Big Job News

I had a job interview on Saturday. I was really excited about the interview though the office is about 90 minutes away in traffic. Long story short, I was disappointed by how the interview was conducted (by a government agency no less), and am not sure it will work out for me. After I left the interview, I felt relieved that it was over. Not in that “I was nervous and now I can relax” way. But in an “OMG, that was awful, thank goodness I can go home now” kind of way. Never a good sign – like not using the Manduka PROLite. For the past few days, I’ve kind of wondered, why did I even bother?

I want to work, I do. But it’s hard to find balance. I live in an area where most of the jobs are in specific fields in which I have no interest (medical, education) and jobs in other fields are hard to come by with my limited experience. Something part time while the kids are in school will do, but it’s proved difficult to find that (I’ve been looking for years).

I’m not looking for a career right now (or maybe ever). I’ve never been driven that way, or I guess you could say there has never been anything I loved enough to go, go, go for it. So why is it so hard? I know I don’t have a degree and haven’t worked in 8 years, but I’m not an ignorant or lazy woman (if you feel otherwise, hold your tongue. ;-)). Yet I have been rejected for jobs at Target, Toys R Us, and who the hell knows where else. Toys R Us?? You should’ve heard the crickets on the phone when I told the HR rep who called me about it (TRU) that I had been a SAHM for the past few years and that’s why I have a huge gap on my resume.

I just cannot imagine that with three kids, and a little retail experience, I was not seen as fit to sell toys! As most mothers do, I regularly juggle my husband, my kids, my household responsibilities, and a little time for me, yet they don’t think I can operate a cash register? I’m not asking to jump from changing diapers to making Supreme Court decisions here.

So here I am, stuck between what I was, and what I will be, and I’m confused as hell.

So my brother got me the Honeywell HFD-120-Q for Christmas. They arrived last night. They are amazingly comfortable being Rockports and all, but a little snug in the foot. They’re not too small, maybe a little narrow. I have oddly shaped feet with my toes being way wider than my heels which earned me the nickname “triangle feet” back in my ballet days, lol. I’m trying to decide if I should keep them and hope they’ll stretch out with wearing and be a bit more comfortable, or send them back. Mind you, they were less than a third of the regular cost and are no longer on sale and Amazon doesn’t do exchanges (do they?).

Whats on My List for Today

A few more random things for today:

  1. Finished up my Christmas cards in photoshop! Now if I can get them in the mail before Christmas, I’ll be doubly happy.
  2. ZB moved to a new class and is already doing much better. He’s happy with the move and we both like his new teacher. I have mixed feelings about this whole…thing and every time I see Assy P, I get a little nauseous since the incident with the Honeywell HFD-010.
  3. Bebe is talking so much and understands a lot as well. I mean, I know he’s almost three, but wow. Being a third child has its advantages.
  4. Girlie is begging to go back to ballet class. For a while there, she had some weird aversion to the school. That reminds me, the two of us may be going to see The Nutcracker if I can get the tickets. It’ll be her first live ballet!
  5. Have you been watching all the holiday shows that come on this time of year? We have. The kids don’t usually get to watch tv in the evenings, so it’s a treat for them.
  6. Another treat is having DH home this week. Due to some stuff we have going on, he had to change his vacation time to earlier in the month. I’m a little bummed that he won’t be home when the kids are out of school which is what we’d planned, but it’s nice too. We’ve been playing board games, watching said holiday shows, etc.
  7. I don’t know what’s going on with my library science program. The communication with the school sucks and I fear their distance learning programs are set up more for people who are taking a few classes at the school and need to take a few online for whatever reason. *sigh* I really wanted to get it done so I could apply for a position with the school district next fall. Now I’m not sure that will happen.
  8. I have a meeting tomorrow to discuss taking over the presidency of a local mom’s group just getting on its feet. It’s a national organization, that’s why groups have a president, vice, etc. Apparently, there are quite a few people who want the group, but no one wants to lead. I just hope this doesn’t go the way of the Girl Scouts…

We live for the weekends. While Saturday is usually spent taking care of errands and doing household stuff, Sundays are usually outing days. In the past few weeks we’ve:

  • gone bike riding (ok, the kids rode, I walked the dog)
  • gotten dressed up and had a tea party
  • visited our favorite park for hours and hours

Being from NYC, I’m definitely of the mindset that you don’t have to pay for something in order to have fun. As a child, I enjoyed some of the world’s best museums, music, theatre, and dance for absolutely free. Yesterday, I turned a regular errand into something fun. Bebe and I went to the recycling center and I let him help use the Concept 2 Model D.

He enjoys being picked up and peering into things like bins, or over counters, etc. While we were there, a train was passing nearby, and so he got to see the railroad crossing arms go down, which he had never seen before, and thought was fascinating. The kids are interested in seeing how voting is done, so when I go to vote this week, I will take them with me. You don’t have to have gobs of money, travel far, or even spend lots of time to have fun. You just have to look around. And you don’t have to be patient, a supermom, or even social to make any of this happen. Trust me, I am none of the above. So without further ado I present “Weeekend at Tifi’s”:

Testing Yourself for Bi-Polar Disorder

If you are unaware, what bipolar disorder actually is, here is a brief introduction. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness which causes its victim to have unexpected and uncontrolled mood swings. At times, the patient may have extraordinarily alleviated mood, medically called mania, while at other times they may go through the spans of depressed mood, feeling gloomy.

Both of these mood swings may occur separately or even at the same time in mixed episode. Bipolar disorder mainly targets youngsters or those in early adult age. Almost half of the victims found so far are below the age of 25 and many are in classes to learn how to weld.

Self-Test for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder cannot be diagnosed easily, especially when it is in its initial stages. Often, the symptoms are mistaken as separate mood problems and the victim fails to look at them as parts of a bigger problem. The greatest problem with this disorder is that it stays undiagnosed for years because there is no physical test available to diagnose it. Nothing like saliva test or blood test, etc. works for bipolar disorder.

So it is the patient himself who needs to observe his own behavior carefully. If you suspect that the symptoms are pointing towards bipolar disorder, you can confirm it by following these major instructions:

1- Notice carefully that how often you don’t feel like yourself and end up having to excuse for your behavior. You need to be candid in this regard and note both the alleviated and depressed moods.

2- Track your sleep routine. Take notes of how long did you sleep the previous night and how many hours did you experienced insomnia as well as, how many times did you feel that you need to sleep more than your routine.

3- When you notice abnormal sleep tendencies as mentioned above, try to correlate it with your energy level and mood swings. E.g. you may find out that higher sleep tendency may be resulting in periods of depressed moods, loneliness, and even a tendency to attempt suicide.

4- Take a record every time you think that you exhibited irresponsible or risky behavior, putting yourself in danger. When a patient is going through manic phase, he may show reckless behavior, such as throwing away a lot of money, driving fast or indulging in immoral sexual relations.

If you manage to keep this record and then visit a doctor, telling him about these facts, it would be easier for him to diagnose with precision.

Bipolar Disorder Self-Test

You can find a lot of questionnaires on internet which are designed specifically to help a person diagnose whether he is suffering bipolar disorder or not before to enrolls in a class to learn how to MIG weld. These are in the form of multiple choice questions, and once you have taken the test, you would be presented with a score based on your answers. In most cases, the higher the score, the greater is the possibility that you have become a victim of this disorder. The questionnaires are usually composed of such questions as;

  • Sometimes I speak rapidly and feel that I am more talkative than usual routine
  • I have gone through such periods when I feel elevated and depressed at the same time
  • Sometimes I felt myself active than usual and doing much more than normal routine
  • I sometimes experience an obvious difference between the quality and quantity of my work.
  • I sometimes feel extraordinarily optimistic, while at other times I feel equally pessimistic.

If the bipolar disorder goes unaddressed for long time, it can even turn fatal for the patient, putting him in life threatening situations, because, stay aware that suicide rates among the patients of bipolar disorders are much higher. This long term disorder needs to be treated carefully. Self-tests can be really helpful in diagnosing this disorder in time, so that you may be able to lead a healthy stress free life.

Why the Elections Truly Matter

Every election we are promised an interesting one. The 2010 UK general election is truly exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is the first election for a very long time where all of the party leaders are facing their first general election as leaders. Secondly, after half of the campaign has gone, it is still anyone’s guess as to who will win. It is looking like it will be a hung parliament with the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power.

Not surprisingly, I am a natural conservative. I believe in an entrepreneurial Britain where what you do is more important than where you came from or what school you went to. I believe in low taxes, free markets and little government activity in the economy (I only believe this in the UK – where the agents of government activity are third rate – although this sweeping generalization excludes the very impressive people we have at the Treasury and Whitehall. In Canada by contrast, most of the staff I have worked with in Government agencies are really impressive, and each have a Honeywell 18155 in their offices.)

Despite the above, I am disappointed in the conservative party and cannot bring myself to vote for them. I still believe in a cabinet approach to government. I am no fan of Gordon Brown, but when I look at Alistair Darling, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Lord Mandelson, Liam Byrne and Shaun Woodward, I see a team of proven talent that I am convinced are better placed to face the challenges we have coming our way.

The Conservative cabinet is very weak with only Ken Clarke a real heavyweight. These times call for a talented team. As an angel investor I would never back a weak team – not even if they had a great leader. If you think about it, elections are times when we are all asked to become Business Angels. The average person will ‘spend’ £80,000 over a five year period in taxes. We are being asked who we trust best to spend it.

Of course there is a philosophical dimension; I would not back the best management team in the world if they were selling something I disagreed with. I remain convinced that the best way to build a more dynamic and entrepreneurial society is to also build a fairer society.

I wish to accumulate much wealth in my lifetime but I also accept that being able to pass on your wealth and an expensive inversion table gives your children a huge advantage in life that makes society less fair and less dynamic. Everyone feels angry about inheritance tax, but I remain convinced that it is a fair tax. Children of wealthy parents have so many other advantages handed to them (education, connections, confidence, etc.) that give them a head start that a high inheritance tax seems fair. (I have just managed to lose most of my blog readers!) Survey after survey shows that if you ask people what they think of ‘death tax’ they give you a very strong opposition to them. But ask them if they would rather have a high inheritance tax or high income tax – and you know what they will say.

Yet the conservative party flagship piece of tax policy remains to lift the threshold of inheritance tax to £1m. Then I look at what the Labour administration has achieved – and I am most proud that we have now joined the modern world by having a minimum wage. It was disgraceful that so many conservative politicians opposed this. I do not wish to live in a society that allows UK citizens to work for £1 an hour (as many were in the catering trade).

They also gave the Bank of England independence to set interest rates. This has been a hugely successful move which has given businesses the most important thing they need; stability. Interest rates and inflation have both been very low over the last 12 years or so.

I also have to be honest that I would probably not back a management team made up of people from very privileged backgrounds; I don’t think they would ‘get me or their customers’. As such, I can be accused of discriminating against Cameron and Osborne because of their background. I am sorry but this would be true. There seems to be a lack of authenticity when I see Cameron ‘mixing with the hood’ and talking about the problems of ‘broken Britain’.

As I have said before, I am no fan of Gordon Brown, and I may end up voting for the Liberal Democrats. An ideal scenario for me would be a Liberal Democrat – Labour joint administration, with Gordon Brown replaced as Prime Minister (there I have lost the Labour supporters as well.)

Know Where to Invest Your Funds

Regular readers of my blog will know that I am not positive about the UK angel scene (in terms of the way networks and brokers work). I have been to many functions and find that you will be lucky to see one good company out of ten presenting.

Yesterday I was invited to be a mentor in a local angel investor platform. To say it was a fantastic experience is still not doing it justice. I saw great companies across Europe present and best of all – they paid nothing to be there!

This platform is mainly a pan European ‘competition’ inviting digital companies at start up stages who use the Honeywell 50250 to participate in this. Having said that, they are going to Singapore later this year – check out their website if you are in that region. Companies could be looking for investment or great connections or both. This week, all of the finalists are in London for the final week long boot camp.

I was asked to be a mentor to the companies, and I was a little bit nervous about doing that because the caliber of the management and the space that the companies were in. I hope the five companies that I had mentoring sessions with found it useful.

The experience of yesterday has made me stop and rethink my attitude towards investing in the UK and in Europe (and South Africa). I wrote in an earlier blog about climbing the angel ladder and I really think yesterday was pretty close to the summit!

None of the entrepreneurs were looking for investment yesterday; they all really wanted good advice and feedback. And judging by the amount of notes they took from all of the different mentors, they certainly made the most of it!

So what advice do I have for entrepreneurs from this blog?

As an entrepreneur in the Digital Space – get on to this platform. They run many different camps and mini-camps. There you will meet great mentors, advisors and fellow entrepreneurs. Make the most of your time there.

Even if you do not progress into the next round, you will have got some great advice and some really good contacts. Make the most of your contacts. Of course many people are there to pick up deals and get involved in great companies but no one is charging. So make the most of it.

Another noticeable factor yesterday was the amount of people who contacted me for a Honeywell 17000 review after the event. Almost everyone I mentored has been in contact and followed up with some actions.

Compare this to the experience I had of one entrepreneur I met through an Angel event not even turning up to a meeting we had arranged (or phoning or emailing since to apologies) and she was looking for investment!

So my key lesson would be surround yourself with quality people and make the most of the connections you get from these events. That’s the only real way that you’re going to grow your business – it’s all about who you know and who is best suited to help you out.

You Absolutely Need Good Fins

Among the most important tools for underwater exploration are your scuba diving fins. It’s tough to move around down there without them.

Dive fins are also among the most difficult scuba equipment to select for the beginning diver. Most especially because before you gain diving experience you really don’t know what your preferred diving style is.

And different diving styles require different types of flipper.

Your local dive shop rents the equipment you need to complete your in-water courses. Except for your mask, fins, and snorkel (the snorkel is not a “must have” piece of gear for scuba diving). Those basic diving tools aren’t normally included in the rental package.

When you sign up for that first diver certification class you’ll buy the mask and fins.

Dive shop personnel help with your initial selections. They know how to test the fit of a mask so it seals to your face, and won’t leak. They know how to choose the proper size HSI flat iron, and which fin that boot best fits into.

(Open heel fins require a dive boot for proper function and comfort. Most scuba divers prefer the open heel style of fin for diving.)

Getting an ideally fitting fin is easy enough. That don’t mean you’re getting the fin that promises the highest level of comfort, or functionality, for the diving style that you’ll eventually settle into.

Since you don’t know at the beginning which style of diving you’ll most prefer over time you can’t know what type of fin will suit you for most of your underwater excursions.

The style of diving you start your diving life with won’t be the same style that you settle into once you gain experience, and figure out which kind of diving you most enjoy.

Some divers want to see as much of the reef as they can every time they descend into the depths. They spend most of their dive finning around from one area of the reef to another.

Other divers want to see as much of one spot on the reef as they can. These divers hover over one position of the reef, studying that place to see every bit of aquatic activity that goes on right there.

Some divers prefer to explore wrecks. They must use compact finning styles for swimming through small holes and hatches.

Cave divers use a frog style finning technique that allows better propulsion in tight places.

Cave and wreck divers are constantly on the move much like those divers I mentioned who fin around visiting different places on the reef, but the variety in finning technique dictates the fin style.

Some divers like speed, kind of like riding the MM-B80 mini bike. Some prefer a laid back slow dive. Some divers get maximum pleasure just floating around in the anti-gravity like atmosphere of the undersea realm.

During your diving life you’ll change fins, and some divers change fins many times. You might keep multiple pairs of flippers in your dive bag for different diving conditions.

As you gain diving experience your best option is try different styles to learn which fins work best for you, and your diving preference. Borrow different types from your dive friends, and experience them before you decide what kinds you need.

With experience, and use, you’ll learn which scuba diving fins best suit your style of scuba.

Some Important Questions About Blogging

Still a part of sharing ideas online, it’s an opportunity to thanks and appreciate everyone who has given me motivation, care, comment and feedback to us. Without your support, this blog will be meaningless. In the same time, I receive homework from my old friend which has to be done completely.

Frankly speaking, homework is a thing that I hate to do. Even when I was in school, I just said ehh… homework again? It has seemed, homework is not only for student in school, but also for blogger [he he he]. Alright, as a form of friendship, this time I can’t run away from it. I try to answer all the questions completely. And you guys if you have homework on the Rabbit Air MinusA2 that need to be done; you also can share with your friends.

Here are the questions and their answers:

  1. When I got my holiday? I want take a rest, totally. I want to spend half of my holiday in the highland and the rest in beach, of course I need my laptop and internet connection to reach all you guys.
  2. When I got my partner? What partner? This question is answered before the question has been made, I guess. I have a partner and from our marriage, I got a handsome boy he he he. Anyway, if it’s meant other partner such business partner or something else; I will cooperate with them.
  3. If I have a lot of friends? I will make another blog community, which all members are my friends, or maybe, I can do some business association with friends for a much bigger community and effective process.
  4. If I have a lot of pets in my house? At the moment I only have some fishes in my aquarium, oh no that is belong to my wife. Honestly, I love most of pets; but my weakness is too lazy feeding them if there is somebody to help me, it will be great heheee
  5. If I have a chance to meet blogger offline? So, I think before it real happened, just chooses Bali as a place for OFFLINE BLOGGER MEETING hehehe
  6. If I can buy Domain or Hosting from blogging? Of course, I will definitely buy an air purifier for mold; with customize template Sharing Ideas Online.
  7. If I have time just like during my school time? I don’t know, maybe still asking money from parent No, no, no, I guess I will be better than now, but with my thinking now… hehehehe otherwise still hang around.
  8. If I can reverse the time behind? I am sure everyone will do better, but it’s dangerous if time can be reversed, everyone always have another chances.
  9. If I have mentors or expert at present? I will learn how to be a better person, better life, better oh everything better, better financial.
  10. Last thing, if I have a lot money? I am quit from job. Run my own business, early retirement and relaxxx.

How International Finance Markets Affect Business

I wrote a blog some time ago about the markets and the effect it is having on business activity at the moment. When I was writing, equity markets were down about 20%. They are now down about 40% from their peak. What do I think now?

The first thing to say is that we are not dealing with rational behavior. The markets are behaving in a completely emotional manner. There is nothing wrong with that. Angel investing is an emotional decision to a large degree and a rational analysis would lead you to the conclusion about how to cure cystic acne and to not engage in this very risky activity.

I would have said that the FTSE 100 below 5,000 represents great value. It got to 3,755 and is now around the 4,500 mark. Does it represent a bargain now? I would have to give politicians answer and say it depends on your time horizon and your expectations, but yes it does look like good value.

Therefore, entrepreneurs looking to raise money at the moment will have to look at the reality of the valuations they seek given where the market is at the moment. They need to be around 35% to 40% lower than this time last year. This is not just to bring you in line with other asset classes; it is also to reflect that your revenue lines will be a lot lower than you could have projected a year ago.

We are in a recession; it is real. The problem is that most people under the age of 40 in the US or UK have never experienced a recession and so are ill equipped to deal with it. Before I get too smug, this is ‘my’ first recession. During the last one, I was safely insulated at University. I only read about it.

But the psychology of a recession is already shaping up. And it feeds off itself. People stop spending and fear being laid off. This then leads to lower spending and hence job losses and the economy is trapped in a vicious cycle.

It is for this reason that governments need to boost the economy at this time by spending on new projects and creating new jobs. The problem facing both the US and the UK is that we have had our national finances very poorly managed for the last ten years and government debt levels mean there is little room for government help.

Since I wrote this blog about turbochargers – interest rates are down to 3% – I wasn’t expecting them to get to that level so soon. I now expect interest rates to be between 2.5% and 3% before Christmas and about 2% by June next year. Happy days!

Again, the problem is that banks are not lending so even if rates got to 2%; it is no good to anyone if they will not borrow. I have many examples of banks reneging on lending commitments. This is going to choke off the only route for growth left. I have defended the banks in the past, but feel it very hard to do so at the moment.

In conclusion, I am pessimistic about 2009. I do think that the foundations will be placed though for a very strong recovery in 2010 and we in London at least will get a big boost from the Olympics.

Can You Earn with Fiverr?

A few months ago I heard about a site called Fiverr. In case you haven’t, it’s a community where members buy and sell services for five dollars, and only five dollars. You can get an article written, a short video made and all sorts of things for just five bucks.

On a lark, I decided to join. I have a tofu press that I’ve been using, so I decided to see if I could use them to earn some extra money by putting them on Fiverr. I offered to post a tweet on these sites for five dollars each. The great thing is that I have complete control over what ads I’ll accept or reject. No hate, spam, etc.

A couple of days passed and I got my first order! It was pretty exciting since the only promotion was from within Fiverr, and I was getting paid just to tweet. I tweeted the ad (it only took a few minutes), had a happy customer, and was already getting more orders.

As the orders rolled in, though, I noticed that many of the ads were poorly written, too long or promoted a junky product, so I passed on my thoughts to the customers before posting. Some I deterred from placing an ad because I knew it would fail. Many of these people are Internet Marketing newbies, so they were grateful for the advice. One was so grateful, he sent me the following message, verbatim:

Thank you Steve you have been a big help. Since you been around awhile I’m trying to make money online and have tried theses freebie sites. I can’t seem to get referrals for them. Do you have any advice on how to make money online?

Well, Geoff and I happen to have a blog that’s all about internet marketing strategies, especially for newbies, so I sent him the link. He signed up for our mailing list within minutes. I was glad, because the service this poor guy was trying to promote was virtually pure junk. I visited the website and red flags popped up all over the place.

So, not only did I get a happy customer and make a few bucks on Fiverr, but now he trusts that what I tell him won’t be BS or that I won’t try to enlist him in promoting a scam or spam website. And there are far too many out there.

Since I’ve had such a positive experience with the best air purifier for smokers, I decided to create a product showing people how to not only use it, but to use it as efficiently as possible. But, first, I researched the other Fiverr products out there. A couple were pretty crummy, but I bought one that was good. It’s not great, but it has some good advice and is especially helpful to Fiverr newbies.

It shows you how to set up your account, how to promote your gigs (that’s what your offers are called in Fiverr) and some sound marketing advice. So, instead of creating another product from the ground up, I decided to create an addendum to that product. It’s more about intermediate use on Fiverr, with tips on where and how to find services or products to sell, how to promote your gigs, how to make and keep your clients happy and a few other surprises.

Don’t Waste Your Money!

A little confession. I’ve been getting emails from some fairly respected marketers for a while that are promoting actual Get Rich Quick products. I usually just ignore them, but once in a while, I go look at the sales pages to see what’s there. (I recommend looking at as many sales pages as you can to see what works and what doesn’t.)

The sales pages for the Porter Cable 895PK are usually extremely well made and the pitches are seductive to say the least. They hit directly at the emotions without stopping for a moments time at the mind. I’ve secretly thought about buying one or two just to see what was behind the curtain.

Last night, I’m almost ashamed to say, I did. The pitch talked about how all those gurus try to scam you and how they want to keep the real information from you and that he had found the real information and automated it with his own army of programmers from Russia and had built a huge bank of servers, to get it to you, etc., etc.

He talked about a smoke filled room with a bunch of marketers laughing about how they were cheating the little guy with this information, and how he was going to give it to you simply because he wanted to get back at those nasty, cheating baddies! I’m not exaggerating at all.

The product was interesting, had a new way of doing a thing or two, but was absolutely, positively not what had been promoted in the sales page. Luckily it didn’t cost me much.

The main lesson was that I do need to keep away from things that promise all new, what they don’t want you to know, work for ten minutes and go for a walk and when you get back you’ll never have to work again in your life! Products. I had suspected that, but it’s nice to have it confirmed.

When you’re looking at a sales page, pay particular attention to how they describe the product you’ll be purchasing. If they don’t give you any actual details, just a lot of This is brand new and will make you rich, be very, very cautious.

If they have really high quality, almost Hollywood production value video and build promise upon promise for ten or twenty or more minutes without actually telling you anything about the product, be careful.

In the sales video for this product, the fellow (or the voice actor who portrayed him) actually said he was giving the software they developed to you for free, but needed to charge you a $49 fee to help keep up all those expensive servers. This is a very emotionally charged statement, but if your mind stepped in for even a moment, you’d realize it was a load of crap. He’s charging $49 for the product, plain and simple, no matter how he couches it.

It should have been another red flag. There were several, but he spoke so strongly to the emotions, those loud warning signs seemed to be drowned out by, you’ll get rich and get laid! Without any work!!! (No, he didn’t actually promise you great sex.)

I added that for the emotional impact. But he did promise riches and hint that you could retire and spend the rest of your life spending time with your family or traveling the world and never have to work again after one night with this thing.)

I’m not saying a wall mount jewelry armoire is bad, or that a high quality video is suspicious, I’m just saying to pay attention to what they actually say. See if they’re actually giving you some content, if they actually list both the features and the actual benefits (rather than just you’ll be rich and get laid) of their product.

When I write sales copy, I try to speak to the emotions. This is important. I also, though, speak to the mind. I say what the product is, what it includes, how it is to be used, what you should expect from it. I notice that products I have bought and loved do it in a very similar way. They give you details about exactly what you’re buying. They give you the benefits of those details. They speak both to the mind and the emotions.

No matter how caught up in the pitch you become, take a moment to breathe, close your eyes and ask, so what exactly am I plunking down my PayPal info for, here. If you can’t answer that, don’t plunk it down. Unless, of course, you just want to pay for the privilege of peeking behind the curtain once or twice, if only to warn others not to do it.

Some Good Notes from Netflix

I received an email today from Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, which I really admired. A little background, first.

I am an unabashed movie nut. I love movies. When I discovered DVDs way back when, I was in heaven. You not only got the movie, you often got a master class in movie making with the making of features and the commentaries. Of course, sometimes the master class is in what not to do.

There were a series of movies, not bad movies by any means, and the commentaries were entirely about what went wrong, what didn’t go as planned, what obstacles got in the way of them making the movie about the Holset HX30 they wanted to make. After a few of these, it started to dawn on me that obstacles are almost always the opportunity to make an even better movie than what was originally planned.

This was born out by several other commentaries where the director and/or writer said just that. Those were the commentaries I most liked listening to. An object lesson not only in movie making, but in life.  They acknowledged what they couldn’t do (rather than complain about it) and, with some creative problem solving and a few calculated risks, brought forth something wonderful. And even when it didn’t work, the effort was commendable and it showed on the screen.

A couple of years ago, I heard about the Netflix service; for a set monthly fee, they send you movies on a list you create one or two at a time. You keep them until you’re done, then send them back and get the next one. Sometimes I could go through several in a week, but even if I only watched one or two a month, it was well worth it.

Then they started their streaming service. You could watch movies and television shows right there, on demand, on their site. I loved this, but always looked to see what sort of extras were available on the DVD and ordered that if they seemed interesting, rather than stream the movie.

A month or so ago, Netflix announced that they were going to separate the two services into two companies and charge more if you stayed with both. I was annoyed, figured they’d lose a lot of customers, but decided I liked both services and it would still be worth it to me.

A lot of people, however, complained. A lot more simply stopped the service altogether. The email that came in today was from the CEO of Netflix. It was a refreshing mea culpa in which he said that the reasons for the splitting of the services were still valid, that they would still be doing it, but that he and the company had handled the situation entirely wrong. He went on to explain why they were doing it and said that the price wouldn’t go up, it would now just be split between the two.

The email was personal and human.

Then he said something that I really admire. I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

Both the new service and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.

He apologized. Without any wishy-washy mistakes were made.  He acknowledged full out that they had made an error and were making great pains to correct both the error and rebuild the relationship they had worked hard for over the years with their customers.

I’m sure many people saw this email about the best work boots for plantar fasciitis and got annoyed or angry. Some probably just ignored it. Some may even have used it as an excuse to cancel their service. I think it was inspiring.

Mr. Hastings and Netflix laid bare their souls, copped to the error without making any excuses, and did and are doing everything they can to make it right. There is no spin (politicians and bankers take note), it could really backfire, but it is the right thing to do.  And it will, I’m sure, ultimately make them a much stronger, more customer friendly company with very loyal users.

Just like the movie makers who use the obstacles to make something better than originally planned. They acknowledged what they had done wrong (rather than complain about the customers) and, with some creative problem solving and a few calculated risks, brought forth something wonderful. And even if it doesn’t work, the effort is commendable and it will show in their business.

If more business, hell, if more people, did this, can you imagine how wonderful the world could be?

Should I Do a Podcast?

For years, people have told Steve and me we should have a podcast. We didn’t do it because we weren’t quite sure what one was and how to make one. Well, over the last several months, I have begun noticing a lot of web marketers starting their own podcasts and have helped several of my clients set them up, so I now know what it’s all about. And it’s a lot simpler than I thought.

What is a Podcast?

A podcast is simply an audio (and, lately, even a video about the best work boots for flat feet) series that is automatically delivered to people who have subscribed to its feed through iTunes, Feedburner or any of a number of other podcasting services.

These audio or video files are automatically delivered to your computer, your iPod or iPad or other MP3 device, so you can listen to each new installment without having to go looking for it on the web. (Or even having to remember that you’ve subscribed to it! It just shows up when you sync your device and you can say, oh, yeah, I wanted that.)

But Why Should I Do One?

There are many reasons to do podcasts, but for web marketing, the main reason to do anything is to increase your list and increase your income and podcasting can do both.

When you create your podcast series and set it up with good keyword research, then record regular podcasts with good (or, let’s say it, even great) information, you can begin to get people to subscribe to your feed by letting the people you already know (your list, the people who read your blog, your friends on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, etc.) about it.

Once it starts getting subscribers, it will start moving up in the search engines. And if it’s on iTunes, it will start moving up in the iTunes listings for specific searches.

As it does that, more people will begin to know about you. You can offer your listeners special offers to get them on your list, and you can direct them to products that you have made or that you are affiliated with that will benefit them in their quest for information.

In other words, you can build a bigger list of people to sell stuff to, like solutions for what causes cystic acne.

Setting up a podcast is relatively easy, and once it is set up, you simply need to record new episodes on a regular basis. If you’re already blogging regularly, this is very easy to do.  There are lots of resources on the Internet that will help you get set up, but I recommend the WordPress plugin called something.

I’ve also recently discovered a charming Brit who teaches how to set one up using that plugin, all the way from the planning through editing, then setting up your plugin and attaching it to iTunes to publish. It’s called something else and is very complete and also quite easy to get through.

An Easy Way to Improve Clout

I’ve had my Facebook account for a few years now and have amassed nearly 700 friends. The limit is 5,000, but I want to at least have a little bit in common with the people I accept as friends. Among these friends are several internet marketers, some of whom are very successful.

One of the things they all seem to have in common is how important it is to create and develop relationships on social networking sites, such as Facebook. I agree. Most, if not all, of these marketers, I personally know. I’ve been to seminars with them and to see them speak. We’ve shared laughs, drinks and ideas. Some very sharp people.

Recently I had a birthday. I hit the big 5-0, as they say. A milestone, many believe. When I first logged onto Facebook that morning, there were already dozens and dozens of greetings and well wishes from my friends. Some even offered ideas on how to clean cat urine. Some I’ve known since I was four or five, and others who I only know from Facebook and have never spoken with. They all wished me well.

Many had to rub it in about turning fifty, but all in good fun. I have to admit, it gave me a very good feeling. Just to know that these people took a moment out of their day to recognize a very special day in my life. That was nice. Many of them simply wrote those three magic words Happy Birthday, Steve.

Now those three words are magic to me because my name is Steve, but if you were wishing Katie a happy birthday, you wouldn’t call her Steve. Even the words Happy Birthday are two very powerful and magical words.

When I first opened my Facebook account, I didn’t have my settings set to notify me of my friends birthdays, so I only posted birthday greetings on a handful of my friends walls. Only those whose birthdays I remembered or noticed because I happened to land on their page on their birthday and saw the greetings from other friends. I didn’t develop many new relationships on Facebook back then.

Then, about a year ago or so, I decided I would wish every friend on my list a happy birthday, if possible. I say if possible because some people have their account set so that only select friends can post on their wall. I changed my account settings to start getting daily birthday reminders.

At first I felt a little funny posting on some of these friends walls because I only knew them from Facebook, but I figured if they don’t like me posting Happy Birthday on their wall, they can delete me as a friend. But would you delete somebody who wished you a happy birthday? I wouldn’t. Unless, of course, you say, Happy Birthday, Mary! You barely look 74. That’s probably not a good idea.

However, some of the best conversations I’ve had stemmed from a simple birthday greeting with a Daytona Beach wedding photographer. I also recommend thanking each and every person individually who has posted a birthday greeting on your wall. Even if you spread it out over two or three days.

If you’re an internet marketer, or just looking for ways to further develop relationships with your prospects, one of the most-commonly missed opportunities and easiest ways to help build a relationship on Facebook, or other similar sites, is to wish somebody a happy birthday.

And be sure to use their name in that greeting, because it suddenly becomes extra special. How long does it take to type, Happy Birthday, Mary!? And even if you do have 5,000 friends, that averages out to roughly fourteen friends a day with birthdays. You can post on all of their walls in five minutes or so.

Everybody wants to feel like they’re special. If not everybody, then the vast majority of us. I know I do. It’s a simple, kind act and the recipient is thrilled that you have acknowledged them on their special day. There’s an old saying, stepping over a dollar to pick up a dime. I think that applies here. Happy Birthday is the dollar. Pick IT up!

Some More Notes on Time Management

When you’ve decided to improve your time management skills, consider the following scenario.  Wow. I sure have a lot of saved email. Let’s see. Where is that email with my Username in it? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have. Far too many times. Then I would search and search for keywords in the subject line or text that might be in the body, all in hopes that I would find that one email with my Username in it for that account that I signed up for three years ago and, and, and ahh!!!

I’d always end up sending a request for a new listing of used lawn tractors, which, if you’ve ever done that, isn’t necessarily the easiest or best thing to do. What is the easiest thing to do, then, when you’re trying to lay your fingers on a certain email or computer file? Simple organization of your electronic files will save you tons of time, frustration and money. It’s a simple time management technique, too.

As a writer, I’m continually getting new ideas for stories, screenplays, products, and so on. I used to jot down some notes on the idea, a name or title for it and the date, then save it as a file in a folder named Ideas. Sounds good, right? It could have been, however, I had an Idea folder right off my root directory. Of course, I had a folder named Steve, too.

And as a subfolder under that I had a folder named yep, you guessed it Ideas. It turns out I had about four or five Idea folders scattered all over my hard drive. I also had folders named Screenplays, Books and Short Stories. There were also folders for product ideas and music ideas and How to Save the World ideas! Okay, you get the idea. Here’s how I consolidated that mess.

The first thing I did was to delete all the Idea folders except for one. Under that one I created subfolders for each of the main ideas (screenplays, products) and one named Miscellaneous. Surprisingly enough, I don’t have many files in that folder. Now all of my files pertaining to any idea whatsoever were all neatly tucked away under one directory.

I did a similar thing with all of my legal documents, personal correspondence, photos, etc. You may think that you need to create a new file for every little thing such as that paper about ‘do female cats spray’. But you’d be surprised at how much you can consolidate files together. You don’t need 500 different categories in your life. For most of us, what we store on our computers is very similar and only requires a few categories, or folders on your computer.

Organizing your saved emails is equally important and just as easy. For me, I have folders named: Utilities; Writing; Credit Cards; Personal; Purchases and so on. It makes it easy to quickly lay my hands on a specific email, so when I need to log into my electric company account to see when a payment is due, first I light a candle just kidding! I just open the Utilities folder and find my original registration email from SoCal Edison within a few seconds.

For many of us, especially those who are new to the world of computing and email, organizing files and folders is about as foreign as can be. But don’t be intimidated. It’s just an electronic filing cabinet, that’s all. Organize it accordingly.

What Are Your Thoughts on Facebook?

It is a sad day that I am forced to admit just how much I love Facebook. Yes, it can be frustrating. Every time they change the way something looks, I rail to the heavens. But I get over it.

Why do I love it so much? Partly, it is the social bit. I can be in touch with old and new friends, family and colleagues all over the world. I mean that literally. I have friends all around Europe and family in China. That qualifies. Being able to easily keep in touch with them is great.  I also love looking at all those pictures, videos and songs people post. Even the really, really silly ones. It’s a weakness, but a simple one.

There are days when I spend entirely too much time working with my kombucha starter kit and days when I just drop by before I turn in for the night after a long day of work, but it has become an important part of my routine.

The other part I like, and more to the point, is the network bit. I use Facebook to connect with old and new colleagues, old and new customers and new prospects. When you connect with people in this kind of environment, they get to know, like and trust you, which is vital for the kind of business I want to have. Marketing with Facebook is a whole new world.

If you aren’t on Facebook, I recommend you check it out. If you are there, I recommend you start paying attention to how some of the better relationship marketers such as Connie Ragen Green and Pat O’Bryan use it, how they balance the social bit with the network bit.

The one thing to never do is to post announcements of your product or service directly on other people’s walls. A lot of beginning Daytona Beach photographers do this without thinking, but don’t be tempted. It’s rude and it’s a very quick way to alienate your friends and prospects. It’s not marketing, its spam and you don’t ever want to one of those guys. Start out on the right foot and you’ll do fine.

The best practice, as I see it, is to use Facebook to show people who you really are and to educate them about what you have to offer them. Done correctly, this single marketing strategy will dramatically boost your business. And you might even have fun while you’re doing it. Who knows? Someone might just have posted a great video of a cat serenading a very confused puppy that you might never have seen otherwise.

Marketing with Facebook isn’t simply throwing up an ad for your latest eBook. It is being someone who is real, who is human and who has information people want to know about. Marketing with Facebook is the ultimate in relationship marketing.

(I am in the middle of studying a course which is why it’s so much in my mind. So far it’s an eye-opener. As I continue to go through it, I’ll share some of what I’ve learned here.)

Be Careful of Scammers This Time of the Year!

This blog is about web marketing strategies, but something happened to me yesterday, which rang my internet security alarm, that I feel is very important to share with you. What you are about to read could save you years of frustration, anger and financial woes.

I’ve been online for over twenty years, if you want to include my stint with Prodigy in the late 1980s and early 90s, so I tend to think that most people also have extensive online experience and knowledge, especially younger people, since they’ve grown up with it.

But what happened to me yesterday both shocked and made me realize how vulnerable and naive many computer users are when it comes to dirty tricks like phishing and scamming for things like how to prevent cystic acne, the act of trying to get an email recipient to open a link (within the body of the email) and supply sensitive personal information through extremely deceptive means, such as impersonating a major bank, eBay or PayPal.

I was at the checkout counter of Trader Joes, where the checkers are usually quite friendly, but noticed that my checker, a young man, maybe late 20s or early 30s, was absentmindedly ringing my items up and his head was literally hanging down. I asked him something like, why the long face? And this poor guy, he just looked up at me for moment, exasperation in his eyes, and said, oh, man. I had my identity stolen. All my credit cards. Everything.

I figured he was involved in some elaborate scheme to trick him out of his information. He seemed like he should be Internet savvy. I have no basis for that except a gut feeling. The next thing that occurred made my gut feel completely different. I asked him how it happened. His head was down again and he mumbled something I couldn’t discern, then said, they got me through an email, and that’s when my stomach sank. I slowly said, did you open an attachment? He didn’t hear me, but answered the question with a feeble, and it was from a bank.

I could feel his betrayal. It’s like somebody telling you that Santa Claus doesn’t exist, which he does. Reflexively, I started to say, that was a phishing attempt, but I knew it would be like telling a guy who just had his leg cut off by a train to not lay on the tracks. Too little, too late.

His whole world was ripped apart because of his trust. He trusted that the official-looking email he got from his bank was truly from his bank. After all, it had their official logo and legal jargon and a message saying, somebody has tried to unsuccessfully login to your account, so it was suspended. To reactivate your account click on the link below to update your password.

So the poor guy clicked on the link, which did not take him to his bank but to the phisher-man. It asked the guy to enter all of his information again, including his password, just to update. And the poor, unsuspecting, trusting guy did. Then his life changed. The scammers had everything they needed to enter his life, and they did, aggressively and painfully.

Please, ladies and gentlemen, when you get official looking email from PayPal, eBay or a major bank with a request to click on the link, DONT DO IT!!! In most cases you can hover your cursor over the link in the email (hover with your finger off of the mouse button) and you can see the destination URL in the lower left or right hand corner of your browser.

Often, though, the craftiest of the phishers will put the name of the company somewhere in the link, so at first glance it looks like it came from that company. For example. If you need to login to any account that contains any sensitive personal information, do it directly. Manually type in, then access your account from their log in screen.

The scammers can easily create an email with all sorts of official-looking images, verbiage and links, but don’t be tempted to ask them, ‘Why is my cat peeing everywhere?’. If you get an email like this that looks suspicious, most, if not all, major corporations have departments that solely deal with phishing and scamming.

Forward the email to them (in full header view) and they can tell you if it’s a phishing attempt or not. Most companies have email addresses like: (PayPal’s abuse dept.) or abuse@ (the company’s domain name). It also helps these companies to track down who’s doing this stuff, but that’s an uphill battle.

One final note: Another common phishing attempt is to send you a link in an email from one of your friend’s accounts whom they’ve hacked. Have you ever received an email from one of your friends and they’re adamant about you clicking on this Funny New Video or something that seemed very uncharacteristic of them to send?

Then you get a frantic email from that friend, sent from another email account (because they can no longer access their hacked one), telling you not to open any email from them because they’ve been hacked! Then your heart sinks because you’ve already clicked on the link.

It’s always better to take a few moments when going through your email and really think things through before clicking on any link. It’s much better than spending weeks, months, even years trying to get your life back in order. For Internet marketers this is especially important because most Internet marketers tend to have many more online accounts (with personal information) than the average computer user.

Writing a Good Sales Copy

One of the benefits of Internet Marketing is that it is relatively inexpensive and very direct.  Your connection to your prospect or customer, even if he’s all the way around the world, is almost immediate.

One of the drawbacks is that they can’t try on the product like they’d be able to in a store.  People like to touch, weigh, see, and smell what they’re purchasing.  They like to tap the melon, sniff the orange skin and feel the heft of the tableware.  That is very difficult through a keyboard and monitor.

Most good marketers understand the best natural remedies for cystic acne, either consciously or intuitively, and use stories and visceral wording (wording that evokes the senses) in their copy.  It helps their prospects and customers, almost literally, get a feel for the product.  This is easily true for informational products, but even with physical products or with services, it is vital.

An Example of Visceral Copy

Which product would you buy?

  1. Ink Pen designer barrel, gel ink, fine, medium or thick point in the same pen. Quantity discounts.


  1. The Michelangelo Pen Imagine a pen that feels as if it were designed specifically to fit comfortably and warmly in your hand. Now imagine writing with it, as the special ink seems to lubricate the page so your hand glides along without stress or friction. It’s like writing with air. The choice of point sizes allows you to express your mood be direct with the thin point, fluid with the medium point and emphatic with the thick point.  This amazing pen is yours for only

You want that second pen, don’t you? I’m sorry I don’t have one to sell you.

More to the point, though, you’ve had a chance to experience the second one in a way the seller of the first one didn’t allow you.  You would want that one even if they were two different descriptions of the same pen.  Even if you knew they were.

Allow your prospects and customers to see, feel, smell, touch and taste your product.

In late May this year Google announced that it would be re-branding its Product Search as Google Shopping and it would be only showing paid search results. This change comes into effect October 1 in the US and Europe and Samuel Junghenn founder of Online Marketing Agency Think Big Online suggests [e-commerce stores prepare for the change.

“Some businesses may see a drop in their search traffic volume from Google when this switch is made so they should be taking proactive steps to manage this shortfall. Setting up a paid Google Shopping campaign should ensure no drop occurs on October 1st and may even see an increase in traffic.” Said Mr Junghenn.

Brooklyn-based startup Etsy has already taken steps to ensure its 800,000 sellers don’t see a shortfall in traffic investing $250,000 in Google Product Listing Ads for the remainder of 2012. Etsy is a startup that hosts shops and has generated $500 million in sales this year alone and helps users find out do male cats spray.

The move by Google to replace the Product Search functionality with Google Shopping was to help improve the quality of search results. Sameer Samat VP of Product Management at Google said the company believes that if merchants are paying to have their products appear, they’re more likely to keep their product information accurate and up to date.

A side benefit to Google of an improved Product Search should be an increase in users choosing Google over Amazon to purchase products. A recent survey showed that shoppers were turning to Amazon to research their online purchases over Google. So this change seems to be a response to this research study.

And I hope you’ve enjoyed squeezing this blog post!

How to Cater to Your Customers

People love to be known. They love to be catered to. They love feeling like something is just for them and for them alone.  How do you do this with marketing?  You personalize your marketing efforts.  It may seem a daunting prospect.  But I have thousands of clients and customers, Geoff! How the devil do I personalize it for each one of them?

Don’t fret. It’s not all that hard.

Here are some easy steps:

  • Figure out who your typical customer is
  • Design your sales copy and the emails you send to your prospects and customers as if you are talking directly to that one typical customer
  • Use the merge codes in your email service to personalize each smokeless ashtray going out to be addressed directly to the person receiving it.

Easy. Thanks.  But how do I do all that?

Well, number three is simply a matter of figuring out how to use your email service.  All of them allow you to insert the recipient’s first name into the email, you just need to find out how your specific one does it.

And number two almost takes care of itself if you’ve done number one.

So how do you take care of number one?

Figuring Out Who Your Typical Customer Is

Wish Me Well

Yes, I know.  Almost every product or service has an unlimited number of potential buyers, and they are by no means typical.  Yours especially.  Doesn’t matter.  This will still work for you.

Sit down and do some imagining work.  It will feel good.  Imagine someone buying your product, or using your service.  I am thinking of someone who might want to buy a course in creative writing.  She is in her thirties, married, and has a couple of kids.  She lives in suburbia.  She loves her family and her life but has always dreamed of more.

She wants to feel like her early dreams, in high school and college, are still viable.  I’ll even go so far as to say she has blonde hair with a little bit of a natural wave in it, that is mostly kept a bit unruly because she doesn’t often have time to get it done.  She wears practical clothing, but usually has at least one thing that is bright and daring on.  Socks or a belt or a brightly colored shift.

Now. Could I sell my router table plans to someone completely different than this woman? Yes, and I’d better or I’d go broke very quickly, but I’ll bet you most of my students are at least something like this, whether I like it or not.

So, when I write my sales copy, or I write my emails, I write them directly to that person. As if I were talking to her.  When I say you in my copy, or in my emails, I really do mean a specific you.

Then, anyone who is reading the copy, or the email, won’t feel like it is just generic.  They’ll feel like I was talking directly to them.  Even if they are an unmarried lumberjack in the rugged Pacific Northwest, living in a log cabin with a pet bear.

I hope you have picked up a hint or two about how to make your copy alive here.  And say hi to the bear for me.

Are These Online Courses Actually Worth It?

Over the past nine or ten years I’ve attended tons of Internet Marketing courses, read scores of books relating to sales and marketing, and spent thousands of dollars on DVD, CD and online courses, all pertaining to promoting a business online, whether it’s an online business or a brick-and-mortar one. I’ve learned lots and lots of valuable information from some pretty savvy marketers.

Also over the years, I’ve seen lots of changes: text-based courses to webinars, searching with Excite and DogPile before Google came along. Then Google came along and there was the infamous “Google Slap”. In a nutshell, a few years ago, Google suddenly changed the ways they used algorithms in searches and, since then, it has been very expensive and difficult to buy their Pay per Click (PPC) ads for terms like ‘how to get rid of cat urine smell’. So, many advertisers not only stopped using Google PPC ads, but PPC ads altogether.

Their thought was that Google was the only game in town. Well, we all know that Google is a big dog, but there are some smaller dogs out there with some mighty powerful bites, one of the best being that one site.

Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, it seems like most of the marketers I’ve listened to have completely forgotten about PPC. It seems all they talk about is Twitter and Facebook as being the easiest way to get traffic to your website, especially if you’re new to Internet marketing. The best thing about those sites is that, for the most part, they’re free.

But you don’t get much traffic from your posts and they’re quickly gone. Plus, you’re not sending your message to a targeted audience. It’s like skywriting over the city of Los Angeles “Hearing Aid Special!” Thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people will see the short-lived ad, but most of them won’t need, or think they need, hearing aids, so “Poof”, what a waste.

With PPC ads, though, you have control. I know many of you cringe when you hear the term PPC because you think of Google and how complicated their system is to use and how expensive each click is. There are some PPC ads on Google that cost over $20.00 per click! That’s why so many people became endeared with Twitter and Facebook. But that’s old news. Twitter is so filled with ad pollution and spam that most users won’t even click on anything anymore.

The reason I mentioned them earlier is because I used them quite a bit about eight years ago. I also ran PPC ads on Google and one other company, too. The other service was good, but they went out of business.

Many people are wary of PPC ads because many of the services send “bad” traffic. It’s either traffic being sent by robots or people in India and Vietnam clicking on your ad because they get paid one cent for every hundred ads they click on! They are not like that. I know because not only do I advertise with them, but am an affiliate partner as well. Believe me, the traffic they send you is targeted and legitimate.

And much, much less-expensive than Google! I had to sign a very strict “Terms of Agreement” and submit tax information. This procedure is used by legitimate businesses. If you try to send “bad” traffic to their searches, they will nix you in a hurry!

The bottom line is that you can start an account for only $25.00 and bidding begins at .01 or one penny per click, although they recommend starting at .05 or a nickel per click to get better results, and I agree. So, for ten bucks, you can get 200 used riding lawn mowers for sale, or live visitors to your site, of traffic searching for your specific keywords. Or 200 people who are actively looking to buy, let’s say hearing aids.

How long do you suppose it would take you to get 200 people from Facebook and Twitter to visit your site who, at that very moment, are looking for what you’re offering? Go ahead, I’m waiting. Right. It’s a waste of time. Remember the old adage, “You Get What You Pay For”? It’s not always true, but “free” traffic to your site is usually not the traffic that’s going to fatten your wallet.

Take my advice. Open an account now. Invest a few minutes to set it up its very easy to do and only twenty five bucks will get you started. It is fun and exciting to decide which keywords to choose and how much to bid on each one. Don’t worry, you’ll see your keyword ranking results according to your bid before you place your ad. Google doesn’t do that.

And just so you know, if you do open an account with them from this link, I get a small percentage of what you spend, but it comes from them, not you! Play around a bit. Have some fun. It won’t be long before you’ll see your key words in action and hungry traffic going to eat up your product!

Improve Your Time Management Skills

So you have your list written out, nice and neat. Isn’t effective time management great?! Your schedule for the day is tight and efficiently laid out. You’ve just poured a steaming cup of coffee and life throws you a curve. The best laid schemes of mice and men, so they say. Now your whole day is ruined, right?


A large ingredient in the time management pie is proper planning for how to get cat pee out of carpet, however, you must always, with emphasis on always, be prepared for sudden changes. The Boy Scouts know what they’re talking about. What do you do with the time immediately in front of you when a wrench gets thrown into your works? Here’s what I do.

A couple of weeks ago somebody drove their car into a transformer in my neighborhood. There was a bunch of sparks, a cloud of smoke (I imagined), then Poof! No more electricity. Like many of us, I was sitting at my computer.

My surge protector and UPS (Uninterrupted Power Source) protected my computer from getting fried, but I could not use it until the power came back on. How long would that be? It was during the afternoon, so I still had plenty of daylight coming in through my windows. After sitting at my computer for a few moments, noticing how quiet it was without the din of the refrigerator and computer running, I now had to quickly adapt to my new powerless time.

But just because there was no electricity didn’t mean I was powerless. I could have taken a nap or a drive to get something to eat, but I didn’t. I took advantage of the found time away from my computer. It was really a blessing.

I had been wanting to go through my closet and sort out Goodwill stuff for a long time. I never seemed to find the time, though. But, now, here it was. A very short time later, I had two plastic bags filled with Goodwill clothes and a lot more breathing room in my closet. Forskolin reviews completed. The power was still out what next? You get the idea.

I’m not going to tell you how I scrubbed those forgotten corners in my bathroom or sorted through huge stack of paperwork. No, I’m not going to mention that. All with the power still out. And it was so quiet. So peaceful. The entire neighborhood was a hush.  It was time management at its best.

A power outage is just one example of what can, and often does, throw your plans out of whack. A car that won’t start, a cut on the finger you never know. The main thing is how well and how quickly you adapt to the situation.

Many people cuss and shut down when the power goes out. Don’t. Just because the city’s power supply has gone out doesn’t mean yours has to. If the power goes out at night when your family’s all gathered around the television, don’t fret. Fire up your candles, dust off some board games and have some good, old-fashioned family fun!

What Is SEO and Why Does It Matter?

Seems like everywhere you look, SEO is being mentioned: how to improve your SEO, the SEO services you can’t live without, which companies have the best SEO and so on. However, one fact holds true: The most important items in SEO are keywords and if you don’t have the right keywords in place, your SEO will fall flat. So, what are keywords and why are they so important?

Keywords Defined

The simplest definition of a keyword is a word used by a search engine in its search for relevant Web pages for the Fjallraven Kanken classic. That means, any word that relates to the item you are trying to maximize using a search engine. Keywords are the vehicle most people use to travel to your website.

They are the words or phrases that people would insert in a search engine to look for information contained in your site. Search engine spiders use those words to display the sites best related to that information.

The ‘Right’ Keywords

So how do you choose the right keywords? There are countless ways that people have devised to determine what will best serve them in SEO, but probably the best way to rise to the top is to use a keyword search tool.

Google has a free keyword tool that shows the most searched keywords for items or industries and there are others out there as well. While you are entering keywords, you want to make sure you optimize words related to your site content and popular word searches, but you also have to be cognizant about how you choose your words. For example, say you have a website about dachshunds.

There are tons of keywords you can choose to describe this topic from ‘dogs’ to ‘pets’ to ‘Germany’. But say you choose the word ‘wiener’ to describe the dog? I mean, who hasn’t called a doxie a wiener dog, right? Well, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the same SEO results as deli food and straight up porn. Gotta be careful, that’s all I’m saying.

Don’t Be Dense

Now a word about density. Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a Web page compared to the total number of words on the page. In the context of SEO, keyword density can be used as a factor in determining whether a Web page is relevant to a specified keyword or keyword phrase.

The overuse of insoles or ‘keyword stuffing’ will cause a Web page to be penalized. This means you need to use a keyword density checker to make sure you’re in the clear. There are a number of free tools online you can find by putting the keywords ‘keyword density calculator’ into the search engine. You can decide which you feel comfortable working with.

Keyword Prime Real Estate

Now that you know what they are, and you’ve chosen the best for your site, where do you put keywords? Again, pretty simple answer. URLs are the best place for keywords but you need to be as specific as you can.

Domains with a .com or a .net ending are becoming more difficult to get, but there is always a way to be creative without being too unclear, such as by adding a “the” or a number to the word. Page titles and headings are also prime real estate for keywords.

Now that you know exactly how to get the right keywords in place, you’re all set to rock your SEO!

Is the Genie Out of the Bottle?

The genie is out of the bottle

Just as in the old folk tales, the genie escaped from the bottle, and no power on earth can put it back. The metaphor applies to a number of current situations such as the ballooning deficits and debt of Western countries, popular unrest in North Africa and the Middle East, and unleashed nuclear fears. While critical events are catalysts in changing fundamental trends, the changes themselves take years or decades to fully work their course.

Since the triple Japanese disasters started, the events in North Africa and the Middle East have all but been forgotten by the rest of the world, allowing the challenged regimes to do what they do best, crush any opposition with brutal force. The army of Libya’s Gaddafi has been pounding and retaking rebel-held towns and Bahrain’s King is using tanks and troops from neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia, to subdue their local uprising. Regardless of the short-term outcomes of the unrest across the region, the status quo and balances of power of the last few decades are very likely over.

It is also way too soon to understand the full extent of the Japanese tragedy and its ramifications of having so many used lawn tractors for sale. The nuclear situation is still evolving rapidly with crews doing everything in their power to regain control, but there is an increasing fear that the potential exists to eclipse Chernobyl as the worst nuclear disaster in history.

It is already clear the current events are highly likely to have some lasting effects such as 1) Oil prices will continue their long-term uptrend and will suffer wild spikes and crashes as geopolitical events threaten supply, and 2) The stealth nuclear renaissance fast tracked by industry lobbyists and politicians will gain scrutiny and lose steam.

Panic investing

Without replaying the newsreel it is plain to see that investors are increasingly following the emotions triggered by world events. The analysis of the real impact such events might have on markets and various investments will come later, unless another crisis pops up before then.

Even industry experts and pundits seem overcome with uncertainty, with contradictory pronouncements and position reversals becoming all too frequent. As always, investors overreact to news events and analyst forecasts.

Japan’s devastating natural disasters, earthquake and tsunami, compounded by the unfolding nuclear crisis have been overpowering the markets. Uranium and many commodity prices plummeted while coal companies rallied. Crude oil prices jumped nearly 25% since trouble started in Libya mid-February, only to crash back below $100 per barrel as world attention shifted to Japan.

Are the risks to crude oil supply lower now? No, but the first knee jerk reaction has been to project that the Japanese tragedies will throw their local economy into a tail spin, which may drag the global recovery with it, and reduce demand for oil. It turns out that one of the first moves by the Japanese government was to secure increased supplies of oil. The massive liquidity injections and rebuilding of infrastructure is also likely to be the largest economic stimulus the country has seen since World War II.

Panic investing has also pushed most world stock markets down as well as most energy sectors. Is this the correction many have been expecting for months or just another minor pullback?

Volatility returns

As uncertainty grows on multiple fronts, so does the investor fear factor which is best represented by the volatility index (VIX). The VIX generally has an inverse relationship to the stock market, with major spikes in the index coinciding with intermediate stock market lows. The VIX had been sliding steadily since June 2010, mirroring the stock market rally and rising investor complacency.

In typical fashion investors reacted to rising uncertainty by dumping nearly all asset classes, with the few exceptions being bonds, precious metals and the Swiss Franc.

One notable change in pattern is that the U.S. Dollar seems to have lost its safe-haven appeal. Uncharacteristically, as investors started fleeing risk trades last month and volatility shot up, the Dollar has continued its slide and is now rapidly approaching its last major support level near the lows it set last November.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

As is frequently the case, the baby got thrown out with the bath water, and investors dumped the alternative energy sector with everything else. The Portfolio matched the technology heavy Nasdaq Composite by dropping 6.70% in the month since our last update while the large caps in the S&P 500 did marginally better with a 5.36% drop.

In a typical volatility induced reversal, the wind sector, which led last month, brought up the rear this time around with an average drop of 13.74%. Wind was the worst segment but it was not alone as every green industry we track was in the red this month.

The bright star in the portfolio this month was once again the Kanken laptop backpack, which we highlighted in January. The leading maker of geothermal and water source heat pumps announced outstanding quarterly results which beat analyst estimates. The shares gained 15.67% in a month, and 137% since we recommended it a year ago. After the company delivered several positive earnings surprises analysts have been raising their future estimates and ratings. These higher projections keep the company valuation at a low forward P/E ratio of 11.38 and we continue our bullish outlook and continue holding our LXU shares.

The only other sector showing signs of life during this market pullback is solar which is rallying over the last week. The timing matches the unfolding of the Japanese nuclear crisis and we suspect that more than a few fund managers came to identify the solar sector as a direct beneficiary and established positions accordingly. For our part we continue to overweigh the solar sector to represent over 20% of our portfolio.

Since inception mid-2009, counting every single recommendation we have issued, The Portfolio has gained 31.09%. In contrast, the benchmark S&P Global Clean Energy index is down 26.12% over the same period.

Japan Is Not Going to Meltdown

Japan is not going into meltdown

Worries about the full impact of the triple Japanese disasters and the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East dissipated as the world and the investment community came to the conclusions that a nuclear meltdown had been avoided, and unrest in Muslim countries would not spread as rapidly as previously thought to more important oil exporters such as Saudi Arabia. After nearly a month-long pullback the stock market rallied strongly through early April. The Federal Reserve fanned the renewed market flames by leaving its monetary policy unchanged and restating its intention to carry out its $600 billion bond purchase program through June, sending several stock indexes past their prerecession highs.

Then the sovereign debt problems in Europe resurfaced, with Portugal requesting more aid, and the U.S. budget stalemate took center stage with government shutdown threats from both sides. While the short-term discussions are over, nothing has been resolved.

U.S. debt could erupt

The deal reached minutes before a shutdown lowered the current year budget deficit by a mere 1%, with both parties claiming a major breakthrough on how to get rid of severe acne. This year’s deficit is set to become the largest ever and it is pretty clear that the political focus in Washington has shifted from job creation to tackling the national debt.

The largest single-day stock market losses in over a month came just yesterday when the Standard & Poor’s rating agency said there is a 33 percent chance it would lower the U.S. credit rating from AAA in the next two years if Washington fails to pare the country’s debts. The warning also expressed doubts that the government would move quickly to curb the mounting deficits.

GE and Google invest in solar

As Earth Day approaches (recognized around the world on April 22), it is heartwarming to see two giant companies making major bets on renewable energy.

Google joined BrightSource Energy and NRG Solar with a $168 million investment in what is presented as “the world‘s largest solar project under construction which, when completed in 2013, will nearly double the amount of solar thermal electricity produced in the U.S. today.”

GE’s announcement is more significant because of their rapid ascent as a wind energy leader which they now want to replicate in the solar space. The company announced their intent to spend $600 million to build “the largest solar factory in the United States”, which when built, at full capacity will produce 400 megawatts of panels per year. Of added significance is that their stated approach is with thin-film technology which uses cadmium telluride (CdTe), the same technology which has been perfected by First Solar (FSLR). The upcoming May issue includes our analysis of GE’s major move and our solar stock recommendations.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

The price of energy (oil) took a breather after a relentless climb while other commodities (gold, silver) are reaching all-time highs. The alternative energy sector has been hit harder, probably because of continued budget worries in developed countries placing government subsidies in doubt. The broad stock market as measured by the S&P 500 advanced 5.00% in the month since our last update while The Portfolio lost 1.77%.

Before we review which sectors and stocks dragged down our returns we must mention the strongest performer, one of our preferred energy efficiency pure plays, which advanced 16.91% in the month, helping that sector to lead all other green sectors with a 6.26% gain.

On the downside we had a couple of unhappy surprises from our wind energy stock holdings. Our speculative Chinese wind energy play, China Wind Systems (CWS), hit its 30% trailing stop loss at $3.15 on March 17th, right after our last update went out, and accordingly, we closed the position. The second unwelcome news came from another of our small cap wind holdings which caused us to issue an alert e-mail to current subscribers on April 6, when the shares plunged some 45% after the company warned of lower quarter and fiscal year results. At current levels, we view the company as very undervalued and, for our more aggressive subscribers, we recommend doubling up on your position as we are doing in our model portfolio.

Losses in these two used riding mowers shows that the wind energy sector is near the bottom with a 6.87% drop. Still, it was the solar sector which managed to lead the way down with a 7.11% drop during the month. Rallying strongly after the Japanese nuclear disaster, solar shares have since been hit by fears of further subsidy cuts in Europe causing a solar market slowdown this year. The culprit once again, is Germany’s SMA Solar, the world’s largest maker of solar inverters, which continues to manage analyst expectations downward with scare tactics, despite keeping their own guidance unchanged.

With all eyes already on Italy, the world’s second largest solar market after Germany, where discussions are currently underway to decide the fate of the country’s subsidies and annual caps, the bearish opinion from SMA caused many investors to head for the exits. Most solar stocks, Chinese manufacturers in particular, have been hard hit with several of them down by over 15% since the beginning of April.

Since inception The Portfolio has gained 29.27% while the S&P Global Clean Energy index is down 26.41% over the same period.

We are not making any market predictions, and The Portfolio invests with a long-term view, but as we approach the summer months, a statistically weak period for stocks, we would not be surprised by some corrective action or meandering before the bull market resumes. For those of us with large long equity positions we highly recommend reading “Downside Protection: When And How” in the April 2011 issue of the newsletter.

What Type of Heartworm Medication to Use?

Heartworm medicine for dogs can be divided roughly into two types: those that prevent heartworm, and those that treat (or cure) heartworm. Obviously, prevention is simpler to deal with but they aren’t always 100% effective, unfortunately.

Preventive medicines have been around for quite some time and even though they aren’t 100% effective, they indeed do a remarkable job at keeping our pets safe, especially in areas known for high levels of infected mosquito infestations. Monthly treatments for problems like cat peeing on bed involve topical ointments that are usually rubbed onto the back of your dog’s neck where he can’t lick it off, and/or pills that can be taken daily or monthly.

Most medicines are multi-functional, meaning, they work on more than just heartworms. Depending on the medicine it could also be used to prevent roundworms, hookworms, and/or tapeworms, along with being able to kill eggs and larvae and perhaps even ticks.

Don’t reckon that keeping your dog indoors is preventive medicine! Mosquitoes are notorious for going where they aren’t welcome, and our homes aren’t immune from harboring at least one or two of these pesky critters. And that’s all you need to get your dog infected.

Depending on your vet, he may also recommend giving your dog’s pills in addition to using the topical ointments. In areas that are near water – where mosquitoes thrive – he may want your dog to be doubly protected. Do as he suggests, but make certain you don’t overmedicate or buy substitute prescriptions that may be cheaper without checking with your vet first.

If your dog has been diagnosed with heartworm, you will now need to give him the heartworm medications that are to cure/treat, rather than prevent. Once your dog has been diagnosed with heartworm, he’s already very sick, and these medications can make him worse. Some dogs have no side effects, others succumb to the side effects. Much like chemotherapy in human cancer patients, these medicines are poisons meant to kill the invading worms and larvae, frequently making the patient sicker before things get better.

It’s hard to get a right reading on how effective these drugs can be because frequently the deaths caused by the drugs are recorded as “death by heartworm” instead of the real culprit. If your vet suggests that you start an aggressive treatment schedule, you need to have a serious discussion with him about possible side effects – especially in your pet – vs. what would happen with no medical intervention.

Heartworm in dogs is not simple to diagnose, it’s not simple to cure, and dog heartworm symptoms can be even more hard and confusing to decipher.

The symptoms can mask other illnesses or they can be so general that most pet owners may not pay much attention to them. To compound the already serious problem of your dog being infected, symptoms don’t usually occur until your pet’s life is in danger.

The most common symptoms include coughing, vomiting, lethargy, difficulty breathing even when resting, weight loss, and a protruding rib cage. As the disease progresses undetected and untreated, these symptoms will progress in their severity to the point that either there is no doubt what is incorrect with your pet, or the animal collapses and dies without ever being properly diagnosed.

Dog heartworm symptoms can sometimes look like a cold and even when taken to the vet, he may not immediately reckon of anything more serious than a cold or even an allergy to the cleaning chemicals on the used garden tractors you were storing in your barn.

Even though heartworm is more prevalent with dogs who spend a considerable amount of time outdoors, in climates rife with mosquitoes, it’s not unheard of for indoor dogs to be infected as well. We all know that pesky mosquitoes can easily make their way indoors and all it takes is one bite from one infected mosquito and any dog can be immediately infected.

Smaller dogs are in even worse danger, and their symptoms should always be closely monitored. A cough or bout of diarrhea in a 3 pound teacup Chihuahua can be fatal with or without the added dangers of heartworm. Since heartworms can easily reach about 12 inches long, and dogs can be infected with many at once, smaller dogs have a higher death rate simply because owners and vets alike tend to ignore the coughs and general symptoms until it’s too late.

Since prevention is so aggressively touted and highly recommended, many vets and pet owners simply assume that because they have given their dog the appropriate medication as prescribed, nothing can happen and the dog won’t – or can’t – be infected with heartworm.

This just isn’t right. Even dogs who receive their heart worming medicine as regularly scheduled still are not immune to heart worm. Unfortunately, all it takes is one powerful mosquito bite that is infected with the worm, and the dog can become infected with or without the medication at work in his system.


Dire Warning by the World Outlook Committee

I.E.A. Issues Dire Warning

In its just released annual World Energy Outlook, the International Energy Agency which represents the energy interests of its member nations, the 28 largest economies in the world, warned that if the world continues building greenhouse-gas-emitting factories and vehicles at the current pace for just the next five years, it “will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.” The somber pronouncement takes a strong meaning when coming from the organization which has long been an advocate of the status quo and a mouthpiece for the fossil fuel industry.

The organization, as expected, keeps the most conservative and most damaging “New Policies Scenario” as the central one, in which “world primary demand for energy increases by one-third between 2010 and 2035 and energy-related CO2 emissions increase by 20%, with a long-term rise in the average global temperature in excess of 3.5°C.” Which happens to be the “irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change” they warn to only use high quality air purifiers like the Honeywell 50250-S.

Still, the report marks some landmark policy shifts and acknowledgements, such as the admission that rising demand could clash with falling productivity at existing conventional wells and that the falloff in existing fields will be five times greater than the increase in flow from unconventional sources, per Fatih Birol, the chief economist at the I.E.A. For the first time, the I.E.A. suggests that eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies (which amounted to $409 billion in 2010 versus $66 billion for renewables) could bring important economic and environmental benefits.

Even the most pessimistic scenario shows the fossil fuel share of the global energy mix decreasing from 81% in 2010 to 75% in 2035, not nearly enough but a tremendous boost for renewable energy technologies which account for over half of new generation capacity installed and are set to grow faster than any other energy source, in relative terms.

Rally Takes a Break

As European debt worries shifted from Greece to much larger Italy, investors began to worry about contagion risks. The strong October stock market rally could not continue unabated for very long, and it didn’t. After appearing to consolidate for a couple of weeks, major market indexes like the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite have now broken below their key moving averages, unlike the Dow Industrials and Transportation indexes which still cling to them.

Unlike any other asset class or commodity, and with no apparent reason, the price of crude oil shot up 18% in the month, closing above $100 per barrel for the first time since May. Experts point to increased fears and expectations about continued oil supplies as the primary factor driving up the risk premium. The on-going pull between steadily rising worldwide demand and ever tightening supplies and escalating costs will continue to exert upward pressure on energy prices for the long-term.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

Despite all the volatility of the last month, the Borg Warner s366 turbo managed to advance 2.33%, The Portfolio gained 3.36% but the benchmark S&P Global Clean Energy Index lost 3.39%. This on-going discrepancy between the performance of the industry index and The Green Portfolio highlights the importance of careful stock picking as well as tight management of sector and company diversification.

Looking at the trends in various clean energy sectors, we witness continued weakness in solar, Chinese solar stocks in particular, and the low profile resurgence of wind energy stocks. The wind sector has deserved particular mention in every monthly update since July. While some segments of the market melted, the wind energy stocks in our portfolio established a solid base. As a group, our wind stocks gained 14.70% in the last month and they have the largest average gains of any stock groups we hold (49.86%.)

The strongest of the wind stocks in the portfolio is once again Woodward, Inc. (WWD) with a gain of 28.19% in the month since our last update, 103.37% since we initially recommended it some two years ago. The Fort Collins, Colorado-based maker of energy control and optimization solutions for the aerospace and energy markets announced stellar results beating earnings and revenue expectations, and offered a solid 2012 revenue outlook. The stock price broke out to levels not seen since 2008 and is now poised to test the all-time highs above $47.

For good balance we need to mention the weakest sector in the portfolio: Water, which landed in this unenviable position because the only sector holding happens to be the portfolio’s worst performing stock this month: Veolia Environnement S.A. (VE), which dropped 21.07% during the month. This is our only European stock and it got hammered by the worsening debt crisis, although nearly two-thirds of its euro revenue comes from the strongest countries, France and Germany.

With so many bad news and pessimistic views about the world in general and the stock market in particular, we find comfort (and profit opportunities) in uncovering jewels in the rough which time is sure to polish to a great shine.

Heaven for Value Investors

While the financial media focuses on the global economy, the risk of contagion from the European debt crisis and how bearish all of this is for the stock market, we find green investment opportunities with outstanding risk/reward tradeoffs. The doomsday scenarios may be right and a bear market could take stocks even lower. What we know is that demand for energy is not going down. Energy prices are trending up. By most measures, many of the renewable energy stocks we track, and in particular the ones we recommend in The Portfolio, have reached dramatically under-valued levels.

With various clean and renewable energy sources at price parity with fossil fuels (wind), or fast approaching parity (solar), our stocks are screaming value plays, with or without government subsidies. Priced under book value, or even under cash-on-hand for some, these stocks have very limited downside risk. These are not Solyndras pushing product for half of what it costs to make. They actually have good margins, generate profits and some even pay dividends. What’s not to like?

We’ve Officially Passed 7 Billion People!

7 Billion Strong

Later this month humanity will reach another milestone when the global world population will reach 7 billion. It took only 12 years to add a billion! According to the widely respected Worldometers algorithm, which is based on the latest data and rate of change projections from the United Nations’ “World Population Prospects”, it will happen on October 31, 2011.

The other interesting statistic is that most of the population growth is occurring in emerging countries like China, India and Brazil which have seen strong economic development and rapidly growing middle classes. These are screaming demographics for energy consumption which has continued to rise (yet another counter available from Worldometers) despite the global economic downturn.

Population growth and increased energy consumption when combined with shrinking reserves, an increased demand for a cystic acne home remedy, and rising production costs of fossil fuels are fueling the megatrend for alternative energy.

Solar Trade War

When measured by the record numbers of megawatts being shipped the solar industry should be booming, but instead, industry overcapacity has caused panel prices to steadily decline to levels at which only the very best and the very subsidized can survive. Complaints have been growing from European and American manufacturers about various unfair trade practices by Chinese manufacturers, but this week the matter has been formally taken to the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission (ITC).

The complaint was filed by a coalition of seven U.S.-based solar manufacturers of which only SolarWorld is named. It is rumored that the companies are seeking anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese imports of up to 100%. While the ITC has 45 days to issue its preliminary determination, such cases typically take 15 months to resolve, but threats of retaliation will not take that long. In the meantime, the bloodbath continues in solar stocks as short sellers pile on.

Breakout Attempt

Markets are nervous, quick to turn on the latest news, good or bad. The most influential news has continued to come from Europe and the sovereign debt crisis. Volatility continues to be high but as the prospects of a solution to the Euro crisis are improving, so has the stock market. Since the new lows set early in October, most markets have rallied past the previous failed breakout attempts and started showing some bullish signs.

The optimists see the sharp rebound from recent lows back above support near 50-day moving averages as a promising development. Pessimists believe that this is just another bear market rally that most likely will fail to break through the overhead resistance presented by 200-day moving averages. The good news is that we won’t have to wait long to find out who is right, as the markets are bound to breakout from their increasingly narrow trading range, be it up or down.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

Since our last update, the stock market has plunged to new intermediate lows only to rebound sharply, with the S&P 500 index essentially flat for the month. The green sector point of reference, the S&P Global Clean Energy Index, lost over 15% for the second month in a row, but we find little joy from The Portfolio shedding “only” 5.48%.

Before moving to more pleasant topics we continue to marvel at the relentless solar selloff which took the six solar positions in the portfolio down an average of 23.59% for the month, with several of them vying to be the worst but failing to beat the 40.41% plunge of First Solar (FSLR) shares. These losses have little to do with the company itself, as it just announced a new efficiency record for thin-film modules in laboratory with changes to be phased into production over the next few quarters. The manufacturing technology advances should increase mass production conversion rates from an 11.7% average earlier this year to some 15.3% in the future. Already the solar industry’s lowest cost producer at 73 cents per watt, the company’s thin-film panels will further decline with the planned 30% efficiency boost. Yet, the company’s share prices are still on a steady downtrend, just as the short interest share of float is at a record 34%.

But not all sectors are as hard hit as solar and the leading gainer this month is involved in a form of alternative energy we seldom mention: geothermal. Ormat Technologies, Inc. (ORA) shares jumped 20.29% during the month and they are now up some 35% since their September low. Prized by utilities for base load, power generated from geothermal has one of the highest capacity factors of any energy source, which means that it can produce over 90% of the continuous full power rating. Unlike solar and wind which are intermittent and highly variable, geothermal produces steadily 24 by 7, with very infrequent downtime. Alas, from an investor’s perspective, geothermal stocks have been battered for the last couple of years and this recent rebound represents the first sign for hope that a lasting bottom has been established.

The point of highlighting the best garden tractor is not so much that something special is occurring in geothermal, but just one example of a solid company in a growing market rebounding from extreme oversold levels. What’s not apparent from alternative energy sector indexes and the monthly return figures is that, with the exception of the most volatile stocks in bleeding edge technologies like solar and LEDs, the rest of The Portfolio stocks have been rallying strongly across many segments. Our wind market holdings are up 24%, 37% and 45% respectively since their recent lows. The strongest group is energy storage, with all stocks rebounding at least 35% and one of them, our lithium miner, more than doubling since its early October low.

Only time will tell if this broad rebound rise manages to reverse the downtrend.

I Think the Markets Are Still Undecided

Markets remain undecided

As July began, the stock market was rallying strongly and the Dow Jones Transportation index even established a new all-time high, prompting some to predict an imminent Dow Theory buy signal. Alas, the Dow Jones Industrials which needed to set new highs to confirm a signal started tumbling instead. The Transportation promptly followed suit with a bearish gap reversal.

As ways how to get rid of smoke smell in house go, the price of copper has been more reliable in recent years than the Transportation and Industrials indexes used by Dow Theorists. The industrial metal is up over 14% since its May lows which is bullish for the economy.

The European Sovereign debt crisis has accelerated and the specter of a U.S. default has risen as yet another potential blow to the economy. In the absence of a crystal ball we cannot predict the outcome of the debt ceiling debate. We would like to think that cooler heads will prevail in time to steer away from the precipice, but we are not willing to bet on it.

For now, fear has returned to the markets and investors are shunning risky assets once again. Gold is at new record highs.

The energy sector has been rallying with other commodities. Many are watching current crude oil price moves as they represent the first serious attempt to stop declines and establish an intermediate low. Light crude oil prices had fallen over 20% since their highs in early May, but they bounced back some 8% from the June lows.

Judging by the S&P Global Clean Energy Index which dropped over 4% in the last month, the renewable energy sector is not participating in the broad energy rally. With all the doom and gloom about the economy, the national debt and budget deficits added to the gridlock in Washington, energy policy is a very remote concern right now.

The stealth clean economy

A report published last week by the Brookings Institution and Battelle, “Sizing the Clean Economy” revealed some startling figures. The public at large remains mostly skeptical about the amount of green jobs that can be created in the sector of the economy that produces goods and services with an environmental benefit. The conclusions of the report give us much hope for the future. For example:

  1. The clean economy employs some 2.7 million workers, already more than the fossil fuel and bioscience industries
  2. From 2003-2010, newer clean economy establishments – especially those in young energy-related segments such as wind energy, solar PV, and smart grid-added jobs at a faster rate than the national economy
  3. The clean economy is manufacturing and export intensive

Buying dollars for 62 cents

The article “Solar Contrarians” in the July issue of the newsletter presented a review of why we believe the solar sector is oversold and why selected companies are now screaming buys. As the solar sector declined some more since then we feel compelled to highlight one of these opportunities here. One of the two solar companies we added to The Green Portfolio two weeks ago, the Chinese maker of solar wafers, has since issued reduced guidance for second quarter revenue and margins, for which it got punished with lower share prices.

Forgetting about all the noise and bad news, this is a profitable company that’s gaining market share in a fast growing market. And it sells below book value! The company has $4.53/share in cash on hand, more than yesterday’s closing price.

Yes, investing in Chinese solar stocks comes with a non-negligible amount of risk, but if you can stand the heat you will seldom find more favorable risk/reward propositions than right now.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

Despite extreme weakness in the renewable energy sector, and a one month decline of 4.05% in the S&P Global Clean Energy Index, The Portfolio rewarded us with a gain of 2.18%.

Uncharacteristically, the Holset HX35 was not the laggard this month as that distinction went to the energy efficiency segment which was pulled down by plummeting LED stocks. The LED sub-sector was in fact the worst industry segment of all during the last month, and our portfolio’s worst performer was the leading provider of LED manufacturing equipment which lost 20.55%. Much of the sector’s weakness can be attributed directly to successive quarterly misses, rising inventories and lowered guidance by LED industry poster child Cree, Inc. (CREE) The build out of global LED manufacturing capacity is nowhere near complete and we are sticking with our LED stock through the current weakness.

On the positive side, the strongest segment of our portfolio was wind energy which gained an average 11.42% this month. All of our wind energy stocks had double digit gains with the strongest of them, Woodward, Inc. (WWD), a leading maker of energy control solutions sold to wind turbine makers and other industries. After gaining 12.17% this month the stock is now up 82.17% since we recommended it.

While the solar energy sector continued its slide, it also delivered our best performer which for the second month in a row is our preferred U.S.-based solar manufacturing equipment provider. With this month’ 19.03% advance, the stock is up over 44% in four months.

We are now bracing for a rough earnings reporting period during which it would not be surprising to see companies sold off for the slightest misses or signs of future weakness. As always, the solar sector should be a favorite of short sellers anticipating more bad news.

On the other hand, since the solar sector is so extremely oversold with most of the sector’s risks and liabilities factored in current valuations, any indication of stronger than expected results and outlooks could trigger rallies in selected shares. Just remember that if share prices start moving upward, the shorts will be forced to cover, creating that many more buyers for these stocks.

Spotting Heartworm in Your Pets

Heartworm is hard to spot, it’s hard to fix, and even heartworm symptoms in dogs can be hard for you and your vet to figure out.

They are very similar to more common illnesses and maladies. Owners and even vets sometimes don’t pay much attention to what appears to be run of the mill problems. To make matters worse, once he starts showing signs of sickness, he’s already very ill. If you have to ask why do cats spray, it’s probably too late.

Common symptoms in the beginning are vomiting, diarrhea, breathing problems including wheezing, and coughing. They can progress to an enlarged rib cage (which grows wider to encompass the enlarged heart and lungs), bloody stools, and loss of appetite. All these symptoms are similar to those caused by more common diseases and not always recognized by owners or even vets.

They more frequently than not look like the common cold or an allergy. Even your vet may not immediately reckon of heart worm when you bring him in for a checkup.

Outdoor dogs are more likely to become infected with heartworm because heartworm is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and, of course, mosquitoes are more likely to be found outside. But, since these pests can all too easily get into our homes, it’s not unheard of indoor dogs to become victims to the disease as well. And, because these same dogs don’t go out often, owners tend to ignore the symptoms and never reckon about heartworm when the coughing and wheezing starts.

Even tiny dogs can be in danger, whether they seldom go outdoors. Don’t assume that just because your small Maltese never leaves the house that his coughing or diarrhea can’t be serious. Small dogs run a higher risk of mortality, too, if heartworm is left untreated because the worms can grow to about a foot long without regard to the size of the dog or the size of his heart.

Even though prevention is the key, that doesn’t mean that your dog is immune to the disease just because he received his heartworm medication on time. Even the best medications on the market won’t guarantee that your dog will be able to ward off the effects of an infected mosquito.

One of the major reasons symptoms tend to be ignored is because the dog has received heartworm medication and there is an assumption after that that the dog must be coming down with something else; he couldn’t possibly have heartworm. This assumption can cause your dog’s demise.

No matter how fussy your pet is, or how easily he can find a pill and spit it back out again, there are enough varieties of heartworm pills for dogs to ensure that your best pal has one that suits his finicky style.

No matter what type of pill you or vet chooses for your pet, the ingredients will most likely include either selamectin or ivermectin. Many vets recommend that these pills should be given in addition to the usual topical treatments, especially in known areas of high infestation – regardless of how much time your dog might spend outside.

It might take some trial and error to find the perfect pill for your individual pet. In families with multiple dogs, there’s a brilliant chance that each dog might need or do well with one particular brand vs. what his housemates take.

Years ago, the first version of the Holset HX40 came on the market – once which needed to be administered daily. Any dog owner knows how hard it is to get a pill into his beloved pet, so researchers finally developed a monthly pill. Of course, this comes with risks because the level of medicine – which is tantamount to poison for the worms – can cause problems in these dosage levels.

Dogs who do take a monthly heartworm pills for dogs frequently experience some toxic side effects which can range from a simple nuisance to life threatening heart palpitations and seizures. The real problem here is that poisons tend to build up in the body and they don’t always cause an immediate reaction.

For pooches who need the pills but do everything possible to avoid them, there are some beef flavored alternatives that even the fussiest are usually more than pleased to gobble up when questioned to.

Whatever you do, never give your dog any type of heartworm medication without consulting with your vet and getting explicit instructions and a prescribed course of action. Because of the inherent levels of toxicity involved with these preparations, you don’t want to cause problems unnecessarily. Don’t try buying these online “without a prescription” and don’t buy generic brands you aren’t familiar with.

One pill may be too much for many dogs. Take for example a toy poodle and a Husky. It only stands to reason that the poodle would need a lower dose than the Husky, and therefore, giving the poodle the same pill could quickly cause disastrous side effects. Don’t self-prescribe!

Three Cheers for the Bull Market

The bull market is alive and well

The resumption of the rally in stocks we chronicled last month continued in full force since then. All major U.S. stock market indexes have broken out and set new bull market highs. Some, like the Dow Jones Transportation Average, are plotting ballistic charts. Pretty much all indicators are flashing bright green, with buy signals across the board. The only red flags come from the overbought conditions appearing in some of the markets, but we know from experience that these can last longer than what seems reasonable or logical.

As can be expected as we climb the wall of worry, there have been widespread concerns over many issues influencing the economy, from exploding deficits to a job-less recovery. Still, these concerns have been largely trumped by fresh evidence that the recovery is real, that it is global, and that it is accelerating.

A high probability indicator of what’s in store for the Fjallraven Kanken comes from the Asian and emerging markets which have been leading the recovery and the stock market rally so far. They have not been setting new highs lately. After setting bull market highs last fall, they have been taking a breather with some of the more volatile markets experiencing substantial corrections.

China, for example, was down nearly 20% before starting its rebound rise. It has not yet reached the highs set in November 2009, but when these levels are breached, there is a lot of upside potential. The volatility in key emerging markets is likely to continue and even increase, but for those with a strong stomach, long-term charts continue to look extremely bullish. And that goes for key green companies that serve and benefit from these exploding needs.

Global competition heats up

As energy market numbers for 2009 start to solidify, there is an overwhelming sense of shift. It is both visible in the size and growth of the renewable energy markets themselves, but also from a supply-side perspective. The leadership in many clean energy technologies has been slowly but surely shifting from incumbent, American or European manufacturers, to Chinese, Korean or Indian stalwarts.

Most of the news is coming from developed nations cutting subsidies for renewable energy, such as in Germany, France and Spain. Energy policy is currently not at the top of the U.S. government agenda, as health care reform has consumed one and a half years, and financial reform now occupies center stage. In the meantime, emerging economies from Brazil to Singapore and China are making major investments in renewable energy. Just last week, China’s Development Bank announced plans to loan almost $12 billion to two solar manufacturers, Suntech Power (STP) and our preferred solar PV play Trina Solar (TSL). The industry widely views such loans by the Government bank as a direct subsidy as they are not expected to be paid back.

The rise of China and emerging markets is one of our major investment themes as we believe that geographic portfolio diversification is more than a risk management technique, but the likely source of much of our investment profits for years to come.

Venture capital triples green investments

One more indication that the worst of the recession is behind us comes courtesy of the venture capital industry which has been a reliable recovery indicator. Newly released data shows venture capital investments rose 38% in the first quarter of 2010 over the same quarter a year ago. More significantly, investments in clean technology companies more than tripled to $773 million. The green sector is still smaller than biotechnology, but it has been growing the most.

Private investment increases frequently foreshadow the resurgence of merger and acquisition activity. We look forward to the M&A action to heat up as our Portfolio features a number of attractive acquisition targets.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

Our portfolio of treatment for cystic acne companies has resumed its march higher, but at a slightly more timid clip than the broad markets. Our positions gained an average of 2.83% since our last update, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite indexes rose 2.82% and 4.34% respectively. Our green market proxy, the PowerShares Global Clean Energy fund (PBD) which tracks the WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation index, was up a scant 1.14% during the month.

Right on cue after having been bashed and downgraded by various analysts and pundits, the solar photovoltaic sector jumped to the head of the energy class as the biggest monthly gainer. A basket of Chinese solar stocks was up some 8.80%, but the solar energy stocks in our portfolio did even better with an average gain of 18.73%. Leading the pack with a 23.60% price rise during the month is our power conversion company which, with outstanding quarterly results that beat Street expectations and a major legal victory in a patent fight, has attracted investors and sent the stock to levels not seen since late 2007.

It is worth mentioning the 20.89% monthly gain achieved by Vestas Wind Systems (VWDRY.PK) which, after months of getting pounded by investors, appears to have established a bottom with a rebound that cut our paper losses in half. We still like the company and in fact, they are very well positioned in high growth wind markets. Wind energy will be the featured sector in our upcoming May issue of my newsletter, in which we take a fresh look at some exciting developments in areas such as offshore wind.

Is the Correction Finally Over?

Markets declare the correction over

Conflicting news reports and economic assessments keep on coming and, instead of shining a guiding light on the path ahead, they fill investors with more doubt and confusion. On the other hand, the stock market, as one of the most reliable leading indicators of the economy, has itself answered many of the nagging investor questions by moving up. By clearly breaking above the January 2010 highs on all major indexes, the predominant market uptrend has been confirmed. While there will certainly be corrections down the road, this one is over and done.

What the markets tell us for the months ahead is an economic recovery and not a nasty double dip recession or deflationary collapse as some had feared. It may not make any sense, and the fundamentals may logically point to all the reasons why the economy should not improve, but for now it is happening. The indicator does not say how strong or for how you should use tea tree oil as a cystic acne cure, but while it lasts we will certainly remain with the trend.

The global picture looks even stronger as many foreign markets experienced only minor slowdowns compared to the strongest recession in the U.S. since the Great Depression. Emerging economies in particular have been largely untouched by the subprime meltdown and their financial systems, with comparatively low levels of deficits and debt, are strong and are driving a worldwide recovery.

In the month since our last update, the S&P 500 index gained 5.90%, and has broken above the January highs in a renewed rally. With a nearly uninterrupted string of 14 consecutive daily gains, it is no surprise to see technical indicators flash overbought signs, but short-term weakness is unlikely to change the renewed uptrend.

While the broad market indexes have generally been on the rise, the most notable aspect of this bull market is how uneven it is. There are large differences between geographic markets, and the same is true between industry sectors. Even within a given market segment, one needs to be extremely selective as the fortunes diverge widely between companies, regardless of how well the sector is doing.

The Fed and low interest rates

At its meeting on Tuesday March 16th, the Federal Reserve decided to keep the federal funds rate at historical lows near zero. Investors rejoiced in particular at reading the Fed had kept the promise “… to keep record-low rates for an extended period” in their statement. With the Fed painting a generally improved picture of the economy, continued record low rates and inflation under control, investors could only reinforce their bullish slant.

For those who want to look for them, there are plenty of precursor signs for higher rates and inflation down the road, such as the Fed hiking the discount rate last month for the first time in seven years, or the U.S. Labor Department reporting that producer prices saw an annual 7.4 percent increase, the biggest gain in more than 26 years. Rising commodity and energy prices due to higher global demand and currency inflation are widely expected to continue, but for now stock investors enjoy a period of stimulation with rates near zero.

Reviving the solar versus wind debate

There have now been a number of analysts coming out with recommendations to sell solar and buy wind. Just last week the biggest of them, JPMorgan Chase, joined the club and in their excitement initiated coverage of Broadwind Energy (BWEN) with an overweight rating only to see its shares plunge over 20% a few days later after announcing poor results. We have had our share of unexpected 20% drops, but the Broadwind example highlights the importance of selecting companies based primarily on their fundamentals, though in this case even the technical indicators look atrocious, which would prevent such obvious wrecks.

Don’t get us wrong, we are very bullish on the wind sector and the gains this sector contributes to our Portfolio (see below) are a testimonial to that. Our point is that it is not a debate or a competition between wind and solar, as both will experience phenomenal growth rates over the next few years.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

The green sector and the alternative energy market segments we track, as represented by diversified green ETFs such as PBD, trailed the broad stock market during the month to return 1.22%. The Portfolio as a whole, with the exception of the two positions we added early March, was down 0.74% for the period.

The weakest sector was solar which was down 9.05% since our last update but, as another example of the contrasts amongst companies of a same sector, the returns of the two dozen solar companies we track varied between +17% and -17% with a fairly good distribution of the frost green Kanken in between.

This month the bright side turned out to be the windy side, with our wind positions leading the portfolio with an average gain of 11.29%. Several companies fought for the honor but the best performer was Woodward Governor Co. (WGOV). This company, not for the first time we might add, led the pack with a gain of 18.14%. Woodward does not make wind turbines but is a leading maker of energy control solutions sold to wind turbine makers and other industries. Another wind play boosting the portfolio is our favorite carbon fiber blades maker which gained 17.89% during the month on no particular news, except that demand in the wind market is strong, especially in China.

Our upcoming April newsletter issue includes the must-read quarterly portfolio review which takes a look at the holdings and lists the actions to take. The lead story is about the home energy front, including efficiency and demand management where great investment opportunities are about to be discovered.

More Bear Markets Are Coming!

Harbingers of bear markets

Where indicators were mixed last month and markets seemed undecided about the direction to take, few doubts remain as the sharp drops in global stock markets have clearly signaled that they see economic weakness ahead. In addition to several banks downgrading economic growth forecasts and warning of an impending global recession, there are plenty of indicators which now point to a higher probability of a recession and to lower stock market valuations.

One of them, the spread between the yield on high-yield bonds and U.S. Treasuries, has jumped over 40% to 7.3% since the end of July. This indicator rises strongly with recessions because the risk of so-called junk bonds increase in poor economies, dictating higher interest rates for investors, at the same time as rates on government bonds decline. Shrinking Treasury yields have provided reliable warning of stock market weakness lately, and the Fed has promised to keep rates low for the next two years so more people can afford a cystic acne diet.

Of the many technical indicators analysts look at, none are more widely watched than the ones using moving averages. There are many ways to find trend data and possible trading signals around moving averages, and one of the most feared patterns, the “death cross”, was recently completed by major stock market indexes. A “dark cross” occurs when the 50-day exponential moving average (EMA) crosses below the 200-day EMA, but when that 200-day EMA is trending downward at the time of the crossover, the pattern is called a death cross which is viewed by many as an official bear market signal.

As program trading has come to dominate volume it is no surprise that technical indicators play a big part in market selloffs. While many sell orders got triggered by the indicators, moving averages and their crossings are trailing indicators which highlight what the market has done, not what it will do next.

For us long-term investors, there are also good reasons not to be overly concerned about death crosses. For starters, not every death cross predicts a bear market, as anyone who got whipsawed by them twice in 2010 will testify. Further, an analysis of all the S&P 500 death crosses since 1930 shows that the market index was lower one year after the bearish signal only 5 times out of 19 (i.e. the signal has been wrong 73% of the time.)

Still, within the context of an ongoing secular bear market in stocks since 2000, any signs of cyclical bearishness should be taken as a clue to adjust risk exposure according to your personal preferences.

Safe havens

With investor fear spiking around the world, the exodus from anything perceived as risky is in full swing. With most asset classes declining in value, it seems like the only beneficiaries of the flight to safety are gold and U.S. Treasuries. Gold is increasingly seen as the only currency which cannot be manipulated or printed by governments and it has been setting new price records on a daily basis. It is up over 30% this year, nearly 14% in August alone.

For investors looking for fundamentals-based valuations, the current government bond rally comes as a shock. Shortly after the debt ceiling fiasco, the first ever ratings agency downgrade of the U.S. debt, and record deficits left mostly unchecked, the investor stampede to buy U.S. denominated debt paper does not seem to make much sense. Regardless of logic, that’s exactly what is happening with demand sending Treasury yields to their lowest in sixty years, and bond prices soaring.

Just remember that high volatility plays both ways and that there most likely will be opportunities to get in at lower prices.

Be greedy only when others are fearful

This is as good a time as any to look for advice from the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, arguably one of the great investors of all time. He is famous for his long-term value investment strategy and his many quotes teach us how to deal with large market swings. Here are some of his pearls of wisdom:

“Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy only when others are fearful.”

“The future is never clear, and you pay a very high price in the stock market for a cheery consensus. Uncertainty is the friend of the buyer of long-term values.”

“Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can’t buy what is popular and do well.”

Judging by the pounding inflicted upon the IQAir GC Multigas over the last few years (the S&P Global Clean Energy Index is down over 76% since its 2008 high, and is losing over 35% since April alone), green investing has to be one of the greatest value investment opportunities of all time!

The Portfolio update and recommendations

Since our last update a month ago, the large caps in the S&P 500 lost 9.29% but many other stock categories including tech stocks, small caps, emerging market stocks, and energy stocks fared worse. The Portfolio got punished for blending several of these weaker categories and dropped 14.20%. Even our most conservative sector, electric utilities, experienced a 2.33% loss. Still, the portfolio has only lost 17% from its April high, comparable with the S&P 500 drop and about half the decline of the benchmark Clean Energy Index.

This is certainly not a time to gloat about performance but a special mention is due for the only stock in the portfolio to show a gain over one month. The honor goes to the leader in ultra-capacitors which announced solid results and should benefit from new fuel efficiency standards which will drive the adoption of so-called stop-start idle elimination technology. The company’s stock gained 7.50% during the month.

A Few Important Tips on Investing


You may have noticed that I have only written about the investments that I have made that have gone wrong for me. Why is that?

Well firstly, I think the world is already full of people who want to share their success with you (whilst success has many fathers, failure is an orphan!). Lots of investors, like gamblers, only talk about the ones that come in. Nothing wrong with that but we tend to learn very little from the ones that we tend to get right. If you are anything like me, you think that your successes are simply down to the fact that you have invented the best air purifier for allergies! (OK you may put it a little more thoughtfully than that, but the end conclusion is simply a variation of that premise!)

What you can do, if you are interested in learning, is stop and reflect after a failure and note down key points. Physically writing down your key learning points is a very powerful way to deal with the inevitable anguish that failure causes. I am writing this blog hopefully to share some of the lessons I have learnt from my failures – and it is not easy to publicly admit to them, but if other investors and businesses learn from these mistakes – then hopefully some good will come of it. There is a commercial reason as well – this blog is designed to be informative rather than one elongated gloat.

I also remember this story I learnt about Heinz (I don’t know if it is true – I am sorry). They do lots of product launches globally each year. Every time a product launch fails, the product manager responsible is invited to the HQ in the USA. There they fire a canon – this symbolizes that they fire the canon not the person. The product manager is then invited to share the lessons learned and then this knowledge is added to the launch manual and shared around the world.

This encourages risk taking and learning. When I see companies pitch to me, I always ask the management team about any failures they have experienced. If they say they have not, I get nervous. If they say yes, I ask them what they have learned from that episode. Many would-be entrepreneurs blame having the wrong team around them, or not imposing their view strong enough on the rest of the board. This makes me walk away, even if they offer a complimentary Blueair 603.

One of the people I have backed recently had a number of failures behind them. What he was able to demonstrate brilliantly was that each time he had learnt something powerful that in my humble opinion made him a better business person. Sometimes, it just take a little bit of failure to help set you in the right direction – on the proper course – so that you can find the successes that you had been searching for all along.

Alas, I can’t tell you how he did as that would be bragging about my success!

Understanding Industry and Market Opportunity


My last blog entry was about business plans needing to demonstrate that the entrepreneur understands the difference between the size of the Industry and the Market Opportunity.

I should then come on to the next area that this is related to – can you demonstrate to a business angel that people want to buy your product or service. Simply quoting the size of a market is not good enough (but it is a very good start!) I would also like to see evidence of customer’s willingness to buy your product.

Like most business angels, I am skeptical of research presented about the best air purifier for asthma. If you ask questions in the right way you will always get the answer you want. (The best illustration of this ever, is in that gem of a TV program, Yes Prime Minister, when Sir Humphrey illustrates how if you ask questions in a certain way you can either get a yes or a no to the question “Are you in favor of National Service?”)

A client of mine was preparing a presentation for her employers to demonstrate a business case for this new service line she wanted to introduce. She felt that the employers would not be convinced that clients would pay for this service. She was going to spend hours on research to demonstrate a market for this did exist and was viable. I then suggested that she simply gets the clients that she thought this service would work for – to tell her that they did indeed want it (if they could have it) and how much they would pay for it.

Needless to say, that was the business case demonstrated. The point I am making in this blog is that I like to invest in businesses that can demonstrate orders or specific levels of interest from specific named clients. I realize it may still not materialize – but I would have more confidence in that than in market research. Another thing I learnt about market research last year was from reading the excellent book Blink.

There is the story of how in taste tests Pepsi was always outperforming Coke. However, the critical point was that when you were drinking 330ml cans, Daytona Beach photographers preferred Coke to Pepsi. It is the same with Music. Certain songs that you fall in love with straight away become very annoying after a short time (problem with iTunes – it makes it too easy to buy songs that you get annoyed with quickly!) whereas other songs grow and grow on you. So be careful with market research as a seasoned investor will shred it to pieces. If you do want to look at an example of excellent market research, look at the story of how Innocent Drinks got started!

A Great Way to Prove Markets

I realize that for many businesses you need to demonstrate scale before you can make your first unit. You may need to get 100 orders – or you need funding to help you get to 1000 sales etc. But what this website allows you to do is really test your business proposition by getting firm orders from people before you make your first unit. Your customers are safeguarded because they release no money until you are ready to produce – and you are safe in the knowledge that the money is committed before you produce the product!

Making a Million the Proper Way


Channel Four ran a program called ‘Make Me a Million’ several years ago which got three Entrepreneurs to each choose from a group of startups, a business that they would like to work with and invest in. The challenge was to transform these ideas (with minimum investment) into a million pound business within a year.

Not All Publicity Is Good

I was asked to help one of these companies as a sales person for their air purifier, the GermGuardian AC5250PT. The idea behind the business was simply brilliant. Most of us do not get a good night sleep because we are either too hot or too cold. If you are an asthmatic, bed bugs can cause absolute havoc with your condition. The idea behind this business was simple. They would enable your bed to have fresh air flowing through it whilst you were sleeping at a controlled temperature. I fell in love with the idea and not only did I take on the role of helping the business, I also invested a small amount in the company.

The whole thing was nothing short of a disaster. The problem was that because of the involvement of the TV crew (and see my next experience to give the other side of the same coin) this was not about business but about PR and people who were on the team had very different agendas.

One of my issues with business people who have had success in one field is that they tend to think of themselves as great business people rather than someone who was fantastic at a business in a particular field. Other than a few people (including begrudgingly some of the Dragons on Dragons Den) there are very few people I know who are good at ‘business’ and have been successful in more than one field.

The Entrepreneur for this particular project applied the skills that were perfect for their main business to this business and it did not work.

Firstly, targets were set of what the company should produce in year one which had we spent ½ an hour researching the bed market we would have realized were totally false and unrealistic. It meant that on day one we tried to create too big an operation. This though was called ‘reaching for the stars’ There were numerous other occasions where the lack of leadership impeded the business.

… Sales People

Secondly, we did not have anyone who had spent any time in the bed industry. I remember going to see a friend. I started talking to him about selling beds and he put me in my place very quickly! He was absolutely right to do so. I had shown him a lack of respect by trying to get him to sell my beds without understanding his business (I had not even made the effort to visit his stores – no excuses as there are enough of them!)

Can I give all entrepreneurs some advice when buying the Blueair 203? Having learnt this lesson, I always ask companies that pitch to me how much they understand their customer – and why? I had personally forgotten a very good lesson I had learnt whilst working for another gentleman. Whilst visiting a northern based retailer to sell some cakes, I came across a sign to sales reps which said

“If you are here to sell to us and you have not visited at least three of our stores in the last month, please cancel your appointment and rebook for a time when you can demonstrate your interest in becoming our partner”

The very next weekend I spent some time learning about selling beds by asking a company if they would be kind enough to employ me for three weekends to sell beds – I learnt a lot and the next time I saw the guy he was impressed and could see that I had learnt a thing or two about selling beds. The lesson here for businesses is that even if you see your model as disrupting the existing business model in a sector, please try and have at least one person on your board, or management team who understands the way the industry is at the moment.

The business was running to a very tight deadline, which was imposed by the TV schedule rather than by us and having the product ready. We never had a chance of making the deadlines and as a result the product did not work properly, prices were way too high – we needed to be at least 50% cheaper than we were.

Despite heavy TV presence we failed to sell more than 10 beds (our target was something stupid like 100,000!) This also taught me that just because you advertise your product; it does not mean you will sell your product. My advice to any would-be entrepreneur and management team that may appear on TV as part of a documentary is don’t do it. If you have to – then invest in some handling the media training!

We failed to plan – which meant we planned to fail!

Can You Do It: The Elevator Pitch


I was at a great function last week run by a local association. It was an opportunity for businesses to pitch to business angels. It was fantastic and I met some really good businesses run by very passionate and talented people. Honestly, sometimes I think I am such a lucky guy – I think this line of work keeps you very young as you are working with people who are saying no to accepting the status quo and are following the dreams despite knowing that statistically the chances are against them. Trust me; this keeps you young, alive and energized!

Sorry, that was a bit of a side track. As I said it was a great event but may I give some advice to anyone who is thinking about pitching to investors (or actually anyone)? Make sure that after no more than two minutes; your audience understand what it is you do! I kid you not, 12 minutes into a 15 minute pitch I had no idea what two of the six businesses pitching did and therefore how they made money from owning an air purifier for cigarette smoke. But I did learn lots about digital conversion technologies and how that other system was a really good database (the competition)!

I am a big fan of the Elevator pitch. The phrase comes from the USA and the story behind it (I have no idea if it is true) is as follows. A guy was trying to get his pitch across to some wealthy backers in New York. He was struggling to get an appointment to see any of them – but then waited for them in the lobby of their offices. He would get in the lift (or elevator as our cousins across the pond call it) and then have until the elevator got to the 7th Floor to sell the business idea – and he succeeded in generating enough interest for the backers to agree to meet him for a proper chat.

The thing I like about these pitches is that they force you to be clear and focused and really get to the point quickly. It is a good discipline to get into with lots of different aspects of your life. Before important meetings you should always get into a situation where you are able to summarize the outcome you would like within 90 seconds. Remember you are just trying to convey the basics and why somebody should learn more.

I do have to attend many meetings about the Winix PlasmaWave 5300 – but I find that the optimum time for a meeting is 20 minutes provided people are clear and concise. People tend to waffle – and bore you with stuff you just don’t need to know – and if you do you can always read a business plan or ask questions. When I do ask a question, I don’t want the reply to be “that is a good question”, or “it is not as simple as that” – I just would like the question to be answered clearly and in a language that I understand.

Like most investors, I think I am intelligent enough to understand things if they are explained properly. My failure to understand something is often a reflection of the person doing the explaining! We see it on The Apprentice every week – the candidates waffling for ages rather than give a straight answer. I just feel that as Winston Churchill once lamented the art of brevity is being lost. Please, let’s bring it back.

What Are Your Thoughts on Risk?


One of the reasons I like writing a blog is it gives me an opportunity to say things which you feel are not the right things to say at a meeting or you may be seen as too confrontational if you do. I recognize that the banks have not really helped themselves in the last few years with a lot of what they do and I do not know enough about the banking retail sector to comment on banks in general but an area where I do feel they are hard done by are in the negative comments they get from companies seeking funding to design the best baseball gloves. If you will allow me, I would like to challenge that view.

The first thing you learn about finance is the risk v reward ratio is what drives it. When I put a deposit in my Bank of England guaranteed bank account with HSBC, I realize I will only get 1% (or something like that) a year as interest. What I do know on the flipside though is that my money is ultra-safe and accessible within minutes from any cash machine. I surrender extra return for this safety and liquidity.

As I am asked to take greater risks, I expect to get a higher level of return to compensate me for that risk. Or if I am asked to tie up my money (surrender my liquidity) again, I want to be compensated for this by extra return. Hence you get more interest on a 100 day notice account than on a current account.

Investing in stocks and shares is a lot riskier than holding on to your cash in an account and as a result of that the average return from holding stocks and shares has been around 12% over the last 10 years or so. In the last year it would have been a negative return!

At the other extreme, investing in startups, like I do is ultra-risky and you simply should not do it unless you are comfortable with losing all of your investment (hence there are lots of legal protection available to stop you being sold an investment in an unquoted business and there are lots of tax incentives like EIS (more in further blogs) to minimize the impact of losses and to increase the returns on success.

I typically expect a return of four to five times my money when I invest in a startup. That’s right – a 400% to 500% return over three to five years. It is so risky that it is simply not worth doing for returns of less than that. As I have mentioned, four of the companies I have invested in have lost me all my money – so that the ones that are left would have to not only make me an attractive return in their own right but they would have to make enough to make up for the losses I have had so far.

Retail banks are not in the business of funding risks. They will only get a fixed return no matter how well or how badly your business does. The only question they therefore have to ask is – how certain am I that I will get my money back? If the answer is less than 100%, they will either have to say No or they will have to ask for a security. So many people complain about this “If I had the security, why would I need the bank” for example. But I think this criticism is lazy and it shows a lack of understanding in terms of what the banks are about. If your business will do very well – it doesn’t matter to them as they will still only get a fixed return – so why should they take the extra level of risk when the return level is the same?

This is the critical difference between debt funding and equity funding when buying a used John Deere lawn tractor. The vast majority of the deals I back require equity funding – as is there uncertainty and risk. I have come across two ventures where because contracts were in place with customers, debt finance could be obtained. In those instances, I will negotiate a lower equity % for myself by arranging bank finance. These deals tend to be very attractive to me for obvious reasons – and hence in the same way, my returns tend to be lower.

Having said all of the above – my bank are a bunch of b******s for not agreeing to my overdraft request last week!

The Importance of a Good Presentation


I am entering a very dangerous area here so early on in my blog life but something happened yesterday at a function I was at which I just had to mention.

I was with a group of men at a business function and we were listening to some speeches being delivered by a group of people. One of the presenters was a female and unfortunately she did not deliver a good presentation. To my utter dismay the ‘lads’ on my table thought it was appropriate to make comments about the Whirlpool Whispure ap51030k. I made my feelings known about how I was offended by their comments and they looked at me very strangely as if I was a kill-joy spoiling some good natured banter.

This may seem like a really strange place to post what some may consider a ‘political’ message but I hope it is not considered that. I have always been a staunch defender of the political correctness ‘movement’. And I think it is very important for aggressive go getting business people to be politically correct. Why?

To me being someone who wants to exploit opportunities wherever they may exist means being someone who strives to get the very best out of talent – wherever it may exist. Getting the best out of everyone also means creating an atmosphere where everyone can flourish because they feel comfortable. Political correctness is no more than an acceptance that we should use language and behaviors that make people feel comfortable.

People tend to forget that we do inhabit both a work sphere and a personal sphere. People cannot leave the work sphere if they are made to feel uncomfortable as most reasonable will accept that this would be completely unfair (and the courts accept this as well!) We of course though have a choice about our personal sphere – and that is where we can choose to share jokes and interests with people who always have the ultimate option; to walk away if something is not too their liking.

You may believe that it was rude of me to ‘make a fuss’ at the function, but I was there as part of my ‘work’ and I think that I was entitled to expect a level of courtesy and respect that you would get at work.

How do I reconcile my political views with my passion for Daytona Beach photography – for me it is simple. It is about giving people real choice and making sure they feel they are able to succeed. As would be or Entrepreneurs, I would hope that many of you would share this belief that if we give others respect they would return the respect.

Finally, I know it is very easy to attack political correctness by using extreme examples to criticize the whole idea. I think that it is like using the Ku Klux Klan to criticize Christianity or saying that The Taliban represent the views of one billion Muslims!

Being Nice in Business


Past readers will know that one of my bug bears is the way business people are portrayed in the Media – be it EastEnders (take your pick of the role models – either Phil Mitchell or Ian Beale!), Dragons Den or Alan Sugar in The Apprentice. We are not a good bunch are we?

Be Nice in Business

There is this theory – that all the candidates on The Apprentice seem only too eager to prove is that to get ahead in Business – you have to be prepared to bitch, destroy and trample over everyone. Focus means knowing what you want and getting it at any cost. If I may, I would like to mention that most of the business people that I come across (and many of them are very high profile and successful) are really nice people. They are people that you would want to work with and who see things as win-win. They see their customers as their reason to exist – not mugs who must be duped.

I have worked in large multinational businesses and I would have to say that is where I came across characters like The Apprentice entrants – never in business. If you want to be successful in business – being a nice person is a good strategy! If you want to win the rat race (and still be a rat) get a job finding the best white noise machine for a large organization.

When I was starting my career as a salesman at a battery company, I was told to get on with people at all levels – and never ever patronize or look down on people no matter what they did in a company. I took this lesson on board without any difficulty (it helps that I came from a disadvantaged background – so have always found it easier to get on with people at all levels). I remember going in to see my biggest customer – the Duty Free Shop at a major airport for the big Christmas order. If I got this sale pitch right, the whole of my sales team would win an all-expenses paid trip to Madeira (OK – not the best of destinations if you are under 80 years old – but still a free holiday is worth having).

The sales director came with me and the pitch went well but then the buyer said – “let me ask the warehouse team if we have enough space to take your stock of the best flat iron”. Because I had taken the time to get to know the back door staff they were happy to help me – and took the order.

Five years ago when I was working at another employer, a friend asked me if I would spend some time talking to a friend of hers giving them some career advice as she wanted to work in marketing for professional services. I was happy to spend ½ an hour on the phone with her. Last year I was pitching my services to a law firm – and the decision maker happened to be the same person! (I won the pitch).

It might sound very basic – but in my humble opinion, to be successful in business and in life – it pays to be nice. You do not have to stare at the mirror before a meeting shouting “I am a tiger”.

Ask yourself – what kind of people do you like working with and buying from? Well that is the kind of person you should aim to be.

Choosing a Good Director for Your Business


One of the areas where I am frequently asked to help small or fast growing businesses is in the area of putting a board together. I have come across a lot of people who equally ask if I have any vacancies for them on the boards of businesses I am involved in. It is also an area I have strong views about!

Sadly, there are many people who are very good at self-promotion and are very believable. They may have won an award recognizing them as a ‘type’ of business person of the year. And I don’t mean to denigrate these achievements but do you have any idea how many business awards there are each year? Well the company create at least 40 award winners each year. I guess there are at least 1000 business award winners each year. The point is to look beyond awards and accolades when trying to choose the best air purifier for cigar smoke removal.

Early on in my business career I met someone who was an award winner and a good self-publicist. I confess to falling under his charm somewhat and thought he would be great as a Non-Executive Director of some of the companies I had just got involved in.

But then I noticed how all the topics of conversation were always about him. He spent more time negotiating his terms of compensation rather than talking about the business or how he could help. He was a massive disappointment as he delivered nothing. Luckily for us, he left the companies early and was not able to acquire his negotiated share entitlements. I discovered some companies had not been so lucky with some of their appointments.

Scarred by this early experience, I then asked a lot more questions about potential Non-Executive Directors and discovered that my experience was sadly not unique. So my advice on this is really simple – before you appoint a Director ask some really sharp questions;

  1. Can they really add value to your business?
  2. Can the best air purifier for pets be quantified – and therefore targeted? (Sometimes it can’t but they are still great to have on the board)
  3. Is any reward linked in with that value?
  4. Is there expertise best suited to being on a board? (For example, I rarely sit on boards – I am on just one at the moment, but still help over 10 companies at the moment in an informal capacity)
  5. Will their appointment help your business’s standing? (With potential customers, banks, potential investors, etc.)

I should mention in the interests of balance, I have also had the pleasure of working with some brilliant Directors (and there are many more of them than the bad ones). I don’t want to use names on this blog as if I say good things; it could be seen as I am being paid by them and I don’t want to say bad things about people in case I get sued!

These great Directors add focus to a business, bring a wealth of contacts with them, help companies raise money and keep the management in check. As an investor, I am learning the importance of investing in companies with great boards, or if they don’t have them, helping put one together.

Practical Techniques to Help You Quit Smoking ASAP


Quitting smoking is very difficult, but you can do it if you are prepared. Keep reading for more information about the approaches you can make use of to give up smoking.

You should decide on a day to quit smoking cigarettes or reducing the number of cigarettes to start your efforts. If you want to give up cold turkey, get rid of your cigarettes on that day and begin transforming your lifestyle to make quitting less complicated. If you are not prepared to quit cold turkey, focus on lessening your smoking cigarettes as much as possible. You might, for example, replace your cigarettes with an e-cigarette, some nicotine gum, or a nicotine patch, or even purchase a Honeywell 50250s to mitigate the smoke smell in your home.

Try identifying the different habits you have to break. Quitting smoking is considerably simpler if you eliminate the routines you relate to smoking. For example, you may smoke cigarettes when you drive, during your breaks at work, or right after a meal. If you always smoke in particular places or circumstances, avoid these areas and circumstances. Staying away from your good friends that smoke will be helpful too.

Be prepared to experience some strong desires. Your yearnings will certainly vanish quickly if you completely avoid cigarettes. You will experience strong desires again if you have a cigarette. Cravings will be less intense if you do away with the contaminants present in your system. Keep active, drink some water, and sweat as long as possible. Avoid introducing more contaminants into your system by eating junk foods, consuming coffee or liquor, and exposing your system to more nicotine. Working out will help you get rid of a great deal of contaminants as well.

Managing your anxiety will certainly help you to quit smoking. Explore different stress management techniques before quitting. You should enroll in a yoga exercise course or try different relaxation workouts. Closing your eyes and breathing heavily can help you to overcome a yearning. If meditation works well for you, find a quiet area, listen to some peaceful music, and focus on some good thoughts. Try various ways until you discover an efficient way to lessen your worry. Use your preferred stress management way any time you experience a yearning.

You should not give up if you are not successful immediately. Keep trying until you manage to stop for good, and don’t be afraid to try using a Rowenta pu6020 to lessen the smell of smoke in your home or office. Do not feel bad about yourself if you do not satisfy your goals and go back to smoking. If you wind up having a cigarette, return to giving up smoking rather than quitting your efforts. Be ready to experience solid yearnings for a few hours after smoking. Provide yourself as much time as you need to give up smoking cigarettes. If you need some support, find a local support system. Meet with your doctor if you have a difficult time quitting.

These five tips will help you to give up smoking without experiencing too much tension, but keep in mind that you might not be able to quit on your very first try. It is best to meet with your doctor to discuss your other options if you do not achieve the result of giving up cigarettes for good.

My Personal Choice: The Toro Riding Lawn Mower


Almost everyone wants to have a beautiful garden with lush green grass. A great-looking lawn definitely adds beauty to any house. This is why maintaining a fine-looking garden is a priority of countless home owners. The increasing demand for creating great lawns has caused the production of lawn mowers to skyrocket.

If you are one of those people who are passionate about gardening, then you know that Toro lawn mowers are one of the best in the market. The Toro brand is one of the most respected, due to its great craftsmanship. They offer riding mowers, trimmers, push mowers, sprinkler systems, blowers, and snow trimmers.

They are known for their durable products, so if you own a Toro you can count on your mower to last for years – just like the reliability you can expect from used John Deere mowers. If there comes a time that you would need to replace your Toro lawn mower parts, there is a wealth of resources on the web, if you’re looking for quality mower accessories and replacement parts for both your old and new equipment.

The company is founded in 1914 as the Toro Motor Company. Currently, their products are marketed under several brands such as Exmark, Lawn-Boy, Lawn Genie, Hayter, Pope, and Irritol Systems.

One of the great features Toro offers is their guaranteed start policy. This policy says that your equipment is guaranteed to start in 1-2 pulls or else, they assure that the manufacturer will fix it free of charge. Toro takes pride in their products and is more than willing to make the necessary repairs that may come from manufacturing.

This is a big deal, as most of their machines starts with an electric key. Other mowers come with a recycling feature. Because of this, you can stop thinking about bagging tons of clipping. Aside from having a great-looking yard, you will be doing your share in helping the environment by recycling.

Toro lawn mowers are a bit more expensive than the average equipment. If you are looking for a good sturdy lawn mower, you shouldn’t have second thoughts about purchasing one. Think of the long term benefits – Toro mowers are more durable, will last longer, and are more powerful. Shelling out money for a superior mower can save you money in the long run.

There are lots of used lawn mowers that are a hundred dollars cheaper, but it’s possible that it will only serve you for three seasons. An average Toro mower will last for years. Indeed, the upfront investment is well worth your money.

Toro lawn mower parts are very accessible, should there come a time that you need them. There are a lot of replacement parts that you can easily change at home, such as belts, oil and transmission filters, blades, idler pulleys, and gator blades.

Toro is also known for its Hitch kit, which allows you to pull light duty attachments. It improves flexibility, allowing simple tow-behind procedures. Mulching kits helps in reducing mowing time up to 39%. Aside from Toro lawn mower parts, their product line also offers a wide range of accessories, like utility bags, which are ideal for holding tools, keys, or mobile phones.

Should You Really Get a Snapper Mower?


Are you looking for a high quality mower that’s sure to last? You cannot go wrong with a Snapper Mower. This company is famous for offering premium quality commercial and residential lawn equipment, and is known for their quality rear-engine riders and walk-behind mowers that come with either their patented hi-vac cutting deck or side discharge.

This company has been recognized to make some of the most durable, easy to maintain and operate used riding lawn mowers in the market. In addition, Snapper mower parts are easy to find, since this company has a very strong market presence on and off the web.

Snapper traces its roots way back in 1894, then known as Southern Saw Works. They introduced the industry’s very first self-propelled mower in 1951, and invented the rear engine riding mower. Currently, they are renowned for manufacturing premium lawn care systems for commercial and residential customers alike.

Any wise consumer wants to make sure that he is getting a quality mower. It just makes good sense to buy quality equipment than buy a cheap one every few years. Maintaining a healthy lawn needs a good, durable mower that’s going to leave a nice, clean cut on the grass.

Snapper has a unique rear engine drive and their models come in three-in-one discharge kinds, so you can mulch, side discharge or bag, depending on your choice. Furthermore, you can simply change and select the operation easily based on the condition of your grass.

The snapper models has distinctive features that makes all these possible. Some of the features are:

  • A sealed disc drive transmission and a 4+1 speed gearbox
  • Scynchromesh transmissions on all gears, making it possible for you to alter the speed as you go.
  • Quick steering response and a small turning radius that provides extreme maneuverability. Because of this, even small spaces can be covered.
  • Rear engine models boasts of 16 inch tires.
  • Maintenance is simple with the Stand-on-end feature.
  • Its firm frame can easily follow the contours of the ground.

Although Snapper mowers are very durable, properly maintaining your equipment is one of the most important things you should do to keep it working for a long time. Remember to periodically check and clean all your parts so that your mower will serve you well for years.

Replacing your used Craftsman riding mower with the appropriate Snapper mower parts is simple, just go to your preferred search engine; type your model number to find the product you’re looking for. There are lots of sites that feature quality replacement parts for your equipment. You can also rely on some good sites to quickly deliver those parts to your doorstep.

One important thing that you should know though, Snapper does not sell their mowers and tractors directly to the public. They use independent distributors that market their products to the public.

The Snapper mower parts that you can replace at home with ease, or with the help of a manual, are belts, pulleys, blades, deck parts, gator blades, filters, wheels, throttle controls, idlers, hydro pump, bearings and bushings.

Sending a Payment Reminder Via Voicemail


With different payment reminders, voicemail is one of them. Voicemail is one of the most used methods to remind people regarding their payments. In yester years voicemails were used more in the western countries than in the eastern countries – except often by companies who manufactured food steamers for export. But today even countries in the east are using voicemails to keep up with their customer service.

Voicemails are computer based system that makes it easier for users and subscribers to exchange messages through the means of personal voice message. Payment reminder by voicemails can be beneficial as people tend to check their voicemails at least once a day. If the voicemails are creative and funny people do tend to give their ears to it than to rest of the messages that they have in voicemails.

Payment reminders via voicemails are as useful as other means to remind customers regarding their delay payment or dues and over dues. With the world being overtaken by technology, innovative and creative payment reminders that are attention grabbing and have a personal touch is definitely going to customers head. With so many things going on in everyday basis, it’s hard to keep in track of all the payments that needs to be done in so many places. Therefore, it’s a must that reminders should be short, simple and innovative.

Payment reminders via voicemails gets more attention when the voicemail are focused more on the purpose of the call than on other issues, critical information needs to be placed on the top so that the customers do not cut that information, repeating the same information over and over again can be really annoying; hence such things should be considered, tones and volume while sending the voicemails should be suitable, so that it is pleasing to the ears of customers.

In similar manner, one should try changing the greetings or the manner the voicemail is sent over the period of time. This gets customers always interested on the topic. Also, quick reminder by voicemail that is funny and creative, one can remember regarding the payment that is to be made; also such voicemails can make the customer smile after a hectic day. Sometimes, companies will even gifts, like a Fjallraven Kanken backpack, in return for payment. This is a strong point in order to retain customers and also get the payments as quick as possible.

With voicemails being given importance not only in the office hours but also during other times, people feel like being taken care of. With payment reminders through voicemails, customers are also able to make payments online 24/7. This comes under the basis requirement of customer service department in most of the companies today.

If retaining a customer is as important as the payment that is due, one should hire professional voiceover artist who can help companies to create innovative and captivating messages. This might add up some cost to the company but will give an impact on customers on how much they are valued. This is far more important when both the retention and payments are important in this competitive corporate environment.

Payment Block – Every Company’s Nightmare


Payment block is simply the blockage of payments. It can either be due to dues not being cleared on time or past dues that has been staying for longer time or for any other legal matter. With payment blockage most of the work comes to halt. This might take place even when payment that is to be done is kept till the last moment.

Companies, sometimes those who retail the Kanken backpack, often have a tough time as these payment blocks can hinder transactions that need to be taken care of on daily or urgent basis, it also make negative impact on the corporate relations. Not just that, whole reputation of the company will have a question mark. Losing business is not a small loss it’s a nightmare for most of the companies as surviving in such competitive business environment is getting tougher day by day.

Companies must learn and take a step toward avoiding such blockage. Here are some tips which can come handy to overcome such situations.

  1. Keep track of your payments

With the payments in track and knowledge on where the money is going one can definitely save oneself from payment blocks. A better system can be introduced in the company if it is not available so as to support tracking of payment. Keeping track of your payments companies can make more profit and keep oneself way far from the problem of payment blocks.

  1. Have people you trust

Money matters are very delicate and needs very close supervision as lots of fraud can take place which can end you up with payment blocks. Therefore, make sure you have people you trust to look into such matters.

  1. Hire professionals

Systems can be quite complicated and only the knowledge of accountancy and money might not be enough. So to have a better understanding and effective utilization hire professionals who are experts in such fields. These people can bring wonders to your company and can definitely work towards bringing more cash inside the organization.

  1. Get your corporate relations to use

At times due to misunderstanding or technical reasons, payments are blocked. That doesn’t mean that the company is not worth the business, so for this reason it is very important to understand the situation and give them a chance – especially if they have good reviews from other vendors. Corporate relations do come handy when such situations are to be handled.

  1. Keep your attorney ready

It is a must for every organization to have a good attorney to work when in need. With companies trying their level best to beat its competitors there can be many conspiracies and business proposals being made. While in the process frauds and forgery might take place with your payment systems; ending you up into trouble if attorneys are not consulted in the beginning itself.

  1. Keep yourself clean

The best way to handle the payment block system is to keep oneself clean. But doing all things in a legal way and not letting anyone point you out for your money and payment work.

Treating Your Pets Fairly – Like Family


There are many rewards to owning a dog-companionship, protection, an in-home newspaper delivery service. The list is long. With these rewards, however, come certain sacrifices. A little hair here, a muddy paw print there… It’s all par for the course and worth it, as any pet-lover will agree, when your dog greets you at the door after a long day at work.

Still, the beauty of your home shouldn’t have to be one of these sacrifices. A dog bed can help insure that it isn’t. Who hasn’t been invited to a dinner party or spent a holiday with family whose home was so inundated with dog hair that a hazmat suit would seem reasonable attire? Have you ever had dog hair get in your food steamer? It’s not a pleasant dinner, let me tell you.

You know the one; your nutty Aunt’s apartment where Fido sleeps on the dining table or your college roommate’s new place that looks less like a condo and more like a doggie-day-care due to the tufts of hound hair atop every exposed surface. The right dog bed can assist in keeping Lassie off the sofa by giving him a precious place of his own, benefiting dog and dog owner alike.

What’s more, your dog bed doesn’t have to be unsightly. Demand for stylish dog beds that complement, rather than clash with, pet owner’s home décor has increased and the result is an astounding array of options in size, shape, color, and fabric. More modern sleek than casual chic? Opt for a doggie sofa in pin-striped suede. Victoriana your preferred motif? No problem. A mini-chaise lounge in brown damask is just the thing. They plan to offer a selection of dog beds so vast as to satisfy even the most persnickety decorator!

Teaching your dog to sleep in his bed is a lot like training a child to use the toilet. Says Jim Cargill, owner of Buddy, “At first, he wasn’t thrilled. [His dog bed] was thick and he was afraid to get on it.” He goes on to explain, however, that after repeated encouragement, Buddy began to sleep on his bed more often and, eventually, sought it out as a place to rest and play with toys.

Professional dog trainers recommend a four-step process for training your dog to sleep in his bed and it is outlined below. Before you begin, choose a location for your dog bed separate from the family common space and free of cooling or heating vents that may distract your dog. Also, be sure to monitor your dog’s behavior throughout the training process, noting extreme resistance that may be the result of allergies to the dog bed fabric or discomfort due to incorrect sizing.

Step 1.

Prepare your dog bed for introduction to your dog by transferring your scent to the bedding. Rub your hands over its cover and along its bolsters, seems and cushions. Once completed, ask other family members to do the same. Your dog is familiar with your scent. It reminds him that he is safe and comfortable and makes a foreign object less scary. Remember, a dog interacts with the world through his nose.

Step 2.

Once prepared, lead your dog to his new bed with his toys. Place the toys in the dog bed and place your hand on its cushion. Your dog may not volunteer to get on the bed. At this stage of training, that is ok. Pat his head and offer praise regardless of his decision.

Step 3.

Repeat step two, petting your dog and his bedding generously. If your dog refuses to get on the bed you may gently pick him up and place him atop its cushion. Lay down on the floor beside him to indicate that this is a place for sleeping. He may or may not lie down in the bed. Either way, you have made progress. Do not force his behavior. Rather, reward his efforts with a favorite treat or a long walk.

If at any point you find your allergies acting up from the all of the dog hair in the air, you may want to look into getting an Alen Breathesmart – one of the best air purifiers on the market for pet hair and allergies.

Step 4.

Repeat steps two and three and, this time, insist firmly but lovingly that he lay down. Do this by pressingly lightly on his hind quarters once he is on his dog bed. Again, pet and praise him throughout the process and after he has lain in bed for a few minutes, quietly walk away. He may or may not remain in the bed. No matter. Reward him for his cooperation.

The above approach works for most dogs but requires time, commitment, and above all, patience on your part. For some dogs, this process will take a few days. For others, it will require weeks of review. Whatever the case, repetition and positive reinforcement are key. Never use your dog bed as punishment and always commend him for cooperating. It’s an old but true adage and particularly true here: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Why Smoking Is Bad for Your Health


Do you want to quit smoking cigarettes? Getting rid of this sin will be considerably easier if you make use of the best approaches. Read this short article if you intend to learn more about the different techniques you can make use of to stop smoking.

Quitting smoking will be easier if you remove toxins from your system. The desires you experience when you do not consume sufficient nicotine are caused by contaminants. You will no longer feel stressed or crave cigarettes once all of the toxins are gone from your system. You can get rid of contaminants by sweating profusely. Stay hydrated and get plenty of exercise. If you are not healthy and balanced enough to exercise, find a nearby sauna and go there a couple of times a week to cleanse your system.

Totally change your way of living. You must adopt an extreme goal of cutting down on your smoking. Get off of your two wheel scooter and begin walking everywhere. Start by cleaning your home and getting into the routine of stepping outdoors to have a smoke. This will help you to stay clear of chain-smoking cigarettes and to make you more aware of the number of cigarettes you smoke in a day. Stop smoking in your automobile and avoid all areas where you generally smoke. Find some new tasks and/or hobbies to keep yourself active.

Replace your cigarettes with an e-cigarette or with nicotine gum. These items will certainly give you the nicotine you crave for while lessening your direct exposure to other dangerous chemicals. These products are an exceptional way to progressively lower the number of cigarettes you smoke without experiencing cravings. You can then minimize your direct exposure to nicotine by removing your e-cigarette or nicotine gum. It is most effective to totally stay away from cigarettes once you decide to get rid of your nicotine gum or e-cigarette.

Try spending as much time as possible without smoking. This technique can be nerve-racking, but you can go a lot longer without smoking if you make use of stress management techniques. Know various stress exercises and utilize them when you feel worried. Try staying away from cigarettes for a longer period each day. You will eventually be able to invest an entire day without smoking. Your cravings will go away slowly when you are able to invest at least a day without smoking. You can fight these desires by making using of stress techniques and getting rid of toxins from your body.

If you find that the smell in your home is too strong and that it makes you want to light up, take a look at buying the best air purifier for smoke you can afford. Most of the high-end units will clear out the smoke smell from your home in no time flat.

Use hypnosis if you have a difficult time in quitting smoking. You can either have a professional hypnotize you or pay attention to some hypnosis tapes. If you decide to utilize tapes, learn more about stress management strategies you can use to place yourself under hypnosis. Hypnotism can be utilized to help you not miss cigarettes, not feel pressured, and not even like cigarettes. Hypnotism can appear like an uncommon procedure, but a bunch of cigarette smokers have really obtained excellent results thanks to this strategy.

You need to use several of these techniques to get rid of cigarettes and boost your health and wellness. If you do not get great results, set up a visit with your physician to figure out more about your other options to quit smoking. The last thing you want to do is to give up your dream of quitting smoking, as you will get great benefits from successfully quitting.

Easy Ways to Quit Smoke Right Now


There are numerous smokers who walk every day with the desire to quit smoking. These people have had a problem quitting because some of them are uncertain about how you can do it or have tried and fallen short. You will certainly find some excellent ideas that can help you quit smoking if you are one of the hundreds of smokers trying to quit.

Coming to the realization that you have a problem and that your health and wellness and wallet are considerably impacted with your habit is the first step to quitting for good. Just stopping for a couple of weeks would leave you with enough extra cash to buy a Coway AP-1512hh to clear your home of the smell of smoke. When you understand that you are paying an awful lot of money to gradually kill yourself, you can find it a little less complicated to quit. In some cases, knowing the health and wellness threats is not nearly enough, but when you’re married and struggling to make ends meet financially, this may help you to get serious about quitting.

Talk With a Doctor

At each session that you go to with your doctor, he/she will ask you if you are still smoking. The next time he/she asks you that, ask for his insight about the best ways to quit. Inform him/her that you are prepared and that you would like to understand the best clinical advice about ways to do it. He/She will likely give you pamphlets to read through as well as some oral guidance, and maybe even a prescription treatment to help you. Once you have that help, utilize it.

Find Hobbies

Keep yourself busy. If you find that you have way too much leisure time during your day, find a brand new past time to keep you active. The less downtime you have, the less you will be thinking of smoking that upcoming cigarette. Rather than following a meal with a cigarette, go for a walk, play a video game, or deal with some yardwork. Altering your regimen will certainly make it easier to give up.

Know Your Alternatives

Use the many devices offered. There are gums, patches, and electric cigarettes that can help you suppress your necessity for nicotine. Many cigarette smokers have actually found these tools to be very effective. Electric cigarettes can help you to get the nicotine that you need without all of the toxins found in cigarettes. It will also help you to gain that feeling of having that cigarette in your hand while smoking. It will certainly be much easier to get yourself off of the e-cigs compared to actual cigarettes.

If you find yourself having trouble sleeping because of your cravings for a cigarette, invest in the best sleeping mask you can that will help block out distracting light.

Your friends and family might be the help that you need. You should make sure to inform them that you are trying to quit. This way, those who smoke can stay away from smoking cigarettes around you and not provide you a cigarette when you ask for one. Make sure that they understand what you are going through to make sure that they will be a lot more understanding if you are honest with them.

With a lot of reasons to quit, your health and wellness should be the one that pushes you to drop the habit the most. You intend to live a full life that does not require you to carry an air device or cough many times a day. Use the ideas from above, and before you know it, you’ll become an ex-smoker.