Mobile Phones For Business – What Are the Top Features of a Business Phone?

In this era of “smart phones” it’s hard to find a businessperson who doesn’t have a phone that can make and receive calls, retrieve voicemail, receive and respond to emails, and connect to the internet. In fact, some would say a business-owner or worker who does not have a phone with those capabilities is downright negligent.

Smart phones allow for almost instant communication, allowing workers to get back to clients regarding emailed questions or concerns almost immediately. A quick response time is always seen as a positive attribute for a business. However, with so many options, it’s hard to narrow options down to just one or two. While the Blackberry has been a favorite of business-owners for years, there are a few other phones that offer a wide variety of powerful features.

New Mobile Phones for Business:

One such phone is the Nokia N95. This phone offers 8GB of storage space, GPS navigation for trying to get to important business meetings in strange places, a five megapixel camera for sending high-resolution images on the go, a large display with 3G video calling, and HSPDA data transfer. What does that mean for a worker? It means this 128-gram phone offers everything one needs to deal with clients while away from the office. With so many features, it’s hard to believe this phone comes in at only $900.

Face Detection Technology:

Another popular phone is the LG KF750 SECRET. With a 5 megapixel camera featuring automatic face detection, a 4GB memory allowance, and a light 116-gram weight, this phone offers speedy internet connections, a built in hands-free mode, and the ability to observe the screen in a landscape or portrait mode. This phone adds up to a tidy price of $512.

If You Are Looking For High Resolution Camera:

Finally, the Samsung U900 SOUL offers yet another 5 megapixel camera, an MP3 player and FM Radio for long trips, Java compatibility – something very few smart phones have, several supported frequencies, and a micro SD slot. This all adds up to a phone that again allows itself to be used like a miniature computer, coming in at $460 .

What makes a smart phone better than the average mobile? With a smart phone, the user has access to practically every feature they would while being at a computer. This is a very attractive idea for those who are in a fast-paced business that needs them to constantly have access to the latest information and be able to communicate with clients almost instantaneously. That’s what a smart phone offers that no other can match. The user has the ability to take and email photos – something that would be helpful for, say, a realtor who has someone interested in a house that wants to get a few pictures that weren’t already available.

A realtor with a smart phone would be able to immediately snap several pictures and email them, negating the need for a digital camera, uploading to the computer, editing, uploading to email, and then sending. A creative entrepreneur can find that a smart phone allows them to do their job without ever touching a computer. The freedom offered by a mobile phone allows businesses to come into the new technological age.

Innovation for Global Business: Meeting the Ever-Increasing Demands of Clients – A Case Study

I have been working in the global eyeglass manufacturing industry, supplying raw materials, parts and accessories to distributors and manufacturers around the world, since 1999. When I first began, there were manufacturer pockets around the globe in various countries. As time went by, like many industries, the demand for cheaper products consistently bore weight on the drive to decrease cost, which led to manufacturing in China. The economies of scale as well as the very low cost of manual labor helped to drive the exodus to China. Difficult products are still being manufactured in small clusters around the world, however the “meat and potatoes”, the “grunt work” has moved offshore to China.

Titanium (pure or alloyed) wire and sheet is the preferred material to make frames of these days. The unit cost is very expensive compared to ferrous metals, however the properties are far superior. It is much more difficult to work than regular metals during the 200 step process to make a pair of frames. Because of this, technology was often limited to countries like Germany and Japan who invested a long time ago in developing processes to work this material. Japan has been selling a lot of its technology to China in the past decade so that now, standard titanium eyewear is usually made in China at a lower cost than Japan which has led to a lot of “restructuring” in the Japanese optical industry. Those companies that have a competitive advantage have survived (i.e. a specialty), however the “plane Jane Vanilla” types are, to a great degree, gone.

People do not know this but it takes approximately 3 months and 200 steps to make a pair of eyeglasses. There is a huge amount of outsourcing done to specialists who do various parts of the process. The titanium used in eyeglass manufacturing must have a very good surface quality. Because titanium is so hard (and yet so soft at the same time), it is easy to make deep scratches, but very difficult to polish it out. Here, not I did not say “grinding” because grinding connotes “making smaller”, but instead use the term “polishing” which results in a smoother, shinier surface with less blemishes. The end result is different, therefore the terminology is different.

Because removing scratches from titanium is difficult, the manufacturers demand the highest surface quality. Eyeglasses are a fashion, they are painted, plated or coated and then worn on the face. When you meet someone the first thing you see is their eyes, and if they are wearing glasses you see those. Because of this, the finished surface needs to be as blemish-free as possible. Without a smooth surface, the paint/plating will not apply evenly and you will end up with defective product that will not be purchased by the wholesalers and distributors to put on the market. In reality, most end-users may not even notice the level of perfection that the wholesalers are demanding. After all, how do you choose a pair of glasses? You find a color and shape you like, put them on your face, look in a mirror to see if they suit your image of yourself, then scan your friend/family member/store clerk’s face and response to see if their impression of the frames on your face seem suitable to them. If so, you buy. If not, you keep looking. Most of the scratches and blemishes that the manufacturers are required to prevent would not be noticed by the end user, quite possibly allowing manufacturers to decrease their defective count allow them to purchase lower-priced material and maybe make glasses even cheaper; however the companies that order the frames go far beyond that in detail.

Because of this, the manufacturers must have the best material available. This means a very high price compared to other titanium used in non-eyewear industries. There is a constant drive to find a lower priced titanium material for eyeglass manufacturing, but to date, the only material suitable is that which is made by the Japanese. I have tried supplying US material, Russian and Chinese but all fail for their various reasons. The U.S. material surface is not up to quality because it is used mainly for “rougher” industrial purposes. The Chinese and Russian is still unstable in terms of content.

The manufacturers also demand tight tolerances in the material diameter or thickness. Usually tolerances for titanium in the optical industry are +/- 0.02 or 0.0.3 mm.

We have two levels of quality for titanium sheet here in Japan. One is like a “mirror finish”. Obviously it doesn’t reflect like a mirror, but it is smooth. This is what the manufacturers need. The other one looks like someone slathered a thin layer of epoxy on the surface and then sprinkled sand over it. This CANNOT be used to make eyeglasses.

For titanium sheet, usually anything under 3 mm thickness by Kobe, Sumitomo, Shin Nittetsu are usable as is. For thicker sizes, the surface gets too rough and we have to use a cold rolled sheet. This meaning I would order 4 mm, my supplier would have his supplier roll 5 mm down to 4 mm so the surface was smooth. Again, this process drives the price up on titanium that has already been increasing dramatically in the past year.

Eyeglass factories are “small” compared to other industrial processing plants. The machines are small, hand operated, and so forth. The size of the sheets that feed into the machines are limited. This means that standard sheets (usually 1m x 2m) need to be cut into about four pieces in order to be used by most manufacturers.

The manufacturers of the titanium will not cut the standard sizes sheets, however the wholesalers who buy bulk and stock in Japan will. They know this is necessary for the industry. I have yet to find a company outside of Japan that is willing to do this; making the sale of sheet extremely difficult to the optical industry from non-Japanese sources.

My advice to suppliers outside Japan is this: This process may be different from what you or your manufacturers are used to doing, but in this global age, we constantly have to be innovating and finding NEW ways to do business. We need to meet the ever-increasing demands of our clients and gain a competitive advantage over the other rivals looking for business. The old established ways that worked so well for so long no longer apply.

Here is an example of a situation that occurred many times over the past six years:

Customer: “I need 20 kg of Beta titanium sheet 0.8mm thickness, cut sizes of about 1m x 0.3m. Courier is too expensive so please send via Post. We urgently need this material and we need it in good condition.”

Supplier: ” The minimum quantity 200 kg, and dimensions are 2m x 1m. Delivery is 3 months. We don’t pack for international shipping. We don’t cut down to size. We only ship by courier. We send the best we can, as always.”

For my business, this often killed the chances of finding a non-Japanese source for supplying my clients in the Chinese market. This way of dealing with a request is a dead end because it does not meet the customer’s needs. Here are the reasons why:

1) Optical customers have no way of cutting huge standard sheets down to size. They need the smaller cut sizes from the beginning.

2) Their machinery is much smaller in scale than automotive, building, aerospace industries, therefore need smaller cut sizes of material.

3) Factory loading and receiving is much smaller in scale therefore huge pallets cause major problems. Hand-carry-able sizes of material are essential.

4) Scratches on the surface of the hard titanium cannot be removed through polishing of parts to get the gloss finish that is required for eyeglasses; therefore best quality surface and proper international packing is critical.

5) Eyeglasses are fashion. The fashion industry is critically volatile and changing extremely quickly. The optical industry gets orders for glasses and must deliver in the shortest possible time. It takes three months to make one order. Manufacturers cannot be waiting three months for material before they start to produce. They choose the vendors that can supply from ready stock or in the shortest time possible.

6) One pair of glasses usually uses about 10-20 grams of titanium so even 20 kg of one size is a large amount for a manufacturer. They need suppliers who will provide smaller quantities.

7) Quantities ordered these days for eyeglasses have gone from tens of thousands, to thousands, and now are at minimum quantities of hundreds. Those hundreds are further divided into dozens of colors making the SKU delivery extremely small. Eyeglass manufacturers NEED access to small quantities of materials relative to the big industries. Even in China, everyone is producing now very small runs to meet the needs of the clients who must provide a huge variety of product SKUs to the market.

8) The shipping is also critical so being able to cut down to sizes that will be carried by the post office, or a very cheap courier is essential. Sending small quantities via Air Cargo, or Sea Cargo is prohibitively expensive. The buyers/the market forces are driving the selling price down of the eyeglasses. Because eyeglasses from the manufacturer do not have a large profit margin, the manufacturers need help cutting their costs; expensive shipping is something people are always trying to do away with.

9) Most eyeglass manufacturing of standard (non-niche) eyewear (and all metal eyeglasses) is done now in China for the reason that China makes it MUCH CHEAPER than anyone else. Most ALL manufacturing is done in China these days for the same reason. People make product in China to DECREASE THEIR COSTS. For the vendors selling raw materials to China, it is not possible to take 20%, 30%, 40% profit margins unless you have an extremely specialized material or product. And titanium, even the special memory alloys have become a commodity therefore unfortunately though they are expensive to begin with, a high profit margin is no longer a choice. It simply cannot be done.

10) Many suppliers do not really do the “best they can”. They think that mistakes caused by “human error” are unavoidable. This simply is not true. All factories make defective product but that defective product should never leave the factory to the customer. This means that proper safeguards should be put in place in order to prevent that from getting out. This can be done. Guaranteed. But the question is do the people working the factory floor really care? This is an issue. It is even MORE critical in this day and age to find a partner that DOES care and is willing to improve and take responsibility for products that slip through their net and make it to the customer causing them inconvenience. We are always looking for partners that are continually working to improve their capabilities in all aspects of the project.

Even though the eyeglass industry is very small compared to the jumbo jet aircraft industry, there is a huge population in the world who need eyeglasses as a “medical tool” (lower income bracket), and those who want the tool to be a fashion statement (higher income bracket). Because of this, overall, the industry is quite large and the market is definitely there.

Since things have changed so dramatically in the past 15 years, and the markets have truly become global, it is even more essential for companies and individuals wishing to improve their market share to be always looking for new innovative ways to improve their competitive advantage in the market. Those that struggle to find a way to break down the barriers are the ones that succeed. This is why competition is so important and why monopolies actually hamper the market. Without competitors there is no need to innovate, offer more to the consumer, improve your abilities, increase your knowledge-base and develop the market in new and unique ways. Without competition none of the affordable luxuries we have would ever have been available at prices the average consumer could afford.

Competition, innovation, education, a demanding market of educated users and a burning desire to find “the next edge” are essential to a successful business.

Any companies who are willing to take those challenges and try their luck at the market will likely succeed if they keep at it and do not give up, in spite of the challenges and head-banging they will inevitably face. Any companies like that out there, interested in entering the Japanese market with an unique service or product are welcome to contact me any time!

A Great Recession-Proof Business

Have you seen the incredible reality shows about pawn shops? These businesses have been around for many years and have proven themselves to be incredible businesses. Not everyone can become a pawn broker and many states have restrictive licensing in place. However, if you are so inclined, you could start a pawn shop and do well, especially in a recession. People are always looking for money and a pawn shop can fit that need easily. Banks, credit unions and other lending institutions simply have tightened their lending belts to the point that it is extremely difficult to get any loan.

A Pawn Shop on the other hand does not have these credit restrictions. There is no credit check, no reporting to the credit bureaus, no lengthy applications to complete and so on. The process is quite simple. If you have anything of value, then you can take it to a pawn shop. The employees there will appraise the item and if it is of interest to them, they will loan you money. Keep in mind; pawn shop loans are not cheap. They carry high interest and you must be able to repay the loan which is usually around 60-90 days after you get your money. There are instances in which you can get an extension, but there will be interest due.

If you cannot pay the loan, the worst that will happen is you will lose the item you pawned. The pawn shop can sell the piece for as much as they want. You need not worry about collection calls or any of the other problems with past due loan payments.

Now that you have a general idea about pawn shops, let’s discuss how you can start your own pawn shop and make a lot of money.

Getting Started
While there may be some excitement with your desire to become a pawn broker, stop and consider the following. Before you open your shop, check to see what regulations are in your city. Many areas require a pawn broker license, a business license, a criminal background check. All necessary licenses are needed prior to opening this business. When checking for licensing, be sure to check your state, county and city. Many states do not require a license, but county and city governments do. You will also need a business license and surety bond for at least $10,000 and of course a criminal background check.

Once your licensing is in place, the next step is to find money for operations. You will need money to buy goods for the store, for making loans against pawned items, for business expenses such as rent, phone, payroll, etc. Keep in mind however that loans are usually paid back in 60-90 days along with interest so your money won’t be long in coming back to you. You will also need money for buying goods that people no longer want and don’t want to pawn. Be careful, you might be presented with a piece worth thousands. If you don’t have the money you will have to turn it down.

If you don’t know how to appraise items, this will make your chance for success much lower. There are price guides that you can buy. There are some websites that offer free appraisals of certain goods. Gadget Value is a great website for getting values on desktops, laptops, flat TVs, tube TVs, iphones and ipads. If you decide to accept gold, silver, platinum and palladium items you can easily get their value. By using a digital scale, find out how much each item weighs. You can find their current value online at one of the sites providing pricing per ounce of gold, silver or other precious metal. Determine what type of gold you have. Is it 10k, 18k, 24k? This will help determine how much the gold content is and what its value should be.

Next, there are many items you will need to properly run your business. A Jewelers Loupe is used to determine the grade of certain precious metals and also of gemstones. As already mentioned you will need a Digital Scale which can weigh up to 32 ounces (1,000 grams). A Platinum Precision Carat Scale will help determine the carat for various precious metals. Equally important is pawn shop software. There are many different programs available, but since you are starting out you should locate a free package. While you might think this could not be a good program, you will be wrong. Check the internet and compare products.

One other step: find a building you can rent to open your pawn shop business. Remember, location is critical. Be sure you are in an area where there is plenty of traffic. Be sure to report to the local police items you have gotten on pawn in case the item is stolen. Working with local police will also come in handy when you run into problems with troublemakers.

There are several things to remember that you should never be involved in with this business. Don’t ever sell a pawned item before the loan is up. Wait an extra day or two if you can. Better to hold an item a few extra days than have someone show up to redeem their item only to find out you already sold it. Keep detailed records of all transactions. Your software package will help. Set up your loan terms, interest rates and other items ahead of time, and don’t waiver. Never sell junk. When you start to sell junk, your reputation will go down the drain and you will quickly lose customers.

Opening a pawn shop is not a simple task and you certainly won’t become rich quick. However, you can do quite well especially when you realize that this business is truly recession proof.