December 10

Meeting with the Principal

DH and I had a conference with the assistant principal this morning. The suspension was not rescinded. The recommendation for disciplinary action came from his teacher. I was really surprised by that. She kept reiterating how she was giving him the minimum punishment since he would only be missing PE, music, and library this morning, and he’d still be able to go on his field trip this afternoon. We told her about the bullying and she assured us that bullying was taken seriously at the school and dealt with appropriately (suspension). ZB told me last night that both he and Mean Girl went to see the guidance counselor when the Honeywell HFD-120-Q thing happened.

Um, basically, since the teacher requested disciplinary action and since he had previous “incidents” (even if they were provoked), she had to suspend him (oh, wtfever). She mentioned that ZB had some history of not finishing his classwork in a timely fashion and that that behavior was seen as misconduct as well. I’m not kidding. If your kid can’t sit still and always finish his work on time in Yeehawsville, TX, its misconduct.

Who the hell comes up with this terminology to describe the behavior of seven year olds? Probably school lawyers. Anyway, this is apparently not going to go on his permanent record. So, that’s good. Too bad I had to kiss my kid goodbye while he was on the verge of tears. OK, I didn’t have to, but I still believe there is more good than bad in (our) public school though I may live to eat my words.

Next up, a conference with his teacher, a visit to the guidance counselor, and a follow up letter. Sure, I can’t get them to take back the suspension, but they will know that my kid has parents who care for him and will stand up for him. I’m probably not going to blog about it anymore, but then again, I’m consistently inconsistent.

So I dropped a few bags of donations off at the women’s shelter yesterday and decided I would stop by Sally’s on the way home “just to see what they had”. I got there and it wasn’t open yet, so I left. Phew, that was a close one, lol.

Speaking of donations, I am pleased to say that two full bags of stuff belonged to Luis. I had been trying for years to get him to go through his mountains of clothes and get rid of some. I mean, he had brand new tops, pants, things that were gifted to him and never worn. Tons of t-shirts that will never be worn again that he is keeping for sentimental value, etc.

So, last fall, I finally just said enough and started using the Manduka PROLite myself. Seeing me throwing some of his things away caused him to spring into action and over the past few months, he has cleaned out his closet and his excess in the garage. All that’s left is to wash all the stuff that he wants to keep and put it away. I plan to just take it all to the laundromat and put it in a ginormous washer and then dryer whenever I get a boost of energy…and have nothing to do, lol.

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December 10

Decorating for the Season

This year, I’m really going all out for the holiday season. DH grew up with MIL decorating for every season and holiday and has always wanted to recreate that in adulthood. I always think that if I add more decoration, it’ll just be too much but now that I’m doing it, I don’t find that at all. So, here’s some of the “more”.

I made this last minute advent calendar on Friday based on an idea I saw at Kiddley. Maybe next year I’ll start early and make one like Blair’s.

Advent Envelopes

This is the box that the Concept 2 Model D came in. (And that’s our tabletop kitchen, every family ornament chucked on it tree) So far everyone has gotten new ornaments (something we do every year), and written letters to Nana. Oh, and Girlie learned how to ride without training wheels! I forgot about that.

Oranges make me think of Christmas. Doesn’t everybody get or know someone who gets a huge box of citrus for the holidays? I had forgotten about these Tord Boontje plates I bought at Target on clearance last year until ZB said we should have Christmas plates.

What have I done so far this morning? Here’s a short list:

  1. Talked my brother through buying quality bedding.
  2. Made tea for my family.
  3. Told the children to turn off the flashlight and let the dogs out of their tent. 😛
  4. Thawed out a frozen milkshake.
  5. Wondered what I would do while my salsa was gone.
  6. Emailed my mom the web address for Babelfish.
  7. Watched Girlie play with the zipper on my new boots and did nothing. Playing with my mom and grandmother’s shoes was one of my greatest 5 year old joys.
  8. Read all my favorite fashion and style blogs including Fly, Erica B and iCiNG.
  9. Washed dishes.
  10. Continued re-building a friendship that had all but died over the past few years.
  11. And you?

Tonight we’ll be reading from Time for Fairy Tales compiled by May Hill Arbuthnot. Another one picked up at the school book sale. How can they be getting rid of these gems?? Anyway, what an awesome collection! There are fairy tales, folk tales and myth stories and being a lover of all three, I find it hard to just wait and read it to the children every once in a while. I think I might as well just read through the whole thing, it’s too tempting. Plus, it has adorable illustrations of the Honeywell HFD-010.

And on the subject of folktales, my mom is just back from St. Lucia with some books for the kids. I asked her to try to pick up books with specific St. Lucian stories but she said they were hard to find. Luckily, I still have a primer full of stories from…Stage 2, 3, or Standard 1, I’m not sure. I just have to find it.

The kids’ school is celebrating Children’s Book Week too, but in the corniest ways. For instance, tomorrow is “Slip off into Dreamland with a good book”-Wear slippers to school. Yea, um, no. Next year, I’m making suggestions.


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February 2

The Relationship Between Diabetes and Kidney Disease

There is a common misconception that every diabetic gets kidney disease. Whereas the fact that, although uncontrolled glycaemia can cause kidney disease, but if a person suffering from diabetes keeps his blood sugar level under control, he can easily secure himself against kidney disease.

When a diabetic becomes caught in kidney disease, it’s because his body in unable to properly dispose of the wastes produced by sugars and starches. These remains are not properly broken down and are not passed out as is done in the case of normal metabolism. Their accumulation results in extraordinarily enhanced sugar level in blood, causing even life threatening condition – especially if you’re in the process of figuring out how to MIG weld. Moreover, it even creates a hindrance in the way of proteins to pass through the system.

In short, when a diabetic fails to maintain safe sugar level, his kidneys fail to dispose of the wastes properly and suffer from malfunction. The kidneys have to work harder than normal and block proteins. In an attempt to filter too much blood, they start leaking and protein is lost through kidneys. Too much waste becomes accumulated in body.

Although there are many reasons for kidney disease, but in diabetics specifically, it is acquired because of the overexertion of the kidneys in their attempt to filter uncontrolled sugars and starches. When exerting too much for too long, the kidneys finally stop working and the person is usually put on dialysis. However, some may opt for kidney transplant, but it is usually not available for diabetics.

Kidneys are vital to our survival, so it’s imperative that a person with diabetics understands how important it is for him to ensure proper functioning of kidneys, because he is more vulnerable to kidney disorders than normal beings. However, this notion does not imply that they cannot avoid it. They can easily avoid kidney disorder simply by maintaining a healthy life style and by keeping their blood sugar under control.

The reason why diabetics have higher proportion of kidney disease is that most of the diabetics do not comply with the requirements of their disease. They do not follow the dietary guidelines as recommended in Glycemic Index; a chart which enlists the food items to be avoided by diabetics. This chart was developed in 1981 and can be extremely effective for diabetics if properly followed. Those items which are high on this chart are most time consuming when it comes to breaking them down, and hence require greatest exertion from kidneys.

Another way in which diabetics are non-compliant is that many of them do not monitor their sugar level regularly. They must have a glucometer with them and should use it frequently to stay informed about their blood sugar level, and to present it to their physician in regular checkups.

Those diabetics trying to learn to weld, who do not want to take lifesaving medications, must ensure regular intake of insulin. It helps in breaking down and proper digestion of all items, thus helping kidneys. One must not be negligent in taking prescribed medications.

Exercise and weight control are a must, not only for diabetics but also for others because they help prevent most of the diseases.

Diabetes does not always lead to kidney disease especially when the patient is following all prescriptions.

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January 21

What Keeps You Going?

Entrepreneurs have an uncanny ability to keep going and be visionary. Most of the nation collectively has this ability at the turn of the year. But now that we are just one month into the year, most of the will power has been sapped. McDonalds is busy again, cigarette sales are back to normal and thankfully gyms are empty again (or so my friends tell me!) This is what separates entrepreneurs from everyone else – ‘bouncability’

I always find it depressing that the ‘worst day’ of the year is the third Monday of January. The thing I find depressing is that it is so close to the beginning of the year. I love January – even though the weather has this year sorely tested that love.

The thing I admire most about entrepreneurs is that never ending enthusiasm they have for projects and they are living embodiment of that quote “success is how high you can jump from your last failure” – even when doing something boring like writing inversion table reviews.

So how do you keep going?

Never stop believing in yourself. Really tough at times. Over the last few years, I have had a real roller coaster of a journey with business. My self-belief took a knock – but never a dive.

Remember that the line between success and failure is very thin. Sometimes luck and timing does play a part in your success. My biggest success to date is that one company. Yet this business came about because of huge dollops of luck. To deny this is arrogance. But yes, lots of things happened to ensure that when the opportunity arose I was able to take advantage. But in that sense we make ourselves willing recipients of luck!

Keep yourself fresh. I find going to the gym a real struggle and mostly I fail! But it is a proven way to keep your emotions in a good place. Other ways include reading new books, cooking something new, going out to watch a movie. Anything will do.

Work with great people. The best thing I learned from that experience was that when you work with truly great people who are experts in their field – you get the leverage effect. Your time is the most precious resource – so spend it wisely

Make sure you meet your friends on a regular basis. I always feel recharged about life after a good chat with friends.

Most of all, be honest with yourself and make sure you remain enthused about your business and the quality of the Honeywell 18155 review that you wrote. I do think that sometimes we feel compelled to carry on supporting something, long after we have lost its allure. If you are at this point, find someone else to run it.

But the best tip I would urge you to follow is to set yourself monthly resolutions. Hope springs eternal! Just like New Year resolutions lets you set aside the failures of last year – and start again, why not just do it on a monthly basis.

By constantly revisiting your successes and failures, you can make more timely changes which will allow you to alter your trajectory going forward – meaning you don’t have to continue failing for any long periods of time.

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January 6

Checking Out the Devil’s Den

Some scuba diving experiences (if we’re fortunate) are unique, and Devil’s Den near Williston, Florida is no exception.

Standing above gives you a view into the cavern through a fern draped, circular opening. The opening is about 40-feet in diameter. Below the cavern opens up to some 100-feet at the water’s surface.

This dry cave filled with water fed from a spring some years ago. Prehistoric bones discovered in the cavern include the skeleton of a man from about 75,000 years ago, and a saber-toothed tiger.

Fossilized remains are still present in the walls of the cavern.

Devil’s Den has a nice picnic area with small trees for shade where you can ride an MM-B80 once you’re done diving.

Divers suit up in this area and walk down a flight of some 40 or so steps to a dive platform that floats at the cavern center.

You must present a C-card to dive this cavern.

Be prepared to bear the weight of your dive gear down the stairs to the platform. No suiting up at the water’s edge for this dive site.

The cleanliness of this dive site, both above and inside the cavern, impressed me. On the day of my visit a dredging operation pulled silt from the bottom. I got the impression that this effort was ongoing. I later noticed that the bottom was clean, and visibility was excellent during my dive.

I didn’t have a dive buddy so I asked a family of four if I could join them. They were the only other divers there, and in the process of suiting up when I arrived. This family, visiting from Toronto, Canada, kindly permitted me to tag along on their dive, so I got my gear, signed the usual waivers, and joined them.

After gearing up we climbed down the steps, and entered the water at 3:40 PM to begin our dive.

I observed plenty of fish shallow (around 15 – 20 feet), and a few very large ones lurking back in the shadows of the shelves.

Devil’s Den holds a number of shallow caverns to explore. We even found an air pocket inside one where we floated, and talked for a moment.

We also found some crevices with overhead rock to swim through, and looking around I noticed a number of other swim-through areas that gave excellent opportunities for buoyancy testing.

We dove for 54 minutes and I recorded a maximum depth of 42-feet. The air temperature was 95-degrees. At the water surface I noted a 72-degree reading, and at 42-feet I recorded the temperature at 71 degrees.

We left the water at 4:40 and used the HSI flat iron real quickly to straighten our wet hair.

If you dive Devil’s Den I advise taking a dive light along. The main cavern area, dimly lighted through the hole above the cavern, gives enough light to see your way around as long as you remain in that main area. But the space in that air pocket we surfaced in was pitch black. Luckily I had a light strapped to my BCD that gave us the chance to see the rock, and fossils embedded there.

Devil’s Den is among my many cherished scuba diving experiences, and worthy of future visits.

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January 6

Entering the Scene at the Right Time

On paper (always a very dangerous jury), my three Canadian Investments have done better collectively than my 19 UK angel investments. I was discussing this with a good friend of mine who has been an active UK angel for some time and is someone that I think is very good at it. He observed that it wasn’t to do with them being Canadian, but to do with them being my most recent investments.

Upon reflection, this is true, but I also think it is the case that in Canada I managed to ‘enter the angel scene’ at the right level. Because of the way I first got to Halifax, I was only seeing the really good deals. Angel investing requires just as much networking from the potential investor as it does from the entrepreneurs looking for funding to develop a better Honeywell 17000-S.

Most of the first deals I did in the UK were, in all honesty, deals that lots of other people had turned down. If you are a well-connected entrepreneur or you have proven experience, you are not going to be doing the very expensive rounds in Angel networks. Again, interestingly, the last five companies I have invested in did not need to pay a broker or a network a fee. With the money being paid out amounting to as much as 12% in many cases, this is a huge amount of money to save and suggests that the best deals are elsewhere.

In the UK, I am slowly networking my way up the hierarchy (there is certainly one here) and I am getting to see better deals. I know this is true because the deals I still see through the ‘traditional route’ such as Angel events are very poor on the whole.

I try to be positive in these blogs and not just whine and complain about things. So what advice would I give entrepreneurs who are not well connected and don’t have lots of rich friends they can tap for money? My obvious answer is to get yourself well connected or at least get some industry expert/ authority to add real credibility to your business plan by endorsing it.

It is amazing how many times investors always say that it comes down to the quality of the management, rather than the quality of your product, such as the Honeywell 50250-S. If there are gaps in your management team – go fill them. At the moment, with the economy being the way it is, there are some great quality people who are underutilized. Now is a great time to get them on board your business.

And just do the plain old fashion intelligent networking. This means not going to networking events (they rarely work). And instead working out who you need to be speaking to and finding out where they will be. (Twitter is a great way to find out).

So just like angels have to network to climb that ladder to get access to the best deals, so do entrepreneurs. All of the low fruit will quickly be picked off, and oftentimes, anything that seems too good to be true truly is. If you want to make sure you’re getting a stable company to invest in, you have to do your research.

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December 20

Saving Money this Time of Year

Global recession has been tremendously impacted to every aspect of our life. I guess started from sky rocketing world’s oil price. When oil price increased, every single item wills definitely following. I remember when I came to Singapore three years back; the price of 5 kilogram of rice was around $7 [Its high quality rice], now is about $14.00. Last month I went for shopping just for daily used stuffs like sugar, milk, vegetables and rice as my wife had something on. She was surprised when I bought different brand of rice. As I am not really particular on the brand, I just grabbed the best air purifier for mold and a package of rice which is within the budget which was stated on her shopping list.

Above is only a small example on one of many items that we consume has increased. Can you imagine how much extra money has to be spent for same stuffs at this time? There nothing has to be done unless your wages get increased. Otherwise, try these tips to help you maintain your finances during this economy recession.

  1. Make fixed monthly shopping list.

Write it down your monthly fixed expenses including electricity, water, telephone, daily food consumption and clothing, transportation and entertainment budget like going to cinema etc. Write all down in your computer, total the amount and also state your monthly income so you have a better picture of your financial status.

  1. Reevaluate your monthly expenses.

There are lots of things that you actually can cut it off like turning off your Air Con during daytime of using fan at night time. Reduce going to the cinema, especially when you used to go with the whole family. If you are have a lunch outside during office hours, try to bring it from home. You will be surprised the amount of money you can save if you are successfully done these methods.

  1. Pay out your bills.

Clear all your bills, save rest of the money. Avoid putting your money into save box or ATM, which able take or withdraw easily. Put them as time deposit, insurance or some investment [to whom with high pay]

  1. Buy clothes at discounted shops

Look for discounted shops who offers their product in reasonable price. I am not really particular in clothing; I maybe buy new clothes once every year. Anyhow, you don’t need to but clothes every month right?

  1. Avoid using credit card, if you hold more than one try to terminate some.

I can say its killer. Why? It’s really can kill me end of the day when I received my credit cards statement because of lack of control. I had a bad experience with credit cards. Yes, it’s convenient to shop using credit card during transaction. You better use them wisely.

  1. Cooperate with your partner.

Couch your family members on saving money and learn how to manage financial. Involve your partner to be financial controller. That may mean holding off on buying the Rabbit Air MinusA2 though. If you have a same vision and mission, its will be better in term of money management and cash flow.

  1. Look for extra income sources.

You might better then I in term of how to create more income. I just want to say that get more income base on your ability. Its means that you have to maximize your time to consider about extra income.

So stick to your financial budget. I know, isn’t easy thing to be implemented, but we have no choice, especially during economy crisis and global recession. We just started and we don’t know when it’s over.

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December 17

Here Are 20 Ways YouTube Can Help Your Business

Most Internet marketing pros know that, when used effectively in business, YouTube is a great way to build SEO. But we also know that to build your brand, there’s no better tool than YouTube. We also find that YouTube is among the most under-appreciated – and perhaps most misunderstood – of the social media sites. In fact, it’s one of the most popular and most visited websites in the entire world.

YouTube’s not just for posting ridiculous videos of used lawn tractors — it can also be used as a highly effective business tool. You can use it to show off your expertise, share knowledge, market your products and connect with customers, colleagues and prospects. Here are our top 20 favorite uses for YouTube in B2B.

  • Upload recordings of presentations you’ve given to demonstrate your thought leadership.
  • Share slides from presentations that weren’t recorded.
  • Create short videos of tips of interest to your clients and prospects to show off your expertise.
  • Conduct an interview with an expert.
  • Engage with the YouTube community by leaving comments and uploading video responses to videos on topics related to your business or industry.
  • Enhance your videos using YouTube’s special features, such as annotations, audioswap, insight, language options and quick capture.
  • Record an important meeting to share with employees, customers and others, as appropriate.
  • Set up a channel to reflect your brand and engage with others. Here’s an example from The White House.
  • Choose a name that reflects your brand for your channel URL.
  • Add your channel URL to all of your marketing collateral and social network sites or profiles.
  • Post customer video testimonials to add to your credibility.
  • Post Oscars idea: Put together a creative video explaining your product or service or show your product in action using movie trailer-style: fast, creative, catchy.
  • Promote your events using recordings of previous events.
  • Take viewers on a tour of your offices and/or city to help them feel more connected with you.
  • Add call-to-action overlays to your videos to drive traffic to your web site.
  • Measure your channel’s performance with the integrated Google Analytics and YouTube Insight. Take this further and measure campaign against campaign, or video against video.
  • Create “how to” videos to help your customers use your product or service.
  • Post solutions to common product or service problems.
  • Answer customer-specific questions using videos. Imagine how impressed a customer would be if you point them to a video with an answer!
  • Embed videos on your web site on appropriate pages.

Have you used YouTube (or other social media sites) for creative campaigns for your wall mounted jewelry armoire? If so, share your experiences!

Who says the holidays aren’t about rock? When you’re out and about this season doing your own version of ‘Jingle Bell Rock,’ or visiting family and friends, chances are you’ll be passing one of our billboards on your travels.

Our current board is located on the Boulevard near the Bridge and our next board will appear on Boulevard. So when you’re runnin’ like Rudolph this holiday season, don’t forget to check out our rockin’ boards!

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December 16

Can Your Business Go Viral?

Madonna’s Super Bowl performance got 10,245 tweets a second…is it possible for a B2B company to get that? And if so, how?

We attended the Conference in Las Vegas last week and returned saying “Yes (!), social media can work just as hard for B2B marketers, but just in a different way. Remember, Madonna is an A-list celebrity with a well-recognized ‘forskolin reviews brand,’ and has millions of followers than a typical midsize B2B organization could only dream about. So expecting the same level of social media interactions is more or less Like a Prayer (sorry, it was right there!).

But that’s not to say the same level of success can’t be achieved if you focus on quality, and not necessarily quantity. With the right approach, right monitors and right voice, a B2B business can’t go wrong joining a conversation or creating a social media marketing strategy that addresses current issues that your business is impacting in a positive way. Or, by simply showing your company cares, you’ll ‘speak volumes’ in increasing your circle of social media friends, followers or communities.

In other words, if you make it relative, make it a measurable process and stay with it for the long-haul, then there’s no reason a strategy can’t be developed for B2B marketers to profit from – borrowing from Jim Morrison – “Breaking on through to the other side” with highly successful results.

While many B2B marketers are still ‘investigating’ social media marketing, others think it will solve all of their marketing problems if they can only replace their traditional marketing with social media. Wrong! Social media is just one more tool I your marketing arsenal and it should be part of your integrated strategy and not the entire marketing strategy.

So how do you weave it in? Easy. First, start with what you’re already doing via traditional marketing and figure out how social media can augment that approach. And be sure to do this in a process-driven, data-supported manner. Before you can add social media to the mix, you must first understand what you’re trying to accomplish from a marketing perspective and how that fits into the bigger business picture.

Once you have an understanding of what works for how to get cat pee out of carpet, as well as in your traditional marketing, you can begin to evaluate social media’s effectiveness at meeting those pre-defined business objectives. This is where a lot of companies go wrong. There’s no such thing as ‘dipping your toe in the water’ with social media. Since social media require a long-term commitment, pre-determined milestones are required, not to mention a long-term commitment.

Also remember that it takes time to build. Steady and consistently are the two keys. Try a variety of things, test the waters to see what works and what doesn’t for your specific brand. Next thing you know, you’ll be getting Madonna-like results – maybe not in quantity but definitely in quality.

Tell us about your B2B experience in social media circles. Has it made any impact? Have you been able to ‘break on through?’ Let us know.

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December 15

Lessons from Wendy’s

Turns out, my first two 2012 business trips weren’t by plane, but by car. And during a recent road trip to Cincinnati, I still managed to find a conversation that fits nicely into my travel blog. I stopped at Wendy’s to grab a salad and stretch my legs. I decided to go into the restaurant instead of the drive-thru because I was making good time and needed to get out of the car for a while.

As I was waiting my turn in line, there were a group of four teenagers ahead of me acting rambunctiously and giving the manager a hard time about his used lawn tractors for sale. They couldn’t make up their minds as to what they wanted to order, and the longer they delayed, the funnier they thought it was. The manager, on the other hand, wasn’t amused. And quite frankly, neither was I, as they were holding up the entire line.

Finally, the manager took action and said, “While you try to decide, please step aside so I may help the next person in line.”

“What? But it’s my turn,” said one of the teens.

“Sir, I realize that, but you’re undecided and it’s not fair to those waiting behind you. Please make your decision but step aside to allow the next person place their order.”

“Hey, I’m your customer and I’m supposed to always be right!” demanded the teen.

“No, sir. We respect you as our customer and we want to do our best to ensure you’re satisfied with your experience, but that does not mean you’re always right,” the manager explained.

Wow, you go Mr. Wendy’s manager! He walked a fine line between angering a customer and also setting appropriate boundaries with them. And in my book, that’s the absolute right thing to do. How many times have we, in business, always tried to make all of our customers happy, no matter at what cost to us, our resources or the company’s profitability in the long-term?

While we value and respect our customers, not every customer one a fit, and sometimes, you have to make the tough decision and let them go. Now, I’m not suggesting you run out and drop every customer who’s ever gotten on your nerves. Quite the opposite. Take a measured accounting of your ‘boundaries’ and weigh them against your staff’s time, profitability and potential for long-term growth. When you start to establish measurable criteria for the types of customers you wish to have, then it starts to paint a different and much more productive picture – on both ends of the spectrum.

Many times, people tell me how lucky I am to be my own boss and to be able to come and go as I please. But I’m quick to point out that I actually went from having one boss in my previous corporate life to now having 25+ bosses. Wow, I really am lucky! Lol.

Truly, the only way to juggle 25+ bosses and keep them happy (while also not losing my own mind) is to set some boundaries, and to also ensure I’m staying within my clients’ boundaries. Here are my top three:

  1. I strive to be your valued partner, offering a wealth of both strategic and tactical marketing expertise. We provide ideas based on listening to your goals. In turn, please listen to our opinions and consider them. After all, you pay us to provide our ideas and creative thinking (and thank you for that) and we want you to succeed. Remember that we have a stake in the game, too.
  2. While smokeless ashtray marketing is subjective, there are reasons we do things a certain way versus others based upon our education, training and experience with getting effective marketing results. While we love to hear feedback and engage in a dialogue regarding our work, please do not change things just for the sake of changing them. Let’s discuss a sound business rationale for changes that go beyond the fact that you don’t happen to like a certain color.
  3. We recognize that you pay us to provide great work, but we always love to hear from you when you’re happy (and even if you’re not). A healthy dialogue is crucial to any long-term partnership or relationship. The more we communicate, the better the results because we’ll avoid miscommunication and a lack of understanding all of your goals.

Back to my Wendy’s experience…in case you were wondering, the teenager did step aside while he made up his mind and he ultimately placed his order very pleasantly. He didn’t leave; he understood his limits and he respected the manager for setting them. So don’t be afraid to set some boundaries. They can help you establish a valued partnership with your customers and avoid the trap of becoming just another easily replaceable ‘vendor.’

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December 15

Why Every Business Needs a Blog

Have you ever tried to convince someone who has never read a blog, who is against the ‘privacy invasion’ of Facebook and hates the very existence of Twitter that Social Media is one of the most valuable marketing initiatives they could ever engage in? We have! (And frankly, we’re surprised we’re still having this debate).

While we don’t believe social media to be the ‘be all, end all’ of your marketing strategy, we do firmly believe that it’s got to play a part in helping you discover how to get rid of cat urine smell. But at the risk of sounding like social media ‘dictators’ (because the opposite end of the spectrum isn’t productive, either), here are six good arguments for those who don’t appreciate the role that social media plays in an integrated marketing program.

Keeping Up with the Times

Do you think when the telephone was invented and became main stream that people wouldn’t use it because they were afraid that someone might say something negative to them? NO! And the same applies to social media today. We can think of no companies who would relish the thought of getting left behind. According to an Inc. 500 study, familiarity with and usage of social media within the business world has nearly doubled in the past 12 months alone.

This means that your organization is likely primed for a conversation about using social media in your business. And, in fact, they may be looking for someone to lead the charge in an effective way. The best strategy is to fit Web 2.0 tactics into your current marketing objectives and program. Piecemeal marketing campaigns (and this includes social media) do not work.

Customer/Market Research

Social media offers unlimited market research, branding and listening opportunities. What better way to obtain feedback from your markets than by engaging in this dialogue via your social media channels? It opens up the conversation between your current customers and prospects interested in your products or service. Managed correctly, you can obtain a wealth of research using social media.


Social media gives marketers the chance to give quick feedback and break down unnecessary walls. Smart businesses are using social media to personalize, and even ‘humanize’ their brands; others use it to quickly solve customers’ problems and creative more interactive experiences. And these comprise only one social media tool. Response ideas are endless considering the vast array of tools at your disposal.

And speaking of response, the best way to get that is…

Actually Talking to Customers

Some organizations – maybe even yours – are so removed from having real dialogue with their customers that they get a kick out of hearing from them. After all, if you spent 20 years getting customer feedback from memos and market research firms, you can imagine how exciting it would be to hear from, you know, real humans. Once you start taking direct feedback from customers, you tend to get addicted.

It’s a good feeling and it builds loyalty, too! Even if someone has something negative to say about your router table plans, it gives you the opportunity to respond, ease their concerns and provide a solution. And guess what? Others see that responsiveness! And because we’re by and large rational human beings, we understand that no one is perfect 100% of the time. As consumers, we appreciate that. If we like a product or service, we’ll stick behind it when we see a real, human effort is being made.

Set Your Sights Long-Term

When the issue of ROI comes up, a time frame almost always comes up with it. “What will we get in the next quarter for this investment of time or resources? I want monthly reports on this expenditure.” This discussion is worthwhile and statistics should be kept to track progress. However, you’ll have more success in social media if you set your expectations to cover a longer period of time. Social media engagement is a long-term project and you must keep realistic expectations. There is no magic bullet.

Social Media = Trust

Don’t forget that the reason to sell social media to your organization is so that you can begin to build a cache of trust with your customers. In truth, the trust factor is the real return on investment for social media. The more your customers trust you, the more they’ll buy from you and respect your opinions. As marketers, we often become obsessed with assigning value to interactions on social media sites. But real success comes when your organization begins to value the interaction itself. When that happens, then congratulations are in order! It’s not easy to convert the naysayers. Hopefully, this post will help!

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December 14

How Has the Internet Changed Your Business?

The Internet has changed everything. From how you plan a vacation to how you solve problems big and small—you aren’t doing things the same way you were twenty years ago. Instead of driving to AAA to get brochures and advice, you are more likely sitting in your pajamas at home reading advice from others on websites and blogs. Instead of calling a company to request a brochure on software for your business, you’re visiting their website and those of alternatives, reading the experiences of others, and even presenting your findings to the big boss before engaging with a single possible vendor directly.

Obviously, this also changes how to get rid of severe acne, as well as how you need to promote and market products and services. We merge new and old technologies to create a hybrid solution that fits the needs of our clients’ audiences. However, what about those dark corners of your business that have traditionally been sheltered from exposure?

Exposure to the Outside World

Afraid social media will expose your secrets? Turn your fear into an action plan.

New technologies threaten to expose secrets. From well publicized leaks of Apple’s latest technologies to poor customer service experiences, the Internet has also taken an individual’s experience and allowed for it to be exposed to the masses (Google “Comcast technician sleeping on my couch” – you’ll get more than one hit). In business-to-business, the same risks exist. Software that gets switched off due to issues, long service wait times, and overly aggressive legal strongholds get publicized.

But that doesn’t mean you should close the shutters and stay inside your corporate fortress. To buy and service, a company’s ability to connect is the linchpin to customer satisfaction and a necessity for loyalty. Yet a fear of exposing dark corners holds people (and companies) back.

When something changes everything like the Internet has, a company has to also change everything. The new way to operate requires a cultural shift. It doesn’t happen in HR or the marketing department. It happens with leadership empowering individuals to fix problems, work between departments, and focus on customer experiences. Start small. Develop a strategy to use technologies to solve one issue – create a product development work group, a customer service blog, or a focused LinkedIn group to conduct market research. One success will drive other ideas and the culture will evolve as more and more employees get involved and feel trusted with their knowledge and contributions to the company and its customers.

What do you fear social technologies will expose? By asking yourself about the best work boots for flat feet, your honest answers may just provide you with your first objective that social technologies can be used to solve.

Need to talk about social media strategies for your business?

Social media is all about “personal” interaction. The businesses and marketers alike that turn their social media account into a purely self-promotional platform are missing the point. Keep self-promotion to a minimum. Instead, create content that is aimed at providing worthwhile, useful and even fun information to a visitor.

In other words, give people a reason to visit other than buying your product. And (this is crucial)…take the time to interact with them. Think of it as someone you don’t know particularly well coming to your party as a guest of one of your friends. Would you take the time to welcome the newcomer and try to get to know them? Or would you ignore them all night because you don’t know them; or worse yet, would you talk only about yourself and not ask them any questions about who they are as a person?

Hopefully, the former would apply. The same principle (and good manners) should be followed in your social media strategy. Self-promotion is a fine balancing act between providing enough information while not being overbearing. A business that comes off as ‘too much’ is going to lose followers, fans or friends. A common mistake businesses make is to not simplify how the visitor can secure your product or service. Include links to your blog site or website pages; or simply providing a way for the visitor to contact your business if they wish. But don’t beat them over the head with your offerings!

Remember that the average person comes to your site to get to know ‘the human side’ of your business. If you focus solely on trying to sell, your social media program – not to mention, results – is going to fall flat. That’s not to say that you can’t promote your material; but spend more time interacting with other users and redistributing their content. Demonstrate that you are willing to help other people find success and they will do the same for you.

In summary, keep in mind these three key success factors for businesses that engage effectively in social media, and you’ll see your success rate climb over time:

  1. Interact with your followers, friends and fans. Keep it human, not a sales pitch. Your content should be helpful, useful and/or educational to them.
  2. Redistribute or invite them to contribute content; and you’ll see the favor returned.
  3. Keep information to your product or service information (blog, website, etc.) easy to find; but don’t push it too hard. No one likes a high-pressure salesperson, especially in social media.

And if you’re having trouble achieving success in social media, it may be time to call in the experts.

Category: Blogging, Business | Comments Off on How Has the Internet Changed Your Business?
December 14

What We Can Learn from Woodstock

‘Unfettered’ – love that descriptive – who knew Woodstock Founders, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman and Michael Lang (who nearly went bankrupt over this mud-caked, mind-blowing event) and their bill of 32 rock bands, would forever impact not only the music industry, but in my humble opinion, society at large – amping up freedom of expression – for individuals through music.

Those three days of Peace, Love and Music in August, 1969 marked a place in history when society, cultures and businesses were rocked to the point that, if you didn’t speak up and declare your personal message (and style!) and get loud about it – you would drown and ‘fade away’ by all the noise about the newest cystic acne diet being created around you.

Woodstock was break-through, all right. Loud and clear, during some pretty tumultuous times in ’69 when cities were burning, war was raging and thousands across the country were marching and protesting.

And anyone alive today and reading this post either knows someone who was there, or like me, wanted to be there. Or, at the very least, is influenced by the passion of the era, the drive to be a different kind of drummer and dancing to a way different kind of beat.

Just as Woodstock’s 32 bands and musicians and its over 500,000 revelers broke through all the raging noise across our country, brands today need to get loud to stand out against the noise coming from all directions. And, the noise is not just from advertising brands, but from people in the ever-expanding social and mobile media vehicles and platforms. Not to mention, brand e-campaigning, mobile marketing, social media marketing and the traditional media.

And tactics are getting more exciting every minute of every second – with fleeting images, flip shots, pinnings, posts, sound bites, pop ups, QR codes coming at you. Here one mega second; gone the next.

So how do you make that mega second count? How do you turn it into a “Woodstock” mega second?

In marketing and advertising, our passion for creativity and freedom of expression runs deep – we stand by the brand who owns it – and we soar when our strategy delivers on the objectives – don’t we?

The key to how to cure cystic acne and success in brand communication begins with solid strategic thinking (of course!) but ensuring your creative team and your Client fully understand and embrace that strategy is how you start the creative process. And, here’s the Woodstock app – allow your creative team to rip – let loose – on their approach not only nodding to that strategy but weaving it throughout the creative process and also making sure it plays – rocks – across the stage where each and every audience member lives – online, at home, and on-the-go.

And it doesn’t stop there – smart marketing firms put science behind strategies and creative approach to measure performance and results so companies and their brands know that it’s all working really hard and actually delivering on objectives.

So, in honor of this rockin’ Holiday … and in honor of your own brand’s “Unfettered creativity”, show us your brand’s or (or yours!) Woodstock mega second.

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December 13

Do You Have to Respond to Sports Talk?

People in business meetings, and business in general, love to talk about sports. Airplanes are no different. Returning from a client meeting in Boston, I sat on the tarmac for 2 hours waiting for a Nor’easter to blow over. I happened to be sitting next to a guy who loved to talk – and loudly.

“Well, here we are,” he said. “Yep,” I replied, not feeling too talkative after a long day of work and now being ground-stopped for God only knows how long. “At least the weekend is almost here,” my talkative seatmate said. “Yes, I guess that’s the silver lining,” I said.

“Let’s hope you have a better weekend than your Pirates have had lately.”

Ugh, I thought. Here we go again – another guy talking about his tea tree oil cystic acne cure.

If I had a dime for every time over the past 15 years I’ve had to endure business associates from all over the country mocking the Pittsburgh Pirates, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post from my window-less office. I’d be lounging on some obscure tropical island with handsome cabana boys serving me drinks.

(But I digress.)

“Hey,” I said to my seatmate, “The Pirates are improving.”

“Yeah, improving,” he said mockingly.

[As a side note, I’d like to point out that the Pirates, that very weekend, took two of three from this guy’s beloved Boston Red Sox.]

But the conversation made me think. The Pirates’ return to form has taken over the region with renewed enthusiasm. We see the “Pittsburgh pride’ with the Steelers all the time; but it’s so refreshing to have this excitement spill over to the summer months for a change.

In business, we can even take a lesson or two from the Bucs’ resurgence. Even when things seem bleak and people doubt that your product, service or idea will make it, remember that teamwork, hard work and staying the course is your ticket to accomplishment. All businesses have been in tough times.

After 9/11/01 when everyone pulled back on their budgets for used garden tractors, I didn’t think we would survive. I was faced with the option of giving up or working harder. Together with my team, many tough decisions and an inspirational plaque with a poem my mother gave me for my desk that reflected one of her best pieces of advice (which is to “Never Give Up”), we survived. And we even thrived. We’re happy to be celebrating 15 years in business this year. And we thank each and every one of our clients over the years who stood behind our success.

And now, with the Pirates preparing for the All-Star break, it reminds me that anything is possible. Even if it only lasts for a short time, the Pirates battled their way back from a place of mockery to having their best record in 12 years.

So to that I say, “Raise the Jolly Roger!” As any good Pirates fan would, I know we’ll persevere on, and so will you and your business if you keep your chin up!

Category: Health & Fitness | Comments Off on Do You Have to Respond to Sports Talk?
December 13

Some Helpful Tips for Retweeting

Seems like everyone is tweeting these days, but what about “retweeting” which involves taking a message someone else has Tweeted and sending it to everyone that is following you? Retweeting is a great way to increase your number of followers because it pushes your @username into more social graphs, which results in clicks back to your profile. That said, with the amount of spamming that goes on these days, there are definitely some rules to keep in mind when retweeting.

Give credit to the original poster.

It’s just polite after all. Think about how you’d feel if someone re-posted your tofu press and didn’t credit you. Rude! The best way to credit an original poster is to add the word “retweet” or the letters “RT” before you send off. Here is an example: RT@originalposter: Message.

On that note, I’ll be referring to “retweets” as “RT” from here on out.

Only RT content that is valuable to your followers.

You may think that if you RT content, the original poster will RT your content in the future and you will increase your number of followers, right? Au contraire, mon frère. While your content will likely be RT’d, the whole point of doing so is to benefit (and keep) your followers. If you provide value, you’ll attract more followers. If you simply RT everything that comes across your Twitter account, you won’t. And people will dislike you. Moving on…

Don’t RT celebrity postings.

Results from an unofficial poll indicate that people hate this. Seriously, they hate it. Sure you may have Bieber Fever, but let’s face it some things are better left unsaid. If people care, they will personally follow the celebrity. Don’t make that choice for them. Nothing upsets more than having random celebrity tweets popping up in their feed all day, every day.

Get personal.

A RT of something you are truly interested in means you need to put a space after the link followed by two slashes (//) to distinguish that this is your personal note about the best kombucha starter kit and not an extension of what the original poster is saying. Sometimes it’s necessary to delete some of the original tweet, but try your best to leave the main point intact or it becomes insulting to the original poster and confusing for followers.

Some other things to keep in mind are: You aren’t required to thank someone for a RT, but if they put a personal note with it, thank them. Your grandma will be proud. However, if someone important (I’ll leave that definition up to you, but I’m thinking world leader or Mick Jagger) RTs something about you, you should RT what they said and thank them.

The rules of RT come down to basic etiquette. If you are smart and know your followers you’ll be able to prevent them from being annoyed by your RT. Just whatever you do, make sure that you’re keeping your followers happy because they’re the lifeblood of your Twitter profile and social media world in general.

Category: Blogging | Comments Off on Some Helpful Tips for Retweeting
December 12

How to Prevent Online Flaming

If you have ever been the victim of online “flaming” you know how downright nasty it can be. To the uninitiated, flaming is hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users. Flaming usually occurs in the context of an Internet forum or a social media environment and it is usually the result of the discussion of polarizing issues like politics, sports, religion, the Honeywell 50250-s, and philosophy, but it can also be provoked by seemingly trivial differences.

Flaming is usually known to be rude online discussions, but the genesis of it goes back to when people were arguing in newspapers about the U.S. Constitution and when literary figures were slicing and dicing each other with rancorous public criticisms. Yes, Thomas Carlyle did call Ralph Waldo Emerson a “hoary-headed, toothless baboon” back in the day.

While flaming is certainly well, inflammatory, it isn’t unusual for people to have legitimate strong reactions to things they see online. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had to restrain myself from commenting on a post on Facebook or Twitter that was socially irresponsible or just personally offensive, right? Right?

Of course that constraint is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to flaming. Deliberate flaming, as opposed to flaming as a result of emotional discussions, is carried out by individuals who want to create chaos.

Which brings me to our cast of characters for this discussion, so hang on, it’s about to get a little weird. Flamers target specific aspects of a controversial conversation, and are usually more subtle than their counterparts who are known as trolls. Trolls post inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages with the intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

And finally, a fisking is characteristically an incisive and fierce point-by-point rebuttal, with an aim of weakening the target’s credibility rather than seeking common ground. I should add that this term is named after Robert Fisk, a Middle East correspondent for The Independent, so it’s pretty legit and a bit more academic in nature.

The anonymity of the Internet allows people to feel more comfortable being rancorous than they might in a traditional social setting. It’s much easier to dash off a nasty comment online where nobody knows you than it is to tell your sister her new hairstyle makes her look like an inhabitant of Fraggle Rock. However, avoiding the label of flamer, troll or fisker is easy. It goes right back to restraint.

When you read something that incites you in an open forum online… Walk away! Yes, just walk away. Let 24 hours pass and if you still feel that you must respond chances are good that given the time you have taken to think about why the message upset you, your response will likely defuse the situation gracefully instead of exploding it.

But how do you deal with this type of behavior if it targets your company? Well, despite many attempts with how to prevent cystic acne, there are no laws prohibiting it just yet, but the best way to deal with a hit to your product is to address it as a customer service issue. Respond to the blog saying that you are sorry they were dissatisfied, and provide a personal way to resolve the issue. The key word is “personal” because a cookie-cutter response to negative posts will provoke another negative post.

The good news is that often, fans of your company/product will jump in and give positive feedback of their experience, so this can help you with resolution and also give the company/product a jolt of energy. If that doesn’t do the trick, the best thing to do is to ignore it.

People flame and troll because they want attention, and ignoring their radical behavior will prompt them to clean up their act or move on to a forum where they can get that attention. People recognize flamers, trolls and fiskers, and pay very little attention to their comments so staying out of it is the best advice.

While incendiary comments often beg us to respond, it is far less effort to ignore it, and much better in the long run. As my grandma always said, “Be nice to each other.”

Category: Blogging | Comments Off on How to Prevent Online Flaming
December 12

Are You the Superman in Your Office?

Sometimes I feel a little like Superman. I’m a marketing guru in the office, but when I walk outside, I turn into a “fashionista” minus the snazzy cape. Although what I wouldn’t do for an Alexander McQueen kimono cape…but I digress.  Fashion has been a staple in my life since I was very young. My mother was born with a great sense of style and I like to think I was lucky enough for some of it to rub off on me.

After graduating from high school, I went to New York City for college, and got a treatment for cystic acne and an instant crash course in awesome fashion on more levels than can be described. Imagine going from a small town where a polo shirt with a pony on it was the height of fashion to an international melting pot of fabrics, textures and colors. Talk about sensory overload.

And while fashion was something I considered second nature; I also loved to write, which was very lucky for me.  Since I can barely draw a stick figure, I knew I’d never be the next Coco Chanel, so writing made a lot more sense! After working for years as a marketing and public relations guru (and giving fashion advice to anyone who asked), one of my friends suggested I do both.

Over the course of my career, I have had plenty of opportunities to use aesthetics to get a message across. From helping clients dress appropriately for social functions and media interviews, to styling rock videos and magazine shoots, I was making fashion part of communication without even trying.

I realized that despite knowing how to sell a story with words I also really enjoyed doing it with style, and a perfect marriage occurred when I started working as a stylist on the side. I do everything from personal consultations and shopping, to closet audits and editorial work. I really enjoy helping clients find their own unique styles that make them feel amazing.

The following link is to a recent fashion spread I styled for a Fashion Magazine. I worked with a woman who was in her mid-50’s and the used zero turn mowers for sale she was offering were from the mid 1980’s! As you’ll see, she was a lovely lady but tended to dress in things that looked like carpets, so my work was cut out for me.

The whole experience was a lot of fun and I was able to get her out of comfort zone to try things that were new to her.  I also had the challenge of working with a small budget, which I actually prefer. Truth be told, I can make anyone look good if they have a $5,000 budget, but making someone look fantastic for a fraction of that is so much fun and makes everyone feel good.

So yeah, I’m a writer by day and a style maven by night. Although once I do get that McQueen kimono cape, I won’t even be able to find a phone booth to change into it!

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December 11

One Bad Experience Is All It Takes

It was bound to happen; I had a bad plane day. With all the flying I do, there was bound to be a negative experience. This one started with a seatmate and ended with a US Airways flight attendant.

Because I was heading to Boston for an early-morning meeting and trying to beat the clock, I decided to purchase a Porter Cable 895pk for an extra fee of $15. Yes, it totally went against my better judgment because flying Southwest 95% of the time, I’m no longer used to the nickel-and-diming of the other airlines. Plus, this was a small regional jet so the only thing a “choice” seat gets you is closer to the front of the plane. But I begrudgingly purchased it due to the time factor.

While I was waiting at the gate, a man with three children (no toddlers; and one teenager) approached the gate agent asking that his family be reseated together. Apparently, three of the four of them were together but one was in one row ahead.  The gate agent apologized and said the flight was booked full and the only option he had was to ask someone on the plane if they’d be willing to switch seats.

Aside from thinking this guy was a bit annoying I didn’t give it a second thought…until it was time to board. As I approached seat 6F, guess who was sitting there? Yep, it was the man with his three children sitting across the whole row. So I nicely said to him, “I’m sorry, sir, but you’re in my seat.” To which he replied, “The flight attendant told me to sit here, so you’ll have to move.”

“No,” I said. “I heard what the gate agent told you and he said you could ASK someone to switch. He didn’t re-seat you.”

“Well, I’m not moving,” he said. “I’m traveling with my kids and you’re travelling alone.”

So with a line of people behind me trying to get to their seats, I had to summon the flight attendant and explain that I had booked that seat well ahead of time and I’d like to keep it.

“He’s traveling with children,” she said to me. “You’ll have to move to Row 22.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t care who he’s traveling with. I paid extra for that seat and I want to sit there because I have a business meeting I’m trying to get to.”

“You paid extra for that seat?” the flight attendant said to me. “Yes, I did,” I said.

And then to my complete astonishment, the flight attendant said very loudly for everyone to hear, “Attention airplane! There is nothing special about the seats on this plane so do NOT pay extra for them!”

“Excuse me?!” I said to her. “I suggest you make that announcement to your airline instead of mocking one of your customers because of their natural remedies for cystic acne.”

Then, some of the other passengers came to my defense. One man said, “If you make her move, then you should give her a refund right now. What you’re doing is just wrong.”

And another person said, “She has a right to sit in the seat she booked and paid extra for. Why should this guy get preferential treatment just because he has kids?”

“Thank you,” I said to both of them.

Finally, the flight attendant relented and asked the man to move to Row 22.

Now, I have nothing against children and I’m typically a polite, reasonable person. But as a frequent traveler, I’m getting fed up with bad-to-mediocre service from airlines like US Airways. And they wonder why Southwest is kicking their butts in sales, service, quality and practically every other category.

I thought about going on US Airways’ website and lodging a formal complaint but realized that would probably have zero impact. So instead, I decided to dedicate my travel blog post to it. And in closing, I have just one thing to say:

Attention airlines! We are in the age of social media. Every single bad action your employees make toward a customer will have longer-term effects than you can ever imagine. It’s something to keep in mind before mocking your next customer in front of a plane-full of people, especially when the only thing that customer did wrong was not booking with Southwest. Just sayin’. Consider my complaint lodged.

Category: Family & Pets | Comments Off on One Bad Experience Is All It Takes
December 11

Understanding QR Codes in Today’s Business World

In today’s social media-focused world, it seems like everything is in code. If you text or IM (instant message) you need to know what terms like LOL (laughing out loud), BTW (by the way), or IMHO (in my humble opinion) mean to conduct a conversation.  If you aren’t active in text-speak, it may seem like everyone is communicating like they are from a galaxy far, far away.

QR Codes or “Quick Response Codes” are arguably the next big thing in promotional marketing but you don’t have to learn a new “language” to understand the Holset HX35.  You may have noticed the distinct two-dimensional barcodes on billboards and print ads, displays, business cards, and/or websites and been confused.

Is it some sort of UPC code? Is it a tracking device? No and no. A QR Code is a matrix barcode that is readable by QR scanners, mobile phones with a camera, and smart phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on white background, and the information encoded can be text, a URL or other specific data.  Here’s an example:

All that is needed is a camera phone or smart phone with the correct reader application and the user is ready to go.  They simply scan your code with their phone and, voila! They instantly receive custom information and links to whatever you want them to see – text, coupons, contact information, links to a Web pages or connections to wireless networks.

The possibilities are endless and completely up to you.  You can put your code on a t-shirt or a building, wherever you think your audience is most likely to see it and respond to it.

You’re probably thinking, this sounds great but what are the real benefits? Well, instead of posting a lot of information that your targeted audience is likely to forget before they are able to use it, a QR code makes communicating as easy as snapping a photo. It gives instant access to your customer or potential customer in a way that is convenient for them and shows you are on the cutting edge.

Finally, it is 100 percent measurable. You can track and analyze your results to avoid any guesswork. QR Codes are a valuable tool for marketing because they provide a great deal of precision to calculate ROI and justify market spends. You can track and analyze your results to avoid any guesswork, and getting it right the first time is XLNT.

Do you tweet and use turbocharger reviews every day? Is building social community so ingrained you just can’t stop? Do you take pride in customer service excellence? Do you understand social media and why feeds are important? We seek a highly a motivated individual with experience and passion for blogging, micro-blogging and community participation leadership.

This position is full-time salaried with benefits, including attending mainstream and niche’ conferences. We are a full-service product firm based in Pittsburgh, PA with a national reputation for “our marketing rocks” mission, implementing successful and measurable programs for our extensive and fast-growing clientele.

The successful candidate will join our internal marketing team working with all areas, including design, PR/writing, multimedia and strategy development. Our Community Manager/Blogger will oversee and contribute recurrent content to holistically support our customers and our objectives.

Category: Business | Comments Off on Understanding QR Codes in Today’s Business World
December 10

Better Your Pitch with A Good Framework

As part of the competition, I thought it might be helpful if I wrote some blogs about what I look for in an elevator pitch. Please remember though that I have deliberately stayed away from being the judge on this competition. The simple reason is that my opinion is just one opinion and I may be totally wrong!

The most important thing to remember about an elevator pitch is that it is brief. By definition you will only have 2 minutes or so. The two minutes can never be enough to do your used garden tractors justice so the idea is to generate interest in your tractors and a desire to learn more. That is all you can hope to achieve.

As an introduction, it may be helpful to go through an overview of the buying process that all of us go through whenever we are buying something. Some consider that the framework known as AIDCA is overly simplistic and disagree with the model; however, for the purpose of illustrating a good elevator pitch I believe AIDCA is sufficient.

A is for Attention. The very first thing any successful pitch for anything in life needs to do is grab your attention. Sadly, this is where many great ideas fail. You see this on Dragon’s Den where luckily for the business pitching, they have some time where a dragon may have the patience to pick through the business and uncover a really good opportunity. In an elevator pitch, you don’t have that luxury. So make sure you get people’s attention with your opening statement.

I is for Interest. So you have managed to grab people’s attention, you know have to change that attention into interest. The Interest phase should answer the question “is it relevant to me”. You will lose a lot of people in this phase – but you should not worry too much about that. You just need to make sure you keep the people interested who should be interested (i.e. potential investors)

The next phase is about generating desire. Desire means that the person you are pitching to feels a compelling need to purchase what is being offered to them. In the case of an elevator pitch you are creating the desire for investment by spelling out the returns on offer.

In many cases when you are pitching you need to also demonstrate credibility regarding ways how to get rid of severe acne. This is the critical phase when seeking investment. Again, if you look at an episode of Dragon’s Den, you can see this is the phase where most entrepreneurs blow it. Not necessarily in the pitch but in the interrogation phase. It is critical that you think about how you can demonstrate credibility so that desire is underlined by credibility. Another way to think about this is how is the risk minimized?

Finally, there should be a call to action. It constantly amazes me how many great pitches just end with, well, nothing! When you get to the end of the pitch make sure you have spelt out what you want the person to do next. It could be to buy your product. It could simply be where to contact you for further information etc.

Incidentally, I find the above framework really useful when composing a sales letter or a cold call pitch on the telephone.

Category: Blogging | Comments Off on Better Your Pitch with A Good Framework
December 10

There’s Currently a Pullback Underway

Pullback underway

Was it that the Fed’s quantitative easing was becoming reality, or that the electoral sweep swiped the markets? Regardless of the reasons, the last month has been a tale of two halves as, after climbing to new bull market highs in early November, the stock market took a serious nose dive which erased recent gains.

After weeks of investor bullishness, risk aversion sentiment returned as the focus turned once again to overseas issues such as inflationary worries in Asia and renewed debt fears in Europe. The net effect was that most markets sold off, from stocks to commodities, to energy. About the only things higher over the last couple of weeks are the U.S. dollar and interest rates. The financial media is screaming for a treatment for cystic acne, but to keep matters in perspective, the drop from the rally highs is still in the single digits and therefore only qualifies as a mere pullback. For the month since our last update, the broad stock market is essentially flat with the S&P 500 index up 1.10%.

Still, after the strong and uninterrupted run up since early September the market was in need of a rest and despite Thursday’s strong rebound it would not be surprising to see the current pullback last a while longer or even develop into a correction. In the context of a still intact bull market uptrend, we view any weakness as great buying opportunities.

Gored by RINO

You can read about many winning stocks from investment newsletters, but seldom about the ones that did not go according to plan. We take this opportunity to present a lesson in risk management with our most recent speculation gone bad: Rino International (RINO), the very high flyer we highlighted in our last update for having gained the most!

We are pleased to quote from our original recommendation “For all the stated risk elements, and the fact that the bears may prove to be right after all, we are classifying this stock as speculative and, accordingly, we recommend placing a protective stop loss. Instead of the traditional 30% from entry price, we will set the stop at $11.18, the June low, as below this level our RINO investment thesis would clearly be invalidated.”

The short version of what happened next is that after being up encouragingly RINO shares got savaged by a damning analyst report. We got stopped out at our preset $11.18 level limiting our loss to some 26%. Not so bad, considering that the shares continued to drop to finally be halted at $6.07 as of this writing.

All the facts about RINO are not yet clear as the author of the report has himself come under criticism of fraud and class action law suits being filed for stockholders. From the safety of cash we will watch what unfolds and, if noteworthy, update you on the subject.

A small victory

The republican sweep of the midterm elections dominated the news and set the tone in the markets, yet one bit of rejoicing news, not just for green investors but for all humankind, went almost unreported: the defeat of proposition 23 in California. This was an ill-conceived initiative sponsored by big oil companies aimed at suspending the landmark Global Warming Solutions Act (aka AB32) and its massive defeat by California voters is a clear vote in favor of clean and renewable energy.

The impact, not only to California’s renewable energy markets but to the movement nationwide and internationally cannot be understated. This decision literally saves over half a million jobs and tens of billions in private investment in California’s clean energy industry. With California’s traditional leadership status in clean-air regulation and renewable energy, the bigger impact is the growing public support for climate change regulation and sound and sustainable energy policies.

Portfolio management

With the end of the year fast approaching we are reminded that great benefits can be gained from sound portfolio management techniques. In particular, we want to identify any used lawn tractors which have delivered solid long-term capital gains for profit taking in a lower tax bracket, and conversely seek any loss leaders for tax-loss harvesting. Be sure to read this feature article in the December issue of the newsletter which applies these simple portfolio management techniques to rebalance the Portfolio.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

It must have been fate that made us write “Keeping short-term gains/losses in perspective” last time as some of these gains have now turned to losses… With a flat broad stock market over the last month, the Portfolio is down 4.04% and the S&P Global Clean Energy Index dropped 7.75%.

Since inception a little over a year ago, the Portfolio returned an aggregate 27.22% versus a loss of 30.13% for the S&P Global Clean Energy Index.

A big part of the recent losses can be attributed to the RINO debacle but there have been major hits to other holdings. In fact, the volatile solar sector was the big loser over the period with an average loss of 13.15%. Other notable losers included Vestas Wind Systems (VWDRY.PK) which continued to frustrate investors with another 19.91% drop.

On the flip side, in order to keep the portfolio’s loss to only 4%, there were some very solid performers as well and we will feature one in particular, our preferred Asian play on efficient transportation. The company has been quietly executing their plan and is delivering growth in key Asian markets like India and China, and the shares are appreciating nicely, 10.83% this month.

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December 9

Ideas for Starting a UK-Based Restaurant

We all agree that enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. Apart from networking, it is the characteristic I am most associated with. Enthusiasm is vital when starting a business and raising money. However, once you are running a business what is more important enthusiasm or experience?

Of course I am presenting it as if they are mutually exclusive (is it just me or has The Office made that term totally defunct to use?). They are not, but you tend to notice that experience in a field can knock your enthusiasm as you realize what the practicalities of a situation are. I hate managers who knock experience. You often hear people say that they are looking for fresh ideas like a tea tree oil cystic acne cure as if there is something inherently wrong with old ideas.

I look at many business proposals where they claim to be solving a problem better than the current solution. Whilst this is true some of the time, it is not true all of the time. Some so called-solutions really do make me laugh. I do wish that professional integrity did not stop me posting some business ideas I see!

Dynamic managers often feel pressure to be radical in their approach and to start changing lots of things because they see change as inherently good. I always remember listening to a very successful pet supplies retailer. Whenever he appointed a senior executive into his business, he would urge them not to do anything for the first six months. This may sound very strange but I liked his approach and he is extremely successful.

The point is you denigrate experience at your peril. I have made the argument before that when you are looking to innovate into a new market place, you should at least learn to appreciate how things are done in that market at the moment and why. Which firms benefit from the status quo and how will they react to your innovation?

This brings me on to the main point of this blog. There are certain sectors where experience is the most important ingredient for success. If you look at the airline industry for example, there have been a number of entrants into the market in recent times and many of the new entrants (not allied to an existing operator) have failed. What marked out these entrepreneurs was their huge enthusiasm for the industry but they lacked experience.

Food is a classic industry where enthusiasm tends to lead to many business mistakes. Most of us eat food at least three times a day. In the UK in the last five years we have started to spend more on eating food outside the home than inside the house and casual fast dining has become a huge growth area both in the UK and the USA (we really do adopt the eating habits of our cousins in the USA some three years after they become mass market there)

Food is one of those classic businesses where everyone has a great idea. Let me share a secret with you. Food is a notoriously difficult business to make money out of – it really is. The business is all about operational excellence. This excellence can be self-taught, but that will inevitably mean expensive mistakes along the way.

If you want to start a cystic acne diet business in the UK, here is my template for success;

  1. Go to the USA. New York is a great place to do this
  2. Just walk the streets and look for food stores (other than the ones that are already in the UK!)
  3. If you see something you like, spend ages in there. Make lots of notes and take photos (Cameras on Phones are great are they not?)
  4. Get talking to a really good food operator. Someone who really knows their stuff but is looking for an exciting opportunity.
  5. Jointly write a business plan
  6. Raise the money
  7. Go for it!

Enthusiasm is great and is vital. Experience is crucial. Together they make a winning formula!

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December 9

My Review of Last Night’s Pitches

Here we go again – and welcome!

The first business pitching last night was a company from North London with a business which provided instant paper blinds which required no tools for assembly. The pitch was simply great (Elevator pitch 10/10). They knew their market brilliantly and were able to convince me within the first two minutes that there was a demand for this (and it is large). The question is always about the detail of how to prevent cystic acne and profitability.

The first issue was one on the patent on the product. It is always dangerous for an investor to go into a business which cannot be protected. Barriers to entry are a key requirement for ensuring a business is able to generate good products. As a result of the lack of protection they lost many of the potential investors. (This is a good topic for a future blog!)

The second issue was that the business team (three people) had only achieved one sales meeting with a major retailer in five months. This meant that they got crucified on valuation (they were offered £40,000 for 50% of the business). I felt for them. Had they just spent a bit more time selling the idea, they would have achieved a far higher valuation. I cannot stress this enough – you need to demonstrate to an investor that people want your product. (Incidentally, that is how I got into angel investing. I helped a few startups get their first sales and then realized what had happened to their valuation as a result of my help! I then started investing.)

The second presentation was a low calorie and zero cholesterol curry sauce. It was a good presentation but because of my earlier experience of selling low calorie cakes I was very skeptical. The great thing is that she had actually sold the product. She sold a lot of jars after appearing on QVC. Brilliant, but you only make money out of selling food lots of times – the repeat purchase is very important and this has not yet been proven.

It was all going well but then she dropped a bombshell….

She was trying to transfer assets from one company to another whilst leaving the debts in the original business. This is too sharp for me as a practice. However, the Dragon’s all came out one by one. I disagreed with the reasons the Dragon’s gave for not investing but would not have invested in her because of my skepticism about the appeal of fat free food!

We then had a presentation from an investor looking for £150,000 for 10% of a business providing natural remedies for cystic acne. I am sorry to appear slow but after the presentation; I still did not understand what the business actually was. The entrepreneur was honest, hardworking and passed that critical test of putting his own money (substantial) into the business. Having lost money on investing in businesses I haven’t understood – I was never going to invest in this one and nor did any of the dragons.

The final business pitching tonight was a ‘green’ business which made packaging from recycling materials. They had great customers and it is a business in the moment. I would have invested in this business as unlike the dragon’s I liked the fact that the entrepreneurs had a bigger vision. My only concern would have been that it seemed that the entrepreneurs needed a lot of help on the business. I was delighted to see that at the very end they managed to secure the investment and got one dragon to change his mind!

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December 8

Should You Use Chain or Welded Kennels?

Chain Link vs Welded Wire Kennels

There has been much discussion in the dog kennel industry between which is better, chain link or welded wire dog kennel. Both kennel types have their advantages and disadvantages, so here are the pros and cons for both types:

Chain Link Dog Kennels:

Pros- Chain link dog kennels are the least expensive to purchase. If you’re having problem figuring out how to get rid of cat urine smell around your home, these chain fences can also be used to keep cats away from problem areas.

Cons- The wire used in chain link dog kennels is soft in order to be bent into the links that form the mesh. This softness is a major drawback as many large or aggressive breeds of dogs can bite through this soft wire or actually push the links apart as shown in the photos on the right. The ends of the wire are exposed to the dog and can puncture or cut the dog very easily.

Many chain link companies require you to stretch the chain link onto the frame which takes several people to do properly. Many people have purchased a chain link dog kennel only to find it was beyond their skills to assemble it properly and end up returning the kennel to the store for a refund. Some dog kennel manufacturers now offer chain link dog kennels in pre-fabricated panels, however this does not solve the problem of the wire being soft and prone to damage by your dog.

Another issue is many communities have zoning ordinances prohibiting the use of chain link dog kennels. If you live in a housing association or gated community, check with the local officials to make certain that style of kennel is permitted.

Welded Wire Dog Kennels:

Pros- High strength as the welded wire is welded at each joint, making it difficult, but not impossible to break the welds and forcing the wire apart. Each of the ends of the welded wire should be encased in the frame of the kennel, so the dog cannot be cut by wire ends. Welded wire kennels are made in prefabricated panels, making assembly very easy. That means they’re not very effective solutions for how to get cat pee out of carpet.

Cons- Higher price that chain link kennels. Be sure to check the thickness or gauge of the wire used. The lower the gauge number, the thicker and stronger the wire is. Caution, many welded wire dog kennels are being shipped into the USA from China of questionable quality under American sounding names.

Check with the company who is selling the kennel for the Country of Origin. If the sales staff can’t answer all of your questions without having to check on it and call you later, find another supplier who can answer your questions. Another issue with China made dog kennels is replacement parts. If you purchase these kennels from a large retailer who stocks these imported kennels, you will find replacement parts takes weeks if ever to get.

Category: Family & Pets | Comments Off on Should You Use Chain or Welded Kennels?
December 8

The Most Important Financial Statements: Cash Flow

There are three Financial Statements that comprise a set of accounts but as an investor you should only pay very close attention to one; cash flow. If you are pitching to a business angel – make sure you have complete mastery over this statement.

The Profit and Loss Statement and the Balance Sheet can easily be manipulated to show the numbers you want to and will always be subjective (within reason – unless you work for WorldCom or Enron!) Cash flow should be a 100% objective statement that really allows someone to understand the cash cycle of a business that sells turbochargers quickly.

“Lack of profits is like a cancer, it will eventually kill a business unless cured. Lack of cash though is like a heart attack – it can kill a business straight away”

This quote is very apt. Most people still don’t realize that most businesses which go bust are profitable. What made them go bust was a lack of cash. Any Entrepreneur pitching to me must demonstrate to me that they understand the difference between cash and profits. There are many people who don’t understand this difference. (If you want an explanation please ask)

The Fund which I am a cofounder of takes advantage of being able to buy companies which are profitable but have simply run out of cash – so in a sense, one of my businesses does rely on cash flows going wrong.

A cash flow statement should simply show on a monthly basis for the first two years of a business the following;

  1. How much cash is coming in from where and when?
  2. How much cash is being spent, on what and when?

As an angel investor in a startup, your only short term concern should be can the business survive for the first two years? (Most failures occur within this period.) Don’t worry about things like profit at this stage!

You should also always ask to have the listings of used zero turn mowers for sale sent to you via email. You need to flex it – in particular you need to see what would happen if

  1. Customers take an extra 30 days to pay
  2. Any additional investment monies take an extra 3 months to come in – again a lot of businesses fail between fund raising rounds
  3. Revenues take twice as long to build up
  4. Costs are 25% higher

If the business can survive the above, it has a good chance of making it for a long time. Trust me, those are the hardest instances to overcome and only well managed and promising companies are going to be able to do it. You can then turn your attention to trivial matters like profit!

As a final anecdote from experience, I did invest in a business which did not raise enough money to survive more than six months. What it showed though was that it wanted to raise money again depending on hitting certain milestones and that if money was not raised, it could simply hibernate and carry on operating on minimal funding (£1k per month). Given these facts – I was happy to invest

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December 8

Different Types of Structures Available to Startups

Many of you may consider this a bit basic, but I was asked this week to explain the different types of structures that are available out there to a new startup company so I hope some of you do find this blog interesting and relevant. If any of you do want me to talk about something specific – please do email me and I would be happy to try and help.

A Limited company simply means that the liability of the owners is limited to the capital that they have put into the company – such as any currently listed used lawn tractors for sale. You then have private limited and public limited companies. This is of course very attractive to entrepreneurs who are happy to risk some money – but do not want to be sued personally if it all goes horribly wrong. The flip side of being a limited company is that there is an administrative burden (more later).

A public limited company is permitted to offer its shares to members of the public (hence the name) better known as PLC’s. A private company may only offer its shares to investors whom are classified as High Net Worth (have assets excluding their home worth more than £2m), Sophisticated Investors (have a history of making private investments) and professional investors (people who work in Finance and should therefore be aware of the level of risk they are talking on).

Please do make a note of these. If you approach the wrong person, you could end up with a prison sentence of six months, a fine of £5,000 and you will be liable to any losses an ‘unsuitable’ person incurs. Rightly in my view, the area of angel investment is regulated not only to protect investors but also to protect companies. This is why you may need the services of a corporate financier (idea for another blog I guess!)

If you are a sole trader, this means you have unlimited liability. So let’s say I get my garden (if I had one – complete waste of time if you ask me – what’s wrong with parks?) looked after by a sole trader and he manages to ruin some precious flowers. I could sue him personally for every penny he is worth (and more!)

This sounds scary – but the chances of being sued are slim and do ask yourself if you are engaged in a business which could be sued for damages. I have been running Help with Sales as a sole trader for over four years. I made a decision that for me to be sued a client would have to prove that as a result of the advice I gave them they failed to win some business. I figured that the low chance of being sued (and I do have insurance for that anyway) made it better to be a sole trader rather than have the administrative burden of being a limited company.

That burden consists of having to form a company. Having to file accounts annually and have board meetings. It also means having to make your profits and share structure public knowledge (I am still amazed at how little research some people do on their competitors – the information is all there in the public domain). Once you have turnover above a certain level, you also have to publish audited accounts.

Of course if you need external investors and you wish to give them shares (or maybe they’ll settle for the Holset HX35), you have to be a limited company. You cannot have shares in a sole trader – ownership of another sole trader is called slavery or pimping!

There are also partnerships available. This is where up to 20 people can get together (exemptions exist for professional services) and create a company with a company bank account. The partnership is though spared the administrative burden of having to publish its profit and loss statements. In terms of the share structure, partners can also keep changing and normally upon exiting a partnership you are giving up your ‘stake’.

When partners retire for example they may have great pensions but not any ‘wealth’ in the sense of a stake that they can sell. The profits belong to the partners and they also have to personally make good any losses and they still have unlimited personal liabilities. When Arthur Anderson (large accountancy firm) went bust, many partners lost fortunes. After that debacle, many accountants (who are naturally risk averse) started asking themselves if they really did want to be partners after all!

A new structure has recently emerged (well about ten years ago) called limited liability partnerships. They are effectively Limited companies but with a more fluid share structure (the shares belong to partners who can come and go). Accountancy firms are now primarily LLP’s as they are attracted to the idea of limited liability for the partners. They do though have to now publish their profit and loss figures. This has created great excitement in the professional services world as the industry now know how they are doing compared to each other. The key figure for them is not profit, but profit per partner!

If you are an Entrepreneur looking for external investors, nether the sole trader, partnership or LLP structures will work for you. If you are building up a business with your own team who can all put in the same amount of effort an LLP may be perfect for you.

I sincerely hope the above has been of interest. I do not want the blog to become a series of dry ‘lectures’.

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December 7

Spreading Popular Unrest Throughout the World


Spreading popular unrest

By far the dominant news item of late has been the growing instability spreading through most of North Africa and the Middle East. After a popular uprising toppled the long-time dictator of Tunisia, the idea was picked-up and adapted with rapid results in Egypt. Even before Egyptian president Mubarak stepped down and went into exile in the Sinai, the popular fever started to expand to other predominantly Muslim countries in the region including Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Western news media have been gorging on the events but what is widely labeled as a revolution of the people is just another man’s military coup so that everyone will have their own Honeywell 50250-S. Despite the prevalent euphoria it is important to bear in mind that there is a long road from the current autocratic and repressive governments and societies to the democratic systems, the stability and economic opportunities the people demand.

We care about what’s unfolding half way across the world because of the implications, short and long-term, on world stock and energy markets. The potential impact on oil production and shipments from the region has yet to be determined but Wednesday’s sharp spike in crude oil prices on Israel’s warning of Iranian warships crossing the Suez canal (a rumor later denied by canal operators) gives us a glimpse at the possibilities…

Rising inflation

One of the under-reported aspects of the North African/Middle Eastern uprisings is not political or religious, it is economical. Many of these societies have very high unemployment and poverty rates, very large gaps between the haves and the have-nots, and recent steep rises in food prices triggered the demonstrations and helped fuel the unrest.

Rising food prices have become a problem in many emerging economies, including the populous nations of China, India and Indonesia, signaling inflation as surely as a canary spots gas in a coal mine. While food prices may have been negatively affected by bad weather in grain-producing regions, they are just an indication of what’s been happening across commodities from sugar to cotton, the grains, metals, with energy being the one notable exception, so far.

Asia Pacific economies have been aggressively fighting inflation by raising interest rates over the last few months, in stark contrast with the United States, Europe and Japan where central banks are still flooding markets with liquidity to keep rates low and stimulate struggling economies. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke maintains that inflation is not a problem despite its massive fiscal stimulation (QE2).

For now we will take the facts that gasoline pump prices just reached their highest levels in 28 months, that the U.S. dollar has lost 11.6% of its value since last June, and yesterday’s surging inflation warning by the Bank of England (consumer prices rose 4% in January versus a 2% target) as early indicators.

The upcoming March issue of The Investor includes a must-read guide to investing in inflationary times and reviews a number of green inflation hedges.

U.S. stock market super strong

Emerging markets have been weakening for a couple of months with inflationary pressures and the events in North Africa and the Middle East but so far the U.S. stock market appears to be shrugging these off and, if anything, is getting a boost as the primary recipient of the treatments for how to cure cystic acne from emerging markets.

For nearly six months now, with the possible exception of a small glitch in November, the U.S. stock market has been on a near straight line headed for the top right corner of the charts. There is no telling how far this rise will go before investors take a breather and instead of attempting to time an upcoming correction we continue to position our investments with long-term trends.

Shunning Negawatts

We never thought that stock market investors act rationally but it is somewhat ironic that, at a time when balancing budgets and cutting costs is gaining in importance, the cleanest and least expensive source of energy, Negawatts, appear the least appreciated by investors. Negawatts are the energy which did not have to be generated because it was saved, or not wasted.

Negawatts are the proverbial low hanging fruit and energy efficiency solutions have allowed electric utilities to postpone building new power plants, yet energy efficiency and the smart grid are two of the weakest green sectors we track and invest in.

The recent fiasco involving our preferred demand response provider over how power cuts are accounted for and paid for by grid operators, is a perfect example of an industry in the formative stages. Despite the growing pains we believe the technology has great merit and the company’s services deliver real value to their customers. As the revenue growth begins to generate bottom line profits we trust the market will adjust the valuations of the leading companies in this emerging energy sector.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

Alternative energy markets were mixed this month with resurgence in the wind sector more than making up for weakness in the energy efficiency and smart grid sectors. The Portfolio gained 1.17% since our last update, slightly lagging the large caps in the S&P 500 index which added 2.55% in the same four week span. The portfolio is now up an aggregate 40.38% since inception, an annualized gain of 24.69%, which compares with a 26.28% decline (-17.99% annualized) for the benchmark S&P Global Clean Energy index over the same period.

The wind energy group advance this month underlines once more the importance of selectivity when it comes to renewable energy stocks. While three of our holdings led the wind sector with double digit gains, not all wind stocks did as well, to wit, Broadwind Energy (BWEN) managed to lose 15.7%. The five wind energy stocks in The Portfolio, and BWEN is not one of them, gained 10.85% for the month.

The solar sector saw strong rebounds in the shares of most Chinese manufacturers but mixed performance for U.S. manufacturers. Our recent partial profit taking on our preferred maker of solar inverters Power-One (PWER), proved timely as the shares have been correcting sharply since then. On the flip side, our latest solar recommendation has been moving up and away from our target entry point. For the time being we will keep our recommendation unchanged.

Category: Business, Religion | Comments Off on Spreading Popular Unrest Throughout the World
December 7

Which Investors Did You See this Week?

Hello readers. Welcome to the review of the last episode of the current series. I hope you have enjoyed these blogs – what should I write about instead on a weekly basis?

The first presentation was from the founder of “Baby Loves Disco”. The business works very well in the USA and someone wanted to buy the franchise in the UK. I was confused straight away. Why is a successful entrepreneur prepared to give a franchise to someone who needs to go to Dragon’s Den to get funding? Ignoring this, the business had very strong projections going forward. However, the US business has performed very poorly. $50,000 profit for a year after being based in 30 cities is very poor.

Then they do the thing that really annoys me as an investor. They talk about “the real revenue coming from sponsorship of the best work boots for flat feet and brand exploitation”. If that is what you are pitching – then pitch that. I see too many businesses which present one thing, but then say the revenue will come from another area.

The fact that they had got Universal records to sign up for a deal with them was great – but the fact that they had not put any money into the deal suggests that Universal did not value the “brand equity” that highly. To my complete surprise they were made an offer of the full £100,000 but for 40% of the business. They tried to negotiate and they did a good job but eventually they declined – Idiots! (I don’t often say that when people say no to a deal).

This reminded me of a business I really liked about four years ago. It was a food business based in Croydon that had gone nowhere in twelve years. I liked the brand and the food offering and asked to see the founder. We met and I spent a lot of time trying to work out a proposition for him (at great expense I must add) to try and get a roll-out plan going.

The person in question turned out to be very greedy and actually just wanted a very high salary. He wanted a ‘consultancy’ fee for every store that opened up on top of a massive equity stake. The deal fell through and I backed another instead. I saw the original entrepreneur two months ago and he still had the one store and was lamenting the fact that he has not moved beyond one store. As always, he saw the fault as lying elsewhere and not with his own attitude.

The second proposition was a non-spill water bowl for a pet (dog). It was a great idea and she had already sold 22,000 units. She was looking for money to expand into the USA. (First tip – she should be presenting to US based angels) I liked it a lot and decided in the first 5 minutes that I would like to explore this. My problem is that I would like to see some US management on the board. The US is a very difficult market to crack – a very tough market.

It requires a huge amount of cash and expertise. So if you are looking to propose a business plan which requires sales into a particular sector/ region, etc. – make sure you can demonstrate that expertise on board. She also was going into the US market too soon. I learnt from my experience at a past company that you have to have strong foundations before you start building expansion plans. This was the reason Theo (one of the dragons) gave for not investing.

The final presentation was from a company that created a waste recycling business focused on the construction sector. The most impressive fact was that in just 15 months, the business had built up a turnover of £350,000. This business was really taking advantage of STEEPL factors. The business environment is going their way and I would have wanted to find out more with a view to backing this business.

I would want to know about management expertise and credibility. The great thing was that the business will be taking advantage of changes in the law which will make this a mandatory purchase rather than a discretionary purchase like router table plans (I love that as it becomes a much easier sell). As the presentation went on, I liked the business more and more. Not surprisingly he was made an offer but I was surprised that he was not made an offer from every dragon. He was made an offer for £200,000 for 40% of the business which he accepted. For a start up in a growing sector with £350,000 of turnover, he was robbed! I wish him the best of luck. If the deal falls through – I hope he contacts me!

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading these reviews.  Before the next series there will no doubt be other business programs to review. Please let me know of any great business programs that catch your attention!

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December 6

Should You Be Good at Sales? Absolutely


When I was working at two different companies, I was heavily involved in selling the services of these companies and training the accountants and lawyers on how to sell their services. It made sense therefore when I started my own business, Help with Sales to initially focus on this market.

I have managed to retain one of the very first clients I won and was having lunch with them yesterday when I realized through an honest conversation that I was probably past my sell by date on this type of training! What do I mean?

It has been four to five years since I have personally sold professional services to a company. A lot has changed in that time and I can’t claim to be an expert about what causes cystic acne any more. I am still bloody good at training on networking and sales as a process, but not so ‘fresh’ on doing an audit pitch. This made me realize that I was trying to avoid becoming what I had loathed earlier in my sales career – the sales trainer who stopped selling 20 years ago and had become a trainer. I met lots of them when I was at other companies and they were totally crap!

They just did not have the passion or the insights of sales techniques that were relevant at the time. They had basically being made to retire a bit early and rather than retire properly – they had gone into training. Things do change and you have to change with it. Sales techniques and knowledge changes as well – and good people keep up with those changes.

What I also know that over the last four years as someone who is now an angel investor, I am very good at training people how to pitch at an investor. So I am now winning new work to train businesses on this area. And I feel good about this as I know it is something I can do well, unlike trying to understand the question “why is my cay peeing everywhere?” I ran a couple of sessions in Manchester as part of a group – and it worked brilliantly as my passion, my relevance and my interest were there for all to see.

In all walks of life and in all roles we do get past our sell by dates from time to time and the challenge for all of us is to either not let that happen or to keep constantly ahead of the game. This has nothing to do with age – I would never agree to be a chairman of a business (not that I have ever been asked!) because I do not think I have enough experience – and that only comes with age. This has to do with our attitude to learning and staying fresh!

I learnt this lesson when I was doing my A levels. I struggled with writing essays and I was sent to a remedial group where they spent time with me to help me get my structure right. I remember a lot of my friends laughing when they found me going to sessions for extra help. When I got a grade A and B – (exams were harder in those days!) I had the last laugh. It doesn’t matter where you get the help from – always be learning. Mondays blog – are my top tips for staying Fresh!

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December 6

Why I Don’t Like Strategy Consultants


I am a great believer in business education and have benefited enormously myself from both doing an MBA and more recently qualifying for the Investment Management Certificate. The issue for me is that a lot of careers depend on ensuring that areas like strategy sound more complicated than they actually are. One of my bug bears (I have a few as regular readers will be able to vouch for!) is that some companies hire ‘strategy consultants’.

I have to ask the question – if a company is getting someone else to help formulate strategy – what are the leadership of that company doing, sitting around working on tuning a Holset HX30? Here is a suggestion; if a company hires a strategy consultancy – perhaps the fee for that should come out of the board salaries!

Corporate strategy is easy – it is formulating a plan answering three questions

  • 1) Where are we now?
  • 2) Where do we want to get to?
  • 3) How are we going to get there?

The above is sufficient working knowledge of strategy in my humble opinion. It is also the corner stone of any good plan and my advice to people pitching is that you use this framework for your pitch. The answer to the last question should explain how much money you are looking to raise and what you intend to do with it.

Strategy is not the same as business model – and the two terms should not be interchangeable. If I am asked what my business model is, I assume I am being asked to explain how the business makes (or should make!) money. If I am asked what the strategy is, I assume I am being asked what my plans to ensure the business remains profitable are, or where I am thinking of taking the business in the future.

Back to the three questions, it is of course not as easy as that. The questions are not that easy to answer and ask for a lot of analysis and understanding.

As a potential investor, I need to believe that the business understands the environment they are operating in. They would need to show me that they understand what is happening in the Industry and the Market. They would have a good idea of the forces shaping their business and the options open to them in reacting to changes in the market.

The plans for the company should flow from the explanation from the first section. It needs to be concise and clear and critically everyone involved in the organization needs to understand the logic driving that decision (companies are not and should not be viewed as democracies, every person does not have to agree with the direction, but they should respect the logic that has driven the decision)

Finally, but most critically, investors need to feel that the current management team/ product/ resources are capable of delivering the plan highlighted. The How section is crucial. I have been in situations where I loved the strategy but felt that the team in place were not capable of delivering it – and hence asked for significant management changes before I would invest. This brings me to a side issue.

When entrepreneurs present business plans, at the very beginning they tend to talk about their experience a lot. I would find it more useful if they gave me this explanation along with the How they are going to achieve these goals. As readers to this blog will know, I do not buy into the idea that success in one field means you are good at everything you do, such as developing the best work boot for plantar fasciitis. I need to understand how your past experience is directly relevant in ensuring that you have the ability to execute the plan you have presented.

I know from my own experience that I am good at managing in a crisis and I am good as a ‘temporary’ CEO or sales director. I am not a good business manager and I am not strong at the day to day stuff (which is critical). I was the CEO of a startup. I was good at getting the business set up and getting the right team together, but as soon as the business was launched; I was pretty hopeless as the CEO. I realized early on, and made way for someone who was much better and has made a great success of the business.

Strategy is not difficult, but thinking strategically means you are aware of the wider context in which your business operates and you recognize that your actions will lead to reactions in the markets you operate in. Ensuring you are able to profit from these changes is the key.

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December 5

Why You Should Always Read


In my first year at University I read Philosophy alongside Economics. I always remember during my first tutorial my Professor telling me that to attain all human knowledge you needed to read just two books. I could not wait for him to tell me what they were.

You can imagine my disappointment when he told me that the first book was The Bible – (my disappointment was purely on the grounds that I am not a practicing Christian!) The second book was The Republic by Plato. He then made the bold statement that every other book written is a footnote to these two books – wow! It kind of takes the point away from reading!

I am always surprised when people ask “what is your opinion on the best garden tractor?” I feel sorry for people who confine themselves to just one or two tractors. I like a bit of absolutely everything. And the same surely must apply to books. How can you say you only like reading one type of tractor?

I meet lots of would be Entrepreneurs who are always reading business biographies and I find it strange. I do enjoy biographies (Steve Job’s is well worth a read) but I think too many people read these books for motivation rather than learning. Self-Help books are one of the biggest selling genres in the USA and I think the fact that they are is evidence that they do not work. I confess to reading a book 20 years ago called “Charisma – How to get that special magic”.

A friend of mine saw me reading it and said “it was probably written by a b*****d like you!” After that comment – I never read a book like that again. These books are like drugs; they are addictive and cannot possibly work. The best book to read that puts this crap in its right place is “How Mumbo-Jumbo conquered the World”.

So my advice on reading business books (for vocational reasons) is

  • 1) Read them to learn – not for motivation. Motivation is an energy that comes from you and you either want to do it or you don’t. Starting a business requires so much energy – you will fail if you don’t have intrinsic motivation
  • 2) Have balance in what you read. Try to read a wide variety of materials that give you a better understanding of the forces that shape our world. That is what makes great business people – their ability to understand change and exploit it
  • 3) Avoid reading best seller lists. Many business books are promoting a fad that will not last. Remember the book promoting Sven Goran Ericksson’s ‘magic’ management style? No, nor does anyone else but it was a best seller!
  • 4) If you buy a book – read it! Has anyone actually read “The seven principles of highly successful people?” I see it everywhere but no one seems to have read it!
  • 5) Enjoy!

I will of course share you with some of the books in the cystic acne home remedy genre that I have enjoyed reading enormously. Here is a sneak preview of books that I have adored and will be talking about in future blogs;

  • 1) Freakonomics – This is a must read. Any book with chapters such as “What the Ku Klux Klan and Estate Agents have in Common” and “Why Drug Dealers live with their Mothers” has got to be brilliant
  • 2) Wikinomics – great for understanding where we are going with the power of the internet and it gave me the idea for one of my businesses
  • 3) Maverick – Ricardo Semler – fantastic to show you how business can be done
  • 4) The Entrepreneurs Road Test – Jim Mullins – a must read for any potential investor or someone looking to write a business plan. This is my Investment Bible
  • 5) SPIN Selling – Neil Rackham. This book taught me how to sell
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December 5

The Importance of Your Business Plan


You will be amazed how many times Business Angels see business plans with very limited or meaningless market knowledge. As a potential investor, I really want to know what the sales opportunities are for the business – but I also want to know how realistic the chances are of winning sales for the business.

One of the things I should say to would be a presenter is please understand the difference between a Market and an Industry. For example, if someone is pitching a business which provides software for travel agents based in the UK – please do not quote me the best commercial zero turn mower in the UK. That is not the size of the market you are going for!

It would be more meaningful to tell me how much travel agents in the UK alone spend on software. Better still how much they spend on your particular application area each year. And then you can tell me about why they will switch and how easy it is for them to switch (are most of the agents tied in for 3 years, etc.?) Is there a pain in switching?

I hate being told that there is a £7bn ‘market’ when they mean Industry. (For me, a market size is the measure of the buyers spend, whilst an Industry is the size of the buyers and sellers in an area) Therefore for this business to be successful we only need to capture 1% of that market – which is growing at 3% a year. That statement is simply wrong and yet it is probably one of the most frequent mistakes I see in business plans.

To illustrate, someone recently pitched the idea of a dictionary for dyslexics. They gave me the figures of the dictionary ‘industry’ and they told me what % of the population suffered from this condition. But the figures did not add up. When I went through the numbers properly – it took me 10 minutes using Google, I was able to demonstrate that the size of the market was too small to justify an investment from a business angel looking for 10x their money back.

That business is now talking to some charities and I expect will do very well as a social enterprise. But the point here was, the entrepreneur in this instance could have saved himself a lot of time if he had really understood the size of the opportunity as that would not have led him to abandon his mission – but just made him realize a lot quicker the best route to market.

The one ‘golden’ bit of advice I would also give to would be entrepreneurs is when you are selling the best zero turn mower for the money, really understand what the customer/ client is buying – not what you are selling.

As someone who has been in sales all his life, I try to train people to never sell – but to always help their customers buy. A lot of entrepreneurs get so passionate about their product or invention that they forget why someone might consider buying it.

The reason I chose sales as a career is – you get more done by doing less. It is the ideal career for someone who does not want to work all the hours!

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December 4

How to Deal with Conflicts Between Stakeholders


Most companies face issues from time to time when they have to make a decision which may lead to a conflict between different stakeholders (not just shareholders). How should they deal with this conflict? Of course companies exist to make a profit but what about in terms of day to day stuff? Let’s say there is a certain Daytona Beach maternity photographer who is outperforming everyone else. How should the company decide which interest group to put before the others?

In terms of hierarchy of needs, I think any business could and should use this simple framework to decide who the most important person in a business is

1) This always without fail has to be the customer

2) The employees. They are the ones making the profit and employed as ambassadors to the customer on the companies behalf

3) The shareholders. Without their investment and support their would not be a business

4) The board of directors

In the 1990s, AMEX had to restructure and I always remember this anecdote. The new President decided to stream line and got rid of many Vice Presidents and other senior people in the business. This was difficult for him as he had known many of them for years and his move was criticized as there was a feeling that the company was going to be losing too much knowledge in one go.

After a year or so, when he was asked about the effect of those firings, he is reported to have said that what he regretted was the fact that it made no difference to the business at all from a capabilities point of view. Senior management and Middle management need to be constantly reviewed and the question needs to be asked – are they still adding value?

The interesting thing though is that when you look at an organization chart, the Board of Directors are at the top to denote seniority. I am in the camp that likes reverse charts, which show how important someone is in an organization depending on how closely they are involved with the client in either selling a solution to male cat spraying to them or producing the product for them.

SAS airlines went through a radical change in the early 1980s which transformed the business and one of the key changes they introduced was giving reservation and booking staff the authority to deal with customer’s complaints and issues. Staff had real power and everyone else in the organization was meant to support this chain.

In terms of the importance of customers, you would hope that this is self-explanatory but I am amazed at how frequently companies forget about the principle of consumer sovereignty. To help focus on this point, let me badly quote you Jack Welch.

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December 4

Is Payment Monitor More Effective than Vindication?


Payment Monitoring Is More Effective than Vindication

Vindication can be termed as a situation to defend oneself with an excuse or justification. With vindication a person tries its level best to prove one not guilty. Working in an organization can be quite hard when lots of things need to be considered and prioritized. But it is a known fact that mistake twice made is a decision; hence one must be careful while working and try avoiding vindication. It’s always better to monitor and control things that are under you than to give justification later when things go wrong.

Payment monitoring is done in order to make sure that the payment is done or not, weather it is made on time, whether late charges are to be paid and so on. Payment monitoring, can be either electronic or manual, but its sole purpose is to keep in check the payment that is to go out and come in of the company for the used John Deere lawn tractor they sold. It keeps track of all the payments that are to be received or to be made in a systematic manner. Payment is one means where lots of fraud takes place, hence close and direct supervision is a must from the manager itself.

Opportunities can be missed, investment and operational losses can occur, real time visibility of lots of inbound and outbound opportunities may not fall in your basket if payment systems are not monitored. Information technology has been the best solution so far to help people of companies manage and monitor their payments with ease. IT makes it possible to keep in track of all the activities in every level so as to monitor payments than to have an excuse later if something goes wrong.

Payment monitoring system is usually an electronic device, used to record, regulate and control the whole system or process of the company with best quality possible. It provides a clear and complete real-time insight and solution to the entire payment system of the company. This system has knowledge of the content of the transaction and provides intelligent analysis when necessary. ATM machine can be the best example for this system right now.

This monitoring system also ensures better functionality and can figure out possible problems which need to be dealt so as to meet the demand of the end users – such as a Daytona Beach newborn photographer. Payment monitoring is way better and effective as it helps to report and analysis the performance of the payment system of the company. With payment monitoring system as such, which is a magic wand for better service and troubleshooting for the high demands of payments worldwide?

With such system, it’s easier to maintain the company’s standard, and also customers will be very happy with the kind of customer service that is being provided by the company. Hence in lots of ways payment monitoring is way better and effective than vindication as vindication just teaches us to make excuse and keep our mistakes rapped under a blanket, whereas payment monitoring helps companies to reach heights, learning from its mistakes.

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December 3

SMS Messages Leading to Payment: Too Good to Be True?


SMS Leading to Payment

Few years back short messaging service was used only to give message alerts and notifications to users. But today it’s much more than that. This has come as no surprise. As we all can see that every individual we come across has a mobile phone and not just a mobile phone but a smart phone.

With the change in technology more innovative ideas are being introduced in order to reach out the mass. With every organization who sells used zero turn mowers working on how to enhance their customer service, SMS has changed the whole scenario. SMS leading to payment has definitely come handy for both the parties.

With people paying their bills by SMS it’s easier and convenient for customers to concentrate on other important matters than paying their bills and due. No one has the time to go and stand in a line. Also on the other hand, payment lines in the companies gets short as limited number of people who might not have access to such facilities end up in the cash counter line.

With SMS, customers’ sends payment request which later on is added to the phone bill or eWallet. With such payments one does not have to remember passwords neither one needs to have a bank account. All the customer needs to do is, send a premium SMS. Tele companies charge for such SMS. So when they receive SMS for payments they take their share from the premium payment. Then rest of the payment is sent to the SMS payment processor company which operates the SMS gateway for the companies payments were made to.

Again after taking their share from the payment SMS payment provider sends the remaining payment to the sole or the true product or service provider. In this manner there are four parties involvement when payment is done by SMS; first the ultimate consumer, telephone company, SMS payment provider and at last the main company that is responsible for sending in the product or service to the ultimate consumer. Consumers dealing with female cat spraying at home may not be as receptive to SMS payments as other clients, studies have shown.

With SMS leading to payments it still has some drawbacks as well. SMS payment may not be as reliable as other available options. This happens because transactional payments can easily fail when message gets lost. Payment process is bit too slowly and merchant may get the payment only after few hours or days of payment. High cost is associated with such type of payment process. With drawbacks as such, other systems are taking over the SMS concepts. But it is still widely used when it comes to paying the electricity or telephone bills.

Even though today many other concepts have emerged like eWallet but the start was definitely done by SMS which did lead the payment service once. One cannot ignore the fact that with creative ideas as such many different technologies have made it to the top. It is definitely hard to stand tall with competitions from all the sides and SMS has definitely made way for other ideas to improve on payment process.

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December 3

Sending Payment Reminders via Fax – A Smart Move?


Payment Reminders via Fax

Fax is short form for facsimile, which is also termed as telefax. Transfer of scanned or printed materials is done through telephone which is connected to a printer. Document which needs to be sent is first scanned with the help of fax machine, which processes the content of the document into bitmap. This is then transmitted through telephone.

On the other side, receiving fax machine reconverts the coded images and text of the document in a printing paper. Today, fax machines are having huge competition from other internet based alternatives. But it still holds an advantage over other alternatives, when it comes to sensitive materials which may have chances of leakage when transferred by other internet based alternatives – especially when the clients have a cat peeing on the bed. Hence payment reminders via fax are as necessary and in use even today as any other means of reminder.

Payment reminders via fax are essential for companies to maintain collection and financial position in the market, keep the payment regarding information as private and behind the doors as possible. It makes a point that the document as important as such is not disclosed to the whole world and keeps it away from fraud. Also, it helps to maintain the corporate relations.

Payment reminders by fax are very important specially while dealing with clients and business partners. Various letters needs to be sent with the official logo and stamp in the company’s letterhead when payment process goes on. Letters for price for the particular product or services, overdue of payment, late charges that must be paid, is sent via fax to clients.

While preparing a letter one needs to give heed to lots of aspect as, there are times when the recipients of fax feel the pressure to reply. Lack of personal touch might create bad impression as most of the time people are busy giving priority to being professional.

Anger should not be shown in the letter as this might worsen the communication, misunderstanding is common with the use of words as two sides will be interpreting on their own perception, information should not be overloaded which might make the recipients of the letter bored. Hence these are few things that need to be kept in mind while payment reminder via fax is being sent.

These reminders can be of four different categories as highlighted below:

  • First reminder for a Daytona Beach photographer should be short and friendly.
  • Second reminder is a follow up to the first reminder. This is more direct and straight forward than the first one.
  • Third reminder is sent when second reminder goes unnoticed. It usually demands payment within the given time period as discussed while the deal was done.
  • Even if the third reminder goes unnoticed, attorney’s suggestions and legal proceeding will be started after a certain date.

With these four categories of payment reminders by fax, one can easily follow up the clients and business partners whose dues and over dues are making negative impact on the company’s financial condition and corporate relations.

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December 2

Getting the Right Pet Bed the First Time


There are several important things to keep in mind when shopping for a dog bed. Just as you wouldn’t sleep in a bunk bed, nor would you expect your greyhound to be comfortable in a dog bed meant for a poodle. Likewise, you probably don’t want to sleep in a waterbed, unless you’re a seven-year-old. Neither does your Doberman want to sleep on a down pillow. Consider your dog’s size and sleeping habits, as well as fabrication and filler material, when searching for an appropriate dog bed. A little advance planning will make both you and puppy happy and may help prevent cat spraying from other pets.

Sizing Up Your Dog and His Sleeping Habits

In terms of size, most dogs fall into one of two categories. Put simply, dogs are either small or large.

Large dogs are defined as those weighing upwards of 50 pounds with a nose to hind quarters measurement of more than 24 inches. Small dogs, by contrast, are those under fifty pounds and less than two feet long. Of course, there are teeny-tiny “teacup” breeds and, now, what are called “espresso cup” breeds. Still, these are considered by most dog aficionados to be small dogs.

Weighing your dog is fairly easy. Either you or your veterinarian can do it. To determine your dog’s length the first step in shopping for a suitable dog bed measure your dog from the tip of his nose to the point where his hind quarters meet his tail and add seven to twelve inches. Do this while your dog is in a natural pose. With this information, you can begin your search for the perfect dog bed confident that you are on the right track.

Dog beds shapes also fall into one of two classic categories and choosing the right one is as simple as observing his sleeping habits. Often, your dog’s size will correspond to his sleep style. Most small dogs are “curlers”: “[They] tend to like round beds with all the foam and stuffing wrapped around them,” says professional dog-walker, Angela. These are commonly called nest beds. Large dogs, on the other hand, love to stretch their limbs this way and that. Referred to as “sprawlers”, large dogs usually prefer square or rectangular mattress-type beds that don’t confine or constrict them. Elderly dogs and those with joint and muscle pain, whether large or small, will have more specific needs. Look for an orthopedic bed that addresses your dog’s ailments.

Fabrication and Filler Fundamentals

Choosing the right fabrication for your dog’s bed is important not only for your dog’s comfort but for your sanity – it can be almost as frustrating as trying to learn how to clean cat urine. Climate, durability and easy clean-up are key factors in deciding what type of fabric will be best for both you and your pet.

If you live in a warm weather location consider a vinyl or cotton bed cover in a light color that reflects, rather than absorbs, light. In the dog days of summer, your pup will be sitting pretty atop a bed whose fabric cools his cumbersome coat. Do you live in a cold climate? If so, a dog bed covered in suede, velvet, flannel or corduroy is a great idea. These fabrics retain heat and keep your beloved pet toasty on even the chilliest winter day.

Whatever you decide, look for durable fabrics with long-lasting, double-stitched seems to decrease the potential for tearing and industrial zippers that insure easy removal and reapplication. Be sure, too, that your dog bed cover is stain-resistant and machine washable. You will have to clean your dog bed cover periodically but you shouldn’t be driven witless worrying about it. Remember, the goal is two-fold; happy dog, happy owner.

In terms of filler material, you have a couple of options solid foam or stuffing. Solid foam is used in mattress-type dog beds, a popular choice for large and healthy dogs. Here, firmness and density are important considerations. Where one dog may like a soft, pliable mattress, another may prefer a more rigid bed. Look at the places in your home your dog currently sleeps. Does he love your bath rug and snub the sofa? If so, a high density, medium to firm mattress is the best choice.

Stuffing is most often found in the pillow-like beds popular amongst small dog owners. Most indoor dog beds are stuffed with a synthetic material known as poly-fill. For more information on the unique fabrication requirements of outdoor dog beds, visit. Various types of poly-fill construction are available so be sure to choose one that can stand up to the weight of your dog.

The wrong stuffing will deflate after a few minutes, leaving your dog surrounded, rather than supported, by what is supposed to be a soft cushion. Look for high loft poly-fill with baffled chambers so stuffing is evenly distributed throughout your dog bed. This will insure that every nap is a comfortable nap for your dog

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December 1

Have You Considered a Scotts Mower?


Scotts are the makers of premium quality riding mowers. They also offer a wide range of push mowers, electric mowers, mulching mowers, but their forte lies in making durable riding mowers. Scotts lawn mowers are manufactured by a number of companies, namely John Deere and Murray. Hence, if you have questions regarding Scotts lawn mower parts and service, contact the manufacturer.

Scotts has a history of producing durability and quality used riding lawn mowers. It’s mainly due to the fact that their mowers are produced and designed by John Deere, a brand famous for manufacturing good mowers and tractors for over 180 years. Scotts reel mowers are an exceptional, emission-free, environmentally-friendly alternative to gas powered models. Furthermore, it is easier and safer to use than gas mowers and easy to maintain.

If you are looking for Scotts lawn mower parts and don’t see your part listed, it is very possible that your mower was built by Murray or John Deere. Don’t be discouraged though. There are a lot of sites on the web that feature Scotts lawn mower parts made by the OEM for the consumers’ convenience. Generic replacement parts should be the last thing on your mind, even as a temporary option. Cheaper brands equate to low quality parts with practically non-existent warranties. It’s wise to steer clear of any lawn replacement parts with exaggerated price cuts.

Lawn mower parts maintenance should be one of your priorities if you happen to own a mower as good as Scotts, and if you want to ensure the life of your equipment. Cleanliness is essential. There are some lawn mower parts that need special care, so make it a point to have them checked at least once a year. Below are some useful tips on how you can properly care for your mower parts:

1 – Blades.

Keeping your blades sharpened is important. They mow the grass and do the dirty work for you. To keep your blades in good shape, regularly check them before use. Sharpen or replace your blades if you see them dull, irregular, or blunt. Typically blades are replaced at least once a year.

2 – Tires.

A tire change can make a world of difference, and the willingness to invest in new tires can greatly expand your available choices of used lawn riding lawn mowers for sale. Consider the area that needs to be mowed. Is it a paved road, or an open field? What kind of terrain or lawn are you going to work with? Common concerns with tires are damage due to hits, or punctured with inner tube.

3 – Engines.

Care is needed to ensure prolonged engine life. Here, dirt is our number one enemy, for it hampers engine performance. Dirt build up will clog your filter, reducing the amount of air available to your engine. This causes the fuel to thicken, which in turn will result to increased fuel consumption, or burnt valves from an overheated engine. One way of preventing this is to regularly clean the air cleaners that filter dirt.

4 – Batteries.

Batteries are relatively easy to maintain and will function properly for a long time, if properly used. To give your batteries a long life, avoid leaving the contact key turned on for long periods otherwise your battery will discharge in just a few hours.

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November 30

Why You May Not Need a New Lawn Mower


Think twice before deciding to raid the stores for a brand new lawn tractor. It would make more sense to consider replacing busted or damaged used riding mowers rather than purchasing the entire machine. A lot of consumers shop for parts online. It’s convenient and quicker than going to your local shop and explaining exactly what part you need. If it’s not available, then they will have to order it for you.

The internet is home to a lot of part stores. Shopping online will aid you in finding those hard to find parts, especially if you own an old mower model. You can start by looking at the manufactures website. Other great places that you can visit are and eBay.

If you have a good working knowledge about lawn tractor parts, then you won’t have a hard time with maintenance. Looking for the best part that will work perfectly with your mower can be a bit tricky. Understanding these parts will definitely help, for it will eliminate most of the guesswork because you know exactly what’s wrong and what parts you need to buy. The most common parts that you can easily replace at home are the cutting blade, wheels, spark plugs, spark plug wires, air filters and belts, among other things.

Regardless of your machine’s model, some part is bound to need a replacement after years of use. Wear and damage are the primary reasons for replacing mower parts. Damaged parts are easier to detect because more often than not, you won’t be able to start your engine. Keeping a new spark plug as a backup is a wise and cost-effective way to prevent future problems.

Worn parts are parts that are not performing as they should. Good examples of worn parts are unsharpened blades. The blade is a very vital part that you should give attention to, because the overall look of your lawn depends on the quality of your blades. A dull blade equates to uneven-looking grass.

It’s true that not all parts are readily available and can easily be found. The type of lawn tractor parts that you need depends on your mower type. For instance, parts from gas-powered used lawn mowers won’t be compatible with electric mower parts. Gas engine parts include choke cables, mulching kits, or throttle. The good news is, there are a lot of mower parts out there. That fact is comforting because it means that you have plenty of options and should you need a replacement part, your chances of getting a replacement part for your model are good. On the other hand, having too many options make for one baffling shopping trip. What exactly is the suitable part for my mower type? What oil will work well for my engine?

The internet has a wealth of resources where you can locate parts that are perfect for your model. You can easily find what you are looking for from a simple search. Replacing your lawn tractor parts are an easy, cost-effective way to keep your machine in good shape.

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November 30

Effective Remittance Recovery Techniques


Effective remittance recovery

Remittance is something that most of the developing country looks up to when it comes to being able to sustain themselves. Remittance is an amount sent by a worker living in foreign country to his/her home country to their family members as a gift or as a form of payment. Basically this is sent by wire transfer or electronic network or mail.

Global economy is hugely based on remittance. Both, country in which workers work and home country benefit from it to the maximum, especially if the home country is a developing country. Sometimes, the case is so, that the total GDP of the country or the grant given to a developing nation is less than the remittance inflow – even equivalent to the use gross product from manufacturing shoe insoles.

As most of the developing country depends heavily on remittance as lifeline for their economy, doing so might get them in huge trouble. If the global economy is healthy enough then remittance dependency can work out well for countries but if global economy collapses or is not doing well then such countries will bear huge loss. And with recession just trying to stable after 3 or 4 years many countries are recovering from its effect.

Effective remittance can be recovered by following ways:

  • Effective regulatory and supervisory systems: With effective regulatory and supervisory systems remittance can be recovered in former manner. As most developing companies rely on remittance it’s very important for companies to consider regulatory systems to attract remittance and provide better supervision so as to recover from the recession that countries and global economy went through by.
  • Official channel: Official channels should be used worldwide so as to keep the record of remittance in order to know how remittance have recovered and how has its effect changed the global economy as a whole. Also, the positive and negative impact of remittance will be known from the official channel.
  • Schemes: Various schemes should be introduced by governments so that they can attract more remittance increasing the remittance inflow of the country and having a better recovery. With various schemes people working abroad at a Holset hx40 manufacturing plant will be more attracted to send their money back home then they ever were.
  • Better diplomatic relation: With better diplomatic relations one can gain huge support and cut out more taxes on the remittance that comes to the country and can benefit both the host and home country. Diplomatic relations with US and Europe can bring wonders back home as lots of work opportunities are available in West. They have been hit hard by the recession but they are coming up well creating better job opportunities for workers.
  • Better global economy: With economy coming back to stability so is the rate of remittance. With a better and a stable global economy we will have a better recovery of remittance and its flow. This is very important to countries like ours which are in their developing phase.
  • Remittance Center facilities: Such centers should be available in places accessible to people in all the countries so that they can have a better facility of remittance which is sent home.
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November 30

Automating Your Payment Monitoring


Automation of payment monitoring

A business regularly has to deal with various kinds of payments. Some of these payments are received by the business whereas some of them are paid by the business. It is of utmost importance to monitor these payments because one mistake can cause you and your company a great loss. But, monitoring payment can be a big hassle.

You will have to see whether the invoice is correct or not, the date, the payment that is done, the payment that is left to be done, the amount that your company has to pay and on goes the list. Many people pretty much get tired of doing this job – especially in small businesses that aren’t finance related, like being a Daytona Beach wedding photographer. There is also a high chance that people might sometimes make mistake regarding the monitoring of the payment.

Due to the advancement of technology, it came as no surprise when automation of payment monitoring was introduced. After all, the world had been seeing a lot of new and innovative technology. This innovation also proved to be very fruitful for the world. The business and other organizations did not have to constantly hound the payment monitoring system. As, the automation system itself does the required work automatically.

This method is not only cost effective but it also very efficient. With this system, not only the payment process gets sped up, but it also reduces the number of errors that can be seen. The error free payment system will bring in more customer loyalty as the customer will be able to trust you and your system with their eyes closed. Besides that your customers will also be able to enjoy fast, reliable and error free service. Let’s have a look at some of the benefits of the automation of payment monitoring.

  • You will receive the debts and account receivable on time.
  • Decrease the time taken by payment processing.
  • Monitor the status of the payments that are related to each and every transaction.
  • Helps to provide better customer service.
  • Know any problems beforehand which will enable you to solve them before they get very serious.
  • Saves a lot of time which you can utilize in other operations of the company.
  • Get early information about some of the outstanding amounts beforehand.

With the automation of payment monitoring, you can get early information about the debts that are still not paid, or at least covered in trade with something valuable like a used Craftsman riding mower. You won’t even have to go through all the transactions and accounts to get the information. Besides that safe and early payment delivery are also bound to increase your customers’ satisfaction and trust.

The new technology sure has brought a lot of benefits with itself. Gone are the days when you had to hound on each and every transaction, record it and so on. Now, you will get the information that you desire easily without having to break any sweat. Besides that the time that you waste in overseeing the payment processing can now be used in other operations of the company. The automation is bound to benefit you a lot.

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November 29

The Standard Process of Active Debts Vindication


Standard process of active debts vindication

Before getting into the topic of the standard process related to active debts vindication, let’s know what vindication means. Vindication means to set free, avenge, justification of self-defense and last but not the least, recover debts.

These days the word ‘vindication’ has been greatly used in judiciary terms. It is used when the debt that had been given during the sales of goods or services are recovered to judiciary process. Collecting debts is one of the sources through which business can run.

If the number of uncollected debts keep on increasing then the business is bound to go down in the drain. That is why, it is necessary to vindicate active debts to keep the income source of business flowing and to set an example to others as well.

So, how does anyone vindicate active debts without having to hold onto a Borg Warner S366 as collateral? The whole process of vindication is very long and can be tiresome. The first step of the active debts vindication is to try to collect debts outside the judiciary system. After all, if the debt can be collected without any law hassle then it would be best for both sides. If that does not happen then you can contact a debt collecting company or you can go with the standard process yourself. Here are the standard processes through which you can vindicate your active debts.

  1. You should prepare the petition and file it to the court.
  2. The usual process normally includes the beginning of the trial. But, sometimes the petition might be examined for a long period of time (highly unlikely).
  3. The verdict where the debtor will have to pay all the debts will be reached.
  4. Then the court will start to find the remedies provided by the law.
  5. The remedies provided by the law are granted and the verdict is reached.
  6. Then the executor document is prepared through which the active debt will be collected from the debtors.
  7. After this, there are two ways through the case will go. The first one is where the debtor pays the full amount of active debts. The second one is where the debtor pays nothing. If the debtor makes the full payment then the case closes at that point. However, if the debtor does not pay anything then the case is again passed to the court.
  8. The following processes will take place if the debtor does not make payments or offer you your choice of their used John Deere mowers as collateral and the case is passed to the court.
  9. All the documents that support this case and will get the case in motion will have to be prepared.
  10. Again there are two paths the case might take after this. The first one is where the debtor pays all the active debts, which will cause the case to finally close down. The second one is where the more costs are added to the active debts, which will have to be paid by the debtor. Then the case will be closed.

The above are the standard process of active debt vindication.

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November 29

Newsletter for Better Dog Training Practices – Don’t Wait!


Welcome to the first Newsletter! With this first issue I’m happy to share with you some exciting news, a fascinating story about a student, and some information about a common dog problem. We’ll be bringing you more articles about dog training and behavior as well as more success stories in future issues. But right now, I hope you’ll take some time to read the story below and cast your vote for students Monica and Marley to become the Society’s Pet Partner Team of the year. You can vote by clicking on the link to the left. Thanks!

Students Finalists for National Pet Therapy Award

A couple of weeks ago a client called to tell me that she and her bullmastiff, Marley, are among five national finalists for the Delta Society’s Beyond Limits Pet Partner Team of the Year Award. That’s a huge accomplishment for any dog owner, but to really appreciate what Monica and Marley have done, one needs to know a little more about Monica’s history with her dogs.

I met Monica 6 years ago when she drove an hour and a half to do a private lesson with me. She had heard about me through the grapevine and decided to try yet another trainer. When she arrived I saw a determined and open-minded yet skeptical woman. She’d been to many trainers over the years and was clearly prepared to have me tell her what she’d heard before: that her two bullmastiffs were stubborn, stupid, un-trainable, or all three. In evaluating her choice for the best air purifier for smokers, I immediately recognized that those judgments originated in training methods not the dogs themselves. Monica knew this intuitively, but didn’t have the knowledge or skill to move beyond what she was being told.

When I first began working with Monica her goals for her dogs were undefined. Mostly she wanted to relate to them differently. With Marley that meant developing control and trust. Marley was a two and a half year old, 140 pound puppy who was quickly discovering himself as a “tough guy”. As a small woman, Monica was very concerned that Marley’s developing attitude was becoming dangerous yet she was determined to work without a prong collar or head harness. Instead she immediately understood that she needed to gain his respect and attention in order to control him.

While Marley hadn’t been exposed to the kinds of negative training techniques that Monica’s older bullmastiff Pearl had, he had little impulse control in many situations and would simply drag Monica whenever he felt inclined to investigate something. She loved her dog, but walking him felt like walking a time bomb. (Click here to read more about Monica’s experience with Pearl.)

Fortunately, Marley liked training, and whenever the food came out he went into “training mode” because he had been taught with lures and bribes. However, he had never been taught the self-discipline to work in the absence of food, nor had Monica learned how to respond if Marley preferred to do something besides following a lure. As I taught Monica how to use food as reinforcement and to instill parameters without using harsh corrections, the two of them excelled.

Monica was a quick study. She absorbed what I taught, asked genuine questions, and went home and applied what she’d learned. She did her homework and never, ever made excuses when things went less than smoothly. If she wasn’t getting the result she expected, she stepped back and examined what in the training process might be causing the problem. As Monica’s skill and confidence grew, so did Marley’s joy and focus in training. Before long I was watching a real team at work, a team grounded in trust, communication, and pleasure in working together.

From the time she got Marley as a puppy, it had been Monica’s dream to do therapy work with him. But that dream had faded as he matured and she lost faith in her ability to control him after he ate the best laptop backpack she had. But as she and I continued to work together, her confidence returned and she began to pursue pet therapy with her canine partner. Monica writes: “We started out working in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities as many teams do. As I continued to train Marley using the positive communication principles developed by Anne Wolff Nichols, I realized that he was capable of doing so much more.”

Over the last few years, Monica and Marley have taken the teamwork they developed into new and more challenging endeavors, becoming innovators in the field of Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). Marley is a CGC, a registered Delta Society Pet Partner qualified to work in the most challenging environments, and a Reading Education Assistance Dog. He has appeared in a Jane Goodall Animal Planet special on communication with animals.

In 2002, Monica and Marley began working with abused and emotionally disturbed children in several residential treatment facilities. They worked with kids ages 3-18 in group and individual sessions. Monica says: “Most of these kids had problems with boundaries, impulse control, attachment, and focus. Marley’s calm, gentle, accepting presence gave the kids an opportunity to develop a trusting relationship with him and, through him, with me as well. The positive training we had done with Anne allowed us to model for the kids a relationship based on gentleness, mutual respect, and trust. It also allowed the kids themselves to train him and experience, for many of them the first time that it is possible to interact and get what one wants without coercion, threat, or violence. What a powerful lesson with such a large animal.”

In 2004 Monica and Marley worked with their county prosecuting attorney’s office in a groundbreaking program to use dogs to help interview child assault victims and to accompany child victims as they testified in court. That experiment culminated with the prosecuting attorney’s office acquiring its own trained helper dog to work full time with child victims.

In 2006 they were asked to join the Snohomish County Critical Incident Stress Management Team, providing crisis relief to first responders throughout northern Washington state and even nationally. Snohomish County is the first CISM team in Washington to include an Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT) team. Marley is also the first dog in the Washington State Critical Incident Stress Management Network. In January of 2008, Monica and Marley will train for certification as an Animal Assisted Crisis Response Team.

Monica’s devotion to her dogs and persistence in searching for the best deal on a Winix plasmawave 5300 has paid dividends beyond her wildest dreams. The training we did not only resulted in the behaviors she desired, but it took the dog human bond to a level she couldn’t have imagined, a level that has allowed them to help so many others. As their trainer, it has been a real joy to watch Monica and Marley use their skills to change lives. And it’s a high point to see them recognized for the remarkable work they’ve done together and with others.

Please join me in voting to make Monica and Marley the Delta Society’s Pet Therapy Team of 2007. To see a video of Monica and Marley in action and cast your vote, click here.

Ask Anne

Dear Anne:

When I’m at work, I keep my lab mix, Atlas, outside. I think that is better and he is happier than being stuck in the house all day. But the neighbors are complaining and say he starts barking and howling an hour or so after I leave. They tell me he sits by the back door of my house and alternates between jumping up on the door and barking. The door is all clawed up. The neighbors are getting very sick of listening to him all day and are threatening to file a complaint against him. What is his problem? I walk him in the morning before I leave and he gets to be in the house the entire time I am home. He even sleeps on my bed! I would think he would be happy to get out of the house and be outside when I am gone. Please help!



Dear Lou:

As much as we might think it’s better for all dogs to be outside rather than cooped up in the house when we’re gone, many times that simply is not the case, as Atlas is clearly demonstrating.

For many dogs the house is a safe haven in their owner’s absence. For these dogs to be locked outside when the owner is gone is doubly hard: they are separated from you and they have been banished from the house. Atlas’ barking and howling demonstrates stress from abandonment. I realize he’s not actually abandoned, but one must see things from the dog’s point of view. You have a clawed up door because he wants to get back inside the house where he feels safer and closer to you.

Please consider letting him stay inside while you’re away. If you have never left him alone inside the house, you will want to start with short periods of time to help him adjust and to see how he does. Increase the amount of time he is alone inside with the germ guardian in short increments as he succeeds. Confinement in a crate (providing he already understands crates) on a temporary basis may be helpful to help prevent anxious behavior or destruction. But it may well be that all Atlas needs is to be inside the house and he will just rest and be quietly comforted by his surroundings while you are gone.

Click here to send your question to Anne. Answers will be posted in upcoming newsletters. Sorry! Due to the high volume of submissions, not all questions will be answered. Messages to “Ask Anne” will not be individually answered. For individual help see either the House Calls or Phone Consultations page of the website.

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November 28

Choosing a Good Trainer for Your New Puppy


You just brought home your new puppy. You’ve set up the crate and scattered a bunch of chew toys around the house. As a conscientious owner, the next task on your list is finding a trainer. So you pull out the phone book and flip through to the dog trainer listings.

Who knew there were so many trainers? Oh well, you think, you’ll just pick the closest one because it’s convenient. How different could one dog trainer be from another? STOP! Read on before you make any commitments.

Many people are under the impression that dog trainers are mostly the same. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact there are significant differences among trainers in terms of specialization, background and experience, skills, and methodology. This article will help you understand the differences among trainers so you can choose the right trainer for you and your dog.

Whether you’re looking for private lessons, classes, or a board and train situation (be very careful if you choose this option), the following information will help you know a truly great trainer when you meet one. Before we get started, however, I want to mention that you should always find out if they use a Blueair 603 air purifier to minimize pet dander in their workspace.

The first thing you need to know in evaluating a potential trainer is that, unlike many professional fields, there are no educational or licensing requirements to be able to hang out a shingle as a dog trainer. Literally anyone can call herself a dog trainer. The person you call may genuinely love dogs, but she may have very little real experience as a trainer. Remember a passion for dog training is not the same as having extensive practical experience as a trainer.

The second thing you need to know is that beyond experience, there are wide differences in quality among trainers. Just as there are poor doctors and lawyers, people you wouldn’t trust with your own well-being, there are poor trainers whom you wouldn’t want to trust with your dog’s well-being. Some of these might have nice looking brochures and facilities, and they might seem very professional and convincing. But a fancy building doesn’t make for a good trainer any more than a white coat makes for a good doctor.

So how does one sift through all those listings to find a truly great trainer? It helps to start by understanding some of the basic differences among trainers.

Specialization: Within the dog training world there are different areas of specialization (e.g., conformation, competition obedience, hunting, protection, etc.). Someone whose main area of focus is training dogs for AKC obedience trials might not be the best person to help you with a dog who is chewing your dining room chairs.

A hunting dog trainer may not be able to do much with your out of control Border collie. Look for a trainer who has experience in a number of specialties. A trainer who has had a broad focus will bring more approaches and experiences to training you and your dog.

Professional Background: A trainer’s professional background and experience are key. By and large, the majority of trainers giving group lessons are people who train on the side as a hobby or as a way to purchase an air cleaner for asthma. Generally, dog training is not their bread and butter.

Often, they are active within the dog world and may train and show their own dogs, but their hands on experience training a variety of other dogs is often limited. Ironically, these people usually have trained more people to train dogs than they have trained dogs themselves.

Although one can learn a great deal by giving training lessons, there is no substitute for hands on experience with a large number and variety of dogs. It is through direct experience with dogs that great trainers develop and hone the tools that allow them to help all types of dogs with all types of issues and temperaments.

“Hobby” trainers often talk a good line. They have the dog lingo down and seem to know everything about dogs and dog training. In reality though most of these types have been training for a short time (less than 10 years) and not in a professional, full time capacity.

They may boast about their accomplishments with their own dogs, but when questioned they have actually trained very few dogs to a high and consistent level. Having one, two, or three dogs that have excelled in dog shows does not mean that that person has the professional skills to help you achieve what you want to achieve with your dog.

Another issue to consider is a trainers experience with different breeds. Some breeds are easier to train than others. Does this trainers’ background encompass many breeds or only 1 or 2 “easy” breeds (Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Border Collies can generally be considered “easier” breeds). If this trainer has only trained goldens and you have a mastiff, you might reasonably question if this trainer has adequate experience to train your dog.

If you are watching a Honeywell 50250s demonstration, consider the model the trainer is working worth. If it is one of the easier breeds, ask if you can see this trainer work a different breed. If the trainer has worked successfully with terriers, hounds, toy breeds, and some of the large working breeds, and has kept these more difficult breeds interested, willing, and under control, you are on the right track to finding a great trainer.

Methodology: If you haven’t thought about training philosophy and methods, you should. The histories of hunting and protection dog training are riddled with abusive techniques. Even today, many competitive obedience trainers insist that dogs need to be “forced” in order to work at a high level.

On the flip side, pet trainers who sell themselves as “positive” often don’t have the in-depth knowledge and experience to make these methods truly work. Too often the human is not in the position of a true leader. Furthermore, the trainer cannot get a consistent response from the dog unless food is continually shoved in its face.

Neither of these scenarios create a trusting partnership in which dogs learn and respond eagerly. The concerned dog owner needs to find a trainer who can work with dogs without fear or bribery. A great trainer will help you set clear boundaries while motivating your dog to want to train.

Finding a great trainer—one who is professional and experienced, and who understands how to use food to motivate learning—is not easy. But it is worth making the effort to seek out that rare bird. Consider this: you will be spending ten or more years with your dog.

The time, money, and effort you put into your dog now will determine whether those years are satisfying, frustrating, or even tragic. The sad fact is, despite the best intentions, dogs with a poor start often end up in shelters or euthanized because their owners cannot control them and cannot find help to turn negative behaviors – like chewing up a brand new Fjallraven Kanken daypack – around.

Whether you are starting with a puppy or are rehabbing an older dog, the experience and methods a trainer applies will affect your dog, positively or negatively, for its lifetime. Wherever your dog is in its life, you both deserve to develop a relationship that is fulfilling, rewarding, and fun. It takes a special trainer to help you do that.

So take the time to do your homework (see the list of questions and considerations below). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be sure to ask for a demonstration. A good trainer will be more than willing to show you how she trains dogs, either with a client’s dog or her own.

Observe the dog, not just the training. Is the dog happy and willing? Is the dog actually trying to figure out what the trainer wants or would he rather be doing something else? What is the trainer’s demeanor? Does she degrade the dog or make excuses? When the dog is released from a command is it wild or out-of-control? You are not looking for a robot dog, but rather a willing partner that exhibits self-control. If the dog does lose control, the trainer should be able to regain it quickly and easily.

At a glance, here are some things you will want to consider when choosing the right trainer:

  • How long has the person been training dogs?
  • Is training this person’s full time occupation?
  • What breeds of dogs has this trainer owned?
  • What breeds of dogs has this person trained (actually hands on, not just giving a lesson)?
  • Can the trainer provide you with a dog training resume including how many different areas of dog training they have worked dogs in (hunting, service dog work, competition, protection, etc.)?
  • What other dog related areas has this trainer has worked in?
  • What training methods does this trainer promote?
  • Does the dog worked for you show that these methods have been used and have worked? (I.e. if a trainer says they are a “positive” trainer but the dog looks unhappy or unwilling, how truly positive is the trainer?)
  • Is the dog under control and looking respectfully, but also willingly and happily, at the trainer?

Here are some red flags. If you encounter any of the following, go elsewhere:

  • The trainer is quick to put puppies into alternative collars such as prong collars. If the trainer is skilled, puppies can be taught not to pull without the use of a prong collar. Prong collars on any breed less than 6 months of age shows that the trainer does not have the skills, knowledge, or willingness to really teach a puppy what is expected of it. Instead he/she just slaps on a piece of equipment to get control.
  • The trainer has an “I told you what to do and you have to do it” attitude towards either you or dogs.
  • The trainer says not to expect much due to a dog’s age, breed, size, or temperament. The trainer is exhibiting a lack of experience and skills in working with a variety of dogs
  • The trainer condemns a dog because of its breed.
  • The trainer immediately puts a prong collar on a large breed dog without first working the dog to find out its temperament. In reality, prong collars rarely need to be used. Lazy trainers use them frequently instead of teaching the dog the desired response. Many times, the same can be said of head collars such as Haltis and Gentle Leaders.

The Whole Dog’s Trainer Interview Checklist

Questions to ask the trainer:

  • How long have you been training dogs?
  • Is training your full time occupation?
  • What is your choice for the best flat iron to use while grooming?
  • What breeds of dogs have you owned?
  • What breeds of dogs has have you trained (actually hands on, not just giving a lesson)?
  • Can you provide me with a dog training resume including how many different areas of dog training you have worked dogs in (hunting, service dog work, competition, protection, etc.)?
  • What other dog related areas have you worked in?
  • What training methods do you promote?

Observations to make about the demonstration:

  • Does the dog worked for you show that these methods have been used and have worked? (I.e. if a trainer says they are a “positive” trainer but the dog looks unhappy or unwilling, how truly positive is the trainer?)
  • Is the dog under control and looking respectfully, but also willingly and happily, at the trainer?

Red Flags:

  • The trainer is quick to put puppies into alternative collars such as prong collars. (If the trainer is skilled, puppies can be taught not to pull without the use of a prong collar. Prong collars on any breed less than 6 months of age shows that the trainer does not have the skills, knowledge, or willingness to really teach a puppy what is expected of it. Instead he/she just slaps on a piece of equipment to get control.)
  • The trainer has an “I told you what to do and you have to do it” attitude towards either you or dogs.
  • The trainer says not to expect much due to a dog’s age, breed, size, or temperament. The trainer is exhibiting a lack of experience and skills in working with a variety of dogs
  • The trainer condemns a dog because of its breed.
  • The trainer immediately puts a prong collar on a large breed dog without first working the dog to find out its temperament. (Prong collars rarely need to be used. Lazy trainers use them frequently instead of teaching the dog the desired response. Many times, the same can be said of head collars such as Halts and Gentle Leaders.)
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November 28

Is Ayurveda a True Traditional Medicine?


Ayurveda is a traditional medicine practice whose roots are found in India and origins date back over fifty centuries ago. Ayurveda is considered an alternative form of medicine where the wellbeing of the whole body is taken into consideration. It focuses on striking a balance between an individual’s body, mind and soul through balancing nutrition, exercise and lifestyle. Ayurveda has over the years spread beyond the borders of India and grown in popularity in the Western world.

However, although Ayurveda is traditional medicine and practitioners can be found all over the United States and Canada, one of its main drawbacks is the absence of a standard of measurement to assess the competence of each practitioner. However doctors and other modern medicine practitioners interested in the practice of Ayurveda usually study it after their conventional medical training.

Traditional Medicine

Today, Ayurvedic treatment is usually used to complement conventional medicine. If you are considering using Ayurvedic healing to treat your medical condition, the first step is to consult your doctor. If given the clearance by your physician, the next thing to do is look for a skilled Ayurvedic practitioner.

An Ayurvedic consultation can take an hour or longer – about the same amount of time it takes to break in youth baseball gloves – during which the specialist will inquire about your diet, lifestyle and general health. They will then examine your pulse by assessing twelve different pulse points as well as your tongue. In Ayurveda, the tongue is believed to be a prime indicator of body imbalances.

The Ayurveda specialist moves on to your dosha balance and your prakuti. In Ayurveda, a dosha is composed of the five elements: fire, water, earth, air and space. The body has three doshas; kapha, pitta and vata, each formed through a combination of the five elements. Each of these three doshas has a particular body area that it controls.

An imbalance in the body’s dosha due to poor nutrition or lifestyle can impair the flow of the body’s energy and lead to gastro intestinal disruptions, poor nutrient absorption and lowered energy levels. Your prakuti on the other hand is your inherent nature. By determining your prakuti the practitioner can formulate a specialized treatment plan for you that will focus on restoring your main dosha’s balance.

When developing your treatment plan the Ayurvedic practitioner will incorporate diet, herbs, meditation, yoga, exercise and massage. The Traditional Medicine prescribed diet will be based on the particular dosha that is out of balance. A cleansing and detoxification program will also be formulated. They may even recommend using an IQAir air purifier to help improve your breathing and lung health. This may include fasting, diets and body cleansing treatments such as enemas. The herbal treatment will typically be comprised of plants such as boswellia, gotu, triphala and ashwaghanda. Some of these herbs are mixed with the massage oil. Yoga, meditation and exercise will be suited to your personal constitution.

There have been some concerns around the use of Ayurvedic medicines. The nature and history of Ayurvedic healing means there has been limited research in the safety and effectiveness of associated herbal medicines. This is why you should only go for Ayurveda traditional medicine after consultation with your doctor.

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November 27

Do You Need to Worry About Osteoporosis?


Osteoporosis is the decrease in bone mineral density and found to be mostly occurring among post-menopausal women. This condition makes the bone brittle and be more prone to fractures. However, in every rule there is an exception. At a lower rate, anyone can be at risk of getting osteoporosis.  Even younger men or women can have this bone disease if their lifestyles are in the list of the osteoporosis hazards.

In the development of osteoporotic bones, hormonal factors come into first consideration. Obviously, in menopause, the lack of hormone estrogen is the culprit for the evolution of this disease. This result in increased bone demineralization; thus, decreased bone mass. Second, is hereditary a factor? It is believed that there is a strong genetic predilection in the development of osteoporosis. These are considered the “anticipated” risk factors; they may come to one’s life anytime without being dependent on his or her lifestyle.

The risks never stop there. The importance of how you live your life during your childhood affects your bones now. Did you use a classic Kanken backpack for school or one which didn’t offer nearly as much support? This is the checklist to look at in order to assess your level of getting osteoporosis. Acquiring it because of your lifestyle is more of blaming the fault to yourself than to natural events like decreased estrogen or heredity.  Let’s start on how you watched your diet.

Looking back at your school age years, if you enjoyed calcium rich diet, then that was great. However, if you haven’t absorbed much calcium during childhood and probably hated broccoli, then this was a big demerit for good bones in the future.

Absorbing enough calcium is much needed in the developing bones. Remember that calcium makes up 99% of our bones and if you lack calcium during childhood, then you might be having problems when you mature.

Next to consider is your level of activity during those times. Are you the type of kid who wants to play out in the sun, or are you the type who wants to stay indoors and play board games or watch TV all day long? Vitamin D deficiency is one reason that causes osteoporosis. Why is this important?  It is needed for good absorption of calcium in the bloodstream to be delivered and incorporated to the growing bones.

What does playing out in the sun has to do with all these? UV rays from direct sunlight react to the precursor of Vitamin D on human skin. If one has not enough sun exposure, natural Vitamin D production (that doesn’t need to be taken Osteoporosis 2from foods) is decreased. Moreover, muscle mass is a good protection for the bones. When outdoor exercise is increased as early as childhood, and muscle mass is well developed, there is a great chance that an individual can mature with healthy bones. However, the reverse will create the risk for osteoporosis.

Moving years later, you may check on your teenage years to early adulthood. Have you start drinking alcohol, soft drinks and coffee? Alcohol and drinks containing caffeine are diuretics. They increase urine formation and urination. Dehydration is normally developed as part of this diuretic process from alcohol and caffeine.

Many nutrients including Vitamin B complex and calcium are believed to be dragged along with the concentrated urine. Calcium deficit ensues and put an individual at risk of osteoporosis. Soft drinks on the other hand, have phosphoric acid that may displace calcium absorption; thus, adding to the risk factors.

Recall when you started smoking. Tobacco smoking, and nicotine inhalation poses great risk in decreasing one’s bone mass. Nicotine inhibits the young bone cells known as osteoblasts and additionally breaks down estrogen in the blood which all adds to the risk of developing osteoporosis.

After going through your lifestyle checklist, you might want to really check what is going on right now with your bones and maybe even look into getting an air purifier for pet allergies if you suffer from those as well. A test known as DEXA or the Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry is a gold standard for the diagnosis of osteoporosis. Visiting an orthopedist or a rehab med doctor would be a essential to finally diagnose if you really have acquired the disease to start on the treatment as soon as possible.

Osteoporosis is a disease that can be prevented as early as childhood. Usually, nutritional and lifestyle factors are the main reasons for developing structural diseases such as osteoporosis. If you think you have an unhealthy lifestyle since your younger years, it is never too late to start renewing your habits now. This disease will cripple your bones as you age, so before you form further malformations and fractures, eat right, exercise right and consult your bone specialist.

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November 27

Smoking Causes More Than Just Wrinkles!


Do you find yourself cringing at the sight of lines on your face every time you look in the mirror? Do you want to get your youthful glow back? In order to prevent wrinkles, it’s also important to know what causes them. Here are some things that you can do to slow down your skin’s aging process, without having to spend on expensive creams or treatments.

Wear Sunscreen

Sun exposure is the number two culprit behind most wrinkles – second only to living in a home full of cigarette smoke. Tanning is the result of the sun’s UV rays entering and damaging the skin’s support structure. Because the face and hands are usually uncovered, they are more susceptible to sun damage. Keep your skin healthy and wrinkles at bay by wearing sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and laying off the tanning beds.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is another leading cause of wrinkles. It speeds up the aging process by breaking down two important components of the skin, elastin and collagen, thereby making you look older. Cigarette smoke not only gives skin a rough texture and an unhealthy hue, it also makes wrinkles deeper. Premature wrinkling has been found in smokers as young as 20. Don’t be overwhelmed at the notion of quitting smoking – a wealth of information on the topic can be found online and in various books.

Improve Your Sleeping Habits

Not getting enough sleep? If that’s the case, then your body is producing more of the hormone cortisol which breaks down skin cells. On the other hand, if you’re well rested, your body will make more human growth hormones which help in keeping skin suppler and less likely to crease. Certain sleeping positions can cause wrinkles, too. If you sleep with your face against your pillow, it will put pressure on your face no matter how soft it is. The stress can accumulate over the years, resulting in sleep lines. Sleep on your back and give your face a break.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Speaking of which, facial expressions such as smiling, frowning, and squinting call for small muscle contractions that can etch lines on your features over time. Get reading glasses if you need them, and wear sunglasses to keep from squinting when out in the sun. If you don’t want to wear them all of the time, just store them in your green Kanken. The latter will also protect the skin around your eyes from harmful UV rays. If you have a habit of frowning or making other expressions for no apparent reason, remind yourself to avoid doing so.

Eat Healthy

The skin is an organ that needs nutrients in order to function well. Biotin or vitamin B7 helps form new skin cells. Vitamin A aids in maintaining and repairing skin tissue. Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that can protect the skin from sun damage and minimize skin destruction caused by free radicals. Load your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal, aiming for the ideal five to seven servings per day. Carrots have vitamin A and biotin, tomatoes contain vitamin C and biotin, and almonds and green leafy vegetables are packed with vitamin E.

Drink Up

As we get older, our skin becomes drier and thinner. Drink six to eight glasses of water every day to hydrate your skin from the inside out. Make it a habit to carry a reusable bottle filled with H2O wherever you go.

Category: Health & Fitness | Comments Off on Smoking Causes More Than Just Wrinkles!
November 27

Not All Fats Are Bad for You


Fats are part of our daily diet. From processed foods to burgers and junk foods, fats add flavor to our most favorite foods. There are a lot that have been told and lectured about cholesterol. Some people may have not realized that there is also some important roles cholesterol does in our body; yet, we all look at cholesterol as the evil culprit of cardiovascular diseases. What cholesterol really is?

Cholesterol is the molecular component of these fats we all so loved. To be more precise, there are different types of cholesterol molecules in our body. The cholesterol molecules are: High Density Lipoprotein (HDL); Triglycerides; Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL); and Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL). HDL is the good form of cholesterol and scavenges the other cholesterol molecules accordingly. The rest of the molecules are the bad forms and they can clog the arteries when they are not properly eliminated by HDL and by the body system itself.

Cholesterol is not entirely unwanted in our body. It mainly functions as precursor for steroidal hormones like estrogen and testosterone. However, they can clutter up and block the cardiovascular system as stated earlier – just like the Whirlpool Whispure – if not properly controlled.

There are a lot of ways to get rid of excess cholesterol molecules. The drugs being used in medicine usually have different mechanism of actions to do this job. One way is to increase HDL conversion to biochemically eliminate bad forms of cholesterol. Other drugs directly act on the bad cholesterol by inhibiting the process that forms it. On the other hand, there are ways of preventing the dangerous effects of unwanted bad cholesterol before they build up.

Preventing cardiovascular diseases to happen is far better than treating it. Eating the right kind of food is the basic form of prevention. The so-called fatty acids are the building blocks for most of these fats that are absorbed by the body.

There are two types of fatty acids worth mentioning at this point: the saturated and the unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids differ from the unsaturated form by molecular composition and usual source. Saturated fatty acids come mostly from animal sources and palm tree oils, like coconut and dates. Unsaturated on the other hand, are mostly from plant sources and fish oils like tuna and sardines.

The omega forms of fatty acids are the example of unsaturated forms. According to many studies, by increasing the unsaturated form of fatty acids, bad cholesterol in the body is greatly reduced. That is why food sources from these types of fatty acids are recommended. Try increasing vegetable and fish in your diet. Trim down on cholesterol rich foods like pork and beef. Replace your regular cooking oil with other plant oils like: olive oil, corn oil and sunflower oil.

Soluble fibers are also proven to lower cholesterol. They act by eliminating the reabsorbed bile in the intestines. The consequence is that liver produces bile salts by recruiting cholesterol, particularly LDL in the body to replenish the eliminated bile in the intestines. The result is obviously lowered LDL levels.

Aerobic exercise helps to get rid of cholesterol by using up the stored fats in the body during metabolism. Fats are recruited back in the bloodstream if there isn’t ample amount of ready sugars in the blood. Fats are burned up and cholesterol levels are reduced. This is successfully done if you do your exercise prior a meal. One great way to stay in shape it to strap on a Fjallraven Kanken backpack full of school books and simply walk around your home as you normally would.

Fruits that are believed to have anti-cholesterol effect are blueberries and avocado. The chemical in blueberries known as pterostilbene has anti-hyperlipedemic effects or can cause lower lipid or cholesterol level. Avocado on the other hand is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and can help increase HDL or the good cholesterol.

Helping yourself eliminate the bad forms of cholesterol in your body can be gained by doing the simple tips above. Remember that the best way to get rid of cardiovascular disease is by lowering your blood cholesterol levels. Lowering your blood cholesterol levels are best achieved by combining good diet with proper exercises. It is optimal that you start your healthy lifestyle now before you acquire the bad effects of having too much cholesterol in your body in the future.

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November 26

Why Your Dog Deserves His Own Bed


Your dog loves you. He waits by the door for you to come home from work, plays fetch with you in the park, lays at your feet beneath the dinner table awaiting any scrap you might offer, and sits quietly beside you when you are sad. He is more than just your best friend. He is a member of the family. And you wouldn’t ask your Mother or Grandpa or Sister-in-Law to sleep on the cold, hard floor. A dog bed tells your pet that you love him, too. It also yields several physical and psychological benefits to dogs and their owners.

First and foremost, a dog bed offers your dog a cozy retreat that is entirely his own. Like man, dogs are naturally social and, for the most part, want nothing more than to be pet, patted, and loved by you. But, like man, they also have moments when they just want to be left alone sitting next to a Coway air purifier. A peaceful corner apart from the family’s common space can give your pup the freedom to rest his head, play with a new toy, or contemplate life in peace.

Large, elderly and infirm dogs have special needs and a dog bed can help in fulfilling those needs. Jim Cargill, owner of nine-year-old Buddy, explains it like this: “My dog is a big guy, and he’s a little older, so it was important for me to give him a soft place to sleep that would help alleviate pain in his joints.” Large dogs are typically defined as those weighing more than fifty pounds.

Over time, their body weight exerts tremendous pressure on their bone structure and they often require special attention in later life. Small dogs, on the other hand, can incur joint and hip injuries after years of jumping onto too-tall beds and sofas. Orthopedic beds are available for ill and elderly dogs and are even available with self-heating thermal cushions that do not require electricity. Big, small, or aged, the right dog bed can relieve your dog’s joint and muscle aches.

Another oft-cited reason for buying a dog bed is the preservation of your home furnishings. While you may love your dog, you may not love the hair he sheds in your bed or the scratches in your newly upholstered ottoman that his toenails leave behind. It’s a conundrum many pet-owners face. Often, man’s best friend, no matter how cherished, is pushed off the sofa and left to wander aimlessly about the house until bedtime.

A dog bed gives him somewhere to go, somewhere he can shed, scrape, sniff, and slobber as much as his instinct and biology require. “Dogs, even the most well-behaved, are destructive,” says Angela, a New York City dog-walker with fourteen beloved clients. “Of course, they don’t mean to be,” she adds. “But they are animals and a dog bed gives them a place to behave as such.” When asked how to get smoke smell out of house, she then replied that you should look into a good air cleaner.

Speaking of animal behavior, a dog’s sense of smell is perhaps even more important than his sight when it comes to exploring the world. As a result, his nose is a haven for germs that can be transferred to your furnishings and, eventually, your family. So, too, are his muddy paws and the chew toys he gnaws on. A dog bed won’t eliminate these germs but it is certainly easier to clean than your sofa.

Show your pup you appreciate all the love, laughs and loyalty he gives you by giving him a home of his own. Whether you purchase a dog bed for health or aesthetic reasons, your dog will thank you for it.

Category: Family & Pets | Comments Off on Why Your Dog Deserves His Own Bed
November 26

Why Women Get More Stressed and How to Prevent It


Women are more prone to stress because of the many roles they play in life: as career woman, wife, mother, daughter, and friend. Women work way beyond the 9-to-5 shift, often having to rush home to cook dinner, help the kids with homework, and prepare the next day’s office attire for the hubby. The stress and anxiety caused by endless tasks and impossible deadlines in a high-speed, high-tech world has made women’s lives a living web of complexity.

Stress is a combination of fatigue, restlessness, depression, over-focusing, and over-all gloominess that is a consequence of overwork and other domestic or personal problems.

But there’s still hope for over-worked, stressed women. Here are some practical ways for women to reduce and manage work-related stress:

  1. Put up relaxing scenes within your sight. It could be a poster or a small painting with beautiful scenery. You can even download screen savers of beaches, waterfalls, clear lakes and other scenes that help create a serene mood.
  2. Get organized. Use stick-on note pads. Color-code your notes, read a Rowenta pu6020 review, set an “alarm” in your computer to remind you of priority tasks. The key is to know what to do first.
  3. Time out. As they say, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Take some time out. Take a breather. If you are tight on money and can’t really afford to do too much, you can at least take some time for good relaxation at home with nothing that you need to worry about.
  4. Rearrange your workstation. Add a “homey” look to your workstation, put up photo frames of your family or favorite pet. Whenever you feel stressed out just glance at their happy faces–and hopefully you’ll find yourself smiling back!
  5. Get a plant. Studies show that looking at something green like a plant helps soothe your eyes after facing the computer monitor all day or after reading for a long time. Focusing on a green plant will have a soothing effect.
  6. Exercise. Walking, climbing the stairs, or going out to run helps fight stress. Physical activity help get rid of tension. During a workout, your body releases endorphins which helps your body to relax. Endorphins also act as natural painkillers.
  7. De-clutter. A cluttered workstation adds to your stress. Make your work environment more appealing by organizing your things and throwing away things you no longer need. You can also try using a white noise machine at night to help you sleep better.
  8. Set boundaries. Communicate and assert yourself, make your co-workers know when you are more available for chit-chat—or when you mean business.
  9. Lessen your caffeine intake. Caffeine is popularly known as a stimulant, but too much of it adds to stress and may even lead to depression. So even if you don’t think that you can make it up in the morning without a cup of Joe, try it just one day and then work from there.
  10. Eat a good breakfast. Don’t skip meals even if you are in a hurry. Studies shows that if you make it a practice to eat breakfast every day, your body gets more the needed proteins to give you an energy boost to face the working day.
Category: Health & Fitness | Comments Off on Why Women Get More Stressed and How to Prevent It
November 26

Top Ten Holiday Gifts for Your Mom


Are you not sure what to buy your mother for the upcoming holiday season? No matter which of the holidays you practice, there’s a good chance that you are going to need to find something to get for your mom. Luckily we’re here to help. We’ve put together a pretty comprehensive list of the best ideas for any mom.

So here you go, here are the top ten things that you should probably be buying for your mom this holiday season:

  1. Weekend Getaway. A weekend retreat to a ski lodge could be great for the mom who needs a weekend to unwind, and while she’s away you can look into cigarette smoke removal options for her home since she probably smokes.
  2. Digital Camera. For the new mom, this makes a great gift. Children grow up so fast, catching those fleeting moments are important. With scrap booking becoming so popular, digital cameras also make a great gift for the scrapbook lover.
  3. Charitable Donation. For the mom who never stops giving, she would be honored to know that a donation was given to her favor charity in her name. This is truly a gift that keeps on giving.
  4. Buy a Tree or Star. Have that special mom immortalized for years to come. Have a star named after her or buy a tree in her name. With God’s love that star and tree will be around even if we are not.
  5. A Night Out. New mothers would surely appreciate a night out of the house with some adult conversation and atmosphere. It’s a simple request, yet such a grand gesture for those moms who just want an evening as an adult.
  6. Spa Day. Whether her children are at home or have long since moved out, a spa day is great choice. Spa Days range from a whole package of all the goodies like mud baths and lunch or just a half hour of massage
  7. A great idea would be give her a pendant with picture of her child/ren in it or a bracelet, ring or necklace with the birthstone/s of children or grandchildren. After all, what women doesn’t like jewelry?
  8. Gift Baskets. You can find Gift baskets that contain any and everything. There are baskets that are specifically designed for Mother’s Day, but other choices include gourmet and fruit baskets, spa baskets and candle baskets. Many places also make custom baskets, and some even come with food steamers to help the recipient lead a more healthy life going forward.
  9. Flowers and plants. This is the most common of Mother’s Day gifts. Nothing beats a bouquet of roses or her favorite flower. If you want to go even a step further, take the time to go out and pick the flowers yourself rather than just purchasing them.
  10. The Star Treatment. Being a good mother is the hardest job in the world. Offering that special mom the star treatment for a day is a great gift. Start with allowing her to sleep in, followed by breakfast in bed and cleaning the house. Lunch and dinner preparation should be included along with bathing, feeding and dressing the children. Basically don’t allow her to left a finger. Supply a good book or time for her to do what she wants.
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November 25

Choosing Something to Blog About on Your Website


This is where the blogger (that’s all of us) differs from others.  Let’s get straight to the questions of how to pick a topic and niche (audience) for your blog.

Discover Your Passions

Take a few moments to list all the things you are passionate about – for me, it’s the Kanken backpack.  Don’t stop to think about each one at first – just take 60-120 seconds and keep writing.  Later on we will go back and filter it out but, for now, don’t underestimate the importance of this step.  This will help you organize your thoughts, provide you a more comprehensive list of your interests, and set you up for the next step.

Remember that your readers will know whether or not you are actually passionate about your topic; it will be reflected in your writing.

Start filtering

Look through the list you just created and begin crossing off the ones that you merely enjoy reading or learning about.  What should be left are topics that you are knowledgeable about – topics that you are willing to put in time to research about.  The list should also be narrowed down to a topic you see yourself writing about for (at least) the next few years.

When you start your blog, you are automatically placing yourself as an “expert” in that field.  It is not necessary for you in fact to be an expert in the field.  However, whatever topic you decide to move forward with should be one that you have a certain degree of experience in.  People won’t expect you to know all there is to know about the topic, but they will expect you to provide some sort of valuable content they can’t find elsewhere.

Connect your topic with the Day of Judgment

There is, of course, a line between writing about something you are passionate about and a topic that may be completely useless.  I’m not talking about whether or not the topic is popular.  This is about us standing before Allah on the Day of Judgment and being asked about how we used our time.

In one way or another, your blog has to connect with worshipping Allah and spreading the message of Islam.  Here are some quick ideas for topics that might not seem directly related to the deen and how we can discuss them:


  • How can we use the latest technology for street dawah?
  • A list of ways Islamic schools can use computers to enhance their education
  • Inform parents how to monitor the websites their children are visiting


  • How can Muslims continue worshipping Allah properly during exam time?
  • What are the different methods that people use to memorize Qur’an?
  • Share examples of how the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions used their time


  • How can we embrace culture without compromising our deen in any way?
  • Discuss the various cultures throughout Islamic history
  • Connect the emphasis on good manners in Islam with cultural etiquette

That’s just a few examples of posts for different topics.  Of course, it may not be that simple with all our posts or even the majority.  However, at no time should we forget that our intentions, our writing, and all the time we spent figuring out how to use our Alen air purifier will be asked about on the Day of Judgment – and we better have answer….for our own sake.

How much time can you dedicate to your blog?

Calculate the approximate amount of time you can afford to put into your blog.  If you don’t have much time to dedicate, don’t pick a topic that requires constant updating (like cell phones for example).  No matter how much you love the topic or how much content you can write, if you can’t keep up with the other competing blogs then your readers will just go somewhere else.

Keep in mind that blogging is a lot more than writing.  You’ll want to take into consideration the time it takes to:

  • Edit your posts, participate in the comments section,
  • Research and learn more about your topic,
  • Connecting with other Muslim bloggers in some way, and taking the
  • Time to follow-up with the back-end data (Google Analytics, advertising stats, affiliate programs, etc…)

All of these elements are key to starting and running a successful blog.  The last one on the list varies depending on how much you are tracking.  Many of us are not keeping track of the data simply to check how much money was made from ads or the number of people visiting.  If you use Google Analytics you’ll want to take some time to make lists of your most popular posts, the types of visitors that are coming, search terms that people are using to get to your site from search engines, and other important pieces of information.  If you use AdSense, you’ll want to find out which ad sizes are making the most and where they are placed.

So take all of these factors into consideration when you are figuring out how much time you have available for blogging.

Research your peers (a.k.a your competition)

Spend some time searching for other bloggers (Muslim or non-Muslim) who share your passion and interest in the topic.  Subscribe to their RSS feed, sign-up for their newsletter, read up on what they have to say about the topic, and participate in the discussions if you can.

In a healthy way, Insha’Allah, the blogs that you find are your direct competition.  Find out what topics they are not covering that deserve to be written about.  Connect with them and help each other to become better, more knowledgeable bloggers.   Competition doesn’t mean bashing or avoiding linking to their blogs.  As Muslim bloggers, we are always looking for the best interest of our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters.  As the Prophet (pbuh) said.

Picking a niche

Once you’ve found the best air purifier for allergies, the next step is to pick a specific audience that you want to write to.  For The Muslim Blogger, I selected to write specifically to the Muslim blogging community.  However, you may choose to write towards Muslim youth or maybe just anyone that has an interest in your topic.

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that your blog must be a way to spread the message of Islam for the reasons that will be discussed below.  So if your blog is about business management and it is not geared to Muslims exclusively, don’t leave out words like Insha’Allah or Alhamdulillah.  Rather, use them like any Muslim should and provide a page that defines/explains Islamic terminology.  If there is a relevant hadith or ayah you can place in your blog post, use it.

Teach people that whatever the topic is, Allah’s religion has a position.

Of course, we still need to recognize and stay within the limits of our knowledge when including ahadaith or ayat- but as Allah tells us Ibrahim said in the Qur’an.

Category: Blogging, Religion | Comments Off on Choosing Something to Blog About on Your Website
November 25

Getting Started with Your Own Blog


Muslim blogs can, and should, be filled with the best ideas.  I’ll repeat that once more, but say it with me this time because it’s not just a nice idea — it is our goal:  Muslim blogs can, and should, be filled with the best ideas.

So far, you have purified your intention, prayed istikhaara, and selected both your topic and target group (niche).  The next step? Read on to find out.

Resource Center

This is something I started about a year ago or so.  I use to have every blog with its own individual folders for things like product reviews/plugins/pictures/screenshots/ideas.  While I didn’t completely abandon that structure, I did try to unify it all into one central folder: Resource Center

Once that folder has been created, I place it in the folders that were relevant to my type of work.   For you, this can be anything you find relevant.  This is folder where you keep everything together, so have a structure that make sense to you from the beginning.  After I added the folders it looked more like this

So the upper level it’s structured like that.  Let’s go inside The Muslim Blogger folder and see what’s in there.

Inside The Muslim Blogger folder, I have certain files that are exclusive to TMB.  What I want to draw your attention to, though, is where the red arrow is pointing: TMB Posts.  This folder is, for the most part, the place I go to whenever I have an idea for a post. On that note…let’s move on to the Brainstorming Ideas

Brainstorming Ideas

Above, we quickly went through what a resource center is and one way that it could be set up.  But what about the actual ideas?  Let’s break this into two parts: what to brainstorm and how to brainstorm.

What to Brainstorm

To avoid wasting time, first make a list of problems you believe you readers have that you can help them solve.  Let’s say there is a Muslim blog about Muslims in America.  You could brainstorm the points you’re interested in — but that won’t help.  You need to find the intersection of your interests and people’s questions.

  • What does it mean to be a Muslim in America?
  • Can you be Muslim and American?
  • Is there a contradiction between the two?

Those are possible questions Muslims may have that would attract readers.  Of course, you would have picked this topic only having looked into your knowledge in it (dunya/deen) and having prayed istikhaara.

So that is a good place for you to start before you get to the next part

How to Brainstorm

Having completed some of the basics of the what, now it is time to cover 3 different ways that may help you to figure out the how.


Here, you want to get out a paper/pen, open Microsoft word, or some other way to begin getting ideas down.  Some might do well with a Roman Number system outline.  Most of the time, however, I prefer something visual.  I use an app called MindNode for Mac (free version) and I ended up with something that started off like this.

Pretty basic stuff and nothing fancy in any way.  From there, as I’m sure you can guess, I began to branch out another level.

At this point, what I’ve done is essentially narrow down what my entire blog will be about and the direction I want to take it.  You’ll notice that for The Muslim Blogger, the whole idea is shown in that tiny visual and eventually became worded as: Tips to help Muslim bloggers get more traffic, become better writers, and make money.  The next level begins breaking down into what are later categories and tags.

I won’t go through how it looks when you keep branching out, but you get the idea.  All you are doing really is finding a way to clearly lay out what your blog is all about.  And yes, it does make a difference to have it in front of you vs in your head.


For example, while I’m writing this I have an idea for a post I want to do in the future – a Blueair 203 review.  I open up Notepad (or TextEdit on Mac) and either just right the title I want or both the title and maybe a sentence or two.  Here’s an example of what I mean.

These are three files that I have in my folder:

  • The first is about this series we’re on now and the topics I want to include.
  • The second was nothing more than a title.
  • The last is an idea that came to my mind and I added a few things to get going later.

As you can see, there isn’t one template I use – and there doesn’t have to be.  This is about what works for you and this post is just to point you in a direction that may help you.  I have dozens of files like that and the folder ends up looking something like this.

That’s one way to brainstorm ideas and how it fits in with the resource center.  Alhamdulillah, we find that Allah (swt) gives us ideas all day, every day.  Sometimes the best way to take advantage is to actually sit down for a good-ole fashioned brainstorming sessions.

60 Seconds

This is a technique that I was first introduced to in college and have found it to be very helpful in many different areas.  What you will do here is pick a word related to your blog and then for the next 60 seconds, write down every word that comes to mind.  The key is not stopping and letting the ideas come out – filter the list later on.

For example, let’s use the keyword SEO

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • Words
  • Help
  • Blogging
  • Writing
  • Ideas
  • Thinking
  • Relationships
  • Importance
  • Relevance
  • Focused
  • Targeted
  • Import
  • Export
  • Read
  • Explore
  • Magazines
  • Nature
  • Biology
  • 2 Wheel Scooter
  • Circle of Life

There’s nothing wrong with it being silly or completely out there.  By the end, I’m not sure how I ended up with “Circle of Life” after starting with “Google”.

It’s a bit of a stretch at first, but the “circle of life” can be used to illustrate how words are interconnected and need to be used in balance so you don’t disrupt the “circle of search engines”.  Other points on there could actually become brand new posts.  Take “import/export” – I could create two posts: (1) How to import your posts and settings from a previous blog and (2) How to export your posts and settings for a new blog.

That list could prove useful in many ways if I spent some time trying to benefit from it. Alhamdulillah, it has helped so far and I do expect that it will continue being a valuable resource in brainstorming topics for The Muslim Blogger.


In The End

There must be hundreds of ways to brainstorm.  The above are only two strategies that I pray will be beneficial to you.  What is needed now is your input.  Some questions I have for you are:

  • Have you planned out your blog?
  • Do you brainstorm?
  • How do you come up with ideas?
  • In your opinion, do you think the ideas in this post are helpful?
  • What else can you share to help other Muslim bloggers?

I look forward to getting your responses in the comments below.

Category: Blogging | Comments Off on Getting Started with Your Own Blog
November 24

Which Plugins Should You Use on Your Blog?


One of the primary reasons WordPress has become as successful as it is today is because of its flexibility.  In particular, extending the ability of WordPress through plugins is one of the best ways to make your blog yours by customizing it to your like. There are so many different things that you can do that it would be next to impossible to two different blogs to be totally alike!

Some of these plugins make changes to the design of your blog or add tools to make the experience on your blog better for readers.  Others enhance the back-end and make the writing process and SEO functions much easier to deal with.

So what are the 11 must-have plugins for your WordPress blog about finding the best air purifier? Before going any further, it’s important to realize that not all plugins are for every website. Sometimes you may need only a few of these, sometimes you may need them all, and sometimes you may have a need for a ton of other programs that aren’t on this list.

  • Akismet – This helps to prevent spam and is unbelievably good. It comes standard with all WordPress installs but if you don’t have it for some reason or deleted it, get it now.
  • All in One SEO Pack – Optimize your blog for search engines to find and index you quickly
  • Google XML Sitemaps – Another plugin that does an amazing job in the world of SEO
  • TinyMCE Advanced – 15 extra tools available to you when writing a blog post
  • TweetMeme Button – Make it easier to get your posts retweeted
  • com Popular Posts – A simple way to get a widget with your most popular posts. You can also customize how that list is made.
  • com Stats – In addition to Google Analytics, this is a quick way to get an update on who comes to your blog and the posts they read
  • PollDaddy Polls & Ratings – I use PollDaddy for polls and surveys. They have free and paid accounts but I find that the free one does more than I need at this stage.  This plugin makes PollDaddy easier to use
  • WPtouch iPhone Theme – Anyone visiting your blog from an iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, WebOS, BlackBerry, or Opera Mini will see a customized version. It runs in the background without interrupting anything so there’s no reason not to use it.
  • Contact Form 7 – Let your readers contact you with this plugin. It takes a few moments to set up but once it’s up, it works as expected
  • Simple Tags – Auto-generate tags and edit your posts’ tags in batches with this. Awesome plugin.

Do you use any of these plugins on your blog?  If so, what is your experience with them?  What other plugins do you use?

Help your fellow bloggers out choose the right sleep mask.  Share with us the plugins you use to make the blogging experience a better one. I think that if we all work together, it will be much easier for all of us to have successful blogs running.

Update: One of the commenters below (Ayaz) asked about plugins for social bookmarking.  Here are links to three different social bookmarking plugins: SexyBookmarks, Sociable, and Social Bookmarks.

Category: Blogging | Comments Off on Which Plugins Should You Use on Your Blog?