Category: Misc

Networking Opportunity

John networking at the ballgame

Remember, networking opportunities are everywhere if you are looking to build and develop relationships.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Comcast Customer Service Problem Continues

I just received an e-mail from Lillian (below) and I have attached the transcript from her online chat with Comcast customer service today.  Lillian has her transcripts from prior chats confirming her order.

My earlier “Thumbs Down” on her Comcast experience turns out to be optimistic.  The service has been worse than “Thumbs Down” and now another service call to Lillian’s mom is requred – 4 days from now.  This is beyond unacceptable.

Keep tuned, more coming.

Give us a call, we can help.

John Schneyer – Boca Consultants

Lillian’s e-mail to me:

I have the transcript from the original chat where I ordered the cable in Miami, and it shows order for Limited Basic and CableLatino.

I ended up having to call the local.  Now there is a new appt. April 20th 11AM to 2PM where they will drop off a new cable box.  She says they do not need access to the roof.

I hate Comcast!!!!!

Transcript from today’s online chat between Lillian (using her mom’s name) and Comcast:

Problem : Can not view CableLatino channels. Says not authorized. Cable was installed yesterday, when I phoned last night they said I would have access to the CableLatino channels after midnight. I still can not access.

Michele > Can not view CableLatino channels. Says not authorized. Cable was installed yesterday, when I phoned last night they said I would have access to the CableLatino channels after midnight. I still can not access.

Anastacio.36412 > Hello Michele_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Anastacio.36412. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Anastacio.36412 > How are you doing today?

Michele_ > Upset

Anastacio.36412 > I apologize for the inconvenience. I can understand how this is causing you inconvenience. Rest assured that I will do my best to help you get this concern resolved.

Anastacio.36412 > I am glad you contacted us. For security verification and the protection of your account, may I please have your full Comcast Account Number and the last 4 digits of your Social Security Number?

Michele_ > ****

Anastacio.36412 > Thank you for the information.

Anastacio.36412 > Please give a moment to pull up your account in our system.

Anastacio.36412 > Thank you for patiently waiting.

Anastacio.36412 > What channel you suppose to have this program, Ms. Martinez?

Michele_ > I ordered Limited Basic and CableLatino

Anastacio.36412 > I see. The information we have in the system is only the Limited Basic. Allow me to double check the Cable Latino for you.

Michele_ > That is wrong. I ordered it online through a chat and I made sure to have the agent verify the Cable Latino

Michele_ > How will this get fixed?

Anastacio.36412 > I already check the account and it shows that the Cable Latino is not added to your account. Cable Latino also is not available on your area, Ms. Martinez.

Michele_ > Is anyone there?

Michele_ > That is not correct. Neighbors in the same building that have Comcast have Cable Latino.

Michele_ > Can you have a supervisor phone my daughter, Lillian Martinez at 305 ***-****?

Anastacio.36412 > I see. I suggest that you call our local office in able to verify the service. The Cable Latino is not added, it is only shows the connection for Limited basic. Allow me to check this again for you.

Anastacio.36412 > I apologize, we can only accept chat. We are unable to make an outside call.

Michele_ > What is the phone number for the local office?

Anastacio.36412 > The local office information is: Center Name: Coral Gables

Address: 388 Minorca Avenue

Coral Gables FL 33134

Phone Number: 305-232-8132

Hours: Monday-Friday 8:30AM to 6:00PM, Closed for lunch from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM, Saturday 10am-2pm.

Anastacio.36412 > Do you need further assistance? I will be more than willing to help you out.

Customer Service Update

Yesterday was a big test for customer service  in Lillian’s world.  Here’s how it went:

Garage door opener – Sears installer arrived, did the install, explained everything well.  Lillian was very pleased.  Thumbs up!

Windshield replacement – Installer arrived and did a great job.  Lillian was very pleased until she realized she had forgotten to take her beach decal off the windshield so she could get a replacement.  Not an issue for the installer though.  Thumbs up!

Comcast for Lillian’s mom – Comcast EMPLOYEE arrived, apartment representative was there with the key for the roof closet, install went ok.  Comcast did not explain well how to use the service and the package Lillian’s mom wanted would not be available for some reason until after midnight.  Lillian received calls from mom looking for help.  Based on the entire experience with Comcast leading up to this, this is a thumbs down.

Are you having customer service issues in your business?

Give us a call, we can help.

John Schneyer – Boca Consultants

Another Customer Service Disaster – Comcast

Lillian is not having good customer service experiences lately.  Last Saturday it was Sears.  Today it’s Comcast.

Lillian’s mom lives in a apartment in Miami.  She just got a very nice flat screen TV and wants to get some of her favorite shows from Comcast.  She needs cable installed and a cable box.  Until she gets Comcast installed, all she can do is watch DVDs.

Lillian is her mom’s go to person for things like this.  Lillian had made an appointment for her mom last week.  Comcast showed up and needed to get into a locked closet on the building’s roof.  No one with a key to the closet was available so, no cable for mom.

Lillian called Comcast back.  Turns out (as we suspected) they new they would need to get into the closet because they do all the apartments over there.  They did not let Lillian know that in advance.  Lillian makes another appointment for Comcast to come back today (Monday).  She calls her mom and tells her mom to call the apartment office so they will have someone there with the key.  Apartment office agrees to be there and tells her mom to make sure Comcast sends an employee, not a sub-contractor.  Seems they once sent a contractor and the contractor caused some damage on the roof.  Comcast refused to accept any responsibility for the actions of the contractor and it created a real fiasco.  Now they won’t let contractors up on the roof, just Comcast employees so they can go after Comcast directly if there is a problem.

You can tell where this is going, right?

Lillian calls Comcast back and tells them they must send an employee, not a contractor.  Comcast tells Lillian they already have this information in the file but will make sure it’s more prominently displayed.  Everything is set for today’s big install.

Today comes, Comcast shows up and, they sent a CONTRACTOR, not an employee!!  The apartment manager won’t let them on the roof.  Lillian’s mom gets no cable, again.

Lillian’s mom calls her and leaves a message (side not: I had bet Lillian her mom would call with a problem before noon, she did).  Lillian calls Comcast.  Comcast says the file showed to send an employee, not a contractor and that something must have been messed up during the dispatch.  Lillian tells them to send someone over right away, to just make it right.  Comcast says no deal.  They can’t come now until Wednesday, another 2 days.  It’s not like this is going to be a big install, the wire is already hanging out of the wall in the apartment.  All they have to do is turn it on.

This is the type of service that just drives people crazy.  How much non-value added cost is added to the system every time something like this happens?

I’ll have an update on this later in the week along with an update on Lillian’s gargare door opener installation also scheduled for Wednesday.  Lillian is trying to handle the garage door opener install AND a windshield replacement on her car both on Wednesday.  The windshield took a hit on I95 a week ago and has a long crack in it.  So far it looks like the windshield company is on the ball.  I’ll update you on all of these customer service experiences soon.

Whether you are giving or getting complaints, give us a call, we can help.

John Schneyer

Boca Consultants

More productive, or less? Does Technology help?

Does e-mail, IM, Internet and other technologies make you more productive, or less? Read this article from The Phoenix Business Journal for two sides of the story.

What problems are you having staying focused?
Is technology getting in the way?

Give us a cal, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Marketing View

This is an excellent marketing piece by Seth Godin: Marketing

Read it and give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Can Customer Loyalty be Bought?

Can Customer Loyalty be Bought?

Read the article and then give us a call. We can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

What’s your superpower?

From Seth Godin’s blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/03/whats-your-super-power.html

Consider this when out networking.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

What’s your super power?

Adventure247 When I was a kid, I loved the Legion of Super Heroes and the Justice League of America. These were comics for slumming comic book writers, fun and sort of stupid stories where a whole bunch of superheroes would get together, hang out in the clubhouse and then work together to destroy some sort of monster that any individual superhero could never have bested.

Anyway, near the beginning of most of these comics was a scene where a stranger would meet the team. Inevitably, the heroes would introduce themselves. Of course, Batman or Superman wouldn’t need an introduction, but the lesser (lower rent) heroes had to speak up and describe their super power.

“I’m the Wasp. I have the ability to shrink to a height of several centimeters, fly by means of insectoid wings and fire energy blasts.”

Some fancy marketers might call this a positioning statement or a unique selling proposition. Of course, it’s not that. It’s just her super power.

When you meet someone, you need to have a super power. If you don’t, you’re just another handshake. Don’t say, “Hi, I’m Don, I’m from Cleveland.” Instead, try, “Hi, I’m Don, I tell stories that spread.” It’s not about touting yourself or coming on too strong. It’s about making the introduction meaningful. If I don’t know your superpower, then I don’t know how you can help me (or I can help you).

I was sitting next to a guy at a conference a few years ago. When people went around and said who they were and what they did, he said, “I’m Stephen, I’m a judge.” He gets points for humility, and not pointing out that he was a Supreme Court Justice was certainly his privilege… sort of like Superman not having to tout his x-ray vision.

The rest of us, though, do everyone a service when we let others know what we do and how it might help.

take my poll on Problem Solving at http://www.BocaConsultants.blogspot.com

take my poll on Problem Solving at http://ping.fm/Ry9iA

Happy Pi Day

Today is Pi day (also Albert Einstein’s birthday), I wish you all the best.

Link to a London Times article from 1961 concerning Pi: Click Here
Pi has been calculated to over 1 trillion decimal places.
Link to the Pi Day site: Click Here
Enjoy!

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Problem Solving

Maturing Your Business using Systematic Problem Solving

or

How to Break the Fire Fighting Habit

Choose

I love choices, don’t you? I run into people all the time who say they have no choice; they have to behave as they do because of circumstances beyond their control. Their boss this, their spouse that, the job the next thing. This attitude also applies to the way they deal with problems. They hope they never have a problem and will wait until they do to figure out how to respond. Well, this is a choice. They choose to be victims rather than in control.

Do you want to put out fires or prevent them? Do you have time to work on growing your business or do you spend it handling customer complaints? How much more effective would you be if you were to reduce the number of problems in your organization?

If you’re like many people, you respond to problems when they occur and you put out the fire and then move on to the next one. This is a pattern repeated daily by thousands of organizations and people around the world. Many of us fail to recognize that this is a choice. There are other ways to deal with this situation. Many who recognize the pattern don’t know how to break it.

Benefits

A systematic approach to dealing with problems results in lower costs, increased productivity, and a common language within the organization. Focus is changed from “Who’s to blame?” and put on correcting processes.

So, how do we do this?

Stage 1 – Firefighting

This is where most problem efforts start. We have had a problem and deal with the effects. Customers are upset, so are managers and workers. Often we are looking to place blame. We deal with the effects and then move on to the next problem. This is often the quick thing to do but does nothing to prevent a recurrence.

We adapt to the situation by changing processes to accept the problem. There is a danger of this becoming the new norm and causing a permanent increase in costs. This can become a spiral of death.

Stage 2 – Identify Root Cause

While we often need to deal with the effects of a problem first due to urgency (few people will sit in a burning building trying to figure out what caused it, they will get out and put the fire out first) it is important to go back and find out the cause of the problem. Only by identifying cause can we decide what to do about it. We may put in a corrective action. We may make a business decision to put up with the problem in the short term because corrective action will be expensive, complicated, or risky and the problem impact may be eliminated through a change in our business. The important thing is we decide based on solid information and choose our response.

Would you be happy moving from dealing with effects to finding and eliminating problem causes? Of course, it’s a great improvement. So, why are your customers still unhappy? Why are your quality assurance and customer service managers upset? To find the cause of a problem, the problem has already happened. This means someone has suffered and often times the result is lost business and profits.

Stage 3 – Prevention

Here’s where we break the Fire Fighting habit. First we look at reducing the probability we will have a problem. By looking at what could go wrong and the Likely Causes before having a problem, we take control of the situation. We will identify many Likely Causes and choose which preventive actions to put into place.

We want to take the most cost effective actions against the most likely to occur and most serious impact Potential Problems so we get the best return on our investment.

Stage 3 – Contingency

Now that we have taken preventive actions to reduce the probability of having a problem, we still need to consider what we will do should we have a problem anyway.

Contingent Actions (with Triggers) reduce the seriousness or impact of the problem when it occurs.

The triggers tell us it’s time to kick in the contingent action. These are often automatic e.g. fire alarm and sprinklers go off when a fire is detected without requiring manual intervention.

The contingent actions and triggers need to be planned for in advance so they are ready to go when needed.

Summary

Every company deals with problems. They range from product and process failures to breakdowns in customer support. Using systematic, consistent and repeatable processes to respond to and prevent problems will increase your effectiveness, customer relations, and profitability.

About John Schneyer

John Schneyer has been a certified Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and Decision Making program leader and consultant since 1993 and holds an Executive MBA and MS from New Jersey Institute of Technology. John has taught and helped companies and schools Germany, England, and the United States. John founded Boca Consultants to help companies using his 30 years industry experience and skills.

New Member Orientation 3-09

John Schneyer, Boca Consultants, addressing new members of the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce

Dealing with Snail Mail

See my post from last week on e-mail below.

Many of these steps can also be applied to the paper mail that shows up at your office (and home) everyday. While you might never stop all the advertising and political messages served up regularly, you can take steps to reduce and then manage the mail you receive.

Opt out from anything you receive that has no value to you

Unsubscribe from those things you can that you don’t read and never will

Don’t renew those subscriptions you are not reading and never will

Look for web alternatives to the things you get but bring value only sometimes. Bookmark them or, if they are really valuable, subscribe for the e-version. It will be easier to search for something in your e-mail than it will be to find an article in a pile of magazines 6 months later.

Reduce the number of copies you receive. If your office gets a copy of any magazine, newspaper, industry publication, etc. for every or several employees, reduce to one if possible and let people share. Have someone mark the interesting relevant material before passing it around. Let them reside in a small company library (this might just be a box in the break room).

If you have an office in a building with other companies, perhaps there is an opportunity for a shared library and reducing costs between companies.

Keep track. If no one reads a publication for a few months and no one complains about missing it, get rid of it. No one values it.

See if your local library carries the magazine you are reading. You can stop paying and get even more benefits by visiting the library regularly.

After doing all this, read what’s left, get your value and then either distribute it to others to read or recycle it.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Bike Ride Networking

Remember, networking is about building and furthering relationships. This means any venue is a networking opportunity.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

An Empty In-Box, or With Just a Few E-Mail Messages? Read On

From today’s NY Times click here to go to the Times site where you may have to sign in. You can read the story below.

My suggestions beyond what is in this story:

Unsubscribe from every list you don’t regularly use
I normally will subscribe to things based on 1 good story I read. I then find that most of what comes from a site is of little or no value to me and I can always search for it on-line if I need to. I now am more particular about my subscriptions and unsubscribe from old ones that I don’t need anymore. This will reduce the volume of e-mails you receive.

Ask how your information will be used
When out networking, do you give your card out to anyone who will take it? If so, you may be opening yourself up for a lot of unwanted e-mail. Many people networking today still don’t understand that an exchange of business cards does not constitute permission to add me to their regular distribution list. It also does not permit them to sell my information. Give your cards to people you think you can help or can help you. Schedule time with them to meet at a time when you can have a good conversation and develop your relationship further. At that time you may decide you want to be on their distribution list and they may want to be on yours.

Be careful about how your website is setup to mail you
If you post your e-mail address on your website, you make it much easier for spammers and casual viewers to send you a lot of mail you don’t want. You definitely want serious inquiries to come to you without any obstacles. Talk to your web designer about having a button or link to request more information. Have that link open a form and then mail to you behind the scenes. Have that mail go to an address that you will see in your in box but can also be identified as having come from your site. This will reduce your exposure to spammers and give you an idea of how much traffic is coming from the site you are spending money to market for you.

Have separate e-mail accounts for personal vs. business mail
I have friends who like to send me jokes, puzzles, cartoons, etc. I’m sure most of us do. Let your friends know what the rules are. I don’t want this stuff in my business mail. If you do, that’s OK. I know it means I have to check another mailbox. I don’t mind.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

The NY Times story:

Basics

An Empty In-Box, or With Just a Few E-Mail Messages? Read On

Published: March 4, 2009

SINCE e-mail became a fixture in our professional and personal lives, many academic researchers have investigated the complex mix of feelings brought on by the technology.

We feel guilty about being late in responding, about our in-boxes being disorganized, about the tens of thousands of unread messages that we’re sure we’ll never get to. What is it about e-mail that consumes us — that invades every corner of our personal space, demands ever more sophisticated methods of organization, and makes us wish for extra hours in the day to deal with the deluge? More important, how can we overcome it?

In the last few weeks, I set about finding a cure for e-mail anxiety. It was not the first time I’d done so; I’ve been looking for better ways to handle my mail since shortly after logging in to my first in-box.

Over the years, I’ve discovered many methods that worked for a while, but never permanently. For a while, I set up elaborate filters meant to automatically categorize every incoming message according to who sent it. Another time, I instituted a complicated system of color-coded labels aimed at getting me to understand which e-mail messages I had to respond to, which I had to save and which I could ignore.

But eventually every finely honed trick to tame my mail would collapse, and I’d backslide into a messy, undisciplined in-box. So in my search for a new way to deal with e-mail, I followed one guiding principle: Keep it simple. Any method that made too many demands on my time or my brain was bound to fail.

Fortunately, after much experimentation with various experts’ many tips, I’ve found something that works. Here are the basic rules:

LIMIT YOUR TIME WITH IT Turn off all auto-notifications that alert you to incoming mail, and if you must check mail while you’re on the go, keep it to a minimum. Here’s a good guideline that worked for me: Don’t dip into your in-box more than three times an hour. It’s unlikely that any message is so urgent that it can’t wait 20 minutes for your response — if it were, the sender would call, send an instant message or find some other way to reach you.

CLEAR OUT YOUR IN-BOX Set aside an hour or two to respond to every important message that has dogged you in the last couple months (anything older than that is too ancient to bother with). Next, move everything else into a new folder called Archive — this will be your storehouse of old mail.

Your in-box should now be empty. Think of this as its optimal state — your goal, from now on, will be to keep this space as pristine as possible, either empty or nearly so. To realize that goal, live by this precept: Whenever you receive a new message, do something with it. Don’t read your e-mail and then just let it sit there — that’s a recipe for chaos.

This isn’t always so easy. A day’s worth of mail demands a variety of complex actions, and the daunting task of figuring out how to respond to each message is probably what made your in-box untidy in the first place.

That’s where the next steps come in — an algorithm for dealing with incoming e-mail messages. For each new one you receive, take one of the following actions:

ARCHIVE IT Most e-mail messages require no action or response on your part — messages from Facebook letting you know that an old college pal has commented on your wall, for instance. Skim through these missives (or leave them unread), then shoot them into your archive and forget them.

RESPOND TO IT If the e-mail message calls for an easy answer, send it. Say a colleague wants to know if you’re up for dinner at his place on Saturday, or your boss wants to praise you for a job well done. Shoot back a quick response — “Yes!” or “Thanks!” — and then push the original message into your archive. The productivity guru and “Getting Things Done” author David Allen has a rule of thumb that comes in handy here: If responding is going to take two minutes or less, you’re better off doing it now than procrastinating.

FORWARD IT If the message is better handled by someone else — your boss, your sister, anyone but you — send it off to that person, then archive it.

HOLD IT FOR LATER This is the trickiest option. Some e-mail messages demand complicated answers. You don’t really want to dine with your colleague, but coming up with an excuse will take longer than two minutes. Other messages simply require information not yet available. Your friend wants to know if you’re up for watching the game on Sunday, but you’ve got to check with your spouse first.

You can leave these messages in your in-box with a promise to come back to them soon. (Depending on the mail program you use, you might want to set a reminder or a flag to make it stand out — in Microsoft Outlook, you can click the flag icon, or in Google’s Gmail, the star).

Be careful to avoid letting many such messages pile up. Carve out a short amount of time — perhaps 15 to 30 minutes at the end of the day — to respond to all flagged e-mail. Remember, your goal is to keep your in-box empty. Each message sitting there should serve as a stark, visible reminder of your undisciplined ways.

Notice that my system doesn’t include any complex method for organizing e-mail — I don’t categorize my messages into folders by sender, subject matter, date or any other scheme. That way lies distraction.

E-mail isn’t a test of your skills at making things look pretty; indeed, making things look pretty will only take time away from your goal of actually getting through your mail. Most modern e-mail programs include search engines that are powerful enough to find any message you need without the aid of a taxonomy.

Note, too, that this system is far from new. It was inspired by Mr. Allen’s ideas, and it’s been proselytized, in various forms, by a host of efficiency experts and people who have spent a lot of time wrestling with e-mail.

In particular, I relied partly on a series of essays and lectures put together by Merlin Mann, proprietor of the Web site 43 Folders, which aims to help you get a handle on how much attention you focus on unrewarding tasks, like e-mail.

It wasn’t easy for me to curb my time in my in-box. E-mail was like a drug, and I needed a constant fix. That’s a good sign you need help.

“People arrive at this because they’re feeling overwhelmed,” Mr. Mann said. “They feel like the train is going off the rails.” He was careful to add that much of what troubles people about modern life goes beyond e-mail — but you can think of fixing your in-box as a private victory for modern professionals. Once you deal with your e-mail, you’ll be able to tackle stuff that really matters.

Brainstorming

Follow this link to the Economist for information on Brainstorming

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Looking for Yes

From Seth Godin’s blog

Looking for yes

I hate going to the post office in the town next to mine. Every time I go, they look for a reason not to ship my package. “Too much tape!” “Not enough tape!” “There’s a logo!”

On the other hand, I really enjoy the few times I have something weird to ship fast… and I bring it to Fedex. The guy at the desk has a totally different approach. He’s not looking for a reason to say no, he’s looking for an opportunity to say yes. “Here’s some tape, we’ll just add it right here…”

The obvious reason is that the person at this post office has no incentive to make a sale. Okay, fine. But why doesn’t she? Why is it okay to have employees in any organization who look for a no? It turns out that the post office in my little town has a few yes men, people who look for a reason to ship my package even though they work for a big government bureaucracy.

The same thing happens with the tech crew before I give a speech. About 75% of the time, the lead tech guy (it always seems to be a guy) explains why it’s impossible. Impossible to use a Mac, impossible to use the kind of microphone I like, impossible to use my own clicker, etc. And then, the rest of the time, using the same technology, the producer asks, “how can I help make this work for us?” and everything is about yes, not no.

I don’t think it should matter whether or not you’re trying to make a profit. If you’re out to provide a service, or organized to deliver a product, then look for a yes. At every interaction.

Using the Chamber of Commerce for Networking

This video is an introduction to getting started networking with the Chamber of Commerce.

Give me a call, I can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Job Well Done


Before


After

This is an example of a great experience.

My car was the victim of a runaway dumpster creating the damage you see in the before picture. My friends, Chadia and Jay, at Auto Tech & Body in Pompano Beach handled the repairs for me. They discussed all my options, handled the work with the insurance company, and made my bad experience a delight.

I have always referred to Auto Tech and Body, but now I can show you a sample of their work. You can find them here: Auto Tech & Body

I also use them to service my car.

Give me a call sometime. I’ll get you connected to other great business people.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Wake Up Call for Water

Check this link to the Economist for an initial eye-opener on how much water is used for some of the products we consume.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Employers beware

Click for the Economist Story

The story below (and at the link above) is something you want to consider not just when letting employees go but also when hiring and managing them through their careers. For many businesses, the information they have is more valuable than the physical products they make.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

What departing workers take with them

IF YOU are losing your job, you might at least walk away with a competitive advantage. A survey for Symantec, an internet-security firm, suggests that some 60% of American workers who left their employers last year took some data with them. Respondents admitted that they had lifted anything from e-mail lists to customer information, with two-thirds of such workers using this stolen data in their new job. The most popular method of theft was taking hard-copy files (61%), while around half put data on an electronic-storage device such as a CD or USB stick. And it seems easy to do: 82% of departing employees said that no checks were carried out on what they had kept. Many also admitted to keeping electronic-storage devices given for their jobs, even PDAs and laptops.

Chamber of Commerce Kind of Day

John supporting the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce

The rational marketer (and the irrational customer)

From Seth Godin’s blog: click here

The rational marketer (and the irrational customer)

The most common frustration I see, and I see it daily, comes from marketers who can’t figure out why more people won’t buy their product. This particularly afflicts b2b marketers, who ostensibly have rational customers.

Let’s say, for example, that you have a service that can deliver leads for five percent of what it costs to get them via a trade show. Why would any rational business, particularly one that says it wants qualified leads, spend that money on trade shows and not on you?

I mean, I mean, you can PROVE that your system works. You can guarantee it. You can provide testimonials and real-time evidence. And yet, the person you’re calling on won’t give you money and will spend it on the traditional system, which is a total waste.

You know that your car is more aerodynamic. You know that your insulation is more effective. You know that your insurance has a higher ROI.

You’ve thought about it a lot because it’s your job to think about it. It’s your job to make those charts and tables and graphs and brochures. So you know it.

The problem is that your prospect doesn’t care about any of those things. He cares about his boss or the story you’re telling or the risk or the hassle of making a change. He cares about who you know and what other people will think when he tells them what he’s done after he buys from you.

The opportunity, then, is not to insist that your customers get more rational, but instead to embrace just how irrational they are. Give them what they need. Help them satisfy their needs at the same time they get the measurable, rational results your product can give them in the long run.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Trick Or Treat Networking

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Boca Festival Days 2009

I am pleased to be the co-Chair of Boca Festival Days 2009 and to be working with Linda Gove, Boca Helping Hands, who is this year’s Chair. This is a great opportunity to advertise your business while helping a local non-profit agency. Please consider participating in this year’s program.

About Boca Festival Days: a series of fun-filled events held at different locations in the greater Boca Raton area during the month of August, when the Greater Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce (GBRCC) pairs non-profit members with for-profit members to raise funds and awareness during their event. Events usually include elements of food, drink and/or entertainment.

For more information about Boca Festival Days, or to plan your own event for 2009, please contact GBRCC Communications Coordinator, Desiré Salazar at 561.395.4433 ext. 235.

For more information click this link: Boca Festival Days 2009

John Schneyer, Boca Consultants

A Problem of the Brain, Not the Hands: Group Urges Phone Ban for Drivers

From the NY Times

Read and ask your self how this might impact your business. What potential problems? What opportunities?

Call us, we can help
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

A Problem of the Brain, Not the Hands: Group Urges Phone Ban for Drivers

Published: January 12, 2009

In half a dozen states and many cities and counties, it is illegal to use a hand-held cellphone while driving — but perfectly all right to talk on a hands-free device.

The theory is that it’s distracting to hold a phone and drive with just one hand. But a large body of research now shows that a hands-free phone poses no less danger than a hand-held one — that the problem is not your hands but your brain.

“It’s not that your hands aren’t on the wheel,” said David Strayer, director of the Applied Cognition Laboratory at the University of Utah and a leading researcher on cellphone safety. “It’s that your mind is not on the road.”

Now Dr. Strayer’s research has gained a potent ally. On Monday, the National Safety Council, the nonprofit advocacy group that has pushed for seat belt laws and drunken driving awareness, called for an all-out ban on using cellphones while driving.

“There is a huge misperception with the public that it’s O.K. if they are using a hands-free phone,” said Janet Froetscher, the council’s president and chief executive. “It’s the same challenge we had with seat belts and drunk driving — we’ve got to get people thinking the same way about cellphones.”

Laboratory experiments using simulators, real-world road studies and accident statistics all tell the same story: drivers talking on a cellphone are four times as likely to have an accident as drivers who are not. That’s the same level of risk posed by a driver who is legally drunk.

Why cellphone use behind the wheel is so risky isn’t entirely clear, but studies suggest several factors. No matter what the device, phone conversations appear to take a significant toll on attention and visual processing skills.

It may be that talking on the phone generates mental images that conflict with the spatial processing needed for safe driving. Eye-tracking studies show that while drivers continually look side to side, cellphone users tend to stare straight ahead.

They may also be distracted to the point that their engaged brains no longer process much of the information that falls on their retinas, which leads to slower reaction times and other driving problems.

At the University of Utah, Dr. Strayer and his colleagues use driving simulators to study the effects of cellphone conversations. A simulator’s interior looks like that of a Ford Crown Victoria, and a computer allows researchers to control driving conditions. Study participants are asked to drive under a variety of conditions: while talking on a hand-held phone or a hands-free one, while chatting with a friend in the next seat, and even after consuming enough alcohol to make them legally drunk.

While in the simulator, drivers are asked to complete simple tasks, like driving for several miles along a highway and finding a particular exit, or navigating local streets where they must brake for traffic lights, change lanes and watch for pedestrians. How fast they drive, how well they stay in their lane, driving speed and eye movement are closely monitored.

The Utah researchers have also placed electrodes on participants’ scalps to gauge how they process information. Similar studies, using brain imaging, have been done at Carnegie Mellon.

The studies show that cellphone conversations are highly distracting compared with other speaking and listening activities in the car.

One might think that listening to talk radio or an audio book would degrade driving skill; it does not. (A quiz after the driving test confirmed that the drivers were really paying attention to the programs.)

Likewise, it is easy to equate talking to a friend on a cellphone with talking to a friend in the passenger seat. But a December report in The Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied debunked that notion. Utah researchers put 96 drivers in a simulator, instructing them to drive several miles down the road and pull off at a rest stop. Sometimes the drivers were talking on a hands-free cell phone, and sometimes they were chatting with a friend in the next seat.

Nearly every driver with a passenger found the rest stop, in part because the passenger often acted as an extra set of eyes, alerting the driver to the approaching exit. But among those talking on the cellphone, half missed the exit.

“The paradox is that if the friend is sitting next to you, you drive safer,” Dr. Strayer said. “When you talk to that person on a cellphone, you’re much more likely to be involved in an accident.”

Despite the overwhelming body of evidence that cellphone use while driving is risky, the idea of a total ban is sure to be controversial.

“People understand the dangers, but they just don’t want to give it up themselves,” said Ms. Froetscher, of the National Safety Council. “But years ago we didn’t put on seat belts, or people who might have had a drink before driving wouldn’t think of it now.

“We have to educate people that it’s a risky behavior.”

Companies expand ‘green’ office options beyond regular recycling

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and will have a safe and prosperous new year.

Read the Denver Business Journal article on increasing recycling through composting here.

With more and more employees and customers looking for and expecting greener solutions, this is a way you can make a difference for little or no cost.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

More Companies Are Cutting Labor Costs Without Layoffs

Click for the NY Times article

Read this article to find how some companies are reducing their costs while keeping their valuable employees. Consider how important this can be to your company. The economy always comes back and you want to be ready take advantage when it does. Having to start hiring and then training new employees is very expensive in terms of money and time.

We can help you come up with the ways to cut costs and retain your best employees. We can also help you take advantage of today’s environment.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

New Internet domain names could boost business

Click here for the Business Journal article

and here for a follow-up article

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, in June approved a plan to add more expansion to the current list of 21 so-called “top-level domain names” — which appear on Web addresses such as .com, .edu and .org.

Read the article and consider what potential problem and opportunities exist for you and your company.

Call us, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Office Depot to close 112 stores

Click for South Florida Business Journal story or read it below.

The first response I received to the story about Office Depot came from a colleague in banking. She found this a very scary story and wanted to know if I had any positive news to put out. Having read the article, I don’t find it scary on the surface. I guess we could assume that this is a result of today’s economy and it may well be that the economy was the trigger for reviewing performance. From my perspective, based solely on the information in the article, this sounds like action that needs to be taken and perhaps should have been taken sooner. I have no inside information on the circumstances.

In general, all companies should be looking at the performance of their stores, assets, investments, and employees. That’s part of what managers do. You either improve performance to an acceptable level or eliminate the problem. To carry poor performers, be they stores or people, only incurs greater costs and risks to the rest of the organization.

Take a good look at your organization. Do you see opportunities to improve? Do you see the need to eliminate poor performance? We have solutions and expertise to help you through this so your overall performance improves.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Here is the story:

Office Depot on Wednesday said it will close 112 underperforming retail stores in North America during the next three months.

The announcement said the closures would occur in various geographic regions, including 45 in the central U.S., 40 in the Northeast and Canada, 19 in the West and eight in the South. Fourteen more stores would be closed through 2009 as leases expire or other lease arrangements are finalized.

Further details on store locations and job losses were not immediately available.

The global provider of office products (NYSE: ODP) said the closures are part of a strategic review announced on Oct. 29. The first wave of closures would reduce the North American store base to 1,163.

The company also said new store openings for 2009 have been reduced to about 20, down from the previous estimate of 40.

This will facilitate a reduction in total company capital spending in 2009 –to less than $200 million, significantly lower than projected depreciation and amortization of $275 million.

Boca Raton-based Office Depot also plans to close six of its 33 distribution facilities in North America. This is consistent with the company’s long-term plan to reduce the total number of facilities and combine its separate supply chain systems.

The company anticipates taking charges, totaling between $270 million and $300 million, in the fourth quarter 2008 and in 2009 for the store closures. But, Office Depot said 2009 earnings before interest and taxes and cash flow should benefit by about $90 million and $70 million, respectively.

Office Depot said further actions are being considered, including the assessment of tangible and intangible assets, including the annual goodwill evaluation, and potentially restructuring businesses.

Office Depot shares were trading up 26 cents at $2.69. The 52-week high was $17.88 on Dec. 11, 2007. The 52-week low was $1.45 on Nov. 21.

Concerns grow with program to weed out illegal workers

From the Sacramento Business Journal

Ask your self: What potential problems and opportunities may come of this?

Call us, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Concerns grow with program to weed out illegal workers

Big jump in its use expected as federal mandate kicks in

California businesses ran twice as many electronic employment verification queries last year than the year before, as more employers begin using a controversial program to weed out illegal workers.

The “E-Verify” program was used voluntarily by more than 370,700 job sites in the state, up 163 percent from 140,906 in fiscal 2007.

The numbers are expected to increase significantly next month. A June executive order requires companies with federal contracts to begin using the program in January to verify their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States.

“Awareness is obviously greater than it was before because of the (looming) federal mandate,” said Al Sirato, president of Hire-Safe, a Campbell-based company that does background checks, pre-employment screening and helps employers with E-Verify. “We’re seeing an uptick.”

Participation by employers nationwide grew 260 percent last year to verify more than 10 percent of the nation’s new hires, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“It’s growing by about 1,000 companies a week,” said Sharon Rummery, a spokeswoman with the federal agency in San Francisco.

So are concerns about the program as the federal deadline looms.

Error rates are too high and cause undue anguish, some say. Employers who don’t know all the rules can run into legal trouble if they fire workers inappropriately or appear to discriminate against some job applicants.

While free, the system requires record keeping that could be onerous to small employers — and very small businesses might not have computers to run it.

At least one group that supports voluntary use of the program is considering a legal challenge to the mandate.

“Most of us have supported voluntary status, but think it’s up to Congress to decide on a federal mandate,” said Angelo Amador, a member of the steering committee for the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition in Washington, D.C.

Also looming is the debate over program reauthorization by Congress in March, when new members and the Obama administration will weigh in on the issue.

Debate, raids spur sign-ups

E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.

The program started as a pilot in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas in 1997. It was expanded nationwide in late 2004, but few employers used the service.

That changed during national debate over immigration reform in 2006. High-profile raids by federal agents on employers late that year brought a surge of interest in the screening program.

Participation jumped in California from 3,064 work sites in 2006 to 17,387 in 2007. Nationally, it soared from 5,930 in 2006 to 140,906 in 2007.

“Surveys show high satisfaction, both in accomplishing what it set out to do — help employers identify illegal aliens rather than being duped by false Social Security numbers — and because it is easy to use,” said Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington D.C., an anti-immigration group.

Some employers participate because they think it’s the right thing to do. Others do because clients or corporate owners demand it.

“What it’s done over time, potential employees realize you check,” said Tony Hardin, director of operations for MTC Restaurant Group, a Campbell-based franchisee of Togo’s restaurants. “We’ve had the system up for years and get less people applying. Ninety-seven percent are OK. Before, it was Russian roulette.”

Business leaders, unions wary

“Feedback from our membership about the program has been mixed,” CalChamber spokeswoman Christine Haddon wrote in an e-mail.

The chamber is concerned about errors in E-Verify, referring to a 2006 study by the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration that concluded the database used by the program contains discrepancies that might give employers wrong information.

A recent study conducted by Westat, a social science research firm that monitors the effect of changes to E-Verify, found that between April and June wrong denials dropped to 0.4 percent from 0.5 percent, according to USCIS.

The National Federation of Independent Business remains concerned about how quickly and efficiently a government-run, nationwide electronic verification system can be put in place and how small businesses will be treated under the system.

“We’re seeing a lot of questions from members about ‘Do I need to use it?’ and ‘How does it work?’ ” said Karen Harned, executive director of the Small Business Legal Center in Washington, D.C. “We are trying to make sure employers know everything they are agreeing to when they sign up.”

“The issue is touchy for us,” said Sylvia Ruiz, political director for Service Employees International Union Local 1877, which represents janitors and other low-wage workers, many of them immigrants.

“(E-Verify) relies on a database that’s out-of-date and prone to errors,” Ruiz said, adding that the way employers use it might set them up for legal action if there are violations of worker rights.

The program relies on information from an overburdened Social Security Administration that “has a statistically high rate of inaccurate data,” said Mark Reichel, a Sacramento civil rights attorney who serves on the board of the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We’re talking about creating a ‘No Work List’ like the ‘No Fly List,’ ” he said.

“If they require uniform application nationwide, the numbers of errors will go up,” he said. “Even a low rate, in these tough economic times, will mean many workers will not be able to get ahead or will lose a job.”

Similar to other trade groups, the California Restaurant Association is looking for direction from its national counterpart in Washington, California president Jot Condie said.

E-Verify puts some significant burdens on smaller restaurants, some of which might not have a computer on-site, Condie said. And, depending on the accuracy and support of the program, it could create problems between employers and employees, he said.

What’s in a name? Maybe big trouble for businesses when it comes to Internet domains

From the Denver Business Journal.

Read this article and ask yourself:

What opportunities may exist for me and my company? How do I exploit them?
What potential problems may exist for me and my company? How do I protect myself?

Give us a call, we can help. From strategic planning through execution and measurements, we will help you become more effective.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

What’s in a name? Maybe big trouble for businesses when it comes to Internet domains

The regulating body overseeing Internet naming will usher in new custom domain names next year, and it will mean new opportunities for companies and radical changes in how firms protect their brands online.

Web domain registries will grow from 21 now — the common ones being .com, .net, .org, .biz — to hundreds of dot-whatevers starting in 2009.

The option to customize domains is expected to lead to brand-tailored Internet registries such as .coca-cola or .ibm, or genre registries with potentially massive cachet, such as .sports, .car and the like.

Even companies with no interest in having their own domain should take note — the potentially endless permutations of web addresses will complicate life for businesses already guarding against knock-off websites and online appropriation of their trademarks, said Erin Hogan, a trademark and brand management attorney for Denver-based Dorsey & Whitney LLP.

“It’s going to affect their budget to police their brand,” Hogan said. “The costs are going to increase exponentially.”

Custom domain owners will be able to create their own brand “island” on the Internet, with the power to issue brand-associated email addresses and possibly keep competing brands from having a presence in their domain.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Santa Clara, Calif.-based organization that manages international web domains and settles disputes over them, still is writing final rules on how to manage the change.

ICANN is taking recommendations through Dec. 8. It’s scheduled to issue final rules in early 2009 before taking applications for new domains in midsummer.

ICANN charges $185,000 to apply for new top-level domains, which may be only partly refundable, Hogan said. That expense alone could keep domain “squatters” from seizing popular words and brands, but it also complicates the first-line defense companies now use to prevent their brand from being hijacked online.

Businesses defensively register web addresses that incorporate sound-alike terms or misspellings of their company name and products, buying variations of them in the most popular domain registries: .com, .net and .biz.

Ian Saffer, a Denver partner at San Francisco-based Townsend & Townsend & Crew, represents companies that have dozens, if not hundreds, of website addresses registered to protect their brand under the current system of domain registries. That strategy, he said, could be made obsolete by the enormity of variation in website names made possible by custom domains.

“The playing field just went from being 100 yards long and 50 yards wide to being 10,000 yards long and 10,000 yards wide,” he said.

It’s not yet clear how companies should react to the new domain reality because the rules are still being set, Saffer said.

The new domain system could create new opportunities for phishing scammers who set up phony websites to steal identities from customers believing they’re on a company’s legitimate site, or to siphon advertising revenue from companies’ own web pages.

Monitoring the Internet is already time-consuming, especially for businesses whose products or services have become synonymous with an industry niche.

Theresa Rickets, manager of legal services Fort Collins-based Water Pik Inc., spends time every week seeking out online sales of competing dental water jets that play off the well-known Waterpik brand.

The 150-employee company owns www.waterpick.com and other web addresses using common misspellings of its name. It pays an outside firm to track website registrations.

Rickets surfs online, trying to police instances in which her company believes competitors mislead consumers, such as an ongoing effort to stop online sales of oral irrigators using the name Aquapic.

She can only imagine how much harder the job will become with potentially endless varieties of domain names.

“It’s already difficult enough to do it with what there is now,” Rickets said. “A lot of companies already spend a lot of time and energy, and money if they outsource it, and the fear is that it’s only going to get exponentially worse.”

ICANN established rules to stop the practice, once common in the early days of the Internet, of speculators registering and then ransoming domain names of well-known brands.

Draft rules for custom domain registries include protections meant to prevent similar exploitation of established trademarks.

But companies not monitoring applications for new domains in coming months could find themselves in an expensive game of catchup, Hogan said.

They also could miss opportunities to further their brand online in new ways, she said.

“Companies can’t sit back and wait and see,” Hogan said. “Being a .com now is incredibly valuable, but relying on that continuing is really shortsighted.”

Landlords Working Hard to Keep Tenants

Landlords are negotiating terms, dangling concessions and offering improvements to retain rent-paying businesses – hot commodities in this market

Read the Miami Herald story about how landlords are working hard to retain businesses.

Give us a call, we can help.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Florida Exports on Pace for Record

There is good news and opportunity if you know where to look for it. See the story below or go to Florida Trend to read it there.

Give us a call, we can help.
John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

You wouldn’t know Florida is in a recession based on the volume of the state’s foreign trade. It will be another record-breaking year for Florida exports. Through August, they exceed last year’s total by $7-billion, a gain of 24 percent. And the year isn’t over. Here are a few details of this little-heralded success story:

FERTILIZING INDIA: Two years ago India was Florida’s 19th-biggest export destination. This year the country has moved up in rank to sixth. The reason? India’s insatiable hunger for phosphates to grow grain. One main beneficiary has been the Mosaic Co., which runs phosphate mines east of Tampa. January through August 2007, Florida exported $400-million worth of goods to India. Through August this year, India had already imported $1.5-billion worth of Florida stuff.

SCRAPPY EXPORTS: Florida’s export of scrap metal — including iron and steel — has skyrocketed in value as those commodities fetch higher prices. The astounding growth has been in precious metals. So far this year, exports have passed $1-billion, four times the pace of last year’s $242-million. Switzerland has absorbed most of it. The landlocked European nation was Florida’s 35th-largest importer in 2006. It has moved up to seventh place this year.

LAND OF LINCOLN LOSES: With Florida prepared to send $55-billion worth of goods abroad this year — up from $44-billion in 2007 — the state has passed Illinois to become the nation’s fifth-biggest exporting state. In the past two years, the Sunshine State passed not just Illinois, but Ohio and Michigan. Small- and mid-sized companies do most of the international trading in Florida. Sixty-one percent of export volume comes from such companies, compared with 29 percent in the rest of the United States.

FLYING HIGH TO RIO: Brazil solidified its position as Florida’s top export destination, taking in $3.4-billion worth of goods so far this year, a jump of 41 percent. It’s probably no coincidence that Florida exports of jet and other airplane engines have risen 45 percent. Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft giant, ships aircraft parts back to its home country from its operations in Fort Lauderdale.

Selling out gets tougher for business owners

Click for Miami Herald story on the difficulty in selling businesses today

This is an excellent time to do 2 things; buy a business because prices are down and prepare your business for sale because some of the things you need in order to do so are also discounted.

Call us, we can help.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

As Text Messages Fly, Danger Lurks

From the NY Times

Consider:

What risks to your business, your family and yourself are posed by using text messages improperly?

– Injury
– Death
– Law suits
– Wasting time

What opportunities may exist?

– Better communications
– More effective use of time

Call us, we can help.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Published: September 19, 2008

LOS ANGELES — Senator Barack Obama used one to announce to the world his choice of a running mate. Thousands of Americans have used them to vote for their favorite “American Idol” contestants. Many teenagers prefer them to actually talking. Almost overnight, text messages have become the preferred form of communication for millions.

But even as industry calculations show that Americans are now using mobile phones to send or receive more text messages than phone calls, those messages are coming under increasing fire because of the danger they can pose by distracting users. Though there are no official casualty statistics, there is much anecdotal evidence that the number of fatal accidents stemming from texting while driving, crossing the street or engaging in other activities is on the rise.

“The act of texting automatically removes 10 I.Q. points,” said Paul Saffo, a technology trend forecaster in Silicon Valley. “The truth of the matter is there are hobbies that are incompatible. You don’t want to do mushroom-hunting and bird-watching at the same time, and it is the same with texting and other activities. We have all seen people walk into parking meters or walk into traffic and seem startled by oncoming cars.”

In the latest backlash against text-messaging, the California Public Utilities Commission announced an emergency measure on Thursday temporarily banning the use of all mobile devices by anyone at the controls of a moving train.

The ban was adopted after federal investigators announced that they were looking at the role that a train engineer’s text-messaging might have played here last week in the country’s most deadly commuter rail accident in four decades.

A California lawmaker is also seeking to ban text-messaging by drivers, a step already taken by a handful of other states. “We have had far too many tragic incidents around the country that are painful proof that this is a terrible problem,” said the legislator, State Senator Joe Simitian, who wrote the California law requiring drivers who are talking on a cellphone to use hands-free devices.

The fight against text messages is also reaching beyond the realm of public safety. The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s board recently upheld a 2007 ban on all text-messaging by coaches to student recruits.

“The student athlete advisory committee believed that it was unprofessional, intrusive and expensive,” said Erik Christianson, a spokesman for the N.C.A.A.

Theaters, too, long accustomed to chiding cellphone users as well as people who crumple their cough drop wrappers, have taken on texting. And, assisted by cellphone service providers, parents have moved to limit the hours in which their children can get and send text messages.

Text-messaging, also known as S.M.S. messaging (the abbreviation stands for short message service), first took off in Japan, cellphone technology experts say, in part because the cost of texting there was less than that of making cellphone calls.

In the United States, the practice has accelerated greatly in the last few years, as the technology has improved with the introduction of products like the Apple iPhone. In June, 75 billion text messages were sent in the United States, compared with 7.2 billion in June 2005, according to CTIA — the Wireless Association, the leading industry trade group.

The consumer research company Nielsen Mobile, which tracked 50,000 individual customer accounts in the second quarter of this year, found that Americans each sent or received 357 text messages a month then, compared with 204 phone calls. That was the second consecutive quarter in which mobile texting significantly surpassed the number of voice calls.

The lure of texting is self-evident. It is fast and direct, screening out the pleasantries that even standard e-mail messages call for, like “how are you.” It is used to blast information among co-workers and inform parents of their children’s whereabouts, and, as Kwame M. Kilpatrick demonstrated en route to his downfall as mayor of Detroit, is useful in expressing feelings of romantic desire. (Object lesson No. 2: text messages are also subject to subpoena.)

“It is just a super useful tool,” said Caitlin Williams, a San Francisco bakery owner whose outgoing cellphone message encourages people to send her a text.

“You can kind of cut to the chase,” Ms. Williams said. “Sometimes you just want your questions answered without having to answer a lot of questions about how your day is.”

For all her love of texting, Ms. Williams says she has seen the underbelly as well.

“Of course there is the dangerous driving while texting,” she said, “and the obnoxious person in front of you texting instead of ordering their coffee, which happened to me yesterday. We are not at a point where there are a whole lot of rules for proper etiquette for texting. I think as it becomes a more acceptable form of communication, people will regulate themselves a little more.”

Teenagers and young adults have adopted text-messaging as a second language. Americans 13 to 17 years of age sent or received an average of 1,742 text messages a month in the second quarter, according to Nielsen. And according to one survey commissioned by CTIA, 4 of 10 teenagers said they could text blindfolded.

Kyle Monaco, a 21-year-old student in Chester, Pa, estimates that he sends 500 text messages a month, compared with 50 phone calls. “It’s not that I don’t like to talk on the phone,” Mr. Monaco said. “Sometimes I just want to see what’s going on, as opposed to having a conversation. So it is easier to send a text.”

Parents are often torn between their love of instant access to their children and their loathing of others’ having the same. In August, Verizon began offering a service that blocks texting during certain times of the day.

“Usage controls were developed at the request of customers,” said Jack McArtney, associate director of advertising and content standards for Verizon. “We know of some people who want to keep the kid’s phone from buzzing all night. They want them to get some sleep.”

And texting at the wrong time can be extremely dangerous. Over the last two years, news accounts across the country have chronicled the death or serious injury of people who walk into traffic while texting or who drive while doing so. Police officials said last year that a crash that killed five cheerleaders in upstate New York might have been linked to texting. A recent Nationwide Insurance survey of 1,503 drivers found that almost 40 percent of those respondents from 16 to 30 years old said they text while driving.

On Wednesday, the National Transportation Safety Board said its investigators had determined from phone records that the commuter-train engineer in last week’s disaster had sent and received text messages during the run in which the train ultimately collided with a freight locomotive. Twenty-five people were killed in the crash, and more than 130 injured.

Further, a group representing emergency room doctors issued a warning in July against texting while doing other activities, citing a rise in injuries and deaths seen in emergency rooms around the country stemming from texting.

As policy makers consider their options, use of the technology shows no sign of ebbing.

Joanne Kent, 62, found herself flummoxed when her two granddaughters sent her text messages she did not know how to retrieve. So Ms. Kent, a retired physician’s assistant, attended a class held by AT&T at a seniors center in Wallingford, Conn., hoping someone there could show her how.

“They’d send me a text saying, ‘Have papa come pick me up,’ and I couldn’t open it,” she said of her granddaughters. “They finally told me I had to learn.”

The 65 mpg Ford the U.S. Can’t Have

Click for the story in Business Week

So, if you are Ford, what do you do?

What are the potential problems but, more importantly, what are the potential opportunities?

What difficult choices need to be made here?

How do you balance short and long term needs?

For most of us, we have the same types of issues Ford has. Maybe not on the same scale but, when it’s our own business, crucially important none the less.

Call us, we can help.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Breast Cancer Walk and Awareness

Boca Consultants is forming a team to walk in this year’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fund raiser. Details are below. You can click the link on the right to either join our team and raise money or to make a contribution. If you have any questions, please either call or e-mail me.

My Mom, one of my sisters, and several friends are breast cancer survivors.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants
561.459.4814

Date: Saturday, October 18, 2008
Location: Mizner Park Amphitheater
Time: Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. and Walk begins at 9:00 a.m.
Map: Click here for Route Map

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is a great way to fight back against breast cancer and provide hope to all people facing the disease. Making Strides is not a race; it is a celebration of survivorship, an occasion to express hope, and a shared goal to end a disease that threatens the lives of so many people we love. Making Strides walks do not have a registration fee or minimum fundraising amount. They are open to men, women, and children of all ages. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer unites friends, families, and coworkers to raise awareness and funds to fight breast cancer. Your support enables the American Cancer Society to fund groundbreaking breast cancer research, provide up-to-date cancer prevention and early detection information, help ensure all women have access to mammograms and follow-up care, and provide free programs and services that improve the quality of life for people facing breast cancer.

In 2007, nearly 500,000 walkers in 130 communities across the country joined the American Cancer Society in our united fight against breast cancer. Together, we raised more than $50 million through Making Strides events and we did it one donation at a time. Making Strides Against Breast Cancer is more than just a walk it describes the amazing progress we’re making together to defeat this disease. You are helping us raise dollars and awareness that leads to this incredible progress; and we did it together, one walker at a time.

While we are Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, there is more work to be done to beat this disease … and we need your help! By participating in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, you will provide hope and help to millions of people nationwide whose lives have been forever changed by this disease. Join us for a few hours of exercise, inspiration, camaraderie, entertainment, and most importantly, to honor someone you know who has been affected by breast cancer, especially if that person is you.

For more information about Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, check out our frequently asked questions.

Comcast to Place a Cap on Internet Downloads

From today’s NY Times:

Comcast to Place a Cap on Internet Downloads

Published: August 29, 2008

Comcast, one of the country’s largest Internet providers, said this week that it would place limits on customers’ broadband usage.

Beginning Oct. 1, Comcast will put a 250 gigabyte-a-month cap on residential users. The limit will not affect most users, at least not in the short-term, but is certain to create tension as some technologies gain traction.

A Comcast spokeswoman, Jennifer Khoury, said 250 gigabytes was about 100 times the typical usage; the average customer uses two to three gigabytes a month. Less than 1 percent of customers exceed the cap, she said.

Many Internet providers reserve the right to cancel the service of the most excessive users. The 250-gigabyte cap is Comcast’s way of specifying a longstanding policy of placing a limit on Internet consumption, and it comes after customer pushed for a definition of excessive use.

But on the Internet, consumer behavior does not stand still. As the technology company Cisco stated in a report last winter, “today’s ‘bandwidth hog’ is tomorrow’s average user.”

Some commentators were quick to characterize Comcast’s decision as having a chilling effect. Om Malik, the founder of the technology Web site GigaOm, called the cap “the end of the Internet as we know it.”

SLReports.com, a Web site about consumer broadband information, said it indicated “a significant shift in the U.S. broadband market that won’t be reversible.”

In recent months Comcast and other companies have considered clamping down on their most active subscribers, saying the limits were necessary to ensure fair access to the network for all.

Comcast’s cap does not amount to Internet metering, the charging of different prices for different broadband speeds or usage, but the change to Comcast’s policy does not rule out metering in the future.

In June, Time Warner Cable began a metering trial in one Texas city by offering various monthly plans and charging extra when consumers exceeded their bandwidth limit. AT&T has said that it is considering a similar pricing plan. The concept is not a foreign one; consumers already pay by usage for water and electricity. But broadband access has seemed unlimited, and any stifling of that is sure to concern some customers.

Until now, Comcast had not defined excessive use, but it had contacted customers who were using the heaviest amount of broadband and asked them to curb usage. Most do so willingly, the company said. The ones who do not curb their usage receive a second notice and risk having their accounts terminated.

Although the 250 gigabyte cap is now specified, users who exceed that amount will not have their access switched off immediately, nor will they be charged for excessive use. Instead, the customers may be contacted by Comcast and notified of the cap. The company did not say how 250 gigabytes was selected.

According to Comcast, a customer would have to download 62,500 songs or 125 standard-definition movies a month to exceed the caps. But high-definition video and video gaming require a higher amount of bandwidth. S. Derek Turner, the research director for the nonpartisan media policy group Free Press, said broadband caps could create a disincentive to view online video.

“As media companies put content online, consumers can bypass the cable companies and get their content directly from the Internet,” Mr. Turner said. “A 250 gigabyte cap may seem very high — and it is for today’s Internet use. But it’s essentially the equivalent of four hours of HD television a day.”

Critics have charged that Internet providers are trying to protect their cable TV and telephone businesses by stifling Internet access. Comcast says Fancast, its online video Web site, will count against the 250 gigabyte limit, but its digital voice service will not.

Comcast said there was no link between the caps, announced Thursday, and the Federal Communications Commission’s finding on Aug. 1 that the company was improperly inhibiting customers who used BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing program.

But Andrew Jay Schwartzman, the president of the Media Access Project, said the caps appeared to be a direct result of that finding. Mr. Schwartzman’s group represented Free Press in its complaint against Comcast about the file-sharing controls.

A deluge of electronic information may overwhelm American civil justice

From The Economist:

Technology, business and the law

The big data dump

Aug 28th 2008 | SAN FRANCISCO
From The Economist print edition

A deluge of electronic information may overwhelm American civil justice

DAWN BEYE’S teenage daughter suffers from anorexia nervosa and had to be treated in hospital at a cost of about $1,000 a day. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, the Beyes’ insurance company, covered one month of the bills but then balked, demanding evidence that the affliction was “biologically based” rather than psychological. So Ms Beye got together with parents of other anorexic and bulimic teenagers and sued. Horizon immediately asked to see practically everything the teenagers had said on their Facebook and MySpace profiles, in instant-messaging threads, text messages, e-mails, blog posts and whatever else the girls might have done online.

The Beyes’ lawyer, David Mazie at Mazie, Slater, Katz & Freeman, objected on the grounds that Horizon’s demands violated the girls’ privacy. He lost. So hard disks and web pages are being scoured in order for the case to proceed. Gathering and then sifting through all the electronic information that a few teenage girls have generated is excessive and daunting, says Mr Mazie.

And yet almost all information today is electronic, and there is ever more of it. “Things that we would never have put in writing are now in electronic form,” says Rebecca Love Kourlis, formerly a justice on Colorado’s Supreme Court and now the director of an institute at the University of Denver dedicated to rescuing America’s civil-justice system.

This system, she says, was already a “sick patient”—with crowded dockets and understaffed courts—but electronic discovery now threatens a lethal “spike in fever”. She has seen ordinary landlord-tenant disputes take three years, and divorce cases that might have been merely bitter, but are now digital wars of attrition. She sees cases that are settled only because one party cannot afford the costs of e-discovery: whereas in the past 5% of cases went to trial, now only 2% do. She knows plaintiffs who cannot afford to sue at all, for fear of the e-discovery costs.

For large companies, these costs now run into many millions. Patrick Oot, a lawyer for Verizon, an American telecoms giant that gets sued a lot, says that at the beginning of this decade e-discovery presented “a one-big-case, once-a-year problem”. In most cases information was still on paper, and its volume thus limited. In the rare event that electronic evidence was requested, 100 gigabytes (GB) was considered a large amount. Today, says Mr Oot, almost every case involves e-discovery and spits out “terabytes” of information—the equivalent of millions of pages. In an ordinary case, 200 lawyers can easily review electronic documents for four months, at a cost of millions of dollars, he says.

This has led to a new boom industry of specialised e-discovery service providers which merrily charge $125-600 an hour. George Socha, a consultant, estimates that their annual revenues have grown from $40m in 1999 to about $2 billion in 2006 and may hit $4 billion next year.

The process of e-discovery starts when the adversaries in a lawsuit demand to see all sorts of information in their search for relevant nuggets. Each side then has to identify all the laptops, smart-phones, memory sticks, network servers and back-up tapes that might store data created by the people in question. It probably also has to request logs from online-service providers, if those people used web-mail or similar services. The results then have to be indexed and reviewed by humans. This usually falls to the junior staff at law firms, some of whom are so fed up with the drudgery that they have quit the profession altogether.

For firms that find themselves in court a lot, it makes increasing sense to bring this entire process in-house, rather than farming it out. Verizon, for instance, has been using outside firms such as Kroll, but found them “really expensive”, says Mr Oot. So Verizon has established a dedicated internal e-discovery group which Mr Oot oversees and which will gradually take over all e-discovery using its own software and staff. Mr Oot reckons this will save Verizon $11m in costs over three years.

But even as huge companies such as Verizon learn to cope, the civil-justice system as a whole threatens to get bogged down. Stephen Breyer, a justice on America’s Supreme Court, recently expressed concern that, with ordinary cases costing millions just in e-discovery work, “you’re going to drive out of the litigation system a lot of people who ought to be there” so that “justice is determined by wealth, not by the merits of the case.”

This is overwhelmingly an American problem. In countries such as France and Germany that have an inquisitorial legal tradition, e-discovery tends to be proportionate to the case, because judges largely determine what information is relevant. By contrast, in adversarial common-law systems, it is the opponents in a case that decide how much information to peruse before picking out the evidence. But most countries within this tradition, such as Britain, Canada and Australia, have recently moved towards inquisitorial systems to minimise the threat from e-discovery.

As a result, American civil law is now “way behind” the rest of the world, says Ms Love Kourlis. New federal rules that took effect in 2006 included guidelines for electronic data. But they have not changed a fundamental aspect of America’s brand of adversarial law, which places almost no limit on the information that the plaintiff and defendant may seek from each other.

So Ms Love Kourlis suggests some new rules. Judges in civil cases, she says, need more power to assess and define the appropriate amount of information that can be sought in each case. Civil cases ought to require both sides to disclose what information they have, as in criminal cases, thus ending the game of hide-and-seek that makes both parties ask for more, for fear of missing something. And shifting lawyers away from being paid by the hour (see article) would mean that they no longer had an incentive to add to the process.

Is time almost up for clockwatching lawyers?

How might this impact your company, your costs, your opportunities?

Call us, we can help.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

From The Economist:

Law firms

Killable hour

Aug 28th 2008
From The Economist print edition

Is time almost up for clockwatching lawyers?

Illustration by Claudio Munoz

OF ALL the tedious tasks that lawyers have to do, time-recording is perhaps the most deadly. Private-practice lawyers account for their time in increments of 15 minutes, or even five or six minutes at some firms, and then send the bill to clients. This structure has been in place for decades. But cost-cutting has put a squeeze on companies’ legal budgets, and there is growing interest in doing away with the “billable hour” approach in favour of other pricing schemes.

It is not hard to see why. The hourly rate for a newly qualified lawyer at a big firm can reach £235 ($425). Most big British and American firms set targets for all their lawyers, from 1,300 billable hours a year to 1,800 hours and beyond. Lawyers who exceed their targets often get a bonus. But clients complain that this practice values the quantity of hours billed over quality and encourages padding.

If the billable hour does perish, it will be at the hands of the clients, rather than the private-practice lawyers themselves. Some companies are starting to switch to fixed fees, with a performance bonus related to results. Tyco, an American conglomerate, took this approach with Eversheds, a British firm, in a deal signed earlier this year. The firm has taken on Tyco’s commercial legal work for a fixed fee, and will receive a bonus if it improves its client’s satisfaction by 35% and reduces litigation against Tyco by 15%.

High-volume legal matters, which rely on precedents and templates, are the most obvious targets for fixed fees. Set prices can be put on anything from commercial contracts to trademark filing and personal-injury work.

Litigation is less suited to fixed fees, however, because of its unpredictability. Some firms provide upfront estimates, whereas others charge a “blended fee” based on a combination of hours worked and a fixed fee. In America some companies take a share of the settlement. Wiley Rein & Fielding, a firm in Washington, DC, used this to great effect in March 2006 for NTP, a small firm which won $613m from Research In Motion, in a patent-infringement case over the BlackBerry e-mail device. The firm got $200m, which it shared among all its employees.

Finding a new model to price legal services is no easy task. A lawyer’s skill, knowledge and experience are hard to quantify, as is the importance of a legal matter to a company. The fixed fee at least gives in-house lawyers certainty when budgeting and confidence when explaining that budget to the board.

But the legal industry is not known for welcoming change. Whatever it turns out to be, the billable hour’s replacement must be easy to use—and must strike a compromise between clarity for the client and profits for the law firm.

Boca Helping Hands – Bowling for Bread 2008



Lisa Elkan, Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union and Linda Gove, Executive Director Boca Helping Hands are the Chair and Co-chair of Boca Festival Days 2008

John Schneyer, Boca Consultants, volunteered at the 2nd annual Bowling for Bread to benefit Boca Helping Hands this past Sunday.

Some information on Boca Helping Hands:

Our Mission is

to provide compassionate service through food and assistance programs to individuals, families, and children to instill dignity and break the cycle of dependence.

Boca Helping Hands Provides…

Service: Boca Helping Hands provides services to benefit individuals, families, and children during times of need, emergency, or crisis.

Compassion: Boca Helping Hands serves with compassion in assisting people in need to help improve their lives.

Dignity: Boca Helping Hands fosters dignity, self-respect and self-esteem in everyone who seeks our services.

Independence: Boca helping Hands offers the resources necessary to help people in need gain independence.

Please visit their website at: http://www.bocahelpinghands.org/index.html for more information or to make a donation.

Event sponsors:

Congressman Ron Klein Hosts Small Business Symposium

I attended Congressman Ron Klein’s Small Business Symposium at Florida Atlantic University yesterday (8/21/08). Congressman Klein organized the event to help show small businesses how they can be more successful doing business with the federal government. The speakers:

  • Congressman Klein who put everything into perspective and facilitated the session
  • Stan Z. Soloway, President of the Professional Services Council
  • James T. “Tom” Gallman, Senior Area Manager for Area 2 in the South Florida District and the Florida Small Business Development Center Project Officer for the Small Business Administration
  • Elaine Mayfield, Manger of Regulatory Compliance for the Electronic Systems Business Area and the Lockheed Martin Representative

Here are some of the takeaways from the session, in no particular order:

  • There are hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts being awarded to companies in Congressman Klein’s district
  • A lot of that money is targeted to small businesses, minority owned, and veteran owned
  • You can either contract directly with the federal government or through a primary contractor such as Lockheed Martin

5 simple steps for getting started:

  1. Establish a valid, business bank account
  2. Obtain a Federal Tax ID number
  3. DUNS Numbers – http://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/displayHomePage.do
  4. Register via Central Contractor Registry – www.ccr.gov
  5. “Certs and Reps” all contractors must certify compliance with range of environmental, immigration and other laws

I will not be able to put everything that was discussed in this post. You can feel free to contact me or use some of the links and contact information I have provided.

Professional Services Council – www.pscouncil.org

Congressman Ron Klein:
(202) 225-3026 (phone in Washington, DC)

(202) 225-8938 (fax in Washington, DC)
(866) 713-7303 (toll free in Broward & Palm Beach Counties, FL only)

http://www.klein.house.gov

Thank you to Congressman Ron Klein, Stan Soloway, James Gallman, Elaine Mayfield, and Florida Atlantic University for their contributions to this event.

Running dry

Click for the Economist article or read it below.

Ask your self:

How might this impact my business? What can I do about it?
What opportunities exist for my business? How can I capitalize on them?

Give us a call, we can help.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Running dry

Aug 21st 2008 | NEW YORK
From The Economist print edition

Everyone knows industry needs oil. Now people are worrying about water, too

“WATER is the oil of the 21st century,” declares Andrew Liveris, the chief executive of Dow, a chemical company. Like oil, water is a critical lubricant of the global economy. And as with oil, supplies of water—at least, the clean, easily accessible sort—are coming under enormous strain because of the growing global population and an emerging middle-class in Asia that hankers for the water-intensive life enjoyed by people in the West.

Oil prices have fallen from their recent peaks, but concerns about the availability of freshwater show no sign of abating. Goldman Sachs, an investment bank, estimates that global water consumption is doubling every 20 years, which it calls an “unsustainable” rate of growth. Water, unlike oil, has no substitute. Climate change is altering the patterns of freshwater availability in complex ways that can lead to more frequent and severe droughts.

Untrammelled industrialisation, particularly in poor countries, is contaminating rivers and aquifers. America’s generous subsidies for biofuel have increased the harvest of water-intensive crops that are now used for energy as well as food. And heavy subsidies for water in most parts of the world mean it is often grossly underpriced—and hence squandered.

All of this poses a problem, first and foremost, for human welfare. At the annual World Water Week conference in Stockholm this week, delegates focused on measures to extend access to clean water and sanitation to the world’s poor. But it also poses a problem for industry. “For businesses, water is not discretionary,” says Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum, a think-tank. “Without it, industry and the global economy falter.”

Water is an essential ingredient in many of the products that line supermarket shelves. JPMorgan, a bank, reckons that five big food and beverage giants—Nestlé, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch and Danone—consume almost 575 billion litres of water a year, enough to satisfy the daily water needs of every person on the planet.

Although agriculture uses most water (see chart), many other products and services also depend on it. It takes around 13 cubic metres of freshwater to produce a single 200mm semiconductor wafer, for example. Chipmaking is thought to account for 25% of water consumption in Silicon Valley. Energy production is also water-intensive: each year around 40% of the freshwater withdrawn from lakes and aquifers in America is used to cool power plants. And separating just one litre of oil from tar sands—a costly alternative fuel made viable by high oil prices—requires up to five litres of water.

Quality matters as much as quantity. According to the World Bank, around 90% of the rivers in China near urban areas are seriously polluted. The overall cost of water scarcity—from pollution and the depletion of groundwater—is estimated to be 147 billion yuan ($21.4 billion) a year, or almost 1% of China’s annual output. In 2007 poor water-quality cost China some $12 billion in lost industrial output alone.

Elsewhere, Taipei City in Taiwan no longer allows companies to tap its groundwater, because of shortages. Firms in drought-ridden Australia have lived under stringent water restrictions for years. Southern Company, an electricity utility based in Atlanta, temporarily shut down some of its power plants last summer because of a drought. Indeed, according to a survey by the Marsh Centre for Risk Insights, 40% of Fortune 1000 companies said the impact of a water shortage on their business would be “severe” or “catastrophic”—but only 17% said they were prepared for such a crisis.

Not all companies are sitting still. Since 1995 Dow has reduced the amount of water it uses per tonne of output by over a third. Nestlé cut its water consumption by 29% between 1997 and 2006, even as it almost doubled the volume of food it produced. And at Coca-Cola bottling plants from Bogotá to Beijing, schools of fish swim in water tanks filled with treated wastewater, testament to the firm’s commitment to clean all its wastewater by 2010 (it is 84% of the way there).

Cynics say such programmes are mere public relations. There is some truth to this. Companies that use freshwater in areas where it is scarce are understandably unpopular. Activists have attacked both Coca-Cola and Pepsi, for instance, for allegedly depleting groundwater in India to make bottled drinks. Coca-Cola took the matter to court and was exonerated by an independent commission, which blamed a regional drought for water shortages, but activists were not mollified. Coca-Cola has responded by redoubling its attention to water—for instance, by backing a scheme in Kaladera to teach villagers how to harvest rainwater and irrigate crops more efficiently. “Regulatory licences to water are not enough,” says Jeff Seabright of Coca-Cola. “We need a social licence—the OK from the community—to operate.”

Cutting water consumption can also make business sense. Using less water reduces spending on water acquisition and treatment, and on the clean-up of wastewater. Some firms have no choice. Elion Chemical in China is working with General Electric to recycle 90% of its wastewater to comply with Beijing’s strict new “zero-liquid discharge” rules, which bar companies from dumping wastewater into the environment. Of Nestlé’s 481 factories worldwide, 49 are in extremely water-stressed regions where water conservation and re-use is the only option.

Such farsightedness is, alas, only a drop in the bucket. In a drought, even water-efficient factories can run into trouble. Moreover, the water used within a factory’s walls is often only a tiny fraction of a firm’s true dependence on water. José Lopez, the chief operating officer of Nestlé, notes that it takes four litres of water to make one litre of product in Nestle’s factories, but 3,000 litres of water to grow the agricultural produce that goes into it. These 3,000 litres may be outside his control, but they are very much a part of his business.

Guns on campus? FAU students push for advocacy group

How do you feel about the story below? I have a vested interest as I have one child attending FAU now and another on the way.

I would like more information and am hoping this is very well thought out before acting either way.

This is a great example of a situation that has many issues, potential problem, potential opportunities, and will need good, informed decisions being made.

This is the type of situation where our processes are employed very well.

Think of the situations in your life. Call us, we can help.

John Schneyer
Boca Consultants

Guns on campus? FAU students push for advocacy group
By KIMBERLY MILLER
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 14, 2008

A chapter of a national gun advocacy group that supports allowing students to carry weapons to class may open at Florida Atlantic University this fall.

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus was created after the April 2007 shootings on the Virginia Tech University campus in Blacksburg, Va., where 32 people and gunman Cho Seung-Hui died.

About the organization

  • Students for Concealed Carry on Campus promotes its cause with several initiatives, including the ’empty holster protest,’ where students, faculty and staff who support allowing guns on campus wear holsters to school. Group leaders said 3,800 students nationwide participated in April’s event.
  • Slogans include ‘Signs can’t stop acts of violence, armed citizens can.’
  • SCCC, in conjunction with the Second Amendment Foundation, held its first national conference Aug. 1 at the National Press Club in Washington. About 100 students attended the meeting, which included a speech by G. Gordon Liddy and a representative of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
  • The group, which now claims 30,000 members in 45 states, believes people with concealed weapons permits should be able to carry handguns to school, as they can to many other public places, as a way to protect themselves and others.

    Two FAU students are spearheading a campaign to start the club on the school’s Boca Raton campus, hoping to garner interest with a grass-roots campaign, including an “empty holster protest” in which students wear gun holsters to school.

    “I’ve always been very much into constitutional rights and gun rights,” said Ryan Faerman, an electrical engineering major at FAU who is working to start the SCCC chapter. “It seems retarded that you can’t protect yourself on an open campus. It’s ridiculous.”

    Faerman, 21, emphasizes he is no “gun nut.” In fact, he doesn’t currently own a gun, though he is going through the process to earn a concealed weapons permit.

    “I’m not some crazy redneck out shooting varmints,” Faerman said. “People think we’re trying to force guns everywhere and it’s going to be a bloodbath, but that’s not the case.”

    SCCC has no office or base but is an organized group, supported partially by the Second Amendment Foundation. It held its first national convention in Washington this month, attracting about 100 students.

    Colleges in most states, including Florida, do not allow students, faculty or staff to carry guns on campus.

    Gun opponents say there is good reason for that.

    “I don’t have a lot of confidence that a college kid with a gun, or any untrained person for that matter, will get into a successful shootout with a bad guy,” said Doug Pennington, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “This is one of the craziest ideas anyone has ever thought of.”

    In Florida, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is authorized to issue licenses to carry concealed weapons to residents 21 and older. To earn a license, a person must show competence with a firearm by completing an approved hunter education or safety course.

    Also, under most circumstances, the person cannot have been committed to a mental institution or have been found guilty or had adjudication withheld on a misdemeanor or felony charge.

    Still, Florida was given just eight points out of a potential 100 for its gun safety laws by the Brady Campaign.

    Pennington said he has special concerns about students with guns on campus.

    “The permit holder might be the All-American kid who has never done anything wrong in his or her life,” he said. “But what if they live in the dorms? The roommate might be a moron.”

    SCCC’s recognition increased following the Valentine’s Day shooting at Northern Illinois University, where five people were killed and 16 injured when a former student opened fire in a lecture hall. The gunman, Steven Kazmierczak, also killed himself.

    Between January and today, SCCC grew from 10,000 to 30,000 members.

    “It’s unfortunate, but when a kid goes on campus and starts shooting, it gives attention to our cause,” said David Burnett, a University of Kentucky student and spokesman for SCCC. “It’s not the type of publicity we want.”

    SCCC says it has members at 650 colleges nationwide, but it’s unclear how many of those groups are officially registered campus clubs.

    Thirteen Florida colleges and universities are listed on the group’s Web site as having members, including Florida State University and the University of Central Florida. FSU has a club called Students for the Second Amendment, but not one with the name Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. UCF does not list an official campus club affiliated with SCCC.

    To start a campus club at FAU, students must fill out an “intent to organize” form that explains the purpose of the group, have at least 10 members and identify a faculty or staff adviser.

    School officials said there is no reason SCCC would be prohibited from forming a club as long as it fulfilled all of the requirements.

    FAU had its own campus shooting in April when a non-student attending a party at the University Village Apartments fired a gun three times during an argument. No one was hit, but the school was on lockdown for several hours.

    Matt Mesang, a 21-year-old FAU student who is working with Faerman to start the chapter of SCCC, said the shooting shows that “gun-free zones” only deter law-abiding citizens.

    Mesang, whose father is a retired Broward County sheriff’s deputy, acknowledges that the club might stir controversy at FAU, but he said that’s not the intention.

    “There will obviously be people who are against it, and their thinking is that if there is a gun anywhere that there will be shooting,” said Mesang, who sometimes practices at the Delray Shooting Center. “I believe every student has the right to defend themselves, including when they are in the classroom.”

    A Generator That’s Safe for Indoors

    Here is an example of a product that satisfies the need for a contingency plan in case of power outage and addresses one of the big concerns of generators – dangerous fumes.

    How do your products and services anticipate customer needs and satisfy them?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    by Palm Beach Post

    A local company is looking to shake up people’s hurricane-preparation routines this season. That is, at least when it comes to their generators.
    PowerReady International, which just opened its doors in January, is selling a battery-powered generator that it touts as noise-free, odor-free and pollution-free.


    But one of its boldest assertions, especially in this market, is that it’s safe to use inside the home.

    South Florida residents, used to warnings about generators’ toxic carbon monoxide fumes, have spent the years since the 2004 storm season learning to keep their backup generators far from the house.
    But PowerReady’s generator runs on a battery instead of gasoline; the company keeps one of the generators running for demonstrations inside its office.

    The emission-free battery of the PowerReady Indoor Power System 12,000 provides, as the name implies, 12,000 watts of power – 3,000 of which can be used at any one time – and is connected to an uninterrupted power supply system that allows the generator to start automatically if the power goes out.

    With conservative use, the generator can be used for about four days before needing to be recharged, said Bill Dato, PowerReady’s general manager. “When we demo the product, people look at it and think it’s magic,” Dato said. “It’s the only power system that’s portable and requires no permits. Once you receive delivery, you can plug it in and it’s ready to go.”

    The generator costs about $9,000, with added shipping costs for people outside of Broward and Palm Beach counties. However, Dato said the PowerReady IPS doesn’t have the expense of gasoline, nor does it need permits to be installed, as it can be kept in any room in the house.

    Four-day workweek gets A+ at college

    By John Zarrella
    CNN’s “American Morning”

    COCOA, Florida (CNN) — Ask just about any college student, and they’ll tell you they’d jump through hoops to avoid taking a class that meets Fridays.

    Brevard Community College used $267,000 in energy savings to add 10 new full-time faculty positions.

    So, it was welcome news to students when Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Florida, decided to experiment with a four-day workweek. A year ago, as energy costs headed up and the school faced cuts in state funding, college President James Drake, who drives a hybrid, decided to give the shortened workweek a try.

    It worked out better than anyone could have imagined, Drake says.

    “If it weren’t for the savings that we have netted from energy management and the four-day workweek, we would not have been able to do several of the vital things that are going to help us attract and retain even more students,” Drake said.

    Brevard Community College began the four-day workweek during the 2007 summer session. The following fall and spring, it added a half-day but then went back to the four-day work week again this summer. iReport.com: Are you working a four-day week?

    Over that year-long period, by closing on Fridays and turning down the air conditioning and heating systems, the college saved $267,000 in energy costs. The savings allowed Brevard to hire 10 full-time faculty members. Video Watch: Shorter work week boosts morale, productivity »

    “It was a great thing for me, because I became a full-time faculty,” Betty Blaschak said.

    Rising energy prices and budget cuts are forcing some employers to switch to a four-day workweek. How is it working? CNN’s John Zarrella finds out this week on “American Morning.”
    Weekdays, starting at 6 a.m. ET

    Blaschak teaches at Brevard’s cosmetology school, where scissors and combs are moving a mile a minute as students learn how to style hair. Brooke Stile is one of those students, and taking classes four days a week instead of five makes a huge difference to her.

    “The fact that I have that day, that one day, it’s just so much nicer, and I just don’t have to drive all that way to Cocoa,” Stile said.

    Stile, who is a single mom, saves a 50-mile round trip with the four days of classes. She spends the extra day with her son, which means one less day she has to pay for child care. She says she can also get more done.

    “The bank is only open till noon on Saturdays, so instead of doing it on Saturdays, I can do it on Fridays,” Stile said. “And go grocery shopping and there’s not going to be a lot of people there.”

    Evers, who drives nearly 100 miles a day from Orlando, Florida, to take a biology class at Brevard, saves gas and says the Friday off is a win-win.

    “I get an extra day to go to work, and I have an extra day to study,” Evers said.

    The four-day workweek at Brevard has yielded even more positive results: There’s been a 44 percent reduction in staff turnover, according to Drake.

    “We have had a 50 percent increase in applications for employment during the same period this year as opposed to last year,” Drake said.

    Mili Torres, the director of enrollment at the Cocoa campus, says her staff members rarely miss work.

    “Absenteeism has actually gone away almost in my department,” Torres said.

    However, the longer workdays of a four-day workweek have created some problems for people who need child care. For them, the school provides flex scheduling, which allows staff members to come in and leave earlier or later, depending on what is convenient.

    Drake says he often receives calls from other colleges and universities wanting to know how it’s working. It’s working so well that when the fall semester begins, Brevard Community College will shift to a year-round four-day workweek.

    Across the country, businesses, institutions and even one state are considering or have moved to a four-day workweek.

    In Utah, the state government has just gone into its second week of shutting down 1,000 buildings on Fridays. The state believes it can save $3 million by moving to a four-day workweek. But just as important as the savings is how employees are affected. Video Watch: Utah first state to try four-day workweek »

    Although the change has been a welcome relief to some workers, it’s created hardships for others.

    Mylitta Barrett, a single mother, says the switch means she spends less time with her three sons.

    Barrett now needs a sitter in the mornings to care for her severely disabled son, Joseph, until his bus comes and says she has less time for her other boys as well.

    “You can’t make up the soccer game that I missed on Monday because you were working and didn’t get home until seven o’clock at night,” Barrett said.

    After 15 years with the state, she says she depends on the medical coverage and can’t consider quitting.

    “I don’t like being thrown in this position where my life is going to get more difficult because of energy savings or whatever reason they decided to do this,” Barrett said.

    But Barrett said she knows that hers is an extreme situation and that her supervisors are being as flexible as they can.

    Whether the four-day workweek will prove to be just a short-term solution to rising energy costs or is here to stay, only time will tell.

    Delays Keep Fliers Waiting and Guessing

    What are you doing to deal with these issues?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Delays Keep Fliers Waiting and Guessing

    Published: August 11, 2008

    AS this is being written, a big thunderstorm is crashing outside, and my two parrots are worked up downstairs.

    Chris Gash

    “Bye-bye!” the big macaw is screaming, using words he says when alarmed.

    “It’s raining!” the little African gray is repeating shrilly.

    I have my own reaction to inclement weather. I check out the airport status maps on www.flightstats.com. And sure enough, as thunderstorms rolled into the Northeast on Monday morning, a cluster of red dots covered the New York airports and beyond, indicating that major delays were building up.

    For many passengers, the story is now familiar. Bad weather arrives, and planes sit on tarmacs for long periods of time while passengers fume.

    “They taxied us out, and we’ve been sitting on the tarmac ever since,” Jennifer Wilson said by cellphone Monday afternoon from Virgin America Flight 224, stuck at Kennedy International Airport. “They start the engines, they move us, and then they kill them.”

    When I spoke to Ms. Wilson, who was bound for San Francisco, the plane had already been sitting on the tarmac for four hours beyond its scheduled 9:10 a.m. departure time.

    Because the plane was moving on the ground, “they didn’t let us get up to use the bathrooms till after 11,” she said. “We could be sitting here for five more hours, who knows?”

    Extended waits on the tarmac have become increasingly frequent in the last 18 months as the air traffic system has been pushed to its limits, unable to cope with added traffic and delays. For background, consult www.flyersrights.com, the Web site of the grass-roots coalition that was founded last year by Kate Hanni after thunderstorms kept her plane on the tarmac for nine hours in December 2006.

    The coalition is pressing for federal legislation to force airlines to provide adequate food, water and information and to allow passengers to get off an idled flight after three hours.

    The bathroom issue, incidentally, frequently comes up as planes full of passengers sit for hours waiting to take off.

    Last Thursday night, passengers at the gate for US Airways Flight 2257 in Charlotte, N.C., were warned that the plane’s two toilets were not functioning properly and were advised to use terminal bathrooms before boarding, according to Dyann Domoracki, a passenger.

    “It was only about an hour and a half flight to Pensacola, so everybody thought, ‘Oh well, no problem,’ ” Ms. Domoracki said.

    But that turned into nearly four hours of waiting on the plane before the flight was finally canceled, when the crew had worked past its shift.

    Ms. Domoracki said she understood that weather can disrupt an already stressed system, and that flight crews generally are doing the best they can. But this flight had no food and little water available, along with scant information, she said.

    “Aside from physically beating us, I don’t think it could have been any worse,” Ms. Domoracki said with a laugh.

    The plane, a 70-seat regional jet, made frequent starts and stops on the ground. “We seemed to be driving all around, like taking a tour of the airport,” she said. People did get up to use the bathrooms, but “the tanks were full, and after a while, the stench got worse,” she said.

    After two and a half hours, the plane did return to a gate, but only to allow the authorities to remove two passengers who were accused of being disruptive. Ms. Domoracki said one woman had been speaking boisterously on a cellphone. Another, she said, “grabbed a flight attendant’s arm to get some water so she could take her medicine.”

    James T. Olson, a spokesman for US Airways, said that Flight 2257 was delayed during “harsh weather” that caused “about 100 cancellations out of about 3,500 flights” nationally.

    Both toilets were working, he said, adding that “passengers were using the lavs, even when the plane was taxiing.”

    The two passengers who were removed “were essentially misbehaving,” he said. One, the cellphone talker, was not “following instructions,” he said. In the other case, he said, “there were some remarks made that the flight attendant felt intimidated and threatened by.”

    It was impossible to do a regular beverage service on a plane making frequent moves, but “people who were asking for water were getting water,” he said.

    Ms. Wilson’s flight, by the way, finally took off at 1:37 p.m., more than four hours late.

    iPhones-Macintosh computers become apples of hackers’ eyes

    Click for Breitbart.com article

    What do you think? Is this a concern for you?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    The bitter taste of nickels and dimes

    Another good post from Seth Godin

    Call us, we can help

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Stopped by a Whole Foods early one morning this week for an iced tea.

    I ordered a hot rooibos (you should try it) poured over a glass of ice.

    Whole Foods is under two kinds of pressure: shareholders that want better results, and consumers who point out that it’s really expensive. They’re working hard to position themselves as not so expensive.

    Anyway, the tea was $1.79 (a 90% gross margin) but the ice cost 50 cents extra.

    Huh?

    I mentioned to the cash register person that I wasn’t going to pay fifty cents for ice. Understandingly, she said, “no problem.”

    And then, instead of doing what I expected (giving me the precious ice for free), she didn’t give me the ice. I had hot tea. I got what I paid for.

    The thing is, Whole Foods didn’t get what they wanted. They focused on the add on revenue and generated ill will. No joy in Mudville that morning.

    The problem with the infinite add on gross margin strategy is that it doesn’t work on everyone. The problem with charging $95 to deliver a $10,000 purchase is that all the buyer remembers is the indignity of the add on.

    Here’s my advice: have all the add ons you want. But waive them early and often. Waive the charges for great customers or for customers that make a face or just because it’s Tuesday. “Well, the to go charge is usually a dollar, but since you come here a lot, no charge for you.”

    It’s not about charging less. It’s about delight.

    Buying gas with plastic? Look out

    Buy gasoline with cash — instead of a credit card — and you could save as much as 10 cents per gallon.

    That’s the offer some South Florida gas retailers are offering to consumers because of high credit card fees.

    But not everybody thinks this is a good deal. Some customers are confused by the signs advertising the cash discounts. Consumer officials say it’s unclear whether the signs are legal, and the Florida Attorney General’s office says it is investigating complaints involving several gas stations.

    Bob Hitt, of the Palm Beach County Consumer Affairs office, said the office has received several inquiries and consumer complaints related to gas cash-discount offers. “There’s a lot of confusion about the law,” Hitt said. “We have asked the attorney general’s office to clarify the law for us.”

    Under state law, merchants can give consumers a cash discount for products, but can’t charge them extra when they choose to pay with a credit card, said Larry Kaplan, assistant director for Broward County Consumer Affairs Division. “We can say that as long as the cash price is advertised and disclosed as a cash price prior to the sale,” said Attorney General spokeswoman Sandi Copes, “it is possible this may not be in violation of the statute.”

    Kaplan added: “They [merchants] must advertise the cash price and credit card price as well. As long as the disclosure is obvious to the customer [it’s legal].”

    Some gas stations treat debit cards as credit cards, but a few — such as Shell — treat them as cash. And it’s unclear whether the law considers debit card transactions as credit cards or cash.

    Consumers have filed complaints with local and state officials alleging that gas stations are imposing a surcharge for the use of a credit card, a second-degree misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $2,500.

    And the Florida Attorney General’s office says it is investigating two Plantation gas stations after receiving 21 complaints, alleging that retailers are imposing a surcharge to consumers paying with credit cards.

    “We have been receiving other complaints on other gas stations and are investigating as well,” Copes said.

    Terence McElroy, a spokesperson with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said state regulators are also tracking a growing number of gas station consumer complaints.

    “I can tell you anecdotally that we have seen an increase in the number of complaints related to surcharges,” said McElroy.

    The Attorney General’s office is investigating the Nob Hill Mobil at 1862 Nob Hill Road and a Shell gas station at Broward Boulevard and University Drive that recently advertised an eight cents per gallon cash discount.

    Consumers have claimed they were charged extra for using credit cards to pay for the fuel.

    John R. Rudolph, owner of Double J Gas Station, the company that owns both gas stations, denies allegations that he’s charging a surcharge.

    “People just assume that we put a surcharge to the card, but what we’re doing is giving a cash discount,” Rudolph said.

    Tanja Heyer, manager of Sunoco in Boca Raton, said many customers have also complained since they began offering the cash discount two months ago.

    State inspectors, she said, have visited the gas station at Camino Real and Third Avenue after consumers filed complaints.

    At Sunoco, a decal plastered on the gas pumps tell customers of the deal: “Cash discount on fuel! ATM available inside. Save 10 cents per gallon.”

    But to Ellie Daniels, of Boca Raton, the discount is meaningless.

    “I wish I could take advantage of this but I don’t carry that much cash with me,” said Daniels, adding that it takes about $50 to fill up her tank. “It’s easier for me to use the credit card and get points.”

    Francisco Averdaño said the discount sounds like a great deal.

    “But I usually don’t pay attention and especially if I’m using my credit card,” said Averdaño, of Weston, as he was fueling gasoline at the Shell gas station in Plantation recently.

    Jim Eng said he takes advantage of the cash discount.

    “Especially if I’m going to save 10 cents per gallon,” said Eng, of Boca Raton.

    Rudolph said inspectors with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Bureau of Petroleum Inspection have visited his gas stations several times to investigate complaints. He changed the language of advertising to meet law requirements at inspectors request.

    Staff Researcher Barbara Hijek contributed to this report.

    Mc Nelly Torres can be reached at mntorres@sun-sentinel.com or 954-356-4208 or 561-243-6600, ext. 4208.

    Boca Consultants and Mission Possible


    John Schneyer, Boca Consultants,
    worked with PATH (People Advocating The Haven) to run last night’s Mission Possible at the Town Center Mall in Boca Raton. Mission Possible is a scavenger hunt within the mall. Teams solve clues and answer questions to win prizes and raise money the The Haven, an alternate home for boys in Boca Raton.

    John developed all the anagrams and hints used by the teams to earn points. Additionally, John provided consulting in the planning of the event.

    Run as part of Boca Festival Days, Mission Possible just completed it’s fourth year. This year Mission Possible was sponsored by Eastern Financial Florida Credit Union, Town Center at Boca Raton, and PATH.


    Kristen Bomas, chair and Lisa Elkan, co-chair


    The winning team with Don Stewart,
    Executive Director, The Haven and
    Miss Palm Beach County

    When in doubt, (don’t) follow the money

    This post is taken directly from Seth Godin’s blog

    My question to you is, what, besides the money, are you doing to make your company the employer of choice? Being in this position gives you a great deal of power.

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    People need to understand motivation in order to make sense of a story. When we see a person or a business take action, our first move is to try to figure out their motivation. The why. The what’s in it for them.

    We want to know why someone is acting the way they are. Your customers or your friends or your investors or your boss want to know what makes you tick.

    And the reflex explanation is: money.

    He works a ton of hours, but that’s because he gets paid so much.

    A going out of business sale? Oh, they’re in pain, so I get to save money.

    He recommended that book, but that’s because he got a kickback from Amazon.

    She wants me to buy that service because she works on commission.

    Of course, in a few cases, this is exactly the correct explanation. Except it almost always isn’t.

    People don’t volunteer long hours at the museum or at an online forum for the money. There isn’t any.

    People don’t work nights and weekends at some jobs because they have to… they have colleagues that get paid just as much who work less.

    I smiled a bit when I saw a few posts from people who suggested I started the Triiibe group as some sort of grand scheme to sell books. I’ve gotta tell you, there are far easier ways to sell a few thousand copies of a book than to build and run an online community.

    No, people (most people) don’t do things only for money. There’s usually a minimum threshold that gets someone to pick a job and stick with it, but beyond that, the things we do are expressions of who we are and what we love and the impact we wish to make, not selfish acts designed to earn a few extra bucks. (No one paid you to read this post, I bet).

    All other things being equal, people pick what pays the best. All other things being equal, people buy the cheapest one. Fortunately for marketers, all other things are rarely equal. People don’t all sign up to work at Goldman Sachs. Most of the meaning and activity in our lives comes from the things we do for free, or the choices we make about work, not the financial exchanges we do to support ourselves.

    Next time you catch yourself following the money, it’s worth another look. Follow the non-money first.

    The New Workplace Perk: Gas

    From the 8/7/2008 NY Times.

    What will you do to attract and retain employees?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Published: August 7, 2008

    IN Washington State, Microsoft has leased three large office complexes miles from company headquarters in recent months to shorten the commutes of about 7,000 employees.

    In San Francisco, Citigate Cunningham, a public relations company, now encourages workers to stay home whenever possible, providing laptop computers and BlackBerrys to enable telecommuting, and reimbursing them $40 a month for high-speed Internet connections in their homes.

    At Rejuvenation, a lighting manufacturer in Portland, Ore., employees skip one day of work completely. The company has gone to a four-day week, with each workday being 10 hours long. Alysa Rose, the president, also gives away a free bicycle to an employee every month.

    Nationwide, workers are being presented with free gas cards, subsidized bus passes, more money in their paychecks, and the opportunity to turn their cars into company billboards (with the company often picking up all fuel costs, not just miles spent commuting).

    Gasoline has become the new workplace perk, as employers scramble to help workers cut its use and cost. A dollar a gallon ago, things like telecommuting, shortened workweeks and Internet subsidies were ways of saving time and providing workers with a little more balance in their lives. Now they have become ways to save money and to keep workers from, well, walking.

    “We had 14 calls last week and 9 of those named high gas prices as their No. 1 reason for leaving their job,” said Lauren Milligan, who helps job-seekers polish their résumés at ResuMayDay, a career-management services company in Warrenville, Ill. “Employers have to start paying attention.”

    Some employers have come to the same conclusion. “We need to stay competitive and viable,” said David Lewis, the president of OperationsInc., a human resource consultancy in Stamford, Conn., where, since June, employees receive up to $100 a month on an American Express cash card to offset rising gas prices.

    “An extra $100 a month for gas and you have a real issue that could result in turnover,” Mr. Lewis explained, adding that even with rising unemployment, it is more economical for him to retain workers than hire new people and train them.

    Richard Holtz, the president of InfiniSys, which designs technology systems for buildings, and has offices in Daytona Beach, Fla., also sees cushioning the effect of rising gas prices as a cost of doing business.

    To stay competitive, he decided he had to help his workers, who were spending about 15 percent of their salaries on commuting. He switched to a four-day workweek, gave everyone a small raise (25 cents an hour) and began paying for home Internet to foster telecommuting.

    The shortened workweek seems to be catching on, at least as an experiment. All 4,000 employees of the city of Birmingham, Ala., switched to that schedule as of July 1. Utah announced a similar switch in early July. Suffolk County in New York, and Oakland County in Michigan are also adjusting workers’ schedules.

    Schedules are often staggered, so that the office itself is open Monday through Friday, but any given employee is there for only four days. Some people love the new schedule, because it feels like another day off each week. Others hate it because of the complications of coordinating child care. But almost everyone agrees that saving 20 percent of commuting costs is a plus.

    The National School Boards Association reports that 100 schools in 16 states have moved to a four-day week (with longer school days) in order to save on transportation, heating and cooling costs.

    So could three-day weekends for parents and children be the norm in the future?

    Companies not quite ready for such a dramatic change are taking modest gas-saving steps: a new emphasis on telecommuting, for example. Sabre Holdings in Southlake, Tex., which started encouraging employees to work from home in June, has not only saved them money. There has been an unexpected benefit, the elimination of what had become a morning ritual at headquarters — the dash to find a desk.

    Last year, Sabre, which owns travel-theme companies, including Travelocity.com, had downsized from three office buildings to two, to save on cooling and heating costs. Cubicles were then assigned daily, first come first served, resulting in a stress-inducing game of musical chairs.

    Telecommuting also saves employees the money they had been spending on work clothes and takeout lunch, said Janelle O’Haugherty, a company spokeswoman.

    Even employees who are already telecommuting are doing more of it, with corporate blessings. Steve Perry, who works in licensing at SelectQuote Insurance Services in San Francisco, had been working from home one day a week for the last few years. A few months ago, he added a second at-home day.

    And just last month he began outfitting a full office in his house, where he plans to work four days a week, going to the office only once. That way, he will cut the cost of his three-hour round-trip commute from Napa to $25 from $100 a week.

    Companies that would prefer that workers come in daily are helping to pay the cost of getting them there. Bayless Engineering and Manufacturing, based in the Santa Clarita Valley of California, has about a dozen employees who live 50 miles away in the Antelope Valley. This year the company created a van pool — a rental from Enterprise — to transport them to work and back.

    The University of Richmond in Virginia now provides free daily bus vouchers. Of the university’s 1,300 employees, 35 arrived and departed by bus before the program began this summer. Now 150 do.

    Averett Warmus Durkee, an accounting firm in Orlando, Fla., presented each employee with a $1,000 raise to offset rising fuel costs. And HotBox Pizza, a four-store chain in Indianapolis, has changed its delivery ways.

    Until last month, its drivers had to use their own vehicles. But Gabe Connell, the owner, noticed that arguments were breaking out among drivers over whose turn it was to deliver to distant addresses.

    “Until gas went up they would jump at any call they could get, so it was a bad sign when they were trying to get out of deliveries,” Mr. Connell said. “Pizza and delivery are synonymous. I can’t risk losing drivers.”

    So he is in the process of buying five Smart cars (“so small that one car can fit in the gas tank of a Hummer,” he said) that get about 40 miles per gallon. The vehicles will double as rolling advertisements, because they will be painted with the chain’s red and black logo. Or with something that resembles the company logo. At HotBox the napkins say Napkin, and the shirts worn by the waiters say Shirt. So the new wheels will simply say Car.

    Autos as advertising are also the approach of Jobing.com, which runs employment Web sites in 18 cities. The 297 employees at headquarters in Phoenix can apply to have their cars turned into Jobing billboards by means of an adhesive plastic skin.

    In return for the publicity (and as compensation for the awkwardness of taking such a car on, say, a first date) the employee is paid $500 a month plus reimbursement for all fuel costs — both for business and personal use of the car.

    The program has been in existence for more than five years, said Joe Cockrell, the director of marketing (whose Ford Escape is wrapped and who took a road trip to Sedona last weekend, with Jobing picking up the $120 he spent on gas). But this is the first year that Jobing has had a waiting list for the car makeovers.

    “Gas prices are making a lot of people look at things like this differently,” Mr. Cockrell said. “It’s making everyone get creative.”

    Gas prices fall for 20th day

    Click for CNNMoney.com story

    In my travels yesterday, I passed two BP stations on the same road about 2 miles apart. The first showed $395.9 for regular unleaded, the second, $425.9 for the same gas. What’s up with that?

    With gas prices still high and showing no stability, how are you protecting your business and taking advantage of the opportunities?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Feedback on Telecommuting

    I asked other professionals to comment on the pros and cons of telecommuting. Here is a comprehensive answer from Danielle Major of KI Consultants:

    Since the economy has put more and more pressure on the working class, I believe the telecommuting has become more of the standard instead of exception.

    The pros and cons are different depending on whether your are the Employer or the employee.

    I was the IT Manager for a company that liked to be on the “bleeding edge” of technology so I was responsible for setting up the infrastructure for our associates to allow for successful telecommuting scenarios. Even then, only a select few were allowed the luxury of telecommuting.

    The biggest concern/”con” for telecommuting is the cost to the employer. Is the associate responsible enough to complete their work and be as effective working on their own as they would be punching the proverbial time clock? Is the employer seeing a reasonable return on allowing the associate the luxury of being responsible for their time? I have also seen, first hand, the HR Director go out of her way to cause problem for an associate that was allowed to telecommute because “it isn’t fair that she gets to do her laundry and cook dinner when I have to be here every day!”.

    The “pro” for the employer is that it is an additional “perk” that he can offer to be able to retain good associates. We all know the “good help is hard to find”. When offered the exact same position for the same or even a little less pay, a lot of people will choose to work from home even if they do take a little less in salary in return for not having to pay for all the gas not to mention the time and frustration of traffic. It also gives the associate a sense of trust that they are given the opportunity to manage themselves and not be micro-managed. They can be happier and therefore more productive.

    As a consultant, I believe that telecommuting or a home office is essential to keeping your costs down. I spend most of my time either at the clients’ offices or providing remote support. Even when I had an actual office, I never went there except to pick up files on my way to a client and it became more of a hassle than anything else.

    Without the overhead of office space, electricity, ISP services, etc. I am able to provide fair pricing for my clients without having to raise my prices to cover my overhead.

    The only “con” i have run into as a consultant is that sometimes the bigger clients may not initially recognize my company as a legitimate vendor simply because I don’t have an actual office. They tend to initially perceive my company as a fly-by-night little fish that may not be able to provide them with the level of professional service that they deserve and the long term vendor relationship that they are looking for.

    To have the luxury of telecommuting, I prove myself on a daily basis to my clients with excellent service and support and they soon forget that I “work from home”. I separate myself from the fly-by-night crowd of my own accord and I believe that I am helping other consultants, such as myself, prove that our professionalism and outstanding service isn’t based on whether or not we pay rent for a superficial exterior.

    Give us a call, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    New wave of Baby Boomers ready to descend on Florida

    Click for Sun-Sentinel story

    Ask yourself,

    What opportunities does this present for me and my company?
    Do we sell to this market? Should we?
    Is this a demographic we should be hiring? Using their experience?

    What potential problems does this present? How can we turn them into opportunities?

    If you are in a region this group is moving from, what does it mean to you?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Only a Game? A Fight Over Scrabble Has Web Fans Fuming

    Click for NY Times story

    I sure hope Hasbro thought this through as there has been a huge backlash against them. This story is a great case study for making decisions and then looking at what can go wrong when you implement the alternative you choose.

    In case you don’t follow the link and read the story, here’s a quick summary:

    Hasbro holds the rights to Scrabble in North America. Two brothers wrote a version called Scrabulous as an application to run on Facebook, the huge social networking site. Scrabulous became very popular. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Hasbro was having it’s own version developed by Electronic Arts. The feedback from the online community? Hasbro version bad, Scrabulous good. Hasbro sues the brothers for copyright infringement. The North American Facebook users are upset and are looking to boycott Hasbro. Interestingly enough, outside of North America, Mattel owns the rights to Scrabble. Similar to Hasbro, Mattel has come up with an online version. Similar to Hasbro, the Facebook community prefers Scrabulous.

    I don’t know what plans Mattel has but I bet they are learing from Hasbro’s experience.

    Sometimes when you are right, you are wrong. Is this one of those times?

    What else might Hasbro have done? How about partnering with the writers of Scrabulous? A celebration for a great online implementation of the old board game classic? A marketing program based around the online version?

    I’m not saying I know all the particulars in this case. What I do know is a set of standard problem solving and decision making processes would ensure a balanced look at the issues surrounding this case and a decision would be made with a high probability of success.

    Call us for more information. We can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    How to Ask About Flexible Hours Without Derailing Your Candidacy

    Click for the Wall Street Journal article or read it below

    Employers, this article is written from the perspective of someone looking at joining a company. What must you do to make it more attractive for the people you want to hire to join you?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants


    How to Ask About Flexible Hours Without Derailing Your Candidacy

    By EILEEN P. GUNN
    Special to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

    Originally published February 8, 2007

    Flexible scheduling has become more common, but talking about it during interviews can still be dicey for job hunters. Even at employers that embrace flextime or telecommuting, bringing up the subject can raise a red flag for hiring managers.

    “Asking these questions too soon can add a complexity” for the interviewer, says Jacques Andre, a recruiting manager at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean, Va. You may send a signal that you might not be fully committed to the job or create more problems than you’ll solve.

    Here are three tips for getting the information you need without making wrong impression.

    1. Know why you’re asking.

    Be clear in your mind about why you are interested in a company’s flexible-work policies, says Gustavo Alba, a recruiting manager in New York for Booz Allen. Are your generally interested in the company culture and how work gets done? Do you have flexibility at your current job that you would rather not relinquish? Or is having reduced hours or telecommuting a deal-breaker?

    If it’s the latter, “You need to be up front and say, ‘This is what I have to offer, and this is what I’m looking for,'” says Mr. Alba. “If you wait until the final talk or the first day, it doesn’t look good.”

    If you’re interested in just drawing a picture of what it will be like to work at the company, you can ask about work style and hours when the discussion lends itself, he says.

    2. Base questions on research.

    When Lee Hall interviewed for a publicity job for Great American Country at Scripps TV in Knoxville, Tenn., he’d been self-employed for a decade and was used to autonomy. The firm was a former client, but he checked out its Web site and learned that work-life balance was a listed as a core company value.

    “I asked what exactly they meant by that and how it manifests itself at the company and in the department I’d be working in,” he says. He learned his now-boss embraced its company-wide flex-work policy.

    Look beyond the company’s Web site when researching its corporate culture. You may be able to get the inside scoop from current and former employees and on sites such as Vault.com. Employer profiles detailing workplace practices often run in industry publications and the business media.

    Some job candidates at Booz Allen who have seen the firm on a best companies list ask about its programs, says Mr. Alba. “That’s probing and trying to understand the culture, and it’s perfectly OK to do,” he says.

    3. Be strategic.

    You might interview with an executive recruiter or human-resources manager, a slew of managers and potential co-workers. You also might seek out other employees, alumni or outsiders familiar with the firm.

    Think about what you want to know about policies versus the day-to-day realities and who is likely to provide candid and informed answers.

    Direct questions about programs and policies to HR, says Mr. Andre. “It’s less likely to boomerang back at you,” he says. When talking to the hiring manager, it’s usually best to stick, at least initially, to company culture and department work style.

    Ask if everyone on the team works on site and in the same office, says Debra Brown-Volkman, a career coach in East Moriches, N.Y. “You can ask the boss to describe a typical work day. Then see if he mentions answering email at home in the morning or leaving early once a week,” she says.

    If laptops and Blackberries are standard issue, expect some mobility. If everyone has a desktop PC, it’s likely you’ll work in the office. Is the office made up of half-empty temporary workstations, or is it a sea of crowded cubicles?

    Once your questions about a work environment have been answered, trust your gut when it comes to deciding whether it’s right for you.

    Carol Bramstedt was seeking a job in 2006 as director of marketing and sales for a small financial-services company in the St. Paul, Minn., area. She says she learned from friends more familiar with the industry that the job’s goals seemed ambitious, perhaps unrealistic. She began to question whether she’d be able to telecommute, though the owner said she need be in the office only two or three days a week.

    “It seemed like it could turn into a situation where I’d feel obligated to be there every day,” she says. The boss was reluctant to put the telecommuting arrangement into writing. With two kids in middle school, telecommuting was a deal-breaker for Ms. Bramstedt, she says, so she passed on the job.

    Telecommuters: Here’s How to Prove You’re Working

    From the May 14, 2008 Wall Street Journal

    Telecommuters: Here’s How to Prove You’re Working

    Posted by Ben Worthen

    The Business Technology Blog likes to pick on remote workers, in part because the pajama-clad are more likely to look at pornography and create security problems. They can also make work more difficult for their office-bound colleagues.

    In an effort to save the environment one commute at a time, HR World came out with a list of six things remote workers can do to prove to you colleagues that you really are working – even if you’re not.

    1. Make your presence felt. At the office, everyone sees one another in the morning and partakes in casual banter. Remote workers need to do the same thing. HR World suggests calling, emailing or sending instant messages to colleagues each morning. But it warns to keep the exchanges brief.

    2. Publish your calendar. People get suspicious when phone calls and emails to remote workers go unanswered. The office-bound assume their remote colleagues are at the beach or the movies. Instead of letting colleagues speculate, HR World suggests that you share your calendar so everyone can see when you’re in a meeting.

    3. Blow your own horn. Remote workers should spare the play-by-play, but you shouldn’t be afraid to let people know about the challenges you face, what you’ve done to overcome them, and when you’ve successfully completed a project.

    4. Speak up. One way for remote workers to make sure colleagues know you’re contributing is to make comments on conference calls and email threads. Again, don’t comment for the sake of commenting or people will assume it’s just virtual face time.

    5. Check in with the rest of the company. It isn’t enough for your boss to know you’re working hard – you need to make sure the rest of company knows you exist. Besides, how else will you find about the latest office rumors?

    6. Visit every once in a while. At the end of the day, nothing beats a face-to-face meeting to convince colleagues that you really have your stuff together.

    Employers, give us a call, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    With Security at Risk, a Push to Patch the Web

    Click for NY Times story

    This is another example of a potential problem that could affect many of us.

    What other essential services, products, companies do you depend on and what have you done to anticipate potential problems and prepare for them?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Worried Banks Sharply Reduce Business Loans

    Click for NY Times article

    Read the story. Don’t panic.

    Potential problems? You may not get the loan you were looking for to expand or you may have to wait longer and pay a higher interest rate.

    Potential opportunities? If your competitors need more money and can’t get it, this could be an excellent time to capture a greater share of your market.

    Call us for help, we can help you from both perspectives.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Fans of L.E.D.’s Say This Bulb’s Time Has Come

    Click for NY Times article

    Let’s look at this from two perspectives:

    1) What potential problems does the emergence of L.E.D. lighting (or any new or improved technology) pose for your company? What will you do about it?

    2) What potential opportunities exist at the same time? How will you capitalize on them?

    Some companies will look at this and do nothing. They will let change dictate to them and may struggle as a result. Others will anticipate change and manage it to their advantage. Which are you?

    This isn’t just a story about L.E.D. lighting. It’s a story about change and it can come from anywhere.

    We can help; give us a call.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    FDA says to avoid jalapenos from Mexico, not the U.S.

    Click for the Sun-Sentinel article

    Ask yourself this:

    Even if my product is good, can I escape the bad press caused by a competitor’s similar product that isn’t?

    What else could go wrong?

    Call us for help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    GPS Units Help Thieves Find Jackpot

    Tony’s Network Security Blog

    By Tony Bradley, CISSP-ISSAP, About.com Guide to Network Security since 2003

    GPS Units Help Thieves Find Jackpot

    Friday July 25, 2008
    When you go out shopping, or to a baseball game, or wherever, odds are fair that you lock your car doors when you leave. You probably want to protect your stereo system, or the CD collection you have in the vehicle. Maybe you left an expensive camera or even a laptop computer in your car. What you may not realize is that the most valuable thing in the vehicle from a thief’s perspective may be your portable GPS unit. Most people have their Read more »

    Dreamtowns that offer refuge from big cities and congested suburbs

    Click for the Business Journal story

    If you are not located in one of these “Dream Towns”, how might you take advantage of this information to improve your company?

    What potential problems might this type of thinking pose for you and your company? What can you do about it?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    RIM prepares for iPhone competition

    Click link to read the Dallas Business Journal story

    Say you are RIM and Apple has come out with two versions of the iPhone already. What do you do? Do you have a strategy to keep you focused?

    Say you are not RIM, you are who you are. What could upset your great product or service and steal your thunder? What are you doing to be proactive about it?

    Call us for help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Emirates throws out the magazines

    Click for the Economist article

    This is a very short, insightful article. Read some of the reader comments at the bottom as well.

    Ask yourself:

    How much are we printing that is going right into our prospects’ trash or recycling bin?
    Do we print materials just so we have something to hand someone?
    How else could we get our message across?
    What, besides paper, might we also be wasting?

    Give us a call to get more effective.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    FDA focuses on jalapenos after salmonella found

    Click for TampaBay.com article

    Read the article. Looks like jalapenos may now be the source of the salmonella outbreak. So, if tomatoes were not the cause, think what not knowing for sure did to tomato growers, restaurants, and the public.

    Do you have a way of verifying the cause of your problems before taking expensive actions? How do you validate your assumptions?

    A good solid problem solving process will cover this. Call us for more information.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Ten Tips to Protect Against Identity Theft

    Here is the link to the article below. You can also find other useful information there.

    By Mary Landesman, About.com

    Every 3.5 seconds in the United States, someone’s identity is stolen. Unfortunately, many view identity theft as an ‘online’ only problem. It’s true that phishing scams, Trojans, and other forms of cybercrime are a factor, but there are also far more low tech means of identity theft – including digging through your garbage or stealing your wallet or purse. You can minimize your risk by following these ten tips:

    1. Never carry more credit cards than you need and cancel credit card accounts you don’t use.
    2. Never carry your social security card. Likewise, don’t disclose your social security number unless absolutely necessary, i.e. for banking or tax purposes.
    3. Don’t throw away bills or any document containing account or other personally identifying details – use a shredder.
    4. Don’t leave receipts behind. Cross check your credit card bills against the receipts.
    5. Keep a tight hold on your purse or wallet – pickpocketing and purse snatching are still alive and well. At parties, in restaurants, or while shopping, know where your purse or wallet is at all times.
    6. When traveling, suspend delivery of the newspaper and mail, or ask a trusted neighbor or friend to gather these items for you. Newspapers piling up outside the home are good indication to would-be theives that you may be away. Mail left unattended in an unsecured mailbox provides a ripe opportunity for theft.
    7. Don’t use the same password on multiple sites. Contrary to popular belief, writing down your password isn’t such a bad idea. >> Creating a Strong Password System
    8. When shopping online, avoid unknown ecommerce sites. Be particularly leary of any banner ad or unexpected pop-up that claims your computer is infected or in need of repairs. Rogue spyware scanners and nefarious registry cleaners often use these tactics to trick you into purchasing software that may be ineffective at best, and malicious at worst.
    9. Familiarize yourself with online scams so you don’t become the next victim. If it sounds to good to be true, chances are it is a scam. >> Top Internet and E-mail Scams
    10. Keep your computer secure. Make sure your antivirus software is always up to date and a firewall is running at all times. >> Computer Security Tips

    As of November 2007, the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – opened up credit freeze protection for states that don’t have credit freeze acts in place. This means anyone in any of the 50 states has a means to place a freeze on credit reports. Without the ability to obtain a credit report, would-be identity thieves won’t be able to establish new accounts in your name. For full details on credit freezes, see the Consumers Union’s Guide to Security Freeze Protection.

    Call us for help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    State blocks efforts to expand Miami-Dade’s UDB

    Click for link to South Florida Business Journal article

    Ask yourself:

    What opportunities are there in this and similar decisions?
    What potential problems might this cause for my business?
    What other decisions made by others can impact my business?

    Call us for more information.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    As Travel Costs Rise, More Meetings Go Virtual

    I have copied the article here in case you can not get to it from the NY Times site.

    This is not the only technology that can help your company reduce travel costs, increase benefits, and help your employees be more productive and happier. Call us for help.

    As Travel Costs Rise, More Meetings Go Virtual

    Peter Wynn Thompson for The New York Times

    Jill Smart, in foreground, in a videoconference from her office in Chicago with colleagues in Atlanta and London.

    Published: July 22, 2008

    Jill Smart, an Accenture executive, was skeptical the first time she stepped into her firm’s new videoconferencing room in Chicago for a meeting with a group of colleagues in London. But the videoconferencing technology, known as telepresence, delivered an experience so lifelike, Ms. Smart recalled, that “10 minutes into it, you forget you are not in the room with them.”

    Accenture, a technology consulting firm, has installed 13 of the videoconferencing rooms at its offices around the world and plans to have an additional 22 operating before the end of the year.

    Accenture figures its consultants used virtual meetings to avoid 240 international trips and 120 domestic flights in May alone, for an annual saving of millions of dollars and countless hours of wearying travel for its workers.

    As travel costs rise and airlines cut service, companies large and small are rethinking the face-to-face meeting — and business travel as well. At the same time, the technology has matured to the point where it is often practical, affordable and more productive to move digital bits instead of bodies.

    The emerging trend, analysts say, goes well beyond a reaction to rising travel costs and a weakening economy. “These technology tools are going to change the way corporations think about travel and work in the long run,” an analyst at Forrester Research, Claire Schooley, said.

    Past predictions that technology could replace travel have been frequent and premature. The main difference today, analysts say, is that the technology is finally catching up to its promise. No single breakthrough explains the progress, but rather a series of step-by-step advances — and steady investment — in telecommunications networks, software and computer processing.

    The results can be seen not only in the expensive new telepresence systems like those from Cisco Systems or Hewlett-Packard, but also in more mainstream collaboration technologies — Web conferencing, online document sharing, wikis and Internet telephony. The audio and desktop presentations in Web-based meetings, for example, are now more likely to be in sync and interactive.

    Companies of all sizes are beginning to shift to Web-based meetings for training and sales presentations. “Only in the last two years has the technology gotten to point where it really makes sense to use it,” said Alan Minton, vice president for marketing at Cornerstone Information Systems, a 60-person business software company in Bloomington, Ind.

    With his sales force doing many product demonstrations online, Mr. Minton estimates the group’s travel costs of have been cut by 60 percent and the average time to close a new sale has been reduced by 30 percent.

    No one suggests that the face-to-face meeting is becoming obsolete, or that it is time for a requiem for the road warrior. Companies talk about using digital tools mainly as a way of making business travel more selective and more productive.

    Still, the potential for digital displacement of business travel is substantial. A report last month by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative, a group of technology companies, and the Climate Group, an environmental organization, estimated that up to 20 percent of business travel worldwide could be replaced by Web-based and conventional videoconferencing technology.

    The most dedicated business travelers tend to be management consultants, investment bankers, accountants, lawyers and technology services consultants. Much of their work has to be done in person with clients. But these professionals are increasingly using online collaboration tools for work within their firms.

    At I.B.M., Michael Littlejohn, a work force and technology expert in the company’s global services unit, said two years ago, he was on the road 13 to 15 days a month. These days, he says, he travels 8 or 10 days a month. “But my time spent with clients is not less,” he said. “To really understand a client’s problems or to close a deal, you need face to face.”

    Corporate training and education is a field many companies are moving online, in part to trim travel costs. Darryl Draper, the national manager of customer service training for Subaru of America, used to travel four days a week, nine months of the year, presenting educational programs at dealers nationwide. Today, Ms. Draper rarely travels and nearly all of her training is done online.

    Previously, Ms. Draper estimated, in six months she would reach about 220 people at a cost of $300 a person. She said she now reaches 2,500 people every six months at a cost of 75 cents a person.

    A range of companies offer the mainstream online communications and collaboration tools, including WebEx, Citrix, Microsoft, I.B.M. and others. The most rarefied offering, though, is telepresence videoconferencing. Today, it is an elite product supplied by a few companies, including Cisco, H.P. and Polycom.

    Completed telepresence rooms, typically with three huge curved screens (and a fourth screen above for shared work), custom lighting and acoustics, cost up to $350,000 — though that is down from $500,000, when H.P. sold its first system in early 2006.

    The resolution on telepresence screens is even sharper than on high-definition televisions, and images can be magnified to inspect products. Engineers at the far-flung labs of Advanced Micro Devices, for example, scrutinize the microcircuitry on new chip designs using the company’s telepresence systems. And the images of people on screen are life-size.

    Cisco, which has more than 200 telepresence rooms, figures it is avoiding $100 million in yearly travel costs, and reducing its greenhouse gas emissions from air travel by 10 percent. H.P. says air travel among its offices with telepresence rooms is down 25 percent.

    When used regularly, the rooms pay for themselves within a year, analysts estimate. Sales of telepresence systems will more than double this year to 627, estimates the market research firm IDC, and reach more than 8,000 by 2012.

    There is a certain paradox in telepresence, in that it is all to simulate the richest form of human interaction: people talking to each other, face to face.

    And it is not a perfect substitute. Ms. Smart, the chief of human resources for Accenture, still travels about 10 days a month. “You don’t learn about other cultures in telepresence,” she said. “You get things from being there, over breakfast and dinner, building relationships face to face.”

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    7-Eleven’s conversion strategy

    Click for Dallas Business Journal article on 7-Eleven

    Here is a company that sees opportunity in today’s economy. They are taking advantage of their strengths in this market to be prepared when the economy turns around. Will they be successful?

    What about your company? Are you worrying about what is going on? Are you looking at potential opportunities as well as potential problems?

    Give us a call. We can help you sort it out.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Updated iPhone a hit: 1 million already sold

    Click for the Associated Press story as carried by the Sun-Sentinel

    With all the talk of customers not spending money and it’s a hard time to be in business, ask yourself:

    I am showing my customers and prospects enough value?

    Over 1 million people bought the new iPhone as soon as it came out. People are spending money, they just might not be spending it with you.

    Call us for help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Four Day Work Week

    Click to go to the Florida Trend article on the Four Day Work Week

    Two important excerpts:

    1) Professor Hochwarter of FSU’s College of Business recently conducted a study of 800 full-time workers, mainly in the Southeast, who use personal transportation. His study concluded that 33% would quit their jobs if a closer one was available.

    2) If you make the four-day work week mandatory, you might lose some of these valuable employees. Flexibility is key. If you make the switch optional, employees can choose which schedule works best for their lifestyle.

    Consider this an opportunity to look at potential problems of staying with today’s schedule, potential opportunities of a four day work week, and what else can you do to be more effective.

    Call us for help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    GM says customers didn’t want hybrids back when gas was cheaper

    Click for article in the Dallas Business Journal and then read the comments at the bottom of the article.

    Ask yourself:

    Do we have a strategic plan that lays out what we need to do to accomplish what we want to?
    Do we know how to execute our plans?
    Do we have the measurements in place to let us know how we are doing?

    GM is not the only company to fail to prepare for the future and remain glued to a failing strategy.

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Views on Telecommuting

    I posted this question on LinkedIn and invite you to go there to give your response or to comment on this post by clicking the Comments link below. To comment via LinkedIn, click on the title, ‘Views on Telecommuting’ above and you will go there.

    I am an advocate of telecommuting as both an employee benefit and as a cost savings program for businesses. I think businesses should look at all positions and determine if they really need to have the employee on-site to perform the work. I have my own list of pros and cons that I use with clients and would like to develop more and here other viewpoints.

    What are your pros and/or cons for telecommuting?

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    How to protect your property from lightning strike

    Click for Sun-Sentinel article

    The thinking employed here is, you can’t keep lightning from happening but you can plan and take actions to prevent the effects of lightning striking and to minimize the seriousness when it does.

    The same thinking is applied to any business activity. From hiring, retention, product design, manufacture and delivery to services as well. Call us to find out how we can make you and your business more effective.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Fuel theft reports few, but sales of gas cap locks surge in South Florida

    Click for the Sun-Sentinel article

    What other potential problems can you see for you, your business and your employees as fuel prices continue to rise?

    Can you see any opportunities to improve your business? Can you improve employee relations?

    Call to see how we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Social networking could haunt doctors

    Click for Palm Beach Post article on some of the risks of Social Networking online.

    I want you to think for a minute and ask yourself:

    What information is available about me online? Good or bad

    What information is available about my company online? Good or bad


    Increasingly, we are doing searches online before doing business with companies and individuals. Call us for help in avoiding these and other problems.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Palm Beach County teachers’ union demands pay raises

    Click for Sun-Sentinel story on teachers demanding pay raises.

    Ask yourself some questions after reading this story.

    What potential problems come to mind? Might the teachers strike? May taxes go up? Might schools go to 4 days/week in order to cut costs?

    What is the likelihood any of the potential problems actually occurs?

    What planning do we have in place to deal with the problems when they occur?

    What would happen if some other group (transit workers, sanitation, communication workers, etc.) had similar issues? Would my business be prepared?

    What will you do if any of this happens and the parents who work for you suddenly have to make arrangements for their children and can not come to work as they normally do?

    Call us to discuss our approach to these and other issues.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Salmonella: 1,017 Sick; Peppers Suspected


    Click for story from WebMD on salmonella

    So, now it may be peppers along with tomatoes that are responsible for the salmonella outbreak.

    Ask your self this: If something similar happened in my business (problem products being returned, failures in the field, greater warranty claims, etc.), do I have a consistent, successful approach to finding the cause of the problem? Do I have a process for anticipating and preventing problems?

    Call us and we will show you how.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Green building council set to modify LEED standards

    Click for Business Journal article on new LEED standards

    Ask yourself:

    • What opportunities exist for our business with these new standards?
    • What potential problems do we see?
    • How might we position ourselves to benefit?

    Call to find out how to apply our thinking approach to your business.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Starbucks silent on which stores will be closed

    Click for Albany Business Journal article

    Ask yourself, “Are we growing just because we can or are we following a strategic plan?”

    In both hot and challenging times, its easy to loose site of what we are trying to accomplish and stay true to our plans. Did Starbucks get greedy? Try to grow to fast? What about you?

    Call and we will develop your strategic plan and execute it with you to ensure your success.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Accounting Plan Would Allow Use of Foreign Rules

    Click for NY Times article

    This is an area that is full of potential problems and potential opportunities for public companies, investors, and the companies that service them. Are you prepared?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    On Day Care, Google Makes a Rare Fumble

    Read this from the July 5, 2008 NY Times

    Ask yourself,

    “Is my company competitive in it’s marketplace?”
    “Do we give meaningful incentives to attract and retain our workers?”
    “Are we spending our money wisely?”

    There are many, manageable potential problems and opportunities hidden in your benefits and employee relations. Make sure you are managing them and not reacting to them.

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Targeted Attacks

    Click to go to the About.com article on Targeted attacks through the Internet.

    This article points out some potentially serious problems and things you can do to reduce your risk and that of your friends and colleagues. It is worth reading and then educating your sphere. Innocent looking behavior can lead to problems.

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Bad Words Backfire during Bad Economy

    Click for article from BizJournals

    There are potential problems but also opportunities in any economy. Remain positive and focused on being successful.

    Call us for help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Live bombs haunt Orlando neighborhood

    Click for the CNN story

    Here is another example of a problem that could have been avoided. Proper due diligence and a process to anticipate problems would have surfaced this issue.

    What process do you have in place to anticipate and prevent problems?

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Dealing with High Gas Prices

    I am going to expand on my earlier post about dealing with high gas prices as I have received feedback from several people in person and online about their companies or managers not being supportive of telecommuting.

    Telecommuting can be one of the biggest opportunities a business owner, manager, or supervisor has for improving productivity, lowering hiring and retention costs, improving morale, reducing utility costs, etc., etc.

    Like any policy change (in many companies, telecommuting is covered by a policy) using telecommuting needs to be assessed with regards to potential problems as well as opportunities.

    I have already mentioned some of the opportunities so lets look at some of the potential problems.

    1) managers don’t know what their workers are doing when they are telecommuting. Well, how do managers know what their workers are doing when they are on-site? Do they babysit them all day long? Of course not. Good managers know how to get results and communicate requirements with their staffs. They look for results.

    2) telecommuters feel cutoff from their co-workers and miss the social interaction that comes from working together. No one says that telecommuting means never being in the office (although it could in the right situations). Telecommuting can be a part-time approach. If you have workers telecommute 2 days a week, you reduce their commute times and costs by 40%. You also reduce your costs of having them in the office by 40%. Team meetings can be held when everyone is on site. Also consider the value of video conferencing and Instant Messaging to keep workers in touch with each other. Both can be very low cost, valuable additions to your tool box.

    These are just 2 examples for now. I just want to get you thinking.

    If your managers don’t know how to deal with telecommuting, HELP THEM! All sides of this issue need to earn trust and learn skills to make it work effectively.

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Bag Helps Laptop Pass Air Security

    I copied an article from today’s NY Times and pasted it below so you would not have to sign-in to the Times site to read it. For those of you with NY Times ids, you can find it here: Bag Helps Laptop Pass Air Security

    This is one example of turning a problem into an opportunity. If you travel for business, have you asked yourself the questions “What could go wrong?”, “What can I do to prevent those things from happening?”, “What opportunities could come of this?”? If not, give us a call. We will be happy to help.

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    On the Road

    By JOE SHARKEY

    Published: July 1, 2008

    For years at airport security checkpoints, passengers have heard the refrain, almost a dirge: “Laptops must be removed from their cases and placed on the belt.”

    Get ready for a change. The Transportation Security Administration has given the go-ahead for passengers to use newly designed carry-on bags that will let them pass through security without having to take their laptops out for the X-ray inspection.

    Kip Hawley, the agency’s director, told me Monday that the T.S.A. would accept the new laptop cases as soon as they come on the market.

    Two of the biggest luggage manufacturers — Pathfinder Luggage and Targus — say they are rushing to produce the new “checkpoint friendly” laptop cases and expect them to be available by late September or early October.

    Two problems with the existing laptop cases are that security officers have difficulty seeing inside them with X-ray equipment, and many of the cases are so crammed with extra gear — power cords, a mouse and the like — that the computer is obscured.

    The new cases include either a fold-down section in a bigger briefcase or a stand-alone protective sleeve that contains no extra clutter and can be readily viewed through the scanner.

    More than a half-dozen luggage manufacturers, among about 60 that initially responded to a T.S.A. request for proposals about three months ago, have submitted prototypes for testing at checkpoints at three airports: Dulles, outside Washington; Austin-Bergstrom in Texas; and Ontario, near Los Angeles.

    The agency says that more than a quarter of all air travelers carry laptops through security.

    Along with having to remove shoes, the requirement to take a laptop out of its protective case has long rankled business travelers, who worry about damage to exposed computers as well as potential loss in the pileup of various travelers’ possessions on the other side of the X-ray station.

    Mr. Hawley, meanwhile, has often said that confusion at checkpoints is itself a security problem. Designing laptop cases that can improve customer service while keeping security at a high level is a way to better ensure a “calm and predictable” checkpoint environment, he said.

    “Threats have a hard time hiding in a calm environment,” he said. “Chaos is great camouflage.”

    Mr. Hawley said the agency had been working with various manufacturers to develop the new luggage designs. He predicted that various new laptop cases that conform to government requirements would be in wide use by the holidays in December.

    “On a conference call with industry representatives, I said that the T.S.A. will not be your gatekeeper on this,” Mr. Hawley said. “It all depends on how fast you can get to market. We won’t slow you down.”

    Ron Davis, the executive vice president of Pathfinder Luggage, said that his company had just started producing its two new cases at a plant in the Philippines. He said both had been tested at checkpoints to ensure that they met government specifications.

    “They don’t want anything obscuring the view of the laptop,” he said. “In our case, the material is nylon and foam, and the X-ray machine will see right through that.”

    Pathfinder is making two models but plans others. One is a briefcase in which the attached laptop holder is exposed when the case is unzipped. The other is a wheeled carry-on with a removable laptop case.

    Mr. Davis estimated that the briefcase version would sell for $100 to $150 and the wheeled version for $150 to $200.

    Targus, the largest maker of cases for laptops and notebook computers, is about to begin production at factories in China of four new models of checkpoint-compatible bags, said Al Giazzon, the vice president for marketing.

    “We’ve got to produce a lot of them,” he said. “We’re currently scheduled for a late September or early October delivery of our first bags.”

    Among the bags Targus is producing is a backpack design. Mr. Giazzon said. He said that retailers were already clamoring for the bags, which will cost from $39 for a basic model to about $100 “for our corporate series, for heavy-duty travelers.”

    Mr. Hawley said that the T.S.A. has deliberately avoided formally certifying various manufacturers’ bag designs.

    “Everybody is aware that the process of the government certifying a piece of security equipment involves a lot of time and red tape,” he said.

    Instead, manufacturers were encouraged to come up with designs that would pass muster, and perhaps adopt a universal slogan or logo that says, “This bag is checkpoint-friendly,” he said.

    Mr. Hawley said he did not expect that the new laptops would create undue confusion after their introduction, since security officers would be well informed about them.

    To make sure the cases are easily identifiable, the T.S.A. said in its request for proposals sent to manufacturers in March that bags should be designed with “self-evident features,” including an absence of buckles, pockets or zippers.

    Manufacturers were also told that they could label the bags as “checkpoint friendly,” or use similar terms, but that they could not state nor imply that the bags were certified or approved by the T.S.A. or use a T.S.A. logo on them.

    It will be immediately apparent if a laptop case is not properly designed for unobscured visual inspection because it will not give security officers a clear X-ray image, Mr. Hawley said. The case and laptop will be removed from the belt for a close look by security officers, he said.

    Mr. Davis said that passengers who are forced to take a laptop out of its case and rerun it through the X-ray equipment will, in itself, encourage manufacturers to ensure that “checkpoint friendly” cases really are.

    “If a customer buys the new case and sends it through security and the security officer said, ‘Sorry, this doesn’t work,’ then you’ve got a very upset customer,” he said.

    Fraud, Inc.

    Click for Florida Trend article on fraud in Florida

    Fraud is a potential (and actual) problem in many companies. To learn more about preventing fraud in your company, contact us.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Gun law worries some employers

    Click here to read the article from Florida Today

    Florida’s new gun law is effective starting today.

    What decisions do you as a business owner or manager need to make?

    What potential problems does this pose for you?

    What potential opportunities might come from this?

    When laws change, new potential problems and opportunities arise. Call us to find out how we can put a structured approach in place for dealing with these issues.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Top 10 Ways to Annoy Your Co-Workers

    Click to go to About.com’s Career Planning topic to get the details

    1. Talk Loudly on Your Cell Phone … Especially in the Bathroom
    2. Take Credit for Your Coworkers’ Contributions to a Project
    3. Come to Work Sick
    4. Share Everything With Your Coworkers
    5. Talk to Your Coworkers About Religion and Politics
    6. Tell Your Coworkers Dirty Jokes
    7. Spam Your Coworkers
    8. Chew Your Gum Loudly
    9. Don’t Carry Your Own Weight
    10. Talk Down to Your Coworkers

    Call us, we can help (no, I don’t mean by annoying your co-workers)

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Study shows CEOs struggle for survival first three years

    Article from the Houston Business Journal on CEOs

    Companies with a strategic plan and board coaching will be much more successful in hiring effective CEOs. Call to find out how we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Businesses rise to challenge of dealing with unbudgeted fuel costs

    Link to the Albany Business Journal for some examples of how companies are dealing with high fuel costs.

    Each business needs to find an approach that works best for them. Call for help and we will show you ways to save.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Dealing with High Gas Prices in our Businesses

    Each of us has to deal with higher fuel costs these days. Here are some ways we can deal with them in our personal lives:

    • use regular instead of premium fuel
    • take fewer trips by car by combining errands and/or carpooling
    • switch to public transportation
    • vacation closer to home
    • drive more economically and less aggressively to improve miles per gallon
    • trade in the gas guzzler for a more fuel efficient model
    • ride a bike (a Harley-Davidson will get better mileage than most cars)

    What can we as business owners and managers do?
    If you aren’t already doing it, you need to be looking at telecommuting. I am advising my clients to look at this very seriously. It is already hard enough to attract and retain good talent. Putting telecommuting on the table as a benefit will make you more competitive and reduce your costs. Here are some examples:

    • Allowing workers to telecommute is like giving them a raise that they, and you, are not taxed on. Remind them that its not how much they are paid that counts, it’s what they keep in their wallets. Not having to pay $4+ for a gallon of gasoline makes that money available for other things.
    • You don’t pay anymore for salary based benefits than you do now because you are not paying more in salaries.
    • Having fewer workers on site reduces air conditioning, heating, lighting, and water costs. Lower overhead.
    • Having fewer workers on site can prevent a move to costlier, larger facilities. Lower overhead.
    • You always wanted to say you have a “Green” initiative didn’t you? Reducing commuting trips allows you to say it and mean it. You will be “greener” than you were before.
    • If you provide on-site day care, this can reduce your costs as your employees are now working at home.
    • Productivity goes up.
    • Stress goes down.

    More information:
    For more information please contact us. We would be happy to work up a plan for you that includes both risks and opportunities that come from telecommuting. You owe it to yourself and your company to look at this great alternative that will increase your competitiveness now.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    What CEOs Need to Know About Marketing in a Recession

    Click for Stuart Sanders’ report – What CEOs Need to Know About Marketing in a Recession

    When your competitors pull back on their investment, they are giving you the opportunity to take their business. Take it!

    Call us for help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Learning to Say ‘No!’

    Click for Florida Trend article by Dr. Jerry Osteryoung

    Good article on a way to focus your time on what is important.

    It’s funny, one of the first things we learn as kids is to say ‘No!’. At some point, many of us lose that and get started on a path that leads to being overwhelmed. We need to focus on the important issues, not just those that are urgent to someone else.

    Call us, we can help.

    John Schneyer
    Boca Consultants

    Dansette