Written by guest blogger Marissa Perez
It’s no secret that big retailers like Amazon are challenging small business owners. How do you compete directly with a powerhouse like that when your business is more of a pipsqueak? Read on for insights that will help your business shine, even in the shadow of the retail giants.
Spruce up your space
Even if websites like Amazon have changed the world of retail, The Balance points to statistics indicating brick-and-mortar sales are alive and well. Even shoppers who research online are more apt to make purchases in a physical store. With that in mind, consider making upgrades to your space. Four walls gives you a solid advantage over major online retailers, and the more attractive and well-designed your store is, the more you’ll catch shoppers’ eyes - and their business. For layout ideas, check out this smart infographic from Napier Marketing Group.
Funds might keep your ideas in check, but there are a couple of agreeable types of SBA Real Estate Loans worth considering in order to make improvements. The SBA 7(a) loan program and the SBA CDC/504 loan program are both designed for real estate, but thanks to the 7(a) line, they can potentially fit your circumstances. These loans can be hard to qualify for, but the payoff is their excellent rates, and the facelift could strengthen sales in the long run.
Level the playing field
Big dogs like Amazon have one obvious advantage over brick-and-mortar establishments: e-commerce. A website is a chance to stay open 24/7, letting customers shop whenever and wherever they choose. In order to level the playing field, a top-notch website is a must-have. Don’t fret if you’re not a computer guru, since there are plenty of ways to get a store online without knowing computer coding.
The best place to start is with a reliable website hosting service. Do some research to ensure you’re choosing a service that will be professional and dependable, since the last thing you want is your site to crash when customers start shopping. For instance, in reviews of InMotion, you can see they offer reliable and secure hosting, provide excellent customer support, and offer a 90-day free trial. Explore your options to ensure you get the best bang for your buck! And if you have a current website that is clunky or outdated, consider investing in bringing it up to speed.
If you build it, they will come
The website itself is one of the biggest factors that can make or break a business, so you want to make sure yours is as attractive and easy to navigate as possible. You can DIY a website using a website builder, which is essentially a drag-and-drop creation. These tend to be easy but lack flexibility, and might not look polished on all types of devices. Ideally, your new site will look great on laptops, tablets, and smartphones alike, so keep that in mind as you explore possibilities.
If you know a bit of coding, you can create a more tailored-looking site using a content management system (CMS). Business.com explains some are more e-commerce-friendly than others, so if you go that route, weigh the pros and cons carefully, and examine the features associated with each option.
Of course, you can always pay someone to build a website for you. Top web designers can ensure that your website engages its visitors and keeps them coming back to do more business with you. When you’re searching for an expert to hire, look for key skills on their profile, including experience with creating an effective user interface, knowledge of web fundamentals, and familiarity with web-design platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, and Squarespace.
Small businesses still have certain advantages over mega retailers like Amazon. Capitalize on your brick-and-mortar experience, and invest in a competitive website. With the right strategies, your small business can outshine the big dogs!
Featured blog post by Robert O. Peruzzi, PhD, PE, R. Peruzzi Consulting, Inc.
Professional Engineers, and the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)
The state of Wyoming, in 1907, was the first to enact an engineering licensure law. Now every one of the United States, through licensing, grants only Professional Engineers (PEs) the authority to offer their services to the public or to sign and seal engineering plans. There are exemptions for engineering licensure for employees in certain situations, but obtaining a PE license is a legal requirement to practice as an engineering consultant.
Several steps are required to become a licensed PE. First, one must earn an engineering degree from an accredited engineering program. Second, one must pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam to earn the title “Engineer in Training” (EIT). (The best time for engineers to take the FE exam is during their senior year of undergraduate Engineering study. The second best time to take the FE exam is now.) Four years of progressive engineering experience are required before one may take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam to earn the title “Professional Engineer” (PE) and obtain the PE license. Beyond obtaining a license, continuing education is a requirement in most states including Pennsylvania. See www.NSPE.org for further information on licensing.
Independent Practice as an Engineering Consultant
After more years of experience, and perhaps after a nudge by one’s employer, many engineers go into private practice. Depending on an engineer’s skills, experience and interests, opportunities are found in project management, project evaluation and planning, engineering design and engineering inspection and verification. Situations span the spectrum from contract engineer for hire to validation, inspection and sign-off on large complex projects. Providing an unbiased outsider’s opinion can catch errors and flaws that might have otherwise gone unnoticed, saving millions of dollars.
Forensic Engineering, and the National Academy of Forensic Engineers (NAFE)
Forensic engineering is defined by NAFE as the ‘application of the art and science of engineering in matters which are in, or may possibly relate to, the jurisprudence system, inclusive of alternative dispute resolution’. NAFE is a chartered affinity group of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE). Its members and associate members must be licensed PEs and have experience in forensic engineering case preparation. Full members must have testified as an expert witness in at least two cases. NAFE has continuing education requirements which are similar to those of NSPE. NAFE membership enhances one’s credibility as an expert witness. See www.NAFE.org
Testimony by Expert Witnesses:
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
In addition to engineering, expert witnesses practice in areas such as medical, business/financial, human resources, family/custody, insurance, police/penal, real estate and more. There is no defined requirement for declaring oneself an expert, however, the expert and his/her retaining attorney must convince the court of their expertise.
Engineers of any engineering discipline can and should enhance their career by obtaining their PE license, whether or not required by their present employer. Engineers well-established in their careers may see expert witness cases fall into their lap without any effort. To seriously pursue this path, search online for “Expert Witness Training”. A licensed PE with some expert witness experience may apply for NAFE membership to further establish their career as a Forensic Engineer and Expert Witness.
Featured guest blog post by Crystal S, author at LATRO Cellular Forensics Lab
Recently I read an article on Psychology Today that triggered some thoughts about kids, teens, and cell phones. Being a millennial, I identified with many things I read in this particular article. It also pointed out that kids and teens use their cell phones eight or more hours a day which was mind-blowing. According to PT, “kids are using their cell phones way too much and putting their mental health at terrible risk. National surveys are showing that kids today are more anxious than ever before, with spiking rates of depression and suicide.”
But Why Are Kids and Teens Reaching for their Cell Phones More Than Ever?Is it because of boredom, addiction, or for social interaction? I’ll be the first to admit that when my cell phone dings, I immediately reach for it. It is a crutch when it comes to a long day of working to space out on social media during my lunch hour. Kids and teens do the exact same thing. When you give a child a cell phone without any restriction, they treat it like candy. Kids love candy so they will eat and eat until they get sick and the same analogy can be said for their cell phones.
Also, addiction can be a scary word. I knew I was addicted when myself and our team experimented and put parental controls on our phones. To read the full experiment, check it out here. I reached the parental control limit before lunch so unfortunately cell phone addiction is real and alive and not just in our kids and teens.
But it seems our youth seems to be reaching for their cell phones more than ever because it stimulates their pleasure centers and sends waves of excitement throughout their bodies. Getting a cell phone notification whether its a text, DM, like, or comment makes kids and teens feel wanted, needed, liked, and accepted. This has been happening since social media skyrocketed back in the Myspace days. Millennials would race home to check their Myspaces to see their new notifications. Now its even easier because we all carry little computers in our pockets and get instant notifications and instant gratifications.
What’s Happening with their Social Skills?
It also seems that the younger generation is petrified of picking up their phones and calling family and friends. Its as if phone calls are only made when there is an emergency and instead of saying “hello” we say “what’s wrong, who died?” It is easier to send a text and get an instant answer but we see it more than ever with Gen X kids. They need to mentally prepare themselves to call people on the phone especially when its someone they don’t know or if they are asking for help. They will use technology such as email and instant chats before they ever pick the phone and call.
Even full on discussions and even arguments happen via text instead of sitting face-to-face and communicating. “Rage texting” is also another form of fighting over cell phones: inessentially sending vicious texts to one individual over and over again with no resolution. The problem with this is that the recipient isn’t able to retaliate their feelings or their answers go unread. Another problem is that the sender cannot see the recipient’s reaction so they send extremely hurtful texts that they might regret later.
Social skills are also hindered when kids and teens are in public. They tend to bury themselves in their phones instead of interacting with others around them. They could be missing out on normal social cues that help mature them.
What’s the Solution?
There are solutions for the world of social skills in our kids and teens: limit the cell phone use, add in other forms of excitement and pleasure inducing activities, and lead by example.
Limiting the cell phone use will challenge your kids and teens to fill their time with other activities but it can be hard especially if the cell phone was given without any restrictions. Putting on parental controls is an option but there’s ways around the locks so be cautious with that approach. If you believe your child is missing out on life and too plugged in, then take the steps necessary to help them which might include taking away their cell phones or even making them pay for it.
Adding in other forms of pleasure inducing activities is also another route to take. Replace the cell phone use with sports, after school clubs, new hobbies, family nights, game nights, and all without any cell phone use. Let your kids and teens show off their skills and talent through new sports and hobbies. This will also ensure constant human interaction and face-to-face connections for your kids so they don’t lose out on those key social skills.
Challenge yourself to regulate your cell phone use too. Pick a set time for no cell phones like dinner time, family activities, and an hour before bed. If you find it difficult to not check your phone every few minutes or to even put it down once you’re on it, then setting a routine might be the answer. You are leading by example for your kids so lead in the direction that will allow them to excel at life.
Featured blog sent in by: The Flying Locksmiths
A vacation checklist for before you leave town
The Flying Locksmiths understand that would-be thieves don’t take a break in the summer. Before you head out on your next vacation, use this checklist to help ensure you and your belongings in your home are as safe as possible.
The good news is great security makes for better vacations! Knowing your home is protected means you’ll worry less and be able to enjoy yourself more.
Have visibly secure window and door locks: Windows and doors are the first line defense towards protecting your home. In other words, these are not places to skimp on protection! All locks and installations are not considered equal: Invest in properly installed deadbolts for all your outside doors. Consulting with your local locksmith and getting the best locks for your particular home will not just make it harder to get in, but may deter the bad guys from even trying to begin with!
Pause your mail service: Decide what to do about your mail and newspaper delivery ahead of time. There are pros and cons to the following options and what you decide to do may depend on your unique situation. Fortunately, this has gotten much easier in recent years. All you have to do is visit this page on USPS.com and make your request. Doing this a few days ahead of time is best, but you can even request that the post office hold your mail as soon as the next day.
Stop newspaper delivery: Again, this is has become quicker and easier and can be done as late as the day before! Simply visit your local newspaper online and make your request. BUT depending on your situation (i.e. – has your neighborhood recently been targeted by thieves?), you may want to have a neighbor pick up paper and mail for the following reason: Burglars often watch our habits. If they notice that the mailman and paper delivery is suddenly bypassing your home, it may be a clear signal to them that you are out of town.
Consider your lighting and change up your lightbulbs: Lights that are left on 24/7 serve as a glowing beacon to would-be burglars. One inexpensive solution is to install dusk to dawn light bulbs in any outdoor fixtures, such as these.
Install outdoor motion detector lights: Nothing will give a would-be burglar pause more than a light that pops on unexpectedly. A variety of shapes and sizes are available from hard-wired options to battery-operated porch-lights. If you are going to leave on lights, be sure to leave on the ones that make sense to be left on, such as in bathrooms and hallways.
Don’t hide your valuables in the Master Bedroom: Don’t hide things in here! In the event of a break-in, the Master Bedroom is one of the first places that a burglar will look. If you have to keep valuables in your bedroom, be sure to keep them locked up in a secure home safe.
Of course, it’s best to deal with many of these items well ahead of your next vacay! So contact or give us a call at 1-800-649-5397 to help you get started with those deadbolts you’ve been meaning to get.
We know – no one likes dealing with this stuff. But we promise you’ll quiet those voices in your head that lead to us not appreciating the best parts of life as we should, sleep better and overall enjoy that hammock time more if you take these important precautions.
BONUS HOME SAFETY TIPS
Here are a few additional steps we take at the last minute, especially when leaving our homes for more than a few days:
· Adjust thermostats (don’t turn off, as leaving your house too hot or cold, can lead to other problems upon your return.)
· Turn off water main
· Unplug major appliances or use surge protectors on them
· Be sure refrigerator doors are shut
· And last but not least, be sure you remember where you put your house keys in your luggage, so you don’t need to call us when you get home!
Written by guest blogger Carol Obando-Derstine
Regional Affairs Director, PPL Electric Utilities
It’s a beautiful day – sun is shining, blue skies. Your family just arrived at your beach rental, ready to start your week-long vacation. And then, the power goes out. Five minutes pass…then five hours…then two days. There is no air conditioning, no refrigeration and the town has limited power. Angry, upset, frustrated, you turn your car around and head home. Your vacation is over before it began.
Power is something we take for granted, especially on beautiful summer days. But about two years ago, the above scenario was a reality. The Outer Banks, North Carolina experienced more than a week-long outage when a transmission line was accidentally hit during bridge construction work. Thousands of vacations were ruined and millions in small business revenue was lost.
Why would a problem on one power line affect such a large area? It has to do with what type of line was hit.
There are two major types of lines when thinking about the large, interconnected electric grid – transmission and distribution. Transmission lines (#2) transport high-voltage power over long distances to substations (#3) where voltage is reduced and sent out over distribution lines to serve homes and businesses (#4 and #5). You can think of it like the highway and local roadway system. Transmission lines are the highways – moving electricity efficiently and safely over long distances. Distribution lines are like the local roadways, delivering electricity directly to our homes and businesses. Transmission is the backbone of the grid. It enables a cleaner energy future by connecting us to wind, solar and hydroelectric power. It helps reliability, by getting power to where it’s needed most. It provides affordable power, by connecting consumers to hundreds of large-scale generators. It assists national security by providing a strong, integrated structure to respond to the increasing number and severity of weather, physical and cyber threats. And, it also drives local economies by delivering the electricity that powers all aspects of our lives. The importance of transmission and of a safe, secure and resilient grid will continue to increase. By investing now, we’re helping to reduce outages and keeping reliability strong.
To learn more about all we do to keep the lights on, visit pplelectric.com and click on the Reliability tab.
Featured blog sent in by: Snyder & Wiles, PC
6 out of every 10 Americans who reach age 65 will need long-term care at some point in their lives. And the older they become, the greater the risk they will need some form of long term care.
Medicare does not pay the expenses of long-term care incurred for day care at adult centers, home care by relatives or employed caretakers, and nursing home care. Medicare pays limited benefits for skilled nursing care only. $341,840 is the estimated lifetime cost of care for someone with dementia; $123,600 is the maximum amount of assets that a healthy spouse can retain for the other spouse to be eligible for long-term care benefits provided by Medicaid for 2019.
The only options available to a Lehigh Valley resident to cover the costs of long term care are as follows:
The estimated annual cost for a nursing home care facility is about $113,000 per year. At that rate, any family would go broke in no time caring for a loved one.
2. LONG TERM CARE INSURANCE:
Long Term Care Insurance is not cheap, costing anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per year for a couple depending on how old you are when you purchase the coverage and it is subject to an increase in premiums on a yearly basis.
The average Nursing Home stay is around 4 years. So you’ll need a policy that covers at least 4 years.
Medicaid financed nursing home care is available to those who qualify based on income and assets.
Available resources to an applicant for Medicaid must be less than $8,000.
With proper and advance planning, you do not have to go broke or let your family live impoverished in order to have proper care when you need it.
ONE SOLUTION IS IRREVOCABLE TRUSTS:
Medicaid Regulations impose a 5-year look back period for any transfers made to reduce assets in order to qualify for Medicaid benefits.
An Irrevocable Grantor Trust cannot be changed or terminated by the Grantor, once it has been created. It will require administration at the death of the Grantor and cannot easily be reached by the Grantor’s creditors. Unlike a Revocable Trust the Grantor does not own the assets. All of the property held in an Irrevocable Trust may not necessarily require probate.
An Irrevocable Trust is a primary tool in most Asset Protection and Estate Plans. The trusts can own almost any asset while providing shelter from the Grantor’s and Beneficiary’s divorce, creditors and legal problems. The trust can help keep assets in the family. This flexible tool allows Grantors to provide benefits for generations. These valuable benefits arise because once the Grantor transfers ownership of an asset to the trust; she/he has surrendered all incidents of ownership over that asset. It is the trust’s asset now, not the Grantor’s.
Typically, the Irrevocable Trust may be subject to PA Inheritance tax because the transfer to the trust is made for less than adequate consideration, and the trust reserves the right to income and designation of beneficiaries. But, this type of trust if properly planned for, may help insure your loved ones are taken care of and avoid you going broke in a nursing home. However, planning well in advance is the key to making any Estate Plan work for you.
To learn more, contact us at Snyder & Wiles, PC, 7731 Main Street, Fogelsville, PA, or 610-391-9500, or visit us at www.snyderwileslaw.com. We’ve been protecting your assets and your loved ones for over 22 years in the Lehigh Valley.
Featured blog sent in by: Kyle Lance, PT, DPT, Ali Narvaez, Rania Nimeh, Transformation Rehabilitation
Put down those French fries, grab some berries! Put down that soda, pour some green tea! Studies have shown that intermittent inflammation threatens one’s health. Inflammation has been linked to chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s. However, the likelihood of obtaining these conditions can be decreased — not through the pharmacy — but with your lifestyle choices through your diet, dental health, and exercise. Researchers promote the consideration of incorporating anti-inflammatory foods to help reduce the chances of such illnesses.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is a vital factor in the body’s healing process. To simplify things, the immune system causes a cascade of chemical reactions which leads to swelling and heat to protect and repair tissues in the body. Unfortunately, chronic or long-term, inflammation is essentially an over working of the immune system: it produces a steady, low level of swelling. Arteries, organs and other tissues can break down under this constant stress and this contributes to the formation of diseases such as cancer, diabetes and generalized pain. There has also been a link to the emergence of lupus, arthritis, and certain cancers after the immune system has gone awry.
Foods considered to be anti-inflammatory include:
Foods considered to coincide with inflammation include:
A diet high in inflammatory foods can be detrimental to your health but choosing the right anti-inflammatory foods can lower your risk of disease.
How we can help:
Come into Transform Rehabilitation and see our registered dietitian, Erica Smith, RD, LDN. Our dietitian can put together a personal diet plan, flexible with your lifestyle, that will promote a healthier and happier you! Next time you are reaching for the fries, pick up the phone instead and call (484) 387-1065 to schedule a consultation.
Featured blog post sent in by: Direct Kitchen
Making the decision to remodel your kitchen, bath or any other part of your home is huge. It’s fraught with anxiety and unknowns. A professional showroom’s role is to ease the fear and eliminate stress. That’s why it is important to understand that a professional showroom offers more than cabinets, countertops and appliances. A professional showroom is in the business of providing peace of mind.
How can you differentiate one showroom from another? Develop a checklist of information that a showroom needs to offer to help ensure peace of mind. You should expect a showroom to provide the following information:
Schedule: An excellent showroom will not only relate the anticipated start and end dates but the sequencing of construction. Scheduling is particularly important for kitchens and baths because of the lead times required for different products such as custom and semi-custom cabinets and specialty finished fixtures.
The team: The schedule also should identify which different trade professionals will be in your home and the timeframe for their arrival and departure.
Protecting your home: Showrooms should tell you who will lock up your home at the end of the day and how they are going to protect the space. This may include a dust prevention plan and identifying paintings, valuables and other items that may have to be removed from adjacent walls to protect them from potential damage.
Level of involvement and communication: You should expect a showroom to ask you how much you want to be involved in the project. You should identify the decisions that you want to be involved with such as how you’d like tile to be placed or approving lighting location before the space is wired. Your showroom team should also determine the best time and methodology for communicating with you if questions need to be answered or problems need to be addressed during the day and after hours.
Showroom concerns: Your showroom should identify concerns that it has before a project begins. Showrooms have designed and built hundreds if not thousands of new kitchens. They understand that on every project there is a potential for the unknown. To reduce anxiety and potential stress, expect your showroom to discuss the areas of concern it has before demolition begins.
Handling change orders: The procedure for handling change orders should be agreed upon before a project begins. Change orders are the result of a change in plans or uncovering the unexpected. Often times change orders occur because the existing infrastructure of the home does not meet current code requirements. How the changes are communicated and agreed upon should be part of the planning process.
For more info, download our resource guide “Showroom Visit”. Please let us know what additional questions we can answer for you, before you select your kitchen and bath specialist. Give us a call at 610-262-7235 to schedule a meeting at our showroom at 5585 MacArthur Road Whitehall, PA 18052. Got a quick question? Text us at 610-601-3083. Click here to schedule a meeting on line.
Read related post: Relationship between a home owner and a kitchen and bath designer
Guest blog post submitted by Murtaza Jaffer, EBC Printing
There is a lot to be learned from Target, which recently underwent a huge register outage that caused the company to lose out on nearly 100 million dollars in sales over a two day period.
On a Saturday afternoon, for roughly two hours, Target cash registers across the country stopped working, preventing customers from making purchases in stores. The next day, a similar outage occurred, causing registers to go down for 90 minutes. The problem, they said, was not caused by Target's software but by a third-party who provides their POS system.
Disgruntled customers, who were not notified of the issue until they got in line to checkout, left the store and shared their dissatisfaction across social media.
This is a prime example of how businesses are largely impacted by business downtime. Not only does it affect the hard sales from customers unable to make their purchases, but also lost productivity of employees standing around unable to work, brand damage, and data loss.
Downtime can cause more than an inconvenience, it could drive a company out of business all together; especially the smaller businesses who have less money to gamble with. In fact, according to the 2016 Cost of Data Center Outages report, unplanned downtime costs $8,851 per minute, up from $7,908 in 2013.
So what can we learn from Target's recent mishap?
• Don't panic if an issue occurs! Document everything and work towards a solution.
• Know who to contact if technology fails.
• Notify customers of the issue right away. Be upfront with what's going on and provide a timetable for fixing the problem (but don't lie if you are not sure!) Apologize and sympathize!
• Offer coupons, snacks, beverages to customers for the inconvenience.
• Once the problem is resolved, examine your system for internal and external weaknesses and find out where the problem originated. (Did someone trip over a power cord or was it a more widespread failure?)
• Moving forward, monitor your IT system so that you know about an issue before your customer does.
• If you are using a lower-grade hardware system, upgrade to an enterprise-level network infrastructure. Higher grade equipment helps maintain reliability so that productivity will not be lost.
• Have a Plan B/backup system in place, as well as a backup power supply in case weather is the culprit. Businesses can invest in an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS). A UPS provides backup battery power to your IT systems which kicks in the moment regular power goes offline. Through a UPS, any loss of power will immediately transfer to the battery supply, without any noticeable interruption from the user.
• Consider using a cloud server, which are housed in colocation centers. They are more convenient and reliable due to their easy accessibility, but they’re also safer since they create automatic backups to prevent in data loss for the client.
Follow these tips and don't let downtime take your business down!
Featured blog post sent in by: T3 Technologies
There is a certain percentage of businesses who say they have a Disaster Recovery Plan, (about 95%). There are far fewer businesses who have tested their Disaster Recovery Plan, (about 72%). And there a fewer still that would be able to recover from a disaster using their Disaster Recovery Plan, (no one knows for sure!).
If there was ever an example of a false sense of security, it can be found in the topic of Business Continuity Planning. So here are some points which I don’t think anyone will challenge:
1. Disasters or traumatic business interruptions can, and have, put companies out of business permanently.
2. Having a Disaster Recovery Plan or Business Continuity Plan without having it properly tested, is only slightly better than not having one at all.
3. Testing your organization’s plan internally, or with the same company who wrote the plan can be disastrous.
4. Failures almost always happen in scenarios that weren’t foreseen or were taken for granted.
The moral of this story: “Have your company’s DR/BC Plan audited and tested by an independent 3rd party!” If it is important enough to create, it must be validated.