Category Archives: Business and Money

Best Paid Focus Groups in Los Angeles, SoCal and Nationwide

Make Extra Money By Discovering Focus Groups

officeWhen the recession started, I was living in the Los Angeles area (the San Fernando valley) and working a great job in Burbank. You know how you think that you are awesome at your job and that there is no way that they will let you go? Well, I thought that and was proved wrong. As the newest person in my office, I was the first to be let go when things started taking a turn for the worse.

Despite having been a model employee, I found myself looking for new jobs as well as ways to make immediate cash. Sure, people always tell you to do things like donate blood for cash, but that does not pay much and is a real short term solution as a result.

After seeing an ad on the television for a local SoCal focus group study, I decided to give that a try for some cash. The ad that I saw on TV was for Cedar Sinai medical focus groups, but there is a good possibility that you have seen some of these on your own TV for local hospitals and research facilities. I want to get you a bit more familiar with these by sharing my own personal experience.

image via morguefile

Businesses & Companies Value Your Opinion

You might be wondering why these things even exist and why some of them pay so well. I certainly know that I used to have those sorts of thoughts. The fact is that these companies and organizations need people like us because they need the opinions of unbiased people.

These businesses spend a lot of money on research and development for products and services, and this is a vital part of that R&D step. For instance, how will a pharmaceutical manufacturer know if a cancer drug works? They have to test it out on people with cancer to know for sure. And those people get compensated for it.

Of course, often the experience is not for something as huge as a prescription drug trial. For example, have you ever gotten stopped by those people in the mall who want to take you into their office and pay you $25 for answering a few questions? This often happens with things like movie trailers, gauging public perception for products and brands, as well as other types of advertisements. Television studios even use it to see how people feel about characters!

Learn About The Various Types of Focus Groups

The most common type is the one I described in the mall setting. You have a small office (not always at a mall) with some conference style rooms. The rooms have a large table or a U-shaped table (at least in my experiences) and some chairs for the participants. You have a moderator type person that runs things who asks you the questions and such. These are usually some of the lower paying options and can offer cash or gift certificate payment.

Online focus panels are also gaining visibility as it is an inexpensive way for companies to conduct the research. Often, online survey companies offer these. Some examples of such companies include e-rewards, InspiredOpinions.com and Pinecone Research. Compensation is often very minimal and may even be a raffle drawing where no one is guaranteed pay. Others, like the TV Inner Circle group only offer the satisfaction of getting early sneak peaks of TV shows and having the ability to voice your opinion about them.

Some companies have representatives come into your home or call you on the phone in order to participate. I have never done any of these, so I cannot give you too much detail about them. However, I do know that they exist.

Medical studies are the ones that pay the best. These can be for everything from paid sleep studies to testing new drugs to evaluating how things like a diet change effect the body. Many of these pose the possibility of serious medical risk and should be carefully evaluated. Often, the higher the pay, the higher the risk. I find that the safest ones are those where they just want to evaluate you for a study or research paper.

Where To Find Focus Groups in Los Angeles and Other Areas

I have actually found people doing some low paying studies in areas of Los Angeles that get a lot of foot traffic. You can usually bump into people handing out this sort of info in the Westwood area near UCLA and the Hollywood and Highland area. This is definitely the best chance you have of getting a movie or TV show group as this is the only way that I have found them.

Another great place to look (both in LA and the rest of the US) is by checking out the back page listing of your free weekly papers. So, if you are in NYC then pickup a copy of the Village Voice (for example). Often, this is where you will find some paid medical focus groups. I have seen a few different paid Los Angeles focus groups posted in easy to find areas like this.

Also, pay attention to the ads on television instead of skipping past them with your DVR.

Call up your local colleges to see if they offer this sort of opportunity. I find that I have the best luck doing this if I call the psychology department or if the school has a medical department. Well known medical facilities are another great source. In LA, try Cedars Sinai and the Kaiser Permanente locations for the best results.

Craigslist can also be a great source for these, as long as you use common sense to avoid any potential scams.

The FocusGroup.com website is another great resource for finding some high paying opportunities. On this site you can find paid focus groups in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, New Jersey, New York, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington DC, Dallas, Los Angeles and nationwide.

And just for people in SoCal – check out the Trotta Associates website at Trotta.net as they specialize in groups just for the greater Los Angeles area.

A nationwide option that pays well (up to $300), but does do some telephone groups, is Savitz Research Solutions Panel.

My Experience

Overall, I would say that my past experience doing this sort of thing has been positive. Sure, there are a few drug trials that I did where I kind of wish that I hadn’t needed the money so bad. There was risk, and I was fine, but still. With the drug trials, there is a 50% chance that you end up in the placebo half of the group, but that also means a 50% chance of possible side effects if you end up in the other half.

I think that the biggest waste of time I had was doing the online ones that paid so little or only offered an entry into a raffle for a gift card. Some of those took 45 minutes and only paid me a total of $5, which was a total waste of my time.

This is an easy way to make some extra cash, but it is not something that you can count on for regular income.

Increasing Restaurant Profits at Peak and Off-Peak Times

When the economy is down, sales are down everywhere, from retail stores to restaurants. When it comes to drumming up business, though, it is not solely a shaky economy that restaurants are up against. The popularity of online media, social networking and gaming means that more consumers are staying in for their entertainment, and if no one’s out on the town, no one’s stopping in to eat.

Full house or empty seats,, when the doors of a restaurant are open, money is being spent. A restaurant owner foots the bill for the electricity to keep the sign and dining room lit and keep staff on-site even if customers come in at a trickle or don’t come in at all. One way to make up for the losses that occur during down times is to increase profits during peak times.

Part-Time Restaurant

Some hours at a restaurant prove more popular than others. You may have guests waiting for tables during common lunch and dinner times, and have an empty house in the hours between. A few restaurants eliminate these downtimes by operating on partial days, such as a breakfast restaurant opening only from morning to early afternoon, or on split schedules, opening only during the busiest dining hours of the day – such as 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for dinner. In the hours between, they close up and turn off, saving on staffing and power.

A schedule like this can prove beneficial to saving on costs, but may be counterproductive in creating a solid customer base, especially for an up-and-coming business. If first-time customers are unaware of split hours or an early closing time and show up at the restaurant during off-hours, the inconvenience may be enough to turn some away permanently. Restaurants that operate on schedules like this also miss out on opportunities for big nights when customers leave concerts, movies or other evening events nearby.

Full-Time Restaurant

Operating on a full-time schedule ensures that, for the most part, the doors are open when the customers want to walk in. It also demands more ingenuity, though, when it comes to offsetting non-peak losses. Some restaurateurs have found that working with a supply-and-demand mentality proves advantageous over a fixed-price system. Supply-and-demand pricing helps fill seats during off-peak hours, while simultaneously increasing profits when the restaurant is dead.

Most economists find fault with a fixed-price system. Charging the same amount for a popular item that you charge for a less popular item makes no logical economic sense. What makes sense is to charge more for the popular item and less for the unpopular item. In a restaurant, that means charging more at peak dining times and less during off-peak hours. In theory, this system could increase business in off-peak hours, while making up for some of those off-peak losses with higher peak profits.

Discount Dining

The key to successful supply-and-demand pricing is to ensure that customers view price differences as a savings instead of a fine. One effective means of doing this is to use a service like Groupon to offer coupons that are only redeemable during off-peak times, or a service like Savored to provide off-peak reservations that come with a discount. These methods fit in well with an increasingly technological consumer base, and come across as obvious discounts.

Of course, many restaurants have been using a means of charging more at peak times for years with little consumer backlash, the powerful performance duo known as lunch and dinner menus. This pricing style has proven that diners will accept varying prices for the same food items. It’s all in how those pricing differences are delivered.

Read Business Magazines Online

Business Week. Entrepreneur. Fortune. Though these magazines have been available for years in print format, since the explosion of the Internet, these magazines have also gone digital. While some of the information in the print and virtual versions of these magazines are the same, the online versions and print versions of business magazines often include contain different articles, so, even if you have read the print version, the online business magazine may provide some additional information.

The online version of Business Week contains up-to-date information that the print version cannot, including a stock market summary and daily business news. Categories offered on the website include Finance, Technology, Management and Global News. An Apple iPad app can be downloaded to your iPad if you want to be able to read Business Week on the go.

Entrepreneur Magazine online, like Business Week, contains up to the minute news stories that pertain to business and industry. Categories covered extensively on the site include Startups, Franchises, Marketing and Technology. The main page of the magazine features “Trending Topics,” which display the categories that most people are searching for on the website to read.

Fortune Magazine’s online edition is powered by CNN. The website focuses nearly exclusively on the latest in business news, though the top-read stories are also listed on the sidebar and at the bottom of the main page. To read most of the articles on the Fortune website, you must be registered. This requires creating a password for logging into the website each time you read it.

If you would like to find other business magazines available to read online, click here.

Alphabetical List of Online Business Magazines

Bloomberg

Bloomberg.com features business and financial news, with an emphasis on breaking headlines. The sidebar makes it easy to choose between the latest news, the most searched news and recommended stories.

Business Week

Aside from the latest in business and financial news, Business Week is a prime resource for information on the stock market. The site provides up-to the-minute information on the U.S., European and Asian markets.

CNN Money

CNN Money doesn’t just offer information regarding big business and finance. The website also provides information on personal finance for consumers. The stock market, small business and the economy are other covered topics.

The Deal

Offering general articles on business and finance, The Deal focuses mainly on breaking deals in business industries around the world.

Fast Company

Focusing on many of the same topics as other online business magazines, Fast Company differs slightly in the unique slant they put on common topics. Online entrepreneurs, artists and energy are popular Fast Company topics.

Financial Times

This magazine out of the UK focuses on business and finance news across the world. Stocks from multiple nations display on the main page and the site explores a variety of topics.

Forbes

The online edition of Forbes concentrates on Business, Entrepreneurship and Investing, with information for both companies and individuals alike. Technology and Lifestyle articles round out the coverage.

Fortune

Fortune does offer a little coverage on all business and finance, but focuses mostly on Fortune 500 companies and the news taking place within the world of high-business.

Inc

No aspect of running a successful business is left uncovered by Inc. Find information on everything from the best locations for start-up companies to how to build a popular company website.

Kiplinger

The online version of Kiplinger magazine covers the gamut. Topics include business and industry, as well as personal investment and retirement advice, stock market information and taxes.

Alternatives to Corporate Credit Cards for Employees Who Travel

While most companies provide corporate credit cards to high-level executives to cover traveling expenses, covering the travel expenses of lower level employees may prove more complicated. Companies don’t want to hand out credit cards to everyone on the staff who needs to pay for travel expenses, especially when those employees travel only occasionally for the company. While there is no right or wrong way to cover the travel expenses for an employee to travel to a meeting or a training session, some payment methods may prove more advantageous in certain situations.

When it comes to necessary expenses, such as hotel rooms and car rentals, payment can generally be made in advance. By booking plane tickets, car rentals and hotel expenses for an employee, the company’s accounts payable department can make upfront payment using a company credit card or by sending a check. Even with the base expenses paid up front though, the employee must generally put a cash deposit or credit card down for any incidental expenses incurred during his or her stay.

If the employee has a credit card with enough funds to cover travel expenses for company travel, one option is to allow the employee to pay for expenses, including airline tickets, hotel rooms and food, on his or her credit card. Then, the employee can submit an expense report, detailing all of the expenses incurred during travel, and accounts payable can give the employee a check to cover the expenses. If a company does choose this method of travel expense funding, all efforts should be made to pay the employee for the expenses in a timely fashion to prevent the employee from incurring interest charges.

Paying per diem is a method of travel expense compensation that many employers use. Per diem provides employees with a daily monetary amount that should cover basic necessities while on the trip, such as food. Since per diem is paid before the employee leaves on a company trip, the employee doesn’t have to worry about meeting secondary expenses with their own money while traveling. Per diem can be paid by check before a few days before the employee is set to leave the office or the total per diem amount can be provided on prepaid credit cards, which eliminates the need for the company to settle up with the employee when the trip ends.

To fully cover an employee so that they have no need to worry about expenses while traveling, consider a combination of methods to pay for corporate travel. Use a corporate credit card to prepay hotel rooms, plane tickets and car rentals for employees, for example, and give each employee a prepaid credit card to cover food, fuel and other costs.