Archive for January, 2014

Danger lurks in China’s shadow banks

Friday, January 31st, 2014

The rescue of Credit Equals Gold No. 1 puts off the immediate threat of meltdown but raises the stakes significantly

How To Deal With The Extra Cost of Chinese Currency Fluctuations

Friday, January 31st, 2014


It’s the Chinese New Year, and 2014 is the year of the Horse.

If your small business works with Chinese companies, there are some things to know.

Although we often think of Chinese currency as the Yuan, the official name is the Renminbi (RMB).  Use of RMB currency is growing.

According to November and December SWIFT data, the RMB has broken into the top ten most-used currencies for payments.

But if you do business with China, exchanges between the dollar and this Chinese currency may bring risks.

According to Alfred Nader, vice president of corporate strategy and development at Western Union Business Solutions, there are some things you can do to decrease the financial risk of currency fluctuations. Here are three strategies:

Pay Chinese vendors and partners in RMB instead of U.S. dollars.

“Our research shows that one in five Chinese suppliers add roughly 3-4% to invoices to cover FX risk, which is eliminated with RMB payments,” says Nader. Knowing this, U.S. businesses can look to negotiate a discount with their Chinese suppliers by asking if they want to be paid in RMB, he adds.

Lock in exchange rates for as long as 9 months.

This creates stability on small business’ balance sheets.  When you know your expense levels, you can more accurately forecast.

Use the offer to pay in RMB to open a dialogue.

You can initiate a conversation to change terms and improve business relationships, when you raise the currency issue.  By meeting the other side partway, you begin an important and potentially profitable dialogue.

Chinese currency photo via Shutterstock

The post How To Deal With The Extra Cost of Chinese Currency Fluctuations appeared first on Small Business Trends.


The 7 Best WordPress Alternatives

Friday, January 31st, 2014

wordpress alternatives3

Once upon a time, blogging platforms like WordPress were only used for blogging. Now, WordPress is commonly implemented for easy, user-friendly website design. But these days, WordPress isn’t the only game out there.

Below are the best established and up-and-coming WordPress alternatives, both for blogging and websites.

WordPress Alternatives

1. IM Creator

IM Creator bills itself as “a simple & elegant website builder,” and includes mobile-friendly templates that are a far cry from the early days of WordPress templates, which were flat, clunky and difficult to customize. Templates fall into categories like Architect, Wedding, Hotel and Restaurant and use visual imagery that fit each genre.

wordpress alternatives

The site offers ample support, including “how to” articles and manuals for those wanting a bit more technical detail but who, perhaps, don’t have that level of knowledge.

And while designing a site is free, IM Creator also offers white-label services for companies (marketing agencies, as an example) that want to provide their clients with branded website, hosting, email and domain services.

2. SilverStripe

SilverStripe is actually two animals. Its content management system (CMS) is used for building websites, intranets and Web applications. It is open source, which means, of course, it’s free to use.

wordpress alternatives

For most small business owners, that’s all you’ll need from SilverStripe. But if you’re more technical and looking for more complexity in your content management system, its Framework platform might fit the bill. The benefits of using Framework, according to the website are that it “reduces the overhead associated with common programming tasks, and enables developers to write code in a logical and structured manner.”

3. Tumblr

Tumblr is designed for blogging and social sharing. Stripping away all the scary backend of a blog platform, Tumblr makes it dead simple to share a blog post, video, photo, link or audio file.

wordpress alternatives

Its simplicity, combined with the fact that users spend on average 154 minutes a day on Tumblr, make it a resource worth considering to reach a wider audience (especially if that audience is between 18 and 34 and male).

4. Google Sites

For those die-hard Google fans, Google Sites offers a simple, no-frills solution to website creation. If you’re looking for fancy marketing copy and rich, visual images, you’re in the wrong place. Google assumes if you’ve stumbled upon its unpublicized Sites page, you’re already accustomed to the spartan attitude that is Google.

wordpress alternatives

The templates aren’t frou-frou, but there are interesting add-ons like maps and blogs (using Google properties, naturally).

5. Blogger

Another Google property, this one focused on blog development, is Blogger. Consider it Google’s response to the massive popularity of WordPress. An obvious benefit of staying in the Google family is that Blogger uses Google Analytics without having to visit a separate site entirely.

wordpress alternatives

Blogger, whose hosted blogs are all hosted on Blogspot domains, also ties in seamlessly with Google+, as would be expected. Bloggers can view and respond to blog comments through Google+ rather than having to log into the blog backend. AdSense publishers like Blogger because Google’s ad platform is integrated into the blogging platform.

6. GetHiFi

Unlike the other WordPress alternatives listed here, HiFi is more targeted to the small marketing agency who designs or updates websites for its clients. It still requires a designer and/or a programmer to customize its visually rich templates, but after that, anyone, technical or otherwise, can easily update content through the CMS.

wordpress alternatives

HiFi promises that, even if you don’t know what SEO (search engine optimization) stands for, it can help ensure your site is search engine friendly. If you do know what SEO is, you can edit the meta descriptions yourself, which is easy enough to do.

7. Ghost

Consider Ghost the antithesis to WordPress in that it removes the clunkiness (“What do I do with this plugin? No idea.”) that many less technical bloggers experience with WordPress and focuses instead on writing and publishing.

wordpress alternatives

The premise is that bloggers can write in Markdown, a text-to-HTML conversion tool, and see a preview of what the post will look like.

Interestingly, the platform is free, but Ghost charges for its server. In fact, Ghost charges based on the number of blogs, as well as the total traffic of all blogs (one blog with 10,000 or fewer views a month is $5 monthly).

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Bottom line:  With more blogging and WordPress alternatives available, it’s easier for small businesses to find exactly what they’re looking for, based on their technical skill level, how much support they need, budget and type of site they want to publish.  There are alternatives for those who want more of a blog approach (Blogger) to those who want more of a website presentation (IM Creator).

Pondering Photo via Shutterstock

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The Sofia Weekly Turns Into New Format

Friday, January 31st, 2014

The Sofia Weekly turns into a new format starting February 8, 2014, the Editorial Board of Sofia News Agency announced today.

On Saturdays, all subscribers will receive Sofia Morning News, daily edition with extended entertainment and weekend part.

Your opinions on the quality of our journalistic work as usually matters and you can send them via email.

We wish you again a happy and prosperous 2014 and hope we will deliver to you only positive and energizing news.


Bulgarian President Meets Bavarian Chamber of Commerce

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev met representatives of businesses in Bavaria on a trip to Munich Friday, with the two sides pinpointing priorities for future cooperation.

Plevneliev and Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria CEO Peter Driessen expressed satisfaction at the increased trade exchange between Bulgaria and Bavaria.

Bioagriculture, the food industry, tourism, machine industry, information and communication technogies, as well as clusters were singled out as top areas for future cooperation, according to a release by the Bulgarian President’s office.

Bavarian commerce chamber chair Driessen stressed that conitnuity, political stability and further reforms in Bulgaria are key for the country’s economic good.

He also brought to attention the Bavarian experience, which he said has seen family ventures at the basis of the federal state’s economic success.

Driessen further allayed fears of an alleged migrant wave from Bulgaria, saying the level of unemployment of Bulgarian citizens in Germany is only 7.4%, compared to a national rate of 7.7% and an unemployment rate among foreign citizens in the country at 14.7%.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria extended an invitation to Bulgarian businesses to take part in the upcoming International Fair in Munich.


Bulgaria’s Winter Resorts Can Treble Tourist Numbers – Deputy Min

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Branimir Botev, Deputy Minister in charge of tourism, has claimed Bulgarian ski resorts could treble the number of annual visitors.

Botev suggested that winter resorts were currently visited by around 600 000 tourists a year but the number could reach over 2 million when their full potential was reached.

“We have three ski resorts which have won international acclaim and welcome both professionals and fans of ski sports – Bansko, Pamporovo, Borovets – but also a range of local spots with great prospects, such as Chepelare, Vitosha, Kom, Beklemeto, etc,” Botev said Friday during the presentation of Bulgaria on the second day of the East Mediterranean International Travel & Tourism Exhibition (EMITT) 2014 in Istanbul, according to the government’s press office.

The motto of the event was “Bulgaria – Winter & SPA Wonderland.”

The meeting was attended by Krasimir Tulechkki, Bulgaria’s Ambassador to Turkey, economic and trade representatives, and experts from all Bulgarian consular offices in Turkey.

“Bulgaria ranks 4th in Europe by pace of development of winter tourism and it has the resources to improve its position on this market, especially as regards Turkey,” Botev said.

He informed that Bulgaria had been visited by 354 257 Turkish tourists in the period January-November 2013, up by nearly 31% from the same period of 2012, adding that in 2013 Turkey had been the sixth biggest market for Bulgaria’s tourist product.

He said that the best opportunities for attracting more Turkish tourists were vacations including winter sports and combined SPA, balneo- and wellness services.

Georgi Ikonomov, Mayor of Bansko, boasted that the resort had registered an increase in numbers of tourists by over 150%, adding that the achievement was still unsatisfactory and new opportunities for promotion would be sought.

Ikonomov declared that Bulgaria had unique opportunities to develop active ski tourism, including five high mountains located near one another, which were no more than 2 hours away from an international airport, and a total of 146 mountain peaks of over 2000 meters.

Botev also boasted that Bulgaria had the highest concentration of mineral waters compared to its total territory, the daily average flow of mineral waters being 274 million liters per 24 hours.

He suggested that year-round balneologic and SPA tourism destinations such as Banya, Hisarya, Pavel Banya, Velingrad, Sandanski, Pomorie, and Sapareva Banya attracted investors’ interests.

Tulechki informed that Bulgaria had introduced visa facilitation for new groups of Turkish nationals staying in Bulgaria over the past few years, adding that over 4.5 million Turkish nationals had been granted visa relief and the goal was the total abolition of the visa regime.

He reminded that Bulgaria observed EU requirements in the sphere, including as regards prices of visas.

Tulechki said that the authorities had taken steps to liberalize the process, stressing that a decision had been adopted to dispatch more specialists to consular offices in Turkey in peak seasons.

Bulgaria’s Deputy Minister in charge of tourism informed that after the completion of a highway running through Bulgaria’s Kapitan Andreeevo it would take 3 hours to get from Istanbul to Pamporvo.

Bulgaria’s presentation featured the resorts of Pamporovo, Borovets, Bansko, the Black Sea city of Varna, and the Bulgarian Union of Balneology and SPA tourism.

During the working visit, Botev met with Ziya Taskent, Senior Vice President Marketing & Sales for Turkish Airlines and the two sides agreed to work for the launch of a regular flight Istanbul-Varna.


Aly Saxe of Iris: PR Today Calls for Efficiency, Scalability and Accountability

Friday, January 31st, 2014

It’s every business’ dream to get featured in national publications, popular websites and even television. But getting the attention of important outlets takes a great deal of effort to connect and interact with influential people that can make it happen. In today’s over saturated world of tweets, texts and email overload, it also takes a systematic approach to pull it all together efficiently…and repeatedly.

PR professional Aly Saxe, founder of the PR management platform Iris, discusses the challenges of modern public relations in the face of rising competition to get clients on the front page, and faster rising customer expectations to make it there.

* * * * *

modern public relationsSmall Business Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal background?

Aly Saxe: My background is on the public relations agency side. I worked for a couple different agencies in their technology groups before starting my own B2B technology-focused agency in 2007. Started it in Phoenix, Arizona, and somehow managed to grow through those years into Silicon Valley areas, like Boulder, Dallas, Austin, a little bit more in Southern California. Also the Phoenix market, where we’re based.

Then in about 2011, as a small business owner, things got to be pretty painful with our processes and management and reporting, and that’s when Iris was born.

Small Business Trends: Iris is a cloud-based public relations management system. With the growth of social and the latest technologies, the noise that’s getting generated, it must be very difficult for companies to get the kind of attention that they need. Is that why you put together Iris?

Aly Saxe: That’s one of the big reasons. PR has definitely changed. There’s more urgency than ever for companies to be noticed. Especially small companies that are competing with large brands that have huge, or even unlimited, marketing budgets. Not to mention the news media landscape, as you know, Brent, has changed a lot.

Iris was created to really help on two fronts. One is to help PR teams within companies – small and large or agencies.  Iris helps companies manage everything that they’re doing. The pace of our day to day is so much faster than it’s ever been in keeping track of all the pitching we’re doing, all of the reports, all of the results that are coming in, the different campaigns we’re working on. It’s a lot to manage.

Small Business Trends: How does a system like yours that’s focused on public relations and promotions differ from marketing automation?

Aly Saxe: Marketing automation is an interesting comparison, because it is a somewhat newer category. It’s also a bit of a misleading category, because it’s meant to automate marketing processes but what a lot of those systems do is actually create a lot more work for the marketing department to manage those systems.

I would actually compare Iris more to CRM (customer relationship management). Not necessarily in functionality, but in the idea that it takes what a person would do with a Rolodex, spreadsheets and some notepads and actually build some process around that through a very smart tool.

Small Business Trends: How does this kind of system help your clients build the kind of relationships that they’re going to need to in order to get the word out?

Aly Saxe: It all comes down to influencers and relationships with those influencers. So whether they are a social evangelist, a blogger, a traditional reporter, an analyst, they’re all influencers that are important to the PR person, clients or company. The difference between now and five years ago is there are about ten times more now that we have to build relationships with versus previously.

The way that Iris helps is all of your interactions with those influencers are automatically captured in the software. So if your boss or your client were to say to you, ‘Hey, have you talked to so and so from Small Biz Trends recently? I’d really like to chat with them about what we have coming up.’ Instead of having to wrack your brain, go back to your email, go look in spreadsheets, find your notes and determine when the last time you spoke to them was, you could just pop into Iris and see your entire history with that person.

So there’s a huge benefit to having all of that relationship history in one place. Not just for you, but for your team as a whole.

Small Business Trends: Do small businesses understand that PR is more science than art and needs these kind of processes/systems?

Aly Saxe: I think they are savvier. They’re sophisticated in that regard. But I think that they’re also expecting their PR agencies or their PR teams to step up, and they’re kind of wondering why we haven’t.

I think that there is certainly a misunderstanding about the PR process, and there’s always expectation management, which PR people deal with a lot. But I think that we can curb those pains by showing the small business owners not only are we sophisticated, not only is there a science and a method to this madness, but here are the tools we use to help manage that method.

I think it can only help us prove that we’re not just out there waving our hands and producing a New York Times piece. There’s a lot of work that actually goes into that.

To that point, that was also part of the impetus of creating Iris. I would have clients come to my agency and say, ‘Well, what’s it going to take to get written up in The New York Times?’ And I kept giving them the qualitative answer,’Well, it’s going to take a really interesting news hook, or a trending story, or a great customer case study.’

The client didn’t want to hear it. It took me a long time to figure out that what the client wanted was a number. They wanted to know how many interactions do you have to have with The New York Times over what amount of time? Is it three months, six months, a year before they’re going to pay attention to us?

Once I figured out that they were asking a more sophisticated question, that’s when I started thinking about Iris and how I can deliver that answer?

And then I had to answer the question, how do I even determine that? One day I had a client that said, ‘What’s it going to take to get in The New York Times?’ This is a true story. I found four of my existing clients that had been in The New York Times recently, and I looked at what it took to get them in The New York Times. From how many months of pitching, how many pitches, how many news items we had to deliver and how many interviews before The New York Times wrote about them.

It took me an entire day, and that’s thousands of dollars in my agency’s world to deliver the answer to that client. Once I did, the client never asked again, and that’s when the light bulb went off.

Small Business Trends: Wow. That’s a cool story. It will only become more and more of a necessity to be able to answer that quickly just from a standpoint of knowing what it’s going to take and being able to deliver that quickly. Then help them execute it.

Aly Saxe: Exactly. I think the data is going to become more and more important. Again, you see other industries utilizing data to set benchmarks, to improve performance, to win business, to set industry standards. I think that in the PR industry, we’re going to start catching up to that and using data like this to do the exact same thing. I think most small business owners are looking for that data from their PR partners.

Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about Iris?

Aly Saxe: The website is

This interview on systematic modern public relations strategy is part of the One on One interview series with thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This transcript has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click on the player above. 

The post Aly Saxe of Iris: PR Today Calls for Efficiency, Scalability and Accountability appeared first on Small Business Trends.


Urals Energy scuppers boardroom putsch

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Aim-quoted oil group sees off proposals by Barsky, a former executive of defunct TNK-BP, to remove the bulk of its board of directors

Urals scuppers boardroom putsch

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Aim-quoted energy group sees off proposals by former TNK-BP executive Barsky to remove the bulk of its board

Chevron misses revenue expectations

Friday, January 31st, 2014

The US oil and gas group joins a series of large western oil groups, including ExxonMobil, to be hit by a dip in production

Business news