Online Travel Agent – What Does That Mean?

Once upon a time, in a place not far away, but in an era long since forgotten, there was a magical thing called a full service gas station. Do you remember? People would actually come out and pump your gas for you! It may sound like just a fairy tale, but it’s true, it really did happen!Now days, our travel agents are going the way of the full service gas station. People just don’t have time anymore, time to go in and meet with a travel agent, time to go over options, basically – they don’t have time for full service. Online travel agents are all around us now, on the internet. They are convenient, but not quite the full service “station” we are used to when making our travel plans.What is an online travel agent? An online travel agent is more like an online booking resource. It is any website that you can go to make travel arrangements. I am sure most of you have visited a site like this. You can log in, do multiple searches for flights, hotel rooms, car rentals etc. and place your order online – very convenient!Online travel agent bookings sites are helpful in many ways; people can explore all of their different options for travel right in one spot. If you are looking for a flight to Europe, for example, and your route is flexible, users can map out different itineraries online. Then, the user can pick which works best for them and make a decision about what they want to do. Also, the user gets exposed to options that they may not have thought of before; therefore broadening their horizons of what type of travel arrangements are available to them.Another pro for using an online travel agent website is the wide variety of products that they offer. Not only can a customer browse airfare, car rental, and hotel options. Travel insurance, airport shuttles, and tour tickets are also available for purchase. This is very helpful to an online travel planner, as they can cover most of their travel planning needs in one visit to a website.After booking a confirmation on a travel website, the customer will receive an email with confirmations and contact information. The information that is provided to the customer usually includes information about any E-tickets, car rental policies (or where to go to look for the policies), and provides information on what to do if the travel plans change. All of this information right at the fingertips of the travel planning consumer.Many people wonder if booking these types of travel arrangements online is safe. Yes – it is. Websites spend a lot of time and productivity making sure that their payment systems, whether outsourced or not, are safe. It is important for their reputation to provide reliable payment systems and to maintain secure sights. Bad news travels fast, and if a website wasn’t taking care of their customers, it wouldn’t take long for the world to notice.Taking from personal experience I have never had a problem with booking with an online travel agent. I have been booking travel online for over ten years and I can’t say that I have had one problem! I have even found that after booking my super cheap airfare on a we site, after I received my reservation information via email, it was s easy to tweak my reservation details with the actual airline after the fact. I have never had a situation where I have paid for my booking online, and had it not be legitimate when I showed up for the reservation, either. Basically, booking online with an online travel agent website is an easy, affordable, and safe way to book your travel.Online travel agents may seem scary to some. With news about security breaches and privacy issues, I can’t blame people for being shy about booking travel plans online. I have to say though, give it a try! You are bound to have a great and educational travel planning experience. And who knows, it might even be fun!

Alternative Financing Vs. Venture Capital: Which Option Is Best for Boosting Working Capital?

There are several potential financing options available to cash-strapped businesses that need a healthy dose of working capital. A bank loan or line of credit is often the first option that owners think of – and for businesses that qualify, this may be the best option.

In today’s uncertain business, economic and regulatory environment, qualifying for a bank loan can be difficult – especially for start-up companies and those that have experienced any type of financial difficulty. Sometimes, owners of businesses that don’t qualify for a bank loan decide that seeking venture capital or bringing on equity investors are other viable options.

But are they really? While there are some potential benefits to bringing venture capital and so-called “angel” investors into your business, there are drawbacks as well. Unfortunately, owners sometimes don’t think about these drawbacks until the ink has dried on a contract with a venture capitalist or angel investor – and it’s too late to back out of the deal.

Different Types of Financing

One problem with bringing in equity investors to help provide a working capital boost is that working capital and equity are really two different types of financing.

Working capital – or the money that is used to pay business expenses incurred during the time lag until cash from sales (or accounts receivable) is collected – is short-term in nature, so it should be financed via a short-term financing tool. Equity, however, should generally be used to finance rapid growth, business expansion, acquisitions or the purchase of long-term assets, which are defined as assets that are repaid over more than one 12-month business cycle.

But the biggest drawback to bringing equity investors into your business is a potential loss of control. When you sell equity (or shares) in your business to venture capitalists or angels, you are giving up a percentage of ownership in your business, and you may be doing so at an inopportune time. With this dilution of ownership most often comes a loss of control over some or all of the most important business decisions that must be made.

Sometimes, owners are enticed to sell equity by the fact that there is little (if any) out-of-pocket expense. Unlike debt financing, you don’t usually pay interest with equity financing. The equity investor gains its return via the ownership stake gained in your business. But the long-term “cost” of selling equity is always much higher than the short-term cost of debt, in terms of both actual cash cost as well as soft costs like the loss of control and stewardship of your company and the potential future value of the ownership shares that are sold.

Alternative Financing Solutions

But what if your business needs working capital and you don’t qualify for a bank loan or line of credit? Alternative financing solutions are often appropriate for injecting working capital into businesses in this situation. Three of the most common types of alternative financing used by such businesses are:

1. Full-Service Factoring – Businesses sell outstanding accounts receivable on an ongoing basis to a commercial finance (or factoring) company at a discount. The factoring company then manages the receivable until it is paid. Factoring is a well-established and accepted method of temporary alternative finance that is especially well-suited for rapidly growing companies and those with customer concentrations.

2. Accounts Receivable (A/R) Financing – A/R financing is an ideal solution for companies that are not yet bankable but have a stable financial condition and a more diverse customer base. Here, the business provides details on all accounts receivable and pledges those assets as collateral. The proceeds of those receivables are sent to a lockbox while the finance company calculates a borrowing base to determine the amount the company can borrow. When the borrower needs money, it makes an advance request and the finance company advances money using a percentage of the accounts receivable.

3. Asset-Based Lending (ABL) – This is a credit facility secured by all of a company’s assets, which may include A/R, equipment and inventory. Unlike with factoring, the business continues to manage and collect its own receivables and submits collateral reports on an ongoing basis to the finance company, which will review and periodically audit the reports.

In addition to providing working capital and enabling owners to maintain business control, alternative financing may provide other benefits as well:

It’s easy to determine the exact cost of financing and obtain an increase.
Professional collateral management can be included depending on the facility type and the lender.
Real-time, online interactive reporting is often available.
It may provide the business with access to more capital.
It’s flexible – financing ebbs and flows with the business’ needs.
It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which equity is a viable and attractive financing solution. This is especially true in cases of business expansion and acquisition and new product launches – these are capital needs that are not generally well suited to debt financing. However, equity is not usually the appropriate financing solution to solve a working capital problem or help plug a cash-flow gap.

A Precious Commodity

Remember that business equity is a precious commodity that should only be considered under the right circumstances and at the right time. When equity financing is sought, ideally this should be done at a time when the company has good growth prospects and a significant cash need for this growth. Ideally, majority ownership (and thus, absolute control) should remain with the company founder(s).

Alternative financing solutions like factoring, A/R financing and ABL can provide the working capital boost many cash-strapped businesses that don’t qualify for bank financing need – without diluting ownership and possibly giving up business control at an inopportune time for the owner. If and when these companies become bankable later, it’s often an easy transition to a traditional bank line of credit. Your banker may be able to refer you to a commercial finance company that can offer the right type of alternative financing solution for your particular situation.

Taking the time to understand all the different financing options available to your business, and the pros and cons of each, is the best way to make sure you choose the best option for your business. The use of alternative financing can help your company grow without diluting your ownership. After all, it’s your business – shouldn’t you keep as much of it as possible?

Good Online Business Ideas Start With Education

When the economy is bad, more and more people look for ways to supplement their incomes with good online business ideas. Does this sound like you? Are you looking for ways to make money online to help augment your income in these difficult times? Whether you have lost your job, or your employer has cut back on your hours, or the overtime you relied on has been slashed, you are in the same boat as millions of others.Today we have the Internet, and this is where most people will turn looking for help. They will begin looking for good online business ideas. Why not? After all, most of us have heard of people making money online. So why not us as well?The basic problem for most people is that when they start looking for good online business ideas, they have just about zero real knowledge to help guide them. We all see advertisements online with supposedly ”successful” folks telling us that they are making thousands of dollars per month in just a few hours a week. But are they scams? The fact is, if you spend some time working online you’ll come to realize something very simple: most of them are! How do you know if what you are looking at is a good online business idea or a scam? Without at least some knowledge up front, it can be very difficult to tell… until it’s too late and your bank account has suffered for your lack of knowledge.Before you start looking for good online business ideas, give yourself permission to get a little education first. The biggest mistake most people make is they dive right in, head first and willy-nilly, and never check to make sure there is any water in the pool! Why is it that people realize that if they want to open a “brick and mortar” business they need a certain amount of preparation and education before they begin, but they think that business on the Internet is somehow different? It’s not!Even if you’ve spent a lot of time online, or you’ve run your own business offline, you need to know how business online works. The Internet is very complex and a good online business idea alone will not be enough. Would you open a store on a busy street without checking out the location or products you are going to sell first? No of course you wouldn’t. You’d do your market research, and you’d also spend the time to find those allies and partners you’d need to help you in areas that are not your forte!You need to make the same kind of preparation if you’re seriously going to create any income online.Do you want to make money blogging? Do you want to be an affiliate marketer and promote one time sales to your mailing list? Do you want to promote a network marketing company online? Do you know all about how to do what it is you want to do online? If not… you need to learn how!Business online is the same as business anywhere else: it can be a nightmare, especially if you stumble into it blindly with no education. It can end up being very costly and time consuming as well, when really, it needn’t be either of those.The first requirement of any good online business is education. Take the time to learn all you can. Find some mentors… people who have “been there and done that”. Listen to their recommendation about which educational and business programs out there are garbage, and which are actually good online business ideas.You’ll be glad you did.