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Updated: 39 min 16 sec ago

How workplace flexibility works for your business

12 hours 12 min ago

(BPT) - With technology rapidly changing the world, people need to embrace an evolving workplace. The workforce has become more diverse and mobile - demanding different needs. And while some existing challenges have crossed over into the modern workplace, opportunities for succeeding have never been more viable.

One of the challenges faced by small and medium-sized businesses is hiring and retaining top talent. While small businesses routinely overcome the obstacles they face through innovative and creative solutions, can a solution be found when it comes to hiring and retaining employees?

Yes, it can.

Research shows that one of the ways small businesses can attract and retain top employees is to offer them more freedom in where they work. Sixty-four percent of small business owners report that offering flexible, mobile and remote work options have assisted them in hiring or retaining key employees according to research in the Plantronics infographic on workplace flexibility. In addition, research from Cornell University shows small companies who granted employees a choice in how they work grew four times faster and had one-third the turnover rate of more control-orientated companies.

The benefits of workplace flexibility are so important that even President Obama championed them during his White House Summit on Working Families.

Best of all, the benefits of offering flexible employee work schedules don’t end with attracting and retaining top talent. Small and medium-sized businesses will also enjoy:

Boosted employee productivity.
The old belief was that employee productivity dropped off when employees left the traditional office setting. Recent research, however, shows the opposite to be true. Remote workers actually log more hours than on-site workers and are more engaged, according to a Gallup survey. Technology like Plantronics headsets allow employees to feel completely connected to the office while enjoying the comforts of home, making them more productive over the same time period.

Reduced office expenses.
Every manager knows that employee costs – salary, benefits, hiring and training costs, etc. – are the most expensive aspects of running a company. For many businesses, real estate costs come in second. Allowing employees to work offsite frees up existing commercial space for new employees to use, or it can even allow a company to downsize its real estate footprint and save money.

Cuts in travel costs and expands in sales.
Allowing your employees to enjoy remote working opportunities not only offers your company the chance to reduce its real estate expenses, it can also reduce travel expenses as well. Hiring remote workers in new locations expands your sales footprint when you hire professionals who live in a region instead of just traveling there. These regional sales professionals also have the opportunity to build stronger relationships with clients located outside the corporate office’s territory.

Flexible working options do more than just help your company hire and retain quality staff. They allow your company to save money, expand sales and increase productivity. You can learn more about implementing a flexible working schedule and the latest technology with infographics, how-to guides, tools and resources to help your business stay competitive at www.plantronics.com/SMB.

Categories: Lifestyle

Establishing a 401(k) at your small business is easier than you think - and helps employees save for the long-term

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Over the next 16 years, 10,000 people will turn 65 every day. Social Security alone may not be enough to provide an adequate retirement. Every day you hear about the lack of retirement savings and how ill-prepared many Americans are to meet their spending needs during retirement. Many remedies are suggested to help Americans save for the long-term. While there is much discussion around new ideas on how to close the savings gap (state administered plans, myRA savings plan, etc.) one answer to help Americans save more for retirement is available today.

Creating a workplace retirement plan (such as a 401(k)) continues to be one of the most appreciated benefits of any company. According to The Small Plan 401(k) RetireWell Study conducted by Guardian Retirement Solutions, overall satisfaction with 401(k)s among existing plan sponsors is virtually 100 percent, including a majority (56 percent) who are “very satisfied.” Specifically, more than half (57 percent) of small-business owners say the plan helps employees retire with an adequate and secure income and at least half say their plan is very successful when it comes to making retirement savings easy, providing employees with retirement income planning tools and supporting and encouraging disciplined, systematic savings by employees. 

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI) 2014 Retirement Confidence Survey found that 73 percent of people without access to a workplace retirement plan say they have less than $1,000 in total retirement assets. The solution? Increase access to workplace retirement plans.

Many small businesses are still without a 401(k) plan. In fact, 46 percent of small businesses do not offer a workplace retirement plan, according to Guardian’s Small Plan 401(k)RetireWell Study. This makes it more difficult for small businesses to attract and retain the talented employees vital to making them competitive in their industries. It also does not help close the savings gap for the average U.S. citizen. In order to help more Americans save, small-business owners should consider offering or improving a workplace retirement plan. Satisfaction rates are high, and the need is significant.

If you’re a small-business owner considering offering a 401(k) plan or looking to improve the current workplace retirement plan you offer to your employees, follow these five tips to establish a successful plan so your employees can feel more confident about their retirement and remain loyal to your company.

5 tips for implementing a successful workplace retirement plan

1. Work with a competent financial professional. Business owners who work with a financial professional when offering a 401(k) plan were much more satisfied (61 percent) with their overall plan than those who did not work with a financial professional (40 percent), according to the Guardian Retirement Solutions Small Plan 401(k) RetireWell Study.   

2. Understand your role – as the plan sponsor, you are the plan fiduciary.  This means you have taken responsibility for the plan and you must act in the plan’s best interest. Among other duties, this includes acting prudently and in the best interest of the plan participants, selecting and monitoring the service providers who help administer the plan, providing education for participants and employees, selecting and monitoring the plan investment options, and ensuring the plan is paying “reasonable” fees for the necessary services required to administer the plan. Educating yourself on these responsibilities, and talking to your legal adviser to understand your obligations as a plan fiduciary is critical. Additionally, your financial professional can work with you to help find service providers who can assist with these responsibilities to ensure you’re doing what’s needed for the plan, minimizing your fiduciary risk, and ensuring the plan is operating optimally.

3. Find the right help for you and your plan. Look for a recordkeeper and other retirement plan service providers who are focused on the needs of small-business owners to ensure your needs are met. Services can include: customized and flexible solutions for your business, fiduciary support services, investment flexibility (target date funds, managed accounts, multiple fund choices), access to customer service teams, enrollment and on-going education and support. Small companies do not have the same access to staff and resources that larger companies do. Working with providers who understand and cater to the small business market and who can offer these value-added services will help you reduce your administrative burdens.

4. Find the right plan design for you. Talk to your third-party administrator (TPA) about a plan design that makes sense for you and your employees. There are many ways to setup a workplace retirement plan, not just a 401(k) (i.e. defined benefit plan, cash balance plan, profit-sharing only plan,etc.). In order to maximize company and employee tax savings and meet other plan and business owner objectives, you want to be sure the plan has the necessary features to help you attract and retain employees.

5. Educate your employees. Look to work with service providers who can provide your employees with robust enrollment and on-going educational tools and the support to help them plan, save and invest for retirement. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you can help your employees achieve the retirement they desire.

Categories: Lifestyle

How to maximize your tax benefits from charitable gifts

Fri, 07/18/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - You answer calls to support your alma mater, the local animal shelter and the American Red Cross with gifts of money and volunteer time. And after cleaning out the closets, dressers, kitchen cabinets and garage, you take a trunk load of donations to the thrift store.

You know your gifts of cash, time and household items may be tax deductible, but what do you need to do to verify that and maximize your deduction?

"Being charitable can cut your taxable income, as long as you follow a few simple rules," says Jessi Dolmage, spokesperson for popular digital tax preparation brand TaxACT. "Those include giving to eligible organizations and keeping accurate records."

To determine if you've donated to eligible organizations, search the IRS' database of Exempt Organization Select Check at www.irs.gov. Most religious organizations and government agencies are eligible, even if they’re not listed in the database.

Keeping detailed records is important for accurate valuation of your gifts (and in turn your tax deduction) and in the unlikely event of an audit. Dolmage says records should include organization name, donation date and amount.

For monetary gifts, keep the written acknowledgment from the organization with the donation date and amount. A canceled check or card statement with the transaction date also suffices for gifts under $250.

If you receive merchandise, benefits or privileges in exchange for a gift, you must subtract the value of those from the original gift amount. If your payment is more than $75, the organization must give you a written statement with a description and estimated value of the merchandise, goods or services.

For noncash donations, document the charity name, date and location of the items, along with a reasonably detailed description of the items. If you receive a receipt from the charity, keep it with your records.

The IRS requires additional documentation for vehicle donations. You must receive a written acknowledgment or Form 1098-C from the charity for the vehicle.

Noncash donations, such as clothing, kitchen gadgets and furniture, must be in good condition or better. The tax-deductible amount of those items is the fair market value (FMV), the price if they were exchanged between willing buyers and sellers. Special rules apply to donations of cars, boats airplanes, property subject to debt, investments that have appreciated in value and inventory from your business.

Mobile apps can make tracking throughout the year painless. Donation Assistant by TaxACT tracks cash, noncash and recurring gifts, with FMVs for more than 1,300 commonly donated household items. You can also save photos of your donations and receipts. When doing your taxes, import the information and TaxACT Deluxe will calculate your maximum deduction and complete your tax forms.

You can deduct charitable gifts you made between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 only if you itemize deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A. In order to itemize, all of your itemized deductions must exceed the standard deduction amount based on your adjusted gross income and filing status.

Additionally, you must file Form 8283 if your noncash contributions total more than $500, and include a qualified appraisal of property worth more than $5,000.

Download the free Donation Assistant app at www.taxact.com/apps and learn more about the tax rules of charitable giving at www.irs.gov and www.taxact.com/taxinfo.

Categories: Lifestyle

Commercial ventilation systems 101: What every restaurant kitchen needs

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Running a restaurant or food service business is complex. Business owners need the right restaurant equipment to cool, cook and properly store food – but a safe and successful kitchen requires more than that. One of the most important pieces to keep a kitchen functioning smoothly, and the most necessary to obtain proper permits is having the right commercial ventilation system.

A commercial ventilation system may not get the attention a nice new griddle or shiny reach-in cooler may receive, but it’s just as essential. Commercial ventilation systems help to treat the air in cooking spaces by filtering out contaminants like smoke, carbon monoxide, grease, and other airborne particles. It will also remove heat and boost fresh air flow, creating a safer, more comfortable work space for employees. Finally, proper ventilation can help reduce HVAC costs – something that captures the attention of every restaurant manager.

The right equipment for the right person is key, and this is especially important with ventilation as there are many codes and regulations that are strictly enforced. Keep in mind each food service establishment will have unique demands for their ventilation system, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best bet is to speak with experts who have years of experience in the food service industry, like those at ACityDiscount, who can offer qualified, personalized advice. Visit www.ACityDiscount.com to learn more.

These are the main components of a quality commercial ventilation system:

Hoods
There are two main types of hoods: heat exhaust hoods and grease exhaust hoods.Heat exhaust hoods vent smoke and fumes from equipment that produces high levels of heat, such as double-stack convection ovens or pizza ovens. Grease exhaust hoods have additional slotted hood filters that trap grease, exhaust and soot, which are necessary when operating griddles, deep fryers and char-broilers.  ACityDiscount carries both hood varieties as well as restaurant equipment with built-in ventless hood systems.

Expert tip: To determine the correct size hood system to install, remember that National Fire Code (NFC) states a commercial hood should be 6 inches larger on all sides than the equipment that is under it. Call your local Building Code Office to see if there are additional requirements in your area.

Exhaust fans
An exhaust fan helps to properly vent a commercial kitchen and is mounted on the roof or wall of the building. Larger kitchens may need more powerful exhaust fans, depending on how closely their equipment is placed. ACityDiscount carries exhaust fans with upblast or downblast exhaust so they filter air out and away from critical areas while still aligning with local codes.

Make-up air
Air circulation in a commercial kitchen is critical for employee/customer comfort and optimum equipment function. An exhaust fan draws air out of a kitchen and that air must be replaced or compensated. Sometimes there is enough air circulation naturally, but other times a make-up fan is required to prevent air from being pulled from other areas such as dining rooms. Make-up air fans are mounted in an area close to the exhaust fan and they work to pump fresh air back into the kitchen. This air creates a flow of fresh air that helps keep a kitchen smoke free while increasing the efficiency of the exhaust fan and hoods.

Fire-suppression systems
Most local codes require a ventilation system to be equipped with a fire-suppression system, and all local codes required. Cooking is the leading cause of all restaurant building fires, according to the FEMA Topical Fire Report Series. A fire-suppression system connects to the hood system and helps prevent fires from spreading. The piped system is activated by high heat or can be turned on manually to dispense a liquid-suppressing agent that extinguishes fires quickly.

When it’s time to equip your restaurant kitchen with the essentials, don’t forget the importance of commercial ventilation systems in helping employees and equipment work in a safe environment. From cleaning air to lowering utility bills, a commercial ventilation system is a kitchen necessity and a wise investment.

Categories: Lifestyle

5 things you can't forget when you're catering on the go

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Providing warm, delicious food to customers on location is one of the food service industry’s greatest challenges. If you are a restaurateur, caterer, baker or owner of a mobile food stand, you understand how difficult it is to transport and deliver quality food that maintains proper temperatures and the taste your customers deserve.

Whether you’re looking to add a food delivery facet to your existing business or you’re looking to improve on your current catering offerings, the experts at ACityDiscount.com offer the following advice:

1. Invest in banquet carriers.

If you don’t have a series of banquet carriers and you plan to transport food, they should be your next purchase. Not all banquet carriers have built in heaters, but their natural insulation is incredibly adept at keeping food warm or cold throughout your journey. In fact, you can expect your food to only lose about 1 F each hour it is in the carrier. If you are a restaurateur bringing your food offsite or you own a catering business, these are must-have pieces.

2. Warm it up on site.

If you plan to serve on site when you arrive, you’re going to need a series of steam tables, steam wells, or chafing dishes. Many restaurateurs who own buffet-style restaurants opt for built in facilities, however banquet facilities often opt for mobile units. Mobile steam wells / buffet tables allow banquet facilities the freedom to move their displays to accommodate for banquets of all sizes. Chafing dishes can be used in banquet facilities or for on-site cooking. There are a variety of chafing dishes on the market, ranging from economical knockdown units perfect for mobile caterers to elegant banquet chafers ideal for weddings or other high-end affairs. And for food not fit for steam wells, invest in a heating lamp. This piece of equipment is easily transportable and the perfect solution for warming fried foods, pizza, breads or roasted meats – especially if you plan to offer a carving station.

3. Don’t forget the drinks.

Achieving the proper temperature for beverages is no less important than the food. Investing in your own traveling coffee percolators and insulated beverage / liquid carriers is the surest way to ensure your customers have that warm cup of coffee to accompany their meal.

4. Keep it cool.

Not everything needs to stay warm. In fact, many items must be kept cool before, during, and after service. The experts at ACityDiscount recommend stationary facilities invest in cold wells or frost tops. This is the best way to ensure your product stays below the 41 F threshold set by health departments. Mobile caterers have fewer options than stationary locales, as it is impractical to travel to a cook site or banquet with a refrigerator or freezer. Though many large traveling caterers invest in refrigerated trucks to transport raw foods to banquet sites, they are not necessary. Insulated food carriers often have optional inserts that can be frozen in advance to help maintain cold temperatures within, and standard coolers can also be used for transporting foods to be prepared on-site. When serving, most caterers opt to fill chafing dishes with ice, as standard cold wells cannot be transported from site to site.

5. Complete the look.

Your delicious food has arrived at the perfect temperature; now complete the experience for your guests. Make sure you have the plates, utensils and napkins that are expected of you. You don’t want your perfect food to be forgotten by such a simple mistake. Additionally, it is important to be prepared to cater vastly different events. Every event is different, and caterers that intend on taking all customers must be prepared for something as simple as a child’s birthday party, or something as elegant as a wedding.

Categories: Lifestyle

Addressing a new era in security: how to protect your business from the inside out

Mon, 07/14/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - During the first 43 days of 2014, the Identity Theft Resource Center said 91 data breaches were reported by companies across the country, and the full list doesn’t just show household names of big brand retailers – many of these companies were small businesses, family medical practices or local restaurants that never thought they’d be cybercrime victims. For instance, the most high profile breach of 2013 – Target – was actually set into motion when one of its much smaller regional contractors was hacked.

Undoubtedly, businesses of all sizes are potential targets for cyber criminals, but while the “big boys” often have the financial means to rebound relatively quickly, for small business owners, one attack can mean life or death for the future of their business. In fact, according to the National Small Business Association, a single cyber-attack costs a small business an average of $8,000 to recover from (and this figure does not include the incalculable damage done to the company’s reputation).

Historically, small business owners have focused their security prevention on their physical domains, but, with the lines between physical and digital security having blurred over the last decade, it’s critical for small business owners to rethink their 21st century security strategies.

ADT offers these helpful tips for small business owners in order to more effectively protect themselves, their assets, and their loyal customers from the wide range of physical and digital threats:

* Make sure your employees are informed. Whether you’re concerned about digital security or physical security, your employees are your first line of defense. Your employees should be up to date on all company security measures and aware of the vulnerable digital and physical areas in your business. Keeping them informed ensures they know how to protect your business and alert you should a problem arise.

* Increase the strength of your passwords. Creating strong passwords may at first be inconvenient for you and your staff, but stronger passwords can greatly improve the security of your business. Using your name or the company’s name or address will not deter a hacker for long, but complex passwords have a significantly greater chance of tripping up hackers.

* Improve the traditional security system. A security system is a must for a business of any size, and an interactive solution like ADT Pulse can help mitigate threats with all-in-one security and automation capabilities that combine video surveillance with activity-triggered alerts. This allows you the freedom to monitor and control your business with a web-enabled device from any location.

* Erase old hard drives. You’ve heard the saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and that is certainly true when it comes to old hard drives. While your business may not have any use for these outdated systems, the information stored on the hard drive is valuable to would-be criminals. Before you throw out that old computer or copy machine, be sure to erase the hard drive.

While many small business owners may think cyber criminals aren’t interested in businesses their size, the reality is small businesses require the same strategic physical and digital protection as major corporations, and following the above steps can help you to prevent the significant financial and reputational damage that comes with a security breach.

In order to learn more about how ADT can help protect your small business, visit ADT.com/business.

Categories: Lifestyle

From battlefield to boardroom ... jobs report suggests more positive employment environment for military veterans

Fri, 07/11/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - Employment opportunities seem to be on the upswing for military veterans, which is encouraging for the hundreds of thousands of service members returning from duty and veterans who are looking for new civilian career opportunities.

The unemployment rate for veterans dropped to 6.6 percent in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the news is positive, a 2013 University of Phoenix survey conducted by Harris Poll, revealed only one-third (33 percent) of active duty service members reported having made a transition plan for returning to civilian life after separation from the military.

“Service members acquire skills during their military careers that bring value and diverse experience to civilian workplaces,” said University of Phoenix Military Relations vice president, retired Army Col. Garland Williams. “But some men and women leaving the service may not know how to market their skills as they transition to civilian jobs, and may therefore take jobs that do not leverage their experience. As thousands of men and women return from Iraq and Afghanistan to a highly competitive job market, it is imperative that they have a plan to translate their skills into fulfilling and enriching jobs.”

If service members don’t know where to start, there are resources such as the U.S. Department of Labor’s Transitional Assistance Program (TAP) to help veterans translate their skills and find quality jobs.

Service members who have recently returned home might be interested in pursuing careers at firms recognized for hiring veterans. The military has a Best Veteran Employers list as well as current job postings for those companies. This list is updated frequently, so job seekers should check it often. In additional to applying for current positions, service members may consider requesting informational interviews in advance of their job searches to make sure they have the necessary training to be considered for the roles.

Some universities also offer resources for members of the military community who want to understand the available career options, making it easier to get started or continue a career path. For example, the Military Skills Translator Tool provided by University of Phoenix takes a service member’s military occupational specialty code and provides a list of civilian occupations that correlate to the job skills the service member used and refined while in the military. Each military job is linked directly to labor market data to provide background on jobs and the education required to enter a specific field. Service members can also earn college credit toward their degree programs based on their military experience.

Here are some additional tips offered by Williams to help active duty service members and veterans prepare for a civilian job search:

Start early. Begin the transition process from military to civilian life as early as two years before being discharged.

Speak the language. Communicate military experience and training with words, not acronyms, which may not translate on a resume. Promote universal skills such as leadership, management, cooperation, teamwork and strategic thinking.

Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. As every proud service member knows, there is a “we” vs. “me” mentality in the military. The ability to work in a team is important to communicate, but you also have to be willing to discuss your own contributions and results.

Consider flexible education and training programs. Education can help you address knowledge gaps and better understand and prepare for future careers.

Categories: Lifestyle

Employee engagement is the secret for small businesses to stay productive and make money

Thu, 07/10/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - One of the biggest worries for a small business owner is training and investing in quality employees and then losing them to a larger company – potentially a competitor – that might be able to offer larger salaries or better benefits.

It might look like a no-win scenario for a small business to entice quality employees to stay, except for one factor – engagement. When employees are engaged in the company business, they’re less likely to jump ship, they’ll be more productive and they’ll make the company more money, according to a Hay Group Study.

“Why should anyone care if they have engaged employees?” asks David Fagiano, chief operating officer for Dale Carnegie Training. “Engaged employees create superior results. A Gallup study shows that companies with more engaged employees outperform others by up to 202 percent. That translates to a substantially better bottom line.”

How can a small business owner encourage his employees to become more engaged in the company? Consider the following drivers of engagement:

* A sense of value: Employees who feel valued tend to be fully engaged in a company’s goals and help achieve big milestones. Supervisors have the ability to create this sense of value, which can lead to confidence, empowerment, enthusiasm and inspiration. Review how your employees are supervised. Are they trusted to do their jobs without heavy review? Do they ask for help only when needed? When requested, do they receive assistance? Finally, do employees feel their supervisors are being honest when presenting information or answering questions? According to the Dale Carnegie Training “How to Drive Employee Engagement in Small and Mid-sized Businesses” whitepaper, 67 percent of employees deem that having help or support when needed is important, compared to 46 percent who report that compensation increases above the cost of living is important. Download the whitepaper at www.dalecarnegie.com/employee-engagement.

* Continued training: Investing in employee training develops a bond between the employee and the business. Additional training shows the employee there’s room to grow in the company, and that the business values his or her expertise. Plus, the company benefits by having employees learning the latest information in the industry.

* Improved communication: There is a difference in opinion on how well employers communicate with employees. According to the whitepaper, employers think they do a better job of it than their workers report. Because of this discrepancy, employers need to make more effort in communicating business information. Consider holding a weekly progress report meeting or developing a newsletter. Involve employees in meetings discussing the future of the company, and give everyone tasks to help achieve the goals that are decided upon. This allows employees to feel they’re taking an ownership in the company, which will lead to them becoming more engaged.

Making an employee feel like he or she is important can take the professional relationship far. “Engagement means winning the hearts as well as the minds of employees,” Fagiano says. “It’s the difference between someone in your company saying, ‘I understand where this company is going,’ versus, ‘I believe in where this company is going.’ If you can generate belief at that level, you can drive spectacular results.”

Download the whitepaper to learn more about how you as a small business owner can drive employee engagement at your business. It may help the company keep employees and bring in more revenue.

Categories: Lifestyle

Learn why 3D printing may not be a viable alternative for stamping and machining

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - If your project requires high quality, tight tolerance manufactured specialty washers, shims, seals, gaskets or spacers, you may be interested in exploring your options with 3D printing. This process is the new craze in parts manufacturing and while 3D printing is generating a lot of interest, traditional specialty stamping manufacturers offer customers some very real advantages over 3D printers when it comes to parts that have been traditionally stamped or in some cases machined.

Here are just a few of the advantages of traditional part manufacturing, according to the professionals at Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing:

* Put the perfect stamp on your project. Specialty stamping manufacturers can produce product much quicker and with much tighter tolerances than 3D printers. Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing typically stamps product between 70 and 200 strokes per minute, and some presses can even stamp 400 strokes per minute. This capability is unmatched in the 3D printing industry.

* Service on any job, no matter the size. Some customers may think they have to research 3D printing options because their job is too small to take to a specialty stamping manufacturer. Specialty stamping manufacturers, however, are equally adept at handling short-run jobs as well as larger projects. Dies can be created very quickly without a tooling charge and then your project is underway. In addition, some specialty manufactures carry large in-house inventories, ensuring you receive your finished product before other production options even receive the raw material.

* Parts designed to your specifications. Specialty stamping manufacturers can build the perfect part to suit your needs. Looking for an ultra-thin part as thin as .0005 inches? A specialty parts manufacturer can create this for you. This request is virtually impossible with a 3D printer.

* Access to the top materials. Looking to use the top metals and alloys for your next project? You can do so for less when you partner with a specialty stamping manufacturer. In the 3D printer industry these materials require specialized 3D printers, increasing the costs associated with your project.

* The perfect material for your project. If you’re interested in researching your material options ahead of time, with a specialty stamping manufacturer, that’s no problem. Specialty stamping manufacturers like Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing have access to over 300 materials, ensuring you the perfect raw product for your project.

* Standing the test of time. 3D printing is new and inexperienced in many of the intricacies of manufacturing. This is not the case with specialty manufacturers. Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing has been in business since 1907. Whatever challenges your project offers, they’ve seen it before and they have the processes in place to help you reach your goal.

* Service every step of the way. Specialty stamping manufacturers understand that your project isn’t finished when the part is created. That’s why many of them offer part-marking, painting and packaging options to guarantee that your project receives the finishing touches it deserves.

As technology advances, consumers are constantly flooded with new options in the marketplace. But new doesn’t always mean better. Before you select the perfect manufacturer for your project, research the entire process so you can separate the benefits from the buzz. You just may see that your project is best complimented by the traditional approach. To learn more about Phoenix Specialty Manufacturing, visit PhoenixSpecialty.com.

Categories: Lifestyle

Librarians: unsung heroes of the digital age

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - There has been a substantial increase in students taking online college courses, changing significantly how modern learners access information, and librarians have adjusted to keep pace with an ever increasing demand for knowledge in the digital age.

Recent data on college attendance show that, through the fall of 2012, 7.1 million students, or about one-third of all enrolled students, were taking at least one course online. Sixty-three percent of chief academic officers at the nation’s colleges and universities believe it very likely that within five years the majority of students will be taking at least one course online, according to a survey conducted in 2013 by Babson Research.

Given this anticipated growth in online learning and that anyone, not only college students, can access information on just about anything via the Internet, some may think that libraries and librarians are becoming less relevant in the digital age. The truth is that they are needed now more than ever.

Libraries and the professionals who staff them have risen to meet the needs of a constantly changing digital environment, shifting from gatekeeper of information to educator, a role that extends well beyond the college campus.

Today’s librarians support users by providing access to electronic resources and instructing those who may be unfamiliar with how to use the varied formats in which these resources may exist.  As they experience more new forms of technology, librarians have to stay on the forefront of how these technologies work and how they impact the flow of information.

“Libraries continue to be epicenters of knowledge,” says Anita Norton, director of the online library at Excelsior College. “Online students, for example, rightfully expect and should have access to the same resources and services available as their peers at brick and mortar institutions.  It has always been a responsibility of librarians to ensure that everyone has equal access to information and in the digital age libraries have to be creative and proactive in their outreach to all users.”

In the modern library, users will find opportunities for self-paced learning through video tutorials and professionals who tailor resources for different proficiency levels. They also need to address the varying needs and preferred learning styles of users from all walks of life. The Internet has erased geographical boundaries so librarians have to meet their clients wherever and whenever they are, all over the world and at all times of the day. In helping users navigate the plethora of resources available, such as Excelsior’s online writing lab or OWL, librarians must be able to help them discern the best possible resource for the intended purpose and, once the information is found, help evaluate the obtained information critically.

In an online education environment, like Excelsior College, librarians often collaborate with faculty members in the development of courses to incorporate the research and critical thinking skills most employers say are highly desired and needed. As managers of information across all disciplines, librarians are essential partners in preparing students, both academically and professionally, by helping to provide a much more robust learning experience. This collaboration benefits everyone and is in keeping with the results of research conducted for the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 2013. In this online survey of employers nationwide, 93 percent of those responding said that a candidate’s ability to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems is more important than the undergraduate major potential employees had earned.

Underpinning all of these skills is the ethical use of information along with the ability to interact with others in the virtual environment. In doing so, the modern library gives users the ability to become both consumers and producers of information. Libraries continue to serve as gateways to learning more and librarians still provide the keys to unlocking the potential knowledge that can be obtained. Librarians are the unsung heroes of information in the digital age.

Categories: Lifestyle

The places you'll go: Tips for female graduates on how to lean in to your career

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 12:00am

(BPT) - More females are graduating from college than ever before, but does gender still play a role in career success? Does the so-called glass ceiling still exist? The truth is females face unique considerations when it comes to growing and navigating a career.

Rachel Thomas, president of LeanIn.Org, still remembers her first negotiation. Heart pounding and palms sweaty, she sat across the table from her boss-to-be armed with tips from her dad and a nervous smile. She ended up with a salary increase so modest, she says, “I could barely afford an extra tank of gas each pay cycle.”

Many negotiations and years later, it finally dawned on Thomas that her dad gave her bad advice. It turns out that what works for men in the workplace often doesn’t work for women.

It’s critical that young women learn how to manage their careers as women. Yet they often don’t have access to the right information. For example, search for “negotiation” in the books category on Amazon, and you’ll find nine out of the top 10 books were written by men. (A co-ed writing team penned the 10th.)

Yet seemingly small missed opportunities can significantly impact a woman’s bank account and career trajectory. Women are four times less likely to negotiate than men. Now consider the difference between a woman who accepts a $25,000 starting salary and a man who negotiates for $5,000 more: when they’re 60, the man will have made $361,171 more in salary. And it’s not just about money – according to one recent study, employees who negotiate are promoted 17 months earlier than those who don’t.

“Lean In for Graduates,” the new edition of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling book “Lean In,” offers recent graduates practical advice for choosing a path, finding a job, negotiating a first salary, and positioning themselves for success at work – all through the lens of gender. Here are three tips taken from the book that all graduates, especially women, should know as they transition from school to the workplace:

Adopt the mantra “Proceed and be bold”

Being bold is especially important for women because they often fear putting themselves out there. “Men will apply for jobs if they think they meet just 60 percent of the job requirements, while women will apply only if they think they meet all of them,” says Thomas. Now who’s got a better chance of getting that job – the man who applies for it or the woman who doesn’t?

Adopt the same principle for opportunities at work. Let your manager know you’re interested in stretch assignments and keep your eyes open for projects that will allow you to make your mark. Shift from thinking “I’m not ready to do that” to thinking “I want to do that – and I’ll learn by doing it."

Negotiate wisely

“You won’t get what you don’t ask for, so make it a rule to negotiate,” says Thomas. “But before you do, understand how stereotypes impact negotiations.” Research shows that we expect men to be assertive and look out for themselves, so there’s little downside when they advocate on their own behalf. In contrast, we expect women to be communal and collaborative, so when they advocate for themselves, we often react unfavorably.

One strategy to combat this, says Thomas, is to use communal language. As she explains, “women get better results when they emphasize a concern for organizational relationships.” For example, you might say, “If I join the team, I will do my best to contribute to its success. It’s important that my salary reflects the education and skills that will enable me to do this.”

Sit at the table

It can be hard to feel confident when you’re just starting your career – and research shows it’s even harder for women. Women tend to underestimate their performance, while men tend to overestimate theirs.

“It’s difficult to change the way you feel, but you can change the way you think and act,” explains Thomas. When you walk into a meeting feeling insecure, remind yourself that you’ve earned your position. Then take a seat at the table, raise your hand, and surprise yourself. “When you push past your insecurities and go for it, you gain more confidence, which leads to more opportunities,” says Thomas.

The common thread in all of these tips is, Go for it! When you see an opportunity, imagine what success looks like for you and lean in to it. For more career tips for graduates, visit leanin.org/grads.

Categories: Lifestyle
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