable Residences – How To Build A Sustainable House

In 2015, a record breaking number of homes was built in Sydney. The number of new buildings reached 30,191 and the trend was repeated in other areas. Unfortunately, however, Australia is dealing with a major housing shortage right now. So, there are questions about whether this accelerated rate of construction is even viable.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that a record number of these builds can be categorised as ‘energy efficient’. This describes high performance, low impact properties which incorporate eco-friendly designs and features. According to environmental experts, they are the future of our cities – and if you are thinking about building a home, they should be your model, too.

This guide to the key principles of green architecture and construction will tell you a little more about these eco-friendly builds.

Capturing The Sunshine

Of all the groundbreaking green technologies on the market, solar panels are the most easily accessible to homebuilders. For instance, AGL offers solar panels without any upfront costs. The price of installation is spread over two or five years so that you can pay for the product with the money that solar energy is actively saving for you.

Solar energy is a great idea when building a green home because it doesn’t have to cost you anything, as the money spent on solar panels is recouped. Plus, you can easily harness the full force of the sun just by positioning the property in the right way. South facing homes are 25% warmer, simply because they benefit from passive solar heat.

Staying Insulated

So, you’re getting all of this amazing energy and warmth from the sun. You want to hold on to it, right? Well, you need to make sure that your home is fully insulated. This is essential for all year round energy conservation – and for your comfort, too. Properly insulated windows and doors trap heat inside during winter and regulate its entry in the summer.

As building experts are fond of stating, no amount of solar panels can improve your green credentials if you’ve got leaky window frames. Invest in double glazing and install fibreglass insulation throughout the attic to minimize lost energy. This is how you squeeze maximum value out of your solar technology and make every kilowatt count.

Shrinking Your Footprint

One of the easiest ways to shrink your impact on the planet is to, simply, build a smaller home. Now, this isn’t always the most popular of ideas, but it is a highly logical one. Smaller properties take up less physical space, leave more of the ground intact, and cost substantially less to heat, light, and maintain.

While nobody is suggesting that you live in a shed, the reality is that most homes contain wasted space. There are rooms that never get used, but they’ve still got to be cleaned and powered. In the long run, it is not economically sound to pay for space that you don’t really need. Don’t forget that your taxes will be smaller with a more compact place too.

Using Recycled Resources

It’s a great idea to try and use as many locally sourced resources as possible. This provides support to local manufacturers and producers. It also shrinks the impact of their use, because you’re not paying for trucks to deliver materials halfway across the country. If you do your research, you can probably source recycled stone, timber, glass, and other materials.

In summation, for those who are serious about green construction, it is recommended to work with an architect who is familiar with this type of building. They will be able to point you in the right direction as regards viable materials, affordable, resources, and innovative construction techniques. It is worth investing in expert advice if it’s going to help you create your dream home.