Monday, November 28, 2011

Telework Research Network: Keeping the Worker Home

Although telework may not be the future of working, it is a future of working. Teleworking is when an employee works out of his or her home via the internet or other wired or wireless communication between the worker and the office.

Teleworking is more widespread than you may realize: that person right on the other side of your cubicle’s patrician could be a part-time teleworker.

I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m a part-time teleworker. I’ve got my full-time gig with all the benefits along with the opportunity to wear a tie forty hours a week in downtown Sacramento. But in the evenings and on the weekend I put in close to twenty hours a week writing freelance assignments.

Since I work for a number of different employers, I am by no means stuck at twenty hours a week. I can cut back when I wish to and ramp back up at other times. The twenty hours is my upper limit and something I can do rather easily while my daughter is busy with homework.

There are also some employees who do all of their full-time work, or at least the bulk of it, as telework. The worker enjoys it because working from home gets rid of ten commutes a week and also reduces clothing and lunch costs. The employer enjoys it too, because telework cuts down on office costs and also improves employee morale.

There is an organization dedicated to spreading the positive word about teleworking: the Telework Research Network. If you are interested in learning more about teleworking for yourself or your organization, I strongly recommend that you contact this organization since they can help you form a pro-telework argument that just might turn the heads you need to turn.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Pet Industry’s Most Innovative Business: Zoom Room

Is your dog your best friend? If so, then you must be willing to invest in its health. A small company, Zoom Room, is one of the best places dog owners can rely on to keep their pet’s wellness at optimum levels. The fastest-growing pet franchise in America, Zoom Room is the only brick-and-mortar dog-training establishment in the country. It is also the first dog agility franchise in the world.

The company specializes in dog agility training, using the latest equipment and techniques in canine physical exercise. In every franchise, weave poles, A-frames, jumps, teeter totters, tunnels, dog agility walks, and more custom-designed dog agility equipment, are used by trainers. Dogs of any breed, size, and age are welcome to these classes, as well as their owners.

In addition to dog agility, Zoom Room also offers dog obedience training, therapy dog training, dog tricks training, and even puppy preschool. They employ innovative, advanced dog training classes for dogs who need special attention such as Shy Dog class, which is perfect for rescue dogs, and Calm Down! class for hyperactive pups.

The company also allows pet owners to bond with their dogs by teaching them techniques to make their dogs physically upbeat and mentally alert. The “perfect pet franchise” does not simply train dogs. They also train the people who love and care for them.

Zoom Room’s fun, incredibly affordable, and unique approach to business made them one of the top seven small, innovative businesses in 2010. If that’s not enough, the company is also entirely run by an iPad.  Each dog has a unique bar code which is scanned into their system using the iPad, much like a regular gym. This way, all information about a particular dog, including updates on its progress, can be easily retrieved.

The pet industry has yet to see another business as innovative as Zoom Room.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Adam Witty’s Advantage

Imagine for a moment that you are a motivational speaker. You’ve had some success and have even begun to write a book to help people who can’t come to your talks; but you’re not famous enough for a major publisher to pick it up and all of the self-publishing options either have poor results or are just too complicated. Enter Advantage Media Group. Founded in 2005, Advantage has become more than a publishing house for motivational speakers. It has become a global media presence with expertise in book, magazine, and e-book publishing, as well as an unbeatable marketing force.

Adam Witty, founder of Advantage Media Group, sells his company as a hybrid between the big publishing houses and self-publishing outlets. It has the advantages and polish of big publishers with the customizability and client-centered service of a better self-publisher. That hybridization and Advantage’s emphasis on marketing and distribution gives the publisher an edge over traditional publishing houses whose market share is being gobbled up by e-books and other digital media.

In some ways, Advantage encapsulates the split that will be seen more and more in the publishing world, not only in their smaller print-runs but also in the fact that their clients are people who come to Advantage with their work — however finished or unfinished — and pay the company rather than being paid by the company. In the long run, both the author and Advantage Media Group come out ahead as Advantage works to meet the goals they have set with the author. Traditional publishing houses have the expense of paying the author before his or her book has sold a single copy and without knowing if the book will sell at all.

Advantage’s business model of being a marketing firm that happens to publish books rather than the other way around allows it to remain flexible in a constantly-changing publishing environment.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Solne Collections: An Eco-Friendly Online Store

Founded on the core values of sustainability and healthy living, Solne Collections offers consumers organic and eco-friendly products that enhance the quality of their lives. An online store, Solne thoroughly vets its merchandise to ensure that it adheres to the company’s exacting standards. For example, Solne only supplies toys free of harmful volatile organic compounds. With a network of suppliers in Canada, Germany, and the United States, Solne searches widely for environmentally sensitive products. Offering an extensive selection, the company caters to men, women, children, and infants. From fashion apparel to organic beauty products to eco-gift wrap, Solne supports green lifestyles.

Based in Colorado, Solne was started by entrepreneur Lin Merage, considered a leading figure in the state’s green movement. Recognizing buyers’ increasing demand for natural products, she tapped into a market growing in size and influence. By deciding to operate a web-based storefront, Ms. Merage, who serves as CEO of Solne, accomplished the goal of reducing its carbon footprint while offering environmentally conscious choices.

Since the company’s launch in 2004, it also has served as a resource for advice on green living. Aside from its products, Solne’s website includes helpful articles on a range of topics. One such article notes that household materials commonly used for decades, such as wood floor finishes, carpet, insulation, paint, and drywall, release toxic volatile organic compounds. Another article by Solne suggests using natural bedding to create a safe sleeping environment for babies.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Browse Free with AnchorFree

AnchorFree, a service which allows users to access the internet privately and for free in places where it is often password-protected at the very least, was founded in 2005 by David Gorodyansky. Its Hotspot Shield makes it easy to both protect personal information while you browse and to surf the web in anonymity, safe from firewalls and censorship that may otherwise hamper the experience. AnchorFree offers a free, ad-supported version in addition to a paid, ad-less version.

The importance and benefit of AnchorFree in general and Hotspot Shield in particular cannot be overstated. In an interview, Gorodyansky stated that his intention with the company was to create a way for users to access the internet without restrictions, a mission he rightly feels has been accomplished. The hotbed for Hotspot is the Middle East and China where governments have a tight grip on their country’s internet usage. China, in particular, has seen a 159 percent increase in users over the past year. Hotspot’s use as a proxy server makes it appealing to citizens but a target for government censors, creating a somewhat precarious balancing act.

In the past year, proxy services like AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield have been indispensable tools for pro-democracy uprisings like the Arab Spring. At its peak, more than one million people in Egypt alone were using Hotspot to communicate and plan in private. If governments continue to restrict and monitor internet access, proxy services will become even more indispensable. Or even if the internet is restricted not by governments but by corporations, Hotspot Shield will see its user base continue to expand. I believe that the future will be guided by the ways in which people are able to break free from superficial restrictions; and the success of AnchorFree in the face of otherwise overwhelming opposition only solidifies my belief.

2011 Egyptian protests. Photo courtesy of Essam Sharaf.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Steven Wolt Brings Unique Business Philosophy to Executive Role at ParqAdvisors

A dynamic entrepreneur and business leader with more than 17 years of experience in the life insurance industry, Steven Wolt serves as a trusted advisor to corporate and high net-worth clients. In his position as an Executive for ParqAdvisors in Beverly Hills, California, Mr. Wolt identifies long-term financial planning strategies for businesses, corporate senior managers and directors, and individuals who want thorough, exacting arrangements for their assets. Clients turn to Steven Wolt for advice because of his highly personalized approach to handling their assets and designing their wealth management tactics.

Planning for the future requires in-depth scrutiny of a client’s financial status, long-range expectations for health and wealth, and anticipated expenses later in life. In addition, many people prefer to allocate or outline bequests or trusts to their heirs before their death; such decisions made early provide the best possible information about exactly what each party will receive and sometimes reveal additional funding that could be used to support a favorite charity or new trust.

Corporate executives often make determinations on how to disburse or distribute stocks and other company holdings; these choices may be made as a group with investment colleagues or other shareholders to protect their combined interests. Business owners safeguard their assets and the value of their company with life insurance plans that purchase their partners’ shares in the event of the death of one or more partners. Such measures eliminate the possibility that an heir with no stake in the business might sell the interest or try to draw a salary that the company cannot sustain.

His long tenure in the industry, as well as his reputation for developing sound, customized solutions for clients, gives Steven Wolt insight about innovations he could employ to advance the goals of those who rely on his counsel. His vision for ParqAdvisors includes uncompromising service, high-quality insurance products, informed investment advice, and ongoing monitoring of new opportunities and assessment of existing portfolios. Steven Wolt’s clientele at ParqAdvisors includes a family with major real estate connections in New York and California, a well-known New York hospital, prestigious national law firms, and professional athletes and entertainers.

A noted lecturer on the subjects of financial planning and insurance, Steven Wolt also oversees marketing operations for ParqAdvisors and is working toward earning the designation of Charter Life Underwriter.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Price of Pain

The management of pain is big business, both in the U.S. and worldwide. There are more than 1.5 billion people around the world suffering from chronic pain of some sort. These individuals flock to pain management doctors or clinics to get help with their chronic pain. The pain management industry currently tops $45 billion and it is expected to near $60 billion in the next three years. While many individuals rely on prescription pain killers to "manage" their pain, this can get quite expensive and can lead to drug dependence and even addiction.

An alternative to prescription drugs for pain management is over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, but these drugs are often ineffective at handling the magnitude of chronic pain and long-term use has been linked to a myriad of health issues. NeurogesX, a biotechnology company, is dedicated to developing pain management therapies that do not rely on harmful medications. Qutenza, which is currently its leading product, uses a patch to deliver a prescription-strength amount of capsaicin to an area of pain (NeurogesX). Capsaicin is the chemical found in chili peppers that give them their heat. This chemical also relieves pain associated with neuropathy.

While some pain management clinics are simply "pill mills" where people can get their hands on prescription pain killers for the right place, there are some legitimate pain management clinics and many people do need help managing their chronic pain. Many states have started cracking down on the number of pain clinics allowed, which may mean people suffering from real pain may not be able to get help managing it. This is where Qutenza and other products like it come into play. As they are non-narcotic, they are not habit forming and can help billions of people manage their pain safely.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Truly Unique International Bank

Rabobank is an international bank based in the Netherlands with offices throughout Europe, North and South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.  This is a huge bank present in 48 countries and, as of 2011, ranked as the 29th largest bank in the world.  Not only that, it's also considered the 6th safest bank in the world.

What makes Rabobank unique is it's actually owned and made up of 141 local cooperative banks. Customers of local Rabobanks can also become members or owners of the local bank. These local banks in turn are the shareholders of Rabobank Nederlands.  Rabobank Nederlands in turn is part of Rabobank Group which also comprises other subsidiaries and its international operations.

It’s really amazing how a bank which retains its own unique structure can operate and compete in the global financial arena where banks have the straightforward stockholder owned corporate structure. Rabobank, while operating like any other corporation, has stuck to its cooperative roots.  Being one of the world’s largest and safest banks is proof that the unique setup works.

Like other banks, its central office guides the whole organization. Yet with Rabobank, the central office or entity (Rabobank Nederlands) also plays more the role of servicing the other independently-run local Rabobanks.  These local Rabobanks are not treated like local branches of a big national bank. After all, they are the owners of Rabobank Nederlands. Somehow this setup works for the bank in its Netherlands operations.

This bank is also is rooted in agricultural finance and continues to be a global leader in agricultural lending while having expanded its other banking services in other sectors such as corporate finance.

Although Rabobank does not fit in the stereotype category of an international bank it has been able to leverage its cooperative origins where customers can also be members and owners.  This means being close to their customers; this trait has helped them become a global success story.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mail Order Marvel

Lilly Hochberg launched her mail order catalog business out of her home in 1951, at a time when many women didn’t work, much less start their own businesses. She used the two thousand dollars she and her husband had received as wedding gifts and purchased purses and belts, then placed an ad in Seventeen Magazine offering the belts and purses with free personalization. She received sixteen thousand dollars in orders from that ad alone. The company direct mailed its first catalogs in 1956, selling household goods, gifts, seasonal merchandise, and children’s products.

The Lillian Vernon company continues to provide mail order goods sixty years later. The company now has eight mail order catalogs, along with a website and fourteen outlet stores across the Eastern United States. Free personalization is still offered on a variety of items, which is one of the reasons the company is still going strong today.

The company went public in 1987, but remained a family-run company throughout much of its history. The website was launched in 1995; and in 1996, Lillian Vernon mailed 179 million catalogs and made revenues of $238.2 million. The company is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Its national distribution center and corporate headquarters encompass an 827,000-square-foot facility. More than 130 million orders have been shipped since the company got its start in 1951. Hillary Clinton, Tipper Gore, and Frank Sinatra have all been Lillian Vernon customers at some point in their lives and the company has been featured on a variety of television shows, including Jeopardy, Saturday Night Live, and David Letterman.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Honesty of Honest Tea

Seth Goldman co-founded the Honest Tea brand with his business school professor, Barry Nalebuff. The two realized they shared in interest in flavorful, yet less sugary, beverages while the class discussed the Coke vs. Pepsi debate. In 1997, Goldman and Nalebuff revised the idea after Nalebuff returned from India where he was working on a case study for the tea industry. He’d come up with the name Honest Tea for a company that bottled tea made from real tea leaves. Goldman loved the name and quit his job to begin brewing Honest Tea. 

Goldman started experimenting in his kitchen, bringing samples of the tea in thermoses along with a mock-up of the label to Fresh Fields, an organic grocer that would later become Whole Foods only five short weeks after starting with the brewing experimentation. At that fortuitous meeting, he got an order for fifteen thousand bottles of Honest Tea. The brand hit stores in June of 1998 and the company made $250,000 in sales in only seven months.

Over the years, the company has expanded to provide a variety of tea flavors, all organic, ranging from unsweetened to a tad sweet. Honest also produces tea bags, lemon and limeades, as well as a line of organic low-sugar drinks for kids. The company prides itself on using only the finest organic ingredients, and refuses to use high fructose corn syrup in its products. Honest bottles their beverages in glass bottles, and PET plastic bottles, along with individual pouches and sixty-four-ounce bottles of the kids’s drinks.

The company’s sales topped $71.5 million in 2010 and they were listed on Inc.’s list of 500 fastest-growing private companies in 2004. In 2008 the Coca-Cola Company purchased forty percent of the company, which opened up new distribution options worldwide.