30 July 2014
Business Adviser

Why Having a Virtual Assistant is Necessary Today

employerIf you are feeling overworked and burdened with so many tasks, a virtual assistant just may be the answer to your problems. With so many important aspects of business that require your time and effort, you can delegate some urgent tasks—or simply those you aren’t willing to do—to refocus and maintain a smooth flow of business.

These tasks may include screening and responding to e-mail, scheduling and confirming appointments, travel booking, making calls, extensive researching, creating invoices, tracking reimbursements, and other tasks that you may not want to handle yourself.

Most small business owners have a false notion that outsourcing is something exclusively for big businesses. It’s not. You don’t need to be a huge corporation to outsource.

According to 365VirtualAssistant, virtual assistants can help you in so many different ways.

Having an extra set of hands

You can focus on the tasks that only you can do. Therefore, other aspects of work won’t stall while you focus on matters that are more important or more within your area of expertise.

Added flexibility

Depending on your agreement, virtual assistants can be either short-term or long-term. You won’t have to pay for their services when you don’t need them.

Stress load relief

The key to running a successful business is to maximize production. It is hard to do when you are overworked and stressed. When it comes to physical staffing, it takes quite a long time to find the right person for the job. Recruiting, hiring, and training is time-consuming and costly.You won’t be swamped with tasks if you have an assistant.

Remember that spending long hours at the office does not necessarily mean you are getting the job done. Also, be sure to determine your needs before hiring a virtual assistant. By making sure of this, you clearly set their expectations and responsibilities.

Hiring a virtual assistant can help to refocus your business. When you start to enjoy the benefits that come with having a virtual assistant, you will wonder why you didn’t hire one sooner and how you managed to get along without one.

28 July 2014
Let's Study

A Call for Class: 3 Ways You Are Probably Messing Up Wedding Etiquette

bridal carWedding etiquette is so intricate many bride-to-be commit mistakes that make guests feel slighted. Navigating each wedding planning scenario can be challenging. Just because you are the bride, however, does not mean you get to do whatever you want.

Even if you think you are following the rules or has everything under control, it’s easy to overlook some important things.

Sending save-the-dates to all guests

With everyone’s busy schedule to consider and some guests scattered across the country, save-the-date cards are a great way to give advance notice of your big day. According to perfectlyinvited.com and other save-the-date card providers, however, you don’t have to send cards to everyone on your guest list. Cut costs by sending only to those guests who will likely need to make arrangements in advance or who will be traveling.

Making guests wait too long

Having a morning wedding and a late afternoon reception will only make your guests want to nap. All the excitement in the morning, then they will be groggy for the reception. Do your best to minimize the in-between time. Of course, you want your guests to eat, drink, and be merry. If a large time gap is inevitable, make them feel entertained by sending drinks and snack at a hotel where they will be staying.

Unclear who’s invited and who’s not

Don’t invite someone to your bridal shower if they are not invited to your special day. It would only look like they were a good friend to give you a gift, but not good enough to celebrate with you on your wedding. Bridal showers are a way to celebrate with the bride’s closest and dearest friends, so every shower guest must be on the wedding guest list.

The rules of wedding etiquette are constantly changing and it’s easy to get into terrible situations. When you are about to wed, it does not hurt to brush up on the finer details.

26 July 2014
The Daily News

Efficient Irrigation: Saving Water in Landscape and Garden

landscape gardenThe use of a well-designed irrigation system is the most efficient way to water your garden and plants. Whether you’re watering a lawn or a vegetable garden, the right irrigation system can help you reduce waste while delivering the required amount of water.

OakleighManor.com shares information about efficient irrigation:

Drip Irrigation

This type of irrigation system is a good way to save water, as the system delivers the water directly to the plant’s roots, reducing waste. A drip irrigation system usually consists of a long, plastic tube buried below the ground. It has emitters that release water, and you can either turn on the drip system manually or set it on a timer.

Soaker Hoses

Soaker hoses are a type of drip irrigation, but are not automated. The use of this contraption can also help with your water conservation efforts, as the water seeps through the tiny pores along the length of the hose. These hoses also provide moisture to the root zone of the plants. Multiple hoses can be connected to one another to form an extensive line irrigation system.

Rainwater Harvesting

Colleting rainwater in barrels is an efficient way to water the yard. It is best to use a closed system for harvesting the water to prevent evaporation. You can recapture the rainwater by using a wooden or plastic drum with a spigot near the bottom. You can also put a barrel below a downspout to catch water coming from the roof.

Timer and Sensors

Use timers and sensors to adjust the water flow in your yard. Quality sensors can measure the moisture of the soil and the actual rainfall to determine how much water is really needed. If you have extra money for it, you can use an evapotranspiration (ET) controller to reduce water use by 20 to 30 per cent.

When building your irrigation system, seek professional advice to avoid a poorly designed and installed system that will only waste water. It is also best to perform proper system maintenance to keep it working efficiently.

26 July 2014
Business Adviser

What to Do if Your Tenant has an Unauthorized Occupant

Have you ever visited one of your rental properties only to find a complete stranger opening the door? Your tenant insists the person is just a guest, but over time you notice that they are almost always there. If your tenant has an unauthorized person living with them – and possibly even subletting your property – then you need to take action.

Apartment door1. Check your leaseLegalBrains.com states that it is essential to have proper lease agreements to protect your liability exposure. Your lease should have a clause specifically prohibiting tenants from keeping unauthorized residents. This won’t always prevent it from happening, but it will give you the legal means to solve the problem. Recommended details to be included in the clause are:

  • The number of days before a guest is considered an occupant
  •  The rent amount will increase per person per month
  • A statement that the owner may terminate the lease at his sole discretion

Also, it’s helpful to indicate that any legal fees will be at the tenant’s expense. If any of these details are absent from your current lease, you may want to update it with a Change of Terms Notice form.

2. Consider authorizing it – This is rarely possible, but if the unauthorized occupant is cooperative, you can make them go through the process of becoming a proper tenant. Give them a rental application, do a background check, and have them sign the lease to make them legally responsible.

3. Deliver a lease violation notice –If convincing the tenant to voluntarily evict their guest seems unlikely, then it’s time to consider legal action. Notify the tenant of their lease violation, and give them the required number of days to fix their default. Ensure that they are aware of the consequences for non-compliance, such as fees or eviction.

4. Gather evidence – If the matter reaches court, you have to prove that a person is an unauthorized tenant and not just a guest. Surveillance camera footage and photos showing how often they are at the premises, with detailed logs of their arrivals and departures, will usually suffice. Any instances of property damage caused by the illegal occupant will also make your case stronger.

It’s important to act quickly and decisively when you discover this. Unauthorized occupants will severely increase the wear and tear of your property, causing it to lose value. They could also bother, scare, or even outright harm your other tenants.

25 July 2014
Tech 101

Welcome to the Future: Laser and How It Will Change the World

laser line levelBuckle up, sci-fi fans, your laser-filled dreams are slowly becoming a reality. Thanks to many developments, this technology is starting to steal the limelight across various industries.

The Manufacturing Sector

If there’s one thing the manufacturing sector is always concerned about, it’s productivity. This encompasses everything from the speed of making one item to overall equipment effectiveness. Laser plays a big role in this matter.

LaserToolsCo.com says that there are already many tools that big brands in the construction and manufacturing industry use. Despite the existence of these machines, developments are still underway and will hopefully yield good results. As a matter of fact, laser technology shows some promise in 3D printing.

The Oil and Gas Industry

Laser technology is also making waves in the oil and gas industry. It all began with a few experiments, but now the commerce has become dependent on laser-guided drilling and other applications of amplified light.

Industry giant, ExxonMobil, is one of the companies leading different innovation projects in the oil and gas sector. Apart from maximizing laser-guided drilling and similar technologies, there are also other ongoing innovations about the way the world drills the ground for oil.

The Military

Perhaps this is the area where Star Wars fans truly enjoy the development in laser. Just recently, the US military has announced efforts to create laser-based weapons against drones. While this isn’t exactly Death Star’s super laser (which, by the way, can open a planet to its core with just 30% of its power), the US has certainly opened many possibilities with light, particularly with the idea of weaponizing it and maintaining peace and order.

While laser used to be a thing of science fiction stories, its development for real-world uses has certainly leapt miles ahead. Soon enough, we would be seeing more technology using this amplified light and, hopefully, these advancements would make the world a better place.

23 July 2014
Tech 101

3 Designing Habits to Make a Website User-Centred

Web designWhilst many amateurish designers focus on fancy aesthetics and resource-heavy backdrops, the professionals think about the user when creating a website. Although people recognise the appeal of the portal, the design defeats its purpose when it hampers its functionality and dulls the user experience.

This is the reason DigitalCherry.co.uk advises professional web designers to focus more on the user than the visual impact, especially when it comes to eCommerce platforms. A website, after all, is not just a work of art; it’s a portal that facilitates communication between a brand and its target audience.

To do this, you have to observe these three habits:

Make the site visible

At first glance, your user should understand the layout of the website. Visibility is the first principle you should adhere to. Keep vital site elements, such as navigation bars and sitemaps, easy to find on the screen. When you have the essentials in sight all the time, you encourage your user to be more confident in exploring the website and provide them a simple way to navigate around it.

Keep memory load to a minimum

The problem with websites focused on visual impact is that they take too much time to load. As a result, the user spends some extra time staring at a white page before the content becomes visible. Even though you have a stunning photograph there, you sacrificed user experience for that purely decorative element. So keep things simple (but not necessarily minimalist) to avoid a long loading time.

Today’s Internet users have short attention span. Therefore, you have to find a way to deliver the information fast – and this is where a short memory load time comes in nifty.

Choose the right visual elements

In web design, you’re free to be creative provided that user experience continues to reign supreme. To come up with a user-centred design, your site should be both simple and interesting. The former is easy to achieve, but the latter requires a judicious use of colours, typefaces, and images for the overall appeal. Play around, but do so sensibly.

There is the need for a website to be attractive, but the importance of the user experience topples that. For the next website you will design, make sure that you observe these three habits and focus more on the audience to improve its impact on the users.

23 July 2014
The Daily News

You’re Undernourished: Signs of Nutrient Deficiency

nutrient deficiencyListening to the signals sent by your body is one of the best ways to make sure that you’re getting your daily nutritional needs. If you notice a change in your skin, nails, hair, or the way you feel, you may be falling short on providing your body the vitamins and minerals it needs.

Green Gold Nutrition shares a few signs of nutrient deficiency:

Weak Bones and Muscles

Strong muscles and bones are essential to feeling energized and healthy. If you frequently suffer from cramps and injuries from physical activities, you may be lacking certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, copper, and zinc.

Weak and Ridged Nails

Brittle or weak nails are a common indication of deficiency in zinc, a mineral needed for the proper functioning of the immune system. Zinc is also important for cell growth and division. If your nails appear thin with raised ridges, however, it may be a sign of iron deficiency anemia.

Tired All the Time

While feeling tired frequently is a natural reaction to poor diet or overwork, it can also signal certain illnesses and nutrient deficiency. Being tired all the time is also a sign that you lack vitamins B1, B3, B12, vitamin D, potassium or magnesium. Practicing good stress management and eating a healthy sugar-free diet helps combat signs of fatigue.

Skin Blemishes

Skin blemishes like acne and age spots are often caused by a deficiency in Vitamin A. This vitamin is important because it helps remove dead skin and reduces the likelihood of developing clogged pores. It is advisable to eat more green and leafy vegetables for more Vitamin A.

Lack of Appetite

According to experts, chronic lack of appetite signals nutritional deficiency. If you suddenly find yourself skipping meals because you’re not hungry, you may have an iron deficiency. Make sure to alert your doctor if your appetite changes to address any nutritional problems.

Nutritional deficiencies can persist for a long time before showing signs of symptoms. Make sure to watch for these indicators and talk to your doctor about it. Develop a healthy and balanced diet and purchase multivitamins or nutritional supplements recommended by your physician.

14 July 2014
The Daily News

Don’t Let These 5 Things Ruin Your Antique Furniture

antique furnitureAntiques are a wonderful addition to any home. They add character, are a part of history, and are great conversation pieces when visitors are over. If they have been in your family for a long time, they likely hold fond memories. But they are also fragile and vulnerable, and many things can hurt their integrity, authenticity, and value.

Here are several factors that you must consider if you want to preserve your antique furniture:

1. Climate and Temperature – Many antiques are made of wood, so they are susceptible to changes in temperature and moisture. Before you move your furniture to a different room, make sure to choose a good spot. Avoid heating vents, direct sunlight, or placing them in attics.

2. Improper Refinishing – Too many people try to do a refinishing job by themselves, and they end up ruining the antique. When it comes to refinishing or painting
antique furniture, less is more. If you believe that your piece would benefit from refinishing, ask for help from a professional.

3. Cleaning – Off the shelf cleaning materials will often do more harm than good, leaving behind a layer of wax and hydrocarbons. Cleaning truly valuable pieces can even be disastrous, as you may end up damaging the patina.

4. Pests – While intentionally damaging a centuries-old piece of furniture would be unthinkable for humans, insects only see it as food. Wood boring pests will have a massive detrimental effect on your antique’s value, structure, and long term preservation. If you think you have an infestation in your home, contact an extermination service, such as edgepestcontrol.com, immediately.

5. Pets – If you want to save your prized Chippendale piece from being damaged, you need to get a scratching post for your cat. Of course, it can be a challenge to encourage him to use the post over your antique, so make sure to place it in a visible and accessible place. Train your pet to use it, and try to limit their access to your antiques.

Great antiques, especially period furniture, need to be treated with care. Keep them in pristine condition by doing your research and using your best judgment.

8 July 2014
Business Adviser

Wipe Your Way to Working Better

Office desk with suppliesIt is the company’s job to make sure the workplace is a safe environment that prioritises each employee’s health. That said, management can only do so much. Having a healthy and productive work environment still rests primarily on the individual, and it all starts with the desk.

The organisation of your desk can determine how well you do your work. Once your company is done checking the vents and hiring health and safety consultants to confer with on the right furniture, your work space is your responsibility.

Some suggestions to make sure your little corner of the office helps you do better at work:

  1. Personalise your space. Putting up photographs or even decorative elements is not a sign of a lack of professionalism; it actually inspires and encourages you. For people who perform creative tasks for the company, decor can go a long way to spark ideas.
  2. Out of sight, out of mind. Keep unnecessary documents and items in a box you can still access readily but doesn’t take up space on your table top. Too much clutter will only stress you out and give the impression of unaccomplished tasks.
  3. Clean your virtual desktop. Your desk may be clutter-free but all the files on your work computer might be in disarray. Make sure you properly label all files and place them in neat folders you can access easily even without the search function. This saves you time you would otherwise spend looking for documents when you need them.
  4. Disinfect regularly. Don’t wait for weekly or monthly wipe downs by custodians. Get a head start on the cleaning by making sure your space is free from dust or food crumbs.

Your company can do a lot to make your stay comfortable and safe, but the little details are up to you. Treat your workstation with as much love and respect as you would your own personal space. Keep in mind, this is where you earn a living and spend most of your week days.

7 July 2014
Business Adviser

Three KPIs You Should Use to Improve Retail Asset Management

Retail asset management entails a deep understanding of the operations and efficient use of resources to maximise potential profits. Substandard practices would only compromise the end-results and may jeopardise your operations.

This is why when it comes to asset management, a good retail business owner needs to develop and monitor key performance indicators or KPI. As noted by experts, you can achieve this by setting strategic priorities and measuring progress from the initial processes to the latter stages of your operations.

According to business authorities like Mainpac.com.au and Forbes.com, there are many kinds of KPI that you can use to optimise your retail business. Take a look at the following ways to gauge the success of your asset management practices:

Store Portfolio Changes

You must have a complete control on the range of products or services your offer. As the retail business industry changes, however, you may have to update your store portfolio. Be it a small addition or a radical change to your inventory, having the right metrics and data allows you a clear overview of the recent trends in the industry. This will help you plan strategic changes to your operations to anticipate future market behaviour.

Expected Return on New Stores

If you are planning to expand your operations, you have to set certain goals to keep up with the growth. Creating points where you can monitor the return on new stores helps measure the effectiveness of your strategy. A study says that some factors like store location may have a certain influence to the success of your expansion project. A KPI that gauges such results will help you modify and streamline your operations.

Customer Satisfaction

Measuring the satisfaction rating of your customer allows you to make the necessary changes and meet the demands of your target market. In terms of asset management, you can improve the quality of your assets or experiment with new ones to satisfy your customers.

Managing retail assets takes foresight and quick response to market changes. By using a good set of KPIs, you will be able to apply the necessary actions and make the most of your operations.