Planning your web site

HtmlBuilding your web site is a serious time commitment. Each business is unique, and therefore has unique needs for a web site. With this in mind, I will generalize the process to building your site by breaking it down into three stages: the Planning Stage, the Building Stage, and the Maintenance Stage. This article discusses the Planning Stage.

Stage 1: Planning it all out

Ultimately, everything we do in relation to our businesses comes down to making a living for ourselves. You know, that “bottom line” thing. While we enjoy our work and enjoy our independence, as business-owners we always need to remember that our time is important–at least, it is to us! Because our time is so valuable, careful planning will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Generally, when planning your site, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Decide your web site’s purpose. (Why do you want a web site?)
  2. Collect/create the information you want to include on your web site.
  3. Map out your web site.
  4. Pick your programs. (Which web creation tools will you use?)

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Purpose: Why do you want a web site?

You may have a number of reasons for building your own web site, and you should try to list all of them. (I recommend actually writing them down, and keeping this list for future reference.) Your purpose(s) will depend largely on the type and size of your business, and might include the desire to advertise your business, to sell your products, to reach a larger customer base, and so forth.

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Collecting your information

You’ll need to decide on the information to include in your web site. I suggest starting off with a brain-storming session that includes you, and possibly a few of your key employees (if you have them). Think about the questions your customers ask you most often, about the products/services you want to highlight, and about the information that is most related to your purposes (see #1 above).

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Mapping out your web site

This stage is also known as “story-boarding,” and is similar to the processes used in film-making, advertising, and other similar fields. The idea is to build a map of your site that you can use to visualize the entire system you’re working on. I find maps useful when working on web sites because they allow me to see my progress–to keep track of what I’ve finished and what I still need to do.

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Selecting your tools

The tools you use to build a web site are entirely up to you because there are so many available. Generally speaking, you’ll need an HTML editor (text or “WYSIWYG“*), an FTP program, a graphics editing program, and a server on which to house your web files. Some HTML editors come with the FTP and graphics functions within them. Most newer computers come with all the programs you’ll need.

Shock Disinfection of Your Well: Eliminate Harmful Well Bacteria

The following is a guest post from Houston, Texas real estate developer and entrepreneur Tracy Suttles.

I have stated in multiple articles that well supplied water in rural residential properties can be a source of concern. Having water contaminated with E. Coli or Coliform bacteria can drastically impact the sale of your home, by making the water unsafe to drink.

Most municipalities have testing facilities so you can check prior to the sale of your home to see if the water is safe. Regardless of whether you are selling or not it is a good idea to test your water supply twice a year.

Testing will return a numeric result based PPM (Parts Per Million) found in the tested sample of E. Coli and Coliform bacteria. The preferred reading is 0 E. Coli and 0 Coliform but up to 5 PPM Coliform is considered a safe level.

There is a method that doesn’t require the expensive addition of adding a reverse osmosis system or UV system to clean the bacteria out of the water supply before it exits the tap. This method is called Shock Disinfections or chlorinating your well.

Shocking your well supply is recommended if,

  • Lab results indicate a level of bacteria,
  • After you’ve replace or repaired the pump,
  • When the water distribution system is opened for repairs
  • Flood waters have reached the well supply and possibly contaminated the system

Shock Chlorination is recommended in these circumstances to ensure that bacteria contamination is controlled.

In order to shock your well there are a few simple steps you must take,

  1. Fill a five-gallon container with fresh water. If concentrated chlorine comes in contact with your skin or eyes use fresh water to flush the effected areas for several minutes. If contact is with your eyes go to the nearest medical facility for treatment immediately.
  2. Next ensure the well construction is able to prevent the direct entry of contaminates. Fin and eliminate any direct sources of contamination.
  3. Disinfect any well components that could be a source of future contamination.
  4. Isolate portions of the well system that could be degraded by the Chlorine solution.
  5. Mix sufficient chlorine-based chemical (I personally use household bleach) with the well water to create a solution containing 200 milligrams per litre (mg/l), of chlorine throughout the entire system. So mixture of ½ gallon of bleach to 5 gallons of fresh water is usually adequate.

Drain as much water from the system as possible. A good rule of thumb is to run the taps in the house until you no longer smell bleach in the water supply.

Research Tax Liens

TaxWhen the owner of a piece of real property fails to pay the proper amount of taxes due, the governmental entity to which the taxes are owed places a claim, or tax lien, on the property to ensure payment.

The tax liens will allow the taxing authority to sell the property, usually in a public auction and often for the taxes owed or even less. This creates an opportunity for a person with the time to properly research this issue and the willingness to invest a little cash to obtain real estate at bargain basement prices.

Researching a tax lien is easy, once you determine the area in which you want to find a property being sold for a tax lien. All, or at least a significant portion, of the taxes on which the lien is based will likely be local taxes, so a visit with the taxing authorities in that area is the best place to start. Typically, tax liens are imposed by city or county governments, as well as school districts.

An internet search using the name of the area and the terms “tax assessor, “taxing authority,” “property taxes”, and “tax liens” and “property tax,” will provide a good starting point. In addition, the courthouse and the sheriff’s office normally have bulletin boards on which they lst dates and times of tax lien auctions.

Once the taxing authority is located, they should be contacted first by email or telephone. Upon request, the entity will provide either a list available in their office or a location online where the properties to be sold are listed.

Once a property is located that has potential, the prospective buyer should visit the property to determine the condition as well as any other characteristics which might play into a decision to bid on the property.

Since the buyer is not likely to want to invest the money into a full, professionally done title search on a piece of property which is not yet purchased, a quick title search in the county land records should be done. This may reveal any obvious problems with the property, such as easements that are undesirable, lack of access, and any federal liens. If the buyer is unable to conduct these cursory title searches themselves, many paralegals will do this for a small fee, or an attorney can be hired to conduct the search or, even better in the long run, teach the buyer how to do it themselves.

While at the property records office, notes should be made on the legal and physical descriptions of the property. These offices often have plat maps showing the location of the property as well. Property in the western United States use a block, grid survey system while those in the east, including Texas, use a variety of formats.

The current owner’s contact information will also be available at the office of the taxing authority. Often, a good deal can be struck if a buyer contacts the owner directly, preventing the need for an auction.

Jody Kriss, Embattled Real Estate Developer, Has One Lawsuit (Of Many) Dropped Against Him

It has been over three years since a real estate development consultant accused former business partner Jody Kriss of utilizing mob tactics to put his life in danger. Last week, developer turned Mob informant Sal Lauria withdrew a $5 million lawsuit against Kriss, stating that he wished to move on with his life and distance himself from the scrutiny brought on by connections with President Donald Trump.
Salvatore Lauria, who worked for the Bayrock Group several years ago, sued East River Partners principal Jody Kriss for allegedly putting his life in harm’s way with persistent legal suits against Bayrock themselves. Bayrock Group worked on several Trump-branded developments, including the Trump International in Fort Lauderdale and the Trump SoHo in New York City.
In the lawsuit, Jody Kriss was accused of illegally handing over sealed government files to a lawyer representing mob members who Lauria assisted with putting behind bars. Allegedly, this led to a Mafia member assaulting Lauria in the middle of the day at a restaurant in Brooklyn. According to the lawsuit, the Mafia member then threatened Lauria’s life.
Regardless of these accusations against Jody Kriss, Lauria did not actively pursue this case in court. In March 2016, Erika Edwards, Supreme Court Judge for the state of New York, requested Lauria to respond to discovery requests by April 3, and then to appear for a deposition the following month. On the deadline day, Lauria changed attorneys, filing for extensions on both the deposition and discovery requests.
In an affidavit, Lauria told the courts that he did not wish to further pursue the suit, as the pain Jody Kriss had caused had faded. Salvatore Lauria added that he felt vindicated, as two frivolous lawsuits Jody Kriss had filed against him and hundreds of others (including President Donald Trump) had been dismissed from the courts with prejudice.
“When this action was commenced in 2014, the physical and emotional pain that I was feeling due to the actions of Mr. Kriss was fresher in my mind, and my desire to hold him accountable was stronger than it is now,” Lauria wrote. “My desire to hold him accountable is no longer strong enough to justify the continuing expense and other problems… that continued litigation would entail.”
Lauria also stated that he wished to distance himself from media scrutiny that was amplified by the election of Donald Trump.
Jody Kriss denied Lauria’s claims, stating that the lawsuit’s purpose was only to further damage his spotted reputation, which includes involvement in billion dollar legal suits, a case of child endangerment, unlawful tenant eviction, and potential involvement in a real estate scam led by former NBA star Tate George. Kriss has been accused on multiple occasions of using his affiliations to President Donald Trump to persuade sales and potentially commit fraud.
There have even been allegations of Kriss having connections to the Russian Mafia, and funneling Mafia money through East River Partners to use in real estate transactions. As written in Georgia Today in June 2016:
Kriss’ current financial backing must come from other sources, which, in turn, poses the question that journalists and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and other countries are trying to answer.

Playing to Your Strengths: How to Make the Most of Your Talent

strYou’re told to play to your strengths, but what are they and how do you do it? Many people are not fully aware of their strengths. When people get feedback about a strength, they often look surprised. They say it is just their job or they ask “Doesn’t everybody do that?” This shows that we discount the things we find easy to do or enjoy doing. Then we assume that everyone can do them. This is poor self-perception if you are overly aware of one or two weaknesses but unaware of your core strengths.

Strong self-confidence is the most important benefit of changing this imbalance so that we are more aware of our strengths. Confidence is our number one strength. Without confidence, we struggle to make full use of our strengths. When we are under pressure, we revert to our natural selves, but if we lack confidence, we freeze and cannot perform. Think of a golfer, baseball pitcher or tennis player who has an abundance of talent but who has lost confidence. These otherwise excellent performers can’t do their stuff if their confidence is lacking.

How to Assess Your Strengths

The first step in assessing your strengths is to determine which ones are most important in your role and your line of work. These are your strategic strengths, the ones most critical for success in your current job or next one. When you have a list of core competencies for the role, list them in order of strength for you from top to bottom. Ask yourself which ones you enjoy using the most and find easiest to use. This is a good way of identifying what you are good at. You could rate yourself on a five point scale for each competency but you might be tempted to give yourself overly high or low scores across the board. It is harder but more accurate to rank order them in a list. If you have some colleagues who know you well and are willing to give you honest feedback, ask them to do the same for you. Keep in mind, however, that they may not know you well enough to assess you accurately. Ask your boss to rate you too. You might include a few blank spaces for your raters to add extra competencies. It also helps to have questions on your feedback form where you ask people to list three things they would like you to start doing, three to stop doing and three to do more of.

How to Play to Your Strengths

If you are a manager whose strengths revolve around product development but you don’t like managing people, then you may simply have to set up a personal development plan for this area. However, if you have weaknesses in budgeting, planning, innovation or strategic thinking, you could delegate some of these tasks. You might cover off innovation and strategic thinking by brainstorming future possibilities with your team. The point is to apply the 80-20 rule. You should spend 80 percent of your time making use of your key strengths. This is just wise investment strategy. You need to invest your resources where you will get the best return.

Cutting Business Expenses in a Hurry: How to Achieve Fast Short Term Cost Reductions in a Company

reductionsWhen a company is having a problem with a drop in sales, or a cash shortfall, management needs to find real reductions in expense. Many strategies will work in a number of industries.

Reducing Salary Cost

In many industries, salary and benefits are major components of expense, up to 80% of total cost of business in some sectors. A reduction in work force (RIF) can reduce cost, but generally takes time to take effect. There can be the immediate cost of severance, outplacement assistance or benefits that delay savings.

A better short term effect is the reduction of hours from full to part time, or cutting the work day, for example from eight hours a day to seven. Lunches can be expanded in order to maintain coverage.

Reducing overtime is a key strategy for immediate savings. Hourly employees, especially those on time clocks can earn incidental overtime, loosely defined as extra tenths or quarters of an hour by clocking in early or out late.

Any kind outside labor, or contract labor should be reviewed. Companies pay a premium for contract labor, and unless the contract stipulates a certain number of hours, these hours can be reduced quickly in a crisis.

Some industries utilize bonuses for coverage or payments for employees to be on-call. These should always be watched closely, and if not needed, can be cut first.

Position controls are listings of employees and positions listing the scheduled hours for an employee. If a position control exists, management should compare the actual worked hours to what is scheduled. They may find that some part-time employees are working full time hours.

Cutting Supply Expense

Another large area of cost in many companies is supply expense. During a major downturn, businesses can save cash by spending down inventories of supplies.

If an item is recognized as inventory on the balance sheet, cutting into inventory will not result in an expense saving, since this will just reduce an asset the next time supplies are inventoried. It will save cash, however, and this generally the most important goal.

If the supply is expensed when purchased, using up excess stock will reduce both general ledger expense and cash outflow.

Reducing Other Expenses

Short-term savings can be achieved by cutting other non-necessary items:

  • Purchased Services – Anything that is bought from vendors outside the company should be questioned. If an service can be brought inhouse using current staff, employees are better utilized and expenses reduced.
  • Travel and Seminar Expense – Cutting education may be a negative in the long run, but surviving to make the long run may require cutbacks. Alternatives such as webinars and distance learning may prove to more efficient and equally valuable.
  • Preventative Maintenance – This tactic may prove to be short-sighted, because not maintaining equipment will be costly later on. It may be necessary to postpone cosmetic repairs or delay others. Equipment that is vital to core operations should be maintained in top working order.

Getting past a difficult period for the company will involve tough choices, but strengthening the business can help the business survive the downturn.

Fostering Team Work: What kind of team do you really want?

teamTeam work is rightly regarded as vital for success at work today. But before you launch into a team building exercise, think carefully about exactly what sort of team work you want. Do people reporting to you need to collaborate to get things done or do they operate autonomously? If the latter, then what cooperation do you need from them? Maybe you just need them to participate more fully in meetings with you. Improving team work must add value to your overall output, not be done just for the sake of it.

If you decide that team work really is critical in your organization, there are 3 key steps you should take. The first is to spend a bit more time together socially, and on a regular basis, so everyone relaxes and gets to know each other. Next, do some analysis of style differences so team members better understand where their colleagues are coming from, what is important to them and how to communicate with them effectively.

The third, and most important, step is to talk through with them what team work should mean in your organization. Everyone in your team should have input into what, for them, counts as good team work. Your team should discuss how they will behave with each other, what type of support and cooperation everyone wants, how they want to communicate and what they want from you. It’s a good idea to agree how you will deal with conflict, how you will deal with criticism nondefensively and how you will foster openness. This means agreeing to thank people for saying unpopular things instead of putting them down or arguing. It’s a matter of defining the success criteria or values you will live by as a team. You should also agree how to measure your performance as a team and how you will reward and celebrate successful team work. To monitor your effectiveness as a team, you might draw up a list of success criteria and assess yourselves as a team against your criteria at least once a quarter, but more often if improving team work is really vital and you have a lot of work to do to reach the level of team performance you need. To change the way your team behaves, it is vital to reward and celebrate team work. The old saying, ‘’you get what you pay for’’ applies here. So, if you constantly reward superstar individual efforts and foster competition between people, that is what you will get, not better team work.

Know Your Customers

samplesDo you serve themor just depend on them to buy from you? Gaining a competitive advantage is not easy for an entrepreneur even a small business. If you focus on certain customers and send them a warm but enticing messages, you can achieve great results through true Customer Knowledge.

What is gained by knowing your customers? Two things; (1) getting to them through their affective or emotional state and (2) knowing how to apply the benefit of the product or service.

Other factors can be considered, like price, location, quality and much more, but nothing speaks like emotions overcome by benefit. What do your customers really want when they buy from you? Even if they are buying from someone else they still want something that saves them time, makes them look good, even makes them feel good when their sick. It could be a gift their after, or a small item to make someone else feel or look good. Spend time knowing what they want and for what or whom.

Spending Time

You will need to spend some time gathering information about your customers. Some companies have covered the United Stated end to end in search of customers that potentially have interest in what they sell. Do you know what you sell? Do you know everything you sell or offer? Take the customer test: write everything down that you sell and see if you can pick out one or two things or services that you think a customer will like the most. This is called setting priorities my friends. Hard isnt it? Well join the club; its only hard because you are not the customer, so be the customer. Go and get some customers, offer them something for nothing (within reason of course) and they will be thankful and probably tell other people who are potential customers.

How? Think of ways to catch their heart, emotions with benefit. Give them options, alternatives and goodies, and more goodies. For example, if you send a letter to a customer telling them about your dynamic new product, send them a product (or sample)for free! Give them options to get more, give them alternatives between products, and throw in a calendar, pen or something warm.

To gain your customers buying strength you need to know a few things. First, no customer wants to just stop by just to chat, if they do, they are not there to buy. The most often want to buy something or get ideas (what a novel concept) of things to buy. Second, more times that you can imagine customers will already have in mind what they are after, if you trap them into buying your “on-sale” items they won’t come back. Instead, try offering a sale brochure or featured items list for that week or month; offer it to them with a free calendar or pen, or something useful.

Business-to-Business Media Companies: Making Some Unusual Publications Serve a Purpose

mediaThe Internet has given society a way to get instantaneous updates on a variety of topics, from celebrities to healthcare reforms, but sifting through the trivial tidbits and erroneous information is time consuming when one is looking for solid knowledge.

Fact finding is becoming increasingly difficult, especially for those in the business world, who are looking for concrete statistical figures on the competition, or sound information regarding upcoming business trends. The solution to this problem is at the heart of business-to-business media companies.

What is a Business-to-Business Media Company?

They are a breed of companies that typically produce niche publications, especially for professionals that want specific information about their own genre of business. For example, a B2B media company produces a monthly magazine called Rock, Paper, Roll that specifically targets paper distribution companies. The magazine includes interviews with those in the industry and new technologies business owners are taking advantage of.

Granted, the average person would pick up this magazine and be lulled to sleep, but for those immersed in the industry, the B2B media company is providing useful information that professionals would not be able to obtain in a condensed format anywhere else.

Common Target Industries for Business-to-Business Media Companies

In a sea of niche publications like, Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction from Cygnus Business Media or National Floor Trends from BNP Media, there are categories of industries B2B media companies tend to focus on. The majority of the publications are for the professionals in blue collar commerce such as manufacturing and construction. Because the concept of specialized media can appeal to almost every industry, there are also publications for those more interested in attracting patrons like restaurant owners.

If an industry is not large enough for a big circulation, or updates more frequent than a useful magazine can be published, media companies may opt to offer newsletters instead, which are cheaper and can be produced more rapidly.

Why Business-to-Business Media Companies are Important

Niche business publications will never be as exciting as the grocery store tabloids, but these B2B media companies are bridging a gap in communication for professionals and manufactures that make decisions that affect a lot of employees and customers.

These magazines also offer opportunities for individual efforts to be known within a sect that could open up doors within other similar companies. Bottom line: any company that assists working individuals with trustworthy industry knowledge and provides an outlet for discussion and networking is important.

After Disaster Strikes How Do You Recover

disasterIt has been a tremendously unnerving time during the last two weeks, and most of us will still be in shock forever. In every tragedy there is great triumph to be seen. In business as it is in life, we never really believe we will loose our precious comfort zone and all of its luxuries. Think again and be ever so watchful and vigilant for your country and your neighbor. In the business world you must pick up the pieces and go on, and as bad as this incident was it is entirely possible it could happen again. This article is about helping recover your business. It is a tough road to go down but if you have ever been in a disaster you know, so bear with me. Here goes.

Are your business managers and employees ready for a disaster? Say it with meYes we are!

In this article I will explore the world of disaster recovery for businesses. This aspect of business practice is rarely funded, not practiced, and oftentimes forgotten. Nothing could be worse than losing friends and loved ones to a horrific tragedy, but people in this world will tell you that if something happens to them, they would want you to carry on. So to grant their wish lets use that sad energy and turn it into mad energy.

Its especially hard when you loose a great deal of your leadership structure, like the New York Fire Department did in the recent World Trade Center tragedy. As a matter of fact during my research for this article I found that many businesses either did not have a disaster recovery plan or it was so outdated that only certain aspect of it were still applicable. Small businesses are the ones most often hardest hit. These small businesses are often unprepared for a disaster. With few employees, there is usually no one designated to create a contingency plan, and with small budgets, there is often no money to fund a plan even if it’s created.

I found that even though there is an absence of contingency planning in small businesses, it can also be found in larger companies, but it is not as widespread. For example, many of the large businesses in the Oklahoma City area had recovery plans in effect, which helped them stay in business following the bomb’s explosion on April 19, 1995.

The Social Security Administration, which was housed in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, was able to continue client’s claims with no interruption, despite the fact that their business site was destroyed in the blast. Because of contingency planning, almost all information on Oklahoma’s 100,000 social security clients is stored at a computer center on the East Coast. When the disaster occurred, workers in Dallas immediately reassigned the workload to other offices and calls were routed to other offices where specially briefed staff members handled them.