The Perk of Unlimited Vacation Time

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Let’s face it:  everyone enjoys a perk.  It’s part of the “Entitlement” culture that’s been bandied about as the “In” thing to do nowadays.  Despite the sluggish economy worldwide, folks still have the dream of having a life of ease and of luxury.  Maybe it was the Pharoahs of old, or the ancient Greeks, and even the ancient Romans who first got it in our heads that life can be full of comforts.  Or maybe it was all those fairy tales revolving around rags-to-riches stories where a unknown commoner ends up the monarch of a kingdom.

In any case, the ideal of luxury can still be achieved.  There are many modern day examples of folks who have made it rich on the internet—–think Bill Gates of Microsoft and even Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook.  If you click on the links on this page, you’ll be sure to find ways to make up to $40,000 per month with the program advertised.  Then you can live in style and not have to worry about finding a means to eke by from week to week.

And then there are those who are lucky enough to get hired by good companies that are still thriving despite the recession we are in.  This particular blog today will focus on some of the great firms that treat their employees well with the added perk of “Unlimited Vacation Time”—–just the sound of it makes one imagine all the possibilities one can do for rest and recreation, like escaping to a tropical isle, enjoying a sailboat ride, being adventurous, exploring new destinations around the world, heading to the tropics to work on one’s tan, and all manner of entertainment one can indulge in!

So, what are some of those companies that gift their employees with the “Unlimited Vacation Time” benefit?

1) The Magazine Publisher Rodale.  They have 45 million readers in over 50 countries according to their website.  They publish great magazines that focus on health and wellness, such as Men’s Health and Prevention.  They must be authentic in their promotion of health and wellness because they award their employees with “Unlimited Vacation Time”—–which means they know that rejuvenation is an important part of health and wellness!

2) Chegg.  This company helps many students save money!  They run a textbook rental that many university and college students praise for having made books affordable for the student budget.  Plus, they offer homework help on their website.  With all the money they encouraged students to save, and all the time they also save students when it comes to homework, you’ve got to admire Chegg for even awarding its employees with “Unlimited Vacation Time” because it shows how much this company cares!

3) Tibco Software.  According to Tibco’s website, they “encourage new ideas, direct communication, out-of-the-box thinking, risk-taking and creative problem solving.”  Plus, they value their employees so much.  It’s no wonder then that their benefits package also includes “Unlimited Vacation Time.”

4) BlueWolf.  They’ve been known as “the first global consulting firm born in the cloud.”  They are all about innovation and collaboration, and they also focus on people—–not just their clients and customers, but their employees as well.  They, too, have the “Unlimited Vacation Time” perk.

5) Netflix.  Netflix revolutionized the viewing industry by introducing video streaming to its paying customers.  Parents with children love that Netflix can stream endless supplies of cartoon shows and children’s programming to keep their children entertained.  And, adults love the fact that if they love a particular TV show or miniseries, they can watch it in its entirety without advertising interruptions!  Plus, every Kevin Spacey fan is just thrilled with Netflix’s series HOUSE OF CARDS.  But Netflix is also praised by its employees for granting them “Unlimited Vacation Time” as well!

6) Gilt Groupe.  This firm is all about designer fashion and style for everyone.  They help with all manner of wardrobe essentials and accessories, and they can be both retro and vogue simultaneously.  They’ve quite the handle on what’s hot, and they keep their employees happy with “Unlimited Vacation Time” as a benefit, too!

7) Zynga.  This company is all about games and entertainment!  There’s creativity and fun in all their products, and it’s no wonder that Zynga rewards its employees with fun as well with the perk of “Unlimited Vacation Time.”  Perhaps it so that the employees are encouraged to enjoy Zynga games, too, by playing them even during recreational periods!

8) NerdWallet.  This firm’s motto is “We do the homework for you.”  Nerdwallet has been described as helping consumers make better informed decisions with regard to finance, travel, and higher education.  In essence, NerdWallet helps its customers save money, which is such an essential in this economy.  But what’s even cooler is that NerdWallet as experts in finance, travel, and higher education also understand the value about rewarding their employees “Unlimited Vacation Time”—–now that’s smart!

9) Castlight Health.  This company provides transparency about healthcare costs and quality.  They understand about wellness and well-being for customers, as well as for their employees.  And so, it’s no surprise that Castlight Health promotes the well-being of its employees by providing the added perk of “Unlimited Vacation Time.”

At the heart of it all, we all know that stress is bad for the health, so it’s important to have moments of rest, recreation, rejuvenation, and renewal.  The “Unlimited Vacation Time” concept is such a welcome for many employees fortunate enough to be hired by caring firms as the ones showcased above.  But not to worry, for you, too, can still enjoy the “Unlimited Vacation Time” benefit if from this moment you make the firm decision to change your life.  Click on this link now so that you, too, can be on your way to making revenues that will help you have your recreation, rejuvenation, and renewal moments, too!

Great Skiing Destinations

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Winter brings on the adventure of snow sports.  And what better place to indulge your adrenaline than on the ski slopes?  Snowboarding even promises to attract folks to winter wonderlands.  Ski towns become meccas with their inviting mountains and winter bergs steeped in winter lore, ski heritage, warming amenities, and fun-filled winter culture.  The following list provides insight to some of the best ski towns to pamper yourself in with winter play, party, and certainly pleasure:

1) Swiss Zermatt

If you’re hankering for old-world culture with cobbled streets, then the country for classic ski towns is certainly Switzerland.  The ultimate crown jewel of all ski resorts, naturally, is Zermatt, with its unrelenting glacier peaks and the dominance of the stunningly majestic Matterhorn.  It’s a must to have a ride on the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car, for it is the highest in all the Alps.  Hotel Bahnhof is a favorite for climbers, and the Mont Cervin Palace is rather ritzy in class.  Dining can be had at Walliserkanne, but the lamb is exquisite at Chez Heini.  Apres ski socializing at Unique Hotel Post Zermatt is de rigueur, as is a visit to the Matterhorn Museum.

2) France’s Chamonix

Chamonix is considered the birthplace of extreme skiing with its premier lifts.  Chamonix is nestled in the shadow of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, and what an adrenaline rush for skiers Chamonix can be!  French nightlife, cobblestones, steep rugged zones and vertical drops make for a good mix of adventure in this ski town.  It has even been said that Chamonix has more glaciers and more crevasses than any European ski area!  Meanwhile, accommodations can be had at Hotel du Louvre for budget-conscious guests, while posh digs are at Le Hameau Albert 1er.  Dining favorites include Maison Moustache et Filles as well as Le Cap Blanc.  And, enjoy apres skiing activities at Chambre Neuf.

3) Italy’s Cortina d’Ampezzo

The Dolomites and cathedrals at Cortina make this ski town a  rather picturesque upscale resort town.  Designer boutiques give one the fashionable vogue feel of Italy.  At any rate, children and beginners enjoy the Socrepes and Mietres groomed runs—–thus, beginners and intermediates enjoy the skiing atmosphere here.  Sylvester Stallone’s CLIFFHANGER film has even made this place rather famous.  Meanwhile, Hotel Montana has a nearby church steeple with “bells singing,” whereas fine wine and the bona fide Italian experience is in store for those staying at Hotel de la Poste.  There are quick eats at Birreria Vienna Pizzeria-Restorante, and gourmet cuisine will have your mouth water at Il Meloncino al Camineto.  Finally, Ernest Hemingway’s prized apres ski spot was the Enoteca Cortina wine bar.

4) Japan’s Niseko

Hokkaido island has consistent light powder, and Mount Niseko Annupuri has night skiing opportunities (deep-powder runs through illuminated nighttime forests are Niseko’s specialty). Niseko is unlike Tokyo, for it is more laid-back with its surfing-town vibe.  Hot springs abound, and birch forests are wonderfully spaced to give sheltered spots for skiing and snowboarding.  Accommodations can be had at Powder Lodge or at The Vale Niseko.  Seico Mart and A-Bu-Cha are local dining favorites.  For your apres ski socializing, head to Gyu+Bar (better known as the “Fridge Door” bar because of its entrance being a refrigerator door, literally).  And for a rest-day activity, take a train ride to Hokkaido’s largest city, Sapporo.

5) New Zealand’s Wanaka

When Northern Hemisphere folks hanker for skiing in summer, where do they go?  To New Zealand!  Wanaka, especially.  Sitting on the shores of Lake Wanaka amid Aotearoa’s Southern Alps, this rugged alpine tranquil town is peppered with ski town amenities.  Snow Park is a 40-minute drive away, Treble Cone is 35 minutes away, Cardrona Alpine Resort is not too far either.  Wanaka gets the most snow in all of New Zealand, making it summer skiing and summer snowboarding heaven for Northern Hemisphere denizens.  The best eats seem to be Redstar and gourmet Botswana Butchery, while apres ski socializing can be had at Ruby’s Cinema & Bar.

6) Austria’s Kitzbühel

If you long for a classic medieval village as your ski destination, then glitzy Kitzbühel is for you.  It’s a romantic town in the Tyrol region, and has horse-drawn sleighs traversing its cobbled streets.  But it also has chic bars and clubs that can quite turn up their volumes.  This ski town has a sprawling network of runs, lifts, and gondolas, and the place is famous for its Hahnenkamm racecourse—–the most perilous in the World Cup circuit.  Stay at Hof Unterleiten for traditional accommodations, and if posh living is more your thing then book a room at the Grand Tirolia Kitzbühel.  For classic Austrian dining, head to HuberBräu Stüberl, and, while at Schwarzer Adler in Jochberg, you can sample the refined sensibilities of celebrated chef Andreas Wahrstätter.  Finally, enjoy apres ski socializing at The Hahnenkamm Pavillon.

7) British Columbia’s Fernie

Canada boasts the historic mining hamlet of funky, yet charming Fernie with its spectacular terrain and wide-open alpine bowls hitting the sweet spot for many an adventurer.  This place strikes the balance with its more consistent powder (compared to Whistler) and its warmer temperatures (compared to Banff).  Plus, the daredevil chutes and knife ridges here still fly below the radar for skiers, and some folks prefer that type of an ambience so as to make fresh tracks on powder days.  Visitors enjoy the unpretentious, eclectic way the town goes about its ski business.  Many advanced skiers and snowboarders are besotted with adrenaline from how steep and deep the terrain can be.  Some notables here include the Fernie Alpine Resort, the Elk River Valley, the Polar Peak, and the Bear Lodge of Island Lake Catskiing.  For lodging there are hostels like the Raging Elk, and swank lodges like the Lizard Creek Lodge.  And, for dining, head to Big Bang Bagels with their famous “Mr Fernie” on a whole wheat salty top, or grab a bite of slow-braised buffalo ribs at the Picnic Restaurant + Social.

8) Quebec’s Mont Tremblant

The first lift opened here in 1939, making it one of the first ski areas in all of North America.  This ski destination is lined with hotels, patisseries, bistros, and cobblestones, making it elegant and inviting in old-world style.  There are sections that seem Disney-fied, but the original hamlet with its mellower tones balances the entirety of this ski destination.  The Fairmount Hotel provides ample accommodations, and dining musts include Chez Lorraine in the old village and Aux Truffes at the resort, while apres ski socializing is best at Le P’tit Caribou.

9)  Canada’s Banff

Banff is located within a national park, so it is rather common to see bighorn sheep on the front lawn, and if you’re not careful you could even find yourself eye-to-eye with a grazing bull elk.  Hot springs make this a frontier adventureland.  Mount Norquay is home to the oldest North American chairlifts.  For accommodations, try The Banff Aspen Lodge and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.  Grab some grub at Tommy’s Neighbourhood Pub, or sample the lamb dish at Castello’s Ristorante at the Fairmont Banff Springs.  Meanwhile, it’s been said that The Ice Walk with Discover Banff Tours is a MUST for rest-day activities.

10) British Columbia’s Whistler-Blackcomb

If you want the biggest of everything, go to Whistler-Blackcomb, because it is North America’s paramount mountain and gargantuan ski resort.  Found in the Coast Mountains, a couple of hours’ drive from Vancouver’s international airport, Whistler-Blackcomb in fact boasts the most snow, the largest terrain parks, the steepest steeps, the most runs, and the greatest acreage in all of North America with untold thousands of visiting skiers from all over.  Whistler Village is the epicenter, and it’s a bustling hive of activity, making it a rather expensive destination.  Folks here are always swimming in endorphins.  For accommodations, try the Aava Whistler Hotel and the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.  For dining, head to Pasta Lupino and Umberto’s Trattoria.  Then, for apres ski, there are three separate base areas, so here’s one for each: Dusty’s Bar & BBQ in Creekside, GLC in Whistler Village, and Merlin’s Bar & Grill at Blackcomb Base.  Finally, for rest-day activity, try bobsledding.

11) Alaska’s Girdwood

A bit off-the-beaten path, this former gold-mining town was carved out of the Chugach Mountains, and ski bums have flocked to these slopes since the 1970s.  It might not have the glamour of other ski towns, but this humble hamlet’s laid-back ambience gives its clients the frontier feel everyone enjoys about Alaska.  The largest ski area in Alaska, the Alyeska Resort, can be found here with its six lifts and 60-person tram.  The Alyeska Resort might not have frills, but it certainly has historical flavor and the flair of a wake-up call to watch the northern lights.  Meanwhile, once you climb the mountain’s north face you’ll get majestic views of the ocean, with the upper half of the mountain being wide-open alpine.  The north face from Christmas Chute to the bottom is quite the leg burner for enthusiasts, mind you.  Plus, heli-skiing and cat-skiing are available here.  What’s more, March seems to be the best time to visit with its average of 12 hours of daylight.  If you’re hungry, try the Cajun cuisine of the Double Musky Inn’s restaurant to warm you up, and there’s always slices to have at Coast Pizza.  And, for apres ski socializing, head to the Sitzmark.


12) Montana’s Bozeman

Bozeman’s known as the adventure capital of the Northern Rockies—–and for good reason.  Sure, it’s a university town filled with cowboys and ski bums, but it also has a couple of the premier ski hills of the USA.  Bridger Bowl is where extreme skiers have been known to cut their teeth with its backcountry-style terrain.  Avalanche transceivers have become a requirement here.  And, not too far away, nestled in the Madison Range is the Big Sky Resort with its Moonlight Basin.  For a day rest adventure, Yellowstone National Park is a mere hour’s drive away with wonderful wildlife watching  Or, there’s Hyalite Canyon, too, for some snowshoeing and ice climbing adventures.  If you have your canine pets in tow, the Blue Sky Motel is rather canine-friendly.  And if you fancy something more higher-priced, there’s always the Gallatin Gateway Inn.  Dining musts include Watanabe for noodles and Starky’s for gourmet cuisine.  Apres ski socializing spots include the Montana Ale Works, Main Street, and the newly refurbished Rocking R Bar.

13) Montana’s Whitefish

This appealingly rough-hewn but pedestrian-friendly hamlet was a former logging and railroad town, and it serves as the entrance to Glacier National Park.  This place is family-friendly with terrain groomed for every level.  The mountain’s summit is rimmed with white trees appropriately named “snow ghosts.” that make for wonderful glade skiing.  Whitefish Mountain Resort, Hibernation House, and The Lodge at Whitefish Lake are wonderful digs.  There’s even a hot tub from which to view the mountains at The Lodge.  Buffalo pies (no buffalo meat in them, mind you) are served at Buffalo Cafe, while gourmet dining is served at Tupelo Grille.  Make sure to experience some local flair at Bierstube for apres ski socializing, and maybe take a tour of the Great Northern Brewery.

14) Colorado’s Crested Butte
Crested Butte signals high-elevation with spectacular scenery, for it pioneered adventure skiing with its multitude of running lifts that give access to ungroomed, advanced terrain.  Countless extreme skiing and snowboarding competitions have been held here.  Formerly a mining town, Crested Butte exudes a counterculture character with its old license plates decor, back-alley log cabins, and limited shopping.  But Crested Butte enthusiasts love this town in cult-like fashion, because with minimal “distractions” they can all focus on what they came here for:  the skiing and the Elk Mountains.  Good accommodations include Crested Butte International Lodge & Hostel as well as The Lodge at Mountaineer Square.  When hungry, visit Teocalli Tamale andSoupçon Bistro.  For apres ski socializing, head to the Avalanche Bar & Grill.  And for a rest-day activity, have a hand in driving a Snowcat or take the dogsledding tours with Lucky Cat Dog Farm.
15) Colorado’s Aspen

Aspen is hype, hip, and classic with its numerous galleries, boutiques, and coffeehouses.  Olympic athletes and movie stars in fur coats abound, with ostentation and sophistication as the running theme here.  Meanwhile, Snowmass is the second most vertical mountain in the US, although it isn’t skiable continuously.  Buttermilk is the playground for beginners, while Aspen Highlands is a local favorite, and Bell Mountain can certainly catch the afternoon sun.  Stay at The Tyrolean Lodge or at historic The Hotel Jerome, then grab some grub at 520 Grill or dine in sophistication at Cache Cache.  Apres ski high-energy is at Ajax Tavern, and, for rest-day, follow the Rio Grande Trail along the Roaring Fork River, visit Hallam Lake nature preserve, and enjoy the gallery exhibits at the Aspen Art Museum.

16) Oregon’s Bend

Bend is an adventure paradise with its Pacific Northwest 9,000-foot stratovolcano Mount Bachelor, which is on the east side of the Cascades.  Freestyle terrain is superb here, and there are two halfpipes as well at 18 feet and 12 feet tall respectively.  For skiing enthusiasts, the lifts are kept running through Memorial Day, making it a prized destination even after mid-winter.  Rainbow Motel provides budget accommodations, while the Mountain Suites at the Oxford Hotel are wonderful for posh-minded visitors.  Great grub can be found both at Parilla Grill and at The Blacksmith Restaurant, whereas apres ski socializing can be had at the Deschutes Brewery.  For rest-day, folks can shop at the Old Mill district.

17) California’s Truckee

Truckee, formerly an old logging and railway town, is found between Reno and South Lake Tahoe, and it still maintains its Old West character with its wooden walkways and historic downtown.  It is nestled in the Sierra Nevada, and the first ever recorded ski lift in the USA was a Truckee steam-powered toboggan lift way back in 1910.  Squaw Valley is Truckee’s premier mountain, and is called “Squallywood” for good reason.  Stay at the historic Truckee Hotel and at the Resort at Squaw Creek.  Dine at the classic taqueria named Tacos Jalisco, or enjoy gourmet fare at Cottonwood  Restaurant and Bar.  The happening apres ski dive bar is the Pastime Club, and on rest-day you can always take a dogsled ride at Sugar Bowl.

18) New Hampshire’s North Conway

North Conway, tucked into the White Mountains’ Mount Washington Valley, is the epitome of skiing heritage, for it was here that some of the first purpose-cut ski runs in North America as well as innovations in grooming, lifts, and ski schools all had their roots here in the 1930s.  This ski destination was once a leading light in American skiing decades before Western resorts became more prominent.  The old New England character tightly woven into the small community’s social fabric still exists here.  Cranmore has a revered ski school, Attitash boasts the region’s biggest and best terrain park, and Wildcat is the wildest of the three with the most spectacular vertical views.  Recommended digs include The Yankee Clipper Inn and the White Mountain Hotel & Resort, while dining favorites include Horsefeathers (great for families) and Maestro’s.  And, the favorite skiers’ hangout is Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub.  Meanwhile, for rest-day activities, visit the Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center to learn about meteorology, or go to the Farm by the River B&B with Stables for a sleigh ride.


19)  Colorado’s Steamboat Springs

Unique in character, Steamboat Springs is in ranching country in Northern Colorado, making it an authentic working-cowboy town.  Steamboat Springs has the longest continuously operated ski area in all of Colorado.  Plus, February has the Winter Carnival with its ski-joring competitions.  Yampa River Valley’s Steamboat has produced 79 Olympic skiers and snowboarders, outranking any town in all of North America.  The Rabbit Ears is across from a hot springs, while The Sheraton is near the gondolas.  Slopeside Grill is recommended, as is Harwigs L’Apogee.  Tugboat is considered the old locals place.  And the best rest-day activity is to visit the hot springs, for they are near the bottom of the mountain, and even have waterslides for the children.  About five miles out of town is Strawberry Park, a natural hot springs locale, with rustic log cabins for rent, too.

20)  Colorado’s Telluride
Beautifully picturesque, this Victorian-era silver-mining hamlet is nestled in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, and measures only twelve blocks long, with no stoplights nor neon signs.  This town has quite the spirited culture of mountain lovers with its gasping 8,793 feet above sea level, and lifts over 12,500 feet above sea level, making it necessary for all visitors to acclimatize.  Heli-skiing and backcountry adventuring are part of the order of the day.  The Peaks Resort is highly recommended, as are BBQ place Oak and, of course, the French restaurant La Marmotte.  The Historic Bar at the Sheridan is reputed to be the oldest apres ski party spot in town.  And, for rest-day activities hike to 80-foot Cornet Falls with its red rock canyon walls.

21) Idaho’s Ketchum

Ketchum’s Sun Valley has the world’s first chairlift, which opened in 1936, and it was the stomping ground for many classic-era Hollywood celebrities.  Opulent lodges abound, and the grandeur of pre-war days is still evident in the former mining and sheep town of Ketchum.  Rustic elegance is the theme, and saloons in century-old brick edifices still stand.  Sun Valley borders Ketchum at the base of Dollar Mountain, and is still a favorite for many high-profile personalities, even US Navy SEALs.  The luxurious Seattle Ridge Lodge atop Bald Mountain’s Seattle Ridge boasts stunning views spanning the wild Pioneer and Sawtooth Mountains as well as the Woody River Valley below.  Recommended accommodations include Lift Tower Lodge as well as Sun Valley Lodge (the latter is where Hemingway penned much of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS).  Recommended dining spots include Pioneer Saloon, Apples Bar and Grill, and Galena Lodge.  For a rest-day activity, drive to see the Sawtooth Mountains.

22) Wyoming’s Jackson Hole

This is the promised land of big mountains and steep slopes.  Jackson sits in the shadow of the majestic Teton Range and is situated just south of Yellowstone National park.  Cowboy bars and wooden sidewalks ensure that this town embraces its Wild West heritage deep in the heart of the Cowboy State.  Because winter is the off-season in this town, lots of great deals, especially on lodging, abound!  Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa are highly recommended, as are the Village Cafe in Teton Village and the gourmet dining at Couloir.  Meanwhile, Mangy Moose Restaurant and Saloon is best for apres ski socializing.  Finally, the Elk Refuge sleigh rides are a wonderful rest-day activity to experience.

23) Vermont’s Stowe
Stowe is the archetypal patrician New England ski destination with its clapboard houses, steepled churches, wooded hills, boutiques, and luxury lodgings.  Nestled at the foot of Vermont’s Green Mountains, Stowe is so picturesque, it’s NOT for late-night revelry but for picture-perfect New England in winter postcard living.  Vermont’s highest peak, Mount Mansfield has plenty to offer the adventurous crowd, while Spruce Peak is for beginners.  Mount Mansfield’s original run, the Bruce Trail, holds a lot of history, with it having been cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early 1930s.  Interestingly, the von Trapp family (made famous by the film THE SOUND OF MUSIC) has a ski instructing school, the Trapp Family Lodge, which was the first commercial cross-country ski resort in the USA, and it can be found here in Stowe.  Recommended accommodations include Town and Country Resort at Stowe as well as the Stowe Mountain Lodge.  For dining, there’s Pie in the Sky Pizza to try and The Blue Moon Cafe to visit.  And, the quintessential Stowe institution for apres ski socializing is The Matterhorn Bar.  Finally, the best rest-day activity is visiting The Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum.

24) Utah’s Park City
This is home to the US Ski Team, and was once a 19th-century mining outpost.  Interestingly enough, Park City has a vibrant bar scene, despite being found in Mormon Utah.  Every January the Sundance Film Festival takes place here, and shuttle service from Salt Lake City airport (45 minutes away) makes car-free trips here possible.  Deer Valley is only a mile away, while The Canyons (Utah’s largest ski area) is four miles from town.  Chateau Apres in Park City is like a hostel, while Montage Deer Valley is all swank.  Locals recommend El Chubasco for dining, and The Mariposa at Deer Valley gets high marks for its gourmet fare.  As for apres ski partying, try Legends Bar in Park City Mountain Resort’s Legacy Lodge, then the No Name Saloon & Grill on Main Street for nighttime fun.

Every business owner needs to equip his or her business, whether it be with computers, desks, vehicles, and/or machinery.  And one of the most cost-effective purchasing decisions that can be made is choosing to lease equipment rather than buy equipment.

For one, leasing equipment reduces cash outlays while still keeping pace with emerging technology.  In other words, leasing can allow a business to have access to a higher standard of equipment than the business can afford if purchasing it outright is beyond their means at that particular moment;  thus, smaller monthly payments can help a business owner acquire equipment he would not generally be able to afford.  Indeed, leasing allows business owners to acquire the equipment they need without having to pay the full cost upfront; hence, leasing helps the business owner endure less initial costs than if a full purchase were made.  Also, maintenance may be included in the lease, which thereby saves the business owner additional costs—–leasing companies tend to take responsibility for the maintenance of their leased equipment, which consequently removes a large burden off of the upkeep, so money can be saved especially with a discounted rate on maintenance fees (e.g. replacement parts and labor costs).  In fact, making monthly payments over time can even allow business owners the opportunity to budget funds better and thereby limit unexpected expenditures.  Besides, leasing can certainly save the time and hassle involved when seeking folks who will extend the necessary credit for purchasing equipment.  Moreover, there are potential tax advantages because lease or rental payments are generally fully deductible from taxable income.  Then, too, leases lasting 5 years (or more, like 7 years) allow for the cost of your assets to be claimed as capital allowances.  Finally, short-term leases provide the opportunity to evaluate whether the equipment fits your business’s needs.

Of course, there are some disadvantages to leasing business equipment.  Lease agreements, after all, can be rather intricate and complex, which means they can be more complicated to manage than an outright sale.  Some leasing agreements can also be rather rigid and unbreakable, which means a business will have to be tied to the leasing agreement for many years—–there might come a time when a business will be forced to continue making payments for equipment even if the business is no longer using it.  As such, one is always at the mercy of the leasing company because one doesn’t actually own the equipment; therefore, one would be subject to following the guidelines and in turn be susceptible to reposition upon the leasing company’s request.  There are likewise cases when leasing can be more costly in the long run—–e.g. with a deposit, your monthly payments, and interest, you may end up paying $10,000 on a product that originally cost $8000—–this is when the lifetime cost of the asset becomes higher when it is leased rather than if it is purchased outright.  Additionally, there might be an ownership interest that is given up, which can be costly if your business is relying on the equipment and the equipment is too expensive to purchase outright after the lease ends.  Then, too, there are cases when capital allowances cannot be claimed for assets on lease that are less than 5 years (or sometimes 7 years, for example).  And, business owners may lose the tax benefits of depreciation deductions.

Perhaps some things to consider when deciding whether to lease equipment can be:   1) Ask a lawyer to look over a lease before signing it.  2) Perform your due diligence (your homework) so as to prevent undesirable repercussions, especially legal repercussions.  And, 3) if you anticipate that your business will be needing the equipment in the long-term and you thereby want to establish equity in it, attempt to negotiate a purchase option wherein a portion of your lease payments is already credited to the purchase price.

 

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How To Be A SuperNetworker!

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Having a business means the business owner must know how to network.  Networking, after all, helps business owners get referrals AND also assists them with gaining access to professionals in just about every type of business.  A good network can in fact act as a “mastermind” group or “think tank” that can be tapped for more knowledge, information, wisdom, and insight.  Because of all these, networking can help business owners both expand business and improve business.  Even more significant, networking is really all about building social capital (i.e. the value behind your social contacts).  Thus, when you take as much care in raising and investing your social capital as you do your financial capital, the intangibles that result will certainly multiply your material returns considerably.  With that in mind, can you afford not to have good networking skills?

In essence, networking is key to making your business thrive, because networking opens the way to wonderful opportunities for your business.  And effective networking requires hard work, dedication, patience, persistence, and tons of practice.  Here are some wonderful habits to cultivate to be SUPER at networking:

1) A SUPER Networker adds value.
As a business owner, you must provide immediate value to all your connections.  That is, the business owner must identify a way to help those in his “power contacts” list, and take action.  For example, if you know someone who can help one of the folks in your “power contact” list with a problem, introduce the two individuals, help them connect, and in future they just might return the referral favor you had provided.  Then, too, do NOT have hidden motives or hidden agendas because the subterfuge of your self-promotion will offend your contact.  That will compel them to be unwilling to help you in the future because they have lost confidence in your ability to help them.  As a result, it is always best to add value to the network rather than extract value from the network.  On a related note, besides adding value, you must also confirm value.  This means all parties must be clear and upfront about goals, intentions, and values so that it can be ascertained whether there is an alignment of values.  Lack of alignment spells trouble.  Hence, all parties must learn about each other’s values.  But make sure to be attentive to nonverbal cues especially of deceit, for there have been cases when some folks mask their true nature and merely tell you what you hope to hear.

2) Always exercise tact, courtesy, good manners and good speech (whether in spoken form or written form).
Conversation styles, communication styles, writing styles, and speaking styles all get the ball rolling from the outset.  For example, when you are speaking to your contact, speak slowly and clearly because this helps the listener better understand what you are saying (remember how parents teach children to slow their speech down by speaking slowly themselves which leads the children to match their parents).  Indeed, a slow voice has a calming effect on the listener, which is in stark contrast to how a loud, fast voice stimulates anger, fear, excitement, and lack of focus.  In like manner, don’t ramble.  Instead, be brief and to the point.  The conscious mind retains only small bits of information, so share essential information in small segments (i.e. a sentence or two then wait for person to acknowledge that they’ve understood); if the person remains silent, say another sentence or two and pause again.  Continue this way to convey courtesy and good etiquette to the networking contact.  Also, avoid topics that are controversial or even sensitive.  Don’t delve too deeply into your contact’s personal sphere, lest you cause discomfort and damage to your networking connection status.  Be mindful that how you say things is not misperceived—–be careful of how you use words, the types of vocabulary you use, and the style of your speech because you must build rapport with your contact so as to be “on the same page.”   Since communication is vital to your network, exercising good speech (in both spoken and written form) and good interpersonal skills is significant.  It’s common sense that irritation, anger, and insult will certainly shut down communication.   As a result, aim to enter conversations with expressions of genuine kindness, empathy, compassion, and interest.  If necessary, tap into pleasant memories so as to evoke gentleness, smiles, and feelings of trust.

3) A SUPER Networker asks many insightful questions.
Say you are heading to a networking event.  Find out who are the folks who will be in attendance, and especially who will be guest speakers.  Then research their background and even find out what topics they will be interested in.  And for those already in your network, look into what new things they are up to, what they are currently working on, and especially what they are struggling with.  Paying attention to all these details can be very useful in leading you to your next networking lunch meeting with these contacts, and will certainly inform you on how best to add value to your contacts’ needs so that a strong business alliance is forged.  However, you must remember that when you request advice of a person, make sure it is in the person’s area of expertise—–otherwise, you risk making the fellow network contact feel uncomfortable for being viewed as “incompetent” or “ill-informed”.  Do not make your contact feel anything less than amazing, lest you want them to view you with scorn for the displeasure you gave them.  Meanwhile, don’t ask for advice that your contact would normally charge for—–learn how to switch easily from soliciting free advice to enlisting advice and vice versa.  Networking is about balance:  if there is no balance, then the disharmony created will not bode well for your business.  Good balance means good business.

4) Listen carefully and remember their ‘story.’
Stay focused on the person speaking—–focus on their words, gestures, facial expressions, tone, pitch, nonverbal cues, body language, everything!  In fact, listening carefully and focusing are almost analogous to a form of meditation and certainly helps in enhancing rapport.  Additionally, learning how successful business folks got to where they are not only builds rapport but also informs you about each person’s approach to business so that you can understand your networking partner’s mindset and work ethic.  This is vital because you can thereby know how to add value to (and extract value from) your business connection.  Besides, you will also get an idea of what things could be like when partnering with them.  Another good aspect of listening carefully is that it helps you “hear the subtle tones of voice that give emotional meaning to the speaker’s words.”  Knowing this can help you better navigate the conversation so that it does not go astray or become dull.  Also, when you listen carefully you are giving full attention to the speaker; attentiveness is the touchstone of networking—–not only will you be better received, you will likewise make the other person feel more inclined to do business with you in the future.

5) Be memorable by sharing profound facts.
Say someone asks you, “What do you do professionally?”  Rather than responding with a canned elevator speech or pitch about your company and your career, instead mention something personal and likewise profound that distinguishes you from the rest.  You can even share what passions, hobbies (e.g. collecting antiques), and interests you have beyond what you do professionally.  Better yet, share information about other things you can do; such personal details can break the ice, add good humor to the interaction, and bring about a relaxed atmosphere of sharing that can be very useful when finding more information about your contacts so that they can be converted from cold market to warm market.

6) Always keep lists about the important topics from the event and/or meeting.
Keeping lists is a great way to prod your memory for future conversations with the contact, and also for future reference so that during a future business meeting with the contact you’ll be better prepared for how to navigate the conversations you’ll have together (e.g. you can reference things in conversation the next time you meet).  Moreover, writing down important topics that arose from the meeting or event is a wonderful habit of being open to opportunities.  A further added bonus is the compliments you’ll get for having a good memory, being on top of things, and of being a well-informed businessman.

7) Make small promises and overdeliver on them.
Keeping promises reflects very well on your character, means your word is good, and gives you credibility.  Good credibility helps create a good reputation and builds trust.  Once your clout strengthens, so, too, will your influence.  All these are exactly how SUPER Networkers want to be perceived.  And all these are very good for your business.

8) Be consistent in staying in contact with your top 10 to top 25 networking partners.
Having the habit of being proactive in staying in touch does wonders for your reputation.  That’s what investing in your social capital is all about.  Just as in any activity that you invest in, investing in your social network must be consistent so that you can reap the long term benefits of your hard work.  And, staying in contact means rewarding your top 10 to top 25 networking partners for their alliance with you!  Rewarding them is important so that they continue to enhance your business.  What does that “reward” consist of?  At the heart of it all is the action of adding value to your partnership.  After all, before you ask for something you must give something first; in other words, build your social capital before you start asking for favors (e.g. you must make a deposit in your bank before you can even make a withdrawal).

9)  Always be positive.
Being positive can trickle down to your mood, your mannerisms, your demeanor, your conduct.  And being positive within yourself will even resonate with your contact so that they, too, begin to associate you with positivity.  Businesses thrive on positivity, so your contact will be more willing to ally themselves with you for your positive ripple effect.  Another aspect of this is that if you feel any doubt, anxiety, or frustration, take the moment to regroup and, if necessary, postpone until things feel and/or look better or when positivity is regained.

10)  Be warm and appreciative, and always follow-up.
Dropping the pitch of your voice and speaking slowly leads to the listener responding with greater trust.  A warm, supportive voice is the sign of leadership and generates comfort, cooperation, and even commitment.  Interspersing genuine compliments and expressions of genuine appreciation throughout your conversation likewise evokes warmth in the listener and certainly brings harmony to the conversation.  That is always a good way to begin a working partnership and a great way to enhance the collaboration over time.  As for the follow-up:  (a) Give your contacts a personal call to find out how things have gone with them and with the project you helped with; ask if there’s anything else you can help them with.  (b) Call all the folks who have referred business to you—–thank them for their referrals and try to learn what current activities they are involved with so you can refer business to them; this is important because networking is a two-way street.  Plus it helps keep them in your warm market.  (c) List as many as 100 people to stay in touch with—–whether is is folks you have been in business with for the past year/2years/5years, or whether it is any prospects you’ve crossed paths with recently.  Send them all greeting cards during the holidays.  And, (d) Follow up two weeks after having sent cards to your contacts so as to see what’s new in their lives and businesses; you can also ask them for referrals after you’ve caught up with them and their lives.  If it’s a prospect, set up appointments to find out if their current and immediate future plans might include using your service.

Always remember that networking ties are like currency.  The more you invest in them, the better the return.  Happy Super Networking!

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There was a time when networking via social media did not exist, but now it has become part of the tools for business owners to utilize when growing their business.  But every business owner is time-strapped, and social media networking requires both resources and time.  The name of the game, therefore, is efficiency—–because you don’t want to have two hours go by with nothing to show for it despite having clicked away numerous times online searching for leads.  So how can one be ensured a good return on investment where social media networking is concerned?  The root of all success with social media networking is to have a blueprint strategy that takes into consideration the amount of time you can realistically devote each day to your online marketing efforts—–this requires an activity plan, time-saving tools, discipline to follow through consistently, and constant review to ensure your ROI expectations are reasonable and are met favorably.  Enter effective Social Media Networking strategies:

1) Identify your best prospects. 
Business owners must define their best prospects from amongst all their potential prospects.  It’s important to have a plan on how to identify who you want to connect with and where to find them.  In fact, take a look at your past client list and determine what industries and what demographics they were in, and what commonalities they have so that a possible pattern can emerge that can provide you with insights on your target market.  Remember that Facebook is NOT the only social media hub out there.  In fact, there are other social media network hubs that can better assist business owners because they are better at targeting the business brand’s particular consumer.  So, do your research on which social media network hubs are frequented by your business’s clientele.

2) Determine where is the optimal place to meet your best prospects.
Sure there are the internet and social media websites revolving around the Chamber of Commerce, the local business association, and referrals—–but these are merely starting points.  There are other venues and opportunities that can help you target a specific niche market.  For instance, find forums of service clubs or of homeowners’ association meetings, find internet communities for volunteers, find the social media pages of nonprofits.  Find the websites or webpages of representatives from bigger corporations in your area (such as those on LinkedIn).  There are entrepreneurial meet-ups online, there are webinars and podcasts you can attend that can connect you with others who are interested in your industry, and there are numerous kinds of networking events online that are more than likely attended by folks with disposable income (e.g. online bookclubs, online alumni networks, etc).  The greater number of networks you connect with, the more chance you’ll get of being connected eventually via direct contact or lead to those folks who will boost your business.  You merely have to keep attending as many networking events as you possibly can.  But how do you attend in an efficient way?  Determine which are your top five to top ten places to attend and focus on them for increments of one month, three months, or six months before changing to a new set of top five to top ten places for another one month, three months, or six months span—–this ensures you have some depth while at the same time allowing you to expand to new target markets as well in the long run.  Once at those networking hubs, surround yourself with quality business contacts, because they are the ones who will connect you with the folks who can help your business flourish.

And, when scouting for possible leads, you may ask questions such as “Who do you know who…?” with specifics relating to your business:  e.g. “Who do you know who is a new parent?”  or “Who do you know who is a military veteran needing assistance with transtion?”  or “Who do you know who is in need of legal advice?”  or “Who do you know who is in need of (specify your business’s products or services)?”  Interestingly enough, by asking for a specific kind of contact/lead, you focus the other person’s attention on details that are more likely to remind them of a specific person, because asking “Do you know anyone who needs my services?” is no longer enough in this economy.

3) Map out your weekly schedule for social media networking; make sure it makes sense to you, is feasible, and is coordinated with all your business activities.  One example is:

  • Everyday: Post one update at 9 a.m., one at 1 p.m. and one at 5 p.m. on Facebook and Pinterest.
  • Mondays and Wednesdays:  Dedicate 10 minutes to responding to comments and direct messages at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays:  Dedicate 10 minutes at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to retweeting people’s comments and thanking people for mentioning you or retweeting your posts.
  • Twice a week attend (or host) a webinar (or podcast) specific to your business’s industry.
  • Every two weeks post a video of your business on YouTube.
  • Once a month update your LinkedIn profile.

 

4) Utilize the plethora of time-saving social media tools out there.

Some great websites to help you along these lines include ping.fm, www.seesmic.com and www.tweetdeck.com wherein they help you by sending updates to multiple social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook, with one click.  Then there’s atomkeep.com–which allows you to link multiple Facebook and Twitter accounts to one desktop application so you can post updates to all profiles, as well as view and respond to your friends’ posts. This means no more logging-in to multiple social networking sites.  Finally, there are sites like www.cotweet.com that let you schedule updates in advance, so your profiles can be updated even when you’re not online.

Moreover, you must always keep in mind the “90-9-1 Principle”, wherein you must interact qualitatively with 10% of the audience so as to cultivate value for the remaining 90%:

  • 1% of users are Creators who are actively creating content,
  • 9% are Editors who are commenting and adding to content that already exists, and
  • 90% are Audience or Lurkers. They are watching and consuming content.

 

5) Constantly review your ROI expectations.
Networking takes time.  Instead of expecting to see an immediate surge in sales, it would be better to first delight in seeing people interact with your brand.  Make sure to concentrate on customer service.  Even complaints from customers can be turned around into showcasing how your business is a solutions-finder that cares about your customers—–what’s more, that move always wins you more customers for they got to see you in action.  As you can see, building relationships with people and credibility for your brand doesn’t happen overnight. Besides, it’s not just quantity you are going for, but quality in customers as well.  That is, if your network is a mile wide but is only an inch deep (meaning you’ve merely  hoarded followers but they aren’t engaged with your brand on a personal level), it will not be successful.  In contrast to merely having a big pool of followers, it’s more important that you create a network of depth and meaningful relationships through your being visible and engaging in conversations so that you grow your business’s credibility, which in turn leads to building your brand and your sales.


6) Caveats when doing social media networking:

a) Do NOT get distracted by other interesting posts.  Stay focused on your objectives and remain cognizant of your time.
b) Recognize when it is time to delegate social media responsibilities to an employee (social media department within your firm), consultant, or agency.
c) When setting up a blog, Facebook, or LinkedIn page, etc make sure to be disciplined and consistent about populating your pages with fresh content material.
d) Find content that will resonate profoundly with your audience.  Imagine the possibilities when you let your brand become a trusted thought leader on a hot cultural topic!
e) Social media networking is NOT about selling but about engaging.

In all, social media networking is about engaging the customer, especially those customers who are key influencers.  This can be done by forging enduring and mutually productive connections with the influencers so that their advocacy of your business’s products, services, and capabilities is enhanced—–because this helps build a sense of community among brand loyalists that can in turn lead those loyalists to better advocate on behalf of your business (reciprocity).  Now that you are armed with the above principles, go out and conquer!  And, Happy Social Media Networking to you!

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