Getting a Look at the Proform XP 160 Elliptical Trainer

Selling for around $400, after discounts, this particular elliptical trainer will deliver a great many features that usually aren’t found in machines in this price range. Generally speaking, one has to spend several hundred dollars more to get everything this machine offers, even though it sits at the lower end of this particular segment. For the price one will be paying, one will be getting quite a bit of trainer, to be honest.

For example, the XP 160 comes with several different stride lengths, which trainers costing this little usually can’t offer. The length can be set for as much as 18 inches, which is also something not seen in the machine at this price point. Normally, the most one can hope to expect is about 15 inches of length, which is acceptable – make no doubt – but which is overtaken by the full 18 inches available in the 110.

Additionally, magnetic resistance capability is offered in the Proform XP 160 elliptical trainer. For the price that this trainer will be offered at, that’s a little surprising, because one doesn’t often see magnetic resistance for this little, truthfully. There are also a wide range of resistance settings, which will prove to be more than enough for most anybody of any sort of fitness.

It will sit nicely and with a great deal of solidity wherever it is placed, and the frame is guaranteed to hold up well to users coming in at as much as 300 pounds. Additionally, there are a number of different workout regimens, with all of them having been designed by certified fitness trainers. Usually, though, most new users just play around with the resistance settings instead of going to the workout regimens.

There are two different ways that this machine is powered – meaning how it uses its LCD screens and other functions – with the first one being batteries. For those who tire of swapping out such things, there is an unmarked plug where a 6 volt AC adapter can be connected. The machine itself weighs a bit, so it’s a good idea to be sure of where it will be located because moving it around will take two people, usually.

Getting a look at the Proform XP 160 elliptical trainer, then, reveals a machine fully comfortable in its own skin and certainly attractive enough, especially after one spends a few minutes with it giving it a try. The price is also sure to attract those who may have a more limited budget but who also want quality for the money they can spend. This trainer will more than meet that criteria, it must be said.

The Pros and Cons of Overhead Projectors

Despite the rise of LCD digital projectors, overhead projectors are still widely used in different settings such as classrooms and business meetings. They are very sturdy, easy to use, and fairly affordable. In short, an overhead projector can be rightfully considered as a practical tool for presenting visuals to a large group of people.

Read on and learn about the advantages and disadvantages of using this type of projector.

Pros

1. They are easy to operate. The most obvious benefit here is that these projectors are equipped with simple technology. It doesn’t have complicated parts nor does it have too many cables that’s why setting it up is never a hassle. You won’t have to worry about figuring out different settings and requirements such as software troubleshooting and others. This also means you will be able to avoid computer-related concerns which could possibly ruin your presentations.

2. They are less expensive to acquire and maintain. Compared with modern LCD projectors, overhead projectors require lesser amount of money to acquire and maintain. Purchasing from the right resources could lead you to about 50 percent savings and so this makes a nice choice if you are tight on budget. Look around and try browsing the available options. You will likely find projectors that have almost the same price as an LCD lamp.

3. Transparencies are available everywhere. Regardless if you are using an inkjet or laser printer, there are transparency films that are perfect for your device. These transparencies can be bought from nearby stores that carry office supplies and they are often available for a cheap price.

Cons

1. The heat. Although projector cases are designed to endure the heat of internal lamps, you as a user may still find it too hot to touch. Moreover, certain parts could even cause burns if you are not too careful. Also, be extra cautious not to place flammable materials beside it during or after use. This is important so you can avoid untoward incidents.

2. The toxins. There’s always the tendency for the projector’s plastic and metal parts to melt because of its heat level. When this happens, the machine will likely release toxic chemicals which may induce dizziness, skin irritation, and others. In case you suspect that you are are experiencing any of these symptoms after using the machine, then it’s always best to contact a professional technician to perform checks and repairs.

How Much Does Satellite Radio Advertising Cost?

When you think "national radio advertising" the word "expensive" very likely also comes to mind. For years this was very, very true. The price to reach a national audience was dictated by some very well padded gatekeepers who could name crazy high prices if you want to get your message in front of the masses. Because of this, many start up businesses were forced to slowly grow in small cities before they could take their message to a national scale on the radio.

While this is still the case with many syndicated radio shows broadcast over am and fm dials, satellite radio does not hold the same gate keeper or price points of years gone by. In fact, the cost to advertise nationally on satellite radio is lower than it is to advertise on many medium and large cities across the USA.

The trade off and reason for this is the fact that your audience is very spread out and not in one select pocket. If you are selling a product or service that has no geographic target and you want to push your message far and wide, this makes it a great medium to advertise on while keep your marketing budget at realistic levels.

However if you do need to target one select city or state, the reach of satellite radio advertising may not be strong enough for what you had in mind. For example: A car dealer or boutique shop owner who have store front locations and only sell out of that location would not benefit from a low cost national advertising plan on satellite radio. They would be better on their local am or FM radio stations.

However lets say that the car dealership can ship their inventory worldwide or that boutique shop is pushing their unique website and can ship nationwide, satellite radio suddenly becomes a very attractive option for reaching a national audience that in the past would have been out of the price range for either of these companies.

To be clear: If you have a product or service that can reach a national scale and you can get it to your customers for a low price – then satellite radio advertising should be something you and your marketing department can explore. If you are only going after a select city or region, then it is not an option you need to put in the mix of your next marketing meeting.

Brick Paver Design – How it Works

Professional landscape designers or architects have methods for choosing the best brick paver design to harmonize with the surrounding area of ​​your property and structure.

Brick pavers are used around swimming pools and as pathways through landscaped gardens, and well as areas with vehicular traffic. Landscape architects consider brick pavers to be a flexible pavement because of the methods and materials used to install them. It is further considered to be a flexible pavement because it can be used in so many structural and design oriented environments.

Color combinations and blended paver colors can be used to heighten the aesthetic results of a paver installation.

Here are some design considerations:

– Pavers come in different textures. Using combinations can add visual interest and give the paver installation a very custom look.

– Wood or stone structures complemented by brick pavers will add an overall warm atmosphere.

– Generally, it is best to use pavers one to two shades lighter than the structure to avoid competition for attention with the structure.

– In keeping with this idea, for brick homes or buildings, the use of pavers lighter than the brick is recommended or the use of some kind of cobblestone.

Brick paving has been used for centuries of years for sidewalks, patios, and plazas, among other areas. Brick paving is flexible since it is compacted with layers of aggregate. As the pavers compact with use, the end result is an interlock, which holds the pavers in place. This brick interlock is very stable over time, which is evidenced by the pavers installed hundreds of years ago that are still in good form and with us today.

As a landscape designer's vehicle, brick has aesthetic appeal that exudes both elegance and warmth. You can choose to install a popular pattern such as running bond, herringbone, basket weave, and there are many other ornate patterns.

To select the most appropriate design and material for your property and structure your brick paver layout will require careful planning.

Choosing the Right Laminate Flooring Underlay

The choice of your laminate flooring underlay will depend entirely on the conditions of the floor. The more you are aware of the conditions that the floor will be affected with the better you can prepare for its life. The floors get pressure from both the top and the bottom. Therefore, you need to provide good protection and conditions on both sides.

By following the right maintenance techniques, you can manage the top very easily. However, the bottom is another story. Once the flooring has been installed, you can not really work with the bottom side very easily. For this reason, it is essential to choose the best laminate flooring underlay.

Steps to choose the right laminate flooring underlay

When you decide on laying the floor, check the sub floors. You need to know if the material utilized is timber or concrete slabs. When you know about the material underneath, you will have to study it for damage or effects from moisture. When you're aware of the moisture level underneath and on top of the floor, the right laminate flooring underlay will protect the flooring.

Another important consideration is that the right laminate flooring will work effectively if you have a smooth sub floor. If it's very clean and has a smooth level then the laminate floor underlay will adhere better and not be prone to cracks. Therefore, for a concrete floor you must fill in any gaps and smooth out the surface completely. On a timber sub floor, you will simply have to nail down all the boards very nicely. To create the smoothest surface you might have to top it off with plywood sheets. The trickiest situation comes when you have a high level of moisture in the region and the sub floor is solid. These are made out of stone, concrete or bricks.

In this case, you will have to use the filler compound which is damp proof. Any of the gaps should be filled in and you should let it dry out completely before you start using the laminate floor underlay.

Now you need to work out the budget to choose the laminate floor underlay. You can have a combination or solid form between different materials. These generally include plywood, cork or foam. You can also build in more layers of sound proofing materials. However, these are slowly expensive so you can work out the additional elements based on your budget.

How to Submit Cartoons for Publication

The goal for any cartoonist is to see your work in print. Whether it's in a magazine or newspapers, there's nothing quite like having your efforts validated by a real, by-gosh genuine cartoon editor. My first published cartoon was in a nationally published magazine. It only paid me 25 bucks, but the value of being a published cartoonist was incalculable! Here's a quick primer on how to prepare a single-panel cartoon for submission.

Neat Drawing

Once you have worked out the details in your brainstorming session, you need to transfer your drawing to a clean sheet of 8 x x 11 inch sheet of paper. Regular printer paper is fine – as long as it's clean. Do not get cutesy with the size of the paper or the color. Bigger paper is a pain for editors who have to pour through lots of submissions, and submitting your work on brightly-colored fluorescent paper will not make it stand out – at least not in a good way. It screams amateur and will get it thrown in the trash.

I will often transfer the drawings straight out of my sketchpad onto printer paper via a light box. I like this process because it preserves the spontaneity and comical whimsy of the sketch which is sometimes lost when a piece is overworked in an attempt to make it "perfect".

Using a Light Box

You can get a light box at your local craft store for next to nothing, or you can go to the internet and look up plans for building your own. Simply tape the cartoon rough in place and then tape your clean sheet of paper over top. Turn on the light and you can clearly see the original through the paper. Transfer the drawing using a black pen. This also eliminates the need for erasing pencil marks which can leave your work messy.

Do not worry about drawing the border around your cartoon. The editor will do that if they need one – often they do not.

The Artist's Market

You can find lots of publications that accept freelance cartoon submissions by looking through a current edition of The Artist and Graphic Designer's Market . This book contains lists of magazines and what they pay, as well as the names of editors and submission details. Study them and then submit accordingly. This is important because different magazines require different things. Some have a minimum number of cartoons that you have to meet; many list things that they are looking for as well as things that they do not want to see.

Mail 'em Out

Once you have your submission packet ready, it's time to send them in. Most publications ask that you send in copies of your originals. Just make sure that you send them in on decent quality paper – not the thin paper most public libraries use. Each packet will require two manila envelopes: one for the packet itself, and another that you will put your own address and postage on. This is commonly called the SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) and is a courtesy you offer the editor so he / she can conveniently send back your artwork (along with a check for any they decided to buy!). Do not worry about any kind of cover letter – they know what a submission packet is for, and your cartons will speak for themselves.

Once you've sent the packet in, it's time to get started on the next set of submissions. Keep doing this week after week and you'll always get that first sale!

Is Carpet Off-Gassing Just a Bunch of Fake News? A Common Carpet Myth Debunked

Off-gassing has been floating around online as something we should fear from our carpeting. But first, what is off-gassing anyway? Off-gassing refers to possible volatile organic compounds or VOCs and chemicals being emitted from new furniture or similar household materials. Some people confuse that new carpet smell with the off-gassing of VOCs. But, let’s take a look at the facts.

If one looks up the term “off-gassing,” they will likely be met with scary headlines that claim household materials can cause serious health issues. These are some frightening claims, but as many of us would like to install new beautiful carpeting in our homes, it’s important to get at the truth and take some time to address these concerns.

First, it is said that carpet is one of the lowest emitters of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) among household furnishings and building materials. And, carpeting sold at trusted flooring companies goes through extensive indoor air quality tests before it even reaches the stores. An easy way to find out the level of standards for a particular carpet is by looking for a green label. ‘ Green Label,’ from the Carpet and Rug Institute, ensures that customers are purchasing the lowest emitting carpet, adhesive and cushion products on the market.

All-in-all, new carpet smell does not equal leaking chemicals. And, claims that formaldehyde is being emitted by off-gassing, another thing one might find online, is simply untrue. Formaldehyde is not a concern as it is no longer used in the manufacturing process in the United States. In fact, scientific studies now show that carpet is one of the lowest emitters of volatile organic compounds (VOCS) into the indoor environment. And, carpet has recently been proven to emit less VOCs than other household interior products like wall paint.

Although some love that new carpet smell, it may not be everyone’s favorite aroma. If this is the case, it is a good idea to open the windows after a carpet installation to allow the room to air out for a while. What VOCs new carpet may emit are short-lived and largely dissipate within 24 to 48 hours. And, this occurs even faster with fresh air ventilation.

The best way to find out about the safety of carpeting for the home is by speaking to carpet professionals and by asking questions. Flooring and carpeting professionals are well-versed in all things carpeting and will be able to address your concerns. They should be able to show you proof that the carpeting you’ve chosen has been given the Green Label and has gone through the proper testing.

Understanding the Advantages of Outlook Cached Mode Configurations

Many of us have heard about or actually used the Cached Mode of the Microsoft Outlook application. By specifying various configurations, we can make the best use of this powerful feature. Our article explains the different configurations and how to put them to use.

As all users of Microsoft Exchange Server are aware, they can either work with their mailbox on the server in the online mode or the cached mode. The largest advantage of working in the cached mode is that it allows users to continue working with data from the mailbox as though they were still connected to the server even though they may be offline. Outlook creates an offline storage file, OST file and then copies the content of the mailbox on the server into this file. Mobile users can then access this copy of the mailbox offline. To take full advantage of this feature, users should know about the different configurations of the Cached mode setting, how to protect OST data and if the need arises, how to recover OST data.

Although you can set the different configurations for Outlook manually, if you are a system administrator looking after an entity Exchange organization, you would be better off if you just applied the settings at the group policy level. The OST group policy settings can be located by first going to the main User Configuration menu and then looking at the Administrative Templates. From Microsoft Office Outlook 2007, select Tools and then Account Settings, from where you can click on Exchange. While there may be other options, you should look at the group policy setting for the OST files. Before making changes, you should be aware that some of the changes could cause serious damage to OST files and that there should be a backup option to quickly recover OST data.

1.Rather than downloading all the messages to the offline folders, especially if you are working on a low bandwidth connection, you may want to download only the headers to understand what you need to deal with on a priority basis. If you indicate the 'Cached Exchange low-bandwidth threshold value', when sufficient bandwidth is not available, Outlook will download only the headers for you.

2.One of the most important configurations is the 'Exchange Unicode Mode'. While older versions of Outlook used only the ANSI format for their OST files, from Office 2003 onwards, it is possible to choose the format the user would like for the OST files. However, users should be aware that ANSI-based files have a 2 GB size limit beyond which the files can immediately get corrupted and you have to repair the file to recover OST data. Further, it is not always easy to work on an OST file that has crossed the size limit, as, in order to repair the file, one needs to reduce the size. The best option then is to use specialized recovery tools such as Advanced Exchange Recovery from DataNumen to repair the OST file, bringing the file to a more manageable level and ensure no loss of data. On the other hand, Unicode files have no such restrictions.

3.Some users prefer to work with the data in their Exchange mailbox only when they are online. They would much rather deal with slow and unreliable connections than deal with local OST files. By choosing the 'Do not allow an.OST file to be created', these users do lose out on the many advantages of the Cached Exchange Mode.

Keyless Door Locks – The Advantages and Disadvantages of These Type of Door Locks

Keyless door locks are becoming more and more popular. No longer will you have to hunt for your key or fumble with a key in the middle of the night. As with all products, there are advantages and disadvantages of these kind of locks.

Keyless Door Locks: Advantages

You used to always have to worry about locking your keys in the house. With keyless door locks you do not have to worry about that anymore. And you do not have to worry about losing your key. You just enter your key code and your door unlocks. One of the best advantages is that you can let a repair man enter your home when you are not there. They enter your home, do what they need to do and leave. You get to change the code and they can not copy a key when you do not have one.

Keyless Door Locks: Disadvantages

There are two main disadvantages of these type of locks. One: someone could guess your key code and get into your house. If you choose completely random numbers then this should not happen. Do not choose your birthday or cell phone number. Two: If the power goes out, and your lock is purely run on electricity, you could have locked out of your house. But, if its run on a battery than you should be ok.

Keyless Door Locks: Remote Entry

There are remote entry locks. They have the disadvantages of losing it or forgetting it in the house. They can not be copied like keys can be. If you lose the remote it will cost quite a bit to replace, seeing as they are quite expensive.

Small Timber Homes – Maximizing Kitchen Space

When building a small timber frame house space can be limited, especially in the kitchen. Most of the floor space is used for the bedrooms and living area. When planning your timber home you should plan a kitchen that combines both entertaining and dining areas into one comfortable room. To attain this goal there are things that you need to consider to maximize your kitchen space and make it into the area you desire.

Assess what are your needs

The first thing to do is consider the ways in which you use your current kitchen. Think about when and how your family cooks, eats, and utilizes the current kitchen. Is it an eat-in kitchen or one that hosts large family dinners? If you are building a timber frame house for retirement, then there will generally be only two people in the house but if you have children, you need to consider space when they visit and if they have a family. If you have a small kitchen in your new timber frame house you will have other places for them to sit and eat.

Design the space

When you design your kitchen, you need to look at your lifestyle and your budget. You could design an open kitchen where it looks out into the living area. To create a personalized kitchen you can consider using timbers that are handcrafted, vaulted ceilings, and specialty woods. Having exposed beams and posts will allow you to distinguish visually separate areas without having intrusive walls.

Counter space

In addition to having counters, you could have a freestanding island where family and friends can sit and eat without being in the way of the food-prep area. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association if you have a large island they recommend that there be a thirty-nine inch walkway between the cabinets or walls and the counter seating so there is enough space for people to eat without hitting their heads on the wall Egypt cabinets. One configuration that is a popular design is a breakfast bar or island with a taller pub-table-height seating on one side and a food-prep surface on the side in the kitchen.

Dining table

If you have a small kitchen space but want to have a dining table, you could put a long table along one side between the living space and kitchen on one side of the cooking area. If you have figured in the plans a separate dining room, you could have a smaller dining table or a round one that is tucked into an alcove or corner.

After considering these things then it will be time to draw up your plans to build your dream timber frame house.

How to Profit With Timber REITs

Have you ever been to Flagstaff, Arizona? If not, I recommend you visit some time. Flagstaff's a quaint little town located in the northern mountains of Arizona. The pine trees grow like crazy and in the summers a cool breeze always blows.

It's a nice escape from the Arizona desert. . . especially in the summer when it's over 110 degrees. Spend a short summer in Arizona and you'll know exactly what I mean.

Every summer as a kid we're head up to the woods.

My parents would drag me and my brothers, our dogs, and a week's worth of supplies up to the cabin. My grandsparents still have the place just outside Flagstaff. I've got great memories of summers spent exploring the woods, swimming and fishing in the lake, and just enjoying nature.

I loved it so much I'm starting to look at buying a place of my own. . .

Of course I sometimes jump in a little deep. Do not laugh. But I found a really interesting piece of property just the other day. A broker was advertising 13,000 acres of forest for sale in Pennsylvania (see I told you I think big). The pictures of the property are beautiful. Rolling hills and wide swaths of timber. The property even came with all the natural gas, mineral, and oil rights still intact.

The only problem was the asking price. . . a mere $ 32 million.

If you're quick on the math you know the property's selling for just over $ 2,400 per acre. Is that a good deal? I do not know but I was determined to find out.

The broker noted the property was generating $ 150,000 a year in income from campground rental fees. It sounds good till you realize that's a return of less than 1%. (Actually, it's less than half of 1% per year).

Not very exciting.

However, timber can be a great investment – and very exciting (if you know how to do it). It's like being a farmer, with a really big crop. Every year the trees grow larger and larger. Every season their value increases. Someone with good land and forestry management skills could probably create some substantial income.

The thought of buying this property is really appealing.

But I do not know the first thing about timber management. . . Oh, and I'm just a little short of the $ 32 million purchase price. I do however know of a cheaper and easier way to invest in timber.

What am I talking about?

Timber REITs of course. These companies are set up to buy and manage large amounts of timber. You can buy these REITs for a few dollars each on the stock market. No complex contracts or negotiations. Just use you normal brokerage account.

These Tree REITs give you ownership in some of the best timber property in the world. They come with top notch management. . . who know what they're doing. And best of all, they pay a great divide (some more than 4%).

So here are the ones I like.

The first REIT is Rayonier (RYN). They own more than 2.6 million acres. Rayonier also has two other businesses, one in traditional real estate development and the other in fiber production (so it is not a pure play Tree-REIT). Their market cap is just over $ 6.3 billion. With a little quick math, you can buy the company for roughly $ 1,392 per acre.

The second company is Plum Creek (PCL). They own 8 million acres of timber. Their market cap is a whopping $ 8.5 billion. But their land holdings are big. This company's trading at roughly $ 1,062 per acre. Not bad at all.

The last company I found was Potlatch (PCH). They only own 1.7 million acres of timber. Their market cap is $ 1.9 billion. That means every acre of property they own is worth $ 1,117.

I guess my dram of buying 13,000 acres of forest in Pennsylvania for $ 2,400 an acre is not such a good deal after all. These three investments however are cheaper (per acre), and they even pay nice dividends. If the idea of ​​owning a forest sounds appealing take a closer look at these REITs ..

How to Write a Business Plan That Works

Key components in and organisation’s success will depend on a great degree on how well you;

  • can gather and interpret information
  • adapt to change
  • manage staff and resources
  • promote your business
  • look after customers and more.

This is where forward planning can help you.

A colleague once told me that ‘even a bad plan is better than no plan at all’. A bad plan at least shows that you have given some thought to the direction you want to go in.

A good plan takes time and effort, especially the first time you do one and many business owners or operators think they don’t have the time, or don’t see the value in it. But believe me… it is worth the time and effort!

It is an opportunity for you to build solid foundations for your business, based on known facts and these allow you to:

  • be very accurate in your plans and future projections.
  • avoid unforeseen pitfalls and crisis situations
  • spend your money and/or other resources in the most effective way
  • stay ahead of the market
  • make the most of every opportunity
  • be pro active and choose your own course rather than be reactive and follow everyone else
  • stop wasting time, effort and resources on inefficient processes and more

Good business planning involves:

  • looking at what you’ve done in the past few years
  • looking at where you are now
  • drawing conclusions from the above two points
  • based on that information determining your objective for the coming year/s
  • setting key strategies to help achieve the objective

Analysis of Past Performance

In this section of a business plan you look at the past year (or two) to take a good look at what worked and what didn’t. Where you came from is every bit as important as where you are going. You need to look at:

  • What promotional activities did you run– for example did you have any discount deals, special offers etc?
  • What worked? What didn’t?
  • Why did the activities work so well, not so well – find the reasons
  • Advertising campaigns
  • (again) What worked? What didn’t?
  • Why did the campaigns work so well, not so well – find the reasons
  • What mediums did you use? (ie Newspapers, magazines, radio. List the actual companies you used as you may have used a number of different ones.)
  • How much did you spend on them?
  • Which ones generated enquiries and which ones didn’t?
  • Did you keep track of the enquiries, if so, what were the results?

Keeping statistics on where enquiries come from can help you to use your advertising budget in the most effective way. There’s no point in spending a lot of money on advertising on television, for example, if most of your enquiries come from newspaper ads or word of mouth. Asking customers where they heard about you and keeping a record is the best way of determining advertising effectiveness.

  • Were there any noticeable or unusual increases or decreases in your business? If so, why did they happen?
  • Were the increases/decreases at any particular time of the year, or did they affect any particular product or service. If so why? Do a detailed analysis of product and service sales. How many of each individual product or service did you sell? Break these figures up by month (as shown in the graph above) as this will, again, show up regular high and low periods which will then allow you to forward plan. For example in high sales periods you know that you will have to order more stock and put on more staff whereas in low demand periods you order less. You can plan for these peaks and troughs in advance… because you have statistically shown that they are coming. An example of a detailed sales analysis is shown on page 15.
  • Did your competitors do anything that impacted on your business? If so, what was it?
  • How did it affect you?
  • Are they likely to do it again?
  • What did you (or could you) do about it?
  • Budgets – income and expenses. This is extremely important and we will look at this in detail later in the document. Over the years these statistics will build an extremely accurate picture of your expenditure habits and sales that will show trends. With this information you can anticipate what is going to happen and proactively avoid any pitfalls or take advantage of upcoming opportunities. You can forecast – with a fairly high degree of accuracy – how much you will earn and spend in the coming year. While you might have an accountant to look after the “book keeping” for you, it is essential that you know exactly where your money is being spent and what your income is made up of.

The answers to these and any other questions relevant to your particular industry and business will give you a solid base upon which to build your plans for the future. Knowing how you got to where you are now can show you where you went right… and where you went wrong and gives a clear

Conclusions

Looking at the above information – what conclusions can you draw? For example:

  • What will you do again next year and why?
  • What won’t you do again next year and why?
  • What will you do differently and why?
  • Were there any lessons to be learned?
  • What were they?
  • Did you spend money on areas that were unsuccessful / unsuccessful?
  • How much?
  • Was this money well spent? Why / why not?
  • Which products sold well / not well?
  • Will you expand your product line?
  • Are there any products you should discontinue?

Overview of Current Situation

It is very important to have a firm grasp of your current business environment. This is where you look at what is happening around you right now. Things that are happening that could potentially have an impact on your business. This will:

  • give you a clear idea of any issues that might get in the way of your plans in the foreseeable future
  • give you the opportunity and the time to take proactive action on any of these issues. This is much better than having to “react” to a change or problem that you didn’t anticipate.

It’s like having a high powered torch in a tunnel as opposed to a match!

A good overview of your current situation will involve looking at:

  • the business environment in which you are operating
  • your strong and weak points
  • what your competitors are doing.

Business Environment Analysis

What exactly does “business environment” mean?

At its widest view point it can mean the sum total of a number of external and internal factors that affect you and the organisation you work for.

External factors could include such things as:

  • Political issues. The stability of the Government can have a dramatic affect on the country’s or state’s economy.
  • Legislative issues. New legislation can have an impact on your particular industry.
  • Economic Trends. Are people spending money? What are they spending it on and so forth.
  • Social Trends. What’s in.. what’s not? Safety & security issues as well as environmental protection issues etc are considered here.
  • Competitors. What is your competition doing and how does that affect your business?
  • Technology. This is an area that is constantly changing and can have quite an impact on the way business is done.

Also known as a PLESCT Analysis this is a thorough look at the world around you and the influences various issues may have upon your customers, suppliers and therefore your business. Doing this type of research means that you should not be caught unawares by new legislation, trends, changes or advancements. PLESCT stands for: Political, Legislative, Economic, Social, Competitor and Technology and looks at each of these sectors and how they may affect you positively – or negatively .

Doing a PLESCT Analysis

Some of the issues to consider when doing this analysis can include such things as:

Political issues. Here you should look at the general political stability of the country or state.

  • Is there an election due? People get nervous around election times and are cautious about spending / investing their money
  • Has there just been an election? In which case is the new government likely to make changes to the status quo – and if so, how will this affect you?
  • International economic and social environment – how stable is the situation?

and so on….

For example changes in government often have an impact on businesses dealing with health, education and employment as existing programs are often changed or discontinued after an election, or new programs are introduced. International economic crises often have a big impact on our own market as does the increasing threat of terrorism or conflict situations.

Legislative issues

  • Have any new legislations been passed / or amended that affect your industry?
  • If so, what will you have to do to comply with them? How will these changes affect:
  • staff?
  • resources?
  • policies and procedures?
  • costs?
  • Do you need to obtain any licenses or permits?

For example all staff working in the childcare industry, or dealing with under 18’s, must have a Blue Card, while industries dealing with tobacco or alcohol have very strict licensing laws.

Economic issues and trends

  • What is the current economic climate?
  • Does the current international climate have an effect on us?
  • Are people spending more / less money?
  • What are they spending it on?
  • Are they likely to spend it on your product or service?

For example, the cost of living is currently rising faster than wages – things such as petrol prices and interest rates are increasing rapidly and people are thinking twice about spending their hard earned money.

Social issues and trends

  • People will often be influenced in their purchase decisions by “what’s IN”, or may wish to keep pace with friends
  • Environmental issues such as water saving, conserving energy and so on can have an impact on people’s purchasing decisions and so need to be considered
  • Cultural issues also need to be considered – people from different countries and backgrounds have views and customs that may dictate how they make their purchasing decisions.

Competitor information – This is a very important part of your business environment analysis – you need to know as much as you can about your competitors. Questions you need to ask are:

  • Who are they?
  • Where are they located?
  • How big are they (compared to you)?
  • Do they have any affiliations?
  • What are their promotional activities?
  • How do they advertise?
  • What do they advertise?
  • How does their product range compare to yours?
  • How do their prices compare to yours?
  • How does their service compare to yours?
  • What impact do they have on your business?

The answers to these questions will give you an overview of how you compare to them and what you can do to improve, and therefore win extra business.

If practical, a product/price comparison grid is an excellent way of keeping an eye on how you are faring against them.

It’s also a good idea to also do a SWOT Analysis on your main competitors (next section) – you need to be able to:

  • counter their strengths
  • take advantage of their weaknesses
  • take advantage of the same opportunities and
  • maximise their threats.

Technology –

  • Is there any new technology available that will have an impact on the way you do business?
  • Is it viable for you to adopt this new technology from a cost point of view?
  • Can you afford not to adopt this new technology from an efficiency point of view?
  • What impact does the internet and electronic means of communication have on your business?

Internal influences also need to be taken into considerations and could include:

  • The overall economic state of your business. Is it doing well or not?
  • Change of ownership or management of the business. This could have a big affect on the internal workings of the company and the company morale.
  • Change of direction for the business. Are you offering new services or products?
  • Updating or upgrading of the business. New premises, new equipment etc.
  • Down or Upsizing. Are you laying off staff or hiring more?

Looking at the PLESCT Analysis and your internal influences in detail will give you a firm understanding of what is going on around you, and will help you:

  • avoid unpleasant surprises that could be costly and damaging to your business
  • stay a step ahead of your competitors
  • help you take advantage of new opportunities quickly
  • minimise the impact of negative trends…..

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis allows you to have a deep down, honest look at your organisation in terms of its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and to look at ways to make you stronger.

Strengths

What are your organisations strong points? For example:

  • Do you have a great location?
  • Is it easily accessible?
  • Is it a long established company?
  • Does it have an excellent reputation?
  • Does if offer anything unique?
  • Do you have a lot of repeat business?
  • Are your prices the best?
  • Are you a market leader?

and so on.

Weaknesses

What are your organisations weaknesses? For example:

  • Is it a newly established business and not yet well known
  • Is the infrastructure in the surrounding area poor making it difficult for customers to get to you?
  • Are there any problems with suppliers or staff?

and so on. A point to remember is that not all weaknesses are negative and could be viewed as opportunities for improvement.

Opportunities

What opportunities are there that you could take advantage of? For example:

  • New legislation opening new markets to you
  • New housing or business developments bringing new customers into your area
  • New technology that will make your production or processes more efficient
  • Introduction of new product or service lines that will increase revenue

and so on.

Threats

What things could stop you from achieving your goals? For example:

  • A new competitor in the marketplace
  • A change in legislation that will mean major changes to your business practices.
  • Re-zoning of your area or roadways changing and taking customers away from their current routes (where you are located)

and so on.

Conclusion:

When looking at your SWOT Analysis what areas need to be addressed?

  • Strengths – what can you do to capitalise or maximise on them?
  • Weaknesses – what can you do to minimise or negate their impact. Which of them can be turned around to become a strength?
  • Opportunities – what do you need to do to take advantage of these opportunities? How can you ensure you get your slice of this opportunity?
  • Threats – what can you do to avoid or minimise the impact of the threat?

The answers to these questions will form part of your business plan.

Objective for Next Year

Having looked at your past analysis and current business situation you should now have a solid grasp of your business and where it needs to go to remain successful. Your endeavours to date will now give you a clear direction – or objectives – to aim for in the next one to three years.

One overall objective will have a number of Key Strategies – each of which will, in turn, have a set of tactics designed to help achieve each strategy and therefore the ultimate goal.

  • Your objective is WHERE you want to be in a given period of time (ideally 1 – 3 years0
  • Your Key Strategies are WHAT you need to do to achieve the objective and
  • Your Tactics are HOW you are going to go about actually making it work

Key Strategies

The objective, as stated, is where you want to be. The key strategies are the issues you need to address in order to achieve the objective; WHAT needs to happen. For example if your objective is to increase your revenue by 10% over the previous year, then typical key strategies could be:

  1. Introduce a new product range to fill an identified market need
  2. Decrease expenditure by 15%
  3. Increase your customer base by 10%

All of which would work towards achieving the overall objective.

Obviously strategies will be determined by your own business and industry needs, so think about the things you need to do to achieve your goal.

Tactics

Each strategy will have a series of tactics (or steps) that need to be taken to make that strategy work. As mentioned, these will outline HOW you will go about each strategy. For example.

Key Stratey 2: Decrease expenditure by 15%

2.1 – Review all current suppliers to ensure we are getting the best product for the best price

  • 2.1.1 Offer tender opportunitities to new suppliers
  • 2.1.2 Research new suppliers via web, phone calls etc
  • 2.1.3 Review all suppliers on an annual basis.

2.2 – Introduce new procedures regarding unnecessary printing of emails and other documents to decrease amount of paper being used

2.3 – Re-use single sided documents as scrap paper / memo pads to save paper

2.4 – All electrical equipment and lights to be turned off when not in use

2.5 – Review discounting policy and determine if this could be replaced in a more cost effective manner

2.6 – Review consumable usages

and so on.

Once again, the tactics will depend entirely on what strategies you need to fulfil and should be as detailed as possible. These tactics will form part of your action plan. If there is a cost involved, or extra resources, then detail them here.

Sales Forecast for Next Year

Forecasting is neither as scary nor as complicated as it sounds – if you keep accurate sales records!

Sales forecasting means making an “educated” guess on how much revenue you will earn in the coming year and for this reason accurate records are essential and indispensable. You need to know where your sales came from – by product or service and even by month or week of sale. This may seem overkill but eventually this data will give you a complete and detailed picture of exactly how your business is performing. For example spikes (up or down) in sales figures don’t happen for no reason – detailed statistics can show up these spikes which might be due to such things as:

  • Promotional or advertising campaigns
  • New trends
  • New products
  • Competitor initiatives
  • Seasonal fluctuations
  • Economic climates and so on….

For example – the Tourism Industry is very much affected by high and low seasons. They usually know well in advance when demand will increase or decrease. Travelling to Europe in their winter is low season and demand is not as high as going in their spring or summer time. Knowing this tourism operators can plan for these periods by developing specific products designed to increase sales and take advantage of increased demand in high season. They can also accurately forecast revenue because they have a solid knowledge of who their customers are and when they travel on a month by month basis.

The same may well apply to your own industry.

A review of past years sales statistics can give you an excellent idea of how your sales happen on a month by month basis. You can read the trends like a story – allowing you to estimate with a large degree of accuracy what sales you can expect to make and know how much you will need to spend in the next year.

But what good does all this do you in forecasting? When you have collected this data for a number of years you can start to build up a picture of:

  • peaks and troughs in your sales
  • popular and less popular products,
  • popular times of the year
  • effects of advertising and/or promotional campaigns and so on

Sales figures rarely drop (or increase) for no good reason.. the trick is to be aware of what is going on around you so that you know why increases or decreases happen. This is where your PLESCT and SWOT prove valuable.

Armed with all this accurate and well researched information you should be able to make a reasonably accurate prediction on how many of each product you will sell in the coming year.

Action Plan

Points for your action plan will come from the tactics. By putting them into an actual action plan, detailing what needs to be done, by whom and by when, you can ensure that each task (or tactic) is done on time and will therefore take you that step closer to reaching your objective.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is basically it!

By following these logical steps you can:

  • gain a greater awareness of the environment in which you operate
  • avoid major pitfalls that may come your way
  • realise your strengths
  • overcome weak points
  • take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you and much more

Templates for building a better business plan can be found on www.lptraining.com.au

How to Save Money Using Carpet Remnants

If you are looking to redo the carpeting in your home, you may wish to consider using carpet remnants in some of the rooms. This is something that may sound strange at first, but you would have surprised at the quality you can find following this money saving method.

All rooms are equipped with a TV, cable / satellite channels and a mini bar. Instead, this is a very popular method that people and contractors use in the smaller rooms such as bedrooms, offices, and dens. The do this for several reasons, all of which will help you understand why using such remnants can be very worth the little extra time it takes to find them either online or in the store.

First, you can save a lot of money by using carpets remnants. You can save over 50% versus traditional, full length carpeting, which can obviously add us in our current economic environment. Not only that, but you can find this discounted carpet remnants for all types and for all brands of carpets. So what is the reason for the discount? It's very simple – contractors and other carpet layers always have extra carpet. The main carpet rolls obviously will not fit perfectly for every home and job, so the leftovers are left for people to use as remnants.

Second, by using different remnants in various rooms in your home you can add a level of style that does not come when you use the same carpet through your whole house. So, you get savings and style at the same time.

Home Construction Tips

Well it is said that change is the only constant in life and the needs of your family change from time to time. You may need to get some remodeling done to your house to suit the changing needs of your family. You could call in remodeling construction companies or build your own home. Please plan before before the look you want for your house.

Check on luxury as well as contemporary home plans. If you are in the city area, a contemporary plan will go more with your life style. You live a modern life style, are always on the move and you need a plan that suits your personality. If you live in the suburbs have a generous income, a large or a small family, you could opt for a luxury home plan.

If one is planning on a luxury home and has the layout of a luxury plan, remember while all homes are meant to be comfortable, a luxury home goes above and beyond this. If you live in a crowded city a luxury home plan could mean a home plan that is classy though a bit confined and of course it will be in an exclusive neighborhood. If the house is located in the suburbs, or in open areas than it could use a sizable amount of area in terms of square footage and it could have sprawling lawns and lush green vegetation surrounding the house.

Perfectly functional kitchens or large gourmet kitchens either could be included in your luxury home plan or even in your contemporary home plan you could have a perfectly functional kitchen that doubles up as recreational space. Luxurious bathrooms and bedrooms are all included in a luxury home plan. So if you want to build your own home or want to hire remodeling construction companies choose the appropriate luxury home plan.

Homes that encourage a healthy lifestyle are on the rise, luxury home owners often try to incorporate the comforts of a resort or a spa in their homes. Master bathrooms can often become a place of tranquil retreat with a Jacuzzi fitted in. Luxury homes in climates that are mild often have outdoor kitchens, and an entertainment and fitness area. A well designed outdoor space often enhances the quality of living of the inmates of the house.

Modern families are seeking for greater flexibility, especially those who live in cities; a contemporary home plan that meets the needs of the space challenged city homes is an essential requirement of such families. Such homes need a plan that can make maximum use of space like a den that can double up as a guest room.

Another feature of modern homes is incorporating the green elements. Eco-friendly building materials are being increasingly used and appreciated. Even high end energy appliances are a regular part of a luxury home plan. Finally remember whatever the look you plan for your home and whether it is a luxury or a contemporary home plan, make sure you hire a remodeling construction company that has a proved track record. Check their credentials and read their references.

How Water Expands The Crack in Chipped Windshields

The extreme weather conditions of Winter can be damaging to a chipped windshield. Winter and Summer can be the worst time of the year for those chipped and cracked windshields. The winter weather can be brutal on windows with cracks, most of us do not realize how the structural integrity of the windshield may be jeopardized. You may have a small nick or chip and put off repairing your windshield then time goes on and winter brings rain and freezing temperatures frosting up your windshield. Using hot water or the defroster to get rid of the frost on the window can cause the crack to expand and promote further cracking that may cause expensive replacement of your windshield. Water entering a crack through a chipped, cracked or nicked windshield can be a real problem, and the compact of getting the water and moisture out is a very challenging task if not done properly, but it is very essential in able to repair the windshield correctly.

After water enters a cracked windshield it is very difficult to remove and almost impossible to repair properly if not removed before repair. To remove the moisture from the cracked windshield a vacuum must be applied to the chipped or cracked area of ​​the windshield. Sometimes drilling the chipped or cracked area is necessary to remove air and moisture. The windshield must be heated in the chipped or cracked area usually by using a heat lamp allowing the water to be vaporized and the water vapor can be removed under a vacuum before repair.

We all know what happens to water when it freezes. What happens to the water that entered your cracked windshield when it's below 32 degrees or colder? It freezes and expands, now what do you think is going to happen to that small chip and or crack? Most cracked out windshields started as small rock chip or crack and ignored until it's to late to repair. Do you now need a new windshield because that small chip has a crack that spread across the windshield?

This is what can happen when winter rains allow water to enter your cracked windshield, and winters cold temperatures freeze the water that is now inside your windshield, which can and will lead to cost replacement of the windshield. The constant temperature changes also cause the windshield glass to expand and contract helping small cracks or star breaks to expand, when this happens it can cause the windshield to crack all the way to the edge, if not promptly and properly repaired by a windshield repair technician .

So in conclusion it comes to our attention that winter is the time to have your windshield repaired right away before moisture penetrates the windshield and winters freezing temperatures cause expansion, further damage and cause the windshield to crack out.