Building An Online Business, Where Do You Start?

So you have decided you want your own online business. You want the freedom to work from home (or wherever you feel) and you want to be your own boss.Great!But what next?What kind of online business do you want to run?Where do you start?What service can you offer?What can you sell?Let me start by pointing out a very important fact. Just like making money in the physical world, there are an almost infinite amount of ways to make money online.You could do anything from filling in online surveys, buying products at auction and selling them on eBay, being an affiliate and selling products for a cut of the profits or developing your own information products and selling them through your website.The choices available to you can be very overwhelming at times and because of this a lot of people never get past this point.Having said that unless you take action and act on your dreams you will never earn a penny.Deciding on what kind of online business you want to run, what kind of products you wish to sell or what kind of service you will offer is something you should settle on before you take any further action.If you don’t mind building your online business over the long term, then you should be able to get results with very little startup capital.The advantage of building slowly is if you decide that the road you chose to go down is either not very profitable or simply doesn’t work at all then changing direction won’t represent too much of a financial loss.Having said that, the purpose of this article is to point out some of the possible pros and cons of each route as a result minimise any risk you take when you make your initial decision.Probably one of the quickest ways to start an internet business is by selling information products. Information products can be anything that provides your potential customer with detailed and helpful information on any one particular subject.Millions of people are searching the internet everyday to find more detailed information on subjects they have an interest in. Providing this information to them packaged in a detailed and easy to understand product can be a great way to make a substantial amount of money.But, I don’t have a product…Where will I find a product to sell? I here you cry!Don’t panic, I’m going to give you a couple of ideas…

Affiliate productsSelling a ready made product that someone else has already taken the time to create can be a very easy and incredibly profitable way to make money.This is called being an affiliate.You are simply acting as a salesperson for the product creator. You do this by using your own website and sales material to put the product in front of a targeted list of customers.The creator of the product then pays you a percentage of the products selling price for each sale you make. The advantage of selling this way is thatYou have a quality ready made product to sell from the start.You have not got the hassle of product creation, overheads or delivery of the product.All your efforts can be focused on marketing and selling the product you have to offer.Once you make the sales you just sit back and watch the cash flow.How Do I Find Affiliate Products For My Online Business?Probably the easiest and most well known place on the internet to find all of the affiliate products you could ever need is bank gives you the facility to sign up for a free account and become an affiliate. There are literally thousands of different products in every niche you could possibly think of. You just simply choose one of these products. You then use your website and start marketing the product to a targeted audience.Click bank is a great place for the beginner to start. It offers great tutorials on how to get started as well as a fairly in depth ‘knowledge base’ that covers most of the problems you may need help with. The creators of the product are often on hand to offer help too.If you don’t find the answers you need there you can always head over to the warrior forum. This is a great resource for anyone starting out. The forum is full of hundreds of experienced people willing to pass on their wealth of knowledge.Once you become an affiliate for your chosen product you then have access to a multitude of graphics and advertising materials to help you with your product marketing.Crowd Fire is not the only place to look either. Another site worth a look is JVZoo this is also a great place to find affiliate products. When you start to search you will find countless marketers and creators of information products crying out for affiliates to market their products for them.Information products are incredibly popular on the Internet. As a result of this the potential profits that you can generate are huge. And if you start small, select quality products and choose your niche wisely your customer list will soon grow.Its not just individuals that do affiliate programs either.Many of the large, well known companies have affiliate programs you can sign up to. Companies such as eBay, HostGator, Getresponse and Amazon to name but a few.Although you may not get as higher commission rates they will still pay you a percentage of the sales made from the visitors you send to their site.Becoming an affiliate and making money without your own product is a great way to get your online business started. Especially when you take into account how quickly you can be up and running. Also with some product developers offering 80% or more commission on each sale it can be a very attractive proposition.However wouldn’t earning 100% of every sale be even more attractive.Yes, of course it would!If you seriously want your own online business, you need to consider creating your own product…Creating your own productNow at first the prospect of this may scare the living daylights out of you, I know it did me…After all, What did I know about product creation?Even if I did know, Who would want to buy a product I’d developed?What knowledge do I have that people would want to purchase?But when I actually stopped to think about it for a while, I realised, I had been giving information away free for years.I was a photographer who was also into health and fitness. Friends and family would often pick my brains on both subjects. They would ask for help and advice and of course I passed on my knowledge freely.I bet if you stop and think you will also realise that you have a wealth of knowledge inside your head on one subject or another just waiting to be turned into a saleable product.Maybe it’s a hobby that you pursue or a certain subject that you know a lot about. Maybe you do a job where you could pass on your knowledge, tricks of the trade or inside information etc.The fact is, everything you do, all of your hobbies, your experiences, your job, talents and skills are all potential material for developing your own products.If you get what you know down in the proper format, this alone could very well be marketed as a useful information product to someone who doesn’t have your knowledge or know how.

You start by making a list of your hobbies, your talents, your job or subjects you know a lot about.Next get on the internet, use Google AdWords or some other keyword tool to see how many people are doing searchers for what you know.If there is a big enough interest in your particular niche then start to consider creating a product to market to your target audience.Don’t talk yourself out of it by thinking you are not an expert, or that there are far more knowledgeable people on the subject than you.If you can provide specific information to help someone solve a problem or improve in a particular area then you are in a great position to pass on what you know and help people. In the process they will quite happily pay you for your help and adviceBut, how do you create a product?Don’t panic because creating your own products can be as simple as getting your knowledge down on paper and writing your own eBook. If you don’t fancy writing then maybe consider recording what you know in audio format. You can even consider breaking it down into short more manageable lessons.If you are feeling really adventurous then how about creating a series of video lessons. This can be particularly good if your subject matter lends itself to a more visual format such as how to complete a video game etc.Maybe even consider a combination of all three.If you don’t fancy doing all the work yourself or you would like something a little more professional looking then there are many places online you can use to outsource the work.My first stop is always fiverr, here you will find thousands of people from all around the world offering all kinds of services for as little as $5.All you need to do is type out what you need or record your audio. You can then pay someone to transcribe the material. You can even find people who will do the whole thing for you and turn your rough copy into a professional looking eBook, audio lessons or a video.The point is if you have the knowledge to pass on, even if you don’t have the skills to develop a product, you can always outsource that job to someone who does.All you have to do then is use your online business to target your audience, sell your product and keep 100% of the profits for yourself.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces


Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.


Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:


By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.


Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Technology Enabled Improvements

There are a significant number of technology improvements that a Police Force could implement to help develop a ‘Best in Class’ finance function.

These include:

A) Scanning and workflow

Through adopting a scanning and workflow solution to replace manual processes, improved visibility, transparency and efficiencies can be reaped.

B) Call logging, tracking and workflow tool

Police Forces generally have a number of individuals responding to internal and supplier queries. These queries are neither logged nor tracked. The consequence of this is dual:

o Queries consume considerable effort within a particular finance team. There is a high risk of duplicated effort from the lack of logging of queries. For example, a query could be responded to for 30 minutes by person A in the finance team. Due to this query not being logged, if the individual that raised the query called up again and spoke to a different person then just for one additional question, this could take up to 20 minutes to ensure that the background was appropriately explained.

o Queries can have numerous interfaces with the business. An unresolved query can be responded against by up to four separate teams with considerable delay in providing a clear answer for the supplier.

The implementation of a call logging, tracking and workflow tool to document, measure and close internal and supplier queries combined with the set up of a central queries team, would significantly reduce the effort involved in responding to queries within the finance departments and divisions, as well as within the actual divisions and departments, and procurement.

C) Database solution

Throughout finance departments there are a significant number of spreadsheets utilized prior to input into the financial system. There is a tendency to transfer information manually from one spreadsheet to another to meet the needs of different teams.

Replacing the spreadsheets with a database solution would rationalize the number of inputs and lead to effort savings for the front line Police Officers as well as Police Staff.

D) Customize reports

In obtaining management information from the financial systems, police staff run a series of reports, import these into excel, use lookups to match the data and implement pivots to illustrate the data as required. There is significant manual effort that is involved in carrying out this work. Through customizing reports the outputs from the financial system can be set up to provide the data in the formats required through the click of a button. This would have the benefit of reduced effort and improved motivation for team members that previously carried out these mundane tasks.

In designing, procuring and implementing new technology enabling tools, a Police Force will face a number of challenges including investment approval; IT capacity; capability; and procurement.

These challenges can be mitigated through partnering with a third party service company with whom the investment can be shared, the skills can be provided and the procurement cycle can be minimized.


It is clear that cultural, process and technology change is required if police forces are to deliver both sustainable efficiencies and high quality services. In an environment where for the first time forces face real cash deficits and face having to reduce police officer and support staff numbers whilst maintaining current performance levels the current finance delivery models requires new thinking.

While there a number of barriers to be overcome in achieving a best in class finance function, it won’t be long before such a decision becomes mandatory. Those who are ahead of the curve will inevitably find themselves in a stronger position.