Allergies? Should you get air ducts cleaned?

The US Environmental Protection Agency is quick to remind concerned homeowners that we don’t yet know the full range of pros and cons concerning air duct cleaning. It is a very young cleaning process that hasn’t had time yet to be studied fully. For that reason, the agency will not give out what it calls ‘a blanket recommendation’ about whether or not you should have your home’s air ducts cleaned. Continue reading Allergies? Should you get air ducts cleaned?

How to invest in Texas oil drilling

Who doesn’t want to be called a ‘Texas oil baron’, even in this day and age? Texas and its oil have made quite a few people rich over the last century, but they have also bankrupted their fair share of opportunists seeking their big break.

If your go-to medium told you she sees oil and prosperity in your future, or if you yourself are seeing the signs everywhere, investing in Texas oil drilling isn’t hard. The hard part, as always, is knowing a good investment from a horrible one. Let’s go over two basic types of oil investment: ‘soft’ and ‘hard’.

Soft investment: stocks, ETFs and so on

If you aren’t looking to do anything too adventurous, investing in an oil company’s stocks might be a good start. For starters, you’ll be among the privileged few who follow the stock market with a personal stake in it. While others are making their way to the 9-to-5, you could be reading up on oil and which Texas oil companies are about to have their stock skyrocket.

While it sounds nice, it’s also fairly stressful – money can be lost on the stock market just as easily as it can be made. Stocks aren’t a good way to get rich overnight, as you’ll always want to start slow and increase your portfolio as you grow more confident in your ability to pick the winners and evaluate the market.

Exchange-traded funds are another form of investment with a lot of appeal: think of it as owning oil without actually owning it. With the right ETFs, you stand to make a good amount of money in a short amount of time even if crude oil prices aren’t experiencing a boom. Futures are another alternative with quick results, although they are frequently riskier even than stocks.

Hard investment: actual oil operations

Not much into stocks and markets? You can always invest into some actual Texas oil drilling. How you’ll do this will depend on your capital and your idea of the future.

Those with a lot of money on the side can start their own oil-drilling operation, either by becoming an owner of a drilling company or acquiring land that’s said or known to have lots of oil. Both methods are risky – you’ll need business savvy and a good deal of luck if you’re looking to make some serious money, especially when taking into account the initial investment costs.

You can also become an investor for an established Texas oil drilling company and finance their drills over months or even years. In theory, this should be a quick and easy way to get back all the money you earned plus 20-40%, but be warned: lots of these companies will try to ‘scam’ their investors by taking the money and then ‘drilling dry’. Unless you can lock them up in a tight contractual agreement, you better know who you’re working for, or you stand to lose your investment while feeling as if you’re being played. Still, with the right company to back, this can be a solid way to get quick money without doing much other than stressing out daily.

When to invest in new equipment for your business

Business owners are held up to a high standard: even with family-owned businesses, everything is meant to look professional and in tip-top shape. Lacking the right tools for the job is not an image you want to have, no matter how skilled you might be.

Using old equipment to do your work is great – until it’s not. Very few business owners look forward to ‘upgrading’, as industrial-grade equipment and machinery is expensive enough to empty your savings account and even force you into debt. To help you decide whether you need to invest in some new equipment, here are some good scenarios in which you might want to do so.

Invest in new equipment

  • There’s a new competitor around the block, and his guns are bigger. This makes for a fairly expected first reason, although it’s not one you’ll have to worry about too often – as an ‘older’ business, you’ll enjoy more reputation and customer trust and it will be hard for newer businesses to get on your level. How much a new competitor with better equipment would affect you depends on several factors. For example, if you have any sort of rental business, you can’t have competitors renting better and more appealing equipment. Similarly, businesses with a heavy technical aspect are often judged based on how sophisticated their equipment looks – you might have seemed like the owner of a business from the future so far, but a new player on the field can quickly send you back into the Stone Age.
  • Your equipment is breaking down and/or isn’t letting you do your job right. Similar to how a lot of people will wear their favorite shoes until they can no longer remember their initial appearance, many business owners will stick to their ‘tried-and-true’ tools for as long as possible. They served you well so far, who’s to tell you they no longer can? Unfortunately, most things not made from gold experience wear and tear, and the time to retire them eventually comes. As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to recognize when this is the case and move on with the times – plus, new equipment will give you and your brand a ‘brand new’ look that future customers will appreciate.
  • There is a growing demand in your area for services you can’t offer due to equipment restrictions. Have you ever had to turn down an interested customer because you lacked the tools for the job? If there have been more than a few of these cases, it’s time to get a bigger tool belt. Your cleaning business might have originally been able to do with some brushes and a lot of hard work, but calls from medical facilities and similar institutions can quickly change that – to cater to them, you’ll have to upgrade and buy a high-powered carpet cleaning van. Expensive, yes, but also an investment that will pay itself off eventually – should you no longer need such equipment at some point in the future, you can always sell it for a good price while keeping all that sweet money it has made you over the years.

Interesting small businesses to start

Being your own boss is great – at the end of the day, very few people enjoy working for someone else. That being said, picking the right small business to invest in isn’t easy, and ensuring it prospers through the first few bumpy months(and years) is even harder.

Originality and availability play a big role. Do you have a great idea, or are you simply doing what dozens of others in your area are doing? To help you decide, here are some interesting small businesses you could start in nearly any part of the U.S.

Interesting Small Businesses To Start

Air duct cleaner: The benefits of clean air ducts are becoming clearer and clearer, and demand for competent cleaners is on the rise. This is one type of cleaning gig where you won’t really have to get down and dirty – for the most part, specialized machines with lengthy tubes will do the work for you. The startup price is fairly low, and you’ll experience no shortage of thankfulness by people whose homes you improve, although it might take you a while to learn the tricks of the trade.

Scuba gear rental: Are you fortunate enough to live in a place with lots of sunny beaches and plenty of water activities to enjoy? Perhaps renting scuba gear would be a great startup for you. The benefits of owning this type of business are many: you’ll essentially be working at the beach, the work in question is fairly easy, and there’s great potential for return on your investment. If you’re an experienced scuba diver, you can even pair the gear rentals with some diving lessons to earn a few extra bucks while having fun all the way. Of course, competition is an issue, and you’ll always have to keep an eye on others who could be renting better equipment than you for less money. Still, if you want to have a beach life-oriented business and jet ski/umbrella rentals are too unoriginal for you, scuba gear might be your thing.

Vending machine store and repair: This tends to be a fairly niche market – while this means there won’t be a lot of competition, you might also find yourself strapped for customers, especially early on. On the other hand, vending machines are just as popular now as they were a decade ago if not even more so, and every institution is looking to have two on its premises – one for coffee and one for snacks that cause you to put on a few extra pounds. Provided you can get a nice deal with a manufacturer, you could make a pretty penny selling these things, especially if you’re a keen handyman and can add vending machine repairs to your list of services.

Franchises: Want to own a business but don’t feel as if you can create a successful brand? No problem – there are many established brands with worldwide recognition whose stores you can franchise. From Subway or McDonald’s to some of the less known brands, with a little bit of startup capital, you could be the boss of a multinational store, even if just locally – sure, you’ll have to share your profits, but nothing’s perfect, right?

How to evaluate a startup investment

So, you want to start the next Facebook, eh? Let’s hope fortune favors you a lot, then. To create a good startup, you’ll need to be in the right place at the right time, have a great idea and also have some money to spare. Here are some ways to evaluate whether your startup investment idea is a good one or if it will end up not doing much besides costing you a lot of time, effort and nerves.

  • Let’s start with a basic question a lot of entrepreneurs overlook: do you actually enjoy whatever it is you’re starting up? If you hate physical work, should you start a roof maintenance and installation business just because there are no other similar businesses in the area? The short answer is no. While a startup idea might look good on paper due to a lack of competition and high demand, remember that you’ll have to put long hours into your startup for it to become successful no matter what – forget 40 hour weekdays and welcome 90 hour ones. Starting a business you don’t like is setting yourself up for failure, plain and simple.
  • Okay, so you found a type of business you could enjoy dedicating yourself to. But is there enough demand for it in the area you’ll cover? Imagine you got a great piece of business real estate in a low income area, and luxury watches are your passion – should you open a store that sells expensive watches there? Probably not. Following your passion is great, but recognizing the area you’ll cater to is just as important.
  • How do your finances hold up against the needed venture capital? Another important point that can’t be overlooked. Too many entrepreneurs will get a loan thinking they struck gold with an idea only to end up out of business and with a massive amount of debt. You might think you found the perfect startup that will make tons of money, but there’s no guarantee this will be the case – prepare a safety net for yourself no matter what.
  • Do you see yourself doing this in ten years? Sort of a follow-up on the first point, but also a point of its own: many successful entrepreneurs are ‘stuck’ to their brand until retirement, for better or for worse. If you recoil at the thought of being in the same line of business come next decade and feel that the line of work is more of a temporary interest, keep looking.
  • Do you see the business going strong in ten years? The times are a-changin’, faster than any of us can remember. Lots of businesses that were doing well around the turn of the century are now faced with an urgent need to change their business model or are flat-out forced to close shop. If you’re investing in a startup, make sure that it’s one that ‘scales’ well with the years, and one that you can adjust as technology continues to evolve – you can be sure that it will.