Microsoft to add new SMB apps to Office 365 Business Premium plan

Theres a sign-up page for business apps for Office that I saw via that touts a handful of apps, including MileIQ, Bookings, Invoice, Spend, Point, and Presence. The apps listed seem to be supplementary to Microsofts existing Office app suite, and also seem to be mobile-first and cross-platform.

Some of the applications either already have been or are in the midst of being added to the Office 365 Business Premium plan, such as the MileIQ mileage tracker and Bookings automatic scheduling applications. Just this week, Microsoft announced that Bookings could be integrated directly with business users Facebook pages.) Microsoft bought Mobile Data Labs, the company behind the MileIQ app, in November 2015.

A couple of the apps listed on the page seem to be as-yet unofficially unannounced and are listed as coming soon. Those include Spend, a expense-tracking app, and Presence, an app that will allow users to establish yourself online simply and confidently track your web presence.

I wonder if the Spend app has anything to do with the Microsoft Garage incubator project that was known as Phoenix. Back in 2015, Microsoft was testing an iOS version of the Phoenix expense-reporting app, but references to that app seem to be gone from the Garage page.

Theres also a referrals app mentioned on the new-app page thats called Point. I wonder if this has anything to do with another Microsoft Garage incubator app that was called Home Team. The Garage page lists Home Team as experiment complete. The description of the app: Home Team enables users to get and share word of mouth recommendations for service professionals (plumber, electrician, stylist, dog walker, etc.).

The new business apps page also references a personal business assistant as being a coming soon addition to the plan. I blogged a while back about Microsofts Bing Concierge bot, which looked at the time to be a rival to Googles Assistant. Maybe this is somehow related to whatever this new business assistant may be.

The Sign Up button for all these apps takes users to a page to sign up for a free trial of Office 365 Business Premium. That service is Microsofts most comprehensive Office 365 subscription plan for small businesses. It costs $15 per user per month if paid monthly, or $12.50 per user per month if paid annually. It includes the full set of locally-installable Office applications for up to five PCs and/or Macs per user, as well as Exchange Online, Skype for Business Online, SharePoint Online, Yammer enterprise social-networking, and 1 TB of OneDrive for Business cloud storage.

The Comprehensive Business Case for Sustainability

Today’s executives are dealing with a complex and unprecedented brew of social, environmental, market, and technological trends. These require sophisticated, sustainability-based management. Yet executives are often reluctant to place sustainability core to their company’s business strategy in the mistaken belief that the costs outweigh the benefits. On the contrary, academic research and business experience point to quite the opposite.

Embedded sustainability efforts clearly result in a positive impact on business performance. Drawing from our own research and our colleagues’ research in this area, we have created a sustainability business case for the 21st century corporate executive. Hoping to alleviate their concerns, this article also provides concrete examples of how sustainability benefits the bottom line.

For the purpose of this article, we define sustainable practices as those that: 1) at minimum do not harm people or the planet and at best create value for stakeholders and 2) focus on improving environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance in the areas in which the company or brand has a material environmental or social impact (such as in their operations, value chain, or customers). We exclude companies with a traditional CSR program that supports employee volunteering in the community – this does not by itself qualify as sustainability.

Driving competitive advantage through stakeholder engagement

Traditional business models aim to create value for shareholders, often at the expense of other stakeholders. Sustainable businesses are redefining the corporate ecosystem by designing models that create value for all stakeholders, including employees, shareholders, supply chains, civil society, and the planet. Michel Porter and Mark Kramer pioneered the idea of “creating shared value,” arguing that businesses can generate economic value by identifying and addressing social problems that intersect with their business.

Much of the strategic value of sustainability comes from the need to continually talk with and learn from key stakeholders. Through regular dialogue with stakeholders and continual iteration, a company with a sustainability agenda is better positioned to anticipate and react to economic, social, environmental, and regulatory changes as they arise.

When firms fail to establish good relationships with their stakeholders, it can lead to increased conflict and reduced stakeholder cooperation. This can disrupt a firm’s ability to operate on schedule and budget. A study of the gold mining industry, for example, found that stakeholder relations can heavily influence land permitting, taxation, and the regulatory environment, thus playing a substantial role in determining whether a firm has the right to transform gold into shareholder capital – therefore, as the study authors wrote, stakeholder engagement “is not just corporate social responsibility but enlightened self-interest.”

Improving risk management

Supply chains today extend around the world, and are vulnerable to natural disasters and civil conflict. Climate change, water scarcity, and poor labor conditions in much of the world increase the risk. McKinsey reports that the value at stake from sustainability concerns can be as a high as 70% of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

In the largest study on climate change data and corporations, 8,000 supplier companies (that sell to 75 multinationals) reported on their level of climate risk. Of the respondents, 72% said that climate change presents risks that could significantly impact their operations, revenue, or expenditures.

Unlike traditional forms of business risk, social and environmental risks manifest themselves over a longer term, often affect the business on many dimensions, and are largely outside the organization’s control. Managing risks therefore requires making investment decisions today for longer-term capacity building and developing adaptive strategies.

In the agriculture, food, and beverage sector, the impacts of climate change have the potential to alter growing conditions and seasons, increase pests and disease, and decrease crop yields. Disruptions in the supply chain may affect production processes that depend on unpriced natural capital assets such as biodiversity, groundwater, clean air, and climate. These unpriced natural capital costs are generally internalized until events like floods or droughts cause disruption to production processes or commodity price fluctuation.

Driven by Dyslexia, Entrepreneur Evan Paul Pursued an Automotive Empire

With a proven track record for bringing ideas to life, Evan began his due diligence and research on what would be entailed in developing an automotive capital company. Despite the advanced and comprehensive licensure required, Evan began to work steadfastly towards his next venture, Evan Paul Auto Capital. Attaining all of the appropriate credentials, nearly 18 months later, Evan was able to announce the roll-out of his premier, asset backed lending company which is able to service clientele throughout California. The innovative financing solutions now being utilized through Evan Paul Auto Capital offer three distinct programs for clients to choose from: Sale Advance Loans, Storage Loans and Title Loans. Sale Advance Loans are immediate cash loans made by Evan Paul Auto Capital while listing the clients luxury or exotic vehicle for sale through Evan Paul Motorcars at a fair market price. Lending up to 75% of the agreed on value, rates start at 1.99% per month while still offering the maximum loan-to-value on the clients vehicle. Clients are able to get cash up front while still getting the maximum amount for their vehicle upon sale.

Gov. Charlie Baker endorses state Senate candidate James Ehrhard

Gov. Charlie Baker has endorsed Republican state Senate candidate James Ehrhard of Sturbridge in his race against incumbent state Sen. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer.

Baker, a Republican, said in a statement, James understands the need to reform state government and hold the line on taxes, to ensure our economy grows and families can afford to remain in Massachusetts. Hell fight with me for good jobs, great schools, and fiscal sanity on Beacon Hill.

Baker has taken an active role in campaigning for a number of Republican candidates for the state legislature. Although Baker has generally worked well with the Democratic legislative leadership, Democrats currently hold veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate.

Baker is popular in Massachusetts, with approval ratings that have consistently topped 70 percent, so his support could help local candidates.

Ehrhard said Baker has established a record of fiscal responsibility and managerial expertise. I pledge to work with him to fight for lower taxes, pro-growth business policies that create jobs, and prioritization of equal funding for our Central and Western MA cities and towns, Ehrhard said in a statement.

Ehrhard, a lawyer who deals with consumer bankruptcy and small business litigation, ran for state Senate in 2014 but lost in the Republican primary. Gobi, who previously served for 14 years in the House, then narrowly won the general election.

The district covers small towns mostly in Worcester County, with some towns in Hampden, Hampshire and Middlesex counties.

RIP Homeownership. It Was Nice Knowing You.

Paving the path to homeownership

The biggest problems for millennials are a lack of wage growth, poor credit scores, and insufficient savings. Thus, the easiest way to homeownership is to tackle these problems head-on.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Strongly consider college

First of all, millennials should strongly consider working in job fields that have strong long-term demand, as well as go to college to obtain at least a bachelors degree. The debate over whether or not college is worth the cost is probably going to continue for as long as we live — but data from Pew Research suggests its definitely worth it.

Millennials between the ages of 25 to 32 with a high school diploma earned a median of $28,000 in 2012 dollars according to Pew. By comparison, same-age millennials with at least a four-year bachelors degree or higher earned a median of $45,500 per year in 2012 dollars. That can be a huge difference over ones lifetime.

Also, the individual with a degree would presumably have a better chance at business advancement over an individual without a degree, providing more opportunity for socioeconomic advancement. The key is in finding a college that gives you the best return on investment. College tuition price isnt necessarily indicative of return, so make sure you do your homework on colleges that fit your major of choice.

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Maintain a good credit score

Secondly, millennials (and really all Americans for that matter) need to understand that their credit scores are important, so they should strive to improve them as much as possible. Remember, credit scores dont just affect whether or not you can obtain a loan or help set your lending rate. They can also affect your ability to rent, as well as get a job, since landlords and employers can check your credit score.

The most obvious way to positively impact your credit score is to pay your bills on time. Payment history counts as approximately 35% of your credit score, and theres really no excuse for missing your credit card due date. It may be in your best interest to set up an automatic payment plan with monthly bills, such as utilities or your wireless phone plan, to ensure youre never late.

You should also pay close attention to how you use your credit, with credit utilization comprising about 30% of your FICO score. Maxing out your credit cards, or getting anywhere near your credit limits, makes you look like a risk to lenders. Generally speaking, credit reporting agencies like to see consumers use 20% or less of their credit access line. Additionally, showing that you can be responsible for multiple types of credit, such as a department store card, mortgage, and car loan, can go a long way to building a prime credit score.

Image source: Getty Images.

3. Keep a detailed monthly budget

Lastly, its pretty clear that millennials need to be working with a household budget more often based on their low savings rates. Without a budget, millennials will likely struggle to understand their incoming and outgoing cash flows; and without this understanding its impossible to optimally save money for a home, or retirement for that matter.

The good news is that budgeting tools can be found in abundance online. In a matter of 30 minutes you can have a working budget and plan in place to get your financial goals on track. The biggest challenge will be sticking to your plan. This is where surrounding yourself with like-minded people is important. Your chances of sticking to your budget improve if everyone in the household is abiding by a budget. If you live by yourself, meeting up with a group of like-minded people your age at a coffee shop can help keep you on track, as well as provide a chorus to bounce saving and investing ideas off of.

It may also be worthwhile to have budgeted funds in a separate account from your checking account, as the temptation to pull money out when you know its available may be too great.

Lastly, consider setting up an automatic weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly withdrawal from your checking or savings account to hold yourself accountable for your spending habits.

Follow these steps, and your path to homeownership could get a lot easier.

Woman who filed bankruptcy wants to improve credit score, get a car loan: Money Matters

Q: I am trying to repair my credit and bring up my credit score. I have requested and received all three credit reporting agencies reports and only Equifax reports my public record for a bankruptcy filed in 2008. It was disposed in 2011 and last reported in 2011.

My credit report states that a dismissed Chapter 13 bankruptcy can remain on my report for up to 10 years from the date filed. So I believe it will be on my report for another two years.

I have no other credit, no credit cards or loans. I do not have a loan on my home. I do pay all my utilities on time and have for several years.
For everything I purchase, from big items to little, I pay cash or dont buy it.

So, with that said, how can I improve my score, which is very poor right now?

I would like to buy or lease a new car soon. Would this be helpful and would I even be able to get the financing?
How should I go about improving my credit rating? By getting a credit card? Your insight would be very helpful. I feel so lost right now.

LN, Cleveland

A: First, have you actually seen your credit score lately? Most people can access their scores at no charge. But since you have no credit cards, you dont have this option. The next time you get your credit report at no charge through, you can pay roughly $8 to one of them — Id choose Equifax — to actually purchase your credit score.

Now, I would argue that your lousy score at this point is probably caused more by your lack of credit usage the last several years than its caused by your bankruptcy filing eight years ago.

You have to remember that credit scores show how well you manage credit. You havent managed any credit in years. You havent managed credit well. You havent managed credit poorly. You havent managed it at all. So the credit bureaus have nothing recent to look at to see how well you manage credit.

If I were you, Id try to get a credit card with a small credit limit, maybe $300. Id use it once a month for gasoline or a few groceries, and then pay it off in full before the payment due date. If you were to do that for say, six months, I think youd see a significant improvement in your credit score.

So how do you get a credit card? You could try the bank where you have your checking account. You could talk to them about your situation to gauge your likelihood of being approved for a card with a low credit limit. If you have a good track record with the bank (no bounced checks, etc.,) this might be an option.

Or you could try a bank that specializes in credit cards for people with poor credit ratings. Here are two sites to take a look at: under fair bad credit

Youll see that Capital One is a big player in this niche. You may find that your only option is a secured card. Thats OK, as long as it reports to the credit bureau.

As far as buying or leasing a new car, you may find that a little easier than you expect.

Lending is based on three things: Down payment, credit score and income/debt-to-income ratio. If you have a big down payment (say 30 to 50 percent) and a decent income, that will help dilute your shaky credit score. You need to be strong in two out of three of these qualifiers.

Again, when the time comes, Id talk to the bank where you have your deposit accounts first. Id shop for your financing before you get your heart set on a particular car. And you dont want to end up at one of these sleazy used car lots that charge 24.9 percent interest. Good luck!

Q:You recommendnot having a debit card. We use ours to withdraw cash from our checking account. How else do you recommend getting cash? Thanks for the information.

AM, Akron

A: Very simple. If you only use ATMs, get an ATM-only or PIN-only card from your bank. This card wont have a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. All major banks in this market except two offer this as a free alternative to people who want to access cash from their accounts, but dont want a full-blown debit card that is at greater risk or fraud. The two banks that charge $10 to $12 a year are Key and PNC.

Read more Money Matters questions and answers here.

Huntsville banker teaches free money management course


Credit and money management impacts everyone and most of our day-to-day activities, even if we dont realizeit. But many dont understandhow to do it.

The Ready to Work program is a free state-certified class at JF Drake Communityamp; Technical College in Huntsville.It teaches people what they need toknow when it comes to the job hunt.One skill set the program focuses on ismoneyand howto manage it.

Natalie Johnson is a personal banker at Wells Fargo. As a business school graduate, money is her passion,butshe says some concepts were difficult even for her to grasp.

I realized if I had issues with grasping these concepts and if I wasnt introduced as a business major, therewas a large possibility the majority of Americans werent introduced to these concepts either, Johnson said.

Johnson talked about how to balance a checkbook,apply for a loan, and what interest rates actuallyare. Shes so passionate about making sure people arefinancially literate, she volunteers to teach students of all types and ages around north Alabama.

Everyone has a hobby. Instead of video games, mine is reading the finance section, Johnson said.

Some employers run credit checks on job applicants, so she says a financial education is imperative even whenit comes to searching for your next job.

People dont realize I think the extent that poor credit or no credit can affect them, Johnson said. I cantimagine being turned down for a job because of mypast obligations not being met.

Johnson spoke to about 60 students at Drake Wednesday morning about benefits and risks of credit, debt-to-incomeratio, and how credit scores are determined. She bases her presentations on curriculumscreated by Wells Fargo.

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