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September 29 2014
How to Get More From Every Ad Dollar You Spend on Facebook
September 25 2014
Backyard pools losing appeal in some parts of Bay Area
September 23 2014
Indiegogo Will Allow Extended Campaigns
September 19 2014
Error in ninth gives Yankees walk-off 3-2 victory; Derek Jeter hits home run
September 17 2014
Investing in new technologies? Do it widely...
September 15 2014
French bank warns: Stay away from these 20 stocks ahead of Scotland vote
September 11 2014
Intel launches 15-core Xeon E7 v2 family for big data and mission-critical computing
September 09 2014
'iWatch' to headline Apple event, analysts predict
CUPERTINO -- While Tuesday's Apple event is cloaked in the company's customary blanket of secrecy, there have been enough leaks and rumors for analysts to make pretty good guesses about what will be announced.
The consensus is that CEO Tim Cook and crew will unveil the first new product of his tenure, a smartwatch already dubbed the "iWatch" by the media -- but what Apple will call it is still unclear. According to some reports, the watch will come in two sizes and will be shielded with a sapphire screen.Analysts predict that the device will be pitched as a tool for monitoring health and fitness. In addition, the watch reportedly will be equipped with near-field communication technology so users can make payments in retail stores without reaching for their wallets. Although analysts anticipate that the watch will be introduced Tuesday, most do not expect it to hit stores until 2015.
"The wearable will be the first product that comes to market that has Cook's personal imprint on it," said Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.What's still unclear, aside from the name, is how much the smartwatch will cost, although one report pegs it at $400.In keeping with tradition, Apple is also likely to debut a new iPhone or two.The company reportedly will release two new phones with screens of 4.7 and 5.5 inches, addressing growing demand in the market for larger devices. Lest the devices start feeling bulky, Apple will roll out software to help users type and navigate apps with one hand, according to some reports. The devices will also reportedly be equipped with NFC technology to facilitate mobile payments.
Although Apple has long resisted the move toward larger screens, the design plays to the company's strengths, said Ramon Llamas, a research manager at IDC.
"One of the things Apple does really well is content," which can be showcased better on a bigger screen, Llamas said.
But the size will come at a cost. Analysts expect the phones to be more expensive, with the 5.5 inch device cast as the higher-end model. It's still unclear whether Apple will continue to produce the iPhone 5S and 5C, both released last year, once new models are out, said Matt Margolis, an analyst at PTT Research.
Although Apple is ramping up production of sapphire at a Mesa, Arizona, facility, some question whether the company will have enough of the material on hand to make more durable screens for the iPhone. But Margolis thinks Apple will be able to pull it off.
"I think it'll be a big surprise when they do announce it," he said.
Apple is also expected to showcase two new cloud-based platforms, HealthKit and HomeKit. The programs, announced earlier this year, give developers tools to create new applications for monitoring health and building so-called "smart homes."
And of course, there's always the chance of "One more thing ..."
September 08 2014
How to fight fair in relationships
Early on in the Veltkamps' marriage, most discussions about money led Liana and Jeremy into a full-blown yelling match. The young San Ramon couple -- who each work two jobs to support their family -- would talk over each other, often having the same frustrating argument.
Worst of all, nothing ever got resolved.
That all changed when the Veltkamps learned how to fight fair using practical, speaker-listener exercises. They took turns and, when necessary, timeouts.
"We learned to put our pride aside and just listen to each other," Liana says.
Turns out, fighting can be great for relationships -- if you fight clean. A 2011 study in Psychological Science revealed that the happiest couples argue in tandem with their partner, using words like "we" to spark compromise. (Meanwhile, another study by researchers at the University of Utah found that 93 percent of couples who fight dirty will be divorced within 10 years.)
The key to fighting fair is learning how to diffuse anger and, more important, increase empathy, says Les Parrott, clinical psychologist and author with his wife, Leslie, a marriage and family therapist, of the new book, "The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer" (Worthy; 190 pages). According to Les Parrott, the majority of marital spats would be resolved if all the couple did was accurately see the issue from the other's perspective.
The Parrotts, founders of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University, are on a national tour to teach couples the principles of a fair fight, or what they call C.O.R.E.: Cooperation, Ownership, Respect and Empathy. Their "Fight Night" stops Sept. 12 at Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore. Tickets are available at www.lesandleslie.com. The website also features more than 1,000 free videos that help answer relationship questions.
After more than 25 years researching relationships, Les Parrott says two of the biggest mistakes couples make in how they handle conflict is putting all of their energy into blaming and trying to get their points across. "Seek first," he urges. "Before you try to talk and prove your point, just listen."
That type of empathy was critical for Livermore's Donny and Tehani Hodge, who have been married for almost 13 years. Like many couples, the Hodges' hot-button issue was their relatives, and their fights "would get nasty, with name-calling," Tehani recalls, whenever she would turn to Donny for support following a disagreement she had with a family member.
Read more: How to fight fair in relationships
September 05 2014
Sexism, Lies, and Video Games: The Culture War Nobody Is Winning
September 03 2014
6 Reasons Samsung Should Fear the iPhone 6
September 01 2014
A Barbecue-Cleaning Franchise Gets Fired Up
August 28 2014
U.S. Stocks: Futures Fall Ahead Of GDP Data
August 20 2014
How to Stay Protected When Renting, Swapping Your Home
The sharing economy makes it easier for you to rent out or swap a home to raise or save some cash, but it can also lead to a host of nightmares if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
“The whole sharing economy is pretty new territory,” says Mazyar Hedayat, president of M. Hedayat & Associates. “If you do it smart and do it right, it’s going to increase the amount of revenue you make and keep your properties filled.”
But renting out your space isn’t as easy as posting an ad and connecting with an interested party.
Before you decide to rent or swap your home or apartment, experts suggest reviewing your insurance coverage. After all, you don't want to rent out your space to vacationers for a week to come back and find it trashed and that your home insurance doesn’t cover the damages.
According to Richard Hutchinson, general manager of Progressive Home Advantage, most homeowners polices exclude rentals because renters are considered a higher risk than a homeowner. To overcome this coverage lapse, Hutchison recommends taking out a separate Landlord’s Protector Policy. “These policies protect you from liabilities created by having renters, including business or loss-of-use protection which gives revenue to the owner if the home is temporarily out of commission,” he says.
Homeowners using a home sharing or rental service like FlipKey or HomeAway should read the terms and agreement section very carefully. According to Hedayat, the end user license agreement (EULA) will spell out the property owner’s requirements, including how to represent a property to would-be renters.
While these services provide access to people looking for properties, it largely falls on you to conduct due diligence in terms of who you rent to or swap with. Experts recommend having multiple phone conversations and a video conference with interested parties.
“It's amazing how much information you can glean about a person from a short phone conversation. By asking the right questions, you'll be able to learn a lot about your guest,” says Carl Shepherd, cofounder and chief strategy officer for HomeAway.
August 13 2014
5 Exercises for Bonding a Far-Flung Team
Personal relationships are vital in our professional lives. As employees, we are more productive in our jobs and happier as people when we truly connect with our colleagues. High-performance, “people-first” companies recognize this and invest in fostering these connections. Nonetheless, the increasingly mobile nature of work and the distribution of teams across geographies and time zones make this a challenge.
My company, LiquidSpace, is typical of many people-first organizations. In recruiting our team of 35 we have prioritized people over place. We now span five time zones. Team building is even more important, and more challenging, when your employees aren’t physically in the same office. Yet ours is the most productive team I’ve ever worked with. We are building a repeatable playbook of team building activities and everyday practices.
1. Host a pop-up HQ. We have an established tradition of holding a pop-up headquarters once every quarter. We choose a new city and literally plant the company flag for a week of side-by-side work and play. It’s the classic company offsite meeting but on steroids. Every employee participates and we are embedded in our product experience, booking workspace for the week from our own network.
The core of this idea is easy to replicate. Whether you hop across town or journey far afield, gathering your team in a fresh and inspiring environment can spur creativity and surface new ways of thinking about old challenges.
2. Gather around the family table. “An army marches on its stomach,” said Napoleon Bonaparte. During our pop-up HQ week, one of our simplest but most popular team activities is a home cooking night. We share in the work of cooking a meal together and cleaning up afterwards. “Doing the dishes” includes documenting the event and the ideas that surface, as well as cleaning the pots.
It’s an intimate experience to prepare a meal with your colleagues. A shared task like this requires teamwork and delivers more than just a delicious meal. The memory of collaboration and camaraderie is lasting.
3. Serve an adrenaline cocktail. It’s important to pay attention to ‘team energy’. Working as hard as we do, the fuel tanks can sometimes run empty, so pop-up week has become when we serve up an energizing team experience, injecting fun and sometimes a healthy dose of adrenaline.
Our most recent pop-up was held in Sun Valley, Idaho. Our adrenaline cocktail was a very spirited day of whitewater kayaking and rafting. The inevitable social chatter created about what we did as a team, and the thrill of accomplishment, does wonders for the individual soul and for work relationships. The residual team energy following an activity like this lasts much longer than the activity itself.
4. Hack the business. Everyone on our team wants to see the company succeed and share the benefits of building a great company. I often get growth ideas passed on to me from individual employees, and these are great, but I generally observe that most of the team is heads-down in their roles with little extra time to deeply reflect on and offer creative suggestions for growth. A few times per year, we clear our calendars for a full day, book a large conference room with plenty of whiteboards, and hold a growth hackathon. We establish a theme and challenge the team to come up with innovative ideas on how to grow the business. It’s a day where there are no bad ideas, no interruptions and no limit to what our employees can propose. These sessions are fun, have generated some of our company’s best new ideas, and demonstrate to our employees how valuable input is from every team member.
Read more: 5 Exercises for Bonding a Far-Flung Team
August 11 2014
4 (Mostly Simple) Ways to Keep Safe From Spammers' Snares
One billion -- that's the number of stolen usernames and passwords that a Russian cyber-crime gang has apparently accumulated. It's a huge number and a hacking milestone.
On a practical level, though, the figure reported in the New York Times likely won't translate into anything big. Here are two reasons why:
First, the hackers have primarily used the information to target people with spam e-mail and social-media messages on Twitter and similar services, according to Hold Security, the Milwaukee-based consultancy that discovered the database of stolen account information. But here's the thing: Spammers are highly inefficient. While the one billion figure is eye-grabbing, the real number to focus on is 99.6 percent. That's how often spam filters block those messages, according to The Spamhaus Project, an anti-spam nonprofit based in London and Geneva.
In other words, the vast majority of people whose online credentials were stolen likely won't experience any direct harm. Of the people who do see the messages, fewer still will open them. And even then, users will have to be fooled into clicking on links designed to infect their machines or sell them fake pharmaceuticals.
Alex Holden, founder of Hold Security, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Here's the second reason: Even if you're unlucky enough to be in the 0.4 percent group that does see the spam messages, there are four steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Don't open spam. You know this. Why do you make us repeat ourselves?
- Don't be lazy: Use a variety of passwords. Online thieves are hoping you use the same credentials for all the sites you access, including ones that store financial information.
- Update your software with the recommended security patches. Many users still ignore these.
- And if you're worried your computer might already be infected, take the extreme step of re-installing the operating system to start over. Changing passwords on a breached computer won't do any good. The cyber crooks will have those, too.
Online security is much like exercise and eating leafy greens. You know you're supposed to do it. So why aren’t you?
July 30 2014
6 Secrets for Creating Fierce Employee and Customer Loyalty
Why do companies exist? Is it solely to enrich their owners or do workers and customers matter as well?
I think the answer matters to entrepreneurs: In 2003, I argued in my book Value Leadership that doing well by employees, customers and communities enriches shareholders over the long run.
In the United States, the answer usually ends up being that all these groups are important but when resources become scarce, shareholders and debt holders are the ones who matter most. (In Germany, things are different: Workers also have a seat on corporate boards.)
So the thousands of workers on strike at Market Basket, the Tewksbury, Mass.-based, 25,000-employee grocery chain, probably won’t be enough to convince its board of directors to reinstate the CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, it let go last month.
What probably will make a difference is whether the board – which last fall paid out a $300 million special dividend to shareholders -- accepts the offer by Arthur T. Demoulas to acquire the 50.5 percent stake in the $4.6 billion company now controlled by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas and other family members.
Whatever the outcome, the 71-store Market Basket offers lessons for running a successful business that are very important. Former CEO Arthur T. Demoulas has demonstrated that a company should serve all of its stakeholders -- that is, workers, employees, shareholders and the community.
This is particularly significant for companies where many of the employees are in contact with customers, such as the in the grocery industry: Cashiers, butchers and all sorts of other people interact with customers. And if those employees have deep functional expertise in the business, develop relationships with customers and convey a positive attitude about the company, shoppers will keep coming back.
Moreover, even employees without direct customer contact -- like those purchasing the goods stocked on shelves -- will be more productive if they are happy and loyal. The reason is simple: They know the business so well that they can do their jobs more effectively.
A closer look at Market Basket’s operations under Arthur T. Demoulas suggests that its industry-beating 7.2 percent operating margins in 2012, cited by the Boston Business Journal, derive from six secrets: long-term employee relationships, low overhead, bulk purchasing, low prices, no debt and treating employees and customers like family. Here's a look at these six key variables:
1. Developing long-term employee relationships.
As Kevin Griffin, publisher of The Griffin Report of Food Marketing, explained to The Boston Globe, Market Basket has some employees at its headquarters who have been at the company 40 years. Market Basket accomplishes this by promoting from inside the ranks, with “once-grocery baggers ascending to senior positions.”
And the company pays staffees more than rivals do: Experienced cashiers earn more than $40,000, while full-time clerks receive salaries that start above the minimum wage at $12 an hour, according to theGlobe. Four-times-a-year bonuses are granted, amounting to as much as to six to eight weeks pay.
The company contributes 15 percent of each employee’s pay to a retirement plan (worth $552 million in 2013). Market Basket made $43 million in contributions in 2012, the Boston Business Journal noted.
2. Keeping overhead low.
The long-term employee loyalty seems to boost productivity. Compared with its rivals, Market Basket had only six employees working as grocery buyers, about one-fifth the number of grocery buyers as would be found at a similarly sized chain, the Globe reported.
“By the time they’ve reached leadership positions, employees have been with the company long enough that they are deeply experienced across many levels of the company, meaning they’re able to operate more efficiently from a staffing perspective," the Globe noted, summarizing Griffin's reasoning. "The lack of turnover also cuts down on the costs of recruiting and training."
3. Buying in bulk at a discount.
Like many successful large retailers, Market Basket takes advantage of its size to negotiate volume discounts, the Globe noted, with Griffin explaining that the company builds long-term relationships with suppliers to assure it can deliver low prices.
4. Maintaining low prices.
Market Basket has a reputation for low prices. As shopper Nathan Mudhall emailed me: “I always wondered how low margin products could vary so much in price from company to company." He singled out Market Basket's price for Land O Lakes Butter, $3.79, as considerably lower than other stores'. "There is no other market that is even close to them in price, selection, service, and cleanliness."
July 25 2014
Cutting-edge marketers, here’s why you don’t want to miss GrowthBeat (pre-registration ends today)
GrowthBeat is coming up on August 5-6, and it’s shaping up to be one of the most provocative marketing-tech events of the year.
We’re bringing you some of the best and brightest in modern digital marketing for a series of never-before-seen case studies and sessions designed to help you declutter the landscape, simplify functions, clarify your goals, and find your way to success.
Today, we’re announcing another fantastic round of speakers, including top marketing/growth execs from 7-Eleven, Adobe, Airbnb, ClearSlide, DocuSign, Eventbrite, Facebook, HootSuite, Jiffy Lube, LinkedIn, Oracle, Salesforce, Walmart, Zappos, and a host of the hottest marketing-tech players.
NOTE: Ticket prices increase by $200 today (7/25) at 5 p.m. Pacific, and seats are very limited.
Check out the speaker and program updates below, and make sure to register here by 5 p.m. to save.
Questions GrowthBeat will answer:
- What are the best case studies showing how marketers have used the latest software to retain and acquire customers?
- What are the big data and analytics apps that help disqualify leads that are a waste of time and that highlight only those leads that are the most attractive?
- What apps work specifically well for consumer businesses versus enterprise businesses?
- What are the leading tools that help you find possible growth potentials by monitoring data across your various activities and units?
- What are the use cases that vendors such as New Relic, AppDynamics, and Mixpanel showcase — all of which help you find useful profit-yielding patterns of unstructured data without you knowing about them?
- What software tools require real data scientists and other trained professionals to help achieve profits? By contrast, what are the best tools business executives can use with little training?
- Where do the emerging big data applications tend to work best in marketing and sales?
- What are the cutting-edge developments in fields such as behavioral science that will help you optimize lead generation and qualification?
- What are the other new rules, from creative to analytics, that marketers need to follow in order to succeed?
July 23 2014
PROOF THAT YOUR MOONLIGHTING GIGS CAN EARN YOU MORE THAN JUST EXTRA CASH
I am on a quest to stay passionate and productive in my day job.
By day I am a business consultant, but by night--not to mention during the wee hours of the morning and on weekends--I become a freelance writer, yoga teacher, and photographer.
On my journey I have met a number of inquisitors who ask why I toil away the hours before and after work to master crafts that are seemingly unrelated to my day job.
For instance, I work in consulting, so my pursuit of an MBA was embraced, even enthusiastically promoted to clients by my colleagues. But the mere mention of my other jobs provokes an inquisition of epic proportions.
Here are four lessons I’ve learned from moonlighting that may inspire you to render your own lessons from a side gig:
“If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, say it loud!” said William Strunk, infamous author of the definitive English style guide, The Elements of Style. Co-author E.B. White explained this piece of advice in the book’s introduction: “Why compound ignorance with inaudibility? Why run and hide?”
Businesses are already plagued by rapid shifts and uncertainties of market, technology, and resources. You can only make matters worse if you can’t muster the courage to admit when you don’t know something; it’s practically a criminal offense if you make definitive assertions instead. There is a place for guesses, but declare that you are stating an assumption not a fact.
As an over-simplified example to illustrate the point, imagine that your team poses the following question: “How often do consumers purchase products of category X without customizations?”
Each answer below sets the team on a different track:
- “We don’t know. But it is our assumption that 9 out of 10 times our consumers may buy the product without any customizations.”
- “9 out of 10 times our consumers buy the product without any customization.”
The first version drives the team to find ways in which to answer the question more definitively. Alternatively, the team may launch an offering but incorporate robust mechanisms to quickly validate this underlying assumption. Even more important, the surrounding business processes could be engineered to respond with agility if the underlying hypothesis is discovered to be wrong.
The second version guarantees that the team is caught unprepared if the solution hinges on this information and business reality contradicts it.
Listen to the English professor and be brave. If you don’t know something, say it loud.
In your jobs you develop insights underpinned by complex analysis. A surprising insight, however, is only useful if your clients and colleagues are capable of utilizing this new knowledge with confidence and elegance.
Consequently, you must tailor a journey to take others along for the ride efficiently. This aspect of my craft benefited most from my leading others in yoga. It reminded me of the value of delivering complex information with an economy of words.
Consider the below options for guiding a yoga class from one move to the next, in one breath. With the first option, I excluded those who are unfamiliar with or uninterested in the jargon of yoga. With the last option, I delivered excessive information, and the class consequently lost its momentum as individuals struggled to apply the numerous instructions I had offered.
July 21 2014
5 Reasons to Make Friends with Your Competitors
When I owned my coffeehouse (2001-2004) people frequently asked me if I hated Starbucks. I didn't. After all, Starbucks is responsible for re-introducing the culture of coffee in the United States and for establishing it in countries where the cafe culture never before existed. Starbucks put the romance into the coffee experience. Without those romantic notions consumers wouldn't have given a second look at my drive-thru, or stop by for a fireside chat over a delicious cuppa joe with their friends. Thank you Starbucks!
Still, the truth is that the coffee giant made it impossible for an independent coffee retailer like me to compete, so I didn't. Instead my business became what Starbucks is not. It too became a household name but for reasons far from its convenience and fast service.
Stop viewing your competition as the enemy and instead use it as the catalyst to brilliance. Instead of investing your precious energy into hating or envying your competitors use it to become the very best entrepreneur you can possibly be. Here's how.
Give your customers another reason to choose your brand.
I knew that my delicious, fair trade coffee wasn't enough to bring customers through the door so I gave more dimension to the consumer experience. I added open mic nights, brought in great bands, and did art shows and book signings. I even opened a private conference room to local businesses and organizations.
What can you offer in addition to your products or services? When you stand out from the competition by offering something of value that your competitors don't, you give your customers a better reason to choose your product or service. How can you help your customers go beyond a simple purchase and truly experience your brand?
Keep the price down to remain competitive.
When I purchased my coffeehouse I knew that I would have to bring down the cost of goods. It forced me to move outside of my comfort zone and negotiate with vendors. In many cases I found new suppliers, and I never stopped negotiating.
Don't get complacent about costs. Just because your suppliers have served you for years doesn't mean they can't do better. Also keep an eye out for new materials, parts, or products that will create a cost savings.
Innovate, innovate, innovate.
What sells today may not sell tomorrow. I've had too many entrepreneurs come to me for coaching because their once successful business became a cash drain.
Watch what your competition is doing to stay ahead and learn from their wins, as well as their failures. Don't get complacent! Don't get so caught up in the day-to-day operations that you neglect coming up with the next great idea. That's the mistake these entrepreneurs made and, sadly, it's often too late to breathe life back into the brand.
Upgrade your skills.
When you allocate all available cash and human energy to your business it's virtually impossible to invest in training and education for yourself. Keeping abreast of the latest technology and trends, and constantly honing your leadership skills will help you gain and maintain the competitive advantage.
Make a list of your weaknesses and make a plan to build upon the skills you need to overcome them. If you cannot acquire those skills yourself, then outsource or hire someone who can provide necessary skills to compete effectively.
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