business

13 must-have tips for choosing the right air duct cleaning company

Irrespective of the weather outside, technology has allowed humankind to create the ideal weather inside their house. With the help of advanced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, you can create your own ecosystem in your house. Several things constitute the HVAC systems, but the air ducts are of prime importance. They function as conduits to supply air, return air, and exhaust it from the home itself. But, like every other appliance, even HVAC systems need maintenance, especially air ducts. If the air ducts aren’t cleaned at regular intervals, gradually every visible surface will be covered in a thick layer of dust, dirt, and debris. These are the usual contents inside an air duct, but they are not visible to you as air ducts are hidden in the inner structure of the house. It is easy to forget about their existence. The usual “out of sight, out of mind” mantra doesn’t work here as the air ducts will end up being clogged with pollutants.

It is essential to get the air ducts cleaned once in a while. A word to the wise—do not attempt to DIY the air duct cleaning process. Let professionals handle this as there are several things that can go wrong. In an attempt to save money, you might end up incurring more costs. So, use the browse through the Internet and put your research skills to use. There are certain things you need to know before you begin your search as this will help you streamline your quest to find the right duct cleaning company better.

What are the things to know before opting for air duct cleaning services?
Most people will find it hard to refuse an opportunity to get their air ducts cleaned at a cheaper price. However, these things never materialize the way you want them to. So, it is essential to be prepared to deal with the worst-case scenarios. If you are a novice at this, there are certain caveats you need to be well-versed with as they will prove effective in keeping scammers at bay. So, ensure that you gain the much-needed knowledge and acquaint yourself with the common techniques that some cleaning companies use to hoodwink innocent homeowners.

  • Gauge whether the air duct cleaning is necessary or not: An important task you need to conform to before you call the duct cleaning services is to determine whether the air duct actually needs cleaning. For instance, if you are moving into a newly built house, you might have to conduct an immediate air duct cleaning. As a lot of construction debris, drywall scraps, and sawdust might end up in the air ducts post-construction, an air duct cleaning becomes necessary. Experts suggest that it is essential to get the air ducts cleaned every 7 to 10 years unless a family member has breathing issues; then you will need to get the air ducts cleaned more frequently. In such cases, you can get the cleaning done at a more affordable price. All you have to do is contact your HVAC provider and upgrade the furnace filtration in this situation. Doing so is more sensible than spending money every year on duct cleaning services.
  • Include HVAC system cleaning as well: Usually, people assume that air duct cleaning is enough to improve the quality of the air in the house. However, this process is incomplete without a thorough cleaning of the HVAC system. But, there’s a catch here. Most duct cleaning companies aren’t allowed to touch the HVAC system unless they have a valid HVAC license. In case you wish to have your HVAC system cleaned as well, you can ask the cleaning services for their license number. This helps you crosscheck the legitimacy of the duct cleaning service’s offer on cleaning the HVAC system.
  • Beware of upsellers: If you are getting your carpets cleaned, do not fall for the classic upselling trap that naive homeowners often fall into. Carpet cleaners often upsell their cleaning skills by offering to clean your air ducts along with the carpets. The rock-bottom price might appeal to your desire to save more money, but it can have serious repercussions. So, do not take the bait. There are several instances when carpet cleaning companies assert to clean your air ducts for a meager price. However, this “cleaning process” involves removing and vacuuming the registers, sticking their vacuum into the duct at the register, and re-attaching the register once they are done. This isn’t how professional air duct cleaning services work. It is imperative that you do not treat air duct cleaning as an add-on service and do not take up on the offer presented by the eager carpet cleaners.
  • Do not fall for unsolicited pitches: There are several scams when it comes to air duct cleaning companies. A popular way of conning people is to call them and inform them that the cleaners will be in their neighborhood the coming week and will charge a ridiculously low price of about $25 to clean their air ducts. Do not fall for such scams as most of them don’t pan out, and the ones that do, the results are quite disastrous. So, be on guard against such scammers. You might end up shelling a lot more than just $25.
  • Do not cave into the mold scare tactic: This is one of the oldest tricks most cleaning companies use to turn inquiries into a complete deal. Certain companies put a mold test kit in the house and hope that the test results will prompt you to take immediate action. If the mold test kit yields positive results, you will be advised to get your air ducts cleaned immediately. So, if any company asks you to get your air ducts cleaned due to a mold problem, double-check their inference by using your own test kit. You can buy this from any home improvement store.

How to choose the right air duct system cleaning company?

If you feel that you are qualified to make the right decision because you can identify scams, then gear up; this is just the groundwork. The real work begins at finding a duct cleaning company that meets your expectations. Identifying scams is just the first part of your journey to find a legit air duct cleaning company. There are several factors that go into the process of choosing a reliable duct cleaning company. It is essential to be well-acquainted with the various dictates of choosing the right duct cleaning service provider for your home.

  • Extensive background research is a must: While looking for the right air duct cleaning services, you must conduct intensive background research of the company. You can inquire about the company’s experience in cleaning air ducts. In case the company is relatively new to the air duct cleaning business, you can ask the employees about their prior experience. While you are at it, ask the companies for referrals from past clients to check whether the customers are satisfied with the services. You can even consult with your friends, neighbors, or other homeowners for referrals or recommendations of other air duct cleaning services. Another great way of finding the right air duct cleaning company is to use the handiest tool available at your disposal—the Internet. You can directly visit a company’s website and read the customer feedback testimonials as it will help cement your decision.
  • When in doubt, contact the BBB: The BBB or Better Business Bureau is a private, non-profit organization that keeps a record of all the complaints that are filed with them against companies. If you have shortlisted certain duct cleaning services, you can run it by the BBB. This will give you a fair idea about the air duct cleaning company’s standing in the market. The BBB investigates how well a particular company handles the complaints against them, and the company is rated and graded on this basis. You have complete access to check out almost any company with the BBB. This proves to be quite beneficial as it offers parameters to compare the companies, and helps you make an informed choice. You can even base your decision on the ratings offered by the BBB. For instance, if a particular air duct cleaning service is graded F by the BBB, it is sensible to not do any kind of business with them.
  • Insurance is a must: While you are looking for air duct cleaning companies, shortlist the ones that have insurance. This insurance comes in handy if you need reimbursements in case your home or any other personal property was damaged during the cleaning process. Although such situations are avoidable if you choose duct cleaning services that have experienced employees, it is always sensible to stay prepared for every possible scenario.
  • Choose from NADCA-certified companies only: Another cardinal rule while browsing for the best duct cleaning services is to ensure that all the top contenders are NADCA certified. NADCA or the National Air Duct Cleaners Association is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to publishing standards for safety, evaluation, and cleaning of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ducts. This organization even offers several certifications for HVAC companies and professionals and has its own anti-fraud task force. The NADCA-certified duct cleaning services are trained and function in compliance with all the rules and regulations pertaining to safety while handling the process. You can confirm whether the duct cleaning companies are a part of the NADCA by visiting their official website. You can view the list of cleaning companies registered with the NADCA before hiring one. It is essential to adhere to this parameter as the members of this group have to follow a strict code of ethics and carry liability insurance to retain their membership. These companies can also address issues with the HVAC system along with ductwork.
  • Check the type of treatments the company offers: When you are on the duct company’s website, check the type of treatments it offers. Whether they use chemical treatments or chemical bio-acids for cleaning purposes is an essential factor to consider while choosing an air duct cleaning service. These treatments are quite effective in cleaning the air duct and even preventing the future growth of biological substances in the air ducts. However, these chemical treatment methods can be harmful to your health. As a majority of these duct cleaning services offer chemical-based treatments, you need to find an intermediate solution. You can check with the cleaning company regarding the chemical products they use. All you have to do is go through the product label and read and verify the instructions pertaining to its use. This will help you understand how to protect yourself from any sort of harmful emissions.
  • Verify and compare the services: Usually, air duct cleaning companies check your system for any existing asbestos as this would require them to use specialized cleaning procedures. Legit duct cleaning companies take measures to protect you and your pets from any contamination that can be a by-product of their cleaning process. These cleaning companies even protect your personal belongings. Another important task that every authentic duct cleaning company has to perform is to properly seal and insulate any visible holes that might have formed during their cleaning process. Shortlist companies that provide these services.
  • Substantiate the rates and fees: Price is often the determining factor when it comes to choosing anything. So, before you finalize any duct cleaning company, get an estimate of the total expenditure. Determine whether the company will charge you by the hour or according to the treatment process they will undertake. There are instances when disputes pertaining to the price arise when the work is in motion. To prevent unnecessary hassles from popping up in the midst of the process, obtain a copy of the written agreement, which outlines the costs and fees you will be incurring.
  • Determine the time taken for the entire procedure: Getting the air ducts cleaned is not a small task. It is essential that you discuss with the duct cleaning company about the time taken for the entire procedure. This allows you to make arrangements beforehand. So, address your concern regarding the time frame; whether it will take a few hours, several days, or if the cleaning process will be split over a series of days.

These tips will help you make an informed decision. Choosing a duct cleaning company that offers what it promises at an affordable price, without flouting safety rules can be taxing. But, investing your time on research and inquiries will save the headache that follows shoddy work done at dirt-cheap rates.

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business

Understanding different categories of water damage for home restoration

Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” This statement can be true as you don’t simply go online, browse through the first property search, and readily purchase the first available option. You take utmost care in selecting your home and taking care of it. But there are some things that are not under your control, which will threaten to compromise the foundation of your home.

A damage to your property is inevitable, and you must be ready to handle the situation and its challenges. Wind, hailstorms, torrential rains, and snowfall can result in the wear and tear of crucial components of your home. It is important that you know what should be done during such an emergency. One of the biggest threats can be the risk of water damage. From a simple faucet leak to excessive flooding due to rising water levels, severe water damage can compromise the structural integrity of your home and can even make it completely inhabitable.

So, in difficult times, you will take the necessary steps and do everything you can to protect your home. The question then arises as to how can you protect your home from water damage? The answer lies in being fully aware of the process of water damage restoration.

Understanding the process

Water damage largely affects your primary source of usable water. It is one of the reasons why a prompt and efficient emergency water cleanup service must be hired. The first inspection is a step that will provide you with an estimate of the work that will be done, and help source services that tackle such repairs on a regular basis. A first inspection determines the type of service required as every repair job is unique depending on the category of water damage. A professional water mitigation contractor will conduct the first inspection to assess the category of water damage, the level of water intrusion, and the services necessary for a proper restoration. The contractor will give a quote or an estimate of the damage done and the cost of restoration on the basis of a report. Note that there are three main categories of water damage to assess the scale of restoration.

Three primary categories of water damage

  • A Category 1 classification indicates sanitary water damage where the source of the water leak is not contaminated. These include water leaks from broken tanks, pipes, and sources of clean water supply.
  • A Category 2 leak is from toilet overflows or water containing detergents, and residue from your washing machine or dishwasher. The risk of contaminating the surrounding environment is fairly low in this case.
  • A Category 3 leak is a major problem as the surrounding environment is contaminated with an unsanitary source of water. Sources include water from a sewage leak or flood damage due to bad weather. Key materials that make up the structure in and around your home including drywall and insulation must be replaced to restore your home.

There are four common levels of water intrusion applicable to individual damage categories. The contractor must assess both the level of intrusion and the category of damage to provide an approximate time period for the restoration. For example, a simple leak or burst pipe is a class 1 intrusion and can be fixed in a matter of hours. Classes 2 and 3 vary in terms of damage depending on the source of the leak. A class 4 intrusion due to major flooding damage requires a complete overhaul.

Depending on the type of damage, both local and national water damage cleaning companies provide premium services. Here is a detailed overview for more clarity on each category of restoration.

Category 1 restoration

A Category 1 water damage is not so severe as a minimal amount of water leaks from a single point of entry. There is little mitigation necessary to inspect the damage and the containment area is relatively small. Common examples include a burst pipe, a burst hot water tank, or even toilet tank flooding. The loss originates from a sanitary source of water and does not pose any major health risks. However, a basic restoration is possible only after the source of the leak has been identified and plugged.

Water vacuum removal, air mover drying, and water containment are some of the ways that can help prevent the water from leaking among the basic services. The extent of additional repairs and home improvements necessary to restore your home will depend entirely on the severity of the leak. Ensure to keep in mind that local water damage cleanup services can tackle this type if only if it constitutes residential damage. The cost of restoration will vary among services depending on a number of factors. The website of National Disaster Recovery can help you narrow down the top contractors in your area.

Category 2 restoration

Water discharge from household appliances primarily results in Category 2 water damage. Alternatively referred to as “gray water,” flooding due to inefficient plumbing can cause severe water damage. Due to high porosity, the amount of water absorption is high. Note that gray water also poses a significant health risk due to inherent contamination via exposure to chemicals and compounds used for washing and rinsing purposes. Basic services and cleanup for this type of damage is similar to that of Category 1. However, the technicians have to exercise caution as the cleanup involves removal of both biological matter and detergents from various appliances.

Category 3 restoration

A Category 3 restoration is nothing short of a logistical nightmare. It originates from a contaminated water source. We are talking about complete overhaul wherein everything has to go! Only a premium service can tackle this magnitude of restoration. Everything from leaking faucets to irreversible sewage water damage must be tackled in a timely manner. Here is a detailed overview of the services under Category 3 restoration and what to expect from each one.

Content and document restoration

The first thing that comes to your mind is the collection of important documents, paperwork, and any physical contents kept in and around the household. Damage from a steady water leak can affect walls and insulation. Does this mean goodbye to old photographs and those priceless first editions? Not necessarily as residential document drying services can salvage most of what was damaged. A team of experts uses advanced tools and techniques to sort moist documents, remove moisture, and chemically treat stains.

Appliance leaks and repair

Household appliance leaks can gradually cause wear and tear. Water heaters, in particular, pose a serious risk of damage that can incur high costs. You must look out for signs of water damage due to the corrosion of internal components of the appliance. If the heater lets water accumulate at the bottom of the apparatus, it is a clear sign of a water leak. A whistling sound and shortage of hot water despite turning up the heat settings in the appliance also indicate damage due to corrosion and wear. Professional services not only help reverse the damages but also help prevent the possibility of appliance failure.

Regular inspection of the heating appliance, installation of a catch pan for efficient and safe disposal of wastewater, and automatic shut off valves collectively reduce the likelihood of appliance failure. Installing a premium quality insulation blanket around the water tank will keep the temperature in check and reduce the risk of damage due to extreme temperature changes. As a precaution, it is advisable to opt for energy-efficient tankless water heaters, eliminating the need for a storage tank. Professional water damage restoration services can help install these safety systems to further reduce the risk of a leak.

Sewage and wastewater

Inefficient plumbing can cause sewage and wastewater to leak into spaces in and around the household making it a very unsanitary place. The source of the leak can be an internal structural fault in the plumbing and sewage exit system. A simple block can cause contaminated water to back up the pipes and trigger unexpected flooding. In such a case, major sewer repair and flood damage control are required to clean up and restore spaces. A professional grade restoration will result in the removal of all contaminated water, furnishings, carpet, and even the flooring if necessary.

Furthermore, air movers decontaminate the atmosphere in the affected area to help dry the space until repairs can be carried out. Experts also clean and sanitize the complete room to prevent the spread of deadly viruses and illness-causing microbes. Note that the process for a Category 3 sewage leak is time-consuming and can be expensive. The contractor has to plan and map out the individual services in the aforementioned sequence to contain the leak.

Basement flooding

Basements are the first areas to flood, and chances are it is the last place you will look for the source of a leak. Also, heavy flooding or rain damage can completely destroy a basement due to poor space allocation and inadequate plumbing. Groundwater saturation due to heavy rains or unexpected flooding can force the water to seep into the basement through foundation leaks. The leak increases the hydrostatic pressure and can compromise the structural integrity of a home. Here, experts identify the leak and plug it. The pressure should be brought back to normal by using industrial grade equipment. Quick response is key to manage even the worst possible Category 3 leak.

Roof repairs and restoration

The roof is one of the most vulnerable structures prone to water damage. Heavy rain, shifting winds, and multiple inches of snowfall can lead to failure of roof structure. Aging roofs, saturated roofing materials, wind damage, and the buildup of ice dams will compromise the structure. The risk of water damage is high, as rapid melting and cooling of ice forces the water to accumulate in the exit pipes. You must call for a residential roof cleanup service to fix the external source of the leak.

Carpet and upholstery cleaning

Often, heavy flood damage renders the carpet worthless. Professional services provide carpet cleaning, drying, and floor restoration services. Multiple factors must be taken into account before the carpets can be cleaned. These include the age of the carpet or upholstery, the duration of water damage, and the type of water damage. For example, it is easy to manage water damage caused due to a flood from a clean water source. The water damage also does not pose any significant health threat to humans. However, gray water sources include discharge from washing machines and overflow from dishwashers. In such cases, the carpet or upholstery will need complete replacement. A prompt restoration will reduce the risk of health complications due to exposure to unsanitary sewage and drain water for Category 2 and 3 leaks.

Drying and dehumidification

The walls, insulation between walls, space under the flooring, HVAC systems, and vents are common areas prone to water damage. For this purpose, drying and dehumidification is done to ensure the structural integrity of the surrounding support columns and drywall. One should remember that water removal is not possible without plugging the leak first. After the process, air movers help evaporate the remaining water quickly and efficiently. Powerful dehumidifiers help extract the moisture from the air after drying.

The process is necessary for a Category 3 restoration owing to unsanitary water sources. Water vapors from the resulting spill pose a health risk to the people in the household. The technicians take periodic readings to ensure the moisture content in the air is minimum. Humidity also triggers the growth of mold within just a couple of days of water damage or a leak. Mold can grow out of control quickly and can cause structural damage if left unchecked.

Popular franchises for various categories of restoration

  • 911 Restoration
    The franchise caters to both residential and commercial customers providing a wide range of services that can tackle substantial Category 2 water damage.
  • 1-800 Water Damage
    The franchise offers timely response and quick grievance redressal right from the first inspection to the final handover after restoration. It focuses on maintaining key partnerships with insurance companies, property management companies, and water-related services to help streamline the process.
  • Servpro
    Servpro is one of the oldest and premier services providing a complete restoration for Category 3 damage. It is also one of the best disaster management response companies in over 647 locations across the country. The franchise is known for its award-winning quick response and great turnaround time for professional services in water damage restoration. It is important to note that the companies mentioned here provide services for all three categories of water damage.

Now that you know how the services work to help you rebuild your home, it is essential that you seek a quote first before starting any type of repairs. You must have an idea of how much the repairs and restoration will cost to make the necessary arrangements in advance. Owning your own home instills a sense of pride, and allows for personal freedom – keeping it in shipshape becomes your responsibility. So don’t hesitate to call an expert if you face water damage.

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shopping

Take a stand with standing desks

Research published by James Levine from Mayo Clinic on NEAT (Non- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) concluded that people sitting for longer hours burn fewer calories than their counterparts with an active lifestyle. NEAT refers to the number of calories burned during our inactive state. Dwight Schrute from the famous TV series “The Office” caught on this and decided to “kick the chair” and carry out his desk job standing. His standing gimmick was busted by yet another one of Jim Halpert’s shenanigans. Of course, this is a sitcom based on fictitious characters and events, but you get the point! Sitting for long hours does involve health risks.

Sitting is the new smoking

You might have heard several health experts quoting the aforementioned phrase to make you aware of the ill effects of sitting for most of the clock hours. You sit in meetings, at your desks, to eat your meals, and then you sit to binge watch your favorite TV shows. This can have a negative impact on your spinal cord and your overall health. So, it might as well be a good idea to incorporate an arrangement that lets you stand while working and improve your NEAT factor, but how does one achieve this while still “glued” to their desks? The simple two-word answer to this is “standing desks.”

If a 2017 survey by the Society for Human Resources Management is to be believed, standing desks are becoming the fastest growing workplace trend. It is found that around 13% of employers subsidized or provided them in 2013, which grew exponentially to 44 percent in 2017.

Posture ergonomics

There are at least two points of adjustment that you can follow at work when it comes to posture ergonomics: The position of the keyboard (affecting the arms and wrists), and the position of the monitor (affecting the shoulders, neck, and head). It is advisable to position your work monitor at the eye level and approximately at an arm’s length. Positioning your monitor properly allows you to maintain good posture, relieve stress from the head, neck, and shoulders, and reduce eye strain. However, what about the idea of movement? There would be several instances when you will slouch while focusing on the screen, and that’s where standing desks come in. The elimination chair and chair arms improve your arms’ position, providing you a better posture.

According to the ANSI/BIFMA (Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association) studies, an average 5’10” male from our country’s workforce needs a work surface height of 26.5″ when seated and 44.8′ when standing. On the other hand, females who are, at an average, 5’4” tall, require a work surface height of 24.5″ when seated and 41.3″ when standing. There is a huge variation of height among people who have the average height in the workforce and the shortest and the tallest workers, who account for at least 10 percent of the total workforce. As a result, you require standing desks with adjustable height from at least 22″ to 49″.


Types of standing desks

There are numerous options available in the market when it comes to buying standing desks; there are two main categories and their types that you can use at your workplace:

  • Static standing desks

As the name suggests, these types of standing desks are fixed at a particular height. Static standing desks can be fixed to a wall using brackets and are suitable for any workspace. Since these standing desks do not let you adjust the height and position of your computer or keyboard, you can achieve the same effect by using a counter-top or a table top.

  • Adjustable standing desks

The most common form of standing desks, adjustable desks allow you to switch between sitting and standing throughout the day. They also allow you to adjust the height of your monitor and keyboard with the desk. Based on similar factors, there are three main types of adjustable desks:

  • Manually adjusting desks

These types of adjustable standing desks can be manually adjusted with the help of a hand crank. This can be counter-productive if you are frequently switching between sitting and standing. Although lighter on the wallet, manual adjustment desks can be tedious and can also make you revert to your old habit of sitting. So, if you are not up for some forearm workout, manually adjusting desks might not be a thing for you. These mechanically adjusting desks can be suitable, instead, for employees involved in automobile workshops, manufacturing units, or in places that already involve some form of physical exertion.

  • Electric adjustment

These standing desks are an answer to all complaints about the tedious, forearm-pumping, manually-adjusting standing desks. Electrically adjusting standing desks are suitable if you are working in a comparatively quieter workplace such as an art studio, a software developing firm, libraries, newsrooms, and such. You can adjust the height and position of electrically adjusting standing desks with a push of a button, as a result of which the electric adjustment desks generally range between 40-70 decibels.

  • Adjustable converter

Being an economical option, adjustable converters can be used if your workplace already has sitting desks. The best thing about adjustable converters is that they can be used for both static and adjustable standing desks. Adjustable converter, counter-top, or tabletops can help you switch between sitting and standing as they come with adjustable keyboard and monitor trays.

 

Factors that make desks stand apart

Now that you are convinced that you need standing desks in your workplace, there are several factors that make some of them the best in their class. These factors help you select the best from the lot; from aesthetics to ergonomics, some factors include the following:

  • Versatility

Can you adjust more than one desktop? Can it fit into your existing workplace? The best standing desks come with multi-cable management grommets and are of the standard size similar to a workplace desk (40 to 70 inches wide). They will fit into your existing workspace, giving you enough space to keep your desktop peripherals and office supplies on the desk.

  • Adjustments

Although static standing desks cannot be adjusted, adjustable desks are manually and electrically adjustable or come as table tops. If you are buying a manually-adjusting standing desk, ensure that it has a light and free-moving crankshaft for effortless and noiseless height adjustments. Electrically adjusting standing desks should have the maximum number of memory presets and low noise levels that allow you to adjust the desk to your preferred height with a single push of a button. Tabletops should be sturdy and should preferably have a wide range of height adjustments, given the fact that they will be placed on your existing desk. They should not be big enough to occupy most of your desk, leaving no room for other office stationary on your desk. However, they should also not be overly compact as your keyboard and mouse may tend to fall every time you adjust the tray.

“Outstanding” desks

It can be an overwhelming experience to select a standing desk that is beneficial for your neck and spinal cord and balances your NEAT factor. Thanks to the wide variety of standing desks and their multiple manufacturers, there are types to meet the needs of different people (and offices) that have different budgets, preferences, and needs. Keeping in mind these factors and the current workplace trends, some of the most popular standing desks are mentioned here:

  • Devaise Crank Desk

If you are a minimalist or someone who does not see themselves spending $500 or $1,000 dollars on a standing desk, manually adjustable desks can be the right choice for you. The 55″ Devaise standing desk is a crank-operating desk that does not come with extra frills like its electric counterparts, and it can be a suitable choice in the $250 range. The desk keeps you free from the hassles of electrical failure and battery replacements of the electrical module and comes with only one cable management grommet. It has a load capacity of around 100 lbs, so it can easily bear the combined weight of desktops and a couple of other stationary items that you might keep on the desk.

  • Jarvis Bamboo

The electrically adjustable Jarvis Bamboo is for people who prefer adjusting their desks with a push of a button. With a massive weight capacity of 350 lbs, Jarvis Bamboo comes with a digital panel that comes with presets; its four memory presets enable you to save and return to your preferred sitting and standing heights. It comes in contour and a rectangle finish and is available in three sizes: 48, 60, and 72 inches. Jarvis Bamboo comes with two cable management grommets, enabling you to install two desktops on your standing desks and ensure higher productivity. The Jarvis Bamboo standing desks are priced between $500 and $550 and offer at least 7 years warranty on the electrical and mechanical components.

  • Varidesk ProDesk Electric

One of the premium electrical standing desks, the Varidesk ProDesk Electric comes with three memory presets and a weight capacity of 250 lbs. The electrical desk is GreenGuard Gold certified, so its build quality and non-toxic components are assured. Varidesk ProDesk Electric has a quiet motor, so you can change the settings of your desks without bothering your colleagues. It is available in four finishes: Reclaimed Wood, Butcher Wood, Black Wood, and Dark Wood and a color choice of black or white. Varidesk ProDesk has a price range of $850 to $1,000 and comes in two sizes: 48″ and 60″.

  • Fancierstudio Riser Desk

One of the best contenders for counter-top or tabletops, Fancierstudio Riser Desk can be used in both the sitting and standing positions. It is 38″ wide and can fit two monitors. You can use it as a standing desk as it can rise up to a height of 17.7″, and its desktop and keyboard trays can be adjusted using hand levers. It offers a wide range of height adjustment from 5″ to 17.7″, making it ideal to be used for both sitting and standing positions. The Fancierstudio desk can be the right option if your budget for standing desks ranges from $100 to $200.

  • SHW Electric Desk

If you are looking for electrically adjustable standing desks on a strict budget, the SHW Electric Desk can be the right choice for you. It has a single width option of 48″ and can rise from 31″ to 42″ in height. It has a digital display handset that comes with four memory presets for easy adjustments, and it has a single cable management grommet. The SHW Electric desk is priced around $250.

Apart from this, you can also find the best standing desks available at reasonable prices at clearance sales. You can buy them from retail stores or order online from websites like jcpenny.com, bestbusinessfurniture.com, overstock, and upliftdesk.com, among others. The best time to buy standing desks is during yearly sale events such as Black Friday and Boxing Day sales.

Pros and cons

Standing desks can be of importance to your workplace to avoid the ill effects of sitting for long hours, which is comparable to a lifetime of heavy smoking. Employees from various companies have embraced the concept of standing desks as it makes them feel more active and helps them engage better with their employees. While there is no doubt that standing desks help you balance your NEAT factor and improve your posture and core strength, it does have some caveats too.

Standing desks can make you feel tired sooner and give you sore feet and aching joints if you have long working hours. This can be even worse for individuals suffering from arthritis and/or obesity. There are many people who incorporate standing desks in their workspace to lose weight; if you are one of them, here’s a downlow for you. Standing more often only stabilizes your metabolism; it does not make you lean. You still have to hit the treadmill and lift some weights to lose those extra pounds. Moreover, if you don’t maintain your posture while standing, it can cause backache and hip problems in the long run.

So, it is advisable to use the types of standing desks that enable you to shift efficiently between sitting and standing. This lets you avoid exertion and sore feet due to standing or backache and lethargy due to sitting for long hours.

The last stand!

So, if you are looking to bring in more fun and be active in your workspace, standing desks can help you achieve that. Standing desks have been more than just a fad in the country since more than a decade, and since people in our country have become aware of the perils of sitting for long hours, standing desks are becoming more and more popular. Also, buying standing desks for your workspace can enhance your working experience. So go ahead, take a stand!

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business

A comprehensive cheat sheet for successfully renting a storage unit

Moving to a new place or downsizing the size of your house can be a tedious task. The process becomes tougher if you are in the midst of the moving process and need to temporarily store your precious belongings someplace else. Asking a friend or relative to store your belongings might not be a comfortable option for you. Instead, you can store your belongings safely in storage units that are meant exclusively for these purposes. Storage facilities offer a dedicated space to their customers who seek to store their belongings in that space for a set period of time.

You can think of the storage facility as your landlord. The only difference here is that you have to deal with this “landlord” once or twice when you sign up and move your possessions. As long as you adhere to the contract and pay your rent on time, you have the storage unit all to yourself. However, choosing a reliable, reasonable storage facility is not an easy task. There are several factors you need to consider before you decide to trust the company with your belongings. It is easy to get swayed by low prices, but there are other factors involved as well. It is essential to consider the options with due diligence as you will be entrusting the storage company with your precious belongings. Which is why you will need all the help you can get, especially if you are a novice at this. Rest assured, as help is on its way. This will ensure that you are up-to-date with all the parameters of making the right choice.

The two major types of storage options
Before you decide on renting a storage space, it is sensible to explore the various options at hand. There are two major types of storage options, and they are:

  • Full-service storage: In this type of storage option, the storage company will offer “valet-style” services to you. Everything, right from picking up your belongings to ensuring that they safely reach the storage unit, is managed by the storage company. Top full-service storage providers even let their customers pick the date and time for moving their belongings. The customers can request and schedule the pick-up or return as per their convenience. Full-service storage options are fast gaining popularity as they save the customer from a great deal of hassle. Moreover, all the belongings will be delivered safely to the storage unit. These service providers even take pictures of the storage unit and document your belongings. So, even if you don’t remember which items were moved into the storage unit, the photos will prove helpful. In such cases, checking your online inventory list will also reveal the contents of the storage unit.
  • Self-storage: Self-storage units are, undoubtedly, the most popular storage unit option among the general public. Though people have to undertake the major responsibilities, the affordable rent structure makes it a feasible option. Such facilities offer a safe, secure, and inexpensive way of storing your extra personal belongings; you can store your furniture or other large items. Self-storage unit providers spell it out clearly to the customers that they have to move their belongings to the storage unit on their own. Moreover, if they wish to pick an item from the storage, they have to do so themselves. In fact, even documenting the belongings is the customer’s responsibility.

Full-service vs. self-storage: What a dilemma!
This is a tough call as both types of storage services have their own perks. Usually, customers opt for self-storage as it is affordable and easier to use. They prefer transporting their own belongings. This allows them the luxury to decide the time and day convenient for dropping off their belongings in the storage unit. So, if you have complete access to a car and aren’t planning on storing a lot of things, you can consider opting for the self-storage unit.

However, self-storage is not always a viable option for those living in large urban areas as driving and parking can be an issue. In such cases, opting for a full-service storage provider is a sensible move. Also, for city-dwellers who stay in apartments with elevators or stairs, full-service storage services come in handy. They’ll help you move and handle all your belongings with care. In such cases, you will be relieved as the vital responsibility of moving and dropping off your belongings is done by the company.

Steel or wooden storage units: Which should I choose?
Most storage units are made either of steel or wood. However, opting for steel-framed storage units is hands down the most popular choice. In addition to being sturdy, steel storage units are the most weatherproof type of storage pod. If you decide to opt for an outdoor storage unit, it is advisable to choose a metal storage unit for obvious reasons. However, if your budget doesn’t permit renting a steel storage unit, you still have the option of choosing a wood storage unit with a waterproof covering on top.

Finding a storage unit near you is easy-peasy
Finding a reliable storage unit provider can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are doing it for the first time. Fret not as there are thousands of good storage unit facilities located throughout the country. You can find the nearest storage unit facility near you by using the store locators on the Internet. All you have to do is type in your zip code or your city and state of residence, and hit the “find storage” button. The store locator will pull up quotes from the storage unit facility near your location. All you have to do is compare the quotes and read their contract diligently. Some of the popular storage facilities include Extra Space Storage, Public Storage, CubeSmart, and U-Haul.

Choosing the right-sized storage unit is necessary
There are three types of storage unit sizes: small storage units, medium storage units, and large storage units.

  • Small storage units: The small storage units are sized 5’x5’ and 5’x10’. The 5’x5’ units are the size of a small walk-in closet and are meant for storing personal items, clothes, boxes, skis, small furniture, children’s toys. The 5’x10’ units are meant for small furniture, sofas, chairs, box spring and mattress, chest of drawers, business supplies and records, and small items and boxes.
  • Medium storage units: There are two types of medium storage units — 7.5’x10’ units and 10’x10’ units. The  7.5’x10’ storage units can store furniture and other items that 5’x10’ units can store, and the 10’x10’ storage units can unit store the contents of a one-bedroom apartment along with all major appliances, boxed items, furniture, and other supplies.
  • Large storage units: There are three variants available if you opt for large storage units: 10’x15’ units, 10’x20’ units, and 10’x30’ units. The 10’x15’ units will allow you to store items of a two-bedroom apartment along with the appliances, furniture, boxed items, and supplies. If you opt for the 10’x20’ storage unit, you can store the contents of a three-bedroom apartment along with all its contents. The 10’x30’ storage unit is the largest storage unit you will come across. Such storage units can hold the contents of a four-to-five bedroom home along with all the home appliances. Moreover, these storage units are even used for storing commercial equipment as well.

Now that you are acquainted with the differently sized storage units, it becomes easier for you to make a decision. You will have to base your decision on the basis of which items you wish to store.

Key features of the ideal storage unit
Before you decide on a particular storage unit provider, you need a checklist to ensure that you are making the right decision. There are several factors that need to be crossed off the list before you sign the dotted line. Storage units are equipped with certain features and the best ones will offer almost each one of these to their customers. So, look for these key features while looking for a storage unit near you.

  • Degree of accessibility
  • Number of locks
  • Climate control
  • Video monitoring
  • In-person surveillance
  • Sizes offered
  • Overall safety and the security of the facility

In addition to these essential features, another factor that vouches for the storage facility’s credibility is the reviews it received online. To determine whether a particular storage unit facility is the right one for you, visit online consumer forums. The reviews are mostly accurate and will help you make the right call.

Dos and don’ts for storing items
Though you will be paying for the entire storage unit, you shouldn’t stuff it with all your belongings. There are certain items that shouldn’t be stored in storage units. It is dangerous to store flammable items like fireworks, chemicals, fertilizers, paint, narcotics, gasoline, and propane tanks. Also, it is advisable to not use the storage units for perishable items like food, medicines, and plants. It is essential that you familiarize yourself with the various rules and regulations of the storage facility before loading up the unit. Usually, the storage facility provides its customers with a list of items that they can and cannot store in the storage unit.

Chalking out money matters
Price is one of the major determining factors in your quest to find the right storage unit. According to the online storage marketplace SpareFoot, the average monthly price of all unit sizes is $87.15 a month. This amount is calculated considering the average price per square foot to be $0.97. However, there are several other factors that affect the rent of the storage space. They are:

  • Location: Like every other piece of real estate, the rent of the storage spaces varies according to their location. Those living in large urban areas might find the storage facilities to be more expensive than the ones on the outskirts of the city. If you aren’t keen on paying a lot of money on renting a storage unit, then try opting for storage facilities in a nearby suburb.
  • Time: The amount of time you will be renting the storage place also determines the overall price. Usually, self-storage facilities are more flexible when it comes to allocating storage spaces; they even allow you to store your belongings for a week! Whereas, with full-service storage facilities, the rentals will be leased out on a monthly basis.
  • Size of the storage unit: As established earlier, the number of items you wish to store will determine the size of the storage unit best suited for you. However, even the storage size has a major role in deciding the rent of the storage space. It is common knowledge that the bigger the storage space, the higher the monthly cost. So, it is essential to determine which items go into the storage facility as this will be the deciding factor here.
  • Services offered: Self-service storage facilities are cheaper than full-service storage facilities. As full-service storage facilities take the entire responsibility of moving your belongings and storing it, you will be shelling out more money.
  • Essential features: If you wish to store items that can succumb to extreme temperature, you will have to opt for climate-controlled storage units. Such storage units cost 15 percent more than the regular ones. Also, if you wish to access your storage unit any time of the day, you will have to find 24/7 storage unit facilities near you. Such storage facilities charge more money than the ones that offer limited access. Also, if you are using the storage unit for storing valuable items, you will need to consider a storage facility that offers impeccable security features. However, even if the storage facility is completely secure, there are chances of a break-in. Which is why most storage facilities require the customer to have insurance. It is a sensible decision to insure your items as it comes in handy while replacing broken or stolen items. However, you need to check the policies of the storage facilities as some of them offer protection for items against damage or loss, free of charge. Your preferences for certain features in the particular storage unit will play a major role in determining the rent.

Inquire for rental specials and discounts
A cardinal rule to follow when you are out shopping for anything is to always try bargaining or look for discounts. This is applicable to your storage unit as well. Before you decide on the final figure, you should inquire whether the storage facility offers any rental specials or discounts. Usually, storage companies offer the first month free or for $1! However, it is essential to read the contract carefully as the meager rent might lock you into a 3- or 6- month deal.

Pay attention to the gate and office hours
When you finally find the right storage facility, compare the gate and office hours. It is a common practice for storage facilities to post only their gate hours. This is done with the intention of making people think that their storage facility is open beyond office hours. However, there’s a catch here; the gate hours are usually the hours in which you can access your storage unit, but the office hours are shorter. Longer gate hours are suitable for those who wish to have more flexible access to their storage units. However, if you wish to speak to someone for addressing any issue, you can do that only during the office hours. So, ensure that you check the gate and office hours before you finalize the deal. It is essential to have reasonable access to your storage unit and subsequent assistance from the office staff.

Choosing the right storage unit is indispensable to your desire to keep your belongings safe. Moreover, you shouldn’t compromise on the security and other features for saving money. In fact, doing so might actually turn into a costly affair if your belongings break or are stolen. Since you are a part of the technologically-inclined 21st century, you will have access to all the information pertaining to your task of locating the best storage unit facility near you. Also, while you are at it, some security measures from your end can never go waste. So, go ahead, consider spending money on a strong lock. At the end of the day, your quest for the perfect storage unit is guided by the desire for peace of mind. And, this will surely help you attain it.

Tags- Storage Units, storage units near me, monthly storage units near me, storage units near my location, 24hr storage units near me

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business

Here’s how to choose the right HR performance management software

Performance management is one of the most important functions of the human resource department. HR personnel closely work with key people of every department to assess employee performance for the betterment of the staff as well as the company. Today, the HR department of most companies use performance management software to streamline this function.

What makes performance management software useful? There might be many answers to this question, but one factor that remains constant is the software’s features. Features undoubtedly determine the usefulness of performance management software. All performance management software offer a set of features that can help an organization achieve its performance goals.

While choosing software for performance management, an organization must consider the features that they require. Mentioned below are eight features to look for in performance management software. These features can help an organization improve its overall performance and productivity.

Features: The backbone of any performance management software

  • Compatibility: Due to the availability of several HR management software, organizations might face difficulties in finding the right software which will be compatible with their existing technology. Therefore, it is essential to check this feature while opting for any performance management software.
  • Immediate and continuous feedback: Today, there is no longer a system of annual performance reviews and feedback in the fast-paced corporate world. Instead, employers give and receive feedback continuously for managing employee performance. It increases motivation, enhances performance, and elevates engagement between the employees and their employers. With the right use of an HR performance management software, companies can offer performance-related feedback anytime, anywhere.
  • Performance measurement: The performance measurement feature provides comprehensive information about employees’ talent. This information can help managers understand their employees’ strengths, development opportunities, and career goals as well.
  • Job specific reviews: As there are several departments in any organization, it can be helpful to have a performance management software that allows employers or managers to create and customize job-specific performance assessments for accurate reviews.
  • Ability to set and convey new goals: Performance management becomes fruitful when one has the ability to create dynamic goals within the performance management software. This feature also offers a place where one can update their career objectives over time. The management can then ensure that the employee’s career goals are in line with the company’s objectives. It can also be a powerful tool for corporations that want to promote career transparency.
  • Reports: Efficient performance management software must have a feature where managers can generate reports based on employees’ performance.
  • Succession planning: Here, succession planning means having the right tools that will help an employee adjust to their new role within the same organization. The performance management software must have this feature along with career development tools and coaching tools to ensure seamless and proactive succession planning.
  • Actionable information: A performance management software should be able to provide insights that would help an organization understand the areas of improvement. These insights can come from performance metrics and 360-degree feedback. Moreover, to successfully utilize performance management software, an organization must be able to align the performance metrics with its business objectives.

Top HR performance management software
The features mentioned earlier play a significant role in ensuring the efficiency of a performance management software. Therefore, as a small, mid-sized, or enterprise-class business, it is important to learn about as many performance management software as possible that will deliver the desired outcome.

Given below are seven popular HR performance management software.

Performance Pro by HR Performance Solutions
Performance Pro is a cloud-based performance management and appraisal solution ideal for companies with a strength of 50–1000 employees. This software allows users to promote performance management practices while focusing on employee development, coaching, pay-for-performance, and goal or strategy alignment.

Performance Pro offers a free demo to companies. The price of their software starts at around $16.00 per year per user. Additionally, their team provides extensive training through documentation, webinars, live online chatting, and in person interaction to ensure compatibility.

This performance management software provides features like 360-degree feedback, applicant tracking, compensation management, onboarding, performance management, and recruiting management.

Companies from the following industries use Performance Pro:

  • Marketing and advertising
  • Automotive
  • Financial services
  • Non-profit
  • Hospitality
  • Construction

Performly Talent
Performly Talent is another cloud-based performance management software. Performly is innovative and has an interface that allows companies to adopt technologically advanced performance management practices. Thus, it can help an organization utilize their human capital productively.

As far as the competitive edge is concerned, Performly’s performance management features are based on the latest trends, which makes this brand slightly different from others in the market. Additionally, companies that believe in constant productive feedback can rely on Performly as it provides continuous feedback while focusing on the business objectives and results.

Performly Talent has a customer base that comprises of a diverse set of companies from different industries across the globe. Some key companies that use the software are into the following industries:

  • Transportation network
  • Management consulting
  • Real estate
  • Telecommunications
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Internet

BirdDogHR
BirdDog HR focuses on the performance of an employee from the day they join a company by engaging with them from the start. Companies from all industries including federal contractors, technology, manufacturing, and financial services can benefit from this performance management software.

BirdDogHR comes with over a dozen features while retaining its user-friendliness. Some key features include employment branding, goal monitoring, skill development, gap identification, scorecards, knowledge management, and performance management.

BirdDogHR has received great satisfaction ratings from companies like Zachry Group, Leopardo, Bison, SpawGlass, and more. Some other companies that use BirdDogHR belong to the following industries:

  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Energy
  • Financial services
  • HVAC
  • Manufacturing
  • Oil and Gas
  • Services
  • Wholesale and supply

TowerMetriX
Communication is key when it comes to productive feedback. TowerMetriX provides tools for performance management as well as a comprehensive set of communication capabilities that can help an organization maintain an open communication channel between the employees, managers, team leaders, and more. An efficient communication channel can lead to the empowerment of teams within the organization and increase transparency among employees and their managers.

Furthermore, to make the most of any given performance management software, companies need to focus on continuous learning and employee growth. Features that come with TowerMetriX enable a company to consistently pay attention to all aspects of learning and growth.

Some customers of TowerMetriX include Derry Township School District, Helios HR, Meadows Casino, and The Rhodes Group. Some other industries which employ the services of this HR performance management software are:

  • Gambling & Casinos
  • Construction
  • Outsourcing, consultancy, recruiting
  • Education

Workday Human Capital Management
Workday offers performance management under its Human Capital Management suite. It provides organizations with real-time insights, predictive analysis, and global visibility. One of the best features of this software is its ease of use as most of its tools are self-explanatory. Easily fetchable embedded reports is another feature of this software that allows users to analyze employee performance.

Additionally, organizations can be sure that the information they enter in the software remains secure as Workday partners with the most reliable and secure providers of data-centers.

Some popular companies that trust Workday’s enterprise cloud suite for performance management include Netflix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Sanofi, Abbott, Bank of America, and TripAdvisor.

Workday has a customer base from many different industries like:

  • Hospitality
  • Insurance
  • Education
  • Life sciences
  • Manufacturing
  • Media and entertainment
  • Nonprofit

TalentGuard Performance Management
This HR performance management software is designed to help small and mid-sized organizations assess, manage, develop, effectively lead, and reward employees. Additionally, the software offers services where the management can evaluate employee performance based on their competency, role-based skills, their development goals, and career objectives.

An interesting fact about TalentGuard Performance Management software is that its design allows the user to create customized assessments that specifically focus on behavior, career and succession paths, job responsibilities, and development plans.

Some of the companies that use TalentGuard’s performance management software include Central City, Endsight, INTEC GROUP, Shaw Sports Turf, Vertech, and more.

TalentGuard has a customer base from many different industries such as:

  • Banking and finance
  • Biotechnology
  • Construction
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Fitness
  • Food and beverage
  • Retail and design
  • Real estate
  • Technology
  • Healthcare
  • Entertainment
  • Government

SAP SuccessFactors
This performance management software created by SAP is designed keeping in mind the comprehensive needs of small and mid-sized businesses. The same software can be used by enterprise-class organizations as well.

SuccessFactors helps an organization with talent solution, collaboration, streamlining core HR functions, and workforce analytics. Thus, it can collectively improve and manage the overall performance of an organization. Furthermore, SuccessFactor throws light on the biggest challenges the organization faces and provides end-to-end integrated business solutions to those challenges.

Some popular companies using SuccessFactors are Accenture PLC, Aasonn LLC, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, Cascades Inc, and ARM Holdings. Industries that use SuccessFactors are mentioned below.

  • Computer software
  • Information technology and services
  • Staffing and recruiting
  • Management consulting
  • Manufacturing
  • Chemicals
  • Construction
  • Financial services
  • Food production
  • Human resources

Each software mentioned above has its own unique selling point and advantages that cater to a given type of organization. Reading the feedback and testimonials of customers can help an organization make a buying decision.

A look at the pros and cons
Learning about the advantages and disadvantages of performance management software is just as important as knowing about their features. Therefore, here are a few pros and cons of utilizing a performance management software that will help an organization make a sound decision:

Pros

  • With the use of performance management software, the management can successfully keep everyone in the firm informed and connected.
  • Improved communication due to performance management software can help employees and managers build a positive professional relationship. They can also discuss and solve the problems that they face while working.
  • The right performance management tools can help managers identify bottlenecks and inefficient employees.
  • The use of performance management software provides productive feedback. This information can help in successful career planning for employees as well as the human resources department.

Cons

  • Incorporating a performance management software can be a lengthy and complex procedure for some organizations.
  • It can be hard to communicate and train everyone in the organization to efficiently use the software.
  • Even a minute technical glitch can act as a barrier in the entire process of performance management. Additionally, it may be hard to get prompt support at that time.
  • Data is crucial for every company. Therefore, it is important to buy a highly trustworthy performance management software that would not misuse the data provided by the client/company.
  • A faulty performance management software can lead to errors in evaluating an employee’s performance.

Trends in performance management software
Trends are important in the world of business. Companies looking for performance management software should be well-versed with the latest trends to ensure they stay ahead in their game. Below are seven performance management trends that every company and software maker should know about.

  • Employee wellbeing is slowly becoming just as important as employee performance.
  • Feedback is useful as long as it is supported by regular mentoring, coaching, and conversations.
  • Meaningful performance management with a human connection can help every organization achieve its goal.
  • The use of artificial intelligence can make performance management software more efficient.
  • Performance management will be focused on manager impact more than completion rates in the future.
  • Using performance management software for employee development is more important than using it only for appraisals.
  • Performance management software that focuses on improved communication will be more fruitful.

The take-back
Performance management is critical for the success of any organization. Therefore, every organization must put a lot of thought into choosing a software for managing the performance of their employees.

It is important for companies to learn more about the latest trends and predictions related to performance management software. Additionally, looking for features that follow these trends will help a company stay ahead of its competitors by ensuring optimal employee performance.

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business

Promotional products and how they help your business

Smart shoppers today might love an engaging read that highlights the business or a video that summarizes everything about it. But this does not mean that businesses should stop investing in promotional products altogether. With the traditional forms of advertisement costing a pretty penny, small businesses need to look for techniques that are cost-effective and extremely impactful. Many still prefer promotional products as an alternative to a sensory overload caused by the bombardment of information on digital platforms.

Branded giveaways and promotional seminars still attract customers the same way they used to back in the day. It goes without saying, people are putting lavish efforts to promote a brand or business online, especially on social media. But a custom coffee mug can still generate the same amount of interest for the business. It all depends on the type of product and the promotional strategy you plan to use.

The cost of bulk ordering and customizing a promotional product is something even small businesses can pay to boost their marketing campaign. The best part of this is that your potential customers get to enjoy a few freebies now and then, which they will definitely appreciate.  

Low-cost promotional items for your small business
Not everything that is expensive is necessarily the best choice. Promotional products do not need to be extravagant since everyday items are much handier and appreciated. While things like plaques, or ceramic showpieces look pretty enough, you know you would much rather have a comfortable T-shirt you can lounge around in. It is essential to plan smart, rather than plan big when it comes to promotional items.

What products can be used to promote a business?
Clothes, caps, calendars, writing instruments, desk accessories, USB drives, power banks, bags, and even umbrellas are the top promotional products owned by consumers in the country. There are promotional products that every business could be considering and then there are products that your business must absolutely consider. To ensure that a promotional product piques your target consumer’s interest in the business, it is important to understand the demographic that influences your strategy. While every consumer is different, they all have one thing in common; the excitement they share on receiving a brand-new product. Something that they can use in their day-to-day lives. Products are a much better way of getting the brand name out there as opposed to a digital promotion that merely gives your consumers a gift voucher or discount code that is used once and forgotten about.

Here are some top choices for promotional products available at a fairly negligible production cost for your perusal. These products add immense brand value to your company through indirect advertising.

Personalized magnets
It is a timeless marketing strategy and the baby boomer generation can relate to the nostalgia of fiddling with refrigerator magnets, especially the ones that come in different funky shapes and sizes. Still used extensively throughout households in the country, it is something that catches your attention almost every day in the kitchen. Studies show that consumers recall the names of a brand or a business better with a promotional product. It is a constant reminder that gradually generates interest in the product/brand. A business card magnet customized with all the relevant contact details will increase the reach and spread awareness about the brand. The consumer will be able to use it on a frequent basis with the information right there in front of their eyes. Remember, out of sight is out of mind which is why personalized business card magnets are better than a pop-up advertisement, especially in the case of the product advertised being a household item or the likes of one. Bulk orders for color prints will cost you less than 20 cents per card and this mini-billboard advertisement can help you promote your business easily. Advertising without really advertising is the only way to stand out of the clutter and a product as simple as a refrigerator magnet can help you always be within the notice of your customer.

Pens
A pen is mightier than the sword but is it mighty enough to promote your brand? The answer is a resounding yes! Not as an alternative to direct violence; in contrast to the historic adage, but for three specific reasons. The form of stationery is affordable, readily available, and everyone uses them. From signing permission slips in high school to filling a 401K claim after retirement, everyone needs a pen. It is perhaps the most effective and overused marketing gimmick, but it bears results every single time. The pen provides access to valuable advertising space for businesses, one which will remain in sight for a greater part of the day. The more they will look at the logo or your brand name, the better are the chances of your business gaining a new customer. Since a small business cannot allocate a major chunk of their investment in commercial advertising, promotional avenues like gifting and personalized products offer an affordable solution. Tax season is just around the corner and there could not be a better time to bulk order some custom pens and give those freebies away at the local kiosk or your next business seminar. As more and more consumers are becoming tech-savvy, simply presenting them with a ballpoint pen that sports your brand logo will not be enough. Instead, gift them a combo pen, the ones that are both a stylus for the smartphone and an ordinary pen for tackling paperwork.  

Coffee mugs
The motivation that you get from a fresh cup of Joe is something that you just cannot compare to those Monday morning quotes. It is also the perfect opportunity for you to promote the business brand name. To do so, you have to understand the key demographic of your audience and ask the question repeatedly, what will the consumer like? Some people enjoy coffee mugs that feature a motivational quote while others might love a photo mug of their pet. Some might find coffee mugs of vivid shapes and size amusing. Whatever the case may be, you have to understand that a generic marketing copy may not necessarily work with today’s smart consumer. Finding out what works best for the consumer will allow you to personalize products to promote and promote your brand. Custom brand messages and personalizations increase the likelihood of the consumer keeping the product and also using it on a daily basis. Coffee mugs provide you with just the right amount of space and utility that further appeals to potential consumers. Don’t skimp out on quality as it may be perceived as what your business is all about. Keep in mind that the devil is in the detail. You also have the perfect opportunity to motivate your employees with coffee mugs, each with its own personal message. Present the employee of the month with a picture mug that captures that moment of elation on the day you congratulated the employee. He or she will also be reminded of their contribution to the success of the business every single coffee run!


Apparel
You cannot put a price on gifts, but you certainly can put your brand name/logo on it making the product a wonderful example as a promotional item. Most people think of product promotions as an expensive means of advertising the brand or business. However, this perception is far away from the truth as small businesses simply don’t have the capital to spend extensively on commercial advertisements. Rather, a promotional run offers a cheaper alternative to get the word out about your business in comparison to billboards and commercials. Small businesses are prone to use apparels as one of their primary modes of advertisement. So here is where you need to get creative and come up with a design that not only promotes your business brand effectively but also adds personal value to the underlying message in your company’s slogan or tagline. It is also how mainstream brands enjoy a loyal customer base today and have managed to retain the audience by way of smart promotions, offers, and deals. Check out the posts on social media with people sporting hoodies and full sleeves with the brand name scrawled across in bold. Add a hashtag, a contest, and voila, you’ve got yourself a viral post! Every now and then, a fitness brand is a sponsor partner for events like marathon runs. The runners all then sport the apparel during their run, lending more publicity to the brand. Unknowingly, these participants have already promoted the sponsor brands by posting pictures about the run and tweeting about the outfit.

Bags
No seminar is complete without a goody-bag! Often times, people find themselves flocking to a free seminar for a couple of hours. While some go there to learn about a new product or service, others go for the free donuts and coffee. And then there are some who just want to get their hands on the small bag of delightful surprises. For business owners and entrepreneurs, it is the perfect opportunity to label their brand on those bags and ensure that word gets out. Mind you, people are becoming more and more concerned about the environment so a tote bag made out of biodegradable materials will be much better received than a leather product. A beautiful, roomy tote bag is sure to attract eyeballs and one won’t even need to keep telling others where they got it from. Your potential customers are also your loyal brand ambassadors, and this is one tip you must not forget. Your customers will choose to use your promotional product in their day-to-day activities if you simply making an interesting product that stands out of the pack.

Glasses and bottles
Everyday use items like glasses and bottles are another great promotional opportunity for business owners to capitalize on indirect advertising. If you are a fitness brand, then your business will certainly benefit from this type of promotion as fitness enthusiasts always carry a water bottle to the rec center, be it for a morning of intense cardio or peaceful meditation. Smart consumers are also environmentally conscious which is why they will refrain from using one-time-use plastic bottles. Shaker bottles make the perfect branding tool as your business name or logo will be right in front of their eyes for a major part of the day. A cool, vibrant, shaker is sure to get the attention of people. If not direct, it is still a great way to encourage potential customers to talk about in which seminar they got the promotional item and where can their friends get one. Before you know it, attendance at the next big expo or promotional event has doubled in size all thanks to the colorful little logo on the side of the bottle that managed to rouse someone’s interest.

A promotional drive is the best way for your small business to get the word out and give something back to the local community in turn. Yes, not all promotions have to advertise your business. Rather, your business can sponsor a local event or charity drive to enhance positive customer perception about your mission and vision in the long term. Think about how much the neighbors will enjoy a nice BBQ lunch to raise money for a charity of their choice. Why not sponsor the apparels for the local kids’ soccer team? The little ones running around in t-shirts that sport your brand logo and name in bold letters make for adorable photo-ops. A playful yet efficient way to create brand awareness is while promoting and supporting a good cause. The few extra goodwill points won’t hurt as you try to pave the way for your business to get recognized.

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Technology

Essentials to understanding the functions of a construction management software

Transcending from desirable to an essential, construction management software solutions have come a long way since its inception. The construction arena is one that is extremely complex and comprises a plethora of impacting factors. Thanks to the boom in technology, the construction business also has come to be bestowed with its blessed rays. A great platform, construction management software amazingly aids companies in smoothening the essentials of the construction process like communication, decision making, job scheduling, budget management, and more. It thrives on the goal of automating the construction business and making it an easier feat.

Despite its popularity among construction companies and builders, what comes as a surprise is that the software remains a majorly untapped technology. This is driven from the basic fact that construction contract management software is not clearly understood. To put in definition, it is a construction project software that is specially designed to be used by construction professionals. These are among just an ounce of benefits and they extend way beyond. Thus, there is a notable rise that will be seen in the usage of construction or project planning software in the different construction sectors around the world over time. Businesses have come to see the great asset that construction management software can be to their company and here is acquiring a better understanding of the same.

Notable features of construction management software
The features offered by this software are vast and companies must focus on the most essential functionalities. Here are some features that bring good value in terms of improved productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness for organizations:

Task scheduling – This feature aids in effectively scheduling the different tasks involved in the construction business. It balances the workload among the different professionals working on board while also rescheduling the same when required. The software allocates the resources and the needed manpower to match the given timelines of project completion.

Cost allocation – As with every business, the cost is an essential factor and should be addressed with the right solutions. The software capably sets the rates for the services offered by the company, defines given costs, and simultaneously monitors the expenses. It works by boosting productivity through the management of cost.

Accounts management – The cost or expenditure are closely monitored while integrating with the plethora of other accounting tools related to the business. It automates the various accounts that are payable and receivable while adjusting the same to fit the preference of clients. Constructors may handle different projects at a time, and this makes the feature very important.

Efficient reporting – The best construction project management software offers managers complete control over the different kinds of project data. Data creation and decision-making processes are simplified through analytical reports produced by the software. Also, one can access data reports in real time which can also be transported to other system software. Construction professionals can better evaluate the status of projects and identify the risk beforehand.

Management of inventory – Inventory management is a feature that assists in keeping track of inventory, eliminating the possibility of a write-off, and monitoring the total assets of the company. Thus, project handlers can effectively undertake the distribution of equipment and resources.

System compatibility – The best and well-designed construction management software can support every system, including computers and mobile devices. Construction managers can conveniently access data, irrespective of the data device at hand. Personnel can make quick decisions and complete the given task from the site or without having to go back to the office using the software.

Management of documents – Document management is an imperative feature that is offered by construction management software. The single platform handles and arranges pertinent documents which felicitate the smooth flow of work. The system integrates with other systems to streamline the workflow and information of security.

Benefits of construction management software
How does construction management software benefit a business?

A construction business can truly reap innumerable benefits from this type of investment. It completely depends on the way it is used and the type of requirements. Some of the most remarkable benefits of construction management software include:

Effective management – Construction management software brings in a system and this approach aids in better management. The systematic functioning ensures that constructors can carry out the plan smoothly and without glitches. It also effectively allows staff to generate requests for information, data, or submittals from superiors in a streamlined manner. Vital information such as budgets and project data can also be managed with security monitoring.

Control of sensitive documents – The construction business comprises storing and processing important files and documents. The use of construction management software eliminates the need for the obsolete practice of managing documents and safekeeping in cabinets. It electronically processes the documents while storing the same on the cloud management system.

Quick access and sharing – The data from the project are managed and stored in a single location, this brings access to information with the help of a simple software. The construction management software also records the log time and documents and when they were modified; thus, there is a minimal chance of pertinent documents getting misplaced. Employees have a better and secured access over important data during all times.

Better assessment of construction risk – There may be a possibility of certain kinds of risks associated with the construction business. The effective organization and management of the data can help managers have better supervision over potential risk. Thus, enabling the opportunity to access and resolve the same even before it occurs.

Budget control – Construction management software is designed with account management capabilities that allow access to client’s order documents and cost statuses. This helps in having better control over the accounts and the budget allocations. Project errors are minimized, and they prevent the possibility of the higher running cost. More importantly, the software reduces operational cost and this, in turn, generates better profits for the company.

Business expansion – Every business functions with the goal of expanding over a period and the construction management software facilitates the idea. It promotes more efficiency in the business process and speeds up the completion of construction. Thus, businesses can expand by taking on far more projects than otherwise. An increase in the number of completed projects will go on to automatically create a sturdier presence in the market.

Quality control and improvement – The software enhances the manner of planning and control of the construction process. There is better communication and a lesser possibility of delayed projects. The reduction of errors, in turn, bring better control and a reduction in errors.

Better integration of teams – Numerous teams work toward the successful planning and execution of projects. The solutions offered by construction management software enable managers to efficiently huddle with the different key groups that are involved in the construction process. Team collaborations and improved communication are one the vitals for the smooth running of any business and the software brings this great benefit.

Virtual access – Construction management tools are typically cloud-based, and this is a good benefit as the data and tools can be accessed even when on the field. It reduces the effort required to report task delegation and completion as all the essentials can be completed virtually.

Popular construction management software
There are countless construction management software programs being offered in the market and each one brings along its own set of functionalities. Each one is set apart from the rest with unique offerings like customer management, project management, on-field service, and more. Listed below are the popular construction management software systems:

Viewpoint – A software that aims to server modern construction, Viewpoint is revered for its notable features such as content management, resource planning, project collaboration, and more. It works by boosting better visibility and profitability of the construction project while reducing the possibility of encountering risk. This construction management software is designed with useful features and services that prevent the occurrence of problems which can hamper successful project completion.

BuilderTrend – This software system is majorly designed for constructors that undertake home building and remodeling projects. The solution is web-based and thus, can be accessed through any device from any location site. Features such as advanced service management, project scheduling, and project management reduce the hurdles before and during construction. BuilderTrend also comes with customer management that includes helpful tools for payment processing and requests for warranty.

Procore – Procore aims to serve its clientele with three key factors that include addressing customer issues, designing systems that can aid as a solution, and ensuring the system can be used with immediate effectiveness. The software solution was launched in the year 2003 and has been revered for its unique approach. Procore streamlines the process of standardized construction while letting constructors drive the best value from the features offered. It also offers good and quick customer support that is essential for smoothly carrying out functions.

ShapeDo – For construction firms or professionals looking for a seamless way to track construction design changes, ShapeDo maybe the answer. The software is specially designed to assist the user through the design process, from blueprint to completion. It also enables easy collaborations through visual communication tools, this eliminates the occurrence of disputes during the planning process. The cloud access allows users to discuss important project details in real time. ShapeDo is widely used by companies that undertake construction for agile projects.

CoConstruct – CoConstruct is a construction project management solution that is specially designed to serve the purpose of controlling key-project tasks. From scheduling, budgeting, client communication to construction stage planning, it carries all the imperative functions with much ease. What sets the software apart from the herd is that it gives constructors the liberty to keep up with the evolving concepts throughout the process of execution. This is made possible with the software feature that enables constant customization while being open to revision. Furthermore, it comes with an easy user interface (UI) and this facilitates faster learning among employees or users.

PlanGrid – PlanGrid is a software that is mainly dedicated to providing effective tools to serve web-based construction management. It allows access to data using any device such as a mobile phone or desktop in real in time. The sophisticated solution has been widely used for construction projects and is increasingly being adopted by leading construction companies.

Cost of construction management software
How much money does one have to shell out to get this software?

There is no denying the fact that this software can cost through the roof, especially if compared with the rates of the conventional software used by most companies. Depending upon the size of the firm and the functionalities, the software can cost anywhere from $80,000 to $60,000. While the amount may sound whopping, this form of technology can help businesses save big in the long run or recoup considering the cost reductions that stem from the solution.

Beware of potential issues
Construction management software also comes with its own set of issues or downsides. The most prominent one is the heavy cost. This factor can especially impact smaller organizations as they may not be able to drive as many benefits and the costs may outweigh the same. Implementing the new solution will also take a while as staff must be trained on ways to use the software and most effective ways to derive value from it. Employees with a lack of technical proficiency can take longer to adapt if the features are elaborate. Lastly, the features that are offered by a construction management software can become obsolete over time. This will call for regular updates, and in turn, lead to higher costs.

The management of construction and project developments with the use of specifically designed and built software indubitably brings managers a strong grasp over all the different aspects involved in the planning stage. This extends from controlling the projects that are falling behind, generating data reports, to assigning project tasks. When considering the cost of the software, it is the detrimental possibilities of not implementing the professional management software that clearly stands out. Several undesirable occurrences such as lack of communication, missing project targets, ineffective budget control, and more make the software a necessity for the smooth running of construction firms.

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Travel

A beginner’s guide to your next family ski vacation

Brainstorming with the family over which holiday to go for next can be quite a task, but you know what’s the ultimate challenge? Getting them onboard for a ski vacation! Witnessing your kids go berserk on a roller coaster on a sunny day is so much more different than motivating them to learn an intricate hobby in cold temperatures. However, there is nothing more fulfilling than watching your kids embrace the thrill of this winter sport. Moreover, it is an incredible way to hone their qualities such as confidence, awareness, perseverance, and balance.

Well, no one can promise you a family holiday in the mountains without its own set of hiccups, but we’re here to help you make it memorable despite the obstacles that you can come across. Here are some travel tips and tricks that can help you plan smartly for your next snow-blanketed adventure with your loved ones.

Preparing for a family ski vacation
Unlike a solo trip, where you can afford to be spontaneous, there are numerous arrangements to be made planning when a family vacation, especially when skiing is involved. To make this process as good as smooth sailing, here are some factors that you will need to emphasize on while planning a perfect family ski vacation.

  • Location
    The location you pick purely depends on your budget and personal preferences. An international ski vacation in the Alps or Dolomites will obviously require you to make a generous investment. However, if you have a budget to honor as well as limited time then you can opt for a ski trip either in the Eastern or Western side of the country. In the US alone, there are approximately 500 ski locations scattered across 37 states which surprisingly also includes southern territories such as Alabama and Tennessee. So, you have plenty of places and options to choose from.
  • Stay
    One of the best parts of taking ski trip today is that there are numerous resorts available that specifically only cater to families. If your kids are too young to ski, then look for places that offer other kid-friendly snow activities and daycare amenities. Likewise, the location of the resort matters a lot when you are traveling with kids as schlepping heavy gear can easily tire them out. It would be wiser to book accommodation that is in close proximity to the terrain so that kids don’t have to cover long distances with the ski equipment. Additionally, some ski resorts offer equipment rental and lift tickets at no cost for kids belonging to a certain age group.
  • Alternative activities
    You have to consider the possibility that your kids might not want to ski after the first few attempts or the destination you intend to go might not have the right conditions for skiing. Fortunately, there are several ways to make the most of your holidays in the mountains. So, while planning a ski vacation, ensure that you have some nonskiing activities included in your travel packages, such as dog sledding, ice skating, ice-fishing, sightseeing and shopping, snowmobiling, and stargazing.
  • Terrain
    For a gratifying experience, it is essential that you choose the right terrain, particularly, when this is your family’s first time skiing. For instance, Aspen (Colorado) isn’t the best pick for novices because this particular area encompasses multiple tricky terrains, suitable for advanced skiers. Learning to ski in such an environment can be extremely intimidating, especially for kids. To get off on the right foot, you should opt for locations such as Telluride (Colorado), Deer Valley (Utah) or Mammoth Mountain (California) which are abundant with beginner terrains.
  • Ski school
    Enrolling the kids in a ski school is the best way to help them develop the right skiing technique. Ski lessons are typically arranged by the resort that you are staying in. Specialty camps, group, private, and semi-private lessons are some common options rendered by most ski schools. It is also crucial to remember that every resort will enforce different rules with regards to the minimum age eligibility, length of the lessons (half or full day), and how many beginners they include in a single session. It might be surprising but taking a private lesson as a family can be more economical than booking slots for the kids in a camp or a common group lesson.
  • Insurance
    While all the dare-devilry on the slopes seems to be exhilarating it is important to make arrangements for your family’s wellbeing. Apart from the safety gear, it is also important to check the range of your medical coverage in case things goes south. If your current health plan doesn’t reimburse expenses for skiing accidents then consider travel insurance. Besides medical expenses, travel insurance can also protect you from damages involving misplaced or stolen luggage, personal liability, and lost holidays due to weather.
  • Season
    The best time to enjoy a family ski vacation is during December and January as the snow conditions and weather are fairly predictable. Moreover, since the winter season lines up with Christmas and New Year’s, your family will get an opportunity to attend some fun events and festivals including concerts, torchlight parades, and fireworks. However, expect the ski locations to be crowded during this season as most kids are on a school break. If you make reservations any time after October then the prices of accommodation and air tickets will surge accordingly. Unable to make a booking during the peak season? Don’t worry! You can plan for a ski holiday in the month of February or March, however, avoid pushing it till April as most ski areas start closing when spring arrives.

Best family ski resorts
Here are some of the most popular options for family ski resorts that you can consider for your next holiday.

10 top family ski resorts in the USA

  • Jackson Hole (Wyoming)
  • Aspen Snowmass (Colorado)
  • Alta Ski Resort (Colorado)
  • Beaver Creek (Colorado)
  • Deer Valley (Utah)
  • Telluride Ski Resort (Colorado)
  • Taos Ski Valley (New Mexico)
  • Sun Valley (Idaho)
  • Vail Ski Resort (Colorado)
  • Snowbird Ski Resort (Utah)

10 popular family ski resorts in the world

  • Alpe d’Huez (France)
  • Breuil-Cervinia (Italy)
  • Åre (Sweden)
  • Whitewater (Canada)
  • Wengen (Switzerland)
  • Gervais Mont-Blanc (France)
  • Gstaad Palace (Switzerland)
  • Ski Welt (Austria)
  • Beaver Creek (USA)
  • Madonna di Campiglio (Italy)

7 ways to save money on family ski vacations
Enjoying a skiing adventure with your family in the midst of snow-capped mountains is a priceless experience, which unfortunately comes at a significant price. Pinning down an average estimate for a family ski vacation can be tricky business as multiple factors come into play including location, accommodation and meals, lift tickets, ski lessons, rental equipment, airfare, and ground transport. Needless to say, it is easy to blow the budget on a family ski vacation. Worried? Don’t be! The next time you plan to hit the slopes with your family, try these hacks to save big on your ski vacation.

  • Get it right with the early bird packages
    There is nothing like relishing a last-minute travel deal, at the same time, waiting for one can be a bit of a gamble. So to be on a safer side, scour for early bird ski packages. Booking sites usually release these travel bundles by the end of May. You can save up to 50% on travel deals if you start making reservations before early October. Apart from the price factor, booking during this window will give you some wiggle room, helping you score the best of deals such as upgrades on accommodation and other amenities.
  • Make the most of all-inclusive offers
    Shelling out money for an all-inclusive family ski vacation initially may come across as a big-ticket expense, but you will have almost no costs to bear during your stay at the resort. Typically, all-inclusive ski vacation comprises flights, ground transportation, lodging, meals and drinks, equipment rentals, and ski lessons. Some packages also might also cover off-piste guiding. Getting a package with lift tickets will also help you save some big bucks. Their prices can surge to almost $100 when directly purchased from the ticket counter. On the other hand, discounted lift tickets included in the ski packages offer almost 40% off on the original price.
  • Get acquainted with all the discounts
    If you are independently organizing a ski trip for your family, then ensure that you are well-acquainted with all the discounts and deals offered by the ski resort. Numerous accommodations have special offers for big families, students, physically challenged individuals, and seniors. These deals can come to your rescue, especially if you have missed the early bird booking window.
  • Try the shoulder season
    December and January are the best months for skiing, however, they are equally expensive. The Christmas holidays and winter break further amplify the demand for ski vacation packages during this period. If you want to steer clear of the steep prices and crowds, then you can plan for a skiing trip in spring or fall. However, ensure that you check your ski resort’s closing time and the area’s weather conditions to avoid disappointment.
  • Save on air tickets
    The classic trick of saving on flight tickets is by directly flying into a local airport instead of busy, domestic ones to avoid extensive road trips to the mountain or completely eliminate the need for a rental. However, this trick won’t work during peak seasons as the flights landing in the local airports are much more expensive. For example, if you have made reservations in Lake Tahoe’s ski resort during the peak season, then it would be cheaper to book a flight to Sacramento International Airport instead of Reno-Tahoe International Airport which is closer to the prime skiing locations. However, if you want to stick to the closest airport, then ensure that you buy air tickets well in advance to dodge the wrath of exorbitant prices.
  • Don’t let the baggage get you down
    If you are bringing your own skiing and snowboarding equipment, ensure that you pick an airline provider that doesn’t charge extra costs for it such as British Airways and Lufthansa. However, the overall ticket prices offered by these airlines might be comparatively expensive. Another way to minimize any baggage expenses is by making airfare payments via an airline travel credit card so that you can get a waiver on a few checked bags. If you aren’t a frequent skier then it would be wiser to rent the equipment at the slopes. In case you don’t want to rent or buy skiing gear, then you can borrow it from family or friends.
  • Pick a smaller mountain
    If this will be your family’s first skiing experience, then it is better to book a resort on a smaller mountain. Ski resorts and schools located near smaller terrains are often cheaper. However, ensure that the budget-friendly resort you choose has all the required amenities. It would be an added bonus if your resort is closely situated to the social establishments in town.

Popular, budget-friendly resorts
If you are craving to spend some time with your family skiing without burning a hole in your pocket, then consider these popular, budget-friendly choices.

10 affordable family-friendly resorts in the country

  • Copper Mountain (Colorado)
  • Big Sky (Montana)
  • Taos Ski Valley (New Mexico)
  • Mad River Glen (Vermont)
  • Steamboat Springs (Colorado)
  • Heavenly Ski Resort (California)
  • Schweitzer Mountain (Idaho)
  • Cranmore Mountain Resort (New Hampshire)
  • Red Lodge Mountain (Montana)
  • Crystal Mountain (Washington)

10 budget-friendly family ski resorts in the world

  • Serre-Chevalier-Briançon (France)
  • Bialka Tatrzanska, (Poland)
  • Kranjska Gora( Slovenia)
  • Les Rousses (France)
  • Vialattea (Italy)
  • Arosa Lenzerheide (Switzerland)
  • Obergurgl-Hochgurgl (Austria)
  • Pamporovo (Bulgaria)
  • Harrachov (Czech Republic)
  • Kiroro Ski Resort (Japan)

Family ski vacations can be full of fun, adventure, and adrenaline. They also give you the chance to relax by the fireplace and cozy up with a book and some hot chocolate. Plan your trip well in advance to avoid hearing that the ski resort your family decided on is booked out. You are now armed with the sources you need and deals to steal.

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Society

Here’s everything you need to know about background checks

Terrific resumes and exceptional interviews make for paramount elements of decision-making when hiring a candidate for a job role in the company. However, it does not end at making a first great impression, something that Chandler bling often struggled with at job interviews in the iconic FRIENDS series. Acquiring a dream job goes well beyond a notable impression and can only be attained after passing the different employee screening checks. Fairly known, background checks and criminal record checks make for an essential piece of the job hiring process. Irrespective of the position of an employee, hiring a new candidate involves letting a stranger have full or partial access over data systems, assets, consumers and more. In an attempt to minimize any possible risk, every company today runs a background check during its hiring process.

The statistics on white-collar offenders are on the rise and the elimination of background check also compromises on the safety of the workplace. In fact, a study conducted by a private institution revealed that nearly eighty-five percent of the candidates provided false information during the interview process. It is true, a company can only thrive when it hires the best candidates. This makes the lengthy process of screening and background checks an absolute necessity. An organization cannot be positive about their hiring process while missing the imperative factor of employee background checks.

Without any further ado, here is understanding the elements that comprise background checks:

  • Essential of a basic background check
    There are several inclusions which make up a basic background check. A check that is not carried out in an effective process will only create complexes in the process of hiring. Moreover, it can also land one into a soup if a candidate is not considered due to inapplicable discriminating factors.
  • Consistency in the background check policy
    A background check is best conducted in a formulated flow that involves consistent steps to be followed. Background checks that involve a good flow reduce the chance of haphazard curations. Well, more than just hiccups, it can cause the eruption of legal issues in case of conducting certain checks only for persons from certain backgrounds.
  • Legal advice
    Most states put down laws that govern the kind of information which can be sourced through a background check, especially for criminal records. The unearthing of sensitive information that is not permitted can lead to legal issues for an employment background check company. Thus, it is essential to seek advice from a lawyer or advisor who specializes in this area of legality.
  • Space for error
    The background check for people can often be flawed or even outright wrong in certain cases. This may be due to the error that comes up during the process of data collection and the same cannot be completely avoided. It is imperative for a candidate to be given a chance for any rectification or explanation that can prevent incorrect exclusion.
  • Exclusion of information on character
    Understanding of character, attitude and more are not part of the background check. These factors are validated during the interview process; however, the candidate can be given an option to ask for details. The organization must comply with the request of the individual or they can seek legal advice in case of absolute necessity.

Additional options for background checks
In-depth background checks may be common for certain industries. This is when additional types of checks are employed to source more information and they include:

  • Credit reports
    Credit reports are sourced to understand the applicant’s ability to handle financial obligations. It also generates information about one’s previous addresses and personal information.
  • Driving records
    Driving record checks are usually conducted when hiring candidates for driving jobs. It brings a better perspective on the history of one’s driving capacity and the ability to take on the job.
  • Military service records
    This form of background check is specifically used when the military service of an employee affects the current application. This check cannot be conducted without getting permission from the concerned authorities.
  • Student transcripts
    Student transcripts are used when checking the performance of the applicant at school. The transcripts are sourced in many industries as they are very useful in understanding the academic performance of the candidate. However, student transcripts can only be sourced after getting permission from the applicant.

Employee’s permission for a background check
Employees do understand the importance of a background check for criminal records and other factors when joining a company. However, in the case of an external employment background check companies, an employee will have to grant written permission. This is especially true for extremely sensitive checks that include credit reports, military reports and access to school transcripts. In the case of reasonable request and denial of permission by the prospective employee, the individual may be excluded without further consideration.

Picking an employment background check company
Hiring the right employment background check company is imperative, irrespective of a small or large business. They play an essential role in ensuring the right checks are incorporated during the process of hiring. However, the proliferation of numerous background check companies can make it difficult to arrive at the right decision. Here are considerations that aid in making the decision easier:

  • Accreditation
    The background check company must be accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS). Under this program, the procedures and the policies of the service are constantly reviewed. The areas of inclusion include the standard of verification, ethical industry practices, consumer protection, and ethical industry practices.
  • Information access
    The service must be equipped with the tools required to access information that the organization requires. A company that possesses the right tools will be able to effectively collate the required data for background checks.
  • Quick and clear reports
    The recruiting process cannot be prolonged or extended far too long. The company must be able to produce reports in a stipulated time period. Also, clarity and error-free checks are essential, or it could hamper and lead to missing on value-adding candidates.
  • Costs
    The costs are imperative to consider when choosing from the several employee backgrounds check companies. Several services are offered at exorbitant cost due to the several inclusions. However, the ultimate amount will be driven based on the type of checks required by the organization.
  • Customer service
    The employment background check companies must not only render a great user experience for the candidate but the job-generating organization too. For this purpose, it is essential to ensure that a service provider has a specialized customer service platform that can be conveniently accessed. There must also be a dedicated customer service agent who can help when there is a glitch in the process. A service with customer service in the form of live chat and phone service brings good value.

Are online background checks helpful and accurate?
For a company looking to employ a simplistic and inexpensive form of background checking, the online route can serve well. However, the service type is not always a complaint with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Online checks require one to fill the key information of the candidate into the data fetcher. The service platform then generates information of addresses, marriage records, social network profiles, criminal records, security number verification and more. There may be glitches however as the information is at the risk of being inaccurate. Also, this form of a check cannot be typically used for pre-employment screening.

Cost of background checks
Employment background checks companies will levy a cost that can range anywhere between $20 and $80. The final fees will be dependent upon aspects that include the amount of information which is required, the kind of information and the permitted time duration to conduct the check. Add-on information such as license verification, criminal records, credit record check and affiliation with previous institutions are likely to up the cost.

Are free background checks for real?
It is amazing to understand how much information or data is tangled up in the web space. Irrespective of how hard one tries to keep the past under wraps, there is enough and more that is achieved in the digital world. While there are several tools which spit out an entire report, one does have to pay up to access the same. Good news is that there is a way of conducting free background checks! Albeit, it will take up a lot of time and energy. The first step involves using major search engines. This search must extend beyond the basic search engines as the output will not be identical. It is essential to delve into the deep web too as it churns out surprisingly vast databases that include government archives and academic reports. The phone numbers can be searched through different search engines. However, a phone directory serves as the best aid when seeking the exact information. Typically, landlines numbers may be covered under directories. Checking cell phone numbers may require one to go through paid databases.

Another aspect that makes the process of free background checks easier is the treasure trove that is public records. Interestingly, public records bring forth information that cannot be accessed anywhere else and is widely used by private investigators.

However, there are certain functions of a background check that cannot be undertaken without possessing given tools and specialization. It can be effectively done only by private investigators or companies that do the same professionally. After all, these professionals and agencies are better-equipped and have a hold on more database records.

Different background check services for different industries
A question that looms, can one background check company serve every kind of industry? This factor is completely based on the ability or the functions of the service provider. There are some employment background check companies that have limitations or specialize in their offerings. On the other hand, there are some which possess the expertise to serve a wide range of industries. A business requirement will essentially dictate the kind of background check company that can be roped in.

What makes a federal background check different?
A Federal background check comes into the picture when one applies for a government job. But how different is a federal background check from the usual background check? Well, there are several factors that make them very similar, apart from the specifics that are reserved for federal background checks. Under this process, the arrest records are reviewed, and any kind of criminal history is recorded. The charges are related to the different criminal charges that may have been applied in the past. It also includes a check of the individual’s social security number that is used essentially to track any changes in the address and the name. Essentially, there is also an evaluation of the past work and a check on an individual’s lawsuit records.

A federal background check can be thought of as subjective. This is because the type of checks can be influenced based on the position that an applicant wants to pursue. There is a level of clearance required for every position and the elements included as part of the check vary depending upon the same. While a federal background check is majorly employed for government jobs, it is also commonly used for employees who apply to a job at hospitals or for child care.

An unscreened job force or employment process can bring an undeniable threat to the employee and organization. There is a growing awareness that is surrounding this concept and its importance is widely recognized in the hiring industry. Effective employment processes are hectic and are undoubtedly only successful after completion of the background check on every applicant. Needless to say, it is the best approach and brings along peace of mind.

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Society

Top 7 self-publishing companies in the world

Rainer Maria Rilke once said, “if, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing . . . then you are a writer.” But once you are done putting your thoughts on the paper, the next important step is to publish your work. When we think about publishing a book, we can get stuck between self and traditional publishing. Going with the traditional, big publishing houses such as Random House, HarperCollins, and Penguin might look like an easy bet, but making the cut is fairly difficult. According to Forbes, around a million new books get published every year in the United States alone, which makes the task of getting your book published in the traditional manner even more daunting. Most publishers will also tell that they receive 1,000 to 2,000 query letters every month. This shows that only a small percentage of the submissions make it to the publishing stage. Also, only because you’ve been contacted by a publishing house does not mean that your book would garner maximum revenue. So, unless you’re destined to become the best-selling book of the year, you should be either content with selling a handful of your book copies or start marketing your book on your own. So, if you are an author and want to have your book published and get noticed, why not have it self-published?

Self-publishing vs. traditional publishing
Self-publishing allows the author to be in control of the literary content as well as the book selling process. As a self-publishing author, you are on your own and responsible for marketing and distribution, as well as for the capital investment required; however, the best part is that the maximum amount of your profit is yours. On the contrary, traditional publishing is where the publishing house prints, and sells the books through various retailers and booksellers. Here, the publishing house bags the maximum amount of the revenue generated from the sale of the book, also because the entire invested capital comes from the publishers in traditional publishing.

With more and more writers choosing their own ways of marketing and promoting their work, the concept of self-publishing is becoming the buzzword in the book’s world. Here are the top 7 self-publishing companies in the world for you to choose from:

  • Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
    Amazon accounts for 80% of the eBook sales in English-speaking countries. Without a doubt, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) remains one of the top self-publishing platforms among authors for eBooks. The platform allows authors in converting and selling their books to a wide range of reader base. A striking feature of KDP is the 90-day exclusive deal on digital distribution wherein the books are available in the Kindle Lending Library. This lets the Amazon Prime members in checking out the books free of cost and with no due dates. Also, the author receives the royalties for every borrowed book.
  • Draft2Digital
    Comparatively a new kid on the block, Draft2Digital is an aggregator that has already been making news with its services and market reach. Draft2Digital helps in converting your book and distributing it across various retailers such as Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. If you are looking to publish your book and make it available on a wider scale within a short time period, then this is a great choice. The easy-to-use interface of Draft2Digital has made it a preferred choice among authors.
  • Lulu
    One of the most popular sites known for self-publishing books, Lulu is best known for its attention to detail. The company comes up with more than 1000 book titles every day, which speaks for the volume they work with and the market reach. With a wide range of services offered at Lulu, you can simply consider them for everything – right from proofreading to marketing.
  • Kobo
    Although Kobo only has 2% of the current eBook market, one of the reasons why it made to the list of top self-publishing companies is its international sales. Once you upload your book to Boko, the platform makes your book available in 190 countries. They have a wider reach in Asia as compared to the United States and the United Kingdom. The royalty rates at Kobo are at 70% if the selling price of the book is anywhere between $1.99 to 12.99, and 45% if the price is outside this range.
  • Book Baby
    If you’re looking for value for money, then Book Baby is the self-publishing company for you. The simple process helps those who are not quite familiar with the digital self-publishing platforms. The packages start from as low as $99 and the site takes 0% commission from the book sales, which is an absolute treat. Moreover, if you are looking for an all-inclusive package – from proofreading and design services to eBook conversion and distribution, you can make the most of it, Book Baby helps you find it all.
  • Smashwords
    Initiated in 2008, Smashwords is the oldest aggregator website and lets you distribute your book title to library networks such as Gardeners and numerous small-scale eBook retailers such as Baker and Taylor. As far as the pricing goes, Smashwords charges you 15% of the book sales you receive. Fairly speaking, some of the authors are loyal to this self-publishing company, whereas other authors prefer a more modern site such as Draft2Digital.
  • Apple’s iBook’s Author
    Accounting for 10% of the eBook market sales, Apple’s iBook’s Author is particularly an enticing self-publishing platform due to the popularity of the Apple products. iBooks offers a royalty rate of flat 70% across all territories and selling prices. The platform requires iTunes Producer program to run, which is exclusively available for a Mac. To get your book published on this platform, you either need to have a software to run Mac programs on your PC, borrow a Mac to publish your book or visit a third-party publisher such as Smashwords, Kobo, and Draft2Digital to help get through the publishing process.

Why is self-publishing gaining momentum?
As it becomes difficult to get your book published through traditional, popular publishing houses, authors across the globe have found self-publishing as something to look up to. Moreover, the penetration of the Internet in all walks of life, including book publishing, has helped authors explore opportunities with self-publishing. From Kindle Direct Publishing to online retailers and aggregators, self-publishing or “indie publishing” is becoming the talk of the town.

  • A silver lining for aspiring authors
    Due to the rising popularity of self-publishing and e-commerce platforms, authors need not wait for half a year to get their manuscript read by a publishing house. Online self-publishing platforms have made self-publishing a reliable and lucrative medium. With Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, authors can upload their books, send it across to readers, and even make money out of it. The site that took the e-commerce world by a storm has also paved the way for reshaping how books are published and read. It is due to these mediums that aspiring and new authors can find self-publishing a great way to kickstart their writing careers.
  • A boon for specific genres
    Some of the genres work great through self-publishing. For instance, if you are a fiction writer, self-publishing is the way to go. This is because you can keep the maximum share of your profits with you as opposed to the 20% share under traditional publishing. Moreover, a cookbook would need aggressive marketing tactics to garner maximum sales, which is the specialty of traditional publishers and therefore would not be a great choice for self-publishing.
  • Great prospects for author-preneurship
    The present and future of self-publishing look bright thanks to the changing role of authors. In today’s hypercompetitive market, writers are constantly taking up the skills and responsibilities of a traditional publisher. This helps the writers to understand various stages of publishing along with learning different ways to use their books as a building block for multiple ways of income. Moreover, it is also due to the fragmentation of the media that led to the changing role of authors from being just the writers of the book to marketing and promoting it through various social media platforms. As authors now can meet and interact with their readers at literary fests and fairs, run their social media pages, and write blogs, they know their target audience well and no longer depend on the publishing houses alone to build the author-reader relationship. So, the prospects of authors in becoming entrepreneurs are continuing to grow.
  • International sales have become a possibility
    Initially, selling a book internationally would only be a dream for most of the authors as they wouldn’t find the way to get through the publishers to make this dream a reality. But today, due to the strong foothold and reach of international sales platforms such as Amazon that international sales through digital platforms have become possible. Moreover, the territorial rights of publishers are no longer seen as an important factor for authors. On the contrary, the traditional rights of the publishers such as not distributing a book in certain countries, are seen as a hindrance in the current marketplace.

What makes self-publishing a hit among authors?

  • Quicker exposure
    One of the notable advantages of self-publishing is the faster exposure that a book receives as opposed to traditional publishing that takes anywhere between 6 to 18 months to publish a book. Self-published books can enter the market in several months or less, whereas traditional publishing of books can take up to 1 to 2 years. Interestingly, with the Internet and various eBook platforms, you can publish your digital book within a few days, including all the completed processes. This means faster market reach and faster cash in your bank account.
  • Higher creative control
    Wouldn’t you like to have the creative control over your book’s content and appearance? Self-publishing is all about higher creative control over your book, which also means you need to spend extra hours making your book a must pick. Publishing houses need you the writers to comply with the requirements set by multiple parties involved in the book publishing, editors, promoters, as well as designers. This hampers the creative control of the writer over the content of the book. On the other hand, self-publishing lets the writer have complete control over the book throughout the stages of publishing. So, when you decide to self-publish, you can write the book, design the cover, and decide the marketing strategy.
  • Greater networking opportunities
    During the self-publishing process, a book goes through a number of stages. It is during this time that you would meet various people from research advertising and marketing fields, consider meeting up a few people for writing a press release or discuss your book with others. This entire journey would help you discover new avenues, which will offer you great networking opportunities. Not to forget, social media does come handy here, but your rigorous marketing and promotional activities would play a key role to network with the best.
  • A longer shelf life
    As compared to traditional publishing, self-published books have a longer shelf life. It is one of the biggest advantages of self-published books as they will find a longer period for its audience to find about the book’s release and market presence. Thanks to the online publishing platform that allows digital books to remain on the platform indefinitely, helping respective target audiences to find the books at the click of a mouse. On the contrary, when you have your book published through a popular publishing company, the book will only have a couple of months of shelf life. This is because the bookstores are constantly revamping their book inventory and bringing in newly published books. Moreover, the longer shelf life of self-publishing books helps newer writers who are yet to find their right target audience.
  • Better royalties
    One of the pros of having your book published is the royalty that you receive. Did you know that when a book gets published through a publishing house, maximum profit of the book sale goes to the publishing house? This leaves the author with a maximum of 10% to 15% of the selling price of the book sold, whereas an author can receive a maximum of 70% of the list price when it comes to self-publishing mediums. An interesting highlight – self-publishing through digital forums helps in retaining the rights for adaptations such as TV shows or films. Also, if at any point, the writer needs to revise the digital book, he or she can freely do so without any constraints by the platform where the book is published. When it comes to publishing houses and print-on-demand services, a writer may face constraints set by the publishing house, making revisions or other adaptation rights difficult.

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