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4 Tips to Planning a Same-Sex Wedding

Posted By: on January 22, 2015
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With more states legalizing same-sex weddings, providing equal rights and recognition of all other married couples to LGBT couples, many are heading down the aisle. Whether planning a more traditional ceremony, or a unique wedding that is a customized expression of love, there are many factors that same-sex couples must consider when planning their wedding, as outlined by Huffington Post blogger and event designer Susan Holland. The four tips below are designed to help same-sex couples start planning their dream wedding.

Bachelor or Bachelorette Events

While a same-sex marriage will have two bachelors or two bachelorettes, the engaged couple must consider if they want all of their pre-wedding events to be hosted together or separately. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. If the couple have mostly mutual friends, or those participating in the ceremony are mostly mutual friends, then a joint event may make the most sense. For couples who choose to have separate bachelor/bachelorette parties, they may want to consider having them on different days, so that friends of both engaged can attend. When it comes to day-of and hair, makeup, or grooming, the members of the wedding party are likely to divide in two so that the engaged couple can maintain the element of surprise when walking down the aisle.

Consider Who Pays For The Wedding

There once was a time where the bride’s family traditionally paid for the wedding, but this is becoming less common even with couples of the opposite sex. Many find this belief to be a bit dated, and the families or the couple tend to split the costs. This does not always mean the costs are split evenly, but often divided between the two getting married, and their family members who are able to chip in. Even more traditional same-sex couples may find it challenging to divide costs, with fewer long-standing traditions upon which to base the decisions, says Mickey Rapkin for New York Magazine. More often than not, it all comes down to who can afford to foot the bill.

Consider How Traditional A Ceremony

Even if both engaged envision a fairly traditional ceremony, there are a few things that must be taken into consideration, will the betrothed wear two wedding dress, two tuxedoes, or one of each? How many will be in the wedding party? These questions aren’t much different from “traditional” wedding planning, and many decisions will still be based on the unique personalities of the couple. Some may want to go over the top, while others want to stick to the script and have spiritual or religious-based ceremonies. The venue can also determine how “traditional” the ceremony will be, depending on whether it takes place at a church or at a special event space for both the ceremony and reception. These factors are determined by how all-inclusive they would like their space to be, or if it is small and intimate or large and elaborate, according to the Grand View Restaurant.

Consider What Last Name To Take

Another thing engaged same-sex couples must take into consideration, is whether both take on a hyphenated name, if both keep their current last names—or do both take a shared last name? If taking a shared last name, whose last name? Think long-term and consider how legal documents can be more challenging for any married couples with differing last names. Also, consider what last name prior or future children will take, and also the challenges parents and children having different last names arise—which sometimes requires parents the hassle of providing proof of guardianship.

Couples, no matter what combination of gender or sexual orientation, should begin planning their wedding by considering the factors above, along with all the other factors that must be taken into consideration when planning a wedding—such as guest list, venue, invitations, flowers, and catering.

 

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3 Ways to Engage Customers on Their Mobile Devices

Posted By: on January 16, 2015
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Advances in business and marketing have hugely shifted the way owners run their businesses, most notably with the advent of the internet, and that shift is only continuing today. As of 2014, 90 percent of American adults had cell phones, and of those 58 percent were smartphones, according to the Pew Research Internet Project. With the release of the first iPhone and the following proliferation of the smartphone and mobile devices, a whole new field of digital marketing arose. The rapid acceptance, adoption and growth of this technology, as is often the case, has left many businesses struggling to keep up and adapt to the consumer’s needs. There is, however, no denying that smartphones are here to stay, and companies that can adapt to this new consumer preference give themselves an edge on the competition.

Design for Devices and Environments

The first step toward satisfactorily engaging customers via their smartphone or mobile device is choosing the environment and devices to support and creating a dedicated mobile website. Understanding the various devices from which users can access a site or application, and the limitations of each of those devices, is absolutely essential in this process given that apps will function and display differently depending on the device in use. For this reason designers must either build multiple versions of the company’s web page specifically optimized for different devices or employ responsive web design, through which the page will automatically adjust to the size of the screen on which it is being displayed.

Another important aspect of mobile design is understanding how and when users are accessing information on their smartphone. Unlike a traditional desktop space, the limited screen size and ability to browse from any location mean users are looking for the easiest and quickest web navigation possible. The fewer steps needed for a visitor to complete their goal, the better. Simple sites that put the user on the desired path statistically have the highest likelihood of making a sale, as cumbersome desktop or poorly designed mobile sites quickly frustrate and drive users away.

Incorporate SMS Text Messaging

Expert product managers are finding that SMS is a useful gateway to mobile engagement, according to Andy Shirey of OpenMarket. It is one of the most popular entry points for mobile engagement, among users because it’s already so familiar and ubiquitous and among smartphone and mobile users in general for very similar reasons. Thus, it offers a point of engagement that doesn’t require users to learn a new skill or become loyal to a new platform. Another great benefit of text messaging as a mobile engagement launching point is that it requires very little commitment. Customers can opt in and opt out of SMS campaigns very easily and quickly without having to download or uninstall a mobile application.

Finally, SMS is a simple way for companies to up-sell products by slowly building trust and compelling users to take advantage of further functionality or get a richer experience. Text messages can include links to mobile websites or download links for apps, thus taking the smartphone engagement to a new level with stickier services.

Let Users Be Social

Social networks and users of smartphones contribute twice as much social content as desktop users, as was recently reported in a white paper by Oracle. Integrating social content is an excellent way to allow visitors to add content and promote products. Customers are much more likely to trust the advice of their friends and family rather than a company and social content is the easiest way for them to share. Adding plug-ins for such large networks as Facebook and Twitter is a relatively simple process that can pay off in a big way. Additionally, making social content searchable and navigable throughout a businesses mobile site is a big boost to traffic and engagement.

 

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TopCultured Legends

4 Tips for Choosing an Accountant

Posted By: on March 17, 2015

Keeping your business on track will highly depend on the accountant you hire. The key to keeping track of the money coming in and going out is having the right person to help you do Read On »

Making Your Restaurant’s Website Stand Out

Posted By: on February 18, 2015

In the current internet age, businesses of all types need top quality websites to stand out. This can be difficult for businesses in industries that typically don’t rely on high tech advertising, such as a Read On »

3 Reasons You Should Expose Your Kid to Playing Music

Posted By: on November 4, 2013

As a parent, you know how important it is to keep kids busy and encourage them to pursue their interests. Having hobbies and after-school activities has countless benefits for kids of all ages.

Travel Destinations You Wouldn’t Think You’d Love

Posted By: on January 16, 2015
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London, Paris, Rome, Hawaii—those are all wonderful travel destinations, but aren’t they also a little bit played out? For the adventurous traveler, it’s time to set your sights on more exotic places (before they’re discovered by everyone else and become yet another tourist trap). As more people are flexing their travel muscles, there are fewer and fewer locales with paradises that haven’t been paved over by parking lots. Consider a trip to one of these underdog destinations before it’s too late.

  1. The Caribbean side of Costa Rica. Almost every single traveler to this top destination either lands in San Jose (in the middle of the country) or the Pacific coast and spends their time in or near Guanacaste, which for safe travelers has just the right amount of “culture” but also plenty of resorts. Instead, head to the Caribbean coast, such as Puerto Viejo or Limon. It’s one of the few places in Costa Rica largely untouched by the tourist industry, where there are no resorts in the traditional sense and no McDonald’s. You can even rent a hammock on the beach for about $5 for a truly budget-friendly trip. It’s just a few hours away from San Jose, and you’ll truly feel like a local in one of these small, charming towns that’s half Caribbean and half Tico.
  2. Antarctica. Granted, the options of actually staying in Antarctica are slim (and you probably wouldn’t want to), but a cruise to this truly “down under” location is magical. Many ships leave from Argentina, so you can double up your itinerary for a stopover in this Latin country. However, to make the most of any Antarctica trip, plan for December which is mating season for the penguins. There’s no comparison to this destination, and if you’re wary of cheesy “cruise ship vacations,” this will quickly change your mind.
  3. The right Chinese destination. China is an expansive country and there’s a lot more to see than Beijing or Shanghai. For a real treat, head to the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces which were created 1,300 years ago compliments of the Hani. It’s an intricate farming system that encompasses everything from fish to buffalo and even red rice, the literal “cream of the crop” in this region (and much more appealing than some of China’s other things being farmed at the moment). Most impressive, the terraces make the list of 19 exclusive entries in UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 2013. It’s a quiet, serene getaway and an avenue for getting a genuine peek at a specific slice of Chinese culture.
  4. Oh, rats! India is on many people’s bucket lists, but look beyond Mumbai, Goa and Agra where the Taj Mahal is found. The state of Rajastan is home to the small town of Deshnoke where the Karni Mata Temple is located. It welcomes thousands of guests every year, although most of them are local, and many with the goal of honoring a 14th century mystic who was allegedly the goddess Durga reincarnate. However, the temple also boasts about 20,000 rats but don’t worry—these rats are sacred and hurting them is illegal. Watch the rodents be treated as royalty, drinking milk and snacking on sugar which is lovingly provided by the visitors.
  5. Suit up! Why go on vacation where it’s required that you at least carry a gas mask (if not wear it) at all times? When the end result is a trip to the Izu Island of Japan, it’s worth it and the gas masks come in quite handy in case of some side effects from a series of active volcano chains. They’ve erupted countless times in the past decade, but to not horrible end. The reason for the masks are the dangerous gas that are constantly leaking through the ground (and plus, they don’t smell that great). However, the volcanoes are complemented with stunning green vistas, providing for a truly eclectic trip (not to mention some very interesting photos to share on Facebook).
  6. The African Safari. Have you ever thought of visiting Zambia to see the lions and all that wonderful wildlife? If not, then RohoYaChui.com gives you the top 5 reasons to go there. If you’re a nature lover and animal rights advocate, this is the perfect travel destination for you. You can also get your hands on huge deals and awesome packages that will make your stay truly one of a kind.
  7. The Caribbean you haven’t heard about. Yes, the Caribbean is known for white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and maybe the opportunity to indulge in some local “greenery.” However, don’t discount the appeal of the unfortunately named Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s just what it sounds like, an “island” of floating trash roughly the size of Texas and boasting incredible amounts of plastic waste, debris and chemical slush. For the low price of just $10,000, visitors can take a closer look and help remove pieces that are particularly dangerous to wildlife; it’s a costly trip, but something the do-gooder traveler can’t resist.
  8. Never think of gardens the same way again. Most people think of the beauty of gardens and the incredible healing powers of plants; but they can actually be quite deadly, too. At the Alnwick Poison Garden in Northumberland, it’s all about killer plants with plenty of warnings (“These plants can kill you” generally keeps people from touching). The appeal of the deadly can’t be resisted, and since this was also featured in the Harry Potter movies, that just upped the desire to visit even more in recent years.

The next time you plan a vacation, consider going off the grid a bit and discover wonders, both strange and fantastic, that you can hardly imagine. It surely beats another chain motel on a tourist-stuffed beach and the memories made will be impossible to beat.

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4 Services You Didn’t Know Were Available at Your Fitness Center

Posted By: on January 15, 2015
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When individuals join a fitness center, the primary goal is often to have a regular place they can train and work out, whether it’s every day or on a weekly basis. While many gyms aim to remain competitive by offering amenities such as a steam room, juice bar, and group fitness classes, lots of fitness centers are beginning to think a bit further outside the box by offering somewhat unconventional services. Here are four services many fitness centers are now offering that gym members might not even know about.

Full Spa Services

Many fitness centers offer massages, but some are taking things a few steps further by offering full spa services. This includes other forms of massage, such as deep tissue massage, reiki massage and even acupressure. This could also include spa services designed to eliminate toxins from the body, such as cupping, steam rooms and body wraps. These additional amenities allow members the ability to choose the specific restorative services that best meet their needs and takes the fitness center from a purely utilitarian destination to one associated with relaxation, invigoration and recovery.

Sports Medicine Services

Sports medicine is no longer just for athletes, but for anyone who is recovering from an athletic or sports related injury. Recent studies have shown that exercise has benefits in promoting health and fighting disease, so fitness centers have a clear incentive to make sure that gym members stay active and healthy. To ensure fitness center members have easy access to the training that they require to improve performance or recover from injury, sports medicine services are available within many gyms. Sports medicine services might include chiropractic services, acupuncture, orthopedic services, podiatry, physical therapy, and access to a professional sports medicine physician.

Lifestyle Coaching

Many fail to achieve their health and fitness goals, not because they lack commitment, but because they are not aware of all of the areas of opportunity in their life. This is why many fitness centers are now offering lifestyle coaching, to complement their members’ efforts to build other healthy habits. Lifestyle coaching also provides healthy tools for all aspects of their personal and professional life. By developing an improved skill set designed to manage daily stressors and other areas of opportunity, a more holistic approach that nourishes both mind and body can be applied to health and wellness, says Rachael Moeller Gorman writing for Fitness. Lifestyle coaching can be effective because it holds individuals accountable for achieving their goals, as well as giving members access to an impartial support system that will help motivate them to move forward.

Makeup Application and Beauty Services

While many fitness centers offer spa services, they are most often related to some aspect of physical health. Since many enjoy receiving multiple spa treatments at once, the addition of makeup application, and other external beauty services are being added to the mix at many fitness centers, according to Pro Sports Club. Beauty services available in fitness centers might include professional makeup application to update and refresh one’s personal appearance, as well as makeup application for special events—such as holiday parties and wedding parties. A few other unconventional beauty services many fitness centers offer include manicures, pedicures, facials, waxing and even hair care.

By offering some or all of the unconventional services above, fitness centers can provide their members with one convenient location they can turn to for all of their health and wellness goals. Many fitness centers find that the convenience of providing multiple health and wellness services improves their members’ odds of achieving their goals. Those who are on the lookout for a new gym should inquire about the amenities and additional services made available to members. In fact, some services may be available to all members of the community.

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3 Better Ways to Manage Your Revenue

Posted By: on January 14, 2015
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Corporate revenue management today runs at a different speed and level of personalization than ever before. The key for success in revenue management today is strong integration of engagement both between departments and with clients directly. Making sure that the company has the tools in hand to ensure a unified whole from the customer level all the way to accounting is a daunting task, but in today’s business climate, it is essential to survival and success.

Fully Integrate Revenue Management At the Sales and Service Level
Successful revenue management means that at the point of interaction, having control of offerings, income, pricing, and reactive service can help predetermine a successful outcome later. While revenue management was originally a focus of airlines and hotels using pricing leverage to mitigate loss, today revenue management is used across industries so companies can have a deeper connection with their customer base.

With social media, clients have more direct access to the companies they do business with than ever, and smart companies leverage that customer data to ensure that they give an offering that exceeds their clients’ expectations. That increased level of customer data, for its part, can give analysts better predictors of client behavior, allowing them to adjust offerings accordingly, say Yuri Levin and Jeff McGill in Analytics Magazine. More importantly, clients connecting with the brands they trust on platforms they often see as personal can make better assessments of how a company can better serve their needs in the future.

Integrating Revenue Management At the Back-End
Revenue management is by nature front-facing (in dealing directly with clients), but its data collection aspects need to be successfully integrated at the back-end for it to work, says CSG International. Making sure that the sales force or service group have access to the wealth of data and flexibility needed to satisfy their clients is something that has to be dealt with in real-time. The difference in time could be fatal to a client interaction.

For this reason, using an integrated back-end revenue management system connected to policy management allows a company’s front-facing groups to impart information to their clients while ensuring that they also collect data which can then be analyzed and reviewed for potential negative or positive effects. In short, making sure that the front end has access to information that clients need to make an initial purchase or additional purchases is essential, and customer reactions to that data are vital in figuring out how successful individual processes are in relation to the whole.

Automate Billing Processes And Integrate Into Revenue Management
The single most important part of the revenue management process (next to offerings and data collection) is revenue collection itself, according to CRM Magazine. Automating this process actually further personalizes the customer experience, as a majority of clients prefer electronic billing. Whereas billing is often the least pleasant part of the customer experience, automating the process while expending human capital to directly enhance the customer experience makes the overall experience one where clients feel more engaged with their companies. Automated billing will not only improve brand image, but make billing, and ultimately accounting, far easier.

Integrating automated billing into the overall revenue management system not only improves the bottom line, it leaves the customer feeling that their personal experience was more engaged, making them more likely to stay loyal.

 

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Stopping Migraine Pain

Posted By: on January 14, 2015
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young woman with migraine

People have suffered from migraine headaches since time immemorial. Dozens of remedies exist, with varying degrees of success. The ancients used trepanation, which is a process of drilling holes in the skull, to release whatever had caused the headache. That method actually persisted into the 1600s in Europe. Other remedies involved various ways of burning the skull. Contemporary remedies are significantly less harsh.

Natural Remedies

One of the gentlest ways to treat migraines is through homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies are easily purchased over the counter, although it’s highly recommended to first consult a practitioner trained in homeopathy. The more common headache relief remedies include belladonna, bryonia alba, and sepia.

Aromatherapy has provided relief to some migraineurs. Other alternatives include consuming various herbs, such as feverfew, and supplements, especially magnesium. As there can be interactions with some medications, always consult a professional first. Vitamins B2 and C can be helpful. Simple caffeine offers relief to some sufferers. Other non-drug remedies include biofeedback, exercise, meditation, and modifications to the diet to eliminate foods that may cause a headache.

According to Migraine Relief Center, there are centers specifically for migraine relief today that offer a full range of treatments, from natural remedies to surgery. Several drugs have proven temporarily effective over the years, but nearly all have side effects. Botox provides relief in some cases. Ongoing research has led to several new non-invasive treatments, some of which have few, if any, side effects.

New Developments

One of the biggest advances has been in learning more about what causes migraines. Traditionally they were thought to begin when a “trigger,” such as various foods or changes in the weather, caused an inflammation in the blood vessels. Thus, the early drugs focused on easing the inflammation. Contemporary research now points to a neurological source as well as the actions of several brain chemicals. There may also be a genetic component.

According to WebMD, researchers continue to study ways of alleviating migraine pain, and the emphasis now is on prevention. They’ve discovered that migraineurs have a “window of vulnerability,” which is the time period, usually brief, in which a particular drug is most effective. That minimizes the length of time a patient must take the drug and provides optimum relief. It requires patients to keep records of their headaches in order to determine their individual window.

Two new drugs are currently in the testing process. One combines a triptan drug, which has been prescribed for years, with naproxen sodium, to reduce both inflammation and pain. Another drug is designed to prevent the release of a chemical known as CGRP that exists in higher than normal levels in migraine sufferers. A drug in the same class as drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s has also shown promise in preventing migraines.

New Non-Drug Treatments

A non-drug development is the Cefaly device, which already has approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Cefaly applies transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) by means of a headband. The electrical current stimulates the trigeminal nerve, a source of migraines. So far, Cefaly is available only by prescription and is for use in adults. The primary side effect is a slight skin irritation in some users.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), originally used to study activity in the brain cortex, is now offering relief to some migraineurs. TMS releases an extremely brief magnetic field which produces a mild electrical current. The current interrupts the electrical activity in the brain and stops a migraine.

 

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How Many Licks to “Lick” Google’s Lollipop Memory Issue?

Posted By: on January 14, 2015
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Google’s Lollipop has been suffering with a memory leak for awhile now, but Android users can finally rest easy. Along with the Android 5.0.1 update, users of Nexus (who got the upgrade first) have reported that the latest changes have fixed the memory issues and they’re now setting pretty. According to numerous complaints that rolled in, there was a bug that killed apps and made home screens reload non-stop. When it comes to flawless memory and technology, Google should be ahead of the curve, but the Lollipop shenanigans prove that even the tech giant can make mistakes.

Not only were apps crashing, but RAM was also leaking which put users in a sticky situation. In order to get help or simply vent, the Android Issue Tracker was inundated with claims, complaints and finger pointing. As Time reports, Google should be used to complaints by now but hopefully the latest update will put an end to Lollipop-related rants.

Nothing sweet about this Lollipop

According to one anonymous user, “When play music crashed in the background today, with maps navigation running in the forefront, system ram usage was at 780mb. Maps ram usage was at 280mb. The play music process was stuck in restarting status until I swiped it out of recents and restarted it. This was after around 48 hours uptime. Camera app also started crashing mid-photosphere shortly after this.”

This complaint is reflective of many, with Nexus device users claiming their Nexus 7, 4 and 5 were all impacted by the memory bug (Nexus 6 seemed in the clear, warranting those positive TechRadar reviews). On average, it seems the gadgets were using over 1.2 GB of RAM, compared to “normal” 500MB usage. Regardless of OS, opening apps and programs means RAM gets used. Android works like this, too, but it’s designed so that RAM gets auto-cleared when resources are necessary somewhere else.

Bugging out

According to Google, the memory bug was preventing RAM from getting auto-cleared, not letting other processes use the space. This led to killed apps, spontaneous crashing, and a general poor experience for users. Fortunately, Google has seemingly fixed the problem, with the current status reading “Future Release”.

It’s expected that Google will issue another update soon, as the company has a history of fast updates for Lollipop. Keep an eye out for Lollipop update 5.0.2 by February 2015.

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4 Ways to Reach Company Goals

Posted By: on January 13, 2015
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No matter what the business, at the end of the day, the financial goals will involve minimizing the expenses and maximizing the profit and market share of the company. How each individual company sets about doing this is different, but setting effective financial goals and actually accomplishing them is as tricky for businesses as it can be for individuals. Here’s where companies can start to help themselves succeed.

Setting Effective Goals & Monitoring Progress

As obvious as it may seem, a company can never reach its financial potential if it does not start off by setting up effective goals. While what different companies choose to focus on may vary to some degree, all of the goals, regardless of which company they originate from, need to be quantifiable and given a specific timeframe, says Roger Wohlner, writing for U.S. News & World Report. Establishing goals with quantifiable benchmarks leaves the guesswork out of whether or not the company is making progress; either the company has reached the intended growth figure or it hasn’t and there’s still room for improvement. Setting up a timeframe and then checking up in regular intervals to make sure everything is on track is also essential.

Enact Finite Action Plans

The second step toward reaching a company’s financial goals after setting them up is enacting a finite action plan, says Dawn Drozd of Corp! Magazine. The plan should be tailored specifically to each company’s needs and should involve an allocation of resources and manpower to work on individual sectors. If the company is looking to cut costs somewhere, it will have to make a thorough search of where there might be excessive spending, for example. Identifying the tasks necessary to accomplish each goal is the main idea here, as well as setting up a timeframe for the completion of each individual task.

Using IT Governance Effectively

One of the most effective ways to design corporate strategies and achieve business goals is through the appropriate use and incorporation of effective IT governance. With the business world moving quickly and the proliferation of endless projects, resources, and logistics to manage, says Daptiv, using a specially designed software suited for the company’s individual needs can help maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace and reduce operating costs within the management sector.

IT governance can help in several sectors of the job, first through demand management that aggregates incoming work and is able to analyze and prioritize tasks at hand. The software can then do capacity planning and resource management to make sure that resources are allocated in the most cost-effective ways to complete portfolio work. Throughout the entire process there’s portfolio and project management tools that keep everyone informed about the progress being made to help the whole team stay on track. Finally, IT governance can also help with financial management, keeping track of material and labor costs, budgeting tools, tracking orders, and invoices. If there were any one product that could help a company achieve its goals, it would be IT governance software.

Employee Alignment with Goals

Another very important part of achieving company goals, whether they are financial or pertain to something else entirely, is to make sure employees are all properly briefed on what the exact objectives are and where they fit into the plan. Employee productivity increases substantially when each individual knows what his or her specific contribution is to the team as a whole. With common goals in place, workers begin to focus more and find better and smarter ways of doing a job.

Creating a shared accountability provides visibility to goals and pushes everyone together towards completion. The importance of engaged employees is not one to be underestimated: a recent Gallup poll shows that large numbers of dissatisfied workers lead to absenteeism and lower productivity as well as a whopping 51 percent higher turnover rate.

 

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How to Compare Home Heating Systems For Cost and Efficiency

Posted By: on January 12, 2015
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Homeowners looking to reduce their heating bill should compare different systems for cost and energy efficiency. Selecting a heating system is not an easy task. How long will the heating system last? Homeowners with an eco-friendly bent often have a difficult time finding a heating system that will warm the home without leaving a major carbon footprint. Here are some things that will assist in selecting the best home heating system.

Natural Gas

A natural gas heating system is one of the most popular with homeowners. A home with a gas furnace can be kept warm day and night while still using relatively clean, renewable energy. The furnace serves as the engine of the home and pumps hot air throughout the space. Modern systems that are Energy Star certified and are designed to reduce the amount of energy and fuel needed to activate the system and heat the home. A standard furnace is roughly 80% efficient. New systems come with even higher efficiency ratings, sometimes upwards of 95%, according to Laurent Belsie of the Christian Science Monitor. There are rebate programs available to reduce the amount of money homeowners spend on natural gas furnaces.

Geothermal

A geothermal heating system is one of the best selections for people seeking a green heating option. The geothermal system is one of the most energy efficient systems available. One of the main benefits to a geothermal system is the way it stays consistent year-round. The geothermal system taps into the temperature below ground, since it stays constant even while the air temperature fluctuates. This natural, sustainable heat source is a great way to heat the home without spending a fortune.

An extracting loop system uses polyethylene underground pipes to transfer the heat to the home year-round. Homeowners will see the same traditional furnace inside the home as the pipes are hooked up to existing duct work. This helps to create heat that doesn’t end up costing an arm and a leg and doesn’t drain the earth’s natural resources.

The cost of the geothermal system varies based on the size of the home and the amount of work required to install the system. The geothermal system itself typically costs $10,000 or more, and a heat pump can run $3,500 or more. Operating costs are much lower, though, and homeowners often see a significant decrease in their home energy bill. Average savings for geothermal systems are around 50%, according to the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association‘s FAQ. The other benefit of geothermal systems is how quiet they are and how effectively they provide consistent heat in the home.

Heat Pumps

The air-forced heat pump route provides a beneficial option for eco-conscious homeowners, according to Washington Energy Services. A heat pump is twice as efficient as most gas furnaces. A standard heat pump is found outside and has a compressor and two copper tubes. Heat from the outside coils is extracted from outside and it ends up heating the home. Air-forced heat pumps will require a source of power, whether gas or electricity, to provide backup heat during extreme temperatures. Heat pumps will cost $2,500 or more to install the equipment, but they can last 12 years or more. Modern heat pumps are 150% – 200% more energy efficient than older models. The air-forced heat pump is by far the most energy-efficient model on the market, and will be able to save homeowners hundreds of dollars on yearly heating fuel and utility costs.

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4 Ways Organic SEO is Beating Social Traffic

Posted By: on January 11, 2015
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When it comes to online marketing, business owners of all shapes and sizes are continually tracking the success of all of their online marketing endeavors. What they are trying to determine is where their time and money is best spent. One of the hottest topics in this discussion is whether organic SEO or traffic generated from social media is more successful. What many find surprising, is although consumers steadily increase their time spent on social media year over year, organic SEO still beats social media by a landslide, according to Eric Layland, co-founder of Point It Digital Marketing. Below are four ways in which organic traffic generates better results than SEO.

Social Media Posts Typically Peak, Then Decline

In order for a social media post to go viral, or even be moderately successful, it must earn numerous likes, shares, comments—and most importantly clicks back to a website or landing page. To achieve this kind of success, social media posts need to incorporate trending keywords and hashtags, or need to inspire users on social media to start using them. Even if a social media post garners great success shortly after being posted, the success of the post is likely to peak during the first few days of the week it goes live, and continue to decline over time. On the flip side, quality keyword-optimized blog posts and web content will continue to generate traffic for weeks, months, and years to come—even if their success peaks in the first few days they are live.

While Social Media Is Designed to Be Current, Online Content Should Be Evergreen

While some blog posts or online articles are written with current topics in mind—such as “New Year’s Eve 2015″ or the latest breaking celebrity news—most will be written as an evergreen topic that remains relevant for many months to come. Even if the keywords in the article are no longer trending, a blog post may still achieve success because it contains relevant information that consumers want to read.

Consumers Actively Seek Out Businesses on Search Engines

While it is not out of the question for consumers to search for the products and services they require within a social media search tool, it is far more likely that they will head to Google, Yahoo, or Bing to search for what they need, and according to Rand Fishkin at Moz, it is crucial that a business’s website appear in the first few results of a search. Showing up at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) not only increases traffic, but also shows potential customers that the company is a reliable and trustworthy business, Fishkin says.

Small Amounts of Quality Content Generate More Traffic

When looking at the ratio of combined weekly social media posts on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, a trend starts to emerge: marketers share multiple posts per week, day and even per hour. While social media posts are certainly shorter, faster, and easier to compose than website content, blog posts, and online articles—in most cases, fewer pieces of high-quality online content will generate more traffic than multiple social media posts. For example, a total of 25 social media posts is likely to drive less weekly traffic than 3 well-written, engaging, and optimized blog posts. This can largely be attributed to the ability to insert far more keywords into even a 400-word blog post than into a bite-sized social media post, but it’s also an excellent lesson in quality over quantity.

While social media is still a relevant and necessary part of online marketing, a BrightEdge study showed that only 5 percent of traffic comes from social media, as opposed to that of 51 percent of organic searches. For businesses looking to get ahead in the new year, focusing SEO efforts on high-quality content and increasing traffic is a much better strategy than spending more time on social media.

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