The 5-Step Plan to Turn Around a Failing Business

image_366760175If your business is failing, it’s time to take control and turn the ship around. These guidelines will provide any small business owner with a blueprint for revival, whether you sell garden tools or bespoke consultancy services. It doesn’t matter how dire the situation may seem right now. If you take action, your business can still succeed.


Find out exactly why you are failing


Before you can start to address systemic problems within your business, you need to assess the roots of your decline. This isn’t always obvious, and there can be plenty of reasons for revenues to plunge.


For example, new companies might have entered your market, eating into your profits. Your own service level could have declined, sending customers fleeing. Internal procedures inside your organization may be inefficient, and your managers may have lost control, sending costs spiralling. In some cases, demand may just have evaporated. Products are always becoming outdated, and companies need to move with the times.


Think about what is ailing your business. Is it a systemic problem concerning the structure and practices of those within your company, or is it due to external factors that are difficult to control?


It might help to carry out some market research to get a better idea of where things are going wrong. Canvas your customers to find out any problems they have with your products, and look at your competitors to ascertain why they are succeeding when you are not.


Usually, business failure is due to a mixture of both external and internal factors, and there are some remedies that apply in almost all cases.


Trim your costs to a minimum


One short-term solution to declining profits is to launch a thorough cost-cutting campaign. Almost every business generates waste at some stage in its operations, and there are many different approaches you can take.


For example, you can often save money on the infrastructure that underpins your company. You may be able to implement more efficient lighting systems, use Skype Business to make long distance phone calls, or install free conferencing software to interface with clients and employees remotely. Instead of paying inflated fees for commercial software, you can even try open source equivalents, which deliver similar outcomes at a fraction of the cost.


Another target is the incidental costs that all businesses accrue. These include expenses like corporate parties, team-building exercises, hospitality, and expense accounts. You might not want to do away with these expenses completely, but almost all of them can be cut back in some way.


There are also systemic cost-cutting strategies that deal with the structure of your business. Are all of your employees in roles that utilize their skills and time efficiently? If any staff members spend portions of their time idle, it’s a good idea to restructure their roles. In some cases, bringing in external contractors can also deliver lower costs than permanent staff.


Payroll is another cost that can be reduced. It might be a last resort, but don’t be afraid to match wages to market rates if you have been overpaying. If your business is in crisis, you can’t afford the generous remuneration packages that you’d like to offer. Until the business is thriving, austerity is essential.


Secure finance to fund your operations


If you want to turn around your business, cutting costs won’t be enough. You also need a positive plan of investment that will spark greater productivity and increased sales.


This makes it important to source financial support. When your business is failing, there is little point in worrying about taking on debt, particularly if you need the money to remedy the situation. Your production, sales, marketing, HR, and administrative staff all need the resources to do their jobs, and if it’s not coming from regular cash flow, a loan will be essential.


Small business loans are a lower-risk option, but these can be difficult to obtain and subject to long delays. On the upside, you will probably be able benefit from your lender’s financial advisors, and the interest rate should be manageable.


However, if you need money fast, there are other options. Peer-to-peer lending is an increasingly popular alternative to conventional banks, as loan requests can be processed in a matter of days. The cost of credit can be high, but this isn’t always the case, and it’s worth shopping around to find a competitive P2P lender.


You might also consider selling any assets that have the potential to raise cash quickly. You could sell inventory in an eBay flash sale or cut back on office furniture. There may also be scope to mortgage your premises if you are in a position to do so.


Ensure your business is focused on its core purpose


When you’ve found a way to raise money and you’ve cut costs to the bone, it’s time to start revolutionizing your business.


It’s important to think about bigger issues surrounding the business. Do you have a clear picture of what the business does, and what its primary goal should be? Failing businesses tend to suffer from fuzzy goals and poor branding. You need to be clear about what you do and who you are.


Come up with a brand identity that can be communicated to all staff and key clients. Extend this identity across your marketing channels and reinforce your central message to all staff on a regular basis.


Now, focus on specific problems such as waste, employee productivity, sales, marketing spend or energy costs.  Identify each problem and come up with a solution. The solutions could be anything from “attract 10,000 followers on Instagram” to “reduce failed shipments to 2 percent.” For each of these solutions, come up with a short strategy about how you intend to deal with them.


At this stage, you’ve come up with a plan that can then function as the roadmap to a revitalized business.


Look to the future


If you slim down your business to a lean, money-making machine, there’s one last piece of the business rejuvenation puzzle: the future.


The aim of the recovery process is to turn a business on its deathbed into a forward-looking, cutting edge organization that leads its sector and embraces change, so that it never has to go through the revitalization process ever again.


The key part of planning for the future is knowing and growing your market. Find out who your core customers are and start trying to multiply your audience. Leverage social media, email marketing, pay-per-click advertising, local marketing, and your own e-commerce site. Do whatever it takes to attract business from your competitors, and supply them with what they want.


If you can identify your problems, slim down your business, secure funding, and create a sense of corporate purpose, you can start to turn any company around. The result will be an efficient company with growing revenues and a loyal customer base — a far cry from the wreck that you started with.       

Starting an Escape Room Business

image_234371956Escape room businesses are trending up in cities all over the United States and elsewhere. If you’ve never been to one, you should do a search for escape rooms near you and visit one as soon as possible. Escape rooms typically offer several themed rooms into which a team of paying customers are placed for a period of an hour or so. While they are inside, they must try to escape the room by following clues, looking for hidden items, uncovering secrets, and solving puzzles. Common themes for escape rooms are prison breaks, murder mysteries, museum thefts, military bunkers, library mysteries, and insane asylums.


An escape room business can be started with a relatively low investment as all one really needs to open for business is a series of rooms and some props (depending on the themes you choose, props can range from dirt-cheap to very pricey). Escape room businesses are easy to manage and can be extremely profitable, as there is not a lot of upkeep and a small handful of employees can handle the light workload.


If you decide to open an escape room business, you’ll first need to write out a thorough business plan. This step can technically be skipped if you already have the startup capital. However, even if you already have the money, you can still benefit from a well-written business plan. If you are working with partners, a business plan can help to keep everyone involved on the same page regarding the direction of the business. There are also quite a few legalities, business registration steps, health and safety codes, etc., that can be itemized and prioritized in your business plan, making it easier to keep track of your progress without missing important steps.


While you are writing your business plan, you’ll need to consider several options for the construction of your escape rooms. There are escape room franchises available that will provide most of the materials, props, marketing paraphernalia, etc., in exchange for a percentage of your profits. Going the franchise route simplifies things greatly, but it can also be limiting. Your themes will be limited to those provided by your outsourced supplier, and the props provided may be poorly constructed. You have to ask yourself just how much work you want to put into your startup and how much profit you’re willing to exchange in order to avoid the somewhat complicated construction and engineering stages of your escape room startup.


After you’ve put your business plan together, you’ll need to select a location for your escape room. Busy, downtown areas and commercial districts tend to bring in more walk-ins and foot traffic. With escape rooms, however, it isn’t absolutely necessary to be centrally located in order to get business. With the proliferation of Internet marketing and social media, as long as your escape room is near enough to populated areas, you can bring in business via an active web presence. Also, because there are so many themes available for escape rooms, it’s not necessary to be located far away from your competitors.


As long as the escape rooms at your business are themed differently than your competitor’s rooms, you will still get business, as patrons often frequent many escape rooms in order to keep their escape-room experiences fresh and exciting. Remember, once a team completes one room, they will be unlikely to want to go through it again, as the “mystery” element will be spoiled for them.


Choose your themes wisely. You’ll need to have at least three or four rooms to be successful (and some of these rooms will encompass several separate rooms). Because your escape room business may be located near to a competitor’s, be sure to pick themes that are different and unique for your area. Follow trends in film and TV. If, for example, comic book heroes are trending in pop culture, you might want to open a superhero/supervillain-themed room.


Escape room enthusiasts will hit every one in their area in order to experience the challenge of new rooms. Don’t forget that the more far-fetched your themes, the more expensive they will be to set up. A murder mystery in a small den or office is easy to set up simply by shopping for old furniture and bookcases at local thrift stores. But a steampunk, Victorian-themed room will obviously cost a considerable amount of money to put together. Horror, contemporary, and seasonal themes are probably the least expensive. Scientific laboratories, doctors offices, and museum themes are slightly more expensive. Fantasy, science fiction, and some period (medieval, Ancient Egypt, etc.) rooms can be quite expensive to build.


Once you’ve picked your themes, you need to come up with storylines for each room. When your guests enter the room, there needs to be something that grabs their attention. For example, in your private investigator/murder mystery-themed room, there might be a blood stain on a desk in a small office. On the desk is a diary written (we assume) by the murdered person. In that diary is a clue. You’ll need a storyline flowing through all of these clues and devices. Maybe the murdered person was an accountant who discovered that one of his clients was laundering money. He then told his brother who, in turn, tried to blackmail a mafia kingpin. The kingpin sent two mafia henchmen to kill both men, but they left behind several clues that can be used to bring the kingpin to justice. The more intricate the story, the more fun your patrons will have in your escape room.


It is extremely important to keep detailed manuals for your employees to follow, as they will be returning everything to starting positions after each team of guests completes the room. If there are consumables involved (candles, sealed packages, cut ropes, broken vases, etc.), they will need to be replaced at the end of each appointment to prepare for the next group.


If you schedule times for teams to go through your escape rooms, you will need to figure reconditioning/repair times into your scheduling process. Compared to most other kinds of businesses, escape rooms require minimal upkeep and inventory stocking. However, there will always be a series of tasks your employees need to complete before each team’s appointment: furniture will need to be moved, clues put back into their appropriate places, and disposable props replaced.


It’s a good idea (and in some places required by law) to maintain insurance for your business, so that if anything is damaged by a disaster such as fire, flooding, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado, you will be protected from substantial loss.


Pay careful attention to local laws governing escape room businesses. In most places, for example, it is illegal to actually lock patrons inside a room. You may also be required to provide emergency exits in case of fire or some other, sudden emergency. The vast majority of your patrons, however, will understand the need for these legal requirements and will be happy to act as though they are locked in the room for the sake of maintaining the illusion.


Finally, once your business is open, you should devote full-time efforts to marketing your escape rooms to potential customers. Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), online directories (Yelp, Google+), banner ads, local tourist websites, and more are available to you for your marketing needs. You should also register your business with local tourist commissions and chambers of commerce.


You might want to create a small, simple-to-construct, tent-based “teaser” escape room for local festivals, concerts, fairs, and other public events. If you charge a small fee for the teaser room, you can make extra money while driving interest to your place of business.


One escape room owner made business cards which read “Who killed the curator?” He used this guerrilla marketing technique to hook potential customers everywhere he distributed the cards. Another owner also maintains an escape room app for Apple and Android mobile devices, which helps to generate interest in his brick-and-mortar locations. The marketing possibilities are endless and the more unique and ingenious they are, the more likely potential customers will be to schedule an appointment for their team at your escape room.


Escape rooms are simple and inexpensive to start. The upkeep requirements will be relatively low, making your staffing requirements much lower than those of comparable startup businesses. That said, success is by no means guaranteed, so you will need a thorough, well-written business plan, a creative team, and full-time marketing efforts. You’ll need to pick a good location and hire responsible, well-trained employees in order to keep patrons flowing through your escape rooms in an efficient, effective way. Market your escape room to families (birthdays, showers), business events, tourists, and any other demographic that would enjoy an entertaining, group challenge activity. Finally, don’t forget to change out your rooms for new themes as often as possible to prevent your business from becoming stale.

The Ultimate Cold Call Script for Sales Success

image_172260416If you’re looking to increase your sales with cold calling, you may find the task overwhelming. After all, how can you know what to say? A good script will tell you everything you need to know about making powerful cold calls to grow your business and achieve your goals.


First, you must understand the four crucial components to any successful sales cold call, and then always use them. Below, we will dive into each one and give you examples of how to approach them on your call. Finally, at the bottom, there will be a script template that you can simply fill in with your specific information easily and quickly to start dialing for dollars more effectively.


Components of the Cold Call


  1. Greeting — This is the first part of the call. When your prospect picks up the phone, you want to greet them immediately and with confidence. The way to do this is to quickly introduce yourself and your company. Remember to speak clearly and simply, and get right to the point.


Example: “Hey (prospect’s name), this is (your name) with (company / organization).”


  1. Reason for calling — Immediately after the greeting, you want to move into your reason for calling. After all, you are possibly interrupting your lead’s day, so it is important that you tell them why they should stay on the phone with you. The best way to keep them interested from the start is to set a hook by making a claim about how you help people. It’s best if you have previous clients or customers to reference in this portion of the call, as it adds social proof to the mix.


Example: “The reason I’m calling today is that we recently helped (their competitor or another company in the same industry) improve on (key goal of theirs). I want to meet up with you to show what we did exactly and how we may be able to help you.”


  1. Qualifying with questions — The first part of the cold call is pretty easy and straightforward. However, this next section is what confuses a lot of people and intimidates them from ever making the call in the first place, or potentially stumbling over their own words when making calls. The key is to vet the customer to identify whether they are qualified to do business with you, not the other way around. In order to do this, you need to write down five primary questions that will be specific to your industry:

.   Are you qualified? Essentially, you are asking if they are even in the market for your kind of product. If you sell website maintenance, you would want to make sure they have a website first.

Example: “Do you have a website?”

.   What are your main concerns?  You need to know what your prospect is thinking about right now. What problems can you solve for them? This allows you to feed their own words back to them in a way that positions your product as the perfect solution later on.

Example: “What is the one thing that your attention or concern is on right now?”

.   Why have you waited so long? With this qualifying question, you are asking them to explain why they have not taken action on their problem. In essence, you are trying to see if their problem is as significant as they claim it is. You also want to understand their attitude toward the kind of solution you are proposing.

Example: “If you know you need to train your sales team, why did you wait so long to do it? Do you feel that sales training actually works?”

.   If I could only do half off what I promised. Here you want to increase your believability. If you promised to increase their sales by 80 percent in 60 days, now is the time to ask them if they would still be interested if you could only do half of that for them. You are indicating to them that you understand how large your claim was in the beginning and also finding out if they are interested enough in your product.

Example: “(Prospect’s name), if I could only do half of what I did for (company X), would that still interest you?”

.   Who are the decision makers? Ask them who else needs to be involved with the decision to move it forward and close the deal. If you’re speaking with a gatekeeper, you usually need to move up in the organization. But you have to do it tactfully.

Example: “Besides you, who else needs to be involved on a decision like this?”


  1. Set the appointment. When you’ve done the steps above, it’s time to nail down an appointment and get off the call quickly. Suggest a meeting the same day if possible. If you get an agreement on an appointment, you’ve had a successful cold call. Now you can plan your presentation and close the deal on your next call or meeting.


Example: “Would you be available after lunch today to talk about it?”


Bringing It All Together


When the components are all brought together, the conversation should go something like this:

.   Greeting: “Hi, this is (BLANK), with (BLANK).”

.   Reason: “I’m calling because we recently helped (BLANK) do (BLANK).”

  1. Qualifying: “To be sure I respect your time … (do you qualify?). Great. (What are your main issues?) Alright. And why haven’t you (bought your product) yet? Well let me ask, if I could only do have of what I did for (BLANK), would you be interested? Great! Besides you, who else needs to be involved in moving this forward?”

.   Appointment: “Can you make time to meet me at (date and time, preferably the same day)? Excellent, I look forward to seeing you then.”


Now that you know the main parts of a quality cold call, you just need to put the pieces in one place. Fill in the blanks of the script above and create your customized cold call template based on your specific objectives. Then you’ll be ready to start dialing and bringing in more sales, conversions, and success to your company or organization.

Politicians’ Body Language

You’ve probably heard the old joke, “How can you tell a politician is lying?… His lips are moving.” As funny as this is, it’s not exactly accurate. Politicians are often very careful to not make definitive statements so as to avoid lying (at least in the strictest sense of the word). Instead of saying, “I will create peace in the Middle East in my first week as president,” a political candidate is more likely to say, “I will strive towards negotiating a lasting peace accord in the Middle East.” While the latter statement certainly sounds more flowery and musical, it actually says nothing at all. “Striving towards” something means that the goal may not be reached despite a politician’s best efforts. The word “negotiating” implies either successful or unsuccessful negotiations. And “a lasting peace” could “last” for decades or only a few days. These speech patterns are so common among politicians that we’ve actually been conditioned to expect nothing else out of our candidates. Because of this, it is very difficult to catch a politician in an outright, bald-faced lie simply by weighing the value of their words. Their body language, on the other hand, often tells a different story.


The types of body language to watch for in political debates and speeches are defensive posturing, expressions of uncertainty, and facial expression flashes of disgust, anger, surprise, fear, and contempt. On the flip side, its irresponsible to not also look for open, honest body language, expressions of honesty and strength, and genuine expressions of happiness or sadness. During their campaigns, political candidates will often be faced with questions they may or may not be prepared to answer. This is a perfect time to watch for telling body language displays. If, for example, someone asks a Republican candidate what they plan to do to cut down on mass shootings in the United States, you will likely see a quick flash of contempt and/or disgust on their face. They may step back a bit from the podium, distancing themselves from the question. They may scratch their nose or ear, tug at their collar, pick lint off their sleeve, and otherwise give the impression of discomfort. Their verbal answer to the question might be perfect but their body language betrays their true feelings about the issue; they are uncomfortable with that particular issue and want to get away from that line of questioning.


Looking at the two major candidates in the 2016 Presidential Election, we see two very different displays of body language:


It is obvious to experts that Hillary Clinton has received coaching in body language in preparation for her campaign. That is, she has received coaching but has not practiced long enough for controlled body language to be second nature. In the beginning of her speeches and debates she is controlled in her movements and gestures. As time progresses, however, and questions become more probing or emotions begin to run a little high she loses her composure a little and begins to slip. Hillary Clinton can be seen quite often raising her shoulders as a sign of uncertainty when being probed by the press or political opponents. She also is notoriously uncomfortable around certain topics and issues. This can be seen in her shaking her head in a slight “no” pattern as she mentions topics which she claims to fully support. In one televised speech for the Human Rights Campaign, Hillary Clinton speaks of LGBTQ rights. As she mentions phrases such as “equal rights for all” and “working together to improve society,” she shakes her head “no” as she speaks. Normally, one would be expected a nod in a “yes” pattern while speaking these words in the context of vowing support. This doesn’t necessarily mean that she is lying, but there is something about these topics with which she does not feel comfortable.


Donald Trump, on the other hand, has had a long career in highly competitive, cutthroat business. He has probably had extensive training over an extended period of time in body language appropriate to high-pressure business environments. Powerful, domineering, and assured body language comes very naturally to him. Most politicians will turn their heads to their opponents on stage at televised debates when answering accusations or directing criticism at someone in particular. Donald Trump turns his whole body and faces his opponents directly, not at a side glance. This is characteristic of successful businessmen. Donald Trump also uses hand gestures that look as if he’s pushing invisible ideas together in front of him. This gesture is indicative of out-of-the-box thinkers, and is also common among successful businessmen. In fact, most of Donald Trump’s body language indicates control and dominance. His facial expressions, however, are not as controlled as he often makes no effort to disguise contempt or disgust. Given the nature of his campaign, however, even this fits neatly with his public persona.


image_382771828In conclusion, body language often provides us a window into those traits which politicians attempt to hide from the public. In Hillary Clinton’s case, this is very true. Donald Trump, however, is much more practiced at masking body language to portray exactly what he want to portray, not necessarily what’s going on inside his head. This article is not an endorsement of either candidate. Rather, it is a simple analysis of the body language of both the Republican and Democrat nominees for the Presidency in the 2016 Election. It is meant to provide another metric for voters to consider when placing their votes.

Good News for Frac Sand

image_327821837The commodity known as frac sand is a quartz silicate traditionally mined for use in foundries and glassmaking, with some application in the drilling industry. Recent uptick in demand for the product is directly linked to the US shale fracking boom which began in 2005, hence the silicate’s newly popular name.


Fracking uses horizontal drilling and high-pressure injection of chemicals, water, and frac sand to produce trapped hydrocarbons from shale formations. High-pressure drilling liquids fracture rock formations around the wellbore, creating cracks and fissures and widening and continuing existing ones. Frac sand is key to the finished well’s success as its hard silica particles act to permanently prop open the new networks of cracks. After the well is fracked, frac sands or proppants remain to hold open the flow channels of hydrocarbon egress.


In addition to naturally occurring silicate sands, manufactured ceramic particles, also known as frac sands, are sometimes used for fracking. Either product can be resin-coated for greater resilience and smoothness. Smoother, rounder particles better facilitate hydrocarbon flow.


Ceramic-based frac sands are amenable to production controls and sensitive to reduced manufacturing costs abroad, and, predictably, Chinese frac sand suppliers have gained a sector of the ceramic market. Whatever their advantages, however, ceramic particles continue to be six or seven times the cost of natural frac sands. Moreover, mechanical separation techniques employed in frac sand mining allow natural sand particles to be very accurately sized. Further, high-grade, crush-resistant sand is easily sourced through existing domestic mines, most notably in Wisconsin. For all these reasons, natural frac sand remains the industry choice.


However, not all natural frac sand wholesale suppliers are equally placed to enjoy the burgeoning market. Though most sellers benefitted from the initial bonanza in frac sand price and demand, there were immediate problems with delivery. Transporting the heavy commodity was many times the cost of production. Moreover, truck and train links to oil fields were unprepared for the fracking surge. What followed was a market accommodation whereby logistics companies moved to acquire frac sand mining companies and larger frac sand suppliers invested in rail transportation, trans-loading docks, and storage facilities. One of the larger suppliers, US Silica also moved to publicly traded shares. In 2013, frac sand demand experienced a hiatus; smaller suppliers were hit. The market that has now emerged is a consolidated one in which seven large frac sand suppliers appear poised to reap the benefits of the trade.


Rising share prices are only one sign of good times ahead. There is also a growing trend towards using greater frac sand volumes in initial drilling. Additionally, increasing volumes of frac sands are being employed in refracting older wells, a practice shown to increase production. With no real signs of alternate energy resources obviating a need for gas and oil, and with frac sand volumes rising both overall and within existing fracking applications, most analysts predict that the frac sand market is set to enjoy seven to ten years of steady growth.

Origins of the Wealth of the United States of America – a Brief Introduction

By the end of the nineteenth century, the United States of America was producing more than half of the world’s goods, including luxury items, with less than six percent of the earth’s population.[1] How did this young nation, in a mountain of debt after the War of Independence, become so wealthy so fast?

The Free Market

In 1776, the same year America declared her independence, a Scottish economist and philosopher named Adam Smith published “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.” This book set forth the principles of free-market economics. The Founding Fathers of the United States of America read and took to Smith’s ideas readily. Although these principles were not new, they had never before been fully implemented as a system by any nation. Understanding why the free-market economy worked for America requires a little background in the concepts of political and economic liberty.

The Right to Ownership and Control of Property

The U.S. was founded upon the concept of individual rights. Every member of society had an inherent and inalienable right to life, liberty and the ownership and control of property (sometimes referred to as the “pursuit of happiness” by the Founders).[2]

In a free society, people choose their line of work. Everyone is an individual. Some become entrepreneurs, others prefer more stable and traditional professions, and yet others opt for physical labor or unskilled work. Many people try their hand in more than one of these groups. All are necessary for a society to be mutually beneficial and prosperous. The Founders saw government as a means to protect fundamental rights so that an environment might be vouchsafed whereby individuals could choose for themselves and pursue happiness as they saw fit. This view also extended to the marketplace.

Freedom from Government Intervention

America’s Founding Fathers agreed with Adam Smith that all people should have the freedom to try, buy, sell, and fail. In other words, although they believed that government should protect the market against criminality (theft, fraud and the threat of force) they also held to the belief that government should not otherwise intervene with the natural forces of the market.

Thomas Jefferson said that, “Agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and navigation, the four pillars of our prosperity, are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise.”[3]

And Adam Smith wrote, “[Without trade restrictions] the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man…is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest in his own way…. The sovereign is completely discharged from a duty [for which] no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient; the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the interest of the society.”[4]

Free enterprise was so named because of the very fact that it was not controlled by government or any sovereign ruler. Although the Founders recognized some limited regulation necessary (as mentioned above), they never entrusted this to the federal government.

Protection against Debauchery

Although religious and upright men, the Founders did not believe in imposing any set of personal morals or religious beliefs upon people through the use of government.[5] Neither, on the other hand, did they believe in the libertine “anything goes” mentality.  Indeed, the exploitation of vice to the detriment of the people was seen as unacceptable.[6] Although private morality may well have been seen as a matter of individual conscience, public morality was not seen that way.


The Founders created a republican form of government and, as part of that, the majority of any community had the right to protect what they deemed to be in their best interests for the quality of life they espoused. Therefore, the community (not central government) could intervene if the business of prostitution, or any other vice, entered into their local area. This legacy still exists today, where certain cities or states in the U.S. have varying laws on such issues as gambling, alcohol, etc.


The Founders considered a moral and religious people as necessary to the fabric of society and the maintenance of a free government (and thus a free market).[7] Debauchery threatened these ideals, they believed, because it fomented dishonesty, addiction, bad choices, idleness and criminality. A free society, they believed, could not be maintained when religious values and morality were absent.[8]

The Profit Motive

Among some today, profit is a dirty word. Adam Smith – as he explained in “The Wealth of Nations” – did not see self-interest (even when leaning toward greed) as a motive that would necessarily harm society (see the quotation above by Adam Smith, for example). Indeed, he saw self-interest as something that would benefit society as a whole. Control, or force, was not a motive congruous with the ideas of the American Government and its Founders, despite its preponderance in “civilized” nations of the time. The profit motive thus became the basis of the “American Dream.”


Adam Smith, like the Founders, believed in the necessity and wholesome nature of competition in the market place.[9]

When a provider of a service or manufacturer of a product is dependent upon his customers for his livelihood, he treats them well and does all he can to provide a better service or product than those in a similar line of business. This has a number of beneficial effects, both to the customer as well as to society as a whole. It fosters innovation and initiative, it brings prices down, it increases efficiency and quality.

Where laws are passed that stifle competition – such as when the government establishes its own services or products – initiative, innovation and the other benefits of the free market are lost. The government-mandated service will get paid whatever service or product they offer, so they have no incentive to serve their customers well. What is more, the private business in the same line of work cannot compete with the government one (which receives its money via enforced taxation) and so private prices go up. A good example of this is the belief that private education is more costly than education in a state school. If this is so, it is because the free market has been damaged by the government monopoly. If government eliminated its own education service, private schools’ prices would come down and quality would increase.

The Founding Fathers understood this, and it is why they sought to keep enforced monopolies and government control out of the picture wherever possible.

A Free Republic

Today we use the word “republic” to mean a country that is not ruled by a monarchy. The Founders, however, had a more specific meaning in mind when they created the American Republic. They rejected the democratic form of government (rule by the majority)[10] and established a republican one (rule by law). This, in essence, vouchsafed individual rights. Majorities could not vote away the rights of others. The Constitution of the United States established many checks and balances, such as separation of powers and state sovereignty, to preserve the liberty of the people. One of these checks was to allow the government only to provide for the general and not the specific welfare of the people. In other words, the Founders sought to stop future governments from redistributing wealth under the pretext of compassion. Samuel Adams stated: “The utopian schemes of leveling [redistribution of wealth] and a community of goods [central ownership of the means of production and distribution] are as visionary and impracticable as those which vest all property in the Crown. [These ideas] are arbitrary, despotic, and, in our government, unconstitutional.”[11]

The Poor and Needy

The Christian-minded Founders recognized their duty to the poor. However, they also realized that compassion, wrongly applied, could hurt and not help the recipient. Benjamin Franklin discussed this in his writings. Therein he pointed out that compassion was counterproductive when it “gives a drunk the means to increase his drunkenness”, when it “breeds debilitating dependency and weakness”, when it “blunts the desire or necessity to work for a living”, and when it “smothers the instinct to strive and excel.”[12]

Franklin put the Founders’ views in a nutshell when he wrote: “To relieve the misfortune of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity; it is godlike; but, if we provide encouragement for laziness, and supports for folly, may we not be found fighting against the order of God and Nature, which perhaps has appointed want and misery as the proper punishments for, and caution against, as well as necessary consequences of, idleness and extravagance? Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence, and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need be very circumspect, lest we do more harm then good.”[13]

The Founders believed that the poor and needy could best be helped by helping them to help themselves. They believed in giving the poor a feeling of satisfaction for earning something rather than giving something to them without any achievement on their part. They wanted the poor to be able to climb the success ladder for themselves and that, where dire help was needed in an emergency, it was never prolonged to the point of becoming habitual. They also believed in a scale of responsibility – that it was, above all others, the responsibility of the individual to solve his own problems, then family, then church, and so on up through community. However, the federal government was never to be involved in public welfare.[14]

By taking this approach to poverty, the people of the United States became more self-reliant and, as a result, the whole nation benefited.


In summary, then, America’s wealth came about through the marrying of two ideas that took hold in the American psyche between 1776 and 1787 – that of the political freedom proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, and that of the economic freedom set forth in Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” It was Jefferson’s hope to see this system extend to all nations:

“Instead of embarrassing commerce under piles of regulating laws, duties and prohibitions, could it be relieved from all its shackles in all parts of the world, could every country be employed in producing that which nature has best fitted it to produce, and each be free to exchange with others mutual surpluses for mutual wants, the greatest mass possible would then be produced of those things which contribute to human life and human happiness; the numbers of mankind would be increased and their condition bettered…”[15]

This was the American Dream.


[1] W. Cleon Skousen, “The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution” (Washington D.C.: National Center for Constitutional Studies, 1985), Chapter 8, page 203.

[2] There was much debate as to whether “property” should be used in the Declaration of Independence. John Locke, the writings of whom were familiar to the Founders, had used the phrase “life, liberty, and property.” It is clear that the Founders equated the pursuit of happiness with property. For example, John Adams wrote: “All men are born free and independent, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights, among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties, that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.” (as quoted in George A. Peek, Jr’s “The Political Writings of John Adams (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1954), pg. 96).

[3]  Thomas Jefferson, “The Writings of Thomas Jefferson”, ed. Albert Ellery Bergh,  3:337 (1801).

[4] Adam Smith, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”, Book IV, Chapter IX, p. 687, para. 51.

[5] See, for example, “The Writings of Thomas Jefferson”, ed., Paul Leicester Ford, (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1892-99), vol. 2:99.

[6] “A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy. While the people are virtuous they can not be subdued; but when once they lose their virtue they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or eternal invader.” (in a letter to James Warren, Feb. 12, 1779, “The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed., Harry Alonzo Cushing (New York: G. P. Putman’s Sons, 1908), Vol. 4, p. 124).

[7] “Whereas true religion and good morals are the only solid foundations of public liberty and happiness…it is hereby earnestly recommended to the several states, to take the most effectual measures for the encouragement thereof…” (“Journals of the American Congress: From 1774 to 1788”, 10 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Way and Gideon, 1823), 3:85.

[8] “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our Constitution was made for only a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

(John Adams, to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October, 1798 as quoted in Charles Francis Adam’s “The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States” (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1854). Vol. IX).

[9]In general, if any branch of trade, or any division of labour, be advantageous to the public, the freer and more general the competition, it will always be the more so.” (Adam Smith, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”, Book II, Chapter II, p.329, para. 106).

[10] “…democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.” (James Madison, “The Federalist Papers”, No. 10)

[11] As quoted in William V. Wells’ “The Life and Public Service of Samuel Adams”, 3 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1865), 1:154.

[12] Smyth, “The Writings of Benjamin Franklin”, 10:64, 5:538, p. 123, 3:135-36, & pp. 136-37.

[13] Ibid., p. 135.

[14] “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.” (James Madison, “Annals of Congress”, House of Representatives, 3rd Congress, 1st Session, page 170 (January, 1794).

[15] Thomas Jefferson, “Report on Foreign Commerce”, 1793. (“The Writings of Thomas Jefferson”, Memorial Edition, eds. Lipscomb and Bergh, 20 Vols. (Washington D.C., 1853-54)).


Doing Business in Russia

image_206303251As most people are aware, the Russian Federation was communist nation for most of the twentieth century and is no longer referred to as the Soviet Union.

Russia is a country that places order above all other values and this accounts for its tendency to be ruled by strong-willed, authoritarian figures. Russians respect shrewd, strategic leaders who deal with problems quickly and decisively, regardless of how heavy handed the solution may seem. Russia is a very male-oriented society of stoic demeanour and tends to hold to philosophical attitudes that run darker and more introspective than are typical in Europe. It is a literate country with high reading rates and a populace both knowledgeable and proud of its writers. Though the demise of communism has seen a significant decline in arts funding, many Russians still hold poets, musicians, artists and writers in high esteem.


There are strong undercurrents of racism throughout Russia and this tends to become more pronounced in the rural and western regions. Both homosexuals and Jews are openly denounced throughout much of the country. Like many of their urban counterparts in other nations, Russian city-dwellers are more cosmopolitan and tend to view those who live in rural areas as unsophisticated. It is important that outsiders realize that while Russian urbanites may look down upon their “country cousins” for their lack of worldliness, they more often than not share similar cultural values.

Like most nationalities, Russians are proud of their county’s history and consider most other nations and their citizens inferior to an average Russian. Only Americans can count on at least some grudging respect as a legitimate challenger to Russian pride and achievement as a superpower.


As has long been the case, Russians tend to covet foreign products and the conspicuous display of high status brands like BMW cars or Chanel luggage is both common and expected. Likewise, they are deeply impressed with educational credentials from prestigious universities or business schools.


Unlike most western countries, smoking remains popular and while the government pursues a strategy to cut smoking rates, many Russians continue to light up in shops, restaurants and bars. It is highly inadvisable for anyone – especially foreigners – to suggest they do otherwise.


Drinking can be considered something of a national pastime too, as Russia has some of the highest alcoholism rates in the world. It is a physical culture, with plenty of pecks on the cheek for women and bone-crushing handshakes and backslaps for men.


While the Russian Orthodox church and adherence to religion is widespread throughout Russia, there remains strong strains of belief in the paranormal, extra-terrestrials and the occult.


Business Hours, Communications and Work Ethic

Most businesses operate between 8am and 5pm Monday through Friday, though shops also operate on Saturdays. Many businesses will close for lunch, sometimes for an hour or more, though banks typically close by 3pm. Late night shopping is very rare and limited to urban areas.


Russians are fond of business cards and welcome the opportunity to exchange them. It is considered a sign of high status to have many foreign contacts and working for foreign firms is generally considered more prestigious than working for domestic ones. Russians are very observant of official looking documents. Nothing gets and keeps a Russian’s attention more than official letterhead on good quality paper. This is an important fact to remember that can prove useful  if  you need to demonstrate your seriousness on business and legal matters.


Foreigners are encouraged to follow the Russian way of addressing fellow businessmen by their job title, followed by their last name. While it may seem odd to be addressed as “International Operations Manager Smith”, you should follow this protocol unless encouraged otherwise. Younger Russians may be less formal and are typically more inclined to use “Mr.” or “Mrs.” followed by a last name, but the wisest path is to wait until addressed and proceed in kind.


Though not as indifferent to their jobs as they were during the Soviet area, Russian workers still pay close attention to the clock and to most the prospect of working overtime is unthinkable. This is changing amongst younger workers, though slowly.

There is a tendency amongst Russians to leave problems unacknowledged, even when obvious. This could be a remnant of the Soviet era, when identifying trouble spots often resulted in the whistleblower finding their career aspirations cut short. The failure to remedy ineffective processes and offer solutions remains endemic amongst lower level Russian employees.


From a management perspective, it is important to address this by consistently welcoming both critical and supportive input and scrupulously maintaining that strategy. Do not, under any circumstance, reprimand employees in front of their coworkers. Like most people, Russians are not fond of humiliation and have long memories. In a larger social context, you should avoid discussing any period of Russian history or politics that could be perceived as contentious. As with anyone proud of their heritage, Russians do not appreciate foreigner’s opinions on domestic politics or national matters.

In spite of their lack of enthusiasm for the workplace, Russians attack any clearly defined task with a doggedness that often surprises foreigners.


The most crucial element of doing business in Russia is building long term relationships. Any effort to complete a major business transaction will require many meetings, plenty of idle chit chat and several opportunities to imbibe to excess.

Since contractual law remains somewhat “open to interpretation”, the best insurance against problems is an excellent relationship with your Russian business partners. This cannot be overstated. On the whole, Russians view foreigners with suspicion or as gullible fools who are neither as smart nor as determined as they are.


For this reason, it is imperative when doing business in Russia to forge a strong, local and trusted relationship and the more that can be established, the better. Your local representatives will assist in developing contacts and steering your concerns through government and legal issues, so it is vital they have extensive references and where possible, be subject to a background check.


Where possible, always seek out interpreters with specific industry experience and seek the same when finding legal counsel. Under no circumstances should you sign anything at any point without having it thoroughly examined by your Russian lawyer. While most legally binding documents are supplied in both party’s native language, the implications of the nuances and small print can only be grasped by an experienced Russian lawyer. Once again, be absolutely sure you can trust both your lawyer and your interpreter.

Contract law and its obligations remain an ongoing project in Russia and while things are improving, many Russian businessmen see contracts as loose agreements rather than formally binding obligations. Your interpreter and legal representative are key to maintaining vigilance in ensuring contracts and their obligations are understood by both parties.


Gender Issues:

As stated previously, Russia is a male dominated society and the diminished role of women in society at large and in business is often difficult for westerners to accept. While in the communist era women were extolled as equals to their male counterparts, more often than not it was their role as mothers that was the root of that appreciation. Though their status is improving somewhat, women in management positions at Russian firms are rare and most are employed by foreign companies. To a large extent, women in business are hired based on their looks and typically relegated to secretarial or customer relations tasks.

While the treatment of women may be unpalatable to westerners, lecturing your Russian counterpart on “women’s rights” is extremely unwise. Instead, you should accept that women are considered trophies towards whom men are expected to show good manners, polite behaviour and “old school” etiquette. Never, ever swear in front of a woman, or you’ll risk being labelled a “hooligan”.


If you are a female executive, you should expect some degree of flirtatious behaviour, though just how much may depend on the age of your Russian counterparts. If you find overtures becoming too explicit, you should firmly make it clear they are unwelcome and then tactfully move on to other matters.


Laws, Meetings and Negotiation

Under no circumstances should you involve yourself in any industry with a hint of vice. Cigarettes, alcohol and “street level” businesses often have close associations with organized crime. No matter how convenient it may seem to cut corners ethically, it is strongly advised to avoid this. “Bending the rules” to accomplish your objectives will be seen by your associates and employees as license to continue to doing so and engaging in “grey area” business practices can have lasting implications. Though the straight and narrow can be exhausting and seemingly fruitless, do not waver in this respect.

As noted previously, Russians are not especially time-conscious and are reluctant to schedule meetings of any importance on Mondays. Anticipate meetings beginning late and running much longer than scheduled. Also be prepared to have unexpected participants attend the or to have last minute cancellations. Though it is never useful to lose your temper, you can and should express your dissatisfaction when seeking a rescheduling for a cancellation.


When meetings do begin, often after several late arrivals, they will drag on. Stamina and persistence are required. Be well prepared by keeping a clear agenda and, until specific details are required, it is advisable to keep to a broad, well informed plan. Tell your interpreter they must divulge every single word of what is said, regardless of how inconsequential they may regard it.

Russians will know if you have done your homework, so be prepared. If you do not want to embarrass yourself, it is imperative to have a thoroughly researched business plan in the context of the Russian market or industry.

If you must ask questions about a proposal during a presentation, wait until the person has finished speaking before doing so. Do not interrupt. If you disagree with positions taken during the meeting, it is best to leave some “wiggle room” for the person you are questioning. Causing anyone to become embarrassed by your line of questioning is to be avoided.  Wherever something is unclear, it is often worthwhile to follow up afterwards through correspondence.


It is extremely likely that at least one person will smoke during the meeting – and often heavily. The only known remedy for this is if a woman remarks that she is allergic to smoke. Any other request to not smoke will be considered insensitive at best and both ignorant and offensive at worst.

Meetings end when your hosts decide they end. Your best guide to a meeting’s success will be the amount of hand shaking and back slapping that occurs afterwards. Of course the more, the better.


Doing the Deal

In any interaction in Russia, always maintain eye contact with whomever you are speaking with. Failing to do so will cause suspicion amongst Russians and should provoke the same reaction in you.

When business negotiations begin, you will almost certainly be asked to present your side first. Russians are much better tacticians than they present themselves to be and it is useful to appreciate that chess is to Russia what baseball is to America.

Generally speaking, there are three broad strands to Russian negotiations.


The “you cheat” approach will argue that your firm or a similar one lied and cheated in previous dealings. Keep calm and without making things personal, offer an alternative version with Russians responsible for the deception and failings. Do not make the mistake of laying blame at a personal level. Keep your tone civil and maintain your composure.

The “crazy time waster” ploy can actually be separated into separate strategies. In the “time waster”, months of negotiations will be met with the opposing negotiator claiming they lack the responsibility to make a decision. In the “crazy” tactic, the proposal offered is so incredibly outrageous and one-sided that no reasonable person would agree. Both of these strategies are intended to test the limits of your enthusiasm and determine the point at which your urgency exceeds your judgement. The best method of dealing with ridiculous demands is to respond with your own and then negotiate downwards. The time waster is a standard stalling tactic which is best confronted with patience, though this can often become the final straw which legitimates breaking off negotiations.


Finally, the “corporate caring” strategy will see appeals made on behalf of the “poor workers” who might stand to lose their jobs unless a deal is made. The most reasonable response to this is a reminder that what is good for a profitable company tends to be good for its workers too.

When negotiations are resolved, the fine print of the deal should be exhaustively poured over by your counsel. As has been mentioned previously – do not sign a single document you are not absolutely confident about.

Because the legal system in Russia continues to wrestle with international agreements over issues like copyright, it is often a sound strategy for joint ventures to use a neutral third country (such as Denmark, Sweden or Norway) to arbitrate disputes.


Socializing and Entertainment

If invited to someone’s house, you must go. To do otherwise would be considered deeply insulting. You should arrive with a small gift of wine, or perhaps flowers. Do not enter a home with your shoes on, nor walk around someone’s house in your socks. You host will likely have a pair of slippers to offer you when you arrive. When meeting other guests, always stand to greet them. Never refuse a second helping of food when it is offered, as it always is. Never point or gesture with a utensil.


Russians enjoy drinking and are amongst the heaviest drinkers in the world. Alcoholism is a national problem. If you spend any length of time in Russia, there’s a good chance you may find yourself in a restaurant full of boisterous, loud and very drunk people. You may even see a fight break out, or patrons stumbling over one another. Though this is unsettling for westerners, you should not, under any circumstances, involve yourself or create a scene. If you are being disturbed, finish your meal quickly and leave. Of course, if the revellers are your business cohorts celebrating after a particularly successful meeting, your options are more limited.

Non-drinkers are viewed with suspicion and if you hope to avoid partaking in the revelry after a day of meetings, your best bet may be feigning a “medical condition” (you might want to produce a pill bottle for full effect) that prevents you from participating. As with women’s roles in Russia, you should never comment on drunkenness in Russian society. Though you may be tempted to berate someone for being intoxicated, the outcome could be a violent and prolonged beating. Even though public drunkenness carries less stigma amongst Russians than it does Europeans or North Americans, do not believe that you won’t be held to higher standards.


Russians are very fond of small gifts, which are understood to be part of both personal and business relationships. Small, well considered gifts with a corporate logo are much appreciated and will allow your recipient to demonstrate their foreign connections. Good quality, refillable cigarette lighters with an embossed or screen printed logo will make an excellent impression.


Many foreigners find routine requests like ordering tickets or attempting to alter travel plans to be extremely complicated and time consuming in Russia due to hearing “Nyet” (No) in response to almost every request. Be advised that this is something of a national habit, meaning you must be persistent and resolute. Don’t take no (“Nyet”) for an answer. A strong, persistent and conscientious approach in dealing with Russians is the only path to success – don’t forget it.


The last few years have seen Russia promoted as a member of the rapidly developing BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries and hence, worthy of greater global investment. But just as globalization has opened new markets and opportunities, it has opened up challenges to considerations on how business “works” on both social and cultural levels. Russia has long maintained a fickle infatuation with the west and though it admires and covets much of the material gains in Europe and North America, the liberal social policies attached to them are at odds with the deeply conservative nature of the country.

Doing business in Russia means coming to grips with its social and cultural values. Strong leadership, a consistent and intelligent strategy and a deep understanding of Russian history and her people are the minimum requirements of success.


Common Mistakes Made by New Restaurant Owners


Most people who’ve eaten in a great restaurant have had the fleeting thought that it would be nice to run one of their own. They imagine greeting customers and selecting great bottles of wine from Napa and the eastern region of France. It’s a nice dream, and only a few tortured souls follow through on it. Those people find out quickly that, while running a restaurant can be rewarding, there are reasons people invest money in restaurant consultants. New restaurant owners can make fatal mistakes without even realizing their folly, causing long-term financial issues to fester. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by new restaurant owners, along with some solutions for those problems.

Too much marketing, not enough tables

Restaurants typically start with a bang. People are often anxious to try out something new, and if you begin with a huge marketing campaign, you might generate serious buzz. Many restaurant owners spend too much time on the marketing and not enough putting in a plan to turn over those tables. They end up with people waiting, which creates a negative first impression.

The solution is to begin with a soft opening to get your processes down. Cooks, servers, and bartenders must learn to work together on a schedule, and as a manager, you’ll need to know the average time for your patrons. This can allow you to better serve the people who’ll come when you finally open for real.

Loose supervision of the cash register

Depending upon the size of your restaurant, you’ll have different options for accepting payment. Some smaller restaurants have people pay at a central location, while others have servers that handle payment at various point-of-sale machines set up around the place. Many restaurants have seen their profit go away because of employees who skim a little off the top. Restaurants are cash-intensive businesses. Loose supervision of your cash centers can leave you with a few dollars missing every day. Over the course of a year, this adds up to tremendous profit losses.

The solution is to have tight accounting. If you have a professional point-of-sale system in place, this shouldn’t be a problem. You’ll know how much food was sold and how much money came in for that food. Discrepancies can be tracked. Some small restaurants use the old ticket and register system, though. These rudimentary approaches make it easy for employees to destroy tickets and take the cash, making it seem as though the patron never entered the restaurant. Technology can cure this problem.

Buying too much inventory

The supreme challenge of the restaurant industry is to either buy the right amount of food material or find a way to store the food that doesn’t compromise its quality. In today’s world, with consumers who want fresh, farm-to-table food choices, you’ll need to work hard to keep things fresh. Many business owners buy too much food, not wanting to run out of anything.

When you’re in the beginning stages of running a restaurant, err on the side of buying too little. There are many successful restaurants that tell their customers when a certain meal has run out. This is better than having hundreds of dollars of food go in the trash can at the end of the day. As you get more successful and experienced, you’ll have a better feel for how much you sell on a given day or week. In the beginning, be careful not to waste your profit through unnecessary inventory.

Running a restaurant remains a challenge even for people with culinary and business skills. Money seems to leak away and customers can be fickle. New restaurant owners often invest in various consultants to help with the process. Some choose to go out on their own. Whatever choice you make, be aware of the challenges so you won’t have to learn mistakes the hard way.   


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image_271006064Eating Cheaply on the Road People who travel on a budget often pay a lot of attention to finding a great deal on transport and accommodation, but give less consideration to saving money on the road. One of the biggest ways you can blow your budget is by spending too much on food and drink. Being frugal while traveling doesn’t necessarily limit you to a life of beans around a campfire or pasta in hostel kitchens, but it does entail being a little more savvy about when and where you eat. If you follow these tips, you can eat well wherever you travel, even on the tightest budget.

  1. Avoid buying food at airports

Did you know that you have the opportunity to save money before you even reach your destination? Airports are notoriously expensive for food, so expect a markup of at least 20% on most items. In fact, some of the most budget-friendly countries have the most relatively expensive airport restaurants where even a MacDonald’s can be more than double the standard price. Prepare by packing snacks in your hand luggage because you never know if your flight will be delayed. Although you can’t take liquid through security, you can carry your empty water bottle and many airports now have bottle fillers and water fountains (in the USA and the UK at least).

  1. Take advantage of freebies and perks

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there are inclusive breakfasts at hotels. Some hostels also provide a basic breakfast of toast and cereal at the very least, so fill up and you may not need lunch. If you’re traveling with children, it’s worth doing some research on restaurants or asking about their policies, since some allow kids under a certain age to eat for free. Other establishments offer free drink refills, bread with your meals or complimentary snacks when you order a drink.


  1. Choose accommodation with a kitchenMost hostels have a communal kitchen and it can be a great way of socializing while saving money. Even private accommodation such as apartment rentals come with kitchens and are the perfect excuse to check out local grocery stores and markets, which are great places to see what locals eat. The problem with hotels is the lack of facilities to keep perishable food items, but if you have food storage, you get to sample more seasonal local produce and eat healthily on a budget. It also helps to have a fridge, so you can buy bottles of drink and local alcohol in supermarkets at a fraction of the price in restaurants.
  1. Choose restaurants wisely

Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you should miss out on eating in nice restaurants. While exploring your new destination, follow the locals and avoid eateries in tourist areas, main squares and high-end shopping streets. The best deals are found on side streets and off the beaten track, where you’ll not only discover some local gems with decent prices, but also meet more locals. Another trap to avoid is over-researching and heading to  cafes which have been in popular tourist guides like Lonely Planet because those establishments are likely to become complacent and overpriced.

  1. Look out for lunch specials

Savvy travellers who eat at restaurants know that it is better to fill up on food either at breakfast or lunch as evening meals are more expensive. Many restaurants, particularly in Europe, have lunch time specials. These set menu meals are usually known as “menu of the day”, “menu du jour” or “menu del dia” depending on the country and consist of two or three courses (and sometimes include a drink) for a set price. All-you-can-eat buffets are also great value alternatives. These are usually inexpensive and filling, setting you up nicely for an afternoon of sightseeing.

  1. Eat street food

Invariably, every place in the world has some kind of local street food. Meals at street stalls can cost less than a dollar and they’re a quintessential part of dining culture in many countries such as the Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Whether you get your food from a permanently set-up stall or a street vendor, you can watch the food be cooked in front of you. If you’re worried about germs, just follow the crowds and go to the more popular stalls since the regulars know which ones are best. Whether you’re sampling a currywurst in Berlin or a green curry in Bangkok, it’s a cheap and convenient way to partake in some people-watching and eat as the locals do.

  1. Refill water bottlesOpting for soda or alcoholic drinks to accompany your meal in a restaurant can significantly increase your bill. The cost of soda in shops can also be expensive, even more so at tourist sites, events and theme parks. The best option is to carry your own bottle and refill it from a tap or springs and water fountains. Of course, you need to find out if the tap water is safe but usually bottled water is cheap in countries where tap water is unsafe.

As you can see, eating on the move is not that difficult if you plan a little and follow the locals’ lead. There’s no need to avoid restaurants as long as you keep out of tourist traps, but self-catering can be rewarding since seasonal produce is usually cheap, abundant and delicious. If you do some research and think like a local, eating cheaply on the road can be a rewarding experience, both culturally and financially.