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As an entrepreneur, it can sometimes be difficult to know when its time to hire outside help to assist in the day-to-day operations of running a business. Fortunately, Forbes.com recently broached the subject by offering some advantages and disadvantages in the article “Are You Ready to Hire More Help”

According to the article, for those currently running businesses by themselves, while giving up control can be difficult, it can be beneficial to delegate some of the work. Hiring a few talented and hardworking employees who share your vision for your company but also occupy different skill sets can help your company run more efficiently and allow you to do what you do best.

The article states:

“What’s your time worth? If you’re slaving away on administrative duties, you are not using your time for tasks that actually make your company more money. By delegating these or something similar to an employee, you will be free to do what you do best—discovering new products and services, finding new customers, and increasing your revenues.”

While size is the biggest determiner of the need to hire. Keeping things small also keeps things simple. However, hiring outside help can also lead to increased revenue and new business opportunities.

Jasmine Ashton, November 05, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT, developer of Beyond Search

 

 

Two baby boomers, Liz Dahl and Don Anderson, have combined their talent sets to launch a new travel site for baby boomers – The Boomer Travel Patrol.  Their tag line is “Travel views from the fun side of 50.”

Bringing together a team of boomers from different parts of the country and the world, they have created patrols to cover different areas of travel focused on the large group of baby boomers who are now the biggest segment in travel. The individual patrols within the Boomer Travel Patrol are: Air Patrol, Cruise Patrol, Food Patrol, Guest Patrol, Hotel Patrol, Luxury Patrol, Off the Beaten Path Patrol, Pet Patrol, RV Patrol and Sports Patrol.BTPSig2

The concept was initially developed by Liz Dahl who says:

“Boomers are fun, inquisitive and full of energy to explore the world. They have the time and means to do it and we have the resources to assist them with the process.”

Although the site is designed by Boomers for Boomers, it is also of great value to travelers of all ages who want to obtain a wide variety of interesting travel information as well as the ability to share their own experiences with other travelers. There are over 200 articles on the site with regular additions of new material from the patrol writers. A “Destinations” section provides information on travel throughout the world. There is also a News section that provides related travel news that is refreshed daily.

In addition to the main site the Boomer Travel Patrol also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

Constance Ard, August 9, 2013

Mike Dubrovsky recently won the attention of the attendees of StartupPalooza in NYC in late May. We asked the bright minds behind Simply Grid  to give us a bit of insight into their winning innovation.

What’s the history of your firm? What problem did you set out to solve?

Mike Dubrovsky started the company. He has an engineering background and developed our technology. My background is in operations – I’ve been an attorney, the CEO of a web development studio, and an exec in another energy startup. I joined to provide operational expertise and milestone focus.

We wanted to solve the problem of the provisioning and control of electric service in markets where metered electricity is either not available or there is significant overhead in providing it.

When did you become interested in power fractionalization and charging for limited use access? Can you describe how you developed your love/interest/expertise in fractionalization and charging for limited use access?

Mike lived out in Brighton and there were several food trucks near him using very noisy and polluting generators. He ran the numbers and realized that if we could somehow provide them with electricity, we could both eliminate the noise and pollution as well as save the food truck vendors money on their energy costs. At first we were just going to use standard off the shelf electricity pedestals from Eaton. However, we quickly realized that the legacy 3rd party metering and control system included in their pedestals would not meet our needs. Therefore, we stripped out the legacy 3rd party hardware and built our own custom hardware controller and cloud-based software management system. This gives us a turnkey solution for provisioning, metering, and billing – and we realized that this could be a much bigger business than just selling electric access to food trucks.

Your firm has been investing in fractionalization and charging for limited use access. What are the general areas of your research activities?

Hardware development for our controller and software development for our cloud-based management system. We are also beginning to explore other areas such as wireless electric service.

What is the primary application of your firm’s invention / innovation?

Right now our focus is in food truck rodeos and food carts in metro markets. We have revenue generating deployments at the Atlanta Food Truck Park in Atlanta, GA and the Moontower Saloon in Austin, TX. In the next few weeks, we will be launching a pilot deployment in Union Square in NYC in partnership with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. We are also targeting marinas and RV parks where, although they do already offer electric service, their method for provisioning, control, and metering is often antiquated. For example, the metering is often done by an employee walking around to each service point and recording meter readings on a clipboard.

Without divulging your firm’s methods or clients, will you characterize a typical use case for your firm’s technology?

A food truck park or municipality that wishes to provide electric service to food trucks/carts to eliminate the noise and pollution nuisance. A marina or RV park that wishes to enhance their metering model or their ability to provision and control electric service to their customers.

What are the benefits to a commercial organization or a government agency when working with your firm?

For the food truck/carts in particular, there is significant demand by consumers to have these amenities available, particularly in metro areas, which is counterbalanced by the desire to do it in as “green” a method as possible without the noise and pollution nuisance. Our solution directly solves this issue, and it’s why so many municipalities are interested in what we can provide.

How does an implementation project with your firm move through its life cycle? What’s unique to your firm’s approach?

If we are dealing with a public/municipal site, there is a specific permitting process we need to go through. If a private lot, we don’t have the permitting process, but the remainder of the implementation would be the same. We first need to verify the location makes financial sense for deployment. We then work with a local contractor to implement our hardware on the ground and connect it to the grid. We then sync up the on the ground hardware with our cloud-based management system via 4G/3G or wifi and we’re off to the races. Our customers then use their mobile phones to initiate/terminate electric service from the particular outlet in our pedestals they wish to use.

One challenge to those involved with “green energy” and “environmentally friendly approaches” is getting organizations to invest. How are you dealing with this?

As I noted previously, one of the great things about our solution is that it actually saves the vendors money over their existing energy source. Therefore, it’s a no brainer for them to use our service, which means we generate revenue from day 1. While we love the “green” and “environmentally friendly” aspects of our business, the fact that we make a very solid margin is what gets organizations to invest.

How does your firm see the main trends in power fractionalization over the next 12 to 18 months? What products or services will you be focusing on to deliver on your next vision?

While our initial markets are food trucks/cars and marina/RV parks, we believe there will eventually be a significant demand in the EV space as well. Our technology is well placed to take advantage of the projected growth in EVs over the next several years as the demand for more charging locations increases. As mentioned previously, we are beginning to investigate the possibility of replacing electricity pedestals with in-ground wireless charging stations. While this technology would require our customers to up-fit their existing infrastructure with a piece of hardware, we think this might be the future of our service in metro locations.

Where does a reader get more information about your firm?

http://simplygrid.com

Jeffrey Hoffman
COO – Simply Grid
http://simplygrid.com

Constance Ard, June 18, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT, developer of Beyond Search

Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of Reputation.com, offers practical hiring advice for start-ups in his blog post “The People You Need Working for Your Start-Up” for the HBR Blog Network.  I’m willing to take Fertik’s advice, because, as he calls himself, he’s a “serial  tech entrepreneur,” so he understands how and when to grow a company.

Fertik advises picking a complementary co-founder, so that you start with a broader range of strengths.  He also counsels against hiring friends from school based only on that friendship.  It’s a great way to sink a company and a friendship. His best advice, however, may be about the timing of hires:

“Don’t hire people you don’t need. From the very outset and for some considerable time afterward, early startups are quivering on the brink. That’s perfectly appropriate. While certain hires are buoyancy later in a company’s development, there’s no doubt that in the beginning phases, they’re ballast you don’t need. That’s why you usually do not need to hire a general counsel, finance lead or PR person until you hit a more stable patch. Seriously.”

Finally, make sure your chief technologist is up to the demanding hours and workload of your start-up, because without him or her, you have no product.

Laura Abrahamsen, June 12, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT, developer of Beyond Search

Editor’s note: HighGainBlog recently learned of an interesting financial services startup based in Louisville, Kentucky.

IKM Capital Management, LLC is an independent investment advisory firm, and was established to manage various fund offerings. IKM specializes in nontraditional and alternative assets.

IKM focuses on sectors in which its managers have demonstrated expertise. Specifically, investments that have defined cash-flow components, which require sophisticated quantitative analysis.

Michael Shackelford

Michael Shackelford is the founder of IKM Capital Management

The core idea is to leverage distressed real estate and generate an above-average return. HighGainBlog spoke with the company’s founder, Michael Shackelford on March 19, 2013. The full text of our interview with him appears below.

Michael, thanks for taking the time to talk with HighGainBlog?

Delighted to do it.

Would you give me a snapshot of the new business you have started?

Sure, I have a background in managing portfolios of mortgage securities and in mortgage trading. I spent most of my career working at large institutional investment firms managing mortgage securities. I founded IKM Capital Management in 2008 to take advantage of the dislocation in the mortgage market by investing in a unique part of the real estate market that is lower risk versus mortgage liens, and yet yields a higher returns.

You mentioned a new approach to low risk real estate related investments. What’s your approach?

We purchase tax lien certificates. Which are liens that represent a senior secured interest in real property related to delinquent property taxes. We created a fund that holds a portfolio of tax lien certificates from several states around the country.

Why does your type of investment provide a good upside and low risk?

Since the tax liens are senior to all other liens, including first mortgages, the credit risk is very low. Further, we receive a high interest rate (our portfolio weighted average interest rate is over 9.0%). The interest rate is high, because the rate is a penalty mandated by state law to induce the property owner to pay their delinquent property bill. Also, since we are the senior lien on the property we tend to get paid fairly quickly; most tax liens are paid-off by the property owner between 6 and 18 months from purchase. However, if we do foreclose, either the property owner or mortgage company will pay us or risk losing the property to our senior lien.

What is the size of the pool of liens which you tap?

In any given year anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion in tax liens sold throughout the country. There are many investors in tax liens, from small individual investors buying for themselves to large regional and national banks and insurance companies buying for their own accounts. There are only a few funds created by advisers like IKM Capital Management that buy on behalf of investors.

What is the minimum investment required?

We accept a minimum of $50,000. We only accept accredited investors and institutional investors for regulatory reasons. Our average investor is a professional (doctors, attorneys, CPAs and business owners). They have a net worth that qualifies them as an accredited investor by SEC rule. We are also working with family offices and trust companies on the institutional side.

Are you national? Regional? Local?

We buy liens in eight states, and we are looking to move into another three states in the next couple of years. Our current states are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Nebraska. These states have made it the easiest to invest and are largely the most investor friendly.

What are the considerations a potential investor will want to weigh?

One downside is that these liens are not very liquid assets. Therefore an investor cannot trade out of the fund everyday like they could with a mutual fund. Instead, we offer sixty day liquidity, which is fairly liberal given the illiquidity of the investment. The other downside would occur if we owned a lien on a worthless piece of property, which is why we spend a significant amount of time reviewing properties to ensure the value well exceeds the value of the liens we are buying. Our due diligence is designed specifically to reduce the probability of credit loss. Though no process is perfect, we have great confidence in ours.

What are the historical returns you have delivered?

We have delivered net returns in excess of 8.0% to investors each of the four years the fund have been open. In fact, for three of the four years we have delivered a net return greater than 9.0%. This compares very favorably against the yield a person could earn from a bond or the net return on a bond fund over the same period. In other words, this is a great replacement for some of the fixed income in any portfolio.

What Federal and state oversight of liens is in place?

The tax lien certificates and their sale are governed by state law. The liens are sold by municipal governments, typically the county, under the rules and regulations set by state law. Most states have allowed their counties to sell tax liens for decades, so the statutes and case law surrounding the sale of tax liens is well established.

How long does it take for an investor to withdraw some or all of his investment or gains?

We are currently offering investors sixty day liquidity from the beginning. So there is no initial lock-up. However, we discourage investors who feel they may need their money sooner than six months.

Is a quarterly pay out plan available?

We offer investors the option to reinvest gains or to receive quarterly withdrawals of gains. It is solely the option of the investor. We also have a few investors who have expressed interest in having a once yearly payout of estimated tax payment in February, which we can also do.

What is the outlook for this type of investment opportunity?

Though there is no guarantee, I am targeting an 8.0% net to investors this year. As I mentioned earlier our portfolio interest rate is around 9.0%, less our management fee and fund expenses that would leave about 8.0% to investors. We have seen our net returns fall from close to 11% the first year to around 9% last year. So there has been some yield compression as new investors enter the space, however I think there is still plenty of yield for investors. This asset class should continue to outpace most fixed income; investment grade bonds, Ginnie Mae mortgages, high yield debt and emerging market bonds.

How does a reader get more information about your company?

Our website is located at: www.ikmcapital.com

HighGainBlog Comment

This new financial opportunity seems to warrant a closer look by investors eager to diversify their portfolio.

Stephen E Arnold, March 19, 2013