Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Holiday Traveling Tips

By: Sally Rutherford

The holidays certainly can be stressful, and traveling during a holiday is certainly not fun. The roads are packed, traffic is thick, and everyone is anxious to get to their destination. Traveling is also more expensive. Don't you love it when people take advantage of the holidays like that?!?

I thought I could give you some tips for when you travel this holiday. Hopefully these tips can save you some peace of mind as well as money!

  • If you are flying and have presents to take ship them in advance. They will be there when you arrive and you do not have to mess with taking them on the plane. If you do take them on the plane do not wrap them. With the heightened security at airports they will probably just be unwrapped and checked anyway.
  • Consider renting an apartment or condo for a week. You can find some great deals online and save a considerable amount of money over paying for a hotel. Depending on the size of your family you may want to look into renting a vacation home.
  • Don't eat out anymore than you have to. Eating out is expensive. Use your rental to its full advantage and go to the grocery store and buy what you need to cook your own meals. Get the kids involved and let them help pick the meals and even help cook them.
  • Recreation during the holidays is one of the great benefits of having a family. You can play board games or card games. Take along a Frisbee or football and get outside and throw them around. When you rent a place for the week it offers you all kinds of ways to save money. You can take along your favorite DVDs and have some family movie time everyday.
  • If you rent a vacation home you might want to share it with another family. Being able to split the costs with someone you enjoy being around during the holidays can save you a lot of money as well. This idea may or may not work for you depending on the ages of your kids and the common interests of the family you travel with.

These are just a few holiday travel tips if you are on a budget. Even if you are not on a budget you can save some money during the holidays and have some quality time with your family that you might not get staying with a relative or in a hotel.

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Making Friends Online

Ever thought of making friends with people you do not know? It might sound intimidating to think of establishing relationship with strangers, especially with all the cases of road rage, spousal abuse, stalkers and various other social ills taking rounds. The world seems to be moving faster and faster each day without any sign of slowing down in the near future.

In the good old days, your school, your workplace and the church were the common places where you met people. These were far more secure places than bars or clubs. However, since work places have lost their reputation for being safe due to increased problems with sexual harassment, they are no longer considered a practical option for many.

School, in particular college, remains one of the most likely places for two people to become friends or establish a relationship. However, balancing the high demands of coursework along with the stresses that go along with a relationship can be demanding. Due to the high pressure placed upon young adults to succeed in their careers, the importance of friendship and relationships has diminished considerably.

Church has also ceased being a good place to meet people if for no other reason than the fact that so few people are attending on a regular basis. This is especially true for young adults so there remains few options for meeting people in a relatively safe manner and having the possibility of establishing a relationship.

Although many people attach a certain stigma to meeting other people online, the fact remains that it is one of the best ways to talk with other people like yourself in hopes of making a connection. There are literally millions of people out there using cyberspace in hopes of making a connection.

There are a number of services that allow people to set up a profile and meet other people with similar interests and tastes. For people considering this option, be sure to use a service that has been around for awhile and has a large number of members. Because these sites often charge money for their service, you definitely want to find sites with as many people, male. & female, young & old, native & foreigner, Asian & Caucasian, etc. as possible to increase your odds of making a connection.

Of course, chatting remains an option and sites like Yahoo offer this service for free and it has thousands of people chatting on its site at all hours of the day, and night! Plus, Yahoo even offers chatting rooms that are specially created for individual states and regions so there is a good chance of meeting someone within your area. Even if you don't make any long lasting connections, the chances are pretty good that you will at least get to spend the night communicating with new people instead of just lounging around watching television.

Meeting people online is a different ballgame altogether. Unlike a superficial encounter over dinner and a movie it allows you to have an intimate conversation with the other person to get to know each other. The only disadvantage of online chatting is the risk of spending your time chatting with someone who is pretending to be someone else. In all other respects it is one of the safest and most effective ways of meeting friends that might lead to a long lasting relationship.

Kerri Glenton is the owner and operator of F friends, the best place on the internet for information about friends. For more articles on friends why not visit: www.friendsunltd.com/articles

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

8 Tips for a Stress-Free Vacation

Preparing for a vacation should be exciting and fun. Unfortunately, it seems as though whenever we go on vacation, there are always last-minute household concerns to attend to, such as: Who will take care of our pets? Who will water our plants? How will we keep our home secure?

Without a plan, we may be left wondering whether we left the oven on, locked the doors, or packed everything we needed for our trip. These concerns can make our journey less enjoyable and our vacation worrisome. The following helpful vacation preparation tips will ensure that you always leave for vacation feeling fully prepared, relaxed, and secure so you can get the most out of your trip.

Vacation Tip #1: Use a packing checklist when you pack.

Whether you’re packing for a long weekend or a 3-week excursion, a packing checklist simplifies the process. When you use a packing checklist, you can be certain that you have everything that you need to fully enjoy your vacation. You can get a comprehensive travel packing checklist free from GoSightsee.com. Sign up for the free travel newsletter and you’ll also get insider travel tips, helpful articles, and travel discounts.

Vacation Tip #2: Arrange for your mail and newspapers to be held until you return.

Mail piled up in your mailbox and unclaimed newspapers stacked on your doorstep can indicate that you’re not home. This can signal to would-be thieves that your home is unguarded and a good target. Prevent this by calling the Post Office a few days before your trip and asking them to hold your mail. Once you return, you simply go to the Post Office to retrieve your mail and they’ll start delivering it to your mailbox again.

You can do the same thing with your newspaper by calling their subscription line and asking them to pause delivery for the days you’ll be out of town. They’ll either extend your subscription or give you a reduced bill for the non-delivered papers.

Vacation Tip #3: Ask a friend to check your home while you’re away.

It’s a good idea to ask someone you know and trust to stop by your home a few times while you’re on vacation. Give them a key, directions, your contact information, and the dates that you’ll be away. Your friend can park their car in your driveway, check your home for any signs of entry and/or theft, can water your lawn and/or plants, and can take care of anything else you need.

This achieves several goals:

  • Your friend’s car will be parked in your driveway sporadically, giving would-be thieves the message that your home isn’t a good target.
  • If they encounter a problem or suspect entry or theft, they can contact you right away instead of you having to wait to discover and deal with the issue once you return.
  • Your friend will be taking care of your plants and lawn so they’ll be alive and well when you get back into town.

Vacation Tip #4: Hire a petsitter to care for your pets.

A petsitter will feed, groom, play with, and watch your pets while you’re on vacation. If you have pets and you’re going for longer than two days, it’s definitely a good idea to hire a professional petsitter.

You’ll want to familiarize them with your home and the location of your pets’ supplies. Provide them with a key, written instructions on how to care for your pet, your contact information, and the name, address, and phone number of your veterinarian.

Vacation Tip #5: Set automatic light timers throughout your home.

An easy way to make your home look inhabited while you’re out of town is to program a few light timers to automatically turn lights on and off throughout your home. These devices are inexpensive and can be found in any discount retail store (such as Target). They are simple to program and work best if you use them on lamps in different areas of your home and stagger their on and off times. For instance, if a lamp in your living room is programmed to stay on from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., then a lamp in your upstairs bedroom could be programmed to stay on from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m.

These are also helpful if you have pets so they aren’t spending an unusual amount of time in darkness. Using automatic light timers can help your pets relax more while you’re on vacation by keeping up their regular light exposure.

It’s also a good idea to have some of your outdoor lights automatically turn on at dusk and turn off at dawn. This will not only make your home look inhabited, but may also thwart would-be thieves who will be deterred from breaking into a well-lit home.

Vacation Tip #6: Turn off and unplug electrical equipment and appliances.

The day you leave for your trip, you’ll want to check all of your major appliances and electrical equipment to make sure everything is turned off. This includes:
  • Oven and stove
  • Lights that don’t have an automatic timer
  • Computer, printer, and other home office equipment
  • Televisions
  • Fans and plug-in heaters

You also want to unplug electrical devices and some major appliances to help prevent potential fires. This includes:
  • Plug-in heaters (baseboard, dish, etc.)
  • Hair dryers
  • Curling irons
  • Shredder
  • Blender, food processor, toaster oven, and other kitchen electrics

While you’re checking and unplugging these devices, also check your faucets to make sure that no one has inadvertently left water running. Taking these steps will help put your mind at ease and ensure that your electric and water bills don’t balloon out of control while you’re away.

Vacation Tip #7: Adjust your thermostat.

To keep your gas and electric bill in check while you’re on vacation, set your thermostat to a lower temperature (in the winter) or a higher temperature (in the summer) than you would normally use in your home. Since you won’t be there, you can save money on your heating and cooling bills by keeping the thermostat slightly higher or lower.

If your pets will still be at home while you’re away, make sure to keep the temperature comfortable for them and show your petsitter how to operate your thermostat in case any extremes in temperature are experienced.

Vacation Tip #8: Lock all doors and windows.

One of the last things to do before gathering your packed luggage and loading up the car is to check that all of your doors and windows are securely locked. Be sure to check your garage doors and windows as well.

Using this checklist to prepare for your vacations will give you less to worry about while you’re away. Less stress translates into a better vacation. Knowing that you have everything you need and that your home and pets are secure and being cared for will give you peace of mind. You’ll be able to truly relax and enjoy your vacation. Happy travels!

Sheri Keyser is the Founder and CEO of GoSightsee.com, a travel website that will save you time and money on your next vacation. Get insider travel tips and recommendations on sightseeing destinations, vacation planning resources, and travel deals at GoSightsee.com. Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Sheri_Keyser

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Do You Want To Live In The Country?

How many times have you heard people say, "I want to live in the country", "I want a smallholding!", "A holiday business!","I want to work from home", "A simple and green environment!".

The idea of making money in the city, paying off the mortgage and going to live in the country is enticing. You can get a beautiful old farm house, work from home, enjoy the nature and breathe in fresh air. And most of this is true but there are risks and downsides to consider too.

So what's your dream? Make a list of what you are looking for.

Do you really want to live in the country? "In the country" could have a whole range of meanings. Do you want to live in a market town, a little village or really out in the sticks? Or would holidays do? I ask this because living in the country is so different to visiting it.

What do you enjoy about living in the city? The buzz, the access to theatre, music, education, exhibitions, people, shops, etc? When you have a dream it's easy to miss the truth of your current situation.

Living in a village can be fun and sociable, providing you get on with the general population (it could be small) and are happy to deal with village politics. However, they can also be intrusive - people are naturally curious and some people will want to know your business.

Are you happy to use the car a lot. Many country roads are winding, narrow and fast. Walking along country roads is not a good idea! If it's walking you're after check that you CAN walk in the place you're interested in. Sometimes there are surprisingly few walkways as it's private access.

Would you be happy living somewhere with few shops - of course you could shop online and have your groceries delivered by the local box scheme, or dare I say, a supermarket chain (maybe that wouldn't sit comfortably with the "living in the country" theme!).

Employment. If you want to stay with your current company, can you work from home? Is this acceptable? With the current credit crunch and subsequent redundancies, this is less available. Especially if you need to prove your worth - bosses may want to see you in the office. Setting up your own business is an option but research it thoroughly - it's a big risk, takes up a huge amount of your time, though the rewards can be worth it. Setting up a B&B is another popular option - and again, it's hard slog for not much money.

The assumption of simply getting another job in your new location if your current job doesn't work out is again risky - jobs are now not easy to come by, and the pay is generally much lower outside the big smoke. Most people need an income and getting this right, with your feet firmly on the ground, is crucial!

You may want to sell up and move to the country and own two houses. One as a holiday let and one to live in. However, research the costs and risks - holiday letting can be a drain if you can't let the property or if it needs a lot of maintenance and care.

This may sound all rather negative but the bottom line is that the dream and the reality need to be checked very rigorously before you take action. Otherwise you could end up wanting to move back...

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Closer Look at Olympic Beijing

The people of Beijing are wonderful. They are promptly hospitable, friendly and helpful. They love to have pictures with foreigners for posterity perhaps.. Everyone you’d have any interaction with would bring you joy from to waiters to taxi drivers. Just get prepared to be swarmed and run over on the sidewalks. There are literally hundreds of thousands of others sharing the sidewalks and boulevards with you, but they move deftly around you. There is no rudeness or pushiness. Yes, they are among the friendliest people in the world.

It will really surprise you and impress you mainly with the people and the energy you’d feel from the people. They're just pretty happy people and a great sense of humor and they really are welcoming the world there and that's what you’d feel like. They're really serious and really intense and you have to be also to get ahead and to be competitive in anything with 1.3 billion people. But they also have a really funny side and you’d see just how proud these people are and how much it means for the local Olympic volunteers to be part of the great event.


The daily weather in Beijing is referred to as being “overcast” with a one to two kilometer thick by several hundred kilometer wide pall of smog. You hardly see the tops of buildings, or clearly across the wide boulevards. You can feel the smog on your skin, in your nostrils and taste it in your mouth. A haze usually hangs over the city for the early part of the day. Anyone with breathing or respiratory problems must have a hard time with it. Or you better not come.

The temperature is rather warm. At street level with the crowds, the temperature must be about 95 F. Everyone is sweaty, and when greetings are exchanged, the hugs and handshakes are slick.


At a Chinese restaurant you’d be served very large dishes of fresh, hot steaming food, plus a couple of large beers and sodas worth a whopping 137 yuan ($23) – that’s for eight people. And no tips for such gracious and prompt service.

Speaking of sense of humor, there was some pretty good Chinglish on the menu when you’d go to a restaurant to enjoy a traditional Chinese hot pot. Among the items was "obese beef," "aftertaste sausage," and "cube roll of moo cow." Doesn't matter what they call it; it was awesome.

There would always be a 24-hour lounge somewhere where those working on the 24-hour clock could stay and relax with a cold beverage whenever the day is done. Here’s an account from a pal: As I’m picking up a tray or two for the crowd, I need to ask the comely young barkeep how late the joint may be open, trying to figure out how early I’d have to get there. She goes, confers with some supervisor ‘cause I don’t think she quite understands my English and comes back to report: "Sir, we are open all the hours.” A local with some knowledge of the place looks at me like I’ve got three heads and says, “Don’t worry, you can smoke in restaurants here. I think you can smoke in hospitals if you want.”

Streets & Travel

Hutongs are the narrow streets or alleys that are formed by the traditional courtyard residences all over Beijing. The neighborhoods where these alley ways exist are usually referred to as hutongs. You’d have a lot of offers from the bicycle rickshaw drivers to take you around, but you can stay on foot and maybe much more exciting.

Taxi cabs, so far, represent the only element of this Olympic experience that needs a serious upgrade. The drivers seem to be from anywhere except this city, for some reason, and don’t know their way around town, or how to find anything. That’s even with the little specialized maps that Olympic organizers have printed out. Sometimes a cab driver misses the mark, but still does you a favor. Even when they’re lost and clueless,

though, the drivers are polite and friendly and provide stories for the telling. If you miss the mark a mile away, a local would insist on escorting you for a walk of the entire distance and he wouldn’t even accept beer money in return. What a walk, though. But you could have beautiful grounds, with lakes, giant trees, gardens, temples, fine old buildings, groups of people doing the Tai Chi thing on flawless green lawns. Well, if you get on the right place…

You see a lot of things in the first class lounges of various train stations and airports – not that I go there very often in these budget-conscious times. Things like famous people sometimes. Free food. The odd drink. Comfortable chairs. And, apparently, bugs. Big, stinking scorpion-like bugs.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pay Everyone Cash Advance Loans

When you find yourself in dire need of financial assistance, the best place for you to do is to apply for payday loans or cash advance loans to some of the financial assistance companies out there. You can not avoid these things to happen to your life as we are also spending for our daily living.

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House Insurance Rates

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The best place for you to have your house insure is at House Insurance Rates. They offer you the best insurance policies in a very low rate compared to other insurance companies. They are one of the top leading homeowner insurance companies which will surely of big help for you.

They are not an insurance company, so they bring house insurance rates to their visitors in a unique way. For one, they are not going to try to push their policies on you because they do not actually offer house insurance policies. Instead, they are a free referral service that helps match their visitors with quality house insurance companies that can offer affordable house insurance rates. Their insurer network includes some of the best homeowner's insurance companies in the business. Secondly, they do not just offer you one quote on house insurance rates, unlike many of their competitors. Rather, they offer you up to five free quotes on house insurance rates from various insurers. You see your quotes side-by-side to help make your comparison shopping simple and hassle-free. Their goal is to serve as a one-stop-shopping site for visitors looking for low-cost house insurance rates. Here are a few of the house insurance companies in their network:

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

How To Avoid Bad Credit Loans

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fundamentals Of Design Professional Malpractice

In today’s litigious society, no profession can escape the cost and aggravation of legal claims and suits. Design Professionals, architects and engineers, are no exception. One important and distinct type of claim or suit is the professional liability or malpractice claim.

A variety of other types of claims and suits may be made against the design professional, such as claims for ordinary negligence, such as automobile liability cases, or slip and falls on the company’s property. There are suits for wrongful employment practices such as discrimination, sexual harassment, or wrongful discharge. Finally, there are suits for commercial disputes over contracts, trade secrets, and patents.

Professional liability claims are unique and distinct from other types of claims because they are made against the professional in relation to the performance of professional services and the specific duties owed by professionals which are not applicable to the public at large. As a result special rules and standards apply to these claims that do not apply to other types of negligence actions.

A claimant may file a claim or suit asserting professional negligence, as a tort, such as negligence or misrepresentation, or may assert the claim as a breach of contract claim or that the design professional was negligent in the performance of its contractual duties.


In the absence of a specific contractual undertaking, the architect or engineer design professional owes legal duties to perform their work in accordance with the standard of practice of their profession.

Generally speaking, in order to prevail on a professional malpractice or professional negligence cause of action, the Plaintiff must assert and establish:

a. what the standard of practice is for the design professional under the circumstances;

b. that the design professional violated the standard of practice, and the way in which the standard of care was violated; and

c. that the Plaintiff suffered damages as a proximate result of the violation of the standard of practice.


What does it mean for there to be a standard of practice or a violation of the standard of practice? The standard of practice is the exercise of ordinary skill and care common to the professional under the circumstances. It is not the average performance of all professionals or the best performance of professionals. The standard of practice can relate to any aspect of a design professional’s work, from design to construction administration.

Just because a majority of professionals would do a task a certain way or that the claimant’s expert would do it differently does not mean that the way that the design professional performed the task is wrong or was a violation of the standard of practice.

Professional negligence must be contrasted with ordinary negligence. Professionals, like any other person, can be sued for ordinary negligence for matters not relating to their professional duties and practice. For example, if a person slips and falls on ice on their property of the professional, in the course of driving to or from a construction site, negligently causes a motor vehicle accident, those claims would be ordinary negligence claims where the standard of practice would not be applicable.

The design professional does not guaranty success (unless the design professional contractually or expressly makes a guaranty or warranty), and a bad result does not necessarily constitute a violation of the standard of practice.

Ordinarily, a claimant must present expert testimony to support a claim of professional negligence. There is an exception where the alleged professional negligence is a matter of common knowledge, or if the defendant professional establishes by his/her own testimony the standard of practice and breach.


Proximate cause is a legal term that involves elements of forseeability and a close relationship between the conduct alleged to impose liability and the damages.

In the context of claims against design professionals for malpractice, it is often alleged that the design professional should have designed the building or system differently, specified different equipment, or omitted something of significance from the design or specifications.

However, where the alleged damages involve things that should have been provided, but were omitted, or where betterments or improvements should have been specified or designed into the building or system, those may not be proximately caused damages. If the additional work or additional equipment, such as more expensive or sophisticated features or controls, would have been required had the design professional acted properly, then those costs would ordinarily have been incurred by the owner at the time of construction if the professional had not been negligent, and are not proximately caused damages. If the alleged damages involve improvements that make the building or system better or more valuable to the owner, then those betterments may not be proximately caused damages as the owner would benefit from those improvements and would have paid for those betterments.

On the other hand, if the cost of providing those improvements including the cost of the additional equipment or system, or the cost of installation of that additional system or equipment is more than it would have been had the design professional properly designed the system or properly prepared the specifications at the outset of the project, then those additional costs may be recoverable as proximately caused damages. For example, if the price of purchasing the additional HVAC equipment has gone up since the original contract and bidding process, or if it would cost more to install the equipment after the fact because other equipment would have to be remove and reinstalled, then those would be recoverable costs and/or expenses.


Completely apart from the issue of professional malpractice for violating the standard of practice, a design professional may be liable for breach of a specific contractual promise or a specific guaranty or warranty.

However, in the absence of such a contractual undertaking or warranty, to what extent is a design professional liable to a third party under principles of contract or tort?

Historically, Defendants and design professionals were not liable to third parties for property damage or bodily injury, or to other contractors for their economic losses, in the absence of privity of contract, i.e., a direct contractual relationship with the party making the claim.

The principles of privity of contract were eroded over the years both in ordinary negligence cases and in professional liability cases and claims have been allowed in most states against professionals by third parties in spite of the lack of contractual privity.

However, at least in Michigan, recently there has been a movement in the opposite direction limiting the liability of contractors and design professionals to third parties.

The court in Matrix relied upon a Michigan Supreme Court decision in Fultz v Union-Commerce Associates, 470 Mich 460-463 (2004) which held that a third party cannot sue a contractor without having a contractual relationship with the contractor in the absence of proving some duty owed to the claimant independent of the duties undertaken by the contractor under the contract with the owner.

Other states still allow suits by third parties against design professionals in the absence of privity of contract.

Third party Plaintiffs which are not in contractual privity with the design professional may also assert that they are third party beneficiaries of the contract between the design professional and the owner and thus entitled to sue. This approach often does not succeed because a third party beneficiary must establish that the parties to the original contract with the owner intended to benefit the third party.


Claims against design professionals for fraud or misrepresentation are generally considered distinct from ordinary malpractice claims involving breach of the standard of practice. They do not require proof of the standard of practice and violation of the standard of practice, but rather have their own independent elements as follows:

a. a misrepresentation or omission of an important fact;

b. the misrepresentation or omission was made negligently, innocently, or intentionally;

c. the claimant reasonably relied upon the misrepresentation or omission; and

d.the claimant suffered damages as a proximate result of the misrepresentation or omission.

Frequently claimants will assert misrepresentation or omission allegations against design professionals relating to errors or omissions in specifications, or in statements made to the contractors in the course of the bidding process or construction or administration of the contract. In such cases, the third party may not be able to establish the necessary element of reasonable reliance where the design professional’s duty is owed to the owner, not the third party.

Claims for misrepresentation often require a higher level of proof, i.e., proof by clear and convincing evidence.

Misrepresentation claims by third parties may be allowed even where professional liability claims based on breach of contract are not, because they are considered to be a distinct type of claim.


One of the different rules applicable to professional liability claims is the time period during which a claimant can sue, or the statute of limitations or in some instances a statute of repose. A statute of limitations usually limits a claimants right to sue after a certain number of years after the claim accrues. The accrual date can be the date of the alleged wrongful act, the completion date of a project, the date of the injury or damage, or in some instances, the last day that the professional performed services for its client.

A statute of repose limits the time after which suit can be performed to a certain number of years after a date, often the completion or occupancy of a project or building, without regard to when the injury or damage occurred or could have been discovered. Thus a statute of repose could preclude a suit even though the damages had not occurred or became manifest or discoverable before the deadline.


Malpractice claims can arise out of a variety of situations and causes too numerous to relate. However, some of the more common ones are addressed here.

Many malpractice claims arise out of disputes over the scope of work and claims relating to oral agreements or representations. As a result, it is very important for the design professional to document its scope of work and all agreements or understandings, even for small projects and for clients where there is a long term ongoing relationship.

Too often, after an initial proposal or professional services contract for an initial project, and after an ongoing relationship settles in, informalities arise, where formal documentation of the project and scope of work can go by the wayside. If a major loss or claim arises, that prior close or long term relationship may not prevent disagreements over scope of work and duty issues or prevent one party from asserting revisionist history to support their claim. Good documentation is an important measure to prevent malpractice claims and help defeat them when they arise.

Similarly, informal or oral decisions or changes made in the field without the necessary investigation, communication, and documentation can lead to malpractice claims based on ambiguous decisions or change orders, lack of owner consent, or insufficient information.

Failure to address complaints or issues raised by the owner, or contractors, in a timely fashion and respectfully can cause anger and blow out of proportion a manageable issue that could have been solved early at little expense. Complaints over billings or charges that are ignored or blown off can sometimes lead to other claims of poor work or services and snowball into a malpractice suit.

Where delays are caused by unexpected circumstances or conditions, bad weather or supplier issues, claims may be made against the owner for delay damages and extra expenses or result in litigation against the contractor for delayed or uncompleted work, missed deadlines, and poor workmanship. These claims often result in the design professional being brought into the fray and litigation. It is best to identify and address these issues clearly and directly with the owner and contractor and resolve them before the amount of money and time involved becomes critical to either side making litigation more likely.

Common Mistakes In Business Plans

Your business plan is typically the first impression potential lenders of investors get about your business idea. Even with a great product, team, and customers, and you are unable to convey to properly convey your image, it could be the last impression if your plan has some of the following, common mistakes.

Lenders and investors review hundreds of business plan every year and with every plan, lenders and investors become more cynical because the same mistakes pop up with regular frequency. With so much competition for a limited amount of capital, it is imperative to not make these mistakes.

1. Financials

Unrealistic Financial Projections - Simply saying that you are going to do $100,000 in sales is not enough nor can you simply say there is no way of knowing. Everyone knows there is no way to accurately come up with financial projections over the next three years, especially in a start-up. But, what is required in your plan is that reasonable assumptions are made and supported with research. By incorporating a detailed list of assumptions and how you arrived at your numbers, the lender/investor can judge your analysis and decision making process. If you are projecting to generate high sales outside of industry norms, explaining how you arrived at this conclusion is a must. Lenders and investors have seen many, many plans that claim sales are going through the roof once funded and as a result are very jaded at statements like this. Financial data that is inconsistent with industry averages and overly aggressive sales figures will raise flags. Explain every number.

Confusing Cash with Profits - Revenues do not always equal cash. For example, suppose you make a sale this month for $100 that cost $50 to produce. Assuming your buyer doesn’t pay for 30-60 and even 90 days if dealing with state or federal sources (and assuming they all pay), the effect on your cash flow is significant. Suppliers and employees still have to be paid for their work while you are waiting on payment from the buyer.

While you may not have a significant portion of sales coming from receivables, the timing of cash flows is critical for developing a financial strategy as cash flow is much more important than profits. Profits are an accounting concept while cash is money in the bank. If you don’t believe me try paying your bills with profits.

No Adjustment for Seasonality - All businesses are seasonal to some extent, some more significant than others. Seasonality refers to the percentage of sales that are made in a month. For example, most retailers have huge November and December sales and lousy January and February sales. Did you make enough cash during the good months to cover the slow months to cover salaries, rents and lights?

If You Build It They Will Come - Be careful in assuming once your doors open people will be streaming in to buy. You have a new, relatively unheard of business. This is a time when your business is particularly vulnerable as most of new owner’s cash reserves have typically been used to open the store. If sales projections are off during the first couple of months and you don’t have enough working capital to keep the lights on, you may be quickly going out of business.

Insufficient financial projections - Basic financial projections consist of four elements: Income Statements, Profit & Loss, Balance Sheets, and Cash Flow Statements.

For most businesses a three-year projection is sufficient, but if yours is a capital intensive one and will take longer to show profitability then use five. Actual figures are a must if you can get them and any number in the projections needs to be in the business plan narrative. If you are purchasing an existing business use the historical financials to show support for your sales figures.

No Quotes - Any significant expenses should have a quote accompanied in the appendix, especially for construction or remodeling as this is an area where most entrepreneurs slip as they do it themselves and greatly underestimate the costs.

2. Marketing

Failing to relieve the customer’s pain - Businesses are rewarded to make consumer’s pain go away. Pain can include; my car stopped working, my doggie is sick or my tax returns are too hard to prepare.

If your business plan can’t show how you are relieving the customer’s pain, then the chances for success in the marketplace is extremely limited.

Remember pain equals market opportunity. The greater the pain, the greater number of customer’s with this pain and the better you can relieve the pain equals greater market potential.

One Billion Customers Served - Claiming everyone needs your product/service will send a strong message to the reviewer that you don’t know your market and remove any credibility to your plan. In the good old days the shotgun approach to marketing could work as there were limited channels for advertisement. Today with unlimited outlets and more narrowly defined markets, this approach does not fly.

While it’s true everyone eats, not everyone will eat at your restaurant, nor could you effectively advertise to everyone. By researching the segments that are most likely to use your product/service and showing how your message will get to them will ultimately make your endeavor more successful. Having clearly defined target markets will show you have done your homework and be the cornerstone of a marketing strategy that can succeed.

We have no competition - Use this statement if your want your plan rejected. Every business has competition. While there may not be a direct competitor, meaning one that offers the same or similar product, there is always an indirect competitor.

Saying there is no competition tells the reviewer that you have either not done any market research or there is not a market for your product.

3. Organization

Writing For The Wrong Audience - A plan for a lender should be written differently than one for an investor. Banks are interested in seeing the likelihood that debts be repaid and investors are interested in the upside profit potential. Be sure to write your plan to your audience. For both, keep to the facts, keep it clear and keep it simple. If you don’t feel you have the writing abilities to make your plan shine, then get help.

Poor spelling and grammar - Leaving spelling and grammatical errors in your plan only tells the reviewer that you are not paying attention to details and may not pay enough attention to the business. Use spelling and grammar checkers and let others review your plan to make sure there are no errors.

Too repetitive - Many times, plans will cover the same points over and over. A well-written plan should cover key points only twice: once in the executive summary then again in greater detail in the narrative of the plan.

Remove the Jargon - Using simple language is imperative to getting a technical business funded. Don’t think that by using complex terms that lenders/investors will be so impressed with your knowledge that they will whip open the checkbook. Businesses that can’t be understood don’t get funded. If you can’t explain your business to a sixth grader your chances of funding are in jeopardy.

Investors are really only interested in your technology if it solves a problem that people will pay for, is better than the competition, can be protected through patents and can reasonably go to market without spending a lot of money.

Keep the technical details out of the business plan and in the white papers.

Appearance matters - Make sure your plan looks professional. Use professional printing, binding, keeping fonts consistent and easy to read. The more money being requested means investing more time in making sure your plan will stand out from the crowd. Be careful that you don’t go overboard and give the impression that the plan is all style and no substance.

Length - A long business plan does not make a better business plan. All of the industry and marketing research won’t save a flawed plan. Too many plans have been immediately rejected because they are too long. Lenders and investors favor entrepreneurs who can efficiently demonstrate the ability to efficiently get to the point.

An executive summary should be no more than 1-3 pages. Ideally it should only be one page but some complex plans require more. An ideal business plan is 20-30 pages, including financials. Remember less is more!

Use operating plans, white papers and marketing plans for the in-depth details.

Fluffing - Using phrases like "unmatched in the industry;" "narrow window of opportunity;" or "ground floor" are empty phrases filled with hype. If anything, the cynical reviewer will be turned off by the hype and trash your plan. Stick with laying out the facts – what is the problem, how will you solve the problem, how big is the market, how will consumers buy it and what is your competitive advantage. If the opportunity is there the lender/investor will be able to make the decision for themselves.

Overvaluing the business idea - What gives a business value is not the idea but the execution of the idea. A great idea is a start, but almost everyone has had a great idea at some point in their lives. How you will execute this idea is what sets apart a real business from the dreamers.

4. Execution Mistakes

Waiting too long - Funding a business takes a long time. Expect three months at a minimum after finishing your business plan to get funding. Unless you have sufficient capital, other sources of income and can be funded in-house at a bank, this number may be reduced. Bank financing for business with less than two years of operating history are typically funded through an SBA guarantee, which requires additional time, patience and paperwork. Financing through investors is usually an even longer process as they have a lot of people competing for their money and they tend to do significant due diligence to secure their investment. Waiting until you need the money is a sure way to keep your business from launching.

Unreasonable time lines - Many business owners underestimate the timelines for completing milestones. Its human nature to think we can do things faster than is possible. When getting a business started there will be several tasks you could not have anticipated and the some tasks you think will be easy which will end up taking much longer. It is best to overestimate and finish early, rather than scramble and execute your opening poorly.

Failing to seek outside review - When preparing your plan, be sure that you have at least a few people review it before sending it out. Preferably look for people in your industry or who have a specialization in sales, distribution, etc that could lend a fresh set of eyes and find any flaws in the plan. Being so close to the action can keep you from being objective and this additional scrutiny may save you countless headaches and money down the road.

Perfecting - It can be easy to spend countless hours perfecting your plan and ultimately never launching. Remember, your plan will never be perfect and in practice should be continually updated as you learn more about the business, market and customers. Don’t make your plan an academic practice, finish it and get in front of investors and lenders. Use this feedback to see if your plan really needs the additional perfection.

7 Easy Business Optimization Solutions for Your Web Site

7 Easy Business Optimization Solutions You Can Apply to Your Web Site Today

Finding affordable business optimization solutions for your Web site can some time be a challenge. Many of the Web site owners I talk to on a daily bases are small business owners that have a limited budget when it comes to advertising and even smaller when they talk about their Web site. One general consensus is that they all know they need to beef up their Internet presence but they all believe the only way to do that is by hiring a company who specialized in Internet Marketing or Search Engine Optimization. What many don’t realize is that with a little time and effort they can apply some basic optimization solutions to their site themselves and usually for free if they are dedicated to making their Web site succeed.

Being a small business owner myself I know how hard it is to juggle advertising dollars and get the most advertising for my money is important. I am going to share with you a few tips on how you can have a sucsesful on-line presence by just putting a little time and effort into your site.

#1 - For Your Visitor

Lets start by taking a good look at your Web site. We all look at our site so many times often we overlook the obvious. Pick up the phone or drop an email to some of your most loyal customers and ask them what they would want to see on your site to help them be better informed about your product or services. Ask them their thoughts and comments on your site. Ask them to give you their honest opinion. Do they see anything that they could suggest to make it better for potential customers? Is there any specific information they fell would benefit a new visitor? It is amazing how getting the prospective of your customer will often open some windows you may have never thought of before and the greatest thing is it does not cost a dime.

Another great way to see how your visitors are using your site you may want to apply some click tracking software to your Web site so you can see how people are navigating through your site. It may be a real eye opener to how you have your pages set up. It will tell you just where and what your visitors are clicking on. Visit http://www.Crazyegg.com and apply a small piece of code to your Web site and start tracking your visitor’s clicks you’ll be surprised at what you discover.

#2 – For Your Visitor

While you are taking a look at your Web site have you given your customers easy access to your contact information on each and every page? Many Web site owners overlook this important aspect. You need to make it easy for potential customers to contact you. You want them to be able to find a way to contact you on each and every page and not just on a contact page. You’re working with split seconds every time someone lands on your page. Make it easy for them tell them exactly what you want them to do. Rather then just saying Call Now! Give them specific instructions.

For Example:

Go pick up your phone and call us now to hear more about this special rate. Time is limited so call now at 800-555-1234

Buy today to take advantage of free shipping ... delivered right to your front door in 48 hours!

Little things that you may not think are important usually are the things that result in making a sale or not. One important factor in advertising is trying to find ways to make what you say different then everyone else. Those that stand out in a crowd are usually the ones that are making the sale.

What can you do to make your information different? Think of your competitors and what they are doing then you do the complete opposite.

These are just a couple of Web design and layout tips to help with your business optimization solutions that will mostly benefit your visitor. Now lets concentrate on a few that the search engines will favor

#3 – For Your Visitor & Search Engines

You only have 3 seconds to capture someone’s attention so start your business optimization solutions right at your title tag. Go to your home page and make a mental note of your title tag (look in the upper left hand corner of your browser the words listed there are what it says in your title tag.) Now go do a search using your most relevant keyword phrase (what you want your visitors to find you on when doing a search) and look at the results that come up.

Look at the title of each result on the first couple pages. How compelling are they? Do they intrigue you to click on them by reading what is listed there? People are looking for instant gratification and they will read the results and normally will click on those that compel them to do so. For example let’s take a look at these results for coffeehouse:

Out of the following results which would you be more inclined to click on?

• Depot Coffee House
• Discover a Cup of Europe at Eurotazza® Coffeehouse
• DJ’s Coffeehouse
• Coffeehouse – Savor the Flavor of Brazilian Coffee

By addressing the instant reaction of your potential visitor you’re compelling them to click on your ad by writing a good title but you’re also creating a keyword rich
title tag that the search engines will favor.

The first impression most Internet users get of your company is the way you describe your site so use your title tag as the most part of your Web site.

#4 – For the Search Engines

Is your Web site compliant? A quick check of your HTML code will reveal if your site is complying with the W3C. I would recommend running your site through http://validator.w3.org/ to test your website for compliance issues with W3C.

Here is a short definition of what W3C compliance is;
The W3C is the World Wide Web Consortium and basically, since 1994 the W3C has provided the guidelines by which websites and web pages should be structured and created.
• Compliance help insure accessibility
• Compliance helps insure that your website is accessible from a number of different devices; from different browsers to the growing number of surfers using PDA?s and cellular phones.
• Compliance will also help insure that regardless of the browser, resolution, device, etc. that your website will look and function in the same or at least a very similar fashion.

Being compliant doesn’t necessary benefit you in terms of SEO at this point, however many of the processes you go through to get compliant code will automatically improve your “on page” factors and it will rule out a lot of crawling/indexing issues.

#5 – For Your Visitor

Pre-qualification of your visitors is one of the biggest problems many companies make when developing a Web site. Say your Web site is about “cell phones” and you’ve set up your site only for the keyword phrase “cell phones.” Do you know the competing pages for the terms “cell phones” is over 246 million?

Even as a Professional SEO I know it’s going to be pretty hard to compete with those kinds of numbers. Let’s say we break the keyword phrase “cell phones” down to the lowest and most detailed search giving your visitors exactly what they are looking for.

If I was working on this site I would be working on pages that are more concentrated around detailed keyword phrases.

• cell phone – competing pages – 246,000,000
• cell phone ring tones - competing pages 494,000
• custom cell phone ring tones – competing pages 225,000
• make custom cell phone ring tones – competing pages 177,000
• make free ring tones – competing pages – 31,700
• star trek ring tones – competing pages – 5,110
• family guy ring tones – competing pages - 1,950
• like to make my own ring tones – competing pages – 3

By spending just a little research time I was able to find some valuable keyword phrases that could be used to open additional windows into a cell phone site. The key is opening as many windows into your site as possible. Once you have given your visitor exactly what they’re looking for you have already earned their creditability and they most likely will spend additional time on your site looking at what else you have to offer.

Take a look at your site. Do you have a separate page for each of your products or services? Are you breaking it down in the smallest lowest detailed search?

Think of it this way …the search engines goals are to return the most relevant results to its users so break down your keyword phrases into the most detailed result and you are bringing very happy visitor to your site.

#6 – For Web Site Exposure

No one knows more about your product or service than you do so take your knowledge and put it down in writing. Nothing will give you more creditability then having a visitor reading something you have written about your industry. Still the power of the written word is priceless.

There are a number of Web sites on the Internet you can submit your articles to along with posting them on your own Web site. Most Web site owners think their Web site is just a place just to list services and company info. What some forget is most Internet surfers do much research before deciding to hire someone for a service or buying a product. Normally when someone is searching for they are gathering as much information they can about the product first. If they’re coming to your Web site reading valuable information about your industry and products they are immediately going to feel you are an expert in your field.

We are in a world laden with advertising so when writing about a particular product or service by-past the industry hype and stick to the facts. If your readers think you’re writing sales pitches they will instantly hit the back button. Give them detailed information or how to properly use your products something that will be of value to them.

Here is my top list of article marketing Web sites that you can submit your articles and remember the most important place for them is on your own site.

• www.BusinessKnowHow.com
• www.ArticleDashboard.com
• www.Buzzle.com
• www.ArticleBiz.com
• www.EzineArticles.com
• www.ArticleCity.com
• www.ArticleAlley.com

I found a great resource to get your content indexed on Google within 24 hours. Check out http://www.scribd.com. Be sure to read the terms of service Scribd does not like anything that resembles advertising.

#7 For YOU!

Learn learn and learn some more!

One of the best things you can do for your site is to learn as much about search engine optimization and internet marketing as you can. There are a number of free and affordable resources you can use to learn exactly what it takes to perform better in the search engines.

To start with here is a list of Blogs you can subscribe to so you can keep up to date with the latest changes on the Internet: