From Gas Engineer to Successful Business Owner – My Rocky Journey

Everyone thought I was mad. Even my Grandmother looked up at me from her deathbed and said “Don’t do it!” the day that I announced that I was going to leave my well paid job as a gas service engineer to start my own business.For years I had dreamed of starting my own business and now I had taken action (and a massive loan from the bank) and opened up a convenience store and post office. I figured that people always need to eat and therefore opening a shop selling food was a guarantee for success.Did I enjoy overnight success? NO.The reality was that I ended up working 18 hours a day, seven days a week for 9 months, sacrificing valuable time with my young family in the process, before finally things started to improve. I went on to open another two stores and won many national competitions including an all expenses paid trip to New York sponsored by Sir Richard Branson.I thought that I had finally cracked it. Life was good, or so I thought. Then a Superstore opened up nearby and my landlord also opened up a convenience store next door to me. Suddenly my sales dropped.How did I survive?I looked for new ways to make money in my stores. I added new lines and introduced more promotions and slowly my customers returned to my store and life was good again.I then decided to embark on a new adventure-namely building my dream home. I bought a field that had planning permission and split it into five plots.I sold four of the plots almost immediately and kept a plot for myself. The revenue that I made from selling the other plots paid for the infrastructure and towards the cost of building my dream home.As I was fortunate enough to have good staff to run my stores for me whilst I project managed the building of my house, I was able to process my paperwork from my home office. I began to enjoy not having to travel daily back and forth to my businesses and this got me thinking about working from home permanently.Not being one to drag my feet I sold my retail stores and started my own construction and development company that I ran from home. My business specialised in buying and selling land and project managing building dream homes for others. This became a successful business very quickly and again life was good. However just at that time the recession came and the demand for wanting to buy land and build houses decreased dramatically. This was a big shock and a massive worry for me as I still had outstanding business loans to pay, staff to provide work for as well as a family to feed. I needed to act fast. I desperately needed to find a way to make more money.I quickly diversified my business to concentrate more on smaller building works like extensions, loft conversions and conservatories. This took a little time as I needed to rebrand the company to focus more on building works. However once I had tried and tested and found the best marketing methods my company went from strength to strength.That was until three customers in succession took advantage of my good nature and did not pay for the work that I had carried out for them, due to them running out of money. This was a very stressful time as it resulted in lengthy, costly legal proceedings to recover monies due to me which caused massive cash flow problems within my business.This is a major downfall for many bricks and mortar businesses especially as you have to outlay lots of capital for materials and labour before you receive payment from the customer. Many businesses have then sadly gone into administration when customers have then failed to pay for the goods and services provided.Fortunately I was able to survive but it made be re evaluate what I wanted from life.I knew for sure that I definitely wanted to still run a business. It was what I had done successfully for over twenty years, but I began to look into other opportunities. I still wanted to run a business from home, which in effect was what I was already doing with my construction company, but without the responsibility that the bricks and mortar business provided, namely having staff to find work for and customers delaying in paying for their goods.That’s when I began to look into opportunities for online businesses. As an established successful businessman I quickly realised that this type of business could provide me with the perfect balance that I needed in my life.I would still be my own boss, I could still work from home but with this type of business there was a huge global audience to market to and better still they would pay for their goods in advance and the only staff I needed to recruit was my wife.Julie, my wife had never been that active in running my bricks and mortar businesses but she was very excited about embarking on an online business together especially as this meant that she could work from home around the needs of our young children…Something that she could not have done with our bricks and mortar businesses as the working hours were dictated by customer and supplier needs.So have I finally found the best successful business? I will not lie, even online businesses have their trying times, especially with Google constantly changing the rules and with trying to keep up with the latest technology and marketing, but I have to say that, hand on heart,my online business has provided my wife and I with the best work/ life balance possible. It allows us to attend every school concert and sports day and every other special family event that we would otherwise have had to miss, if we were working for someone else. It has even enabled us to be able to have a gorgeous cockapoo puppy.However, as with any business opportunity it is very important to research and find the best online businesses available. You will need to find a product that will be easy to market and sell and if you choose to become an affiliate you will need to ensure that you choose a company that will offer the highest rewards for your effort.You do not need to have any exceptional qualities to create a successful business. I certainly had no business experience when I started out in business, but what I had was dream and a determination to provide the best that I could for myself and my family.Even though I earned a good salary when I worked as a gas engineer, I l knew that the lifestyle that I could create for my family was governed by the capped salary that I could earn. I knew that if I wanted to fulfil my dreams and ambitions that I needed to take action and to take risks to earn more money.I am so glad that I took action and that I did not quit when I encountered difficulties and hardships.Any mistakes that I made along the way were merely treated as temporary hurdles on the road to success.After all most successful people have encountered difficulties along the way including successful entrepreneurs like Sir Richard Branson and Simon Cowell. So I regard myself as being in good company with mistakes that I have made.The setbacks that I did encounter have actually helped me enormously within my online business and have enabled me to share with others the best ways to start a business. People now actually appreciate my good nature with advice that I offer them to change their lives for the better, rather than taking advantage of it, as happened with my bricks and mortar business.To close, even though my journey from gas engineer to successful business owner has been rocky I would not change a thing, as it has ultimately led to me creating the life of my dreams.

Business Background Checks – The OTHER Background Check

The risk involved with hiring an employee is well understood, making pre-employment background checks a routine practice for most companies. Business background checks however, are far less commonplace; but why? Excluding small daily purchases and transactions with historically reputable companies, the level of trust you (or your company) extend to a corporation you chose to deal with can be extraordinary. Yet conducting background research on companies is rare in comparison with screening individuals.Business background checks are complex because businesses play by a different set of rules. Realistically, you and I cannot drop our identity and start over when things go bad, our debts become too great, or our reputations become tarnished. Corporations can and often do. Along with completely dissolving a business or filing for bankruptcy, corporations may operate under alternative names known as “DBA’s” (Doing Business As), appear as local companies online, but physically exist overseas, or be registered as foreign corporations while soliciting business within your state. Proper screening requires a broad and extensive expertise. Fewer companies offer business screening for these reasons. As always, watch out for companies online claiming to instantly tell you everything about a company for a small fee along with a subscription to their database. There is no one size fits all method of conducting business background research and thorough results can and will not be instant.Structure is Key!The structure of a business background check is best determined by the purpose of the check and the level of risk. Here are just a few common needs for business background checks and sensible corresponding screening packagesLevel One: Personal Consumer ProtectionA basic business background check doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. A “level one” business background check can be performed in the area of $50. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with a company that you paid money to up front and never received a service, or had to repair a situation caused by bad service, the fee for a basic business background check will feel like the best money you’ve ever spent. As an example, a level one background check best corresponds to the following needs.You’re in the market to…Hire a contractor.Utilize a dog walking service.Retain a babysitter or nanny through a service.Move grandma into a retirement home.A “Level One” screening package would generally answer the following questions.Are they incorporated or registered with the state?Have they been in business for a significant amount of time to have “expertise”?Are they a DBA “Doing Business As” another name?Are there unresolved complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau?Have their past clients filed lawsuits against them for breach of contract or any other reasons?Do they utilize criminal background checks on their own employees?Level Two: Large Personal or Business to BusinessTransaction.Maybe it’s property, machinery, equipment, vehicles, or even a timeshare. Whatever the case, you (or your company) will be entrusting this business with a large sum of money. A “Level Two” business background check would include the basic research of a “Level One” screening package and also go a few steps further. For example, we would seek to answer the following questions for our “Level Two” business background check:Are they Incorporated or registered with the state?Are they licensed and or Insured?Have they been in business for a significant amount of time to have “expertise”?Are they a DBA “Doing Business As” another name?Possible additional searches on DBA’s discoveredAre there unresolved complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau?Have their past clients filed lawsuits against them for breach of contract or other reasons?Who are the principals of the company?Have the principals of the company filed for bankruptcy multiple times?Does the owner or principal have litigation against them from prior clients?Does pending litigation or tax liens, suits, or other judgment put the owner/principal in a financially difficult situation? (You don’t want your money going to pay off other debts instead of paying for materials, labor, etc.)Level Three: Business to Business VentureOnce your company joins forces with another company for a project, marketing campaign or other venture, their skeletons can potentially become yours. Their reputation can be reflected on you, and sometimes, their legal problems and can become your legal problems. A business to business venture is too significant not to invest in a thorough business background check. Once again, building on key parts of the “Level One” and “Level Two” business background checks, important research would include…Are they incorporated or registered with the state?Are they licensed and or Insured, and to what degree?Have they been in business for a significant amount of time to have “expertise”?Are they a DBA “Doing Business As” another name? (Possible additional searches on DBA’s discovered)Are there unresolved complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau?Have their past clients or business partners filed lawsuits against them for breach of contract or other reasons?Who are the principals of the company?Have the principals of the company filed for bankruptcy multiple times?Does the owner or principal have litigation against them from prior clients?Does pending litigation or tax liens, suits, or other judgment put the owner/principal in a financially difficult situation? (You don’t want your money going to pay off other debts instead of paying for materials, labor, services etc.)Are the owners or principals involved with other corporations that would pose a conflict of interest?Is this company as prosperous as claimed? (It’s not difficult or terribly expensive to make a professional looking website. What’s behind the website is what really matters.)How long has the website existed?How much traffic does their site receive?Who links to them?How much are they spending to market their website or product online?What’s the reputation of the business online?Who’s talking about them and what’s being said?If no “buzz” is out there, why not?The examples could certainly go on. These basic packages can be modified for use in intellectual property research, business profiling for acquisition, “know your client” regulations in the financial industry and other specific needs. The bottom line is, spending roughly one percent of the “purchase price” or estimated cost of the transaction can save you exponentially over the cost and time of dealing with a irresponsible or deceptive business after the damage has been done. You’ll never regret proceeding with caution!If you have questions on business background screening or would like additional information, please email [email protected] or call 888.578.8600 x113

The Secrets of a Good Home Design: Moving Beyond the Obvious

This article is not your basic primer on selecting your “dream home”. Nor does it contain the list of “items to ask your designer” – these things can be found on any designer’s website or Google search. As important as those items are, what we are going to do here is drill-down into the design a little, bypass the fan-fare and talk about some specific concepts that will really make a difference in your life.

Matching your house to your lifestyle begins with an exploration of your needs and wants. Most home designers will have some type of “discovery process” that will help identify the basics for your home design. It will start with the configuration of your lot and proceed through items such as privacy requirements, work areas, outdoor spaces, etc. Although this process is critical to your project, it rarely drills down enough to transform your design into a home that will serve your needs for a lifetime.

Here are two keys of good home design that must be addressed up-front: a) assessing the homeowner’s current needs; and, b) anticipating the future needs of people living in the home. Before you say “Yeah, yeah…I’ve heard this all before!” let’s take a closer look at what “current needs” entail.

Almost all “discovery processes” used by home designers focus on the use and space requirements of the rooms in the house. This is good, but too little attention is given to the personal needs of the people actually living in the home. Without performing a comprehensive assessment of the client’s functional abilities, identifying areas of the home where modifications are necessary is often overlooked.

For example, the needs of a child and his / her ability to live comfortably in the home are rarely addressed at the design stage. It’s necessary to evaluate the child’s current abilities and design an environment that works and grows with the child. Some easy adaptive design elements would include adjustable shelves and rods in the closet. As the child grows, the shelves and rods can be moved to better accommodate their reach. Appliances present a similar situation as it is necessary for the controls to be accessible. Front mounted controls on washing machines and dryers enable their use. Safety also comes into play. A child trying to use a microwave placed overhead is a recipe for disaster!

Of course, the above example is very simple, but it illustrates the point that design needs to be done from the perspective of the individual and his / her ability to carry out daily routines in the home. This is why a good designer will perform an assessment of the client and specify the needed design modifications.

There are a couple of tools that a designer can use to evaluate the needs of their clients. One of those tools is the Comprehensive Assessment and Solution Process for Aging Residents (CASPAR). CASPAR was designed for healthcare professionals to evaluate their client’s ability to carry out routine activities in the home. This is also useful in determining the requirements of people who have disabilities.

Anticipating the future needs of individuals may prove a little trickier, but we can start by understanding the process of aging. Whether we like to think about growing old or not, it is inevitable, and people’s functional abilities diminish over time. A well designed home will easily adapt to these changing needs and allow people to stay in their homes longer.

Fortunately, “universal design” is beginning to take root in modern home design. Ron Mace, Founder and Program Director of the Center for Universal Design (NCSU), give us the following definition of UD: “The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.” Because the principles of universal design are inclusive for people with disabilities, the application of UD in home design is appropriate and addresses many of the needs of people who wish to “age in place”.

Adaptable design is different in concept from universal design. Where universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities, adaptable design allows the home to be modified for a specific need. An example of adaptable design would be designing a two-story home with “stacked closets” (a closet on the first floor directly below and aligned with a closet on the second floor) so that a residential elevator or lift could easily be installed in the future. In contrast, a universal design item might be the installation of lever door handles that are easier to use for people who have lost the ability to grip a standard round door knob. These lever handles also benefit anyone who may have their hands full with groceries and want to release the door latch by using their forearm or elbow, for example. Children also have an easier time using lever door handles.

Distinguishing between universal and adaptable design may seem difficult at first, but when one realizes that these principles have less to do about the installation of specific items and are more about a designer’s perspective, it all begins to make better sense. And the designer’s perspective is heavily influenced by a thorough client assessment.

Does this level of service cost more? Yes, probably. But a couple hundred dollars up front to hire a qualified designer who will accurately assess your lifestyle and evaluate your future needs, pales in comparison to leaving your design to chance. The number one secret to good home design is to avoid cutting costs at this stage of your project and find a home designer who is an expert in assessing your needs and applying the design criteria that will make your house a home for a lifetime.