Saturday, August 25, 2012

Check 21 Legislation

The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, more commonly known as 'Check 21', came into effect on Oct 28th, 2004. Essentially a means of ending the slow, costly and inefficient reliance on the physical transportation of paper checks; Check 21 allows banks to transmit electronic images of the check through the clearing process. While the advantage of this legislation to banks is self-evident, what is less clear to many merchants and retailers is how they can benefit and how Check 21 will affect the way they do business .
How Check 21 Works
Check 21 works by sanctioning a legal replacement for checks, called the "substitute check," which can be generated from a check image file when the paying bank and/or the check writer insists on receiving paper rather than electronic check images as proof that a payment occurred and was settled.
Although the Federal Reserve regulations  suggest that substitute checks must be created by the banks themselves, it does allow banks to enter into agreement with merchants to allow merchants themselves to capture check images at the point of sale and begin the truncation/electronic clearing process then. This means that Check 21 has significant advantages for businesses that accept check payments.
Advantages of Check 21
One of the primary benefits of Check 21 over other electronic check processing options, such as ACH conversion, are that all types of checks, including corporate checks, can be truncated. This means that Check 21 is not limited to retail stores and companies accepting consumer checks. Any business that accepts check payments may take advantage. Additionally, the Check 21 regulations mean that a check imaged and truncated at the point of sale continues to be covered by check law even though it clears electronically.
When checks are truncated and electronically deposited, funds are posted to the merchant's account the very next day, even if the electronic files arrive at the bank after 9:00 pm. Combine this with the fact that businesses using Check 21 processing effectively eliminate bank runs, get earlier warning on 'problem' checks & can process checks as they are received and the benefits of the new Check 21 legislation become very clear.
What's Required For Check 21
All that's required for companies wishing to process checks in this way is a check scanner and some Check 21 compatible software. There are a number of inexpensive check scanners on the market, such as those available from Magtek and Integrated Financial Systems .
While large corporations may find it of value to invest in in-house Check 21 processing software, this is an expensive option and not suitable for all. A better choice for most small and medium sized businesses is to utilize an online solution via a third party payment processor. For a small per-transaction fee, businesses can simply scan and transmit their checks into the secure software, view files and export them to in-house accounting packages. Such third party processors mean that any business of any size will be able to take full advantage of the Check 21 legislation.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Three Growth Secrets from Guy Kawasaki

Once upon a time, business schools taught us classical marketing, strategy, and sales models and defended those models with research and case studies. For today's entrepreneurial leaders, those approaches may do more harm than good.
Guy Kawasaki's latest business handbook, "The Art of the Start--The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything," will turn many traditional business growth strategies on their heads.
As Managing Director of Garage Technology Ventures, a columnist for, and legendary Apple Computer Fellow, Guy has played the role of salesman, jewelry designer, venture capitalist, and computer evangelist. Few leaders have re-invented themselves as many times as Guy. His insights have helped launch successful startups such as Tripwire, Bitpass, GuruNet, and Santa Cruz Networks.
In a nutshell, Guy offers several strategies: Make meaning first; make money second. Burn the crusty mission statements on the wall. Polarize your market and let a thousand flowers bloom.
What does he really mean?
Leaders who want to re-energize a fledgling corporate division, or want to increase the odds of launching a successful startup cannot afford to ignore this time-tested advice from Guy.
"Got Meaning?"
The first "antique" startup strategy is over-dependence on wordy mission statements. Guy pities (and ridicules) most mission statements that he sees in the business plans that get submitted to Garage Technology Ventures. Says Kawasaki; "Mission statements were originally meant to be short and memorable; but end up looking more like 'mission impossible.'
He prefers companies who instead create a mantra, and use that mantra to drive innovation, hiring, marketing, and sales. Powerful mantras contain no more than 4 words, and can be memorized easily. Wendy's Restaurant is remembered for "Healthy Fast Food." Mary Kay is "Enriching Women's Lives." Mantras are even beginning to infiltrate the technology industry, which has been historically driven by buzzword-heavy, self-centered mission statements: "Change Powered by Cisco."
Guy asserts that any good mantra will fulfill one of these criteria: It either increases the quality of people's lives, stops or minimizes something that is not working in the world, or perpetuates something that is good.
Love Thy Enemies
Guy believes that polarizing the market will naturally happen in companies that love what they offer. Says Kawasaki, "Just accept that certain clients will absolutely agree with you, and that certain clients will absolutely loathe your service no matter how you try to convince them otherwise." The Toyota Scion is a classic example. Toyota expects very few buyers over 30 years old to buy this vehicle. "You should strive for creating great passion in a very specific market. Polarization is a much better alternative than creating the dangerous position of creating a big market of buyers who are ambivalent, or just don't care."
Market polarization is a proven strategy in the technology marketplace. "You don't get to be industry standard by appealing to everybody immediately," says Kawasaki. As "Inside the Tornado" author and technology marketing expert Geoffrey Moore recommends, recommends identifying very specific niche markets first, and becoming the dominant player. Then companies are in a position to determine how they can penetrate additional markets.
On the other hand, Guy suggests that companies remain open to brand new, untapped market opportunities. Like it or not, new clients will buy new solutions, and stump even top market segmentation experts. Guy recommends, "Let a thousand flowers blossom. That's a good thing. Take the money!"
Sucking Down is a Good Thing
One of Guy's favorite expressions when describing ways to penetrate corporate accounts is to "suck down and suck across." He asserts that too much time and sales training dollars are spent on getting to know the Very Important Top Officers (VITO) in their accounts. Sales teams are often over-investing their time trying to suck up to C-level executives while ignoring many lower ranking influencers.
Guy's "Making Rain" chapter shares my personal story of how I sold $334,000 worth of enterprise software to a large Miami insurer. I owe much of my success to the time I spent working with Armando, the top level Data Base Administrator-the man who occupied the smallest cubicle and the carried most influence with the CIO.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Tips to Curb Employee Abuse

Looking for a way to save your enterprise or government organization tens of thousands of dollars a month or more on wireless mobile communication use? First off, it's going to take some discipline and innovative management for your cellular communication services to become more cost efficient and less prone to abuse. Cell phone and handheld usage can bleed a corporation's IT communications funding dry without so much as a turn of the head, or at least until it's too late.
They're Everywhere ...
It's more common than not for a large organization to have employees carrying company owned devices such as cellular phones, pagers, PDAs, and Blackberry devices. All these wireless devices meant to increase employee productivity are more than likely draining funds and ultimately decreasing actual corporate productivity. It's an ever increasing telecommunications expense on a road to disaster.
One is Better ...
One way to better manage corporate employee mobile communication cost is to buy ALL cellular services through ONE provider. Buying through one provider gives your organization the chance to receive volume discounts. If you are giving your employees the opportunity to purchase their company wireless device themselves on the corporate account, you are opening the door to higher rates and actually taking away control from the company as a whole.
Close To Home ...
Secondly, audit not just the usage, but who uses the mobile communications. You need to investigate exactly who is a necessity mobile user and who is not. An office employee who spends most of their time within corporate headquarters and who is not prone to traveling; may very well be responsible for inflated mobile usage. An employee calling friends and even relatives overseas is not entirely uncommon. This kind of abuse has been known to accumulate to a bill well over a $2,000.00 in a matter of days with just one employee.
Allowance, Not Just For Teens Anymore ...
It's important to weed out vanity from necessity. If the hardship of striping cell phones and their usage from employees is too hard to bear, consider revising this strategy. A method that can be effective is allotting an allowance to employees on their usage. In other words, set up a preset amount of acceptable minutes per month per employee type. If any employee goes over their allotted amount of minutes, it is garnished from their paychecks. Many companies have deployed this method to curb abuse with much success.
Reward the Good ...
In addition to an allowance program, a rewards program could be put in place as well. To sweeten the sour, award the employee with the least amount of minutes a percentage of the company savings. Let it be announced beforehand and you may find employees trying to conserve so they can take home a larger paycheck. To make it more viral, perhaps first, second, and third place winners every month. That will ensure that employees know more than one employee each month will go home with a fatter paycheck. Increasing the odds always helps feed the fever. Works in Vegas, right?
Easier Said than Done ...
Now, keeping track of who is who and who calls what can equal to a big headache and ultimately take more time and money to manage. Luckily there are some companies out there that make a living from auditing and managing wireless bills or supplying the firmware to do so. While costs associated with such services vary, they are valuable and more importantly; save money. Some of the companies that provide these services include Let's Talk , Traq, and Vercuity.
Carriers Feel Your Pain ...
Aside from these companies that audit, track, and manage wireless usage, the mobile communications industry has seen the aches and pains of employee abuse. Many cellular carriers now offer more cost effective wireless options for large employers knowing of employee abuse and the minutes (money sacrificed. In other words, lower rates for the higher volume to curb the cost of abuse whether or not it is taking place.
One of the better cell phone providers for corporate services is Nextel. They offer over the phone ordering exclusively for corporate volume clients for all products and services which include some good plans for busy mobile users. You can call them toll free at:
1-866-720-4177 Business Code: 15376 Reference: LL UNLIMITED