Understanding Payday Loans

Life is a roller coaster ride, isn’t it? We experience vicissitudes of life. Left and right we definitely in need of money to sustain our individual and personal necessities. Aside from this, we are often times tempted with the bargains in the shopping malls and inevitably we spent more than what we expect to have. Exactly, this is true, this happens in reality and this results to financial shortage. Now, where we go? Here we go again, finding possible solution to catch and cover our expenses. And what to do? Are we going to let ourselves experience starvation? Here’s payday loans, a great and helpful source to answer our problem.Let us try to reflect on this, let’s understand what payday loans is.Payday loans let you borrow small amounts of money for as little as a week or a month, but with very high interest rates, which mean it could end up costing far more than you bargained for. These are suitable for someone going through financial crisis. In the event an individual goes bankrupt and is unable to meet the high cost of his utility and medical bills, payday loans can be very helpful. These are given by private lenders or lending institutions in the form of cash advances on Payroll cheques.Let’s take this for instance, in U.K. They let you borrow from £50 to £1,000 for a few days or up to a month until you get paid the following month. Loan companies typically charge up to £30 for every £100 cash loan you borrow for up to 31 days. This may sound reasonable on the face of it, but it equates to an APR (annual percentage rate) of a whopping 2,255%. The idea of payday or cash loans is that they give you access to emergency cash for a short period without you having to go to your bank. However, with such high interest rates borrowing a small amount of money can be very expensive. Isn’t it?Now, applying for a payday loan is easy as lenders make few checks and in some cases credit checks are not carried out at all. However payday loans can be a very expensive way to borrow money. For example, a cash loan of £500 in U.K for 31 days could cost almost £150 in interest – or almost £5 per day.One of the biggest problems with loans is that the following month when the loan is repaid, you may find that you are short of money again and a further loan is needed. In this way the cost of borrowing a small amount of money can increase dramatically. Loan companies have been blamed for getting people into debt problems they are unable to get out of.As a last resort, a payday loan could provide an emergency cash advance for up to a month. However make sure you budget so you can pay the cash advance back within the agreed term and so you don’t have to take out another the following month. Although it’s interest rates are very high, charges vary – shop around to find the best deal on cash loans or try visiting the web and browse on the on line payday loans. Read them with understanding and try to reflect on it.Definitely, payday loans are almost certainly not the only borrowing option. An authorized credit card will be much cheaper. The world is changing dramatically each day, and if you are in financial difficulties, before you borrow money or take out a cash loan, use some debt help tools and search for articles to get information on your situation that could help your finances on the right track.I assure you, aside from payday loans, Saving is one tool to avoid from going into loans which cause you much disgrace, trouble and great financial dilemma.

BrandCraft 1: Why You Have to Build a Brand to Grow Your Business

You will never create anything big unless you make it a brand- whether a bank, musician, university, toilet paper, politician, search engine, fast food restaurant, Computer, soft drink, charitable organization, media house, clinic, law firm, athlete, church, etc.If this is a fact why do so many entrepreneurs and SME Business owners work so hard to grow their business without trying to make them brands? They invest time, money and effort to develop innovative and quality products, systems, hiring the best sales people, selecting the hottest business names, tag lines, company colours and creating logos.But is this not what brand building is all about? Yes and No.Yes because this is the first half of building a brand and a big NO because this is the smaller half. In a three step brand development continuum where the lowest level is a commodity, second step a label and the highest a brand when you have the best you can achieve with all these efforts is a label.A commodity is an undifferentiated product, service or company. A label is one has identity that is differentiates it from others businesses or product offerings of same kind. But a brand has emotional and psychological connection with a sizable market segment. There is a form of love relationship between the brand and its target customers.Every human being by the mare fact that he has unique finger prints, name, DNA, mannerisms and behaviour is a label. He has an identity. He is different from other men. But Nelson Mandela, Barrack Obama, Billy Graham, Michael Jordan are brands. As long as you define your uniqueness using the physical and biological characteristics you will always be a label. You may be a brand but only to a few. That also applies to businesses.Many entrepreneurs and business owners are working very hard to build labels. They want to bake the sweetest cake, sell the highest quality of furniture, be the consultant with the most tools, be the best doctor in town etc. They talk in terms of lowest price, best quality, good location, fast service etc. They wonder why their business doesn’t grow and hope that by working harder things will be different. The sad truth is that unless and until they are able to make their business brands they will remain small.They need to come to the realization that the vehicle that will carry their businesses to growth is making brands of their products and businesses.Building brands has many advantages to a business but I want to focus only the ones that play the biggest role in driving revenue and profit growth.1. Help Create a Monopoly for your Business: Everyday there are many businesses started and products rolled out in the market with the aim of offering the customer variety of choice. In essence the market is out there for everyone to fight it out to for. Fighting out to be seen, considered and be bought. With a label you have to keep on trying many things to achieve one or more of these objectives.The market forces are always seeking to push any product or company to the lowest level of a brand continuum – a commodity. They push brands to labels and labels to commodities. That is why some brands of yesterday are just labels.Whatever business you are in, you should know it is easier to multiply your profits and revenues if you are a brand rather than a commodity or label. You should therefore look for a way to deal with the market forces that want to push you down. You could either ask the government to declare you as a monopoly or you use the only other alternative of creating a form of monopoly power – create a brand.A brand becomes a tool that aids you in creating and owning your market segment. It helps you become friends with this market. You develop an emotional connection with it. When you own this market then you can unleash the business multiplier machine on it. This multiplier machine operates on the logic that you can only grow your business profits and revenues by getting more people buy more of your products, more often.Labels and commodities have to spend so much to win a new customer, spend even more to keep them and get them to buy more. It is harder and more expensive to unleash the multiplier machine on labels and almost impossible on commodities.2. Growth through new productsIt is very difficult to grow any business beyond a certain point just on one product offering or product line. At some point, even for those who own a particular market for a certain category of products, you will need to add something new in your fold. The reason being that the market tastes, preferences and circumstances are always changing hence they will require new products. Competitors will pursue your customers with a better value propositions. To respond you will need to create new products and services.Majority of SME Owners are innovators who have brought into the market something new. They appreciate the effort, resources and time required to make a new product succeed. Even for large organizations with massive resources it is never easier and there are no guarantees. That is why they build brands which are better equipped to launch a new product. Brand offer some level of success assurance.Without a brand they will have to go through the pains and overcome the countless challenges of new product launch whenever they need to introduce a new flavor, launch a new product, complementing service, open a new store, and add a new feature etcetera. Every time you do this the customer sees you as new. You don’t have a point to leverage on your business experience, market knowledge, capacity, supplier networks etc which you have invested in over time. This heavily limits you chances of success. A brand ensures you the benefits of being an old friend.’NEW ‘as a selling proposition works only for trusted brands. For them NEW is considered innovative and progressive. For labels and commodities ‘NEW’ is viewed as risky and inexperienced. Anything new has to be sold, and as a sales expert I understand selling is tough work worthy doing only when you have to do it.If you are in the technology business you appreciate how fast you have to generate and deliver new products to the market. Without a brand as a vehicle through which you have to deliver your new innovations you are doomed from the start.3. Build Business for the Long TermCommodities experience high rate of ‘child’ mortality. Labels usually a have a life expectancy of their creators. Brands have a life of their own.Every entrepreneur I know starting or running a business has a desire to see his business outlive him. To do this lawyers recommend you register your businesses as limited liability companies and management consultants tell you to create business dependent on systems. This is wise counsel but only to some extent because they help separate your business from your body and mind but you still share the soul.When you give up your soul the body and mind of your business will not live too long after.A brand is the soul of business. It makes it alive. It stops being a robot supported by a legal document. It becomes an organism that can have relationships of its own; it can love and be loved. It has connections with its market, employees, suppliers etc.Many of the big brands today are growing strong without the entrepreneurs who founded them because they are brands not because they are limited liability companies or they have great systems. A branded business is the only form of business that can grow on its own. Any other form will require the passion and genius of the founder to grow it.If you really want to leave an inheritance to your children then need to make your business a brand.These three points are not exhaustive but, if they would push you to be more determined to build brands or even to add a little knowledge on the subject then am happy.Wait for Part 2 where we will discuss how SMEs try to build brands the wrong way and how they can do it right.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.

Conclusion

It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.