6 Safety Tips for Using Extension Cords

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that mishaps with electrical extension cords cause about 4,000 trips to hospital emergency rooms each year. The misuse of extension cords and power strips also causes more than three thousand house fires annually, killing about 50 people and injuring over 250.

Extension cords are common household items that are often taken for granted. Many people would be surprised to learn just how dangerous they can be if used improperly. It is a matter of life and death that homeowners exercise caution when using extension cords.

The options for extension cords are daunting for the average homeowner who is not a licensed electrician. There are versions with UL listing, 3-wire design, Multi-outlet, indoor only, outdoor weather resistant, 13amp, 1625 watt, 16/3, 125V, basic, designer, NEMA, reinforced blades, oil-resistant, vinyl jacket and tangle-free. Cord lengths included 3’,6’,10’, 12’, 15’, 25’, 50’, and 100’. Extension cords come in a variety of colors, including white, brown, green, black, yellow, blue, pink, orange, or red.

licensed electrician

Here are six important extension cord safety tips that a homeowner should know and teach their family to follow.

Safety Tip #1:

Homeowners should use only extension cords with GFCI or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter protection. The GFCI will disconnect power if a potentially dangerous situation arises. A GFCI compares the current flowing through the cord and disconnects the power if a “leak” or imbalance of 4-6mA occurs. GFCI protection is an inexpensive lifesaver. If the cord being used does not have a built-in GFCI cord, plug the cord into a known GFCI outlet or a known GFCI protected circuit.

Safety Tip #2:

Use only one cord per tool up to 100 feet in length. Do not exceed 100 feet. If a project requires more than 100 feet in distance, a temporary power distribution box will need to be installed. Do not plug one extension cord into another. This practice can cause equipment failure, fires, and electrocution. Power cord ratings are determined by length. Connecting two cords together reduces current capacity in half, resulting in voltage drop and overheating. It is recommended that consumers only purchase cords made with 12-gauge wire. This gauge wire will handle any power tools without problems even if the length of the cord is over 100 feet in length. Avoid using less expensive cords that have smaller gauge wire.

Safety Tip #3:

Damaged cords should never be used. Electrical or duct tape on the cord is an indicator that the cord was damaged and repaired. While the cord may still work, using it is a violation of OSHA regulations. The only acceptable repair to a damaged cord is to remove the damaged area and install a new end.  Surface damage that penetrates through the outer protective jacket of the cord is considered permanent and unrepairable. Take care to protect extension cords. Extension cords can be damaged by dropping tools or materials on them or pinching or kinking them. Never drive a vehicle over an extension cord.

Safety Tip #4:

Do not attach extension cords to walls or ceilings using metal nails or staples. Cords are manufactured with a relatively soft, flexible jacket. Any impacts, pinching, or bending can damage the cord.

Safety Tip #5:

Do not run cords through doorways or under rugs. Following this tip can avoid two dangers. One danger is tripping or falling over the cord, and the other danger is traffic damage to the cord. Only plug cords into outlets in the same room where work is being done. Position the cords around the edges of the room. Avoid laying a cord across the room where it might become a trip hazard or get run over by a heavy piece of equipment or a dolly.

Safety Tip #6:

Properly coil any extension cords to avoid kinking or pinching. Store the coiled cord in a safe place where it cannot be damaged.

certified electrician

Extension cords can be very helpful, but if they are used improperly, they can cause serious injury or death. Every home should have GFCI outlets that facilitate the use of extension cords. Homeowners who have any questions should contact a competent, certified electrician for a consultation, upgrade, or new installation of GFCI outlets.

CRM Tools Bring a Competitive Edge to General Contractors

One of the most important keys to success as a general contractor is leveraging technology to multiply efforts, increase efficiencies, and improve communication. The right tools can facilitate general contractor licensing, filing annual reports, keeping the workers’ compensation exemption renewed, following lien law, pulling permits, and filing a notice of commencement. The general contractor must also consider the marketing aspects of what they do. If there is not a next client, then there is not another project.

florida contractor license

Client acquisition and customer relations management are a vital dimension of being a general contractor. If a general contractor is to repeatedly and consistently succeeds, they must perform well in many areas and at all levels. Technology facilitates compliance and enables scaling. The proper technology will empower general contractors to multiply themselves, multiply projects, verify compliance, and grow profits.

The maxim “Plan your work and work your plan” is technology encapsulated. Technology empowers planning, organization, execution, accountability, and follow-up. Competency in each of these areas is mission-critical for success in an industry where attention to detail and data management directly impact ROI. A project is not successful unless it is completed on time, on budget, and according to client or customer specifications. CRM helps achieve success at all levels.

What is a CRM?

A CRM or customer relations management tool is a planning, organizational, and management tool that has the potential to launch a general contractor to the next level of performance and beyond.

A business management software solution may already be in place and in use to handle day-to-day project needs. It may have a CRM component or platform. The reality is that most CRM’s are underused or not used at all. The following seven benefits should compel the savvy general contractor to adopt a CRM platform to manage their many projects.

  1. View the client and project pipeline at a glance

A CRM organizes client data into a visual format that can be digested and understood at a glance. From leads to prospects to clients to subcontractors to vendors to projects, see the sales and project pipeline and which potential projects are about to solidify. Licensing, permitting, and compliance schedules can be managed on an individualized project level and can be viewed at a glance. Failing to pull a permit or allowing a contractor’s license or certification to fall through the cracks or lapse could be painful to resolve.

  1. Spend less time managing client data and more time managing projects

Automation does the heavy lifting and allows for instant scaling.

  1. Enhance client service

Tracking client and subcontractor communication in a single location is valuable to both the general contractor, the subcontractors, and the client. From an internal perspective, CRM makes it easier to share information with the team. With a cloud-based CRM, the team can securely store and access data from anywhere on their smartphones. Team members with access can make notes on a potential client’s file, adjust estimates, request specific materials, and move opportunities from one stage in the pipeline to the next.

  1. Remind the team to follow-up on details and the progress of the project

Being a general contractor involves acquiring clients and serving client and project needs. A worthy CRM tool facilitates client acquisition and project organization and implementation. For the specific details of a project or subproject, a project management tool is highly recommended. A CRM and project management combination can be the best solution.

  1. Forecast revenue more accurately

Tracking the acquisition of a new client and the project progress is essential for cash flow. Cash flow is arguably one of the greatest struggles for a small business. Overcoming the cash flow challenge marks a significant achievement in the management of a business, especially in the area of construction.

  1. Use data-powered insights to finetune the client-to-project process

A CRM can reveal insights about the overall process. With data stored in a central location, patterns emerge from that might not have been noticed. Seeing each sales opportunity in the pipeline from new leads and contacts to project initiation exposes stall points that can be addressed and remedied. The launch of the project can be expedited.

  1. Collect better ROI on marketing dollars

General contractors who want to grow must do some form of marketing. Whether the marketing is informal or formal or analog or digital, knowing where every marketing dollar was spent and then being able to assign results – leads and conversions – to those dollars is extremely valuable, especially as a company grows and scales to accommodate that growth. Knowing the source of the best results can help a general contractor know where to push the marketing dollars. Money well spent yields solid results that convert into clients with construction projects.

Technology is the force multiplier in the highly competitive and margin-sensitive general contracting industry. The ability to manage, analyze, and interpret client and project data informs critical decisions that determine whether a project will be profitable. Ensuring that all documentation, licensing, and compliance issues are managed in a timely and accurate manner is mission-critical for success. General contractors who embrace the power of a CRM tool will win in all areas and at any level.

florida contractor license

To learn more about Florida contractor license requirements, contact Contractor Reporting Services by phone at (813) 932-5244

IT Management and Cyber Security for General Contractors

The general contractor job description encompasses every aspect of building construction, whether it is new construction, remodeling, or renovation. General contractor responsibilities include coordinating with subcontractors, managing employees, setting deadlines and budgets, and obtaining appropriate building materials. Contractors must also manage client expectations, troubleshoot the project, resolve emergencies, acquire needed construction permits, and ensure every part of the build is up to code.

general contractor license

Every facet of the general contractor job description involves information, people, other businesses, and government entities. This information is vital, personal, sensitive, and valuable. It must be safeguarded from intruders who would use it for their own gain without thought for the direct harm it would cause the individuals and businesses involved, including the general contractor who is responsible for protecting project information.

IT management and cybersecurity are critically important for the general contractor. Project management for the general contractor encompasses schedules, materials, services, permits, and, most importantly, people. When a cyber-attack steals client, subcontractor, and vendor account information, it hurts people.

Data is the heartbeat of modern business. A data breach can destroy a small company or squeeze the life out of a new business. Insufficient cyber protection is not only highly risky, but it could also be disastrous.

What is the cost of a successful cyber-attack on small businesses?

The impact of a cyber-attack upon a small business will be felt differently than an attack on a large business. The scale of size may mitigate the effects on the larger business even though the actual cost to repair, replace, and a reboot may be vastly more massive than the expense to the smaller business. The damage caused by a breach can put a significant dent in a business’s bottom line. Size does not matter because the attack still inflicts budgetary pain. The intensity and longevity of that pain depend on the nature and extent of the attack, the IT management solutions in place to deal with the catastrophe, and other less noticed impact zones.

According to one source, “The average security breach on a small business will cost about US$38,000, according to a study from Kaspersky Lab. The amount includes the costs of downtime, lost business opportunities and the services the company will need to hire to mitigate the cybersecurity breach. Small businesses pay, on average, about $10,000 in professional services, including the hiring of IT security and risk management consultants, lawyers, auditors, accountants, and public relations consultants.”

The effects of a security breach are both visible above the surface and obscured below the surface.

Further delineating the tangential, but profound impacts on small business, the assessment continued, “Downtime costs for smallish businesses hover around $23,000 and lost business opportunities about $5,000. Many of the victims will spend about $8,000 trying to ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen again with investments in new staff members, cybersecurity training for existing employees and making upgrades to its IT infrastructure.”

Estimates are that the direct financial impact on a larger business is even more costly, where the average cybersecurity breach costs about $825,000 which is many times more than the cost for a small business.

While the impact of a cyberattack will be felt differently by small and large businesses, the damage caused by a breach can create a significant dent in a business’s bottom line, no matter its size.

What companies are required to publicly report shapes much of the popular understanding as to the cost and impact of a cyber-attack. Some examples of security breaches that make the news are payment data, personal health information (PHI), and the theft of personally identifiable information (PII). Costs related to customer notification, credit monitoring, and the possibility of legal judgments or regulatory penalties are lower profile, but they are real threats.

Rarely put on public display are instances of data destruction, espionage, intellectual property (IP) theft, attacks on core operations, or attempts to neutralize critical infrastructure. These types of attacks can inflict a more significant injury and lead to additional costs that are more complicated to determine accurately.

The general contractor is an information hub. A successful cyber-attack on this hub is like striking an informational motherload. As the gatekeeper for client, subcontractor, and vendor data, the general contractor has a fiduciary responsibility to protect their data. A managed IT solution is the only and best solution. Will it be an ounce of prevention or a costly pound of cure?

general contractor license

For more information about acquiring a general contractor license or learning how to become a contractor, contact Contractors Reporting Services at (813) 932-5244.

How to Select the Right All-Purpose Cleaner

When Wake Forest homeowners clean their house, they want to make sure that they are using the safest and most effective all-purpose cleaner. MaidPro Triangle, an experienced house cleaning service in Wake Forest, is sharing five tips to consider when choosing an all-purpose cleaner.

Factor #1: Acidity and alkalinity

A cleaner is considered all-purpose if it falls in the middle of the 0–14 pH scale, ranging from slightly acidic (pH=6) to neutral (pH-7) to slightly alkaline (pH=8). Alkaline-leaning all-purpose cleaners are somewhat more effective at breaking up organic grime such as dirt, oil, and grease. More acid-leaning solutions are better at cleaning inorganic types of stains such as calcium deposits, rust, or soap scum. Inorganic stains form when molecules from soap bond with minerals in the water. Most dishwashing liquids fall into the 6–8 pH range, so they make great stand-ins for many all-purpose cleaning tasks.



Factor #2: Safety for people and pets

Since all-purpose cleaners have a neutral pH, they are generally the safest choices for use around children, elderly, asthmatics, allergy sufferers, and pets. Solutions that fall outside of the 6–8pH range can burn skin, eyes, and respiratory tract tissues. When it comes to other dangerous chemicals, be aware that cleaning-solution manufacturers are permitted to incorporate a wide range of chemicals into their solutions. They are NOT required to list each ingredient on the label. Consumers should be cautious when umbrella-sounding terms are on a cleaner’s ingredient list. The fine print and usage guidelines such as instructions to ventilate well, wear gloves, avoid contact with skin, limit exposure time, or rinse thoroughly are strong indicators of how chemically harsh a solution really is.

Factor #3: Synthetic vs. natural or plant-based

All cleaners that work well are essentially chemical in nature. Some are composed of synthetics, which are chemicals created in a lab or factory. Plant-based cleaners rely on chemicals produced in nature. Cleaning solutions labeled as natural or green are not necessarily safer than synthetics. A good cleaner, whether synthetic or plant-based, will be formulated to pick up dirt and to be free rinsing, leaving little to no residue behind when used as instructed. In other words, most of the solution is removed when it is wiped away with a rag or cloth. A poor cleaner, whether synthetic or plant-based, can fall apart chemically when dissolved in water. Aside from failing to bond with and remove dirt particles, such cleaners have the potential to leave behind damaging and even dangerous residues that are not always visible.

Factor #4: Streaking/residue

Streaking is a good indicator that an all-purpose cleaner is leaving behind unwanted residues, which can release dangerous particles into the air. These residues can become breeding grounds for bacteria and other germs. When a recently cleaned surface seems to get dirty quickly, this is a warning sign that either the all-purpose cleaner is either not free rinsing or the user is not properly doing the rinsing process. When the chemicals designed to bond with and lift dirt away are left behind as residue, they will bond with dirt and oils and attract more grime to the area that was just cleaned.

Factor #5: Convenience vs. costs

Convenience in all-purpose cleaning solutions allows for many options. Sprays are generally easier to use than liquids, and pre-diluted solutions are easier than concentrates. Pre-treated wipes are easier than solutions that need separate cloths or sponges to apply. Gentler all-purpose cleaning solutions may also need more time to sit on a surface in order to effectively dissolve soils, sanitize, and disinfect. Tradeoffs for convenience are, of course, higher costs in terms of price, storage space, environmental impacts from packaging, transportation costs, and potentially safety as faster-working solutions often incorporate harsher chemicals.

A golden rule of home cleaning is to always use the least harsh, most effective solution for any cleaning job at hand. Cleaning regularly makes that rule much easier to follow. If there is a time crunch, get in touch with expert cleaners at MaidPro Triangle to see how they can help.

For more information, contact MaidPro Triangle of Wake Forest at (919) 629-1659 or visit them on the website at

MaidPro Triangle in Raleigh Debunks Kitchen Cleaning Myths

Having a clean, safe home in Raleigh requires using proper house cleaning and disinfecting techniques and products. The right tools correctly maximize the cleaning and sanitizing power of the cleansers and disinfecting solutions. There are many misconceptions about how to clean and disinfect the home, especially the kitchen. When people trust these myths, the consequences to the family, pets, the house, and the environment can be significant. Knowledge and best practices go a long way to ensure a healthy living space for all. MaidPro Triangle of Raleigh is dispelling four myths about cleaning and disinfecting kitchens.


Myth #1 Floors and stovetops are the most unsanitary surfaces in the kitchen

While kitchen floors and stovetops are undoubtedly grimy, the surfaces most likely to spread food-borne illnesses are the sink and sponge, which are used for everything from scrubbing raw chicken juice off cutting boards to rinsing E. coli and other germs from romaine lettuce leaves. The problem is that most people do not pause to adequately wash and disinfect their cleaning tools and basins, essentially creating the perfect environment for germs to live and multiply. A sponge and kitchen drain smell bad because they are home to a breeding, flatulating colony of germs.

What are some ways to effectively deal with the problem? Clean, dry, and disinfect. Germs hate dry, clean surfaces as it literally starves them to death. Regularly run sponges through the washer and dryer, or replace sponges for washable and re-usable dish rags. At the end of each night, wash the sink with soap and water. Give it a final mist with a spray bottle of a diluted bleach water mixture of 1 tsp of bleach per quart.

Myth #2 Cleaning stainless steel appliances with just polish is enough

Stainless steel “cleaner” polish is not an effective cleaning agent. Because the oils in the product do lubricate some dirt, the polish can technically be called a cleaner. However, the polish has no detergents or disinfectants that remove dirt and germs. Worse yet, the polymers and waxes in many of these products create a film that traps any dirt not removed before the application of the polish. Trapped, oily dirt enables new dirt and germs to adhere to and grow on the appliance. What is the solution? Clean steel appliances before polishing them, especially appliances in the kitchen that are constantly being touched with contaminated hands. It is essential to select a quality all-purpose cleaner that is safe for disinfecting stainless steel. Then, simply wash down the appliance. After it dries, buff in a small amount of polish to enhance the natural luster of the stainless steel.

Myth #3 Kitchen cabinets do not need to be cleaned that often

It is unclear why this misconception became so popular, as nothing could be further from the truth. Kitchen cabinets, especially drawer handles, are some of the most frequently touched surfaces in the kitchen. Just think about how many times a sniffly child has rubbed his nose and then opened the cabinet for a snack. Or, how many times mid-recipe has the cook opened a cabinet for one last ingredient with hands contaminated by raw meat or chicken? Beyond germs, steam rising off the stovetop also carries oils and food particles that eventually coats all surrounding cabinets with a fine layer of sticky grime. Cabinets and especially cabinet handles deserve a full wipe down every week with a high-quality disinfectant. If there is grease build-up on fine wood cabinets, a wood-safe degreaser such as Goo Gone can be used.

Myth #4 Quickly spraying and wiping countertops with disinfecting cleaners is good enough

Spraying and then immediately wiping off disinfecting cleaners make the battle against germs even more difficult. Almost all disinfectants need at least 60 seconds to sanitize and up to 10 minutes for full hospital-grade disinfection. Removing a disinfectant instantly only kills the weakest germs, leaving the stronger germs to breed without competition. Disinfectant misuse, along with antibiotic misuse, is how stronger and more dangerous viruses, commonly called superbugs, are being bred. When wiping down counters, leave them damp with enough soap to remain wet for at least 60 seconds or more. The excess can always be wiped away later.

The processes and products used in properly and thoroughly cleaning a home are very important considerations when searching for a house cleaning service. How a maid service trains its technicians is worth looking into. The professionals at MaidPro Triangle of Raleigh are expertly trained to provide the highest quality clean, and they use products, tools, and processes that serve the best interest of the client and the planet.

For more information, contact MaidPro Triangle in Raleigh by phone at (919) 335-7585 or visit the website at

Accounting Firm in Brandon FL Shares Top 9 Tips to Prepare for Tax-Filing Season

Accurate Tax & Bookkeeping Services provides 9 tips to help people manage their federal tax returns.

As tax time approaches, taxpayers are considering how to manage their federal tax returns. Some taxpayers are still familiarizing themselves with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which has only been in effect for a short time.

The new tax law saw changes in a number of the following areas:

  • State and local deductions were capped at $10,000.
  • Limits were put on the deductibility of home equity debt.
  • Estate tax exemptions doubled.
  • Tax brackets changed.

In light of these and other changes, taxpayers should start early when plotting their course through the tax maze. Accurate Tax & Bookkeeping Services, an accountant in Brandon, FL, is providing 9 tips to help people manage their tax returns.

brandon fl accountant

Tip #1: Double-check the paycheck

It took a while for the IRS to revise the withholding tables, so double-check paycheck stubs to confirm that the withholding amount is accurate. If sufficient taxes are not being withheld, there could be a reduced refund or even an amount to pay. If too much tax is being withheld, there will be a refund. For cash flow purposes, the withholding might be adjusted downward. The IRS tax withholding estimator is helpful for these calculations.

Anyone who fits into one or more of these categories should use the tax withholding estimator provided by the IRS.

  • Two-income families
  • People working two or more jobs or who work only part of the year
  • People with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit
  • People with older dependents, including children age 17 or older
  • People who itemized deductions in 2018
  • People with high incomes and more complex tax returns

Tip #2: Determine who will do tax preparation and filing

Major life changes such as marriage, divorce, or starting a new business may mean that taxes will be more complicated. Hiring a CPA or other tax professional to prepare and file tax returns would be advisable. Waiting until the last minute could prove to be very costly as some tax professionals will increase their fees as the April 15 filing deadline approaches.

Tip #3: Update beneficiary designations

Beneficiary designations will not affect personal taxes now, but they do affect the taxes of heirs in the future.  Having these details in place will help minimize the taxes that beneficiaries and heirs pay. Consulting with a qualified tax professional now could have a profound positive impact on generations to come.

Tip #4: Make maximum retirement plan contributions

Maxing contributions to a 401(k), 403(b) or other tax-deferred retirement account makes sense.  Account contributions reduce taxable income for the year, which reduces the tax bill.

Tip #5: Beware of tax scams and fraud

With tax season rolling around, phone calls, emails, and text messages ostensibly from the IRS are on the rise. Do not respond to these efforts to make direct contact. The IRS only corresponds through the US mail unless a case goes to litigation. Beware of a tax preparer who promises a larger refund.

“Shopping a refund” to locate a preparer who promises bigger refunds could spell big trouble. Taxpayers sign their returns under penalties of perjury, and they are responsible for any incorrect information on the return, whether it is fraud or a simple mistake.

Tip #6:  Consider “bunching” deductions in order to itemize

Itemizing is more difficult because the standard deductions have nearly doubled. Taxpayers lacking enough deductions to itemize take the standard deduction.

Bunching is timing expenses by moving deductible expenses into the same calendar year. Charitable donations, medical costs, property taxes, January’s mortgage payment are examples of expenses that can be “bunched.”

Tip #7: Take required minimum distributions or RMDs

Failing to take the required minimum distribution (RMD) by Dec. 31 will result in the individual being penalized 50% of the RMD amount. It is strongly recommended that an account holder enlist the services of a professional to ensure they are taking the correct distribution amount.

Tip #8: Consider converting an IRA to a Roth

A Roth IRA has significant tax advantages over a traditional IRA. First, withdrawals are not considered income for federal (and usually state) income tax purposes. Second, annual distributions are not mandatory. The assistance of an accountant cannot be stressed enough in this matter.

Tip #9: Never ignore the IRS

Taxpayers who do not file returns and owe taxes and taxpayers who file but do not pay taxes on time risk severe penalties. The IRS can seize assets if necessary. If an IRS auditor reaches out concerning incorrect information on a return or back taxes, respond in writing immediately. Make copies of all correspondence. Use only the U.S. Postal Service, since the postmark is a legal proof of timeliness. Consulting with a qualified tax professional is strongly advised.

accountant brandon fl

For more information about tax preparation and bookkeeping services, contact Accurate Tax & Bookkeeping Services office by phone at (813) 655-9702.

Digital Marketing Company in Raleigh Shares 5 Ways to Improve Your Online Brand

5 Ways to Improve Your Online Brand and Reputation Management

Your brand online is an essential asset for your business, but it can be difficult to know where to start with online reputation management because there are so many different platforms available on the web. Many local businesses tend to think that a website is all they need for their online presence, but this leaves them open to negative reviews and comments that they can’t control; and, it’s these reviews that show up when potential customers search for their business, which, statistically, have a quantifiable negative impact on buying behavior.

Online Reputation Management

In essence, businesses are allowing other people to dictate the narrative. To turn this around, they should take proactive steps that put the control of the brand’s reputation online firmly back in their own hands.

There are five key areas to focus on to manage your brand online:

1. Grow Your Online Presence Through Social Media Marketing Platforms

Aside from your website, the top three social media platforms where you’ll want to have a presence is on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, but there are many other sites that you can use to expand your footprint. The best way to decide which platforms are going to work for you is to determine where your target market spends their time online. Visually appealing consumer products might work well on a platform like Pinterest, whereas LinkedIn might be a good choice for B2B companies. If you’re targeting a younger demographic, it will mean keeping an eye on emerging channels such as Instagram or Snapchat.

Growing your brand’s presence makes it easier to control the top search results for your business should you have negative reviews, as well as allowing you to effectively connect with your target audience.


2. Online Marketing Experts Should Regularly Manage Engagement in All Social Channels

Your social media accounts are an important way to stay in touch with your customers. But they need to be regularly updated and be actively managed in order to grow a following and increase your influence. 

This is especially true for online reputation management where social media accounts that aren’t managed may accumulate negative reviews that you aren’t aware of, but are being seen by potential customers.


3. Online Reputation Management Experts Should Generate Positive Reviews and Address Negative Ones

The best way to build trust and a good reputation online is with good reviews. If you have happy customers, encourage them to leave reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp – even on your own website. 

Online reputation management should focus on collecting positive reviews and addressing negative ones. In these situations, it is important to treat the reviewers with respect and to come to a resolution. If this is handled well, the person that originally left a negative review will often be happy to update their feedback or at least you can neutralize a negative review with a well-crafted response. 


4. Don’t Forget About Reputation Marketing, It’s Not Just About “Managing” the Reputation

When your business receives a glowing review from a customer, this is the perfect time to use that review in several unique ways to proactively market your 5-star reputation and service that your business provides. Take the new review and turn it into a nice image design and share on social media, do a press release about that review and turn it into a short case study; these are just a few ideas on how you can and should be thinking about your reputation marketing and not just thinking you need to manage the reputation. 


5. Use Online Reputation Management Strategists

Your online reputation will require investment in terms of both time and money and should form part of your core online strategy. An expert digital marketer brings their unique experience and skills to your business, which allows them to more effectively manage your presence effectively and, because they have prior experience, deliver results quickly. 

Managing your online presence can be time-consuming and may not get you the results you’re looking for, especially if you don’t have any prior experience in this area. Hiring a brand reputation specialist is the best solution if you don’t know where to start, or can’t allocate the necessary time or resources to the process.

Brand Equation

Brand Equation with branches in Tampa, FL, and Raleigh, NC provides a range of branding and marketing services to their clients. Their offering includes online brand reputation management services to help businesses build trust with their customers and grow their brand online.

Atlanta Landscape Lighting Tips For Outdoor Living Area Projects

3 Reasons to work with a landscape lighting installer when building an outdoor living area in the backyard

Creating a beautiful outdoor space for entertaining is a fun home improvement project that enhances the value of your Atlanta area property as well as offering additional living space and a way to make the most of your backyard.

For homeowners in Atlanta and the northern suburbs, the prospect of an outdoor entertainment area is particularly attractive as the long, warm summer months mean that there are many opportunities to invite friends and family to your home.

Creating an outdoor living space is more than simply furnishing your patio by adding some seating and a barbeque with wheels. An outdoor living area provides a higher level of style, comfort, and functionality – comparable to the convenience of using your kitchen or dining room. 

These projects should take into account your preferences and the needs of your family, as well as the long-term prospect of possibly selling your home. Regardless of whether you’re planning to sell currently, it should still be approached in the same way that you would plan a remodel or home addition. 

As such, in addition to enlisting the help of a professional designer or landscape architect, a landscape lighting installer’s opinion will be essential for designing a fully functional, user-friendly outdoor area design.

A landscape lighting designer can help you:

1. Envision how you want to use the space

The outdoor space needs to fit in with your lifestyle so think about how you want to use the space. This might include preparing family meals, in which case you would need well-positioned lighting to support a full outdoor kitchen. Maybe you want to use the space to host friends or watch a football game which would mean setting up the outdoor lighting so that the television can be watched after dark.  You might even have a more formal space in mind where you can host dinner parties, which would mean installing the highest quality, beautiful outdoor lighting to complement the space. 

2. Ensure that there is a provision for adequate lighting after dark

It’s much more efficient to pre-wire an outdoor area for lighting before the hardscaping is done, particularly for hard to reach areas. When the outdoor lighting contractor works on the project from the beginning with the hardscape contractor it results in a cleaner, more polished look that will save the homeowner money in the long run and make servicing down the road easier if the wiring is in conduit.

3. Make provisions for any special requirements

The structure you choose will determine the lighting that is needed, and an outdoor or landscape lighting company will work with you to overcome any specific challenges such as how to light the area if:

  • Wind protection needs to be put in place for shelter
  • It’s close to neighbors and you want privacy as well as ensuring that your lighting doesn’t disturb them
  • The area is small, and you want to maximize the feeling of space without impacting on functionality
  • Any focal points such as a fireplace, views or water feature need to be highlighted with lighting
landscape lighting acworth

Designing the perfect outdoor living area requires planning and may need expert assistance to ensure that you get exactly what you want. In addition to eliminating the stress of making all the decisions, a landscape lighting design expert can also make sure that you don’t miss anything important in the project planning phase.

Southern Landscape Lighting Systems services Atlanta area residents and offers professional landscape lighting design and installation services. They pride themselves on giving their clients expert lighting advice and installation assistance. It might be as simple as small accent lights that illuminate the garden pathway or creating focal points of impressive trees or water features. But this could be the difference between an average entertaining space and a space that creates the ideal environment for entertaining friends or relaxing in the garden while also maximizing the value of your home and property.

Choosing an Outsourced IT Service Provider in Raleigh, 5 Pitfalls to Avoid

Raleigh Managed IT Service Provider Shares 5 Pitfalls When Choosing to Outsource

If you’re considering working with a managed IT service provider to provide IT support and advice for your company, there are some important considerations to keep in mind when making your final choice.

Raleigh Managed IT Services

Here are 5 pitfalls to avoid:

1. Don’t Decide on an IT Provider Using Price As the Leading Factor

An outsourced IT provider gives you access to a range of skilled specialists for an affordable price, especially if you compare it to the cost of an in-house IT team that comes with salaries, FICA, FUTA, benefits and more. But quality outsourced IT services, although affordable, shouldn’t be cheap and Raleigh businesses need to be careful in hiring the cheapest company they can find. Paying the lowest possible price opens your company up to the risk that in an emergency, such as a cyberattack, they won’t have the necessary skills to resolve the situation effectively and quite often, service and response times suffer with cheap IT providers. Paying a slightly higher rate and choosing a reputable IT service provider has the potential to save you thousands and thousands of dollars in the long-run. And as the saying goes, an “ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”


2. Bigger is Not Always Better

A personalized service from the beginning is much more likely to be able to resolve your issues quickly and effectively when they arise. A large, national corporate IT service provider will tend to prioritize their bigger clients, and smaller clients will move to the bottom of the pile. A Raleigh-based IT service provider with a strong track record will be able to match IT know-how with excellent customer service and quick response to queries. Mobile Computer Services founder and president, Kara Mason, said that his company guarantees a 3-minute response time and has never had to pay out on that guarantee with a client. 


3. Trust is Key in the Relationship

In all businesses, trust between partners is important. But when it comes to an IT service provider, it is essential. Follow your instincts on this one, if you don’t feel completely comfortable handing over your business’s IT requirements to them, don’t do it. 

In instances where you are uncertain, you can follow up with their references to get an idea of the level of service you can expect and their ability to proactively manage IT security for your type of business. Try to stay objective, all companies will have satisfied and dissatisfied clients, but it’s up to you to ask the right questions to find out whether they are able to successfully provide the service you need.


4. Don’t Use an Individual Contractor

A successful outsourced IT service needs multiple team members so that there is a pool of experience to draw from, and to ensure that your system is being continuously monitored. A single contractor is also liable to become overwhelmed and may rely on subcontractors who will have access to your systems without your knowledge. 


5. IT is Not One Size Fits All

Your business has unique needs that won’t be solved by a cookie-cutter one-size-fits-all solution. What works for another business in a different industry may not be a good fit for what you need. Your provider needs to take the time to understand and accommodate the needs of your business and come up with strategic ways to anticipate issues that might arise in the future.

They should also be able to provide the range of services that your business needs and not just specialize in a particular area.

Managed IT Service Provider in Raleigh

A managed IT services provider should offer proactive solutions for your company’s IT goals. Locally-based managed IT company, Mobile Computer Solutions in Raleigh, NC, does just this. Their team of experienced IT professionals, coupled with their suite of technologies and processes, provides a tailored approach to working with businesses in the Raleigh area. They focus on providing services that protect their clients from issues before they even arise and have a suite of services designed to meet the individual needs of each customer.

Soft Skills in Leadership Healthcare Executives Need in Order to be Successful

Build Imaginative Leadership into Your Skillset as a Healthcare Executive

There is often an emphasis on systems and management that needs to be driven from the top in the healthcare sector. But healthcare executives need to remember to focus not only on growing their technical skillset, but also to focus on growing a number of fundamental soft skills. It is these soft skills that will enable them to get buy-in from their teams and lead the organization successfully. Transitioning from analytical tasks that require executives to process vast tracts of data to managing people well is a challenging task, but this can be made simpler by focusing on developing certain soft skills.

Managing partner and co-founder of CSuite Solutions, Stewart Schaffer, was recently interviewed by Managed Healthcare Executive to find out which soft skills he prioritizes and why they’re so important. CSuite Solutions operates as a national healthcare consulting firm and is ideally placed to identify the top skills that make healthcare leaders effective. Of the eleven soft skills reviewed in the article, the four that Schaffer put most emphasis on were inclusivity, relatability, curiosity, and accountability.

Healthcare Consultants

Be Inclusive and Incorporate Feedback, Don’t Just Be Willing to Listen

It is easy to be seen and to listen to the input of those that you manage, but the ability to include team members in important decisions has powerful positive implications for the business. As Schaffer explains, “Listening is just a first step; leaders need to let their teams know that their input made a real difference; decisions were made or actions were taken that had a real impact on the business.” He went on to note, “Many leaders ask for feedback and then never incorporate it into the planning or decision making of the organization. Team members will see this as being insincere and will withdraw from providing their expertise to the organization.”


Build Relationships, It’s Not Enough Just to Be Transactional if You Want Real Results

There has been a shift from the working assumption that in order to get results you have to be transactional. The primary focus is now on relationships, finding new relationships and growing old ones. As Schaffer points out, “There is an assumption that you have to be transactional to get results,” but this is not where the story ends.

Schaffer believes that “While that is true, it should not define or be at the center of a leader’s relationships with stakeholders. Leaders primarily need to focus on relationships—finding new ones and growing old ones. By being relationship-focused, trust is built and the likelihood of producing win-win strategies dramatically improves. When a relationship is strictly transactional, it typically lacks the view and understanding to grow long-term with the organization. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett all built their fortunes through relationships.”


Curiosity and a Willingness to Learn is an Effective Way to Gain the Trust of Your Employees

An effective way to gain the trust and support of your staff is to show them that you are humble, and an effective way to communicate this is to show curiosity and be willing to learn new things. “By fashioning oneself as being curious and constantly learning, a leader will project a powerful message of humility and transparency,” says Schaffer. “Leaders who ‘know it all,’ ‘have all the answers,’ ‘has been doing XYZ for 25 years’ close themselves off to new ideas, solutions, technology, etc. They also suppress the creativity and motivation of the people they lead.”


Make People Accountable for Their Actions and Reward Excellent Performance

Accountability is key if an organization is to be successful. Good performance should be rewarded, and poor performers need to be managed. Schaffer says, “Leaders must believe in and create an environment of accountability or the organization will suffer.”

He went on to share his philosophy, “I personally believe in equal opportunity, but do not believe in equal outcomes. Everyone doesn’t win when a game is over in the business world. So, while people are encouraged to apply their intelligence, skills, and energy to move the organization forward, there must be equitable ways to measure performance. Those whose performance is exemplary should be well-rewarded. Those who are holding the organization back should be offered a period of time for the remediation to determine the future opportunities there are or are not with the organization.”

To read the full article, visit Managed Healthcare Executive.

CSuite Solutions operates as a strategic advisory firm to healthcare leaders across the country. With a successful track record in helping transform hospitals and healthcare systems, Stewart Schaffer and Stephen Mason, former CEO of BayCare Health, co-founded the consulting practice headquartered out of Tampa, Florida. The firm works alongside industry leaders to offer healthcare consulting, healthcare revenue cycle management, self-funded insurance plans as well as advising on clinical integration and patient-centered care.

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