20 Anytime Gifts That Will Last Forever

It’s that time again. You need a gift to take to a birthday, wedding, anniversary or any other occasion. Most of us don’t want to get just another gift, we all want to give and receive gifts that are timeless.

From the thoughtful custom necklace to the one-of-a-kind handmade trinket; we have you sorted out with our list of 20 anytime gifts that will never go out of fashion

The Thoughtful Gifts

1. Personalized Letter

In this day of technology, who wouldn’t love receiving a handwritten personalized letter? Personalized letters are particularly a great gift from children to grandparents or vice versa.

2. Memory Capsule

Memories are timeless. The best gift you could ever give a loved one is a piece of encapsulated memory. Recreate old photos taken with loved ones to form your memory capsule.

3. Quality Time

Sometimes your present is enough of a gift for that special person. Set aside ample time to spend a day together or go on a getaway.

4. Personalized Gift Cards

Personalized gift cards are still a timeless favorite from kid to parents or vice versa. Give out several with thoughtful tasks that they can be redeemed against.

5. Technology Lessons

Time has flown by and our grandparents, and parents, might need a little help catching up. Kids can gift their grandparents and immediate parents technology lessons to teach them about social media as well as the use of other gadgets.

Gifts for Him

6. RFID Wallet

Wallets are overly popular gifts for men, but not the RFID wallet. The RFID wallet will protect unwarranted card data theft, and it is one wallet he’ll be keeping for long.

7. Bartender Kit

Men love their drink, well most do. There isn’t a better gift for that drink lover than a bartender kit. A bartending set will also benefit you because, with it, he’ll be whipping up those delicious cocktails well into your hay days.

8. Balance Board

Balance is necessary for everyday life, and as we age, we lose our elementary balance. For the man looking to regain balance or just to keep fit, a balance board would be the perfect gift for them.

9. Smart Sprinkler Controller

Who is in charge of the sprinkler system, or just about any electronic, in your house? For that man, an intelligent sprinkler system would serve them well. Men love gadgets, and he will rave over the ability to control the sprinklers conveniently from a laptop/tablet/phone.

10. Watch

A good watch is always a great gift for that man in your life. It doesn’t have to cost much but go for a durable timepiece that will end up being an heirloom.

Gifts for Her

11. Jewellery

Let’s face it; time has proven it, women love jewelry. You can’t go wrong with a good custom necklace or just about any tasteful jewelry that she can pass on down the family tree.

12. Tea Set

Know a woman who loves tea? Then a tea set would make the perfect gift. This isn’t necessarily an age-restricted present; any woman who hosts company will like to add a good tea set in her collection.

13. Character Apron

Aprons are functional pieces of protective clothing and contrary to tradition; they don’t have to be flowery. Character aprons can instantly transform a lady into her beloved hero.

14. Scarf

Often overlooked, scarves are exquisite and complimentary outfit accents. Most women keep them for years, and that’s why they make it to our list of timeless gifts.

15. Handbag

Next to jewellry and shoes, women love handbags. Women also keep bags for years and getting her a good, quality bag is an ideal gift choice for any occasion.

A Custom Necklace and Other Custom Gift Ideas

16. Custom Pendants

A custom necklace is a good gift, but a custom locket is a great gift. A pendant allows you to take a treasured photo with you on the go. Anyone would love getting a personalized jewelry as a gift.

17. Picture Mug

Who doesn’t love a photo mug? Why not get her or him a collection of mugs with pictures of the people dearest to them?

18. Keychains

Everyone uses keychains at one point or another. Personalized keychains are thoughtful gift options.

19. Clocks

Clocks are also great options to personalize with custom photos. Go for a traditional wall clock or a wrist watch for a custom gift option.

20. Map

Have someone you have shared countless of adventures with? Get them a customized photo map to map out your travel memories.

There you have it; with our list of 20 anytime gifts that will never go out of fashion, you are equipped to give timeless and ageless gifts for any occasion.

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Fun Games to Play With Children, 10 Spontaneous Games to Enrich Their Lives

1. NATURE BRACELETS

For Ages: 1-5

You can start your little one’s exploration and appreciation of nature with this game of making a masking tape nature bracelet. They’ll notice all the lovely color and shape variations there are in petals and leaves and adorn their wrists with beauty.

MATERIALS:

Masking tape

Leaves and flower petals

DIRECTIONS:

Wrap a piece of masking tape around your child’s wrist, sticky side up, and then go exploring to find wonderful leaves, beautiful flower petals and other interesting things to attach to the bracelet.

Before bedtime, snip the bracelet off and attach it next to his bed or somewhere in view so he can admire his work and remember his fun time.

2. RING OF STRING

For Ages:3-10 years

In this game, children are encouraged to really look closely at one spot and see all there is to see. There is a lot of pleasure to be had from noticing the tiny wonders of nature that are in our own back yard.

MATERIALS:

String

Magnifying glass or jar with water in it (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Make a small circle on the ground with the string. Look carefully at the enclosed area with your child and notice what is growing there. Pull out a weed or blade of grass and see what the roots looks like. Is there a seedpod in the area? What’s inside?

Poke a hole and see if there are any insects around. What are they? What are they doing? Use a magnifying glass or a jar with water in it and look at different things up close.

Gather small things to examine and collect such as pinecones, acorns, petals, seeds, bark, leaves and pretty pebbles.

3. A SPOTLIGHT IN THE DARK

For Ages 1-5 years

Babies are fascinated with anything new. It’s fun for us to be with a little one when she discovers something for the first time. In this game it’s the delight of a flashlight in the dark

MATERIALS:

One or two flashlights

DIRECTIONS:

Keep the lights off in the room that you are in and scan the room with a flashlight, spotlighting different familiar things. “Look there’s the television. Here is the table and there is your high chair.”

You know your little one is going to want a chance to hold the flashlight. Let her. She can shine it wherever she wants or she has to find, with her flashlight, an object you name.

As she gets older and more coordinated, continue this game, but this time you both have flashlights and you encourage her to “catch” your spotlight. You move your spotlight around the room and she has to move hers so it “catches” yours by covering your spotlight with hers.

Your turn to chase next.

4. THE KNOCKING GAME

For: All Ages

Listening to and identifying the different sounds objects make when you knock on them is a game that can be played at any time. When you want to change the focus of fussing children, try saying: “Hey, let’s play a game. Close your eyes and see if you can tell what I’m knocking on. No peeking”

MATERIALS:

Common objects found around the house

DIRECTIONS:

Ask your player to close her eyes and turn her back to you. Then see if she can guess the object you are knocking on with your fist (or a spoon). Start with easy things such as a table and a window, and work towards sounds that are harder to identify, such as knocking on a book or lamp.

Take turns being the identifier and the “knocker”.

5. TOOTHPICK ART

For: All Ages

There are many ways to teach the hands to have more finesse. This is one of them that you can play together.

MATERIALS:

Toothpicks, plain or colored

DIRECTIONS:

Make an abstract design by laying toothpicks out on a table or floor, with each player adding their toothpick to the design. The first player puts down one toothpick. The next player adds his at just the angle that seems pleasing to him. The next person then adds theirs to that design and so on and so on until an interesting design is formed.

Instead of an abstract design, you can make a specific scene. For example, make a house with a picket fence and trees.

!It takes concentration to pick up a skinny toothpick and decide the best place to put it. Placing each toothpick down carefully and trying not to jiggle the design encourages awareness of hand movements.

It also develops the pincer grasp, the small muscles that control the index finger and thumb.

But mainly, it’s fun to make art together.

6. TOE STEPPING

For: All Ages

Here’s a fun and silly game that requires concentration and quick movement. Try it sometime at a birthday party gathering, when you want to redirect excess energy, or when the kids are bored and want something quick and new to do.

MATERIALS:

None but fancy footwork

DIRECTIONS:

Two people, both barefoot or in stocking feet, face each other and hold hands. Each person tries to step on the others toes while at the same time keep their toes from being stepped on.

You might remind the players to step lightly on each other’s toes so that others will do the same to you. In other words, follow this game’s Golden Rule: Step on others as you would want to be stepped on.

Concentrating on both keeping out of the way and going for the goal is a kind of trial by fire. Pressure on their foot lets them know when they weren’t paying close enough attention!

7. BALLOON BASEBALL

For Ages: 1-5

Baseball may be fun but those balls can hurt and are hard to hit. For young ones, use a balloon!

MATERIALS:

Balloon

Bat: Make a bat out of anything handy, such as the inside cardboard tube of a paper towel roll or a rolled up section of yesterdays newspaper secured with tape

DIRECTIONS:

. Give the bat to your player and toss the balloon to her. The slow movements of a balloon floating towards her gives her plenty of time to line up her bat, swing at the ‘ball” and get the satisfaction of “connecting.”

If there is just the two of you, take turns being the pitcher/catcher and the batter.

If there are other players, their job is catching the “ball” as it leisurely floats down. Who ever catches it can have the next turn at batting or give it to someone who hasn’t had enough turns.

After everyone gets all the turns they want, you can change the game to “Golf”. Use boxes turned on their sides as “holes” and players see how many strokes it takes to hit the balloon in the box.

8. BACK WRITING

For Ages: 5-12 years

Writing invisible letters on a child’s back a fun way to write a secret message.

MATERIALS:

Paper

Pencil

DIRECTIONS:

One person sits with his back to another and a pad of paper and pencil in front of him.

The other person, using his finger, “draws” a letter on the person’s back.

At the same time, that person draws on the paper what he thinks is being drawn on his back.

Keep writing letter by letter until a whole message is given. The message could be a clue to where a treat is hidden!

Take turns so both the writer and the person written on get to experience what it feels like.

Have an older child play this game with a younger sibling as a fun way to help him learn his letters.

9. SELF PORTRAITS

For Ages: Teens

Many teenagers go through a phase where they become fascinated with their reflection in the mirror, especially during the period when their faces make that change from a child’s to a young adult’s.

In this activity, you and your changing child can take advantage of this fascination by drawing your mirror reflection

MATERIALS:

Mirror

Felt tip marker

Paper (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Both of you sit facing a mirror and draw your reflection directly on the mirror using a felt-tip marker.

You can also draw each other’s on paper but don’t look at the paper until the drawing is done. This often gives a kind of Picasso look to the work

10. SHOE MOUNTAIN

For: All Ages

When the kids are bored but antsy with energy, here is a quickie that is guaranteed to win the hearts of all ages. Your twelve year old will l be just as excited to play this game as your two year old.

MATERIALS:

Shoes

DIRECTIONS

Pile all the shoes you can readily find in a pile in a large cleared out space in the room. Tell the kids that this is not a pile of shoes (silly them to think that!) but is actually a huge mountain and they have to start from a distance away and run towards the mountain and then with one gigantic leap, make it over the top of the mountain to the other side.

It adds to the thrill if the others provide a drum roll–slapping their hands on the floor or on a table or on their knees as the next Leaper makes her run and then when that person is in the air, call out her name!

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Crony Capitalism – How Bad Has It Gotten In The US?

We all know the problem of the revolving-door in our political leadership and bureaucracy. Folks are in and out of government, keep their contacts and make a fortune from the known reality: it’s not what you know but whom you know. The problem with all this is exactly what Adam Smith warned us about; the incestuous relationship between government and business. Corporations in the US are large and powerful, and have and hire the best talent, retain and control endless resources – these corporations do not NEED government favors, nor does their executive leadership, they are doing fine.

To secure the most optimum efficiency in our economy, we must keep the free-market as free as possible, when we allow a skew due to political favors or inside information, or allow lobbyists to the run the table, often at the expense of the people all we do is prove the cynics correct that; the game is rigged. Perhaps this is why Donald Trump has promised to; Drain the Swamp. And, he’s human too, I have no doubt he will drain the left-side of the swamp first, but it’s still a good start. The trick is to set a new set of rules, lay down the letter of the law, and move forward.

In Harvard Business Review, December 2013 Issue, there was an interesting article titled; “Unwinding Inequality” and in that article was a quote by Angus Denton; “When people use their success to change the rules in their favor, that success is no longer to be celebrated.”

“Yes,” I say, “Indeed.” But let’s take this argument to a higher level shall we. First, I find it rather hypocritical to read of this in the Harvard Business Review, as most there believe in the concepts of Adam Bellow who wrote the book “In Praise of Nepotism” which might explain why all the Supreme Court Justices went to Ivy Leagues, Harvard or Yale, some both. Worse, look at the academic records of the last 5-presidents of the US, and a darn good many senators, and heads of major bureaucracies, corporations and NGOs.

Second, if we dissect that quote, it talks about “success” and the concept of changing the rules once one, a group or corporation gains in the synergy of their own success. Well, isn’t this really the same challenge with guerrillas or terrorists attacking the status quo, authority and government – if they succeed, they are then in control and then they inevitably seem to use the same so-called tyrannical methods of ruling that their predecessors had before they ousted them – thus, the word “revolution” as it just goes round and round as another group comes along to then unseat their new authority.

Now, one can see a similar process in business and industry. For instance, read;

1. “Rule Makers and Rule Breakers,” by David Garnder
2. “First Break All the Rules,” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
3. “The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business,” by Clayton M. Christensen

Once the company garners market share synergy, and industry status, it moves to change the sector’s associations to lobby to get the rules and regulations changed to its way of doing things blocking future disruptive competitors from coming along to change the industry just as they had to get to where they are today.

The easiest way to do that is through crony-capitalism, campaign contributions, public-private business partnerships, which also leads to selling goods and/or services to the government and secure a free flow of money to further continue their dominance by playing with the political elite – who all went to Ivy League schools. Thus, I find it so fascinating that HBR (Harvard Business Review) had the gall to even publish that article – due to the obvious hypocritical nature of the norm which comes from that elitist institution. Please consider all this and think on it.

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Differentiation 101 – A Basic Guide to Differentiated Instruction

Differentiation. Differentiated Curriculum. Differentiated Instructional Strategies. At conferences, parent gatherings, and curriculum planning meetings, the term differentiation is thrown around like a Frisbee. As a newly hired teacher, I recall nodding my head and blinking blankly whenever the term was whizzed at me. The definition of differentiation is taken for granted; thus, no one ever pauses to tell what differentiation means. This article will do just that.

In a nutshell, differentiation–which is sometimes called differentiated instruction–refers to a method of curriculum planning and instruction that offers learners a wide variety of ways to acquire understanding. The following bullet points offer a quick and dirty guide to differentiated instruction. These bullets outline the three elements of the curriculum that can be differentiated as well as the three learner characteristics that can be taken into account while differentiating your instruction.

The following elements of your curriculum can be differentiated

CONTENT: Content is considered the “stuff” of the curriculum. This “stuff” includes what the instructor plans for learners to understand as well as the ways the learner will gain access to the desired knowledge and skills. To differentiate according to Content, an instructor can do the following:

  • Provide text on multiple levels of difficulty
  • Use part-to-whole or whole-to-part instruction
  • Use manipulatives, Internet resources, audio recordings, and other non-conventional “text”

PROCESS: Process refers to the activities in which learners engage in order to gain understanding of the subject. A conventional way to think about Process is to consider it as the things learners do in the class and for homework. To differentiate according to Process, the instructor can do the following:

  • Vary amount of support given by the instructor
  • Give learners choices about how they express what they learn
  • Provide varied assignment options at differing levels of difficulty or based on learner interests

PRODUCT: Products are the end result, the things learners create to demonstrate what they understand and/or are able to do after they have moved through the curriculum. Some examples of learning products are essays, poems, quiz/test answers, presentations, blogs, websites, skits, videos, plays, and other dramatizations. To differentiate according to Product, the instructor can do the following:

  • Provide rubrics (a grid showing how learners will be assessed) for assignments
  • Vary types of resources learners can use in preparing products (text, Internet resources, books, encyclopedias, interviews, tours, pamphlets, etc)
  • Allow learners to design a product around essential learning goals-to express what they know in varied ways (e.g. speaking, writing, drawing)

The following are three learner characteristics instructors can take into account when planning to differentiate:

READINESS: Readiness refers to the understanding and preparedness learners have at the start of study. Because learners vary in preparation and knowledge (in other words, what they bring to the classroom and to specific assignments), they require different levels of difficulty. To differentiate according to Readiness, instructors can do the following:

  • Add student teach-backs to assignments
  • Add or remove peer conferencing, instruction, and models for a task
  • Make the task more or less familiar (e.g. by adding or removing information and resources)

INTERESTS: Interests, in terms of differentiation, can be thought of as the learner’s “academic taste buds.” Because learners have different taste buds, instructors can align curriculum with topics or pursuits that satisfy the palate of each learner. To differentiate according to Interest, instructors can do the following

  • Provide a wide variety of choices for topics and products
  • Provide a variety of avenues for learner exploration of a topic
  • Give learners a choice of tasks and products, including learner-designed options

LEARNING PROFILE: Just as the height and shape of students vary (even within the same grade), so do their learner profiles. No matter how students are grouped, each group will have learners with different interests, levels of readiness, learning styles, talents, and standardized test scores. One understanding of learning styles is Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner’s theory delineates the following categories: Bodily-kinesthetic, Interpersonal, Verbal-linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Naturalistic, Intrapersonal, Visual-spatial, and Musical. To differentiate according to Learning Profile, instructors can do the following:

  • Provide choice of spaces for activities (e.g. desks, couches, and floor seating)
  • Present information in a variety of ways (video, handout, lecture, peer-to-peer talks)
  • Provide learning opportunities in various modes (musical, visual display, movement and manipulatives)

Differentiation helps instructors engineer curriculum that reaches the widest number of learners possible. With the above guide highlighting the primary tenets of differentiation, you can approach your curriculum-and the next faculty meeting-with a basket full of knowledge and tools to differentiate in all of your curriculum.

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How Can a Packaging Custom Box Increase Your Sales and Attract More Customers?

Nowadays, marketing is everything, without a proper strategy and resources for advertising your company will not produce the results that you expect. In order to create these, you will also need a nice crafted, good looking product and of course, a custom box for packaging and shipping, because look matters. Most importantly look sells, so if you want to boost your product sales than be sure you create a unique and professional image of your product using custom boxes, that fits your product and adds a visual impact that determines customers to buy it. Let’s see how your custom box should look, in order to make a hit.

What colors should I use?
Well, statistics shows that for every type of product you should use a different color, that matches the product description. For example:

For food industry is recommended to use red, because it is found in many fresh products.

Brown can be used for furniture and wooden objects because it represents the natural color of the wood.

Green in usually associated with ecological products, so if your business is anything about environment protection this is your color.

Black can be used for household objects or miscellaneous things, it inspires confidence and control, this way showing you rule the market.

White it is associated with cleaning products because when you see white usually means cleanliness.

You can combine as many colors as you want and you obviously don’t have to respect these rules but as I said, these matches the products description so these should be your first options. But color isn’t everything, style counts too so we are heading to

How should my box look and what style should I choose?
Since now minimalist look is more and more appreciated, I think that this is the best approach. Also, text logo is a trend too so keep your custom box simple but elegant, to look professional, and to guarantee you a success.

A box loaded with too many information will scare the customers and will create a less attractive design.

Using multiple colors for my box
For the minimalist design, it is recommended to use a combination of 2 colors, one for the text and one for the background, usually, a good choice is to associate red and black, or white and gold. This colors create an elegant look and add more value to the product.

You can go for white and red too, or light green and pink, there are endless possibilities to make your custom box look very appealing are stylish, and also a high contrast between the colors will create an awesome effect and it will immediately attract customers.

You can use as many colors as you want but I don’t think you want your box to look like a rainbow. Keep it simple and you will succeed.

What type of box should I use?
There are many types but you have to choose one that makes your product stand out. For example, you can use Corrugated Trays for food, a Regular Slotted Container for small objects or a Full Over Lap for heavy items, choose the one that matches your product.

Be aware of how your product looks, it is very important to attract your first-time customers by the look of your product and then by the quality.

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Your 50 – Part 2 – The Keys to Starting Your Own Business Now!

In part 1 of this article series we met 3 individuals with unique backgrounds that left corporate and forged their own way. Here we illustrate 2 addition stories along with important strategies and tactics you need s you go forward in your own business. This journey of starting your own business is not for the faint of heart, but the success you will find will be life-changing.

Here is what you will learn:
1. Franchising is a good option for a business.
2. Doing your own business is very rewarding.
3. How coaching is vital to making your business a success.

First Entrepreneur

Our first entrepreneur, was a successful high-level executive first at Ford and then at Terex, a firm focused on lifting and material processing products (e.g. cranes), with all the associated perks and incentives. Meet Pete Gilfillan. He had the good life and no reason to change until one day…

Alan: I saw that your main business is helping people evaluate franchises (FranChoice). How did you get started in your own business? What triggered that decision?

Pete: I was a corporate executive, first with Ford and later with Terex and they literally owned my life. I was traveling all the time. I just decided one day I had had enough and I would be an entrepreneur.

Alan: Tell me more about what happened when you decided to leave corporate life.

Pete: In my last position, I was with Terex. I live in Chicago, but the Terex is headquartered in Connecticut and I was on the road 6 days a week and much of the travel was international. With all the travel I didn’t eat right, didn’t exercise and frankly I was miserable. I was in another country and I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t remember what country I was in. I realized then I had had enough. When I got back to Chicago, I told my wife about the decision. At first my wife wasn’t keen on the idea of my leaving corporate. She saw the practical side of staying in corporate (financial security), but I knew I needed to make a change. I quit my job and I started working with a franchise consultant in order to find a franchise. After a few months we found Junk King and saw that it was be a good fit. I liked that it was a service based business and could be scaled up; such as adding trucks as the business grew and it had little overhead. Later, I started to work with FranChoice, where today I’m one of the top franchise consultants. I really like the way their business model works. There is no cost to individuals (companies pay FranChoice) and it gives me the opportunity to do what I love most, which is to help people find the business that meets their needs.

Alan: That’s great. You are able to do what you love. Let’s change gears for a minute. I saw that you wrote a best-selling book. Writing a book is a big step. How did you come up with the idea for your book?

Writing is a key way to demonstrate your expertise and build your business

Pete: Darren Hardy, who is pretty well known in the entrepreneur circles, is my mentor. I went to his High Performance Summit and Darren said one of the best ways to give back is through writing a book. Since I have a lot of knowledge about the franchise business, doing a book on it was a good fit.

Alan: How did you find the time to write?

Pete: There is many ways to write a book. I found a company that would write the actual words while I talked. I would put together an outline for each chapter and talk for a couple of hours with the writers. We would meet for 2 hours a week, either early morning or late at night. After a draft of the book was created, I had someone edit the book. Even then it took a year and a half to complete the book.

Alan: How did you go about publishing it?

Pete: I was able to find a publishing company through my business coach.

Alan: It had to be daunting to start your own business after being in corporate. What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your own business?

Pete: If I could have been able to keep my corporate job and invested in franchise and then make the leap instead of going in cold to my own business, it would have saved me a lot of angst. I may have done something different than Junk King. I could have started a franchise on a part-time basis, say 15 hours week. With Junk King there was no way to do it on a part-time basis.

Alan: What’s next for you?

Pete: Speaking engagements, so I can reach more people and continue to work with ExecuNet, which is a private community made up of over 750,000 CEOs, VPs and various leaders and influencers.

Alan: Any final words?

Pete: I would say that for franchising, people need to have an open mind. When people ask me about franchising, they have already made up their mind that it would be food (McDonalds, etc.) They have that in mind because they see a lot of people eating at those restaurants so they assume it is a good business to get into. I help them understand that the food business is very competitive; has high capital investment and a high cost of goods sold (the food). There are over 3000 franchises in every conceivable business that may fit their needs. It doesn’t have to be food.
But regardless of what business you go in, whether it is a franchise or not, you need to work hard. There is no substitute for hard work.

Alan: Good words to live by. Thanks for your time.

Second Entrepreneur

Our second entrepreneur was a successful telecom executive before going into his own business. He shares key ideas on making your business grow. Meet Rick Lochner.

Alan: How did you come to be an entrepreneur?

Rick: I’ve known for some time that I wanted to be in my own business and that it would be in the leadership area. I worked with entrepreneurial company and it was sold 2 years after I started. I went to another company and 2 years later it was sold. The turmoil of being at companies that are going through turnarounds is very difficult for everyone involved. It is very long hours, great stress and often the rewards of that hard work just aren’t there. I’ve been laid off 4 times in my career so I knew corporate has no security. I even negotiated my severance package before I went to work a healthcare company.

Alan: How exactly did going into your own business occur?

Rick: My wife and I were having brunch with a couple and we talked about how it would be great to start business and details on what that business would look like when it started in a few years. At the end of the meal, I said, “Why are we waiting; let’s do it!” It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Alan: What do you like best about being an entrepreneur?

Rick: The best thing is I get to do what I love. In corporate, there were many things I had to do that I really didn’t enjoy. Being an entrepreneur, being in my own business, enables me to live with purpose and that is very meaningful to me.

Alan: Is there anything you would do differently now if you were just starting your business?

Rick: I would have pursued the non-profit market right away. I didn’t because people told me there is no money in that business, but that is not true. That market needs to be approached differently than for-profit but they need my services just as much. Now non-profit is 25% of my business. But you asked if I would have done anything differently and the answer is no. The business strategy worked and I would have approached starting the business the same way.

Alan: What challenges did you have starting out?

Rick: I started the business in July 2008. The US was already in a recession and financial markets were in turmoil and little did I know things in the business world were about to get a lot worse. I had worked in telecom for many years as an executive and I had been quite successful. I had a load of contacts at my previous company, Sprint; there were many people that knew me well and respected me but I was not able to get business from them. They still saw me as a telecom executive and not as knowledgeable in leadership development, even though I had been developing leaders at Sprint. I had traveled a lot during me years in corporate and my connections in Chicago were no better than in Atlanta or any other U.S. city. I knew I needed to develop roots in the local community. I joined Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and started to created circles of influence. In time the contacts I made developed into connections for the business. It wasn’t easy, but I went all in; 100% to make the business work.

Why having a part-time business is so important

Alan: What advice would you give to someone that is climbing the corporate ladder?

Rick: Every corporate employee should have a part time gig to provide a bridge to go into business for themselves or just to have a secondary income source. I started teaching leadership at Keller School of Business in 2004. Teaching helped in the 8 months transition to my business full-time. It provided income after getting laid-off; making it easier to focus on the growth of the business and not where the next paycheck was coming from.

Alan: What has been the biggest challenge in your learning curve as an entrepreneur?

Rick: Marketing was new to me; I had not worked in that area. So I put together my business plan and my marketing plan and discussed it in detail with my two mastermind groups. They both said the business plan was great and was going to work but the marketing plan was not good. So I was tutored in marketing from people that were 20 years younger than me and their advice was spot on. This taught me a couple of valuable things. 1) You have to know what you are good at and what you are not good at and find experts in the areas that you are not good. 2) Spend a lot of time with people 20s to early 40s in order to gain insights on trends.

Alan: What additional advice would you give to someone that was looking to start their own business?

Rick: Know what problem you are trying to solve and position yourself so that is clear that you are the only one that can solve it. Too many people get hung up on their product or service and less focused on the problem to be solved. If you are going to go for it, then you really have to go for it. At the core, you have to know how to solve the problem in a unique way.

Alan: How did your writing a book come about?

Rick: The business model I developed has been a work in progress since 1999. I used that model to align the business at every organization I led as an executive. Often we try to fix a problem in an isolated way which doesn’t work. The process may not be broken; it may be the people, so you need a holistic approach. I wrote the first book in 2012 to complete my initial business strategy and a book does that. I was advised by a couple of authors and self-published it. I needed to promote the business alignment method and the book helps clarify the model as well as promote the business. I asked clients what is perfect length for a book and they said a Chicago to Los Angeles flight, which is about 4 ½ hours.

Alan: You’ve actually published multiple books. How did you come with your ideas?

Rick: The second book was to help the individual leader and the third book was for the entrepreneurs. I write books that apply to the business areas I work in.

Alan: How do you find the time to write?

Rick: The secret to success is having a coach. I’ve had 3 accountability coaches so far and each one helped me in a different way. When I first started the business, I needed an accountability coach; someone that would keep me accountable and keep me encouraged. She was the type of person I needed at that time. Keep in mind, I was starting this business during the depths of the Great Recession and needed that support. The second coach helped me write the books, not from the standpoint that he had ideas for the book, but he was able to get me moving along on the development of the book. I actually wrote the first book while my wife was driving during vacation because I was on a self-imposed deadline and needed to get it done. The third coach has helped me grow the business and take it took another level. If I would have had her in the beginning, it would not have worked well. Now that the business is growing and I am at a different place in my thinking and my business, she is exactly what I need.

Alan: Any final thoughts?

Rick: I talked with 20 different coaches before starting out in leadership coaching and based on my research, billions of dollars is wasted on leadership that doesn’t work. I am on a crusade to change that one leader at a time. It will take time to undo the wrong things that leaders are doing today; takes time to unlearn. But I will continue to work with them, one leader at a time. It is my passion.

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Sensible Manufacturing and the Ultrasonic Flow Meter

The Manufacturer MX Awards

Each year The Manufacturer MX Awards aim to recognise great achievements in the industry. Entries are invited for a number of different categories, with the ultimate title of ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ presented to a company that is strong across the board.

The winner of this year’s ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ title was announced in November and Dura Automotive took home the award. The company also returned to the office with awards for ‘People and Skills’, ‘World Class Manufacturing’ and ‘Sustainable Manufacturing’, so it was well worth attending the event!

Investment in Employees, Quality and Sustainability

Dura Automotive are an international company that design and manufacture control systems for the automotive industry. They may be a large operation, but the awards they won clearly illustrate what it takes to grow a successful business; investment in employees, quality and sustainability.

If you take a look on their website, you will see that their objectives are to ‘inspire drivers, customers, our people, the competition and stakeholders through innovation and performance’.

They understand that in order to deliver full customer satisfaction, they need to deliver high quality products. To do that, they need to stay ahead of the competition with innovative ideas, products and processes, staff training and development opportunities and a positive, customer focused vision. In addition, they understand the importance of integrating sustainability into every aspect of their business.

Sustainable Manufacturing

Sustainable manufacturing focuses on minimising the negative outcomes of production. The overriding aim is to lower the environmental impact of manufacturing and distribution, yet the real benefits to business come from the fact that in working towards sustainability is a process of continuous improvement.

Many manufacturers have been incentivised to take action. On the receiving end of Government initiatives or in a bid to reduce energy, water and waste management costs, more companies have been willing to consider sustainable options. Whilst they may have started off thinking of this as a tick box exercise, the real benefits of taking action soon become apparent. Huge savings have helped many companies to remain competitive in the global market, have paid for other investments or have boosted profits.

Flow Monitoring

When it comes to water and energy use, flow monitoring has proved valuable in running processes at optimised levels, improving quality control, minimising waste and reducing downtime due to problems in the process. This has supported significant cost savings in storage, processing, waste management and utility bills.

By investing in low cost ultrasonic flow meters, which retrofit to the exterior of pipework, flow monitoring can be straight forward to implement. Calibrated to the specific flow range of the liquid or gas that passes through the pipe, the ultrasonic flow meter provides data that quickly identifies when abnormal flow rates are detected. This acts as an early warning system, so the issue can be quickly identified and rectified.

The ultrasonic flow meter also supports the optimisation of the process, which can be highly effective in quality control. This has been widely used to reduce waste batches and waste management costs in food, pharmaceutical and automotive industries, to name but a few.

All of these potential cost savings from an affordable ultrasonic flow meter certainly justify investment in monitoring technology. Other low cost devices including tap aerators and rainwater harvesting systems have also helped UK businesses to gain a lot more than environmental credentials.

Recycled Materials

Another area in which Dura Automotive have invested is in research and developments around the use of recycled materials in their products. When manufacturers consider reusing materials rather than raw supplies, it can present a number of challenges. Being open minded to these challenges can lead to innovative thinking, fresh ideas and approaches which could open up new avenues for the product or company.

The use of recycled materials does depend on sufficient quantities being provided by a reliable source. Having said this, if a large scale operation such as Dura can find viable alternatives to raw materials, then a bit of research could lead to suitable supplies for smaller businesses.

There is often a cost in processing the material to ensure it is of a suitable standard for reuse. Companies may need to explore partnerships with other companies and other collaborative approaches to ensure that cost effective and convenient options are found.

Sustainable Advantages

Like Dura Automotive, the majority of the other manufacturing award winners also placed considerable emphasis on sustainability. If you want to see your company going from strength to strength, a greener approach could deliver many tangible advantages.

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Boosting Your Brain Power

The old theory that DNA could not be changed and that you would be stuck with what you were born with has now been disproved. Researchers found that your DNA actually changes continuously based on your experiences, emotions, and environment.

Our views of the brain have also altered in a similar way as our views of DNA. Science has now provided more and more evidence that your brain is malleable and adapts continuously in response to your lifestyle, physiology, and environment. This concept is called neuroplasticity or brain plasticity, meaning you are literally reforming your brain with each passing day. Your brain possesses the remarkable ability to reorganize pathways, create new connections, as well as neurons (nerve cells) throughout your entire lifetime.

For example, your brain has the ability to move functions from a damaged area to undamaged areas. It also has the ability to change its physical structure as a result of learning. When you acquire a new skill, the more you focus and practice it, the better you become. This is the result of new neural pathways that form in response to your learning efforts.

In the meantime, your brain also undergoes “synaptic pruning”, the elimination of pathways that you no longer use. This phenomenon even applies to emotional states. For instance, if you have a history of anxiety, your neural pathways will become wired for anxiety. However, if you develop tools to feel calm, relaxed, and peaceful, those anxiety pathways will be pruned away from lack of activity.

Consequently, you can see that your brain’s plasticity is highly affected by your way of life. The foods you eat, how much physical activity you have, your emotional states, and sleep patterns all have an influence over how your brain functions. Therefore, there is much that you can do to preserve or even boost your brain power. The following are key factors that will greatly affect your brain’s performance:

1. Link Between Gut Inflammation And Brain Inflammation

The fundamental mechanism that underlies chronic diseases, including the ones related to the brain like autism, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, depression, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s, is the process of inflammation. Current science is strongly supporting that this process of inflammation actually begins in the gastrointestinal tract, which subsequently spreads to affect the brain.

What are the instigators behind gut inflammation? To the surprise of many, it is predominantly dietary -

The mistake of eating too many carbs resulting in chronic high blood sugar levels. Blood sugar elevation raises the binding of glucose to protein. This process, known as glycation profoundly increases the amount of inflammation in the body.
Opting for a low-fat diet, eating the wrong types of processed, rancid fats, or too few healthy fats.
Insufficient intake of antioxidants, which are mostly found in fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Consuming too much foods loaded with irritants and toxins, such as chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, GMOs, and heavy metals.
Having undiagnosed sensitivity to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley) and other foods such as dairy, eggs, and corn.
Candida yeast overgrowth, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and intestinal parasites all trigger the immune response and lead to gut inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s natural defense against something it believes to be potentially harmful. For instance, if you sprain your ankle, the body will sense some kind of stress going on. The natural response is to create swelling and pain to reduce movement and promote healing. These are the hallmarks of the inflammatory process; in small doses, it is not a negative thing.

It only turns bad when inflammation gets out of control and becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation is typically low-grade, silent, and produce no symptoms. When the body is constantly under assault, the inflammation response stays on and it spreads to every part of the body through the bloodstream. The brain is particularly susceptible as it is also connected to the gut via the vagus nerve.

Unchecked inflammation results in the production of a variety of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines which are toxic to the cells. The cytokines travel throughout the body causing oxidative stress, leading to a reduction of cellular function and even cellular destruction, and resulting in actual loss of function in the body. Studies using new imaging technology showed dramatic elevation of inflammatory cytokines in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and individuals with other brain disorders. Hence, to prevent brain inflammation, the foremost is to maintain a healthy gut.

2. Foods That Feed The Gut And The Brain

The reason why inflammation is so rampant in western civilization is the modern diet. It is high in foods that provoke inflammation, such as refined flour, excess sugar, oxidized or rancid fats, trans fats, plus a wide range of chemicals and preservatives. And it is low in foods that reduce inflammation, like long-chain omega-3 fats, fermented foods, and fermentable fiber.

The following are some foods that are particularly beneficial to the gut and the brain:

Avocados
Beets
Blueberries
Bone broth (used for healing the gut lining damaged by inflammation)
Broccoli
Coconut oil (used as an alternative fuel for the brain, other than glucose)
Celery
Chocolate, dark only
Egg Yolks
Fermented foods (rich in beneficial bacteria to keep the gut healthy, e.g. kimchee, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, yogurt, and fermented drinks like kefir and kombucha)
Fermentable fiber (used as food for the good gut bacteria, e.g. asparagus, artichokes, garlic, jicama leeks, and onions)
Olive oil, extra virgin
Green, leafy vegetables
Rosemary (anti-inflammatory)
Wild caught Alaskan salmon
Sardines
Turmeric (anti-inflammatory)
3. Exercise To Reduce Inflammation

While bouts of exercise tend to promote acute inflammation, when done regularly over the long term, it actually decreases chronic inflammation. The oxidative stress from the exercise forces your body to build up your antioxidant defenses. This is indicated in studies showing extended exercise programs help reduce inflammatory markers, such as insulin resistance (a risk factor for diabetes) and high sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (an indicator of cardiovascular disease).

However, some people tend to over exercise and it is extremely important to allow for sufficient recovery, especially when doing High Intensity Interval Training (repeated sprints interspersed by recovery). If you over-train, as in marathons, you may do more harm than good since your body needs to recuperate from the damage (acute inflammation) incurred during your workout.

The average American adult spends about 10 hours each day sitting. Research shows that this level of inactivity cannot even be counteracted with a 60-minute workout at the end of each day. So, what do you do if you have a desk job?

Know that the body needs near-continuous movement throughout the day. At the bare minimum, you should get out of the chair every 50 minutes or so and walk around.
One way to increase activity is to simply walk more. It is recommended that you aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day. A fitness tracker will be a useful tool to help you meet your daily goal.
4. Lack Of Sleep Impairs Brain Function

Sleep deprivation is really bad for brain function. Many studies show that sleep loss impairs various cognitive functions and behavior, including arousal, attention, cognitive speed, memory, emotional intelligence, and decision making.

Using brain imaging technology, like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists compared the brain of someone who was sleep-deprived to the brain of someone who had slept normally. They found reduced metabolism and blood flow in multiple brain regions which indicated impaired cognitive function and behavior.

Several nights of poor sleep or one night of no sleep will start to disrupt your hormonal balance. According to a study from Stanford University, your body’s ghrelin levels, which stimulate feelings of hunger, can jump nearly 15 percent. It also lowers your levels of leptin, a hormone that regulates energy balance, which explains why you tend to feel sluggish when you are sleep-deprived.

Your brain also struggles to curate and sort new memories. You are able to absorb new information but your brain has problems accessing that information and putting it to good use. You may feel distracted, while your reaction time plummets. This makes tasks like driving more difficult and dangerous.

A CDC survey shows that half of Americans (48%) do not get enough sleep. So if you want your brain to stay at tip-top shape, you need to place sleep high on your priority list. In the event that you just cannot get enough nocturnal sleep, a 30-minute nap at lunch time is still helpful although it cannot fully eliminate the negative consequences of sleep deprivation.

5. Vitamin D May Save Your Brain

Much has been learned about the health benefits of vitamin D over the past decade. While it has long been recognized that vitamin D supports strong and healthy bones, its role in brain-related disorders is becoming increasingly evident.

A new study that collaborated multiple highly respected institutions around the world found a profound correlation of low vitamin D level and increased risk of developing dementia. Even having a moderate deficiency of vitamin D was associated with a 53% increased risk of dementia. Those who were severely deficient had a 122% increased risk!

Many people are not aware that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased inflammation. There are about 30,000 genes in the body, and vitamin D affects nearly 3,000 of them. Your brain has vitamin D receptors too. Therefore, unless you get 20 minutes of sun exposure daily (without using sunscreen on face, arms, and legs), you may want to consider supplementation.

Most people need around 5,000 I.U. a day to reach the optimal level of 50-70 ng/ml as determined by a blood test. If you supplement, opt for vitamin D3, which is the natural form, and take it with vitamin K2, with at least 100 mcg of menaquinone-7 (MK-7). The combination of D3 and K2 will make sure that calcium is deposited in the bones instead of the arteries.

6. Think Positive And Stimulate Your Brain

Stress and anxiety kill existing brain neurons and stop new neurons from being created. Research has shown that positive thinking speeds up the formation of cells and dramatically reduces stress and anxiety. Hence, catch yourself when your negative thoughts surface, discard them, and replace them with positive ones.

When you learn or do new things, new neural pathways are developed. As a result, you want to stimulate your brain on a continuous basis. Remember the phrase – use it or lose it?

Carol Chuang is a Certified Nutrition Specialist and a Metabolic Typing Advisor. She has a Masters degree in Nutrition and is the founder of CC Health Counseling, LLC. Her passion in life is to stay healthy and to help others become healthy. She believes that a key ingredient to optimal health is to eat a diet that is right for one’s specific body type. Eating organic or eating healthy is not enough to guarantee good health. The truth is that there is no one diet that is right for everyone. Our metabolisms are different, so should our diets. Carol specializes in Metabolic Typing, helping her clients find the right diet for their Metabolic Type.

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How To Promote Your Business In Today’s Economy

Marketing a business is undoubtedly one of the most daunting tasks for any new entrepreneur. It’s one thing is to establish a business, but it is another thing to promote it. There are so many businesses, created by passionate people, that eventually collapse due to one reason – a lack of sales.

The purpose of any business is to sell something; either tangible or intangible. Tangible products are your tradition retail type of stores. Intangible products tend to be more service oriented. It is possible to have a combination business (such as painting; carpet installers, etc.). However, every entrepreneur is faced with the same problem of making their business known to the public in order to attract as many customers as possible.

There are many ways of promoting a business. The way you promote your business will basically depend on the type of industry your business belongs to. What works perfectly well for one business may not work for another type of business. Therefore, discretion is advised in adopting any of the steps listed below in promoting your own business:

1. Create a Website: Setting up a website is the surest way to make your business known by your potential customers. The first thing people do when trying to find out about your company is to search for it on Google. Your website has a way of creating a particular perception about your business. The more professional your website looks, the more professional your business will be perceived. The logical corollary is that you should link your social media channels back to your website.

It is not enough to just create a website, it is vitally important that you optimize your website by submitting it to major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. This will enable your website to come up on those search engines whenever potential customers are searching for a product or service you offer.

2. Local Advertising: A business needs to be advertised to the people in the immediate area. A business owner may choose to advertise using billboards, posters, handbills, or any other affordable form of advertising. A company with a good budget may advertise with local newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations to attract a very large audience. Of course, this depends on the type of business you are in. An online only business might not want to try advertising on some of these outlets.

3. Conduct Social Media Campaigns: Advertising via social media is the cheapest and easiest way to reach out to your customers. Using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. is free or relatively cheap. You have the ability to reach a larger audience than you could reach with local advertising.

There are over one billion active users on social media. Tapping into this huge resource will give you a greater chance of connecting with more people and introducing your business to them.

4. Email Marketing: Another good way of taking your business directly to your customers is by sending emails to your current or past customers anytime you have a new product. This is not a difficult task. You can do this by requesting for email addresses on your website or invoices. You can encourage your website visitors to give you their email address in exchange for a gift available for instant download to their email inbox.

5. Send another offer to customers immediately after a purchase: When a customer buys from you, introduce them to another product/service you offer. This is a great way of marketing your products to customers. Customers who buy your products have proven that they are able to pay for your products/services and that they have a level of trust with you. You should seize the opportunity to introduce other items or services you offer to them. Even though they may not buy right then, at least they know you are offering that service or item as well.

6. Ask your customers for referrals! You would be surprised at how quickly my business grew when I implemented a system of asking for referrals! I literally doubled my income in a matter of months. I also kept my schedule full of new appointments! Referrals could grow your business (online or traditional) exponentially! Think about it like this: It takes you (for example) 1000 leads to get ONE subscriber or appointment. Let’s assume you close 1 out of 3 subscribers or appointments and make them into customers. So it takes you 3000 leads to get ONE customer. If each customer provides you with three referrals, and the same ratio holds true (which it should double because your customers are not going to send you to people to make them mad – they will send you to people they know need your services), now each one of those purchased leads results in TWO sales! Then you ask that customer for three referrals – and the cycle keeps going.

These are just some of the ways in which I have built my business. Some of these techniques may not work in your business niche. If any of them do apply and you are not currently trying these ideas – give them a try! The results could, literally, catapult your business to the next level!

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Photography Specialties

There are quite a few Americans who believe photography is all just about taking photos; however, there are so many specialties one can get into if they go to school for photography. First, numerous schools exist for those who want to focus on just one type of photography. For example, a photographer can specialize in taking just senior pictures. Below you will find a brief list of some of the different types of photography and what kinds of jobs you can have in each field:

1. Wedding/special event photography can be a very rewarding career. Many professionals in the field revel in having the ability to capture their clients’ happy memories on camera. Most photographers in this specialty start off at a small studio, then move on and open their own studio. Owning your own studio can be a lot of work, so some people prefer to go into a partnership with one other colleague to share the costs and responsibilities of owning a studio.

2. Graduation photographs, which may or may not be separate from wedding and special events. Some photography studios are just dedicated to taking graduation photos all year-long. Taking pictures of high school seniors has become more and more popular. Many studios offer personalized service for their clients. For example, they will shoot a variety of images whether it is indoors or outdoors for each outfit the client brings to the studio. A high school student can wear jeans and a top for an outdoor picture and wear a dressy outfit for an indoor shoot.

3. Photographing nature can also be a very rewarding career. The first career choice that comes to mind is shooting photos for National Geographic, which would be a really fun thing to do all the time. A lot of travel is involved in shooting nature photos for any kind of magazine or periodical. Nature can include living animals in their natural habitat and non-living things in their natural habitat. With this track, you would usually be working for a magazine and you would travel with a journalist to whatever site is chosen for the article.

4. Finally, another popular direction for photographers is to shoot models for magazines and/or fashion shows. This is a very difficult field to get into because it is seen as the most glamorous. Many people would love to be involved in photo shoots with models and celebrities for one of the more popular magazines, but there are a limited number of jobs in that type of industry.

Contrary to popular belief, there are so many directions one can take their photography careers in once they are finished with all the schooling. Which you decide will depend on how you want to spend the rest of your career. If you want to settle down, stay in one place and have a family then maybe starting your own studio would be best for you and doing special events might be good for you. If you want to travel a lot and maybe not settle down anywhere in particular, then maybe the nature photography track would be best, since photography for any type of nature magazine usually requires a lot of travel.

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