Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Good News

As we roll into the weekend, why not focus on the positive side of life? My wife recently started a Facebook page dedicated to finding and posting positive news stories from around the world.

She has told me it’s rather difficult to find stories in the mainstream media that focus on positive things (which should tell you something), so she has started searching the web for positive and uplifting stories from around the world.

Check it out, and if you like her idea, Like the page. Maybe you have some positive stories of your own to share. Start your weekend off in a good mood. The world is a beautiful place, with great people who do good things. Take a look, then go out and have a great weekend!!!

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Positive-News-From-Around-The-World/181806425275640

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Too busy to save money?

Nowadays, we are often so busy handling our business and putting out fires that the last thing we have time for is sifting through piles of offer letters or meeting with 15 salesmen every month, just to save a few pennies here and there.

However, it is a good idea every now and then to review your business transactions and audit your business.  The information age makes it easier than ever to get competitive information about the products and services you use.  If you don’t regularly look at what you’re paying, you could be wasting a lot of money.

I recommend a schedule to make sure you are staying on top of expenses:

1) Utilities such as Electricity, phone and internet service, etc.; once a year

2) Rent/leasing fees: once a year, or minimally every time your lease is due for renewal.  Even if you aren’t planning on moving, if the leasing market is down when you are renewing, you may be able to leverage that fact to get a break on your next lease, or have the landlord include renovations or other bonuses.

3) Labor: Every 6 months.  You should have a performance review with your immediate juniors twice a year.  Let them know how they are doing, relative to your expectations.  Use the opportunity to open a dialog about what challenges they are having.  Not only will they get a better idea of what you want from them, but they may also give you vital information about ways to improve your business.

4) Cost of goods: Every quarter.  This varies from business to business.  I’ve seen owners check prices every day; while some almost never do.  I personally believe if you have made sound relationships with your vendors and are doing a good job in marketing your business, every quarter should be enough.

5) Insurance: Every year.  Health insurance is the biggest of these.  Make sure you are on the right plan that strikes a good balance of benefit to your employees and your cost.  Providing healthcare that is cheap for you but provides little or no benefit to your employees will actually cost you money, because none of your employees will use it.

If, after doing an audit on one of these points, you feel like you’re not getting the best deal, schedule half a day to meet with 2-3 salesmen who offer the product or service.  Chances are, you’ve had several drop by your office in the time since your last audit. Include a salesman from your current vendor, unless it is blatantly obvious that they are really taking advantage of you, based on your initial research.  The reason for this is that quite often, there are many variables at play.  Cost, convenience, service, and payment arrangements can all play an important role in total cost of ownership.  What good is it to save $30 per month on phone service if the system breaks down often, or you have to spend an hour on hold to get an issue resolved?

Good salesman will not just pitch their product or service.  They will provide valuable insight into the details of what they’re offering, and important options to consider.  A customer service rep in a call center often won’t have this information.  Be sure to be clear when making the appointment that you’ll want this information.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called on a particular prospect who ignored my attempts to get a meeting with them, only to find out later that I could have saved them money and given them a higher level of service.

Doing this audit won’t always mean you wind up switching companies.  Sometimes, you’ll find that the company you’re with has a different option that better suits your needs, and switching plans saves you money.  This happened to me recently with my electric company.  It also doesn’t mean that your relationship with your vendors will suffer.  If your vendors have done a good job for you, they will welcome the opportunity to continue to serve you and have the conversation about your business and where it’s headed.

Customize your Computer Desktop

If your desktop looks boring, stale, or just plain generic, spice it up!

Read on for a quick tip on how to personalize your wallpaper with a desktop slideshow made form your pictures.

Many people know how to use photos as their desktop, but here I’ll show you how to turn a group of photos into a rotating slideshow that changes periodically.  For this tip, I will assume you have Windows 7.  If you’re using XP or a Mac, you’re going to have to search the web for detailed instructions.

1) Have all of the photos you intend to use in one folder.  In my computer, I created a folder in my pictures library.  To do this, go to your pictures library folder ( My Documents -> Pictures library), right-click and select New Folder.  Name the folder Desktop Slideshow or something you’ll remember.

2) Copy the pictures you want in the slideshow into the folder.  Go to the place in your computer where the desired pictures are and select them.  You can select multiple pictures at a time by holding down the Ctrl button and clicking on all of the photos you want to copy.  If you want to copy them (make a copy, but leave the pics in the original folder), hit Ctrl-C.  If you want to move them (delete from their original location and move them to the new folder), hit Ctrl-X.  Next double-click the new folder.  Move your cursor into the empty folder and hit Paste (either Ctrl-V or Right-click then select Paste).

3) To change your desktop, hover over a blank spot on your Desktop and right-click. Select Personalize.  In the bottom of the pane, click Desktop Background.  Toward the top, you will see Picture Location.  Click Browse to the right of it.  Click Libraries -> Pictures -> Desktop Slideshow (or whatever you named the folder). Click OK.

4) By default, all of the pictures in the folder will be selected.  If you want certain pictures not to be included, click the check mark in the top left corner of the picture to remove in from the slideshow (it will not delete the picture from the folder).  Under picture position, choose how you want the picture to display on the screen.  Play around with the options to see which you like best (different options work better for different sizes of pictures).

5) Under “Change picture every:” there’s a drop-down menu that allows you to select how often the pictures rotate.  I recommend selecting 10 seconds and leave the window open.  In the background, you will see the slideshow flip through the pictures.  Then, go back and select a more appropriate interval.  If this is a work computer, select 10 minutes or more.  You don’t want to get too distracted!  Here’s an example of my desktop, which rotates every 10 minutes.  The handsome young man is my youngest son, Finley.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can add more photos to the slideshow by copying more pics into the folder you created.  They will automatically be added to the slideshow.

Enjoy!

Jim’s Cinco de Mayo recipes

Here’s my world famous guacamole.  Ok, not world famous yet, but several people have said they liked it at parties.

Guacamole: Quick and Simple version

Ingredients:

2 large ripe avocados (or 3-4 medium ones); slightly soft, but resistent to pressure

1 Cup Pace Picante sauce, Mild

salt, garlic powder, ground cumin Tabasco Chipotle flavor (to taste)

Directions:

Scoop out the pulp of the avocados by cutting it around the pit, then use a spoon to scoop it out of the skin.

Mash the avocado with a fork until the avocado is well blended.  I like to leave it slightly chunky.  Add the Pace Picante sauce and stir until well blended.  Salt to taste (bear in mind that if you’re using salted chips, the guacamole shouldn’t be very salty.

For added kick, I like to add ground cumin or Tabasco Chipotle Flavor hot sauce.  It adds a smoky/spicy flavor.  Add Cayenne pepper for a real kick.

Serves 3-4 (or if I’m at your party, 2-3)

Guacamole: Gourmet version

Ingredients:

3 large ripe avocadoes as above

1/2 red onion

1/2 a bunch of cilantro

juice of 1 lime

1 ripe tomato, preferably organic

1 small can chipotle peppers or 1/2 habanero pepper, seeds removed (really spicy)*

*substitute 1/2 red or orange bell pepper for peppers for a “Gringo mild” version

1 clove fresh garlic

Ground cumin and salt to taste

Directions:

Loosely chop onion, tomato, cilantro, peppers and garlic and put into a food processor or blender.  Squeeze in lime juice.

Pulse blend until ingredients are well chopped but still slightly chunky.  This makes a good Pico de Gallo, and can be served by itself or as a salsa alternative.

Scoop out avocado as above and cube into 1/2 inch cubes. Mix avocado cubes and pico de gallo until well blended.  If your like your guacamole fully blended, add avocado in with the Pico de Gallo ingredients and pulse blend them together until desired consistency is achieved.

Taste the guac, and add salt, Tabasco Chipotle sauce, and/or ground cumin to taste (adding it before blending can result in it being overly spiced).

Serve in a bowl.  I recommend sprinkling cumin on top for color.  I also recommend Tostitos Gold chips, as they are thicker and better for dipping.

Simple Queso Dip

1 lb Velveeta cheese

1.5 Cups Pace picante sauce

Warm the Velveeta cheese in a sauce pot until melted.  Add Picante sauce and stir until well mixed.

For added spice, dice up your favorite chile peppers (I like Guajillo or Pasilla for this recipe).  The Pico de Gallo above works well also.


Serve any of the above with a nice cold beer.  I recommend Dos Equis or Modelo.  It’s a step above Corona or Tecate, in my opinion.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Salud!

Jim