5 Tips to Avoid These Common Courier Errors

Courier companies nowadays are better equipped to adapt to the changing times – some have completely automated their services to cater to the highly digital world we are living in and some have innovative customer services that are truly dedicated to maximizing client experience. Courier companies like these are clearly at the top of their game when it comes to giving their customers the highest quality service possible. The good news is that many companies that offer courier service in Sydney have caught on to the trend of excellence and innovation like Couriers by Demand Express.

However, no matter how innovative a courier company might be, there are still some unforeseen circumstances that are simply out of the customer and the courier company’s control. These are things like bad weather conditions, heavy traffic, and others. These inevitable situations can lead to delivery mishaps like late deliveries and damaged goods.

There are times when mishaps happen due to some degree of negligence on the courier company’s part. As a customer, we understand how alarming and discouraging this can be. By following the right countermeasures, however, you can avoid these common courier errors and spare yourself from the inconvenience that they bring. This article lists 5 helpful tips on how to avoid the most common courier errors that still happen today. Read on to learn more about these precautionary measures:

Delayed Parcel Deliveries

A delayed delivery is a nightmare to both the receiver and the sender. The parcel might be an important item that both the receiver and sender value and not receiving it on time might harm their convenience. This is especially true when your business involves delivering products to customers. The customers who are expecting to receive your parcel on a certain time and date might be deterred to order again if the delivery is late or worse, if it never came to their doorstep.

The last thing you want is to be on both ends of a delayed parcel delivery. To avoid this, here is what you can do:

The Solution:

If the problem arose due to legitimately inevitable circumstances like weather or traffic, the best you can hope for is that your parcel gets delivered as soon as those hurdles are over. Most courier companies are bound to notify their customers once delivery delays become apparent.

On the other hand, you can also avoid experiencing this by doing a thorough research into the courier’s history. Read reviews online, ask friends about their experiences, and check out their relationship with customers before jumping into the decision to work with them. It is best to find a courier with consistent positive reviews from clients regarding their timeliness to guarantee that your delivery arrives on time.

Receiving Goods in Poor Condition

Another common courier error is delivering goods in poor condition. We have all felt the sinking feeling when all that pent up excitement upon receiving your parcel boil down to nothing as we discover that the goods are damaged, and worse, no longer usable. If you are the sender, this situation can be just as disappointing.

Running a business that relies on the safe delivery of products and goods should not feel like a risk. Having to send a replacement stock can affect your sales, so make sure that you do whatever you can to avoid finding yourself in this situation.

The Solution:

Work with a reputable company. Working with a reputable company might mean you have to shell out a little more than the average cost but it also guarantees that you would not lose a lot on replacing damaged goods. You are paying for the guarantee that your parcel gets to its destination safe and intact after all. The investment is worth it.

So, find the most reputable courier service Sydney has to offer. Ask around, read blogs, and scour the internet. Whatever you do, remember to do your own research.

Overpriced vs Bargain Prices

Courier companies that offer services that are too good to be true probably are, while companies that charge too much for subpar services are also the other side of the spectrum that you have to look out for. Services that are too cheap might give you poor services, but expensive ones are just not worth it as well. How can you strike a balance?

The Solution:

Find courier that offers personalized solutions. This means that they don’t charge for services that you don’t even need in the first place. Companies like Couriers by Demand Express design services based on a client’s specific requirements. This option allows you to tweak the service to your needs so you avoid wasting money and increase your efficiency in one go.

Questionable Customer Service

An excellent customer service is one of the factors that make or break the relationships of businesses and their client base. Rude, unhelpful, and unapproachable customer service staff are some of the traits that deter clients from continuing to build a relationship with a business. It is not surprising to hear stories about customers switching to a different company despite having adequate services purely because of poor customer service.

In the case of courier services, you need people who are level-headed and can maintain a level of composure in heated situations. A delivery service who handles their customers poorly can be disastrous to your business.

The Solution:

Be vigilant. During your initial contact with a courier, you can already gauge if they have good customer service or not. Do they use respectful language? Do they accommodate your requests and enquiries? Are they helpful and willing to assist? If you cannot find a review that says otherwise, the next best option is to experience it for yourself through a call or face-to-face interaction.

Inconvenient Service Issues

Inaccurate quotations, delivery being sent out to the wrong address, untimely pickup – these are just some of the things that can happen when a courier service company pays little attention to detail. If this happens frequently, this can disrupt your operations and may even hurt your reputation.

The Solution:

Find companies with courier service in Sydney that keep up with the latest technology in the industry. These include systems like intelligent route planning and drivers who have adequate training to smartly navigate through those routes.

Choose the Best Courier Service Has to Offer!

To avoid the common courier errors mentioned above, the best solution you can have is to work with a reputable company in your area. If you live in Sydney, then you are in luck since there are lots of courier service company in Sydney..

Errors to Avoid in Forex Trading

Forex trading is the exchange of currencies from one hand to another in the currency market. Investment companies do this as well as banks but individuals can also play the currency trade through buying and selling. You buy at a lower price and then sell it or exchange it for a much higher rate of conversion.

Forex trading however can be a risky business to get into but once you get the hang of it, it an yield you a lot of gains. All you need to do is minimize your risks and errors in this volatile business and you are on your way to a bit of financial freedom.

Here are some of the mistakes that people make when they trade currencies. Read each one before you get into forex trading.

1. Never blindly trust people

No matter how good they supposedly are and no matter how great their credentials are in forex trading, there is still some room for mistakes. In fact, some people in the industry who have years of experience get too cocky and lose money in the process. If you are serious about going into forex trading, you must know the business yourself. You must also understand how the system works and be able to follow why a currency appreciates and depreciates. That way, you won’t just rely on the advice of people but also be able to make your own analysis and decisions.

2. Never rely on news

News may claim to be facts but often these are just one perspective or from one chunk of the bigger picture. If you want to really know about the business, do not rely on the news. Rely on your own analysis and then compare them to other peoples analysis in newspapers and television. That way, you will learn the business on your own. Besides, you should not believe everything you hear or read.

3. Buying low and then selling high

Although this is the theory for forex trading, this does not mean that you should wait for a currency to become really low, buy it and then wait again for it to recover and surge at higher rates. This is not the way to do it. Forex trading involves a much faster exchange of currencies. Buy low and then sell when it gains a point. You don’t have to wait for a peak to do it.

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Selecting Intellectual Property (IP) Management Software

The investment made in Intellectual Property (IP) management software can work wonders in helping IP departments gain visibility, lower administrative costs, improve accuracy, and increase productivity. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of Intellectual Property management systems purchased are never fully implemented or don’t deliver the utility the customer hoped for.

Here are the five most common mistakes made when selecting Intellectual Property management software:

Mistake #5: Not Knowing What You Really Need in IP Management Software

Before diving right into choosing a solution, take the time to understand what you really need. For starters, determine whether you require a fully integrated Intellectual Property Asset Management software, Patent Docketing software,or IP Matter Management software.

Often, this depends on the issues you are trying to solve or the opportunities you are trying to capture, as well as the size and structure of your department. For example, if you don’t file many patent applications or trademarks, you should first get that data organized in a centralized repository. Your core team should be able to access and generate reports from them.

If your IP portfolio is getting large enough for you to manage, and you think that providing access to inventor community and law firms can reduce administrative costs, you should look at a robust Intellectual Property management system. This type of system will allow you to streamline your processes and improve productivity at a lower cost and with fewer resources.

Before diving into the selection process, ask “What are our top five needs?” If these key needs are not identified, it may be difficult to distinguish between vendors. Many vendors claim to do many things. The vendor’s strengths must match the company’s key needs.

Mistake #4: Not Recognizing the Uniqueness of Your Business

Every IP department is unique. Without configuration capabilities within the software, you are more susceptible to failure during software implementation.

While initial license and maintenance fees can sometimes appear lower, these hard coded solutions will often result in increased costs due to extensive customization requirements, upgrades, ongoing maintenance, and longer system deployment timeframes. Essentially, you may end up reducing and delaying your overall return on investment.

Avoid choosing a software that limits your team’s capabilities and your department’s growth. Your software should enhance your business, not hinder it.

By choosing an Intellectual Property management software solution that can adapt to your business processes, you will get better user acceptance, improved efficiencies, reduced costs, and faster ROI.

Mistake #3: Not including Key Users in the Selection Process

Surprisingly, many IP department still select computer systems without soliciting meaningful input from key users. At the beginning of your selection project, form a selection team with representatives from all affected teams such as patents, trademarks, docketing, licensing, compliance and billing. The active participation of key stakeholders will not only help ensure all bases are covered, it will also result in a better decision and fewer complaints after implementation.

If possible, you should also include a representative from your IT department. The IT Liaison can help you in identifying any issues related to deployment, data migration, integration and security.

Mistake #2: Evaluating Too Many Vendors:

Avoid vendors that offer a deal that is “too good to be true”. You may find yourself missing the essential tools you need to conduct your business after implementation. Many of these bargain systems also provide very rigid solutions, making it difficult for you to meet the unique needs of your inventors, patent committees, and law firms. Also, You may need to reinvest additional money toward upgrading, or in some cases replacing, your system later-thereby reducing or eliminating all together any savings that you might have originally experienced.

Choose no more than four vendors at the start of your search. If more than four are chosen, it often becomes difficult to remember who does what. If none of the first vendors will meet 80 percent of the key needs, dismiss these and begin investigating several more.

Mistake # 1: Not Investing in Intellectual Property Management Software for the Long-Term

When choosing Intellectual Property management software, be realistic about your expectations and perceptions of cost. You’re making an investment to improve or enhance your processes. So, while hard dollars spent are important, the key is choosing the right Intellectual Property management software. Choose the right partner who will provide you with a fast and effective implementation, high ROI (Return On Investment), and low TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) after implementation.

Use your intuition and good business judgment when comparing provider costs. Look for applications that support your ability to achieve your department’s long term primary strategic goals and work within your budget. Hasty decisions in favor of the lowest cost IP management software provider or solution now may leave you plagued later with hidden costs, and delay or eliminate any ROI for your business.

Several progressive legal departments have realized better and more predicable processes, improved productivity, and better control over law firms with Lecorpio’s IP management software. Lecorpio IP Asset management solution includes invention disclosure management, patent management (including docketing), trademark management, domain management, open source management, licensing management, contract management, standards management, IP transactions management, and spend management.

Six Deadly Pool Purchasing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

The six deadly pool purchasing mistakes are frequently made as a result of simply not being informed and knowing what questions to ask. Avoiding these mistakes could save you thousands of dollars and hours of heartache and frustration.

So you want to buy a pool but don’t know where to start? Perhaps knowing the common mistakes people make when purchasing a pool will help you start off on the right foot. Everyday, people get “duped” into buying the wrong pool, the wrong way, with no recourse or protection. These same people wind up being dissatisfied and even angry because their expectations weren’t met.

Throughout my long career in the pool industry, I have met many people who have made serious mistakes when they purchased their pool. Every year it seems as though I hear the same stories over and over. As a result of talking with scores of pool owners and through my own years of experience in the industry, I have concluded that there are six common mistakes that people make when purchasing a pool.

The Solution to Avoiding the
Six Deadly Pool Purchasing Mistakes is. . .
Ask the right questions! It’s simple. If you ask the right questions, you’ll uncover 90 percent of the potential problems that most pool purchasers commonly face. There’s always that 10 percent chance that something will happen that you couldn’t have foreseen; but, for the most part, you’ll be able to avoid almost any surprise.

However, if you’re like most other pool purchasers, you know so little about pools or pool construction that you don’t even know what questions to ask. That is why I wrote this special report just for you. After reading this report, you will be one of those few pool purchasers who “know what they’re talking about.”
The first questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about buying a pool are:

1. Why do I want a pool?
2. What will my family and I use the pool for?
3. Who is going to maintain the pool?

Why are these questions so important? Before you can decide “what” type of pool you want, you need to understand “why” you want a pool. Is it for family recreation, entertaining guests, physical therapy, exercise, personal recreation or just to “keep up with the Jones’?”

Knowing the answer to these questions will help you avoid the first deadly pool purchasing mistake, which is. . .

Mistake #1:
Not Designing Your Pool for its Intended Purpose
You might have heard the phrase, “Form follows function.” To know what type of pool you want, you need to know what you’ll be using it for. The type of pool you’ll select should depend on what you’ll be using it for.

More often than not, people considering the purchase of a pool have a specific purpose in mind. It is important to write this down and have it ready when you start to talk to pool builders.
For instance, if you are going to use your pool mostly for family entertainment, then you will want to include safety features such as gating or fencing that will control access to the pool. If your primary use is for entertainment, then you may consider mood lighting features with special landscaping features, such as waterfall features in and around the pool. If you want to build a pool for physical therapy or exercise, you might include a longer shallow area for swimming or perhaps built in spa jets in the seat, pull up bars, or even a smaller pool with swim jets.
The Myth of the Large Pool
An interesting phenomenon frequently happens when the majority of first-time pool buyers desire a large pool with a deep end and a diving board. After about a year of pool use, new owners discover that the deep end rarely gets used and the diving board becomes more of a safety hazard. Most of the games that are pla
yed by the kids are done in the shallow end and that’s where the adults spend 95 percent of their time. Because they decided to build a large pool with a deep end, only 35 percent of the pool gets utilized, resulting in unnecessary expense and low usage. It’s also important to consult with your insurance agent regarding increased premiums with diving boards.

Fencing is always an important element of your pool, not only for child safety but to provide a certain level of privacy. You may consider a retaining wall if your yard is on a slope so that you can step down to the pool, providing you more privacy. Many pool builders will try to talk you into elevating the level of your pool if your yard has a slope. Simply because there’s less dirt to remove, builders can cut trucking expenses. This can leave you with an inground pool that has an above ground look.

You should also have an understanding or vision of what you want your entire backyard to look like, not just your pool. Your pool should compliment your existing backyard and integrate with your intended landscaping goals, both now and in the future.

Here are some other points to consider when designing your pool:

1. Access – Ensure there is easy access to your pool from your house, restroom or entertainment area. You might want to consider how patios, decks or walkways are positioned to provide a safe and simple entrance and exit between your home and your pool.

2. Lines and Cables – Before settling on a location, you need to ensure that there are no electrical or telephone wires, sewer or septic lines or buried pipes.

3. Drainage – Water needs to drain away from the pool to avoid standing water or dirt and mud getting into the pool. This is especially important if you’re in a location that has a history of flooding.

4. Add-Ons – If you plan to install a diving board, spa, slide or waterfall, make sure that you plan for adequate deck space for each add-on.

5. Sheds – A common method of protecting equipment is to build an equipment shed close to the pool.

6. Sun vs Shade – The sun can help to keep your pool water warm; however, placing your pool under trees can result in a lot of extra maintenance.

7. Covenants – Find out if there are any subdivision covenants regarding the construction of pools.

To obtain a building permit, it is generally required to get a survey or plot plan of your entire property. In fact, you should already have one from when you bought your home. The survey will help you to decide where to locate your pool and any other accessories.

Make sure you schedule an initial on-site consultation so that your pools primary functions and activities are reflected in the design. Furthermore, an on-site consultation should urge you to consider the overall vision of what you want your backyard.

Mistake #2
Choosing the Wrong Pool “Container”

There are three basic types of in-ground pools: concrete/gunite, fiberglass, and vinyl liner.

No matter what type of pool you choose, you will be required to perform a certain amount of maintenance. However, each type of pool provides its own maintenance challenges. It’s important to understand these challenges by pool type before you make your selection.

Concrete/Gunite Pools
Concrete and gunite (a type of reinforced concrete) are the most common in-ground pool types because they have been on the market longer than the new, more efficient types of pools.

Concrete and gunite are sprayed over a framework of steel rods and wire mesh, then coated with plaster to give the pool a smooth, printable surface. Today, concrete and gunite pools are most commonly used for commercial and public swimming pools.

The nice thing about concrete and gunite pools is that you can virtually build them in any shape or form that you wish. Unfortunately, it is the most expensive of the three types of pools and it takes a long time to build.

Furthermore, concrete and gunite is porous, therefore providing small areas for algae and bacteria to grow. In addition, it can easily crack and chip with the change of the temperature and weather conditions, providing even more areas for algae and bacteria to grow. This is why concrete and gunite pools require the most maintenance of the three types of pools, costing $100 or more a month to maintain. It is also rough on the kids feet, and because kids will stay in the pool for extended length’s of time makes this extremely damaging to the skin.

Concrete and gunite pools require periodic annual or semi annual pool draining for cleaning purposes. When the pool is drained, the cracks in the concrete and gunite need to be repaired and the pool siding acid-washed and perhaps re plastered, if necessary. Acid washing is necessary every one to three years, depending on water condition. Acid washing does remove a layer of plaster or mar cite. Usually, after the second acid wash you can expect to re plaster the pool.

Vinyl Liner Pools
Vinyl liner pools use a high-density vinyl lining, offering a cosmetic textured pool surface. The lining is “seamed” together throughout the sides of the pool. Polymer or steel walls are bolted and fastened together on concrete flooring. The vinyl liner is spread over the floor and paneled walls and connected to the top of the walls by a vinyl rib at the outside edge of the liner.

The upfront cost of vinyl lined pools can be inexpensive when compared with concrete and gunite pools and take much less time to install. However, the maintenance on vinyl lined pools is high because the liner can be easily scratched or cut, especially if there will be toys or hard objects in the pool (even mechanical pool cleaners!). To repair a vinyl lined pool, you’ll need to replace the entire lining, which can cost from $1,500 to $3,900 or more depending on the time of the season for replacement.

Also, algae and bacteria tend to nest in the porous texture of the fabric and seams of the vinyl, requiring high amounts of chlorine to keep the pool clean. It’s kind of like a shower curtain that is exposed to moisture and heat on a consistent basis.

Severe problems can arise when algae starts to grow under a vinyl liner because it can start to eat the liner from the underside and is very difficult to treat. You can expect to pay up to $100 or more a month to maintain a vinyl liner pool.

In addition, heating costs will generally be higher, especially on steel wall construction. The only thing between the ground temperature of 57 degrees and the pool water is steel and vinyl. A polymer or plastic wall does reduce the cost of heating somewhat; but, it also adds considerable cost to the construction of the pool ($1,500 to $2,500 in some cases).

Fiberglass Pools
Fiberglass pools are made out of a seamless one-piece, pre-formed fiberglass container that is set in the ground and can be installed in less than five days. The fiberglass itself has a smooth, non-porous gel coat surface.

Although fiberglass pools have a wide range of sizes and shapes, and can be moved if you choose, you are restricted to those sizes and shapes that are offered, unlike a concrete or gunite pool. You’ll rarely find a fiberglass pool over sixteen feet in width because the come from the factory ready to install in one piece.

Fiberglass pools are appealing because they require much less maintenance than either of the other pool types. Fiberglass will not rip, tear, crack, chip or leak, providing a longer-lasting surface. Therefore, monthly maintenance costs are minimal. The durability of fiberglass is especially important if you live in a cold weather climate, or unstable soil, in which surface materials contract and expand. This is why concrete and gunite pools crack and chip.

Because a fiberglass is non-porous, algae and bacteria cannot stick to the surface. This reduces the amount of chlorine necessary to keep the pool clean to about one-fourth of the amount that other pools use, which can add up to large cost savings over time.

Fiberglass pools never require draining for cleaning, which is a huge chore. In addition, to clean the fiberglass surface, all you need to do is vacuum the bottom of the pool, which takes only 10-15 minutes a week. At first you might think that concrete/gunite pools are the most stable; however, fiberglass pools can flex about two feet without sustaining any damage and can safely withstand more external pressure than concrete/gunite pools.

However, there are huge distinctions between different fiberglass pools. (They are not all created equal.) Vinyl Ester resin is a must! This material is a bonding agent that helps hold the pool together. Vinyl Ester also prevents cobalting, which is a black or purple stain that forms from the outside in. It is a chemical reaction within the fiberglass itself. The stain can usually be removed but will continue to resurface. Make sure you see it in writing that the pool has Vinyl Ester. If it’s not advertised in print, chances are it doesn’t have it.

It’s also important to have some sort of vapor barrier in the fiberglass. Even though the gel coat or finish is smooth and non-porous, the back of the pool is without a vapor barrier. Fiberglass is a cloth that will absorb moisture from the ground. Moisture or even ground water will leach through the fiberglass causing blistering on the gel coat that is not usually covered by warranty.

You also want to make certain the pool is constructed with hand laid fiberglass as opposed to chopped glass. Hand laid fiberglass is much stronger and is built with full sheets of fiberglass cloth. Chopped glass fiberglass is a pudding-like substance with shreds of fiberglass usually sprayed or rolled on. Fortunately, because fiberglass pools are pre-built, you can see the pool prior to installation. Check out the finish beforehand. If it doesn’t look good out of the ground it won’t look good in the ground. Remember, water magnifies any flaws.

The technology in this industry is changing and evolving almost monthly, with recent introductions like the infusion of Carbon Fiber which adds extreme strength, and some pretty nice looking colors, this makes this worth a closer look than in the past.

Mistake #3
Choosing the Wrong Developer
The worst mistake that a person buying a pool can do is choose the wrong developer to build the pool. There are many “fly-by-night” pool developers that use temporary workers to install pools,. Other developers employ installers (or subcontractors) that have virtually no experience with pool installation.

Pool developers consistently experience a high turnover with their staff so it’s a constant struggle to keep good, experienced people who have installed a lot of pools. There are also a lot of developers who will sell you a pool with no regard for how it will be integrated with your landscape and lifestyle.

Make sure the developer has a firm brick and mortar location and is not working out of his garage. Also, do not purchase a pool from the Internet. Take time to visit the location.

After narrowing it down to the top two or three builders, invest in the time to visit their location to look at their products and services. See how their staff treats you. (Remember, people who feel good about themselves produce good results).

This is the biggest investment of your life next to your home. Invest your time. Take the family on a fun day out to look at pools and builders. Stop for lunch. Slow down, take your time. Feel comfortable and investigate.

The following are several questions you can ask potential pool developers when you request a proposal or bid to build your pool.

1. Do you offer the type of pool container that I want (fiberglass, concrete/gunite, vinyl liner) and how much experience do you have with installing that type of pool?
Most pool builders specialize in one of the three types of pools. A builder that is an expert in installing concrete pools may not necessarily be an expert in installing fiberglass pools. Find out how many of the same type of pools the builder has installed. If you are having accessories such as a deck, spa or landscaping done with the same builder, make sure that they have done that type of work in the past with other clients.

2. What is the average experience of your installation staff or do you subcontract out the construction? Do you hire only licensed and bonded sub-contractors?
It isn’t uncommon to find a pool builder that uses subcontractors for the entire installation process. In this case, you need to consider the experience level of the subcontractors. A pool builder is only as good as the people doing the installation work. Preferably the builder will have his own staff, resulting in better quality control. However, if a subcontractor is used, make sure that they are licensed and bonded to protect you if things go wrong.

3. Are you certified by the National Spa and Pool Institute? What other trade organizations do you belong to?
The National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI) is the association that supports the spa and pool industry. The NSPI has a “Certified Builder”course that teaches builders how to build high-quality pools using the latest techniques that meet specifications. Having the certification means that the builder has at least met some standard education requirements to do the job right and it shows the builder’s commitment to quality. This one question can weed out a fly-by-night builder from a reputable builder. If the builder belongs to the Better Business Bureau, a Chamber of Commerce, or even a Rotary Club, it demonstrates that the builder intends to be around for a long while.

4. Do you provide financing for the pool construction project?
Even if you have the money sitting in the bank or you plan to get it from a commercial lender, asking this question may result in some revealing information. If a builder provides financing, it means that they have been around long enough to build credit and a good reputation with the banks. It is advantageous to have options for financing the construction of your pool. Another benefit of financing your pool is that in-ground pool construction is considered a home improvement and the interest payment on your loan is tax deductible.

5. Can I speak with several of your past customers?
This is the killer question. The proof is in the pudding and if you can’t speak to a previous customer, it probably means that they don’t have one or that they are disgruntled. Run from a builder that can’t provide you with testimonials from prior satisfied customers.

The real test is talking to those customers yourself. Ask the builder if you can pick one or two from a list of 10 previous customers. This will ensure that you’ll be choosing a non-biased customer. Ask the customer, “I know that the builder does great work but all jobs have at least one or two things that didn’t go as planned. Can you tell me what were some things that didn’t meet your expectations?” This question will get the customer off the fence.

6. To what extent is the owner involved in the daily operations of the business?
If the owner of the business isn’t 100 percent involved in the business, it doesn’t mean that you write them off but you should find out how the business is being managed. Quality usually has a direct correlation to the level of involvement by the owner of the business.

7. Can the builder present a certificate of insurance to prove that they are fully insured?
Ask the builder about any liability and compensation insurance he may carry to protect you in the event of an accident during the construction of the pool. There’s nothing worse than getting into a situation in which things didn’t go as planned and not having recourse for receiving compensation because of damages. Every reputable builder should be fully insured. Period.

If you ask and don’t receive a copy of worker’s compensation and liability insurance, don’t use the builder. You may even go as far as to call the agent listed to verify that their insurance is in force. Finally, remember worker’s compensation protects people. Liability protects property. You need to have both.

Other things you might consider are the builder’s credit rating and you may want to check county records for lawsuits.

8. Does the builder offer in-home design services?
Many good builders will offer in-home design services that will not only save you money but also demonstrate the builder’s experience and expertise.

9. If there is damage to my yard or landscaping, will you repair it?
It is imperative that you set your expectations up front during the interview process with the builder, especially when it comes to damage. Many pool buyers are surprised when they see the amount of damage to their yard that takes place during a pool installation.

However, there is such a thing as excess damage due to negligence on the part of the builder. Make sure you address this right up front and that it gets into your contract. Some pool builders aren’t willing to take on the risk of paying for yard damage.

10. What are the electrical and plumbing requirements and who will perform them?
Your pool builder should know about existing electrical, plumbing, zoning, building and grading requirements. It’s important to test the knowledge of your builder. Even if you don’t know the answers yourself, you’ll have an idea whether they have a good grasp on the requirements.

By the way, never allow a pool builder to force you to take a permit out in your name. It should always be in the builder’s…

11. What type of maintenance training will I receive upon completion of the pool?
Upon completion of pool installation, your pool builder should provide you with training, including: equipment maintenance training; chemical and cleaning training; winterizing training; and safety training. These topics will be crucial to the longevity of your pool.

12. How long will the construction take and when can you start?
Even if a pool builder is good and you feel comfortable with their skills and ability, their schedule needs to sync with your schedule. A good pool builder will most likely be booked, so you may want to start the search process early in the season or reset your expectations as to when the pool can be installed.

Never choose a pool or a builder based strictly on schedule. Make your choice on the quality of both the product and the builder. A high-quality builder will never sacrifice quality for speed. Remember, if you are a first time pool buyer, another couple of months won’t hurt you. Stay focused on quality.

13. What is the cost and how much do you require as a deposit?
Ultimately, your pool needs to fit your budget. You should ask for a proposal only from builders that you feel comfortable with and meet your minimum requirements. Although it varies from builder to builder, 2 percent to 5 percent down is an acceptable amount to ask as a deposit. If a builder asks for an amount greater than 10 percent down, it’s time to end the interview. Also, make sure you examine the down payment schedule and make sure the builder explains it to you.

Good References are Important

Overall, asking this series of questions will help you get a feel for who may be the best choice to build your pool. Remember, good references are important because they are based on past experience rather than a right answer to an interview question. Call local building departments, call the state, and call the Better Business Bureau. A good builder’s reputation will precede them.

Mistake #4
Not Getting a Full Understanding of Your Pool Contract and Warranty
It is certainly a deadly mistake not getting a full understanding of your pool contract and warranty. As Ross Perot once said, “The devil is in the details.” Pool contracts and warranties can be deceptive if they are not read carefully and if you don’t ask enough questions.

Parts of a pool usually included in the warranty are:

1. Structural – Structural integrity of walls, reinforcements and concrete.

2. Equipment – Equipment such as filters, skimmers, pumps and heaters.

3. Plumbing – Materials and workmanship on electrical, gas, piping and pool plumbing.

Generally speaking, most pool buyers get surprised when something goes wrong because they didn’t take the time to understand the details of what is included in the warranty and more importantly, what is NOT included in the warranty. Try to make sure your pump, filter and heater are from the same manufacturer. That way you have one warranty that covers your main equipment. Plus, most pool companies will not stock repair parts from multiple manufacturers. Things like discoloration in fiberglass and vinyl liner pools are usually not covered because the color of the walls have a lot to do with how you’ve maintained the pool and the chemical balance of the pool water. Chipped concrete or gunite are not usually warranted because that’s the nature of concrete when exposed to the elements.

When purchasing a vinyl liner pool, you need to be cautious about what’s included in the warranty for the liner. Is it just the seams or is it the entire liner? Most vinyl liner pool builders stress the warranty on the seam, but the seam never goes bad. What frequently goes bad is the vinyl lining, not the structural walls or the seam.

Who’s Warranting What?
Understand who warranties what. For instance, who warranties the pump and filter? The manufacturer or the dealer? Who do you contact to report problems? Do they have a toll-free number? Who comes out to fix the problem? In some cases, each individual manufacturer will warranty each separate piece of equipment and will have different service providers fixing the problem. There’s rarely a one-stop solution for pool warranties and service.

Read the warranty carefully with the builder and ask questions. Ask what is not warranted and why. After you’ve seen a couple of warranties side by side, the questions will become much easier.

Mistake #5
Focusing on Upfront Cost Rather than Cost of Ownership
Because in-ground pools can cost up to $40,000 and more, most pool buyers are concerned about the upfront price and pay little attention to daily operational costs. Purchasing a pool that requires little maintenance will usually be the cheapest deal in the long run. Pools that don’t require a lot of chemicals, cleaning, resurfacing or replacement parts will cost less over the life of the pool.

Additional Costs

Additional costs of required basic equipment can surprise some pool buyers. Equipment such as filter systems, steps or ladders, and skimmers for surface cleaning are considered essential.

Many pool owners install heating equipment and pool-side decking of concrete or wood. Pool covers are often used to keep water clean and retain heat when the pool is not in use. If used properly, these covers can be a wise energy-saving investment.

Mistake #6
Falling for Slimy Sales Gimmicks
Once you have decided to build a swimming pool, there is a natural excitement and eagerness to have it installed as soon as possible. This is often the point at which unwary buyers can get into hot water because dishonest salespeople and builders will be quick to take advantage of the situation.

Keep in mind that the late spring and early summer months can bring these unscrupulous people into communities where home swimming pools are popular. Attractive advertisements can turn up, offering deals that seem too good to turn down. Here are some warning signs that signal “Buyer Beware!”

1. Salespeople who tell you an advertised pool they offer “on sale” is not worth having and then try to switch you to a more expensive model. This is called “Bait and Switch” and is a tactic that is often used in the retail world.

2. Salespeople who use the ploy of offering a reduced price on the basis your pool will be used as a model.

3. Salespeople who pressure you into signing a contract. Remember: no reputable builder and no authorized representative of a reputable builder will rush you into signing any agreement or contract at any time.

4. Never get talked into taking out the “Building Permit” yourself or in your own name. The contractor should do this. Always make sure that the contract clearly states that the pool builder is required to hire only licensed and bonded “subcontractors.”

5. If the pool builder will not do an on-site initial visit, be alerted to the possibility of a hard sale. Chances are, the builder does not understand or care to understand your requirements.

Purchasing a pool can be a scary experience, especially for those first timers who haven’t been through the process. There are a myriad of items to consider… pool type, maintenance, warranties, contracts, liability, plumbing, landscaping, electricity, drainage, restrictions, accessories, and so on. It’s no wonder many pool buyers make mistakes that end up costing them hundreds, even thousands, of dollars.

With the information in this special report, you will be able to avoid many of the most common mistakes people make when purchasing a pool. It will equip you with the ability and know-how to ask smart questions that will result in helping you find the right pool for you and your family.

Business Plan Mistakes To Avoid

Don’t Do The Following

Claim A Lack of Competition

Some entrepreneurs get carried away in their zeal to demonstrate barriers to entry that set their company apart from others. A “Barrier to Entry” is proprietary information or knowledge, or a set management team experience no one else can claim. Factors that make your company stand out are attractive, but the reality is that no business has no competition.

The Industry Analysis section of your Business Plan must show the size of the industry in which you compete. The Market Analysis will show the sub-set of that industry on which you will focus. The Competitive Analysis must show your competitors strengths-and how you will overcome them.

You can have your cake and eat it too, in other words. You must show there is enough competition to convince investors that the market is large enough to cash in big- time, but that your strategy is focused and unique enough to navigate an exclusive path through the waters of that competition.

Use First-Mover Advantage As Your Chief Exit Strategy

Companies who’s sole exit strategy, or investor payout point, is to flood the market with a new product or service, and then sell the company in a year, will not find worthy investors. Things move too quickly in the information age. Investors want a company that can grow quickly but steadily in phases. They look for Business Plans that show a sober, realistic lookout, and fiscally responsible exit strategies.

Target Just One Large Company To Eventually Buy Your Smaller Company

For example, if your company is developing new software, do not place all your eggs in the Google and Microsoft basket. If the exit strategy of your Business Plan depends on a larger company buying yours, provide parallel case studies. Show sufficient evidence that the conditions are the same for your company as they were for the successful sale of the case study companies.

Furthermore, show why a larger company would not want or be able to develop the same product in-house.

Let us be absolutely clear:

Don’t Claim a lack of competition

Don’t Use first-move advantage as your chief exit strategy.

Don’t Target just one large company to eventually buy your smaller company.

Avoid those Business Plan mistakes and your path to funding will be much clearer. Make sure to set your Business Plan aside once completed for a few days and review it again with fresh eyes.

8 Business Plan Mistakes to Avoid

It is hard to get a funding from a business plan, even a very good business plan. You can give yourself a much better chance of raising capital if you avoid eight common business plan mistakes.

Your business plan may be the first thing investors see, and it is important that your business plan be written professionally and excellently. Investors see thousands of business plans each year, and the ones that get funded are less than 1%. You will greatly improve your chance of getting funded if you avoid these mistakes.

1. Mistakes in Overall Content

A well written business plan finds the solutions to problems that customers are looking for and will pay money to solve. The plan dos not need superlatives to say that it is great. If it is great, the readers will come to that conclusion. Also, be sure your plan presents a focused strategy to solve only one problem in the target market.

2. Stating “There is no competition”

Every business has competition, either direct or indirect. A competitor is everybody else that is trying to sell to the same target market. Your plan should show how you differentiate yourself from competitors and show that you are stronger in the market.

3. Too Long and Technical

Your plan must convey your business idea concisely. Any detail that you believe is important can be included in an addendum. Also, your plan should not be too technical or scientific. Keep it simple.

4. Poor Organization

There is a logical way that business plans should be put together, and each section should logically flow into the next section. You can finds hundreds of resources that tell you what the basic sections of a business plan should be, and you or any professional you hire should follow this advice.

5. Incomplete or Inaccurate Financial Statements

You must use the right terminology in describing the financial condition of your business. The financials should contain enough detail to fully support your important assumptions.

6. Unreasonable Financial Projections

All the numbers in your financial projections should be reasonable and similar to financial projections of other companies in your industry. Your financials must include Income Statements, Balance Sheets, and Cash Flow Statement, and they all must be prepared in compliance with GAAP.

7. Writing Errors

You must use proper spelling and grammar and cannot be redundant. Be sure your plan is attractive, interesting, easy to read, and professional looking.

8. Timing Mistakes

Have your plan in final form long before your presentation to investors. You may not have the 500+ hours required to write a business plan. Then you must hire a business consultant to write your plan. Be sure to have another objective person read the plan thoroughly and give you some feedback on its effectiveness before you show it to investors.

Integrative Business Planning – 10 Tips On Common Pitfalls To Avoid

Business Planning, whether at the start-up of a new venture or during its growth, requires an integrative approach. It is important that all crucial aspects are addressed and balanced. The following tips show some of the common pitfalls that should be avoided in the business planning process:

  1. Certain aspects of a detailed and integrated business plan are ignored. A typical example would be market research. This is often due to the cost and time involved, lack of know-how or ignorance of the importance thereof.
  2. The different aspects of the business are not match. It is for instance important that there is a good fit between the team and the opportunity.
  3. Over-optimistic projections are used. Sales and market share projections are quite often not realistic.
  4. Assumptions are not tested and adjusted where necessary. An example would be where it is assumed that $x of marketing will result in $y of sales.
  5. Not enough time is allowed for the business planning process. The importance of proper planning is often negated in favour of execution.
  6. The reverse of tip number 5 also occurs regularly. Especially new entrepreneurs tend to fall in the trap of over-planning and almost seeing the business plan as an end in itself. A fine balance should exist between planning and execution.
  7. The use of resources is underestimated. More people, time and materials are normally needed than anticipated. This cause budgets of capital and cashflow to be insufficient with potential grave consequences.
  8. Critical obstacles and even fatal risks are ignored. It is important to work through and resolve any potential problems and not to turn a blind eye.
  9. Measurable and achievable goals and mileposts are not set.
  10. A big problem, of adhering to the requirements of integrated business planning, is that entrepreneurs often have preconceived ideas that they don’t budge from. This can be due to a lack of knowledge combined with specific personality profiles. It is extremely important to be flexible, acknowledge when you are wrong and to get assistance when needed.

Copyright© 2008 – Wim Venter

7 Top Motivation Killers That Business Women Can Avoid

Women leaders in business must find ways to stay motivated to reach goals with or without outside support. You might have to work alone in the in this effort as your pursue professional opportunities. You can become more aware of ways you might be losing your motivation by understanding these 7 top motivation killers that a business woman can learn to avoid or change.  

1. Waiting for others to motivate you. If you need others to motivate you in order to reach your goals you will soon find that you won’t be getting much support. People are busy and few people take time to consistently provide others with the motivational words they need. Reach into your leadership background and find ways to set short and long-term goals that keep you going to reach goals all by yourself.  

2. Keep doing what you don’t like. Few things are more de-motivating the continuing to do activities that you really don’t like to do. When you have a lot of skills and talents, don’t waste precious time in life pursuing activities you don’t like. Wrap up your obligations if necessary and move on to activities and adventures that keep you excited and happy instead of struggling with activities you are not excited about doing.

3. Take criticism from others to heart. It is common for others to share more negative words than positive. If you let yourself be discouraged when others criticize you or what you do, you will find yourself down and out most of the time. Put everything you hear in perspective. You are not what others say; you are what you say to yourself. Learn positive self talk and speak truth to your mind on a consistent basis to drown out the negative criticism that might come your way.  

4. Procrastinate and increase your stress. When you fail to complete tasks you increase your stress. Procrastinating until the last minute or to the point when things really get out of hand is a way to only cause more problems in your life. Set a schedule and face difficult tasks one step at a time. Get things done ahead of schedule and give yourself relief and time to do your task correctly.  

5. Fail to have confidence in your decisions. If you consistently worry about decisions you make learn to look at all of the available alternatives and review the pros and cons of each prior to making a decision. If you have time, don’t make a hasty decision but give yourself time to really think about what you’ll decide. If you have to decide quickly go with the decision that will cause the least harm. Then take a course on decision making so you can feel better about the necessary decisions you will inevitably have to make.

6. Give up easily. One of the best ways to lose motivation is to be in the habit of giving up when things get tough. Instead of being a quitter learn the self-discipline necessary to stick things out to completion. No doubt about it, you will face some very tedious tasks as a leader. But you can’t lead if you can’t finish. Decide to reach the goal and analyze the steps you have to take to complete a difficult task. Be ready to reach the goal line or don’t take on the leadership task.  

7. Maintain bad habits.  A habit is an action you do without thinking. In order to change a habit you have to be conscious of your activities and then deliberately do something that changes that behavior. If you have a habit of telling yourself negative things you have to consciously know how to change that self talk into something positive. If you have a habit of quitting you have to change that to create a habit of completing activities. It is possible to change habits but like anything else worthwhile it can also be hard to do; but as a leader you are up to the task.

Learning to stay motivated is an important skill for the woman leader in business. Sometimes you can be doing things that you are not aware of that take your motivation away. By recognizing the 7 areas in this article you can increase your self-motivation and become a more successful professional.

Website Redesign: The 5 Biggest Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

My hairdresser told me that a customer earlier in the day had had such a bad experience at another salon that she had worn a wig to her appointment. Underneath, her hair colour was patchy and the hair itself was coming out in clumps. The client was terrified and distrustful of having her hair styled again and it took all the longer to calm her down and try to repair some of the damage.

As a freelance web developer, I often feel that I am looking at the web design equivalent of this experience. So many companies, especially SMEs, are duped into buying web design or CMS (Content Management System) packages which are costly and do not fit their business. Others pay top dollar for design and then find out it isn’t workable on the web.

You may think that sounds like a gift to a trusted web developer like me who then gets the business, but I don’t like it. It makes people distrustful of the whole industry and makes SMEs despair that they don’t understand their website or how to make it work for their business. That’s not good for my business. So, here are my top tips: five pitfalls to avoid when considering a website design or web redesign.

1) Budget, budget, budget

During the process of designing and developing your website, there will inevitably be some to-ing and fro-ing between you and your web developer to get things the way you want them. When you ask the developer to quote for the project, make sure you get the quote broken down into specifics. Find out exactly what is included in the quote and whether this is a flat fee or an hourly rate. What happens if the web project overruns? Is web hosting included? What about Search Engine Optimisation? Ongoing maintenance?

Every web developer or web design company is different, but once you have your quote, get a second and third one from other sources, just to check that it’s about right for the web development work you want done. There’s no harm in letting the web developer know that you are getting other quotes: this will mean you get their most competitive rates or package.

2) Specify that your end product needs to be in valid HTML

The web developer or web development company you choose should be able to produce code, run it through HTML and CSS validators and show you the results. Many graphic designers who also claim to produce websites work in Photoshop, so they produce images not code. Other developers use Flash which will look very pretty but will be completely unreadable to Google and won’t work at all on some browsers and the iPhone. It’s a bad idea to overuse images or Flash on your website, because they damage your Google ranking.

If you have a graphic designer who is going to produce images which then need to be translated into HTML, that’s fine, but be aware that the cost will increase as a second professional will be required.

3) Ask for in-built Content Management System (CMS)

So many web designers and developers offer CMS as standard that it shouldn’t be adding to your bill to make this request. Content Management means that you will be able to update your site to meet your requirements in future. This is especially important for blogs and news pages which will need to be kept up-to-date.

4) Ask what measures the company is using to secure you a good place on Google and Bing

In other words, investigate Search Engine Optimisation. By far one of the best ways to do this without even needing to contact the web developer is to Google likely keywords for their site and see if you can find them. If they can’t optimize their own website, are you going to trust them to optimize yours?

Bear in mind that SEO is a game of two halves. The first is on-page: your website needs to be designed so that the content is working for you, not against you. The biggest considerations here are the use of images and Flash (see above), but valid CSS and HTML and a clean site structure are also important. Your website designer needs to ensure that your text content is relevant for your keywords, that headers are the right size to give prominence to the right keywords and that images are correctly labelled for text readers, to name but a few SEO design considerations.

The second stage of SEO happens once the site is up and running and primarily involves promoting your site via other web sites, social media etc. This part of SEO may be more within your control and remit as the business owner, but if you are asking the web development company to do this for you as well, ask for evidence of previous success and get a bulleted list of actions the web developer is going to take on behalf of your web site.

5) Take ownership

When you agree on a price for the web site redesign, establish whether or not you are purchasing the copyright to the design as well. Will the web developer want a backlink to their site and is that OK with you? If bespoke features (e.g. custom web hosting, CMS, SEO tools) are being used, do these tie you in to buying certain products or services from the web design company in future?

Bear in mind that you might want to change things around in the future so keep things as flexible as possible. There are plenty of open source programs out there which will help you keep your independence so that you can keep your costs low.

There is, of course, a thread which runs through all of this advice. Employ a web developer you can trust and establish a good working relationship where both parties expectations can be met.

Common Small Business Web Design Mistakes to Avoid

As a small business owner, you probably already know that your website is a very important tool for marketing your brand and reaching your target audience. Ensuring your website design is attractive and functional to your audience is also necessary for success. Unfortunately, there are quite a few small business web design mistakes that are all too common. Sometimes this occurs when small business owners hire a cheap designer and believe they’re getting a value, although sometimes it’s mistakes the website operator makes by excluding certain important information.

To make sure you maximise the potential of your business website, keep these pitfalls in mind and avoid them.

Mistake 1: Not Building Trust

Building trust with your audience is arguably the most important thing any small business web design should do. There are actually some really easy and quick ways to build trust, as well as improve your conversion rate. Start my making sure your full address, company name and phone number is included on every page, preferably the footer. If you have an e-commerce storefront, make sure you are displaying badges like your SSL certificates and sitelock. After all, most people are not going to want to place an order if they doubt the professionalism and security of your website.

If you are a very small business or a freelancer, it also helps to add a picture of yourself to your “About Us” page along with a personal quote. Be prepared to be very transparent about your services and offer as much detail as possible, including any return policy or guarantees you provide. You should also have a privacy policy on your website, which tells your visitors what you will and will not do with their personal information that’s collected.

Finally, consider adding the rel=”publisher” link to your homepage, which points to your business’s Google+ page. This way, the image used on your Google+ profile will be displayed alongside your website on Google search results.

Mistake 2: Website is Too Flashy

It’s not uncommon for business owners to get a little carried away with the content and design of their website, requesting flashy graphics and bold colours that detract, not add value. To effectively market your brand and improve visibility, you want a clean and minimalist interface that impresses customers but makes it easy for them to find what they are looking for.

Content should be straight-forward and relevant, not a long rambling monologue or an excuse to stuff in keywords unnaturally. Users should come away with a good experience and feel like they found exactly what they were looking for.

Mistake 3: No Call to Action Buttons

Call to action buttons are important because they funnel your visitors further into your site. By keeping website users on your website for a longer amount of time, you’ll lower your bounce rate and increase the chance of a conversion. It also improves user experience by directing users exactly where they want to go, assuming it isn’t overdone. If you sell insurance, for example, you would have a call to action button encouraging users to request a quote. If you sell products online, you would have a call to action button for users to “Buy Now” or “Add to Cart.”

Mistake 4: Not Using the Rel=”Nofollow” Tag on Outbound Links

Finally, a really common small business web design mistake is not using the rel=”nofollow” tag on outbound links away from the website. While it may not seem like a big issue, it actually allows you to control the “link juice” of your website, which gets leeched out to all of your “dofollow” outbound links. Only links going to your internal pages should be “dofollow,” which means they pass along this link juice.

It’s also important to avoid linking to a lot of low authority or low quality websites, especially if you do not have a great deal of inbound links to your website.

Unfortunately, these mistakes are all too common, but very easy to fix, for the most part. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the best option is avoiding these mistakes in the first place by working with an experienced individual who can create a custom web design for your business.

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