Web Links to Previous work:

https://www.godaddy.com/garage/author/eleer/

http://www.businesses2sell.com.au/blogs/2014/07/keeping-overhead-to-a-minimum-without-looking.php

http://www.business2sell.co.za/blogs/2014/04/south-african-economic-growth-since-apartheid.php (Ghost Written for Client and was picked up by Yahoo Business and Google News)

http://www.business2community.com/finance/world-recession-0867858 (Ghost Written for Client and was picked up by Yahoo Business and Google News)

http://creativeellie.com/2014/07/16/support-your-branding-through-quality-customer-service/

http://www.perfectwinningsmile.com/blog/bid/103341/Are-Micro-beads-in-Your-Toothpaste (Ghost Written for Client) http://www.harrelldentistry.com/dental-bridge/dental-bridge-vs-implant-may-the-best-plan-win/ (Ghost Written for Client) http://creativeellie.com/2012/10/17/hello-world/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8320324.Elizabeth_Donley_Leer http://offtothefilms.com/category/film-festivals/starz-denver-film-festival/ http://www.mtn-creek.com/ https://acharacterabovellc.com/

 

Comprehensive Multi-Genre Articles Portfolio

Elizabeth Leer

How Too Articles Section:

Building a Shed Roof

 

As you may know, there are many different types of roof styles, ranging from flat to multi-layered or sloped. With this variety of styles also comes a variety in the degree of difficulty. One of the simplest roofing designs is the gabled roof mainly because it does not use a truss system. In this article, we are going to focus on how to build a gabled roof for a shed.

Step One – Create a Stable Top Beam Base

Along the top edge of your shed’s walls, position four beams that are 1-2 inches wider than the walls, flat across the top of each wall’s edge, and bolt it in place at the corners. When each beam is in place; it should look like a rectangular or square (depending on the shape of your shed) frame when looking down at the shed. These beams need to be very securely attached as they are the supporting aspect of your roof.

Step Two Gable Construction

Measure the midline of the two end beams, making sure the measurements are accurate because both ends need to line up. At the midline on each end, securely attach a beam perpendicular to the Tope Beam Base. The length of these two beams will determine the degree of pitch your roof will have. Once the two vertical beams have been securely attached, the Cross Beam needs to be installed. Attach the Cross Beam to the two vertical beams. This is the framework that will support your rafters.

Step Three Cut and Install Rafters

Rafters should be 24” apart and need to be notched with a “Stopper Cut” on the bottom edge a few inches up the beam from the lower end of the rafter. This notch will rest on the Top Beam Base and is what gives the gabled roof its strength. The top end of the rafter will be angled to butt up against and attached to the Cross Beam. The angle of this cut will depend on the degree of the pitch you have chosen. It is best to create a template first for these cuts and then use it to cut each rafter, so all of the rafters fit in place identically. In addition to rafters being spaced 24” apart, each side of the roof’s rafters should line up across from each other at the Cross Beam.

Step Four Apply Roof

Once you have all of your rafters in place; you can now attach your roof. Typically plywood is used for this step, but this can be whatever material you choose to use here. When using plywood, nail it to each rafter making sure to attach it securely at the top, bottom, and middle. For a more finished look, roofing tiles can be layered on top of the plywood, starting at the bottom edge of the roof and working upward to ensure water runs off the roof instead of in between tiles. Using roofing tiles will make your roof last longer against the elements.

Installing a roof can be quite difficult, but you don’t have to be a Master Carpenter to install a basic gable roof; with a few math skills and knowledge of angles, anyone can install a gabled roof on a shed.

 

(Source Links:

http://voyo.hubpages.com/hub/An-Illustrated-Guide-To-Building-A-Shed-Roof#

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090524073046AAXOnYB

 

Building a Shed Door

So you have your shed built, but what do you do with that gaping hole in the front? A door, that’s what your shed needs. Here are some simple instructions to assist you in building a door for your shed.

Supplies

  • 1”x6” Pressure Treated Tongue and Groove Wood Slats (Enough to cover doorway when laid side by side.)
  • 1”x3” Pressure Treated Wood Boards (You will need 3 of these cut 1.5” shorter than your door opening’s width, as they are going to be the braces that secure the door slats together.)
  • Drill (With both Screw Driver and Wood Drill bits)
  • 4” Wood Screws
  • Wood Glue
  • Hinges and Door Latch Hardware

Step One: Lay-Out Door

For this article, we are going to presume you have your door opening already framed out, and have you have the door lumber pre-cut at your local home center or lumber yard. Measure the opening to your door twice, so that you have an accurate dimension of height and width of your door. If the measurements do not come out the same, measure again. It is important to have an accurate dimension or your door will not fit properly. Lay your tongue and groove door slats out side-by-side making sure to align tops and bottoms. It helps for this step to have a large flat surface with a straight edge, such as a wall to line the boards up along. Measure your width of the laid outdoor to make sure it fits the width of your door opening. It’s easier to make this adjustment now if needed, rather than after the door is completed.

Step Two: Assemble Door

Evenly place the 1”x3” boards horizontally across the door slats, with the first board starting 5” from the top and the last board 5” from the bottom. There should be a 3/4” space on each side of the three horizontal boards. Once you have your boards properly laid out, flip each cross board over and coat it with wood glue, before returning it to its proper location and attaching it to each slat with three wood screws positioned in a triangle, flipping every other triangle upside-down in an alternating pattern.

Step Three: Hang Door and Add Latch Hardware

There are a variety of different hinge and latch options available at your local hardware store. It is important to choose a sturdy hinge arrangement because the shed door will be heavy and put a lot of stress on the hinges with use. A triple hinge, where there is a hinge located at each brace is your best option for a shed. By placing the three horizontal boards on the inside of the door you eliminate water drainage issues that can occur with them on the outside of the door. Once you select your hinges, follow the directions provided with the store bought hinges and hang your door, then attach your latch.

Although shed doors come in a variety of styles sizes and décor, this is a very basic style shed door that should be doable for any do-it-yourselfer.

 

(Source Links:

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/build-slatted-shed-door-23455.html

http://www.secrets-of-shed-building.com/building_a_shed_door.html

 

How Hearing Aids Work

When nearly 1 in 5 people suffer from hearing loss of some sort, it is surprising to see so few people using hearing aids of some type.  Some people simply can’t afford them, and others find the devices embarrassing or uncomfortable.  These reasons for avoiding hearing devices could be partially due to not understanding how hearing aid devices work, or because they are only familiar with the bulky, obvious and screechy devices of the past. Modern aids are much smaller and less screechy. They can fit comfortably inside the ear virtually hidden from site. Current technologies such as:

  • Digital
  • Directional Microphone
  • Telecoil

have improved the strength and filtering abilities of hearing devices, giving the wearer a clearer hearing experience.

To understand how hearing devices work, a basic understanding of how we hear is needed. The ear is made up of:

  • The Outer Ear – Where sound enters the ear.
  • The Ear Canal – Sound waves travel down the ear canal to vibrate the eardrum.
  • The ear Drum – Vibrates triggering the 3 small bones in the inner ear.
  • 3 Small bones in the inner ear – The Hammer, the Anvil, and the Stirrup carry the vibrations to the cochlea.
  • The Cochlea – The shell shape chamber in the inner ear.

Once sound waves reach the Cochlea they stimulate hair cells, creating an electric current to the Auditory Nerve which sends the nerve impulses to the brain.

Hearing devices amplify the vibrations that normally enter the outer ear, and convert them to electronic signals. These devices typically have four parts.

  • The Microphone – collects sound from the environment, converts it to an electronic signal, then sends it to the Amplifier.
  • The Amplifier – magnifies the sound received from the Microphone and sends it to the Receiver.
  • The Receiver/Speaker – converts the electronic signals it receives from the Amplifier back into sound and sends it to the inner ear, where is it forwarded on to the brain.
  • Battery – powers the hearing device.

Although there are different styles of hearing devices, this is the main process of how they work. These types of aids work well for people who have had hearing loss due to the inner ear becoming less sensitive, causing it not to receive and transmit vibrations as easily. By amplifying the sound vibrations with an aid, the sound is able to pass through the weaker part of the ear on to the nerve receptors.

For more severe damage a cochlear implant or a bone-anchored hearing aid may be a better option. Cochlear implants basically take over for the inner ear and convert sound to electronic signals then send those signals on to the brain. Bone-anchored hearing aids attach directly to the bone in the middle ear and bypass the ear canal and inner ear stages of hearing. Instead of amplifying sound, they create vibrations via the bone and transmit those vibrations directly to the cochlea through a process called direct bone conduction.

Science has brought hearing devices a long way from the bulky, hook around the ear models of past generations. With these innovations, has also come more affordable pricing and more customized products.  There is no reason to be embarrassed by wearing a hearing device any longer and cost should no longer be a prohibitive factor, with insurance covering many more options and manufacturers seeing the need to deliver these devices at an affordable cost.

 

Save Money by Making your own Baby Food

Being a new parent can be exhausting and stressful, especial when finances are tight. Now that formula, baby food, and diapers are part of the budget, money just doesn’t seem to go very far. How can you make it go further? How about making your own baby food? It is simpler than you might think. Plus, making your own baby food gives you control over what is in the food you are feeding your baby. Here are a few things you will need when making your own baby food.

  • Baby Food Grinder – These should be available at any culinary or baby store. If you cannot find an actual baby food grinder, a meat grinder, or a spoon and medium to fine grid strainer will work. A more high-tech method is a blender or a food processor that has a puree setting.
  • Ice Cube Trays – These are for storing the extra servings. The cube sections are the perfect size for single portion servings, and since the food will be stored in the freezer, these will stack nicely in your freezer for future use.
  • Saran Wrap – To cover the ice cube trays.
  • Heavy Duty Rubber Bands – These are used to secure the Saran Wrap snugly in place over the ice cube trays.
  • Labeled Zip Lock Bags – After the portioned baby food has frozen solid in the ice cube trays, remove the portions and store them in zip lock bags to avoid freezer burn.

The easiest part of making your own baby food is you can do it at the same time you are making the rest of your families dinner. The key is that you have to remove the baby food portion before you season the food. Boiling or steaming is easiest for this since baked foods usually get seasoned before going into the over, but if you wait to season until the baked items come out of the oven, you can also do the baking method.

Start by boiling, steaming or baking your vegetable items such as broccoli, potatoes, beets, sweet potatoes, peas, asparagus, carrots, etc. When they are tender enough to break apart with a fork, pull out the portion you want to use for baby food and set it aside in a plastic bowl with a tight lid. Let it continue to steam and soften as you finish dinner for the rest of the family. After you have removed the portion that is meant to be used as baby food, you can season the rest as you like.

Once the baby’s portion of the veggies has cooled enough to handle without scalding yourself, place it in the baby food grinder and puree it. If you are using a strainer and spoon, simply press the vegetable items through the strainer into a bowl. Make sure to get out all of the lumps. You want this to be as smooth and easy for your baby to swallow as possible.

When all the lumps have been removed and the vegetables are a smooth pureed consistency, spoon them into the ice cube trays, filling each cube section. After each tray has been filled cover it with saran wrap and secure the wrap with a rubber band, then place it immediately in the freezer. As mentioned above, you will want to remove the frozen food from the ice cube trays once it has hardened completely, this may take overnight, and store them in ziplock bags in the freezer until you are ready to serve them. Each cube makes one serving. Make sure to label the bags with the content and the date that they were made.

Beyond the basic economic savings, you will see from making your own baby food, is the health benefits. You are in control of what you are serving. You will know that there are no preservatives, sugars or dyes in the food your baby is eating. Just like what you eat, it is healthier for your baby to have fresh vegetables and fruits versus those stored with preservatives. These same processes can be done with fruit and lean meats. The key is to get them tender enough to puree them. Check with your pediatrician to see what kinds of foods are acceptable for your baby to be eating at their current growth stage, and get creative. The more flavors your baby is exposed to, the healthier their eating choices will be as they get older.

 

The Secret to Crispy Homemade Hash Browns

If you have ever made hash browns from scratch you know how difficult it can be to get them crispy on the outside without burning them to get them done in the middle. There are a couple of techniques that will turn your hash browns from mediocre to spectacular.

  1. Use the Right Potato – When making hash browns you want a sturdy potato such as the reliable, go to Russet. A good second choice would be the Yukon Gold. These two varieties cooked consistency makes for the perfect hash brown.
  2. Grate the Potatoes onto a Paper Towel – Moisture is your worst enemy when making hash browns. By grating your potatoes onto a paper towel lined plate and then placing a couple more paper towels over the top when you are done grating, then squeezing the moisture out of the potato, you will get a crispier hash brown. This is the same with French fries.
  3. Make Sure Your Pan is Hot, lightly oiled and Large – Overcrowding a pan with potatoes will give you the mushy raw in the middle result. To avoid this, make sure your pan is very hot and large enough to accommodate a number of potatoes you are cooking. You want them in a thin layer in order to cook through during the time it takes for them to crisp. By lightly oiling the pan you will make the flipping process much easier.
  4. Leave Them Alone – It is tempting to want to flip our future hash browns frequently to see what the bottom looks like. This only breaks your hash brown and interferes with the browning process. Let them sit until you can see the edges starting to brown. Similar to waiting for the pancakes to bubble before flipping them.  Once you see the edges starting to crisp you can flip your hash browns.

If you follow these four simple tips, your hash browns should come out tender, tasty and crisp. The added bonus to making your own homemade potatoes is that you get to flavor them any way you like. So, be creative, add your favorite seasonings, veggies or meat to see what kind of spectacular new breakfast treat you come up with. Just make sure that when using veggies and meat, the items are diced small enough to cook through. The other option is the pre-cook items like bacon and crumble them into the raw potatoes before putting them in the pan. Have fun experimenting and bon repast.

 

Sales / Staff Management / Human Resources / Business Management Articles Section:

Corporate Success Secrets

You’ve spent the last four to eight years or more getting your college education in order to be prepared when entering the corporate world. Now what? Students often find it difficult to make the transition from school to corporate success, but with a little preparedness and hard work, it doesn’t have to be so challenging. Here are some ideas to help you make the transition smoothly.

  • Research – Research the companies you are applying to. By having a good understanding of a company’s structure and philosophy prior to accepting employment with them, you will have a better understanding of what working there will be like, as well as what will be expected of you as a staff member. This is also beneficial information to have for your interview. Companies like to see that you know something about them before they hire you.
  • Presentation and Appearance – It is very easy to get used to being able to go to class in sweats and a t-shirt. However in the corporate world presentation and appearance is important. Even in so-called “casual dress” work environments, it is expected that people dress business casual, not actual casual. Clients and customers want to know that the person behind the desk knows what they are talking about and unfortunately our visual appearance is our first impression. If you are sitting there in shorts and flip-flops talking about financial issues, the client or boss may not be hearing all of your genius ideas, because they are busy looking at your toenails, thinking you would rather be at the beach than helping them. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and spend a fortune on a new work wardrobe. It simply means dress to impress by maintaining a clean a professional appearance.
  • Professionalism – Behave in a professional manner. Behaving professionally doesn’t have to mean being stiff, it just means understanding what is appropriate behavior for the office. Dirty jokes with your buddies may be alright, but dirty jokes in the office could get you fired. It’s okay to be friendly, just remember to keep it professional.
  • Establish a Quality Work Ethic – Balancing the many aspects of life can sometimes be challenging. It is important to have a full home life otherwise what are we working for. However, it is equally important to get our work done and do it well in order to afford that active home life. Establish boundaries for your work and home life. Set work hours that make it possible for you to meet deadlines and provide quality work. Work hours are work hours, not chat on the phone with buddies and work in between. There are a lot of people out there looking for your job. Don’t’ complain about working an 80 hour work week, if you are spending half of it online chatting with your friends. Save those conversations for after hours. Your bosses will notice those who are working hard and those who are working hard to look like they are working.

Being successful in the corporate world is not only about making tons of money it is about being happy where you are and with what you are doing. By following these simple guidelines you can be successful in the corporate world and in life.

 

Quality Displays for Optimal Sales

It may sound like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many businesses overlook this important piece of marketing, Quality Displays. Simply stacking items on a shelf does not make them go “flying” off of the shelf. To optimize sales it is important to have fresh, easy to understand, and uncluttered displays.

Multiple scientific studies into the way the human body responds to stimuli and interprets information have been used to develop more efficient and effective display methods in order to increase sales. Shelf placement, packaging sizes, weight measurements on packaging, packaging design, and sales tag placement are a few of the critical areas that have been improved through these studies.

Since research shows that most people tend to scan visual cues such as shelves from left to right and eye level down, these would be the best areas to display merchandise that brings in the highest revenue. In addition to selecting the proper height and shelf placement of products, there are several types of display arrangements that have proven to be more effective than others. These are:

  • Block Placement – Placing like items together for consumers to more easily see all of their options for that item, an example would be all dry beans next to one another no matter the manufacturer. The most common method of this is to double block the items by blocking items together, but within the block grouping manufacturer items together.
  • Vertical Placement – Placing the same items on multiple shelves going vertically to draw the eye up and down creates an eye-pleasing effect for customers and makes product location more easily recognized.
  • Commercial Placement – Items that are perceived to have a greater value by consumers and bringing more revenue for the business are placed in the more eye-catching shelf positions.
  • Market Share Placement – This placement refers to items that are the highest revenue makers for the business and these are placed in the most easily located areas of the store to accommodate customers and increase the sales of these high revenue items.
  • Margin Product Placement – Margin Products are products that provide the retailer with the most profit from each sale. These items are placed in high profile areas in order to increase company profits.

Although shelf placement is a critical element in merchandising, following the eye-level rule does not work for all items. Research has shown that bulkier items placed at eye-level did not do as well as if they were placed on a lower shelf. The size, weight, and shape of the product were key reasons for this. The bulkiness of the item made it more difficult for customers to lift the items at eye-level from the shelf causing them to purchase the more convenient items that were on lower shelves. One study trial using a 54-ounce juice product showed that by moving the product up to eye level sales decreased by 15 percent making it clear that this item was better suited for a lower shelf.

Maintaining properly faced displays is as crucial to sales as is the actual placement of items. Shelves need to look neat, clean, organized, and full but not overcrowded. Messy, dusty, or understocked shelves give the appearance of leftovers on the shelf. When consumers are shopping they are looking for the newest and freshest product, not the remnants. So, by maintaining shelf presentation consumers have the impression that they are receiving the newest product available.

Even in times of shortages, it is possible to keep shelves looking full by simply pulling the available stock forward and supporting it with boxes behind it if needed. Bed Bath and Beyond is an expert at this method. Their shelves continually looked full from floor to ceiling, yet the highest shelves are typically empty manufacturer’s boxes or printed facings that resemble merchandise. This illusion effect helps keep the shelves looking full while managing turns without having overstock issues.

On the flip side of this, if shelves are overcrowded with products consumers may have difficulty finding what they are looking for and begin to feel overwhelmed. Crowded shelves can also create the appearance that the business is not doing very well and sales are down possibly from being overpriced, whether the pricing is or is not a great deal. Any of these impressions can cause a customer to decide to shop someplace else and end in missed sales by the business.

When re-stocking shelves it is important to train staff to stock from the back and rotate product. Since customers typically pull from the front of the shelf, this process will minimize out of date products, returns due to date or spoil issues, and spoils on perishable items.

Products should be located in a draw format throughout the retail location. Grocery stores are experts at this, placing staple items, such as eggs, milk, bread, etc. in the center and back of the stores in order to draw consumers past the many other items in the store that they may not have known were there or may not have originally intended to buy.

Impulse buying is a large portion of retail sales. According to a 1998 USAWeekend.com article in North America alone, consumers spend over $4 billion per year on impulse buys. Using planograms that force customers to explore the store creates large opportunities for impulse buying when done properly. However, schematics need to make sense when doing this otherwise this method could lose sales due to customers being unable to locate what they are looking for.

Other ways to influence impulse buying are placing impulse items near registers and checkout areas, entry areas, and grouping complimentary items like chips and beer in the same proximity to each other. This is also a good opportunity for “upselling” by offering higher quality higher priced items alongside the lower priced items for those consumers who prefer and can afford the more expensive products.

Remember to switch displays out from time to time and to meet the season or holiday, in a timely manner to keep things looking fresh. But, do not jump the gun. Let one holiday complete before packing the shelves with items for the next. In a world over-run with advertising, consumers can feel pressured if seasonal items, other than clearance items, are being rushed to the shelves too far in advance of the holiday or season.

Accurate pricing is another area that should be meticulously maintained. Consumers want to know what they are paying for items before they get to the register, and want to know that when they get to the register that the price they think they are paying is what they pay. Of course, a consumer is never upset about getting to the register and paying less, but finding out the price is ringing up higher will definitely cause customer dissatisfaction and too many experiences with this will cause them to shop someplace else.

Understanding how people react to their environment and planning the layout of products, maintaining displays and keeping current with the season are all tried and true methods of increasing revenue and profits in the retail world. For those new to the retail industry learning these basic tips will be a necessity for survival.

 

Train Employees to Succeed and Everyone Wins

In the hustle and bustle, everything needs to be done now, budget focused, understaffed, world we live in today, too often employee training is glazed over or skipped entirely. The lack of training provided by a substantial number of employers has fed the ever-growing group of incompetent workers and poor customer service providers. Consumers crave quality assistance and positive customer service experiences. This can only happen if employers take the time to provide their staff with adequate training in all areas of their job, and not simply the vital technical areas.

The expansion of a global economy has made the competition between businesses even more intense, making it imperative that businesses do everything they can to create a niche for themselves that makes them stand out from the pack. Quality training in areas such as customer service and company practices is one way of doing just that. By having knowledgeable associates who are experts in quality customer service any company can achieve distinction in this world of untrained and poor customer service staffing.

  • Employers benefit from fewer errors, happier customers, happier employees, less turnover, and with more customers comes more profits.
  • Customers benefit from less hassle on exchanges or product/service issues, saved time in having to wait and explain things over and over again to multiple staff members, and an overall happier experience in doing business with your company.
  • Employees are happier because they feel valued since you have taken the time to train them properly; they feel empowered and more invested in the company.

Studies from the Dale Carnegie Training Center show that employee turnover accounts for $11 billion yearly in financial losses for employers in the U.S. alone. Another study sites that 40 percent of insufficiently trained employees leave their current employment within the first year stating lack of training and dissatisfaction with their job as the reason for their changing employment. These statistics show that the cost of locating and retraining new employees significantly outweighs the expense of training associates correctly in the first place in order to decrease turnover rates and increase efficiency, productivity, and employee engagement.

The Dale Carnegie study showed that companies with engaged employees beat their competition who did not have engaged employees, in performance by more than 200 percent. Additionally, the study showed that 71 percent of all employees do not feel engaged when it comes to their work, and out of that 26 percent actually felt disengaged in their job. With only 29 percent of the workforce feeling engaged in their job, this means that those companies who provide the training needed to make their associates feel engaged in their job and company will have a significant advantage over their competition.

The topic of adequate training must encompass all positions including all levels of management. 80 percent of employees stating they feel disengaged claim it is largely in part to their dissatisfying relationship with their manager, and 70 percent said their lack of confidence in the company leaders lead them to be disengaged in the company and their position within it. These numbers indicate that management training is just as vital if not more so to a company’s success than associate training.

Only 54 percent of employees in these studies claimed to take pride in the company that they worked for. Both training and the company’s contributions to the community and society, in general, led to these employees feelings of pride and engagement within their company.

Some of the things that will be seen in engaged employees are:

  • Enthusiasm – Enthusiastic employees will promote a healthier work environment because they like their job and want to do the best job they can.
  • Inspiration – Inspired associates will come up with new ideas for old and new problems or issues, creating a uniquely innovative environment.
  • Confidence – Confident employees will not be afraid of reprisal when they have to make necessary decisions and will handle daily issues in a much more beneficial manner.
  • Empowerment – Empowered employees tend to take initiative more frequently and feel more invested in the company

Now that you know how important it is to have well trained and engaged associates, what steps can you implement in order to create them?

  • Senior Leadership
    • Upper management needs to communicate a clear and detailed vision of the company’s mission, goals, and strategies to meet those goals to all associates no matter what their job is.
    • Upper management must continually show associates that they do have a direct impact on the company and their work environment.
  • Direct Managers
    • Supervisory and Middle-Level Managers need to create a healthy relationship with all of their employees by interacting on a person to person level versus a political hierarchy.
    • Supervisors and Managers who create a sense of empowerment with their employees will give their staff a sense of being valued.
  • Employees
    • All staff members should feel able to communicate openly and without fear of disciplinary action so as to contribute their ideas and concerns.
    • Employees need to take ownership of their company by doing the best job they can and representing the company in the most positive light possible at all times.

Having a significant and thorough training program in place for all associates is a powerful recruiting tool for the young and upcoming generation entering the workforce. Putting in place a solid training program not only recruits potential employees who are looking to build a long-term career, it recruits associates who are looking to build and grow within the company. Having this type of associate means less turnover, happier associates, and less hiring expense; some examples of this as published in Forbes 2012 100 Best Companies to Work for List are:

  • Google – Although Google is ranked best employer to work for by Forbes, they are also ranked as tied for third with Mosaic when it comes to the most turnover, by Payscale.com. This is theorized to be due in part to the average employee age being 29 and not feeling vested within the company
  • SAS Institute – SAS Institute not only took the third place ranking by Forbes for the best company to work for but they also took the number one spot in low turnover rate with a 2% turnover for the year.
  • Intel – Although Intel only ranked at 46 for best companies to work for overall, they came in at number two on the low turnover rate also boasting a 2% turnover rate.
  • General Mills – Ranked 63 in the overall numbers, but third in the turnover list with only 3% turnover.

The remaining 9 companies listed in the 12 companies with the lowest turnover rate were, Hasbro, Atlantic Health, NuStar Energy, PCL Construction, Publix Super Markets, W. L. Gore & Associates, DPR Construction, Darden Restaurants, and Mercedes-Benz USA, in that order and all showing only a 3% turnover rate.

Looking at these statistics makes it very easily recognized that large companies such as Walmart, and Kroger may be expanding and taking the top retail company statuses, but their lack of associate training and inability to create an engaging work environment for their employees to feel vested within their company has left them off the list of places people want to work, and created a high employee turnover rate for them in general. This is where smaller companies can find their niche and compete better with the supergiants. A better-trained associate creates a better environment and happier customers, which in turn creates return customers. Taking the time to train staff to be experts at not only their jobs, but in regards to the company, makes all of us winners, in the end, the employer, customers, and employees alike.

 

What to Consider when Implementing a Casual Dress Code

In the 50’s uniforms or professional dress codes were a part of most businesses as well as everyday life. Men wore ties, women wore dresses, and it was unheard of to go out in public in less than business attire. Then the freedom revolution of the 60’s came about, and casual more comfortable clothing began to become a regular part of society. In the late 80’s businesses started to implement casual Friday’s as a means of rewarding hard-working employees and slowly the ideas of dress codes started to be modified and eventually, professional dress became non-existent in a lot of business environments. The impact of this change can be seen throughout the business world as a whole no matter the industry.

Perception

Perception is a large part of a company’s image. No matter how hard we try not to judge a book by its cover, it is human nature to have a first impression based on looks; when clientele see an overly casual or less than professional staff appearance their immediate first impression is less than stellar, whether subconscious or not. A business’ first impression is the client’s first bit of data that helps them decide whether or not to do business with a company. If customers see a business’ image as unkempt or too casual they may believe that to be a direct reflection on the service they will receive there and decide to go someplace else, thusly cutting into the company’s sales and bottom line.

Additionally having employees that are dressed as if they were customers, especially in any kind of retail environment can be confusing to customers when looking for a staff member to assist them. This can be avoided by creating a uniform dress code, whether it is a simply logoed t-shirt or requiring staff to wear all black, etc. It does not have to be expensive or elaborate, just something that works for your industry or business.

Mental Attitude

A study at the University of Hertfordshire found that wearing jeans and t-shirts as work attire makes it difficult for associates to subconsciously differentiate between having a relaxed weekend mindset and a professional workday mindset. Although this study indicates that how we dress directly affects our ability to remain alert, the results were based on how each of the test subjects felt they were responding, and not physical scientific data. This means that there is the possibility of age, gender, mood, and other internal catalysts affecting the tests results.

For companies who choose to have a casual atmosphere there are some strategies towards business casual attire that can help associates in their attempt to differentiate mentally between workplace attitudes and at home casual attitudes:

  • Promote an upscale casual atmosphere, such as jeans are fine as long as paired with a dress shirt or blouse.
  • Jeans and t-shirts are acceptable, however athletic shoes paired with them would be inappropriate.
  • Encourage associates to accessorize in order to give casual dress a dressier appearance.
  • Put together a manual with visual examples of what the company considers business casual and too casual and include it in the employee handbook.

By providing employees with this guidance as to what the company views as business casual, employees can have a distinction between work and home, as well as focus more on their jobs rather than on what to wear to work.

Associates can create their own routines to help the transition from work mode to home or vice versa such as simply changing clothes when they get home, or enjoying a good cup of coffee in a specific place before getting dressed for work. Having these routines is one way that associates can help their minds adjust to the different expectations of the day without getting completely dressed up.

Productivity

Although there are some studies that show a business’ adopting a casual dress policy can have positive workplace effects:

  • Improved Employee Morale
  • Cost Savings to both Employee and Employer when obtaining work attire
  • Better Communications between Managers and Staff

The debate over how casual dress affects work performance tends to be an ongoing battle. There are many studies that show casual dress has a negative effect on productivity as well as introduce other negative issues, like:

  • Increased Tardiness and Absenteeism
  • Increased Litigation
  • Decreased Company Loyalty

With the bulk of productivity and casual dress study outcomes being derived from perception and employee feelings, it is difficult to get a true read on how it affects productivity when staff members are provided with a casual dress code. Because of this Organizational Behavior Management Network conducted their own study that attempted to provide more of a scientific method of determining the effects of casual dress on productivity.

This study took an industry that entailed repetitive processes such as data entry and transcription and measured the number of lines typed while alternating between casual wear and dress attire days. The results of this investigation showed that although there was a slight increase in productivity, the number was negligible indicating that what the associate wore really had no impact on their productivity.  Since the study was only run on four individuals and with limited industrial variables it cannot be concluded that this would be the case for all companies or industries.

Considerations

While researchers continue to attempt to come up with a definitive answer to the question of workplace attire’s effect on professional performance and productivity, it is obvious that there are both benefits and drawbacks to companies adopting a casual work dress environment. So for companies considering implementing a casual dress code, or casual dress day some things that should be figured in are:

  • Company’s Industry – Certain industries tend to be more accommodative to casual dress or non-uniform dress codes than others, meaning office work, telemarketing, etc. would be a better fit for the casual dress code than restaurants, hospitals, legal offices, manufacturing plants, etc.
  • Safety Issues – Take into account any hazards of the job when creating a dress code. Certain professions have inherent hazards associated with the job which would make casual dress an ingredient for possible worker’s compensation claims.
  • Consider All Job Descriptions – Dress code policies need to be consistent in order to avoid discrimination claims and internal grudges between departments. If there are some departments that a casual dress code would not be suitable for, try to find an alternative method of accommodating them when establishing casual dress code policies for the departments that it would be applicable. Make sure that any accommodations are of equal value so as not to cause inter-department hostilities.
  • Clear and Understandable Dress Code Policy – Casual dress policies can easily become convoluted and confusing to staff when left to their own perception of what casual dress entails. By documenting and elaborating on what the company perception of casual dress is, employees are not left to wonder and flounder through the casual dress process. Additionally, it puts all employees on the same page eliminating internal disputes or trashy apparel.

Everyone enjoys dawning comfortable clothing, and would love to be able to wear what they find comfortable on a daily basis, but when it comes to the work environment a casual attitude about attire may need to be thought through on a deeper level and strategically planned out to make sure that the new policy does not have negative effects on the business as a whole.

 

Keeping Overhead to a Minimum without Looking Cheap

Since 8 out of 10 businesses fail within their first 18 months of operation, it is important to understand why when considering a start-up company. Three of the top ten reasons that small businesses go out of business are poor accounting, operational inefficiencies, and dysfunctional management, in that order. Below are some of the ways overhead can be trimmed and examples of the impact that having poor bookkeeping procedures can have on a company’s ability to maintain expenses.

Ways Accounting can contribute to overhead:

  • Lack of oversight when bookkeeping is not accurate – It is difficult to manage expenses and cash flow when records are not up to date in order to know how much money is actually in the bank, how many accounts receivable are past due, what the actual expenses are, and how many accounts payables are outstanding. Without having an accurate accounting of these areas it is impossible to know if the company is making a profit or not.Maintaining accurate and timely detailed bookkeeping also provides a method of looking at expenses to see where a company may be overspending and could cut back. It is important for any business owner to have a working knowledge of what is going on with the accounts in order to stay on track with the company’s mission, and not simply depend on their accountant to get it right. This is a case where ignorance is not bliss.
  • Double purchases – Tracking accounts payable on a regular and consistent basis helps avoid duplicate supply orders, double shipments, incorrect items, etc. Some companies will only allow returns to be made within a certain amount of time. If accounts payables are not up to date and there is a duplicate or incorrect order that was not caught during receiving, then the company may be stuck with the extra or wrong product because they did not file the dispute and paperwork in the time period allowed.

Depending on the shipment and product this can be quite expensive in several ways, product costs, floor space for storing the product, time it takes to sell or get rid of the product, staffing costs for handling the product, etc.

  • Inaccurate accounts payable from incorrect bills – When bookkeeping falls behind it is easy to make mistakes with payables as the checks are rushed out the door to keep the operation running. Unfortunately, just because a bill comes in does not mean it is correct. Invoices and statements are generated by everyday people entering the data and mistakes happen. Double checking each statement and invoice before mailing a check will help keep expenses where they are expected to be as well as alert the business officers to price increases that may impact profits. Price increases from vendors could prompt a change in either the company’s provider of the product or an increase in their own sale price. Without accurate accounts payable records this is easily missed.

Ways to cut back on expenses:

  • Shop around for deals on supplies, but don’t spend too much time doing this so that it negates the savings in the long run. Price comparison shopping may sound like a no-brainer and most people compare prices when looking at a high dollar item. However, it is very easy to overlook the amount of money being spent on smaller everyday items like toilet paper, coffee, paper towels, ink, etc. Do a mental check of what the company is currently paying for these products and keep an eye out for good sales, discount options, competitors with lower prices on the same item, and comparable products at a cheaper price instead of falling into a rut with supply shopping and simply picking up the items needed. The volume used for these items can add up quickly. It is important though to take into consideration the amount of saving versus the time spent locating the savings and the distance to travel in order to receive the discount. It makes no sense to spend an hour driving only to save $.50.
  • As mentioned above, accounts payable discrepancies can cost a company a lot of money if not caught in a timely manner. Staying on top of invoice and price increases as they come in will save the company money.
  • Look into bundling utilities like phones, internet, security services, printing or cleaning services, etc. Even if you don’t need specific services at the moment, it may still be cheaper to have the bundle than not to. A lot of the telecommunications companies prefer to bundle phone services with internet and television. The office may not need television service, but the substantial cost savings of having television service included in the package may make it cheaper than having phones and internet alone. Look at what bundle options are available and pick the one that works best for the best price. This is not limited to telecom and IT products and services. Other industries are also jumping on the bundle bandwagon as a way to bring in new business or raise their ticket price. Do not be afraid to ask for bundle options if one is not advertised and it is apparent that there could be a bundling opportunity. They just may not have thought of the idea yet.
  • Monitor the company’s waste. By cutting back on a number of printouts thrown in the trash or duplicate copies made a company can save on costly ink and paper expenses. Try implementing notebook systems for manuals and documents that are not readily needed every day, in a place where everyone can have access vs everyone having a copy, or join the cloud so that documents are available to everyone who needs them in cyberspace rather than with a pile of paper. This will also cut back on wear and tear of office equipment. Consider using dishes and glassware instead of paper and Styrofoam products, and implementing a rotating dish day. This will not only cut back on expenses but will also cut back on the company’s carbon footprint. According to Forbes, organizations like the United Nations estimate that the amount of annual solid waste production worldwide is between 1 and 1.3 billion tons. This number is three times as high as it was in the 1960’s.
  • Maintain company equipment so that it lasts longer. This does not only apply to large equipment such as cars, forklifts, etc. Office machines like computers, printers, and copiers also need to be maintained and have regular cleaning and maintenance. By making equipment last longer the overhead of repairs and replacement costs are minimalized.
  • Make sure the management team is on the same page. If the people running the company do not have a clear idea of where the company is going and how they are going to get there, then the staff will not know either. Different visions on how to achieve a common goal can cost the company money and have been a prime reason for companies of all sizes going out of business. In the highly competitive world of business overhead costs and profit margins can make or break a company. That is why it is vital to any company, especially a small or Start-up Company, to maintain expenses and negotiate the best possible prices where ever possible. Doing so will give the company an edge over those companies who are not so diligent in these areas, and will provide a solid foundation for the company’s success.

 

Support Your Branding Through Quality Customer Service

No amount of branding can help a company overcome poor customer service. Good branding is time-consuming and can be an expensive process. So do not undo all the hard work and expense with poor customer service. Consumers are looking for companies who provide above and beyond customer service and will choose to shop elsewhere especially in a down economy if they feel they were treated poorly. Here are seven ways for any business to increase customer satisfaction by providing superior customer service.

Employee Training: Well trained staff members are essential to providing quality customer service. No one wants to stand around waiting for a business’ representative to figure out how to do their job or service their customer. Companies need to provide comprehensive training to their staff in order to build on their company branding. It is much more powerful to have a reputation attached to the brand that says, “This company provides excellent customer service”than to have a business whose name is synonymous with bad service. Training needs to incorporate more than just how to do day to day procedures; it needs to incorporate people skills and service techniques as well. Different cultures may have been exposed to different methods of dealing with people. These methods may not be in alignment with company beliefs. Company training is one way to make sure that all associates are familiar with the way they are expected to treat and interact with customers while representing the company.

Stay Calm and Smile: Teach associates to always remain calm and even-keeled when in the presence of customers, even toward angry customers and how to calm an angry customer without being patronizing. No business can have 100 percent, happy customers, all the time; there will always be the squeaky wheel that needs some grease. The important thing is to know how to manage these squeaks without turning them into a full-blown emergency siren. By teaching staff members to stay calm and to not let the encounter become a direct attack on themselves, staff members are provided with an invaluable mediation tool. Instruct associates on the technique of looking at all customers as individuals with their own problems outside of the immediate situation that may be part of their emotional response. Teaching employees empathy removes the preconceptions that can often escalate an already negative situation and instead provides the associate with the proper mindset to understand the customer’s viewpoint and find an equitable solution. When administering this training do not forget to address how the staff member may be affected internally by the encounter. It is not an easy task to be asked to return negative comments or yelling with cordial responses in a calm manner. It is important for associates to know that their well-being and feelings are just as important as the clients. Provide a cool off break where associates can take a few minutes to get themselves back in perspective after a strongly negative interaction with a customer. A short cool off break will ensure that associates are ready to take on the next challenging situation with skill and grace while reminding them that they too are important to the company.

Happy Employees: It is impossible to expect disgruntled employees to provide happy and cordial customer interactions. This is why happy employees who feel vested in the success of the company are an invaluable resource. Taking care of associates and showing them they are valued is one way to both create a happy workforce and a positive image to the community. Three such examples of this are:

  • Negative – According to an article in Blomberg Businessweek, Walmart employees in three major U.S. cities Boston, Miami and San Francisco, went on a weeklong strike in May 2014 claiming lower than poverty level wages and no benefits as the reasons for their striking.
  • Negative – Amazon.com’s Leipzig, Germany fulfillment center recently went on strike demanding better wages and more comprehensive benefits.
  • Positive – The same article points out that in Costco’s 30-year history they have never had these sorts of worker disputes. Their average hourly wage is $20.89 plus overtime, versus the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and Walmart’s full-time hourly employee average wage of $12.67. Costco’s 5 percent employee turnover rate is substantially below retail standards and a direct indication of their employee loyalty. While other retailers have struggled to keep their doors open through the past five years, Costco has grown 30 percent and had their stock price double since 2009.

The financial aspect of happy employees are employees who stay longer creating a lower turnover rate, less training costs, and fewer recruiting expenses. What it takes to provide for associate needs will be different from company to company as the size and industry of the company will inevitably play key roles in what is feasible to provide and still allow the company to make a profit. Take a census of what associates feel they need and then figure out what works best for both the company and its employees. After this is done, explain to associates why certain things were feasible and why others were out of reach. Having this conversation with employees will make them feel heard and important to the organization, instead of dismissed when their requests seem to be ignored. If there are some requests that are not feasible for the company to do right away, but are very important to associates create a plan of action on how these requests are addressed and inform associate of the plan; better yet have an employee representative or several on the planning committee to witness and participate in the process.

Delegate: Delegate responsibility to trained staff in order to avoid passing customers off multiple times when resolving an issue. Everyone can relate to the frustration of trying to tend to a business issue only to be passed back and forth between departments or staff. Avoid creating this customer frustration by empowering associates to handle customer concerns without fear of reprimand. Teach employees the proper method of handling specific issues, as well as providing them with the bigger picture of their actions to guide them in assisting customers with issues that may not be in the regular scheme of things. When associates are empowered it frees up time for managers and other associates to complete their specific responsibilities that may be put off due to continuing interruptions for associate assistance. Empowered employees also take ownership in the company giving them the drive to do a better job.

Customer Feedback: Make Customers Feel Heard and Respond to them. Take quick surveys, and provide customer feedback cards in easily located areas for customers to grade and comment on the interaction they had. Make sure feedback cards have a place to list the associate who waited on them. Consider placing a pre-printed mailing address on the back for customers who may not have time at that moment to fill out the form to be able to fill it out in the comfort of their home and mail it back. Do not just put the forms out there; read them. It does no good to gather the information simply to ignore it. Respond to customers with issues so that they know they have been heard. This will instill a sense of value with the customer and in some cases defuse an issue that has the potential to escalate.

Easy Contact Options: Make it Easy for Customers to Contact and Communicate with the right person to handle their particular issue. When possible give them a live Person to speak with and do not let them get lost in a seemingly never-ending automated system, which too often happens with large companies in this automated day and age. Provide easy to locate contact information with detailed FAQ’s and department or associate responsibilities to make it easier for consumers to locate the right person to answer their concern.

Follow-Up: Follow-up on concerns to make sure they have been dealt with properly. It is very easy to tell a customer that their issue will be addressed and then get busy and have it fall through the cracks, especially if the issue requires more than one associate or department to work on it. By having a follow-up with the customer procedure for all consumer concerns, fewer issues will fall through the cracks and consumers will feel acknowledged, empowered and loyal to the company. Consumer loyalty is money in the bank for any business; since loyal customers not only continue to provide return business, but they refer their friends and family.

Marketing and branding are only two important pieces to the puzzle of having a successful business. Quality customer service to reinforce a company’s branding is the third vital component. Excellent customer service seems to many consumers to be a thing of the past, and companies who consistently provide above and beyond consumer interactions will be stronger than those who do not.

 

Safety Saves More than Lives, it Saves Your Company Money

Worker’s Compensation claims cost companies millions every year, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Throw in injured customer compensation, employee downtime, equipment and facility damage costs, and legal fees and unnecessary accidents prove to be very costly to any business. These costs can be minimalized through comprehensive associate safety training and strict adherence to safety policies.

Brief History of Worker’s Compensation

Worker’s compensation is not solely a U.S. concept. It was initially put into practice in Germany and to some extent Britain. It then expanded throughout Europe and North America from there. New Zealand also implemented a form of worker’s compensation in 1974 that has been much more successful at eliminating litigation than other countries’ policies. In 1986 Australia followed suit implementing the Worker’s Rehabilitation and Compensation Act”, which was revamped and replaced with the “Worker’s Compensation Act” in 1987.

New Zealand’s Comprehensive Accident Insurance System has nearly eliminated worker accident litigation since its implementation by implementing a no-fault comprehensive accident insurance plan. New Zealand’s policy provides compensation for all accident victims and eliminates tort litigation by removing fault from the accidents. New Zealand’s Worker’s Compensation policy has become a working model for other countries as they try to modify their own dysfunctional systems.

Why it Works

A large part of New Zealand’s worker’s compensation policy’s success is that it places a large focus on accident prevention, followed by worker care and reparations. Public hospitals provide treatments and timely reparations are made in order to keep the system flowing smoothly.

To support their campaign for prevention of workplace accidents, New Zealand has several government websites established to guide employers in the process of creating a safe work environment for their employees.

These sites cover a broad spectrum of topics with sections dedicated to a multitude of industries from retail to mining. They also contain employer checklists and detailed action plans for establishing and maintaining a safe work environment in order to minimize on-the-job accidents.

Additionally, New Zealand enforces its safe work environment policies through a multi-tiered notification process that includes expert assistance in resolving potentially dangerous workplace situations. If this does not fix the problem, the employer can receive a fine of between $100 and $4,000 for safety protocol infringements, followed by legal prosecution that if convicted could have the sentence of up to $500,000 in fines and/or up to 2 years in prison, if the employer still has not corrected the problems.

According to New Zealand’s Department of Labor, the following are key steps to having a safe work environment:

  • know your company’s legal responsibilities
  • make a commitment to provide a healthy and safe workplace
  • plan how your company will implement a safe working environment
  • identify, assess and manage potential hazards
  • provide safety information, training, and supervision of employees
  • report, record and investigate all incidents, injuries, and illnesses
  • involve employees in the safety preparedness process to improve health and safety
  • plan and be ready for any emergencies
  • include contractors and subcontractors in your company’s hazard management processes
  • help your employees return to normal work after an injury

The Cost of Customer Lawsuits

Worker’s compensation and rehabilitation claims are only a fraction of the expense of having an unsafe facility, especially in a retail environment. Customer slip and falls or on-site injuries can lead to extremely expensive and drawn out legal mitigation, large settlements, and costly fines.

According to the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration, slip, trip, and fall accidents account for 15 percent of accidental deaths and are second in being the cause of fatalities only to motor vehicles. This statistic is a broad spectrum study that covers all industries and includes workers, but it makes it clear that slip, trip, and fall accidents are quite costly.

In a paper produced by Pepperdine University, global retail giant Walmart deals with approximately 1,000 customer injuries daily, and in 1998 had over 3,730 premises liability suits filed against them. This is just one example of how high the number of incidences of on-site consumer accidents is, and the number of premises liability cases filed has consistently increased in the U.S.  since 1998; as has the median award amount. In 2000 the median award for a premises liability case was up 88 percent from what it was in 1994, going from $100,000 to $114,862.

Although the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) and the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association (APLA) disagree on the amount of increase in public liability claims they both agree that there has been an increase from 1998 to 2000. The APRA states that the number of actual claims rose in that time frame from 55,000 to 88,000 and the overall claim costs rose 52.5 percent, while the APLA says that their ration figures show the increase from 1996 to 2001 was only 2.63 percent.

Limit Premises Liability Claims by having Informed Employees

By educating employees and providing the resources needed to maintain a healthy and safe work environment companies can substantially reduce the number of on-site injuries and premises liability lawsuits. Some ways to do this are:

  • Educate All Employees About the Seriousness of Safety – This is not just informing employees on what to do if there is an injury or accident; include statistics and figures on the cost of injury claims and explain how these expenses cut into the company’s bottom line and inevitably their paychecks. Make sure safety training has a wide variety of possible safety hazard scenarios that could happen and for each scenario what the correct way to resolve the possible safety hazard would be.
  • Have Periodic Mandatory Safety Training Refresher Courses – Having a new hire safety training class for all new employees as soon as they start should be a required policy. However, over time the best way to handle different situations may change and people will forget what they have been taught. To keep safety protocols fresh and up to date in your staff’s minds mandate that refresher courses are taken. Ideally, this should happen either annually or bi-annually.
  • Have Clean-Up and Emergency Supplies Readily Available – Having the proper clean-up and first aid or emergency equipment and supplies on hand are only part of the task. These materials need to be easily and readily available to staff. They are of no value being buried behind boxes of inventory or locked in a supply closet. All staff members need to know where to locate these supplies at all times. These materials should be regularly inspected and replaced or replenished as needed
  • Employee Handbooks – Employee handbooks should include an emergency plan section for major emergencies, as well as a worker’s comp section that contains detailed instructions on what to do if there is an accident or injury, and a section dedicated to safety protocols that provides detailed instructions for specific clean-up or repair situations. This not only gives employees a place to turn to for information if something happens and there is no one else around, it provides the employer with written proof that employees have been provided with this information.
  • Implement and Enforce Safety Protocols – Having safety measures in place means also enforcing them. All companies should have a specific disciplinary policy for any associates who do not follow safety policies. Disciplinary measures should be stringent and also include re-training if necessary. There should be no wavering from employee to employee when enforcing these repercussions. For the safety of all employees, repeated offenses should lead to termination of employment.

On-Site injuries, premises liability claims and workers compensation issues cost companies exorbitant amounts of money, time and resources every year. By educating employees in the workplace and general health and safety companies can save themselves money and frustration while improving their work performance, moral, and safety records. Having a safe and healthy work environment is about more than avoiding injuries, it is essential to any company’s healthy bottom line.

 

Do’s and Don’ts for Successful Marketing

When marketing a business it is important to see the business through the customer’s eyes. Think about how the business is perceived and compare it to the image you want the business to have. Also, consider how convenient and user-friendly your marketing tools are such as do online websites load easily and without a bunch of steps? Do mobile application websites work properly without the viewer having to modify their settings to read it? Does your marketing tool reach the right people? Is your contact information easy to locate? These are some basic issues that will frustrate potential clients and lose a business, customers if not done properly.

The last decade has thrown business owners into the world of the web whether they want to be or not. According to a survey of 800 small business owners by the U.S. Organization NSBA (National Small Business Association) in 2013, the majority of small businesses have a business website and almost one in five of those websites are mobile website compatible. With more than 250 search engines on the web today, and 85 percent of consumers using search engines in 2012 to locate products, services and businesses, having a quality web page has become a necessity for modern businesses.

Consumers automatically assume that all businesses will have an informative and easy to navigate web-page. The days of picking up the yellow pages and flipping through to find an auto mechanic or a plumber are no more. Today consumers expect to be able to pick up their laptop or mobile device and search for whatever they need and have all the information easily at their fingertips. That is why it is a vital marketing tool for businesses to have a well laid out and formatted website. Some things to consider when developing or revamping a business website are:

  • Is the website mobile device friendly? Smartphones have changed the way people use the web. Consider this, according to Belle Beth Cooper in her article “10 Surprising Social Media Statistics that will Make You Rethink Your Social Strategy” 30% of Facebook’s ad revenue is generated through mobile use and 189 million Facebook users only access the site through mobile devices. Websites need to be easily accessed by Smartphones, Androids, and Tablets since the population has transitioned to wanting to be able to locate places, information and directions through their phones while they are on the go. This means that website formatting needs to meet mobile web requirements in order to reach the full spectrum of any business’ possible customer base. Also, consider the mobile formatting that is used. It should be as simple as possible so that viewers are not asked to rotate their phone or enlarge the picture to see it. Different Smartphones, Tablets, and Androids have different capabilities and making an ad or site too extravagant or cumbersome may mean it will not work on all phones or devices. Keep it simple.
  • Does the website contain all vital information? There is nothing more frustrating for a potential client than to go to a website expecting to find all the pertinent information they are looking for and have it not be there. Make sure your business website contains, hours of operation, contact phone numbers, address, possibly a map, details about the business or product etc. Although the idea is to get customers in the door, if your business website does not provide enough information that the consumer is looking for they will simply move on to the next business whose website does have the information. In the current highly competitive marketplace of the web, not having the information on the site does not mean potential customers will call to get the information.
  • Is the information easily located on the website without having to search through endless pages? Make sure contact information is easily found and not buried behind pages of links. If a consumer is looking for a phone number or address they do not want to have to explore the entire website to find them. Tabs should make sense and provide the viewer with easy cues as to what will be found on each page.
  • Is the website easy to read? Having clear and understandable text content is only part of what makes a web page readable. Make sure that the background color and the font color stand out from each other; or else it doesn’t matter how eloquent the content because no one will be able to read it. Consider color schemes; verify what they look like on screen before locking into that theme. Current logos and company branding images may need to be modified since print color looks different than on-screen
  • Has the content been proofread? Make sure the content is accurate and complete. Missing information, obvious misspelled words, truncated text and confusing sentence structure will only send potential customers running to a site that has proofread their site. These simple mistakes make it look like the business is sloppily run and does not instill confidence in the consumer.
  • What is the business’ prime target audience? The website should flow in a manner that caters to the target audience, but without alienating other possible consumer bases.
  • Does the website have an overload of images that could slow the upload process when a potential customer logs on? There is nothing more infuriating to a potential customer than a web page that causes their system to freeze up or crash. Consumers typically will try a website once and if this happens they will not give it a second chance.
  • Does the website design look dated? Try to create a design and layout that matches the company’s branding. Avoid dated color schemes or trendy items. This will make the web page maintain a new and vibrant look longer.

Do not rush through the web design process. Too many businesses rush through the process in order to get something up and running. A lot of times a business’ web page is the first impression to the consumer, so it is important that it be done right. Beta test the new or revamped website before making it live to the public in order to make sure everything is working properly.

Even though online marketing is a vital resource for any current day business, it is important not to rely solely on having a website for marketing. Although print ads are not as effective as they once were, they still reach a wide swath of people and place a company or product in front of the consumer’s eyes. Do not completely eliminate print marketing methods such as direct mail to past clients, or strategically placed bulk mailings.

Consider whether or not TV advertisement would be well-spent money. According to Neilson in 2009, 57 percent of TV viewers also simultaneously used the web. This provides the opportunity for viewers to instantly log onto a business’ website when the consumer sees the business’ TV advertisement.

Blogging and Social Media are the latest in marketing tools. HubSpot in their 2012 article “State of Inbound Marketing” sited that 92 percent of the companies who regularly blogged multiple times per day received a customer from their blog. This same article states that the number of businesses who believe Facebook is of vital importance to their business and marketing strategy has increased by 75 percent.

The automated and technologically based world we live in has changed the way businesses need to market themselves. Whether it is a large conglomerate or a small mom and pop store having a strong web presence is vital to creating a solid bottom line. It is important to keep in mind the customer base and impression while creating this web persona, as well as rounding out a business’ marketing game plan with other forms of non-electronic marketing platforms. Keeping abreast of new technology and comfortably transitioning with the technological tide will help businesses stay on track with the mobile and Social Media hungry consumer base of today.

Define who your Customer Base is and Target Them

It is natural to want to try and market to everyone, but in doing so you lose your expertise. Focus on what you know best and make sure your staff is trained to do so as well. In order to provide the best customer service and Point of Service experiences you need to know your product and who is buying it. Below are some things to consider when looking to improve your marketing plan and POS contacts:

  • Branding Your Product or Services: By branding your product or services you create a memorable image of who you are and what you provide. When branding, take into consideration who you are selling to, and what you want to say to them. Also, think about the consumer you are targeting’s needs and wants. In order to do this efficiently and successfully, you will need to research your current customer base to see who is searching you out and patronizing your establishment. This will both guide you in your marketing efforts, and help you track if your current efforts are on target. Once you know who your target market is, focus your branding towards them.
  • Target Marketing: Target marketing is the best route to get the most out of your marketing dollar. By targeting potential customers that are looking for what you offer, or who have used similar services or products, you focus your marketing dollars on consumers who are much more likely to respond. Bulk marketing and blanket marketing techniques may bring in a few new “Lookie Loo” customers, but are more costly and less efficient in bringing in actual buyers.
  • Hire or Train Associates to be Experts in your Product or Services: Consumers want to know that if they have questions they can have confidence in the answers they receive from your associates. When customers are confident with the assistance and answers they receive, they are more likely to return. Additionally, when your staff is educated in the services and products that you provide it adds to your company branding. Focus on what you know best and make sure your staff is trained to be an expert in your product or service as well. If your expertise is in electronics, make certain that your staff are also electronics experts, in order to assure your customer receives the best POS experience possible. This should be the same for food, clothes, linens or any other industry. When your company establishes a training policy to make each of its employees experts in their field it is making an investment in its staff which shows dedication to your employees and should result in a more loyal and enthusiastic employee. Enthusiastic, committed associates will provide your customers with better Point of Service contracts, more effective customer service and a more positive company image.

Knowing your product, defining and targeting your customer base, and having knowledgeable associates for Point of Service contacts not only makes the most out of your marketing budget, it also assists in your branding efforts and solidifies your expertise in your specific market area subsequently increasing your bottom line.

 

Maintaining Your POS Equipment and What it Means to Your Business

POS equipment is a time saving, efficient way to service your customers and maintain accurate tracking of your transactions. It is also an expensive investment. That’s one of the reasons why it is vital to your front end and bottom line, that you keep it working properly. Besides the fact that you have made an investment into POS equipment to keep your checkout running smoothly, keeping your customers happy is another reason to make sure and maintain all of your point of service equipment regularly.

When checkout equipment breaks down, customers become frustrated with waiting in long lines, employees become frustrated with not being able to service people properly, and positive customer service becomes tricky. It is human nature not to want to stand in long lines, and when your equipment breaks down, that is what you end up with; long lines and unhappy people. By having routine inspections and maintenance performed on your equipment, you minimize the amount of downtime you could possibly experience with equipment outages and in turn, maintain a more consistent level of customer service.

If unhappy customers and staff are not enough of a reason for you to establish a routine maintenance plan, how about the amount of money you can lose on lost business? People won’t wait in line forever. They will leave their stuff where it sits and walk out at some point. They know there is another business somewhere close that they can purchase what they need and not have to stand in lines due to broken equipment. As a Customer Service Manager for a grocery store years back, I witnessed half our business on a Saturday afternoon walk out the door in frustration to go to the grocery store 3 blocks over, because we had a power outage that had our cashiers tallying groceries on handheld calculators. Picture 50 registers, 15 people deep waiting for half an hour to an hour each as cashiers try and ring them out by hand for 3 hours. The sad part is there was nothing we could do about it because it was caused by a construction crew cutting a power line and killing the grid. We had no backup generator to our registers. We were simply stuck in the water for 3 hours. Now, something like that isn’t going to be fixed by having a maintenance plan, but a backup generator would have been a good forethought, especially in areas that have random power outages. My point here is that without planning for the worst this could happen to you. In addition to lost business, our spoils were through the roof that day, from all the items left sitting in abandoned baskets for long periods of time while all our staff worked feverishly to get customers through the lines. There is a lot of money to be lost when your POS equipment breaks.

Additionally, there are the repair costs. Depending on the extent of the repair, you could be talking thousands of dollars, and if the part is not in stock, there could be added downtime. The more equipment you have the more possibilities involved with what could go wrong, and the higher your chance of having an outage and the higher your repair costs.

By having a routine maintenance schedule and a service plan in place you can avoid the frustration and costs associated with lost business, unhappy customers and employees, equipment repairs and replacement, and downtime. The cost of the service plan or maintenance will be minimal compared to the cost of having your equipment go down in the middle of a rush, and will save you time, money and headaches later on.

 

Which POS System is Right for your Business?

Deciding on the correct Point of Service (POS) equipment for your business can be both frustrating and mind-boggling, with the amount of equipment out there. This article is intended to help you wade through some of the options and figure out what best suits your business needs.

Whether you are an upstart business or simply expanding there are certain things you need to think about before investing in POS equipment. The first step is to figure out exactly what your needs are. Some of the questions you should ask yourself are:

  • What kind of business are you? Meaning are you a large business, small business, retail, medical oriented, food retail, restaurant or deli, accounting office, etc.?
  • What kind of clientele do you have? Meaning do they use cash, credit card, coupons, etc.?
  • What kind of special equipment might you need, such as scales, wrapping machines, receipt printers, barcode scanners, etc.?

Once you have the answers to these questions you will have a better idea of what POS equipment you need to look at, since there are lots of bundled packages available that combine these different types of equipment as well as being able to purchase piece separately.

Your second step is to look at the size of the space that the POS equipment will be housed and used in. Obviously, your needs will be different if you have a full conveyor belt grocery store set up than they will if you have a small counter space such as a convenience store or restaurant check out. Because of this POS equipment comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and maneuverability.

Below are a few of the equipment selections that Checkway has to offer and their best uses.

  • POS All In One – This style of equipment is referring to the monitor, keyboard, computer, and audio systems being combined into one space-saving device that has USB ports giving it the capability of being linked to other devices such as card readers, fingerprint scanners, cash drawers or pretty much anything else you may need at a check out station. If you have a small space for checking out such as a deli counter, or nail salon, this is a good option since it provides a lot of functionality in a minimal area.
  • POS Terminals – For those in need of multiple pieces of equipment such as a combination of cash drawers, receipt printers, handheld barcode scanners, and register equipment, there are convenient bundle plans that incorporate multiple pieces of equipment for a more cost-effective More workspace is typically needed for these since there are more units.
  • Industrial Keyboards – This is a good option for businesses with high volume checkouts that don’t require a lot of peripherals such as direct warehouse sales. The built-in card readers make for quick credit card processing, and the waterproof and dust resistant key area makes them ideal for dusty warehouse or storefront
  • Barcode Scanners – These come in a variety of sizes and shapes from handheld, to stand alone to countertop models. For smaller checkout areas the handheld or a small standalone that can be easily attached to the counter provides functionality in a small space. Handhelds are also good for businesses whose products are bulky or heavy. They provide flexibility while minimizing worker’s comp issues. For larger multiple item transactions the countertop scanner provides speed and efficiency.

The categories listed above are a small cross-section of the many choices available to enhance any businesses POS experience and bottom line. That’s why it’s important when selecting your POS equipment to know what your needs are, your available space and customer base before you purchase any equipment. Once you know the answer to these questions, do your homework and ask questions, and you will find exactly what you need to give your customers the positive Point of Service experience that will keep them coming back.

 

A Small Companies Best Weapon Against Big Business is a Positive POS Experience

In the hustle and bustle of today’s world, good customer service seems to have become a forgotten art. Although consumers desire and demand technology that makes their lives easier they are tired of getting lost in electronic voicemail and automated technology. Large companies may have an upper hand on small business in the price wars due to their ability to practice volume buying, but small companies can thrive and outperform large business in the area of customer service, in turn, leveling the playing field. Below are some examples of ways your small business can compete through excellent customer service.

 

  • Personalized Attention: Give your customers that fuzzy feeling by taking the time to get to know them. Greet the customers you actually know by name and with a friendly, “Great to see you. How are you?” Sincerity is key though, if you come across as faking it, the effect will be the opposite of what you are trying for. It’s impossible to know every customer by name, but those who frequent your facility regularly will find it appealing to be recognized and welcomed, while those who are new to your establishment will find the cordial welcoming environment refreshing and want to return.
  • Follow-up: When customers have questions or request follow-up in a timely manner. It may seem time-consuming to call a customer directly, but the positive image you will create for your business will be well worth the time it took to place the call. Make sure to have all your details and information straight before calling the customer in order to have an informed conversation. The simple task of a personalized phone call will make your customer feel valued and important.
  • Create a Birthday Reward Program: Whether it’s a free candy bar or a birthday card mailed to the customer, a birthday reward program customizes your advertising to the specific customer as it gets your name back in front of them. With email, a birthday program does not have to be expensive or overly time-consuming. Additionally, the up sales that will occur from the customer doing added shopping when they come in for their free treat will make the time spent setting up the database and sending out notifications worth the effort.
  • Create a Welcoming Location: Avoid the boxy, sterile atmosphere of the large warehouse stores and make your facility represent you. By customizing your locations environment to match your company’s services or inventory, you build a branding of yourself that will make you stand out and be memorable to your target market. Make sure not to overdo it though. You want to create a presence without looking gaudy.

Larger companies may have the advantage when it comes to volume buying and the amount of inventory they are able to have on hand, but smaller companies have the advantage in the customer service area. If you take the time to build a reputation for quality customer service, you will create return business and word of mouth that makes you competitive.

 

A History of POS Machines

Merchants have been dealing with creating an efficient and accurate system of purchase transactions for hundreds of years and continue to strive to improve equipment to be able to track information, tally orders, and promote business. Cash Registers are not simply for adding up the cost of products anymore, they have become computer systems with multiple components that weigh products, print receipts with advertisements on the back, record sales histories, and more. We’ve gotten so familiar with these machines that we tend to take them for granted. However, if you look at the current day POS equipment’s humble beginnings it is difficult not to be impressed by its advancements.

 

In ancient times the abacus was considered the height of technology; a simple device of slideable wooden beads on tight wire in a bamboo frame. The earliest abaci were beans or stones that were moved along grooves in sand or on a grooved wooden tablet and later evolved into the abaci that we are familiar with today. These primitive calculators were the forerunners of modern computation and were developed before there was even an accepted written number system, which is believed to have been developed about 1,500 years ago.

The 1600’s seem to have been a particularly inventive period for mathematicians. In the early 1600’s a Scottish mathematician by the name of John Napier developed a form of abaci named, ‘Napier’s Bones” that was used for multiplication, division, and able to find roots. It is considered the first practical calculator; followed by William Gunter developing the logarithmic rule in 1620, which is considered to be the forerunner to the slide rule. In 1623 the first mechanical calculator using a version of “Napier’s Bones” called the “Calculating Clock” was invented by Willhelm Schickard. It was almost 20 years after Schickard’s “Calculating Clock” before another mechanical calculator was invented by Blaise Pascal. Pascal’s invention was a failure and followed by another mechanical calculator failure invented by Gottfried Leibniz in 1673, leaving the “Calculating Clock” as the mechanical calculator of use for nearly 200 years.

It wasn’t until Charles Xavier Thomas’s invention of the “Arithmometer” that the first successful commercial calculator was built. The “Arithmometer” remained in production until 1915. Although the “Arithmometer” was the go-to calculator of its day, that did not stop other mathematician’s from working to improve the device. Victor Schilt exhibited the key-driven adding machine in London at the Crystal Palace Exposition in 1851, and then in 1853 the “Scheutz Difference Engine” produced the first printing calculator, followed by W. T. Odhner inventing the “Pin-Wheel” calculator that would be the principle used by many calculating machine makers to follow.

Mathematicians would continue to modify these key-driven adding machines over the next 28 years leading to the first 10-key being invented in 1902. The period from 1900 to 1975 was an especially rapid growth era for the adding machine as inventors and manufacturers developed electrical calculators, shrunk the size of calculators and increased the functions possible to perform on a calculator.

It was these early calculator developments that provided the knowledge needed and aided in the invention and patent of the first cash register in 1883 called the “Incorruptible Cashier”. John H. Patterson bought both the patent and the company for the cash register designed by James Ritty in 1884 after having successfully tried several of these machines in his own stores. The company name was changed to The National Cash Register Company and Patterson pressed on to create more secure, “thief-proof”, more reliable cash register machines making The National Cash Register Company the most successful cash register company from the late 1899’s to the early 1900’s.

Although the reason for the invention of the first cash register was to prevent theft, cash registers have become a lifeblood for businesses to track sales, monitor daily trends, and much more. Throughout the 1900’s the cash register has evolved from an adding device to a total Point of Sale service center, with touchscreens, scales, magnetic strip readers, and a host of other options, all developed around the cash register as a central brain for this complex control center. So, the next time you step up to a POS station, take a moment to reflect on just how far the technology has evolved, and think about where we would be without it.

 

Financial and Banking Articles Section:

 

Ameriprise an Overview

 

Unless you are a financial expert, it can be quite confusing when considering investment options. That is why it is important to find a financial advisor with an investment company you can trust. Ameriprise Financial is one of the oldest investment companies in the country; founded in 1894 they provide a vast variety of services and products. With over $700 billion in assets, they rank in the top 10 providers of financial planning, including mutual funds, annuities and insurance products. This historic customer-focused company has never taken a bailout and continues to focus on their customer’s needs while keeping a close eye on world and domestic economies in order to stay strong and viable.

Ameriprise is not a one package fits all investment firm. The investment options Ameriprise offers are too diverse to be able to list all of them here since each client’s needs are taken into consideration when developing their financial portfolio. Fees and interest rates vary depending on the type of investment you have and how aggressively you invest. The least aggressive and safest form of investment that Ameriprise offers is the Certificate of Deposit better known as the CD account. Ameriprise does not charge a sales fee for CDs. Although CD’s typically earn a higher interest rate than standard savings accounts, they are still fairly low interest-earning investments and require that the funds deposited be tied up for a minimum period of time. As with any interest earning account, the interest rates fluctuate with the market. But, where CD’s differentiate from savings accounts in this way is that you are locked into the interest rate you had when opening the CD for the duration of the time commitment. This is good when interest rates are high in order to lock in at the higher rate before rates fall again. As of November 27, 2013, Ameriprise’s interest rates on CD’s ranged from .25% to 1.30% depending on the term of the account and the type of account. The terms range from 3 months to 3 years. Another thing to keep in mind when considering a Certificate of Deposit is that certain types of CD’s require a minimum deposit.

CD’s are only the beginning of the investment tree, other types of accounts that tend to be on the more cautious side of investing are the fixed annuity and money market accounts. Fixed Annuities are investments with insurance companies that work similar to CDs, but have a slightly higher return on investment due to having a slightly higher risk, because you are investing in an insurance company rather than depositing into a bank. Annuities also require your investment to be tied up for a longer period of time; the most common lengths of time being 7 or 10 years, but can either pay you a monthly dividend check or redeposit the dividend into the annuity investment for greater growth. If you choose to withdraw your money before the end of the account term there is a penalty that can range from 1% to 10% depending on the contract and the company. Money Market accounts work more like a higher interest earning checking account. Your initial investment is tied up for a period of time, but you can access it on a limited basis if needed.

Another type of investment that Ameriprise offers is the IRA. An IRA is a tax-deferred plan that can encompass many types of investments from CDs to Annuities to Mutual Funds which contain Stocks and/or bonds. Rules for IRA’s are federally mandated since these are tax-deferred accounts making them much more rigid in terms of locking your money up for a period of time. Although IRA’s were originally designed to be a retirement account, there are different kinds that meet different needs, such as a ROTH IRA which is more easily accessed for things such as college tuition, but there is still a limit on the amount that can be withdrawn without a penalty and the reason for the withdrawal has to meet one of the government’s criteria. Currently, Ameriprise’s annual fee for a standard IRA is $40 per year but will increase to $50 in 2014.

The previously mentioned Mutual Fund is a trust account that can contain stocks and/ or bonds within its portfolio. How rapid the growth of return you receive on a Mutual Fund is, depends on how aggressively you structure your Mutual Fund with stocks, bonds or the combination of both. Most Mutual Funds are structured by aggressiveness and offered to the investor in that way. The fee for Mutual funds varies depending on the fund and the size of the investment. Currently, Ameriprise’s standard fee for Mutual funds is 5.75%. However, Ameriprise does offer discounts for higher volume purchases.

Ameriprise also offers direct online stock purchasing to its clients for a nominal fee of $25.95 per trade; as well as broker handled trades. Broker managed trades charge a minimum of $50 per trade and can be as much as 1.5% of the trade amount.

The types of accounts listed above barely scratch the surface of the investment options offered by Ameriprise Financial. For more detailed account information on a portfolio that might meet your needs contact an Ameriprise Financial Advisor directly.

 

Better Savings and Checking with Aurora Federal Credit Union

What’s the difference between a bank and a credit union? Both are federally regulated and protected. However, while a traditional style bank is privately owned, credit unions are member-owned. This means that when opening a savings account with a credit union, the individual becomes a part shareholder giving them voting rights in company policies. Because of this, typically credit unions have lower and fewer fees, as well as slightly better interest rates. Now that you know what makes a credit union different from a bank, let’s discuss some of the savings and checking options that are available at Aurora Federal Credit union.

Before anyone can open any kind of account at Aurora Federal Credit Union they must have a Regular Savings Account with a minimum balance of $25 at all times. Regular Savings Accounts pay a competitive dividend and are insured by the NCUA. Currently, Regular Savings Accounts are paying a dividend rate and APY of .05%.

A few of the other types of savings accounts offered by Aurora Federal Credit Union are Club Accounts, Superhero Savings Accounts, CD’s, Health Savings Accounts, Money Market Accounts and IRA Accounts. Dividend rates vary by type of account and where applicable term commitment. Superhero Accounts are accounts specifically designed for children under 12 to help children learn about finances and to save money. As an incentive to save kids get to choose a prize each time they make a deposit into their Superhero Account, making it fun to save. For all accounts other than the Superhero Account there is a one-time $5 membership fee due at the time of enrollment.

Aurora Federal Credit Union also offers Advantage Checking accounts that require no minimum deposits or balances, and include free online banking, free Visa Debit Card, free e-statements, and free Online Bill Pay services. Overdraft Protection is also available to those with approved credit. With all accounts, the first 10 ATM transactions per month are free, with a $2 per transaction fee for each ATM transaction thereafter.

As with traditional style banks, credit unions do have fees, but there are fewer of them. Aurora Federal Credit Union’s fees for savings and checking accounts are:

  • There are no fees for savings accounts. But, early withdrawal penalties may apply for accounts such as CDs and Money Markets. Make sure and verify the terms of these accounts before making early withdrawals.
  • There are no monthly fees for Advantage Checking Accounts.
  • Courtesy Overdraft Transfers are free of charge, excluding any overdraft fee that may have been accrued while the account was in an overdraft status.
  • Insufficient Funds fees for both personal and business accounts are $27.
  • Return Deposited Items for personal and business accounts are $27.
  • Check Copies of personal checks are $2
  • Check Copies of CU checks are $5
  • Temporary Checks are $.50 each
  • Self to Self RDI is $30
  • Account Reconciliation and Balancing is available at a rate of $25 per hour.
  • And, check orders are available at a variable rate depending on the style of check and quantity.

In addition to savings and checking accounts the Popmoney Service offered at Aurora Federal Credit Union allows members to send money to other individuals such as friends and family whether they are credit union members or not with simply using their email address or cell phone number. The other individual must have some sort of bank or credit union account, though.

For those who prefer to manage their money on the go, the mobile banking options provide full access to accounts, rates and banking information. While the Telephone Teller gives members 24-hour access to their money and accounts to make transfers, check balances, and making payments.

The above services are only a few of the services provided by Aurora Federal Credit Union. They also offer Direct Deposit, Payroll Deductions, Night Drop Deposit, Money Orders, Cashier’s Checks, Wire Transfers, Notary Public Services, Signature Guarantees (free for members), Mortgage and Car Loans, Student Loans, Safe Deposit Boxes and Visa Gift Cards.

To be a member of Aurora Federal Credit Union individuals have to be one of the following:

  • City of Aurora Employee
  • Retired Employee
  • Volunteer for City of Aurora
  • Relative of a City of Aurora Employee or Volunteer
  • Live, work, worship or attend school in one of the original Aurora zip codes (80010 or 80011)
  • Resident of Montrose and Delta counties CO
  • Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Wyoming employees, volunteers and their relatives of Rural Electric CO-OP’s

Credit unions are a way to take charge of finances and banking needs by saving while paying lower and fewer fees. They give more ability to be heard with complaints or concerns since members are considered an investor and not just a customer. They offer most of the same services as most major banks without a lot of the fees typically associated with those services at traditional banks. Each credit union has its own membership requirements, so for those interested in becoming a credit union member, make sure to check out the local credit unions in the area for membership requirements, fee charts, and interest rates.

Business Brokers a Global Asset

In the last decade or so the unemployment rate worldwide ranged from the unheard of 0 percent in Monaco (2011), to the astronomical 70 percent in Zimbabwe (2011), 78.2 percent in Vanuatu (1999), and 90 percent in Nauru (2004), with most countries falling somewhere in the high single digits to double-digit numbers in between, the U.S. and Australia falling in at 6.7 percent (2014) and 4.8 percent (2014) respectively.  With unemployment at record highs globally more people than ever are striking out on their own to be self-employed as a way to be self-sufficient in the struggle to make ends meet. Self-employment does not necessarily mean starting up a business from scratch. It also includes being an independent contractor in a field that someone may already have experience and expertise in, online data entry and other types of online contract work, and buying outright or into an already existing business or franchise. There are thousands of businesses all over the world that are up for sale in all kinds of industries, so how do you find these businesses? A Business Broker is one way. Never heard of a Business Broker? Well, read on.

According to Wikipedia, a Business Broker is the same as a “Business Transfer Agent” or an “Intermediary”. Their function is similar to that of a real estate agent in that they facilitate the negotiations and sales between the buyer and the seller, but in this case, it is for small businesses and all that is involved within those businesses. Some of the functions involved with being a Business Broker include:

  • Estimating the Value of the Business – What a business owner perceives their business’ value to be may not be the case. A Business Broker goes over the business with a fine tooth comb as a neutral party and establishes what the business’ true value is.
  • Advertises the Business as For Sale – Knowing where and how to advertise a business that is up for sale takes experience and knowledge. A good Business Broker has the knowledge and expertise to advertise its listings in a way and in places that will attract buyers who are willing to buy the business at the best possible price. Advertisements may or may not omit the identity of the business in order to protect themselves from prospective buyers contacting the seller directly.
  • Interview Potential Buyers – The Business Broker handles all buyer to business introductions, questions, and negotiations about the business that is for sale.
  • Handles the “Due Diligence Investigation” – Before the sale is final, the Business Broker initiates and follows through to see that all aspects of the “Due Diligence Investigation” is completed in accordance with the law.
  • Assist with Sale – A Business Broker handles all aspects of the sale of a business from beginning to end when the final paperwork is signed and the change of ownership is completed.

A couple of things to keep in mind when looking for a Business Broker are:

  • Most Business Brokers work for the Seller.
  • Typically fees are seller paid, but make sure and verify this as well as if there are any other fees involved with the sale and operation of the business; verify qualifications as well, since some franchises and businesses may have other requirements.
  • Verify your potential Business Broker’s qualifications. Are they a Certified Business Intermediary (CBI), and are they a member of the International Business Brokers Association (IBBA)? In some countries, such as certain states in the U.S., Business Brokers are also required to have a Real Estate License.
  • Since Web Commerce is a vital part of most businesses, especially real estate, now days make sure your Business Broker has a good web presence. Check out their webpage and look at the number of listings they have posted. Do a web search to see how often their ads appear with a simple search using the most predominate search engines.
  • How many hits does your potential Business Broker’s website receive in a month? If they are not drawing in enough traffic to their website your listing may be posted for a long while before the business sells if it sells.
  • Does the broker do any other type of advertising besides web ads? Web ads are an important part of advertising in modern-day business; however, it is also important not to put all of your eggs in one basket. By including other forms of advertising into the promotional plan a broker can reach more customers increasing the speed and likely hood of selling a business.
  • What is the potential Broker’s sales track record? How many sales have they had in the past month and were there any complications with any of the sales? How were any complications handled? These are all important questions toward having a better understanding of how fast your business will potentially sell with this broker and how they will handle any issues that might arise.
  • Does this broker have any complaints filed against them? If they do it is a good idea to do some research to verify if the complaint was legitimate or not. Also, it is definitely a red flag if a broker has too many complaints against them or has been sued.
  • Does the broker allow “Carve-Outs”? Most Business Broker agreements are an exclusive sale type agreement, meaning the business has to be sold through them. However, some brokers will agree to an exception of a specific potential buyer, if there is one already in mind that has been being worked with.
  • Lastly, some brokers will agree to a fee to help with the business’ sale paperwork, without a signed broker agreement, if all that is left to do on the sale is the paperwork.

In general Business Brokers are the best way to search out a franchise opportunity or business to buy since they will have the business’ details and be knowledgeable about all the facts involved with the purchase or buy-in of the businesses within their listings. U.S. based company IBISWorld reported in March 2014 that sales through Business Brokers are expected to increase at an annualized rate of 3 percent between the years 2009 and 2014; that is more than $961 million. These increased sales are partially attributed to more readily available financing, economic improvements, and an increase in buyer prospects as more and more retirees look to supplement their retirement income through business ownership in an industry that they enjoy. Additionally, the Australian Institute of Business Brokers’ December 2013 Quarter “The State of the Australian Market” report states that “The small to medium privately held business sector represent over 95% of all businesses in Australia and equates to a trillion dollar investment by individuals and Australian families in their financial future.” These statistics show that small business sales are on an increase even with the world economies in turmoil and that Business Brokers are a growing industry on a global scale.

Since business and economic finance has expanded to a more globally interactive and interdependent format, it may be difficult to decide what the best business investment option, even with a highly skilled and knowledgeable broker is.  According to Inc.com, some of the best businesses to invest in for 2014 are:

  • Automated Guided Vehicles
  • Mobile Health
  • Health and Specialty Food
  • Translation Services
  • Digital Forensics Services
  • Business Applications.

These industries have been picked through looking at forward-looking industry trends and where business technologies seem to be headed. However, it is also important to consider what type of business you would enjoy. Owning a business is a time-consuming endeavor and if it is something you do not find enjoyable, you may not be able to put the needed energies into making the business a success. Before buying any business or franchise take a good look at what is involved in the business, research multiple businesses that may be of interest and do not simply look at the current or projected profit margin. Industries and profitability change with current trends in technology, consumer interest, and world changes, so just because a business is projected to make a lot of money does not mean it will happen. That is why it is important to find a business that is appealing and interesting in order to continue to grow the business and have the ability to change with the tides making the investment grow.

If considering buying an already established business, consider using the services of a reputable and qualified Business Broker. Business Brokers are a growth industry and will provide options that may not be available otherwise or that you may not have heard of. Look at the options and do the research before settling on an industry that you may not be suited for. By using a Business Broker you can be walked through the process of buying a business, get pre-qualified, have more information to make an informed decision with, and take some of the risks out of your business venture.

 

 

 

 

Referrence:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_unemployment_rate

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_broker

http://www.inc.com/guides/201106/what-you-should-know-about-working-with-business-brokers.html

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/03/prweb11646403.htm

http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/business-brokers.html

http://www.aibb.org.au/pdf/AIBB%20BusSaleIndex_DEC13.pdf

http://www.inc.com/ss/best-industries-for-starting-a-business#0

 

Short Blog Article Section:

Rustic Wedding Ideas with a Twist

Rustic elegance is what you will find at Rock Lake Ranch; the perfect setting for an outdoor or an indoor wedding, both large and small gatherings. Your options are only as limited as your imagination. If you are having difficulty putting together all the details, the event coordinator staff is ready and happy to help guide you, from the wedding to providing reception ideas customizing your wedding day to fit you. Here are just a few reception ideas:

  • Waterfront Pavilion – Picture a sunset reception, with the bride and groom arriving from across the water in a hot air balloon to their waiting friends and family, Oriental lanterns and candles light the pavilion as the newlywed couple enter, with live music welcoming them in. Imagine each of your guests releasing a beautiful wish lantern over the lake after the sun has set sending a loving wish out to the universe in your names.
  • Country Elegance – Maybe you prefer the small town country feel for your wedding; a nice evening reception in the Rock Lake Ranch main house, with the stone fireplace and old wood decor, decorated with wildflowers to bring a bit of the outside in. The bride and groom arrive in a horse-drawn carriage, greeted by their guest’s warm wishes written on heart-shaped balloons and strung along the beautiful porch banister for everyone to view.
  • Casual Fun – Do you tend to be on the more casual side? Maybe an outdoor reception in one of the lawn areas. Can you see a large white professional tent for the dining and dancing area, with horseshoe accented ribbon tie backs on every chair, and Red Poppy with Queen Ann’s Lace centerpieces? Outside the tent, seating areas created with hay bales stacked as chairs and lined with satin runners; off in the corner a croquet course or a horseshoes game for some added whimsical fun for your guests. Then just after the sun has set, your guests gather around by the lake to watch a specially created fireworks display in your honor as if to announce your new life together to the world.

Wedding reception ideas don’t always have to be traditional. Your wedding is about the two of you and what you like or care about. If you are considering a rustic wedding and reception, that does not mean it has to be an old barn dance, unless that is the reception idea you prefer. Rustic weddings can also have both modern and old-world elegance. The best wedding reception for you will be the wedding reception that fits who you are and what you really want.

 

Micro Plastics in your Toothpaste

The topic of plastic microbeads being found under patients’ gums by dentists in Illinois has prompted several manufacturers to change their toothpaste formulas, as well as Illinois to pass a law making non-biodegradable plastic particles in healthcare products illegal in Illinois starting in 2017. Why all the fuss? Read on.

Micro-beads in toothpaste have no health benefit what-so-ever. Their sole purpose is to make the toothpaste look more appealing. The FDA deemed the use of plastic microbeads safe for this use. However, dentists are not quite sure about this claim. Once the beads get caught under the gum line they provide an opening for food and bacteria to enter the gum line and cause infection which can lead to other dental issues. This is not the only problem with using plastic microbeads in toothpaste and other beauty products; the non-biodegradable beads that wash down the sink also accumulate in waterways, streams, lakes, and rivers causing environmental issues.

Because of Illinois’ bringing their concerns to manufacturers and the new law going into effect in the state, several main toothpaste manufacturers have agreed to remove the micro-beads from their toothpaste, some within the next 6 months, although others will take until 2016 to complete the change. The two ingredients to look for on packaging when shopping for toothpaste, in order to avoid microbeads in your toothpaste, are:

  • Polyethylene
  • Polypropylene

When the legislation in Illinois was being drafted, legislators contacted the three largest manufacturing companies and this is the information received and the outcome of the conversations.

  • Colgate – Colgate claims that they no longer use microbeads in their toothpaste products.
  • Crest – Crest admitted that some of their brands, including the 3D White, and ProHealth products do contain micro-beads.
  • Proctor and Gamble – Proctor and Gamble have said that even though their products are perfectly safe, they will have many of their products micro-bead free within the next 6 months, and all of their products will be plastic free by 2016.

Plastic micro-beads have unforeseen impacts that make using them in toothpaste and other beauty products of concern. Legislators and manufacturers agree that for the good of the environment as well as the consumer’s health, that it is prudent to remove these particles from products. However, this could take some time. So, read labels and opt for toothpaste that does not contain plastics or plastic micro-beads.

 

Balancing College Fun with Homework

College can be a stressful experience for anyone no matter their age or background. But, it does not have to be. The key to a successful college experience is in finding a balance between the academic responsibilities, the social activities and life obligations. Below are some suggestions on how to achieve a successful balance and create a positive college experience for you or your student.

  • Organization – Find the method of organization that works best for you, whether it is a daily planner, a bulletin board to arrange your schedule in clear view, an electric planner, or a combination of options. Being organized will help keep you on schedule and remove the stress of falling behind. Just make sure the organizational method you choose is not too complicated creating stress of its own.
  • Relaxation – Don’t forget to schedule in time to relax and have fun. All work and no play are not only a cliché, but it is also unhealthy. It is important to take time for you in order to remember why you are working so hard in the first place and to do a self-check on whether you are still on the path you want to be on.
  • Find and Outlet – Find yourself a stress relief activity or two. Stress is a part of everyday life, but it does not have to rule your life. Find something that you can do when feeling stressed to help bring you back to center. It can be something physical like swimming or running, or something more creative, like writing poetry or painting. The only rule on this is that it is something you love and find relaxing.

Achieving a balanced college experience is possible for every student, as long as they remember to take time for them self while staying on track to eliminate unnecessary stress.

 

Retro Candies Bring Back Sweet Memories

With the present economy forcing people to tighten their purse strings by cutting out get-a-ways and eating out less, making life’s little luxuries fewer and far between while working more and more hours, it can sometimes be difficult to see what all the hard work is for. It is in these difficult times that it is most important to remember life’s little joys. Retro candy can be one of those happy times, remembering back to childhood and the joy that a simple piece of candy could bring. Taste and scent are directly linked to memory. So when life gets rough, why not trigger those sweet memories with a delicious bite of the heavenly past?

No one is endorsing emotional eating with this article, simply saying that an occasional treat to remember times gone by can be a good mood booster. Everyone has heard about the link between chocolate and endorphins. How about all those other sweet treats from times past? There seems to be a new candy or sugar treat on the market every week, but it is those candy treats from days gone by and their ability to lift our spirits that are the topic here. Retro candies such as:

  • Boston Baked Beans
  • Waxed Lips
  • Candy Cigarettes
  • Hot Dog Bubble Gum
  • Candy Buttons
  • Candy Necklaces
  • Mallow Cups
  • Pixie Sticks

Some of the treats like candy cigarettes from the past may not be politically correct in this day and age, but they can bring back memories of sitting on the jungle gym after a long day at school, pretending to be a secret agent waiting for his adversary. These fond memories can be just what the doctor ordered on a day when the computer crashes and loses a full week’s worth of work or the kids are sick and you have no sick time left to stay home with them. During the rough patches in life is when those special innocent memories of childhood come forward to give that added energy to keep going. That is why it is important to take a moment to indulge from time to time.

Because of company buyouts, and some of the inappropriateness of certain candies from the past, it can be difficult to locate that special childhood treat. Not to worry, sites like http://www.NostalgicCandy.com have made it possible to locate that special candy and revive those memories linked to it.

An added bonus to taking a moment to be nostalgic is being able to reminisce about old times and share memories with loved ones. Sharing those stories of times past while enjoying a piece of that special candy with the next generation can be a wonderful bonding experience in addition to brightening what might be a troubled day. So the next time life seems to be a little too much to bear, indulge in a little piece of the sweet past.

 

Top 5 Places to Swim with Whale Sharks

Thinking of swimming with whale sharks, but not sure where to go? Check out these destinations of choice.

  • Holbox Mexico – The gentle giants migrate to Holbox Island every May through September. This is not only a trip to swim with the Whale Sharks; it is a trip back through time. This peaceful island is reminiscent of LA in the 50’s if LA had an abundance of wildlife. While you relax on your yacht on your way to the Whale Sharks unspoiled habitat, you will enjoy the opportunity to view Flamingos, Sing Rays, Egrets, Chimay Birds, and many more native species.
  • Utila Island, Honduras – The Whale Shark can regularly be seen in the waters off of Utila. This species is protected in Honduras making it a more relaxed natural experience. The population does increase between the months of March to April and August to September. The oceanography of this region makes it fertile feeding grounds for these giant Whale Sharks as they continue on their 8,000-mile migration.
  • Georgia Aquarium – The Journey with Gentle Giants program is one of the few year-round swim with the Whale shark opportunities. This is for those who are nervous about the open sea. The swim experience takes place in the aquarium and comes with an hour and a half tour of the Georgia Aquarium itself. All equipment is provided.
  • Cancun (Puerto Juarez), Mexico – In addition to swimming with the Whale Sharks, you will have the chance to snorkel along one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful reefs. The tours run from May 15 thru September 15.
  • Donsol and Tiaco Island, the Philippines – This is a 5-day excursion that not only has a swim with the Whale Shark, in the open water portion of the trip, but it also has coral reef snorkeling trips and has its main based on Miniloc Island with a daily exploration of the local tropical sea life. For most of the excursions of this destination the snorkeling experience level is a beginner, but since the swimming with Whale Sharks portion is in open water, the experience level for that portion is intermediate.

Whether you are new to snorkeling, or an expert diver, swimming with Whale Sharks is an experience that you will never forget. There are locations to swim with these gentle wonders throughout the Caribbean coast of Mexico in addition to the destinations listed above. The American news may make a trip to Mexico a bit scary these days, but there is no need to hesitate a trip to Holbox, Mexico to swim with the Whale Shark. Holbox is a safe destination, just waiting to fulfill your dream of swimming with the Whale Sharks. For those who want to cross swimming with Whale Sharks off their bucket list, but are not a strong swimmer, there is even an option for you at the Georgia Aquarium. So why wait? Check out these options and book your trip today.

 

Make Your Backyard the Envy of the Neighborhood

Having a backyard can be both a pleasure and drudgery for those who do not particularly like yard work, but enjoy having their own space to kick back and relax or have a few friends over for a casual bar-b-que. A person’s backyard should be their sanctuary, not their frustration which can be brought about by the thought of mowing on a hot summer day, or the best method of leaf removal. So, how does one accomplish creating this ideal space?

Creating the ideal backyard space depends on several different factors, such as:

  • Area of the country
  • Type of soil
  • Amount of sunshine
  • How intense are the winters?
  • The size of the space
  • How much regular maintenance does the owner care to have to perform?

The last bullet point may seem silly, as most would think that the less maintenance the better, but some people love yard work and for those who do there is a wider variety of landscaping that can be done.

Whether the space being laid out is simple or intricate the basics to an enviable backyard are the same, good planning and preparation. By having a clear image of what the final look of the yard is to be and what will be needed to achieve that look, many pitfalls can be eliminated. Start with the foundation, i.e. the lawn, patio, ground cover, etc. If starting from scratch make sure the soil is prepped and the grass variety is amicable to the climate. For those who don’t like mowing or leaf removal, there are two routes, the more manicured, fewer bushes and fewer flower gardens with a small lawn and lots of stonework and pathways, or the more natural indigenous flower beds with a small lawn or no lawn just walkways. If maintenance is not an issue, then shrubs, flowerbeds and conversation areas beneath trees are an option.

Once the foundation is established, then the esthetics can be laid out. Think about what the homeowner would like and what will grow well in that region. Picking plants and materials that hold up well in specific regions will both save money and time in the long run. Consider purchasing a mulching mower. This will cut maintenance by eliminating raking, and also create nutritious mulch to spread around flower beds, herb gardens, and trees.

Finally, after the landscaping is laid out, installed, and any accessories such as lawn ornaments have been put in place, it is important to keep up with lawn grooming. Something as simple as too many leaves getting compacted into the lawn or clogging drain off can lead to dead spots and flooding issues, in turn costing time and money for repairs.

 

Protect your Home from Invasive Garage Fumes

If you have an attached garage the air in your garage may be getting into your home. Think about all the things you store in your garage, and whether you want those contaminants inside your home. We usually store things in our garage that we don’t want to contaminate our living space, but if your garage is not ventilated properly, the air in your garage could be seeping into your house. What should you do to make sure your garage is not affecting your home’s air quality?

The first step is to assess your home’s situation.

  • Is the barrier wall between the house and garage drywalled on the garage side?
  • Do you have good insulation in the wall between the house and the garage?
  • Does the door to the house from the garage have adequate weather stripping?

The answers to these questions will help you in sealing any leaks that may be allowing the air in your garage to enter your home.

In addition to locating and repairing any leaks between the home and garage, installing a quality exhaust fan in the garage will help ventilate the garage and balance the interior pressure in the garage to the pressure in the house, keeping the air in your garage from being forced into your home. Continuous use of the garage exhaust fan will assist in removing noxious fumes from items such as stored paint cans, or stored gas cans, sending them outside instead of into your house.

Another way to minimize toxic fumes in your home and garage is DO NOT immediately close your garage door after pulling your car into the garage. By letting your garage air out for a few minutes after turning off your vehicle you eliminate the carbon monoxide that is released from your car as you drive in, in turn keeping these gasses out of your house.

Greg at All Year has been servicing the Sacramento area since 1981. All Year is committed to providing quality customer service, and they are happy to answer any questions you may have or schedule a free estimate consultation.

 

Travel Article Section:

Sample 1

Experience the Ho Chi Minh Trail in a Whole New Light

Many lingering somber or negative thoughts come to mind for many who lived through the Vietnam War era when they think of Vietnam or the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This is to be expected, however, the Vietnam that has arisen like a phoenix out of the ashes of war has become quite mesmerizing and created a completely new vacation destination industry for this small country that is very competitive with the most popular of travel destinations. One of these amazing vacation get-a-way experiences is the Ho Chi Minh Trail Motor Bike Tour.

Guided motorbike tours of the Ho Chi Minh Trail are offered by several different motorbike tour companies that offer a variety of inclusions as well as different trip lengths that range in days from 7 to 15 days to complete. These tours take you through major iconic cities such as Hanoi, Phong Nha, Dong Hoi, and Saigon to name a few. These cities not only have historical significance linked to the ever controversial Vietnam War, but also very distinct cultural influences that make them a once in a lifetime excursion.

You can expect to find tour packages that include hotel stays, motorbikes used for tour travel, and unique day stops; although different tour companies will offer different inclusions in their packages so ask what your company provides when doing your research to book your trip. You may also want to verify which actual hotels that you will be staying at so that you have a better idea of your surroundings and amenities when you arrive.

Besides all of the historic and cultural aspects of this completely unique land of rebirth, you will be witness to some of the most beautiful countryside and ocean views that you will ever find. Although Vietnam has made great strides in modernization, for the most part, this country has maintained its heritage, rural farm culture, and traditions with grace and elegance, providing visitors with a spectacular look into their culture and homeland.

For anyone who may be unfamiliar with the historical significance of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, this trail was the main artery of the Vietnam War for Northern Vietnam’s movement into the Southern region. This trail traverses mountains, jungles, and waterways along the Cambodian and Laos borders that the North Vietnamese used to transport troops, artillery, supplies, and communications to South Vietnamese sympathizers and military troops during Vietnam’s civil war between the north (communist occupied) and south (anti-communist) regions.

These same trails and roadways still exist and many of them have been maintained in their original form, while other areas have been repaired and or updated to meet modern traffic and transportation needs as it is still a major route between North and South Vietnam for locals and tourists alike. This road extends from Hanoi across the 17th Parallel all the way to Saigon making it the perfect way to experience Vietnam from a local’s perspective.

Some of the activities that you can expect to come across or see are War Monuments, the largest and claimed to be the most beautiful cave in Vietnam, the Phon Nha-Ke Bang National Park which experiences massive tectonic shifts regularly that create the landscape’s geometric complexity, stunning beaches, and the Vinh Moc Tunnel. These are just a handful of the historical and natural sites provided on these motorbike tours.

Not only will you get a feel for what life was like during this country’s tumultuous time of internal battle, you will also see the many influences left behind by ally countries on both sides of the war, from countries such as Cuba, France, Russia, China, Japan, and the United States. This may be the only opportunity you will have to see some of these countries artifacts and cultural influences first hand since several of these countries are still very shut off from outside visitors or other world influences due to their political beliefs and regime.

Vietnam is proving to the world that it is a true Phoenix rising from the ashes of its past by establishing one of the world’s most unique and affordable tourist industries. As it continues to grow this new economic resource while progressing into the modern world lifestyle without forgetting its past or losing its centuries-old cultures and traditions, you can have a one of a kind view of Vietnam in all of its glory when taking one of these sublime motorbike tours of the Ho Chi Ming Trail.

 

Sample 2

Traveling in Morocco on a Budget

Traveling abroad you will create memories that you will reflect on for many years to come. However, understanding the currency and traveling on a budget can sometimes be a challenge. Here are a few tips to guide you through the Moroccan currency and how to stay on budget while in Morocco.

Currency

First, you should know what currency is used in Morocco; the dirham. The dirham comes in both paper and coin denominations and the most convenient paper denomination is the Dh20. It can be very difficult to get larger denominations cashed and the taxi drivers never seem to carry change, so remember this as you make your purchases throughout the day. Knowing this up front will help keep you within your budget so that you don’t end up over tipping out of not having the right denomination. Check the currency exchange rate frequently since this does change daily and can directly affect your budget. Lastly, remember that the dirham is considered a restricted currency and is not allowed to leave the country; don’t forget to exchange any unused currency before attempting to leave the country, as it could be confiscated at departure.

Tipping

Although some countries consider it an insult to tip, Morocco is not one of them. It is customary to tip for pretty much any service provided, as the workers in Morocco average less than Dh100 per day. Keep this in mind when tipping, but don’t be guilted or bullied into making a larger tip than is fair.

Negotiating

You are likely to find some of your best buys at the bazaars in Morocco City; however Moroccan bazaars are done on the barter system. With this in mind, it is important to realize that the first price given is rarely the actual price. It is usually about twice the real price. It is best to approach with a disinterested demeanor when asking a price. Once you have been given a price, counter offer with a very low price and be willing to negotiate to a more amicable pricing agreement that lands somewhere in the middle; keep in mind what the maximum amount that you are willing to pay for the item is so that you don’t in the heat of the moment end up paying more for the item than you intended. Remember this is their livelihood and they are expert negotiators.

Us Small Local Operators

It may seem counter-intuitive, but by using small local companies for tour guides, and other accommodations over larger corporations you can save substantial money while exploring this amazingly beautiful country. For safety purposes you do want to check with the local tourism agency or the Travel Guide to Morocco before willy-nilly signing up with a local travel guide; after all, you don’t want to get stranded on a camel penniless in the desert someplace.

Traveling abroad is one of life’s great pleasures and it can be done safely and frugally if you know where to look and what to look for. By using these basic Moroccan travel tips you will be able to get the most for your money as you explore this cultural mecca.

 

Sample 3

Your Guide to a Month in Bali, Indonesia

(Ghostwritten in April 2016 for a client; link is: http://www.thejungleprincess.com/guide-month-bali-indonesia/)

Bali, Indonesia has to be one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth and is the perfect extended vacation for anyone looking to reconnect with themselves and nature. If you’ve felt in need of some spiritual rejuvenation and are planning an extended Bali vacation, here are some places to see and things to do on your trip to Bali.

Tanah Lot Temple

This iconic temple sits perched on a natural rock bridge outcropping surrounded by clear blue ocean and lush indigenous vegetation. The peacefully tranquil setting provides the perfect place for meditation and contemplation. Just make sure to schedule your visit according to the tide charts, because at certain times of the day the temple is inaccessible due to the ocean rising up to cover the causeways. Also, check out their calendar of events so that you can witness one of their spectacular pilgrimages that are set around the temple’s anniversary dates.

Uluwatu Temple

Located at cliff’s edge southwest of Bukit peninsula, Uluwatu Temple provides mesmerizing sunset views along with Kecak fire dances in the nearby open amphitheater. Surrounding the temple are monkey forests for those looking to explore as they submerse themselves in nature.

Besakih Temple

The largest temple in Bali, this temple is known as ‘Mother Temple” and sits 1,000m up on Mount Agung. The three main temples of Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu are encompassed by eighteen sanctuaries belonging to various caste groups. The intricate design and detailing of these temples along with their gardens and thoughtfully laid out grounds will provide you with a sense of harmony as you wander the facility reconnecting your spirit with mother earth.

Bebek Tepi Sawah

When you need a break from your site-seeing, meditating, and exploring, feed your soul as well as your belly at this famous open-air restaurant located in Kuta. It provides views of the busy beachside streets along with a cozy atmosphere. Bebek Tepi Sawah is one of the most famous restaurants in Bali and offers a selection of local cuisines.

Tegallalang Rice Terraces

These fabulously laid out rice patties are a “must see now” destination. Purposely designed terraces line the hillsides creating vast agricultural patterns across the landscape that resemble a work of art. As you traverse the road to Tegallalang you will find small restaurants, art galleries and curio shops lining the road. Make sure to bring your camera, because these are some sights you will want to bring home with you.

Ubud Monkey Forest

Probably the best known of all of Bali’s monkey forests, Ubud Monkey is both a scientific research location and a cultural and spiritual haven for local villagers. Home to the gray long-tailed macaque, these forests contain beautiful statues and temples that are tucked back deep within the forest; so be prepared for a bit of a hike.

Whether your method of getting centered again is yoga, meditation, exploration, or simply relaxation, Bali has the perfect location and atmosphere to enhance your self-awareness experience.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Portfolio

  1. Sweet blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News. Do you have any suggestions on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s