Why Use Software to Catalog Your Antiques?

Collectors invest much of our time and resources into collecting valuable antiques and other collectibles yet we do not take the time to adequately catalog them. Yes, it takes time to carefully document what we have collected but the benefits will outweigh the costs for many of us.

Like many people my age I grow up with antiques. As a poor boy on a small farm I was surrounded by antiques but did not recognize them as such. They were our tools, our furniture, our farm implements, our means of transportation and even some of our toys. I was surrounded by antiques but they were just an every-day part of living.

As a grown up I wish I still had some of these every-day items from my youth. Today they are worth so much more than I could have imagined back then. These days I spend much of my time searching various on-line forums and auctions searching for items from my youth as well as other antiques. As a result I have built small collections of various categories of specialty antiques.

For many years I relied on my memory and scanned written notes and receipts to track my inventory. As time went by I began to forget what I had and would sometimes catch myself considering the purchase of an item that I already had. Sometimes I would consider an item at a local show and wonder if the one I already had like it at home was in better or worse condition than the one I was looking at. Without a description or, even better, a set of pictures it was very difficult for me to know for sure. This lack of information at my fingertips ruled in some purchases I probably should have made and passing on items that I should have purchased to improve my collection.

Other times I would join in a discussion with a fellow collector of like interests and try to describe an item I had only to realize that I was unable to recall some key aspect of it that would be of interest and worth sharing. In a similar manner, when visiting with friends or family and the topic of my collecting interests would come up, I was unable to help them to fully appreciate items in my collection and the value of collecting them.

I am sure many of my fellow collectors share similar experiences and sentiments. These days, with all of the technology available to us, we no longer have to be limited by lack of key information at our fingertips. There are many computer programs available to help us catalog our collections so that we no longer have to rely solely on our memories and scattered notes and receipts. They enable us to electronically track key information about items in our collections as well as detailed pictures and even scans of our receipts and other written materials associated with each item.

Although without this software we could keep detailed hand-written manuscripts describing any and all aspect of our collections that was of interest to us, it is much more difficult to change hand-written records than it is to change electronic records. We might want to update our records and descriptions as we learn more about our items. For me, this meant throwing away my previous writing and rewriting my notes from scratch in order to incorporate important changes to what I had written before. With software, these changes become trivial.

Also, with software, we can much more easily retrieve information electronically that we ever could from hand-written records. In many software packages this information can actually be manipulated, accumulated, organized, and re-organized however we like. Not only can your organize your data how you want, you can gather and accumulate valuable statistics such as total cost, total value, appraised value, current value and more.

With some of the more flexible packages we can even modify what data we collect to suit our individual needs and preferences rather than what someone else thinks we should track. Even better packages allow you to manage multiple collections in one package or run multiple copies of the software, one for each collection.

Some cataloging software can be run directly off USB flash drives or other removable media without installation on the computer that they are running on. This provides the advantage of being able to take your collection everywhere to show others on their computer without lugging a computer around with you. When your collection resides on a USB Flash Drive, or other removable media, you can also secure it without leaving it vulnerable on your computer.

Today's mobile apps open up a whole new realm when it comes to having information available at your fingertips for checking your collection when considering the purchase of a new item or for sharing information with others. However, with their limited keypads, it can be very difficult to manually enter information into mobile apps. On the other hand, mobile devices make it very easy to take pictures of items and include them in mobile app databases. That is why the best of both worlds is when data can be entered using a desktop or laptop computer and then downloaded to a mobile app where pictures can be easily added and then the results uploaded back into the desktop application.

The software I use runs off of a USB flash drive and allows me to manage one or more collections. With this software I can easily enter information about my antiques and other collectibles on a USB flash drive running on my desktop computer. I can then take the USB flash drive with me to share with others on their computers and lock it up for secure storage when I am done.

I can also download my collection into a companion mobile app on my Android phone to take with me anywhere. This makes it easy to bring up pictures at anytime and anywhere when visiting with others or considering the purchase of a new item to add to my collection. The android app also makes it very easy to take pictures of items in my collection. I can then upload those pictures back into the desktop application. This two-way communication allows me to take advantage of the best features in both the desktop application and the mobile app when managing and sharing items in my collections.

Although it does take time to enter data into a software application, in my opinion, the benefits collecting software provide well worth the effort.

10 Essential Investor Tips For Successful Investing

Trading and investing into the financial markets has never been more popular. More and more people are starting to see the benefits of taking a little time to, first invest in themselves through a trading and investing education, but also using that knowledge on the financial markets.

Whilst traders may take quicker positions and investor will most likely be holding positions for much longer, sometimes months or even years. So, if you fancy investing into the financial markets successfully, and profit from companies you already know about like Google, Facebook or Microsoft, then these are the ten essential things that an investor must do and know before they start. Let's take a look …

1. What are your goals?

It sounds simple but many people start investing into a trillion dollar market without any type of plan which, let's face it, is essentially a gamble. Whilst it can be very simple to invest profitably for the long-term you must define your goals as this will align your expectations correctly, so you do not kick yourself in the teeth if you do not hit a million dollars in one day. For example, knowing whether you are investing for the next five or twenty-five years can make a huge difference to how you decide to invest.

2. Start early for compound interest

The single largest reason to the success of most billionaires is the power of 'compound interest'. Even Albert Einstein regarded this as the 'eighth wonder of the world'. It basically means that your money makes you money as all the gains you make put back into an investment so it compounds and builds over time. Sounds good right? It definitely is! The earlier you start the better but no matter how old you are it's never too late to start but effective that you do actually start!

3. Every little helps

No matter how little or how big you can invest, it is well worth investing on a regular basis. It sounds so simple but most people do not see the point in investing just $ 10 per month. However, if you look to the future by the time you're very old that amounts to a lot especially if you parked it into some good investments over the years. Of course, most people have a 'spend today and save tomorrow' mentality and that's the trap folks. Save and invest regularly to reap the rewards in the long run – you'll be glad you did.

4. Diversify

It's imperative to spread your capital across a wide range of investments to reduce your risk and increase potential returns over the long-term. Whilst some investments are doing poorly some others may be doing great, thereby balancing it out. However, if you're fully invested into just one thing then it's either 100% right or wrong. There are thousands of markets across treaties, stocks, commodities and indices so the opportunity is there.

5. Educate yourself

By far the most important tip. You must educate yourself and learn your craft. After all if you're investing your hard-earned capital it makes sense to do your homework. Even if you read all the articles here and watched all the videos you'll be doing far better than the majority of investing wannabes who simply give away their money to the markets.

6. Have practical expectations

Of course, we all want that million dollar investment and for many it will come at some point. But you can not plan for that, if it happens great if not then you still need a plan to survive and to reach your goals as discussed in the first tip. Remember it's the journey that's the most beautiful part and what you do on a daily basis that makes the difference.

7. But do not limit yourself

It's important one must remain conservative in deciding which investment to take. However, that should not limit you to just what you know. Be creative and find opportunities no matter how inconvenienced they may be. After all if it was that comfortable everyone would be doing it. Be adventurous in finding opportunities but be conservative in deciding which ones to take.

8. Manage your risk

Successful investing is all about managing risk. If you have $ 1,000 to invest then there's no point in putting all of that on just one investment. You're basically saying it has a 100% success rate … which of course is extremely unlicly. If you follow the steps above, like making sure you diversify, then you'll be on the right path.

9. Review constantly

A very simple step to achieving more than what you are already doing is to review your investments constantly. However, this does not mean to look at your profit and loss of a five-year investment every single day – you'll never make it to the fifth year as markets move up and down. But it's important to review what investments have worked and have not worked. Concentrate on doing more of the stuff that has worked and find out where you're going wrong with the stuff that has not.

10. Have fun!

Sounds simple but most people forget that best work comes from when we enjoy the process. Whilst investing is a serious process you are allowed to enjoy it too. In fact the buzz of finding an opportunity, researching it, investing into it and then seeing the result is exciting in itself.

There you have it ten essential tips for successful investing.

Profitable Tips For All Restaurant Owners

What were the last three things you did to increase your restaurant profitability? Below profit protection is constantly on your mind, you will get hurt. Eroding margins, fickle markets, escalating food prices, rising utility rates, outrageous credit card fees, and a host of other factors eat into your margins daily, thereby reducing your ability to pay the bills, let alone yourself.

We recently consulted with a client that has not paid himself for 17 months. He called us out of sheer desperation saying, "I just can not go on working for free." The sorry fact is that there are many restaurateurs working hard for very little income, and we think it should stop.

In my profession as CEO of the leading restaurant consulting firm in the US, people rarely call me when things are going well. The kinds of calls that I receive daily are along the lines of, "Why can not I make any money" or "My food cost is through the roof" and this is the most painful one, "I can not afford to Stay open anymore, what can I do? "

Why do not you invest a few minutes into yourself right now and read over the tips below. In fact, print out a copy and share it with your friends that run an operation as well. Yes, some tips may seem obvious, but are you using every tool at your disposal to solidify and enhance your profits? Your restaurant owes you for risking your neck to get it open, so I'd like to suggest that you start holding it accounting.

1. Do not serve water automatically. Sounds simple, but water service does not increase your profits or sales. Put systems into place where you serve alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, sodas, milk – anything but free water. Serve it upon request only.

2. Set up the dining experience on the first visit to the table. Tactfully done by the server, profitable items should be promoted, desserts can be suggested, and guests will appreciate a quick, "Run down" of the dining experience. Plus, server competency will be rewarded for taking responsibility for the positive experience that they will have. My wife's favorite server line is, "Want to split a dessert with coffee?" Not only have we just purchased a dessert that may have been too much for one of us, we've also bought 2 coffees. These additional sales make a big difference, and they're easy to execute. Having a hard time selling desserts? Encourage your servers to use this statement and see what happens.

3. Concentrate on improving product delivery systems to eliminate waste. For example, if your servers are throwing away iced tea lemons at the end of each shift, instead of at the end of the day, re-evaluate this system. By valuing everything, you may be surprised what gets thrown away. This includes portion control items such as creamers, crackers, butters, jelly and silverware as well.

4. Understand that guests dine on a budget, and be sensitive to it. Servers that sell beyond the dining budget will experience reduced tip income, and the restaurant will experience reduced visits. Ensuring that your guests come back repeatedly is much more important than increasing their check average for just one visit.

5. Selling a more expensive item does not always equate to increased profitability. Make sure that your servers understand which items are most profitable for the restaurant, and promote those. It makes no sense to promote items that may have minimal profit contribution. Tell your servers what items you want them to sell.

6. Use the best menu. Ensure that your menu is costed out properly; Current with market conditions, and designed to insure that the most profitable items are the ones being promoted. It makes sense to enlist a consultant to do this for you, as the return on investment will be immediate and lasting. This is your # 1 selling tool.

7. Work with your food vendors to insure that you are buying the right items for the menu specifications. Are you overbuying on an item that does not require top grade quality? An example would be the purchase of a # 1 quality baking potato, when a # 2 quality would suffice.

8. Buy key items in bulk. On the topic of food vendors, make certain that you are promoting menu items that you are able to bulk buy on a negotiated cost effective basis – and can sell at a premium. This simple step will quickly aid in bringing meaningful dollars to the bottom line.

9. Offer your guests a complete dining experience. This includes the sale of beverages, appetizers, salads, entrees, desserts, side items (such as a vegetable) and add-on items (such as sour cream or cheese). Make sure that you are not inadvertently missing out on the sale of key parts of the meal. Table tents, menu inserts, promotional signage, sales tracking, and staff pre-shift meetings are all ways that you can ensure that all meal parts are promoted and sold effectively.

10. Bundling meal parts together will increase the quality of your guests dining experience and maximize their dollars spend. Bundling may consist of an appetizer / salad / entrée combo or salad / entrée / dessert combo. Diners will not be surprised by the dollar value, and they can knowingly order within their budget.

11. Do not forget the grapes. Effective promotion of your wine offerings should be systematic and routine. Guests should be fully aware of the pricing and offers, both by the glass and by bottle. Wine service is a skill that every server should have.

12. Get an Operations Analysis. As operators, we frequently get caught up in the heat of the battle, and can not take the time to analyze our operation critically. Engaging a restaurant consultant to look for ways to improve service, enhance income, and reduce waste should result in immediate financial improvement. Do not skimp on this, thinking that you have your bases covered, because the food service industry changes daily. In cold hard terms, your restaurant should be a money making machine to benefit the owner (s). If it's not generating the kind of money you think it should, you must get the machine repaired!

13. Do not overlook slow day parts. If it's quiet in the afternoon, are there promotions that may make sense for you to utilize to generate more revenues during this down time? Do not tolerate your money machine sitting open, but not generating revenues. Put it to work.

14. Children's menus. Most of them are boring, and priced to reflect that. Is it reasonable to think that parents would pay a bit more for more interesting and nutritious meals? This is a good opportunity to re-evaluate your children's menu and pricing. It's dangerous to neglect this important item, as parents usually examine this menu closely.

15. Are you maximizing food sales in your bar / lounge areas? For many, it's more enjoyable to eat in a bar than drink in a restaurant. It makes logical sense to have menus, silverware, condiments and promoted specials available for your drinking guests. If they do not eat on the first visit, you will have planned the seed for them to consider eating in your establishment next time.

Simply remember that it's not what you make, it's what you keep that matters. Hopefully some of these tips will be useful. Still can not seem to make the numbers come out the way you want? It may make sense to enlist the services of an advisor to walk you through the complexities of making money in the restaurant business.

Digital Signage – Powerful and Flexible Ways to Market Your Business in Tough Times

You gain new clients, increase average spend, save on print costs, introduce an elevated level of energy and vitality, and increase your profits. You have to have a good reason not to use it. Whether you're a hotel, Boutique, Pharmacy, Leisure Center, Car Dealership, Restaurant, or Take-Away, providing clients with eye-catching messages and information is vital.

Time to join your fellow SMEs who are tapping into the power of digital signage to attract attention, boost sales and avoid the costs associated with static, non-digital methods for presenting menus and promotions. Discover as many others have, the real benefits, savings and increased sales that exist within those pixels.

Impulse buying behavior

Where you have a market dependent on impulse ie Boutiques, Restaurants and Take-a-ways to name a few, you've got it made. Impulse buying disruptions the normal decision-making models in consumers' brains. The logical sequence of the consumers' actions is replaced with an irrational moment of self-gratification. Impulse items appeal to the emotional side of consumers. Some items bought on impulse are not considered functional or necessary in the consumers' lives.

Good signage solutions are designed to trigger these impulses, by exposing promotional messages at the right place and at the right time – you simply nudge consumers' to spot that something that stirs a particular passion in them – which in turn leads them straight to your tills .

Raise your company's profile

Many SMEs also realize that not only do they generate a great Return on Investment (ROI). Sure, we know they're eye-catching and that they can easily tempt passer-by's with mouth-watering images or up-sell on impulse using carefully crafted messages using the power of motion and change.

But now those screens are also saving money in creating a modernizing effect; At a lower cost than undertaking major leasehold improvements ie an "eye-catching" 40 "digital screen integrated into the design of your shop front, on display to anyone walking past." Digital Signage can introduce an elevated Level of energy and vitality to any shop front, adding a fresh look to your business promises. A more "high-end" appearance, this is easily achievable by any small business with a vision and desire to stand out from its competitors.

Not only does this provide SMEs with a prime promotional space on any busy high street, it also raises their profile. As digital signage becomes more established as a mainstream marketing technique it becomes more accessible to smaller businesses. The days of only seeing digital signage in Piccadilly Circus are over; The age of digital marketing is upon us.

Opportunity to profit from advertising time

These systems can also be used as a tool to generate advertising revenue by promoting other businesses and services; By selling advertising time on your digital display to other local businesses.

Revenue generation by advertising local non-conflicting businesses; A big brand like Budweiser may not get excited about advertising on your one – two screens inside your shop, but the local hairdressers or plumbers around the corner might. And with the local community Newspapers circulation falling – similar local retailers would be wise to follow.

Digital Signage can be an active element in anyone's marketing, unlike those never-changing listings within local directories and printed banners / signs – which when you add all these up – can cost the average retailer a fortune over time, and with a hard to measure ROI.

In tough times, you have to change the way you do business, by stopping the drip of less viable products that provide limited value to you. Digital Signage delivers real and measurable benefits to SMEs – proven business benefits.

Digital Signage = Smart Expenditure

The rising use of digital signage by small and medium-sized companies can be attributed to many factors, falling equipment costs – a 50% drop in the price of LCD displays over the last five years has previously made expensive solutions a realistic proposition for SMEs – Increased awareness and a realization of the competitive advantage that can be gained are all positive drivers. Smart expenditure, on this type of technology provides SMEs with a real affordable advantage in tough times.

The following excerpt from an article "Small businesses should make their technology pay" from SMEWeb.com (the online resource for SMEs in the UK) acknowledges this competitive advantage:

"Digital signage is another area which has seen leaps of progress over the past few years. And far from being a luxury, these screens can save thoughtful costs and so offer fast ROI – particularly for customer-facing businesses. Increase market share is to ensure your customers have the information they need about your company and products at the point of purchase.

Nowadays digital signage is far more than an elaborate poster; Used correctly it can provide real-time data; Stimulate demand by offering further information surrounding and complementary to products such as recipes or alternatives. Already they are being used extensively in restaurants and hotels – for example, to promote special dishes and update menus without the printing costs and allied transport overheads.

Small businesses need to be more responsive and quick off the mark than their larger counterparts – there's no better way to do this than using a digital sign which can be updated, either from a central location or locally, to reflect changing situations.

These are just two examples of the way that making smart investments in technology can make a real difference to the effectiveness of a business today. The challenge, particularly for SMEs, is to know what is available and how to implement them for the best return.

The key is to find a solutions provider that can give reliable advice and has a good relationship with a vendor so they can give you the inside track on the development of the product in future.

Hopefully we are through the tunnel of recession. However, it's worth coming up for air and taking a look at what there is to help smaller businesses. Far from being mere window dressing, the new electronics equipment just emerging onto the market can actually make a difference. "Time to open your eyes to the opportunities that digital signage has to offer.

Innovative Advertising Displays

You need a solution that addresses the fast growing need for digital signage displays in areas within the public eye, providing an effective form of advertising, information, communication or entertainment – you really need to be exploiting this, now.

Your best course of action would be to select one with a built-in media player and scheduling software; Allowing for simple plug and play methods for updating content, making them extremely user-friendly. Unlike many of your fellow SMEs, you will not be exploited into having to pay out for annual software licenses.

Using our Plug and Play displays, you do not need a computer or DVD support as the display has a memory card reader built-in. Simply insert an SD / CF Memory Card and power on. The screen automatically starts playing the images, video and music that are loaded onto the card.

You can easily set the position order and interval time (Breakfast, Lunch Hour Specials and Evening Dining) of each slide giving you complete control over every aspect of your digital signage – take a glimpse as to how easy our software is at Scheduling your playlists. The screen has a memory card locker to protect the memory card from public access. A wall mount also comes with the screen, so you can fix the screen on the wall without extra cost. Professional installation can be provided which also includes a walk-through of the product and its features.

Commercial grade displays are different from that of a TV purchased from your local electronic shop – these displays are more robust and rated to show content for more total hours, fit for purpose. All displays are designed for 24/7 use and have special LCD panels so that the color does not fade over time, as it would with other LCD panels found in TVs and PC monitors.

Their sleek, elegant tempered glass styling, ability to be in constant use (more energy-efficient) and wide viewing angle means that they offer many advantages over using home TVs for commercial display. As well as these benefits the Digital Advertising displays are also brighter than home TVs and have no buttons or controls on show. By placing a TV in a business environment, you typically lose or limit its warranty.

Additionally they can be easily networked or wirelessly connected to a PC for more frequent updates and even up to the minute RSS feeds.

Digital signage can be one of the most effective shopper marketing technologies in use in retail today; It can deliver the right message to the right place, at the right time, and in the right format; It has the power to impact sales, build brands and improve the customers' experience.

Cost of content and who controls it

There are companies that are claiming to be creators of Digital Signage, where the opposite being, there just jumping into the industry simply because it's hot. And with the analysts promising 33 percent or higher growth this year; This creates plenty of scope for others to follow.

One of their more noticeable mistakes, being content creation, an issue for these resellers, which in turn becomes an issue for their clients – these companies are simply not adept to creating interesting visual content – let alone the need and importance of refreshing content.

These companies often try to sell you expensive digital campaigns with their products – it should be noted that most of these content deals are just simple PowerPoint presentations that can be made by anyone with little experience. Alternately, most will provide you with contact numbers to very expensive Design Agencies that they have formed partnerships with – all this can be a real put-off for SMEs.

As an SME, you will want to cut costs when it comes to Digital Signage Content, so using in-house resources instead of giving the business to an outside supplier is one sure way of cutting costs. Most of us, have PowerPoint installed on our computers, and with powerful editing features such as adding videos, pictures and animations, you would be crazy not to use it for creating your own Digital Signage Content.

Integrating existing content such as logos, images, animations and video will be less time-consuming and inexpensive – this also ensures compliance with your existing image, listed by your company. Many SMEs may have internal / external marketing, printing and web design departments – these are great places to look for existing assets. Inevitable though, new content will obviously be required at some point in time.

Many providers and brands that may be part of your on-going promotions can also provide these assets. Existing logos and graphics can be retouched and animated, to provide a more dynamic and contemporary look. There is no reason why an SME can not produce and deliver a broadcast-quality experience to their clients, using in-house resources.

Small businesses in particular need to control the cost of content, to make their investment in a Digital Signage System, worthwhile. Therefore, when considering your Digital Signage Partner, it is best to choose a provider that will consider your size, budget and needs – one that specializes in designing low-cost media and content for SMEs.

A knowledgeable partner that has the time and desire to provide you with that one-to-one attention, dedicated to the highest level of customer satisfaction and service – walking you through every step of the specification and implementation process; Focusing on three things: improving sales, reducing costs and improving customer relations. A Digital Signage Partner with, a good proposal at good cost.