Your Business Mission – What the Heck Do You Do, Anyway?

Do you really need a business mission statement? Is it just some fancy words to put in that business plan that collections dust on your shelf, or is there really more to it?

One of the key attributes of successful businesses is that they clearly know what they do. Defining the goal or the "mission" of your business can be the key to your success.

A good mission statement does three things:

"States what business you are in." Defines your target market. "Provides inspiration for your business.

One of the best examples of a mission statement comes from Levi Strauss & Co. [http://www.levistrauss.com/Company/ValuesAndVision.aspx]

"We will market and distribute the most appealing and widely worn apparel brands. Our products define quality, style and function. We will clothe the world."

Clothing the world is a pretty lofty goal, but Levi Strauss has the ability to do this for one reason — Their founder, Levi Strauss, started the business with a mission and focus.

Levi started his wholesale dry goods business in San Francisco February, 1853. Rather than hoping to make his fortune in the Gold Rush, he created a fortune by wholesaling clothing and fabric to the small stores supplying the thousands of miners and later, families of the West.

In 1872, he was contacted by Jacob Davis, a tailor who had developed a method to rivet the stress points of the pants he made from fabric he bought from-you guessed it — Levi Strauss. Jacob did not have the funds to patent the process, so he teamed up with Levi Strauss to patent the original blue jean in 1873. The rest is history.

Now, if Levi Strauss was your typical small business, he would probably have spun off in ten different directions in their early years, but the company remained focused on supplying quality clothing and fabrics to the working men and women of the West, and later the world. Rather than focusing on their core market, they would have fallen into the AFAB method … Anything for a Buck.

Most small businesses suffer from this lack of focus.

When we work with struggling business owners, the first thing we ask them is "What is your bread and butter?" What one product or service provides you with the majority of your business profit?

Unfortunately, most business owners can not answer that question. They did not define their core product or service and target market when they started, and end up doing a little bit of everything, and nothing well.

Or, they focus most of their time on a product or service line that they like, without knowing whether it actually is their most profitable.

Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this problem.

You have to determine your gross profit margin from each of your product lines or services. Get together with your accountant, and figure out what you need to do to separate your revenue and expenses by the major product lines of your business. Then, you can find out your gross profit margin, or the percentage of gross profit you receive from each activity.

The product or service with the highest gross profit margin is your core business activity. It is the bread and butter of your business, and the key to your company profits.

Now, you must focus as much of your company resources as possible on this core activity. Market it, systemize it, and turn your business into a machine for duplicating this product or service over and over again.

What happens?

Well, rather than running around like a chicken with your head cut off, putting out fires all over your business, you suddenly have the focus to know where to spend your time and energy. You know your core, and you can work to make a good thing even better.

This focus will transform your business and your life.

Remember the term "Jack of All Trades, but Master of None"? You can not really really good at something without focus, and focusing on your most profitable core product or service will make your business even more efficient.

Does this mean that you should never expand beyond your core? Of course not, but you must make sure you are really good at your core product or service before you venture into different directions. Creating a strong bread and butter business will give you the base necessary to expand.

Your core product or service is the foundation for your business. Build it well.

Spruce Up Your House by Gardening!

It’s a good time to start thinking and planning ahead for your garden. A neat and tidy front yard can enhance a property, but a beautifully planned one can really make an ordinary house look special.

Some accessories that will make your yard look really good can be very inexpensive. Most of us are on a budget, especially these days when we never know how much it will cost to fill up our gas tank. Sometimes at this time of the year, you can find last year’s garden accessories discounted. Benches or garden lights may be listed for sale before the new stock comes in.

There are some basic rules which apply to every garden. Before you start you should try and afford a soil test. This is quite inexpensive and either your local nursery or the Internet will tell you how to go about it. You can also buy do-it-yourself kits. The second thing is to dig compost into your garden, and now (winter) is a good time.

If you are having a soil test carried out, you will know from the results if you should add any other nutrition to your soil. A soil test will mean you will not be buying the ‘wrong’ shrubs, plants etc for your soil type.

There is one last thing that you should monitor: how long and where the sun shines on different parts of your garden. Plants can thrive without direct sunlight, but only if you plant a type that likes the shade. This can still include many bright, colorful plants (i.e. impatiens), so you can still brighten up dull areas.

Once you decide to buy, you do not want to waste your money by having the plants or shrubs die on you. The soil test will curb some of these mistakes. The other thing to do is to look up, on the Internet or from a book, your particular growing zone. If you live in an area where, for instance, you come into the ‘Hardiness Zone’, it will enable you to pick the type of plant that has the best chance of surviving in your type of climate.

Always put short and stocky plants in front of taller ones. Remember to check the expected height to know this information – do not decide by the height at purchase time. Remember that short and stocky plants are generally tougher and more resilient, so choose more of these.

Try to resist buying plants in bloom at the time of purchase. The ones that still have to bloom will probably be stronger for the transplant process. If you have more shady areas than you wish, think about drastically trimming a tree to get more sunlight onto certain patches. Remember that some plants like a lot of water, so group these together to make the watering less laborious for you.

There are many small accessories that will really make your yard stand out. Obviously a strategically placed bench -or chairs and small table- under a tree will look welcoming and relaxing. A small bridge can really enhance a yard, and you can use it as a focal point for a few reeds or grasses to give the impression of water. Or if you feel daring you can try digging your own long shaped pond. Instructions on this are easy to find in books or on the ‘net.

For cheap plants (in fact free ones!) buy a can of ‘rooting powder’ and offer to swap cuttings with your neighbors. It is not recommended to sneak out at midnight with your scissors in hand!!

What Type of Fire Alarm Do I Need and Where Should I Put It?

It is probably quite evident that there are a number of fire alarms available, and at vastly varying prices, so it may be very difficult to understand the differences between Optical, Ionisation and Heat alarms. This guide is aimed at taking some of that confusion away.

So what is the difference between the models?

As stated above there are three types of alarm, each with its own uses.

Optical Alarm: This type of smoke alarm typically uses an infrared beam between two points, the alarm being triggered should the beam be disturbed. In much the same way as a criminal might trip an alarm when breaking into a bank vault or museum in the movies, if the beam is broken, the alarm will go off. It detects larger smoke particles best.

Ionisation Alarm: These alarms use 2 small plates (one charged positively, one negatively) and an alpha particle source to create a constant current running across the gap between the plates. When smoke enters the chamber it interferees with this process, interrupting the charge. When the charge drops, the alarm goes off. These alerts are best at detecting smaller smoke particles.

Heat Alarms: A heat alarm will trigger if the room temperature reaches a certain level. They do not detect smoke, and are not to be used as a substitute for a smoke alarm, but should be used in assisting these alerts for greater fire detection.

Why do we need different types of fire alarm?

Different types of alarm exist due to the different types of fire. Believe it or not, fires act in different ways depending on what is burning, and is important to identify the fire as quickly as possible. Different alerts are better at discovering different fires, and choosing the right alarm for the right room could save your life one day.

Fires can be particularly smokey, often caused by the burning of papers or clothing etc, and burn rapidly, producing smaller smoke particles. The Ionisation alerts are better at detecting these fires.

Other fires can be a lot less smokey, often being harder to detect, and are caused by the burning of carpets, sofas or electrical devices. These fires tend to burn less quickly, producing larger smoke particles. Optical alerts will be better at detecting these fires.

Which fire alarm do I need?

This article is meant as a general guide, and for more detailed safety advice it is highly recommended that you contact your local Fire Service. This being said, the information below should help you decide.

  • Optical alarm: Living room, dining room, hallway
  • Ionisation alarm: Bedrooms, walk in wardrobes
  • Heat alarms: Dusty areas such as garages, unconverted lofts etc where the dust could interfere with the other alarm types.

Alarms are available as either battery operated, or mains operated with battery backup. The mains alarms will continue to work for a time after power is lost to the unit, but only as a backup. If this is the case, mains should be restored to the unit right away, or the battery changed.

Some alerts even come with the option of interconnectivity, meaning if one alarm sounds, then all the alarms sound. This is highly useful in larger properties where one alarm may not be heard by everyone. The idea is to raise the alarm to everyone right away – as soon as a fire starts – and having the alarms linked together will achieve this.

Fires are responsible for a large number of deaths each year, as we all know from the adverts broadcast on television or radio. This is a fact, and can be greatly reduced by just checking your alarm to be sure that it works, and that it is the correct alarm for the location it is placed. Be aware that alerts need replacing after a certain amount of time, and it is worth checking on the unit and to note the replace by date. If you are unsure, check with your local Fire Service.

Engagement Photography Tips, Article 2

Are You Serious?

If you are — don’t be! When you go out to have your engagement photos taken by a friend, you need to have a good time. Focus solely on your fiancé and your love for them. Enjoy spending time with them! Too many people focus on the camera and get nervous and uptight: and it shows in the photos.

Hopefully your fiancé is the only person in the world that can help you forget about everything else – which would include the camera…

Do Your Homework

Planning for an engagement session will usually improve the quality of the results. Here are a few steps I would suggest you take as you begin planning:

Run Google searches for “engagement photography” and “engagement photos.” Look for images that you think you and fiancé could imitate. Print off about 20 of your favorite images. Go over them with your fiancé and narrow the list down to the ones that both of you really like and think will be possible. Then, show those to your friend who will be taking your pictures. Whittle the samples down even further based upon their thoughts and feedback. Try to end up with 5 or 10 sample images that everyone is excited about.

Look closely at those sample photos to see what types of location are being used and what the lighting looks like. A lot of engagement photos are taken in either a park or city location. I would suggest driving around and scouting possible photo locations for the session. But don’t just do a “drive-by scouting”! Get out of your car with your camera and take actual photos inside each park of the locations you think would work best. Compare your snapshots with the sample photos you printed off.

You can also do internet research by looking at the web sites of local wedding photographers. While your previous search for engagement photography would have returned nation-wide results, the goal of this research is to see where the local wedding pros are shooting their engagement sessions. You’ll likely recognize some of the parks and buildings that they are working in and near.

Lots of Photos

Hopefully your friend will be using a digital camera. That way they can take lots of images without worry about film expense. Sometimes the difference between an average photo and a great photo is simply changing the angle and perspective of the camera!

This point was really driven home to me with some recent engagement photo sessions I have done. I am in the process of creating an eBook to help couples take top-notch engagement photos. I had another photographer help me out with several engagement sessions. Together, we shot about 600 photos during each two-hour engagement session. During the session, I would often setup and take photos of the couple. While I was doing so my assistant would be moving around and photographing the same scene at different angles. Afterwards, I would look at the photos I took and also some of the side-angles my assistant shot at those same times–and there is often a night and day difference between the two. The couple didn’t move or change their pose; the only difference was the angle at which the image was taken!

So, once you have found a good location for your photo session and you and your fiancé are in position — let your photographer snap away! Don’t limit the shots they’re taking!

And again: have fun with the session. Smile a ton. Laugh a lot. Make the photo session a special memory that you and your fiancé will share for a lifetime.