Archives For January 2013

About a year ago, I saw a new product that I thought was a slam-dunk at first sight: The Nest Learning Thermostat.

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At the time they were a little difficult to purchase because they had limited distribution channels and Honeywell was suing them to try to keep their product off of the market. So after researching the product diligently, I did what any red-blooded American would do: I went to eBay and bought two of them. At the time, I think I paid roughly $300 each for my 2 Nests.

The kicker is that I knew I wouldn’t even be installing them in my house. Shocker! OK, to be fair, it was because I knew I was moving to a new home in about a month, so I chose to wait. Shortly after we moved to the new house, I installed the first Nest on the main floor.

Before you buy the Nest, check their website for compatibility. From what I understand, it works with MOST home heating/cooling systems, but not all of them, so do a little research to insure yours is compatible. All you have to do is take the face off your current thermostat and check the wiring pins. They have a simple compatibility checker that makes it a breeze.

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The Nest comes tightly & securely packaged. Very Apple-like.

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The Ultimate Guide To Building And Marketing Your Business With Google (Adwords, YouTube, Google+, Google Analytics, Google Apps, Google Places)The Ultimate Guide To Building And Marketing Your Business With Google by Gabriela Taylor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Last August I was provided a complimentary copy of Gabriela Taylor’s book Google: The Ultimate Guide to Building and Marketing Your Business With Google . It’s been a busy several months but I’ve worked my way through the book and would like to put it to review.

The Set Up

The first thing you should know is that I went into this review with the mindset of finding out how best to utilize Google to help my wife’s direct sales business. I’ve heard at various meetings that other girls with Thirty-One have been using Google ads with success in driving their business and recruiting and desperately wanted to discover the key to this for her business. The title of this book seemed to be directly in line with my goals. The subtitle: A Step By Step Guide To Unlocking The Power Of Google Tools And Maximizing Your Online Potential cinched the deal. This has to be a must-read book for someone in my position.

Continue Reading…

Evernote Nugget

JasonC —  January 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today I was talking with a friend at work about insurance cards and I had this thought:

We all have to carry multiple “cards” with us for our official documents. They take up space in your wallet and can be fragile. Paper cards can get wet or frayed, bent, or the print can fade or be rubbed off from friction.

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Evernote to the rescue!

Scan the fronts and backs of your auto insurance card, social security card, health insurance dental, vision, or prescription cards. Do what you need to to to the scanned images to trim them to size and make sure they’re highly readable. Save each one as a PDF file or JPG file named appropriately.

Create an Evernote notebook and call it “Insurance Cards.” Then add the JPGs or PDFs for each of these cards as individual notes in the notebook. Make sure to tag each one with keywords like “insurance”, “medical”, “prescription” or whatever is appropriate.

Make sure you install Evernote (free) on your smartphone and sync your Evernote account.

The payoff:

Now you’ll have all your paper insurance cards with you whenever you have your phone (which, let’s face it, is always). They’ll be fine for use as proof of insurance or doctor”s visits. And they’ll be protected from wear and tear.

Question:

How do you use Evernote with your portable devices? What other applications of this concept have you used?

Perfectionism Is Your Enemy

JasonC —  January 13, 2013 — Leave a comment

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Are you a perfectionist by nature? I certainly am, and for much of my life, that’s served me very well. My wife is also a perfectionist. If someone did a study of all entrepreneurs, I think that study would so the majority of them have perfectionist tendencies.

Perfectionism is that little thing inside of you that strives to do a better job. That goes for school, work, and life in general. Certainly it can be a tool for good. If you are or know a perfectionist, you know exactly what I mean.

But in working with my wife with her small business, I’ve definitely noticed there definitely is a dark side to perfectionism.

Continue Reading…

How do pyramid schemes differ from direct sales?

The vast majority of consultants, even successful ones, make the majority of their money in direct sales through selling the company’s product to customers and earning a commission from those sales. There is huge benefit in recruiting new members to their team, though they do not make money just from the recruiting process itself. They DO earn commission on the sales of their recruits, however. And they are earning that money by training their recruits on how to run their business productively, keeping them engaged, informing them of news from the company, and many other duties and responsibilities.

Some of the fondest memories from my childhood involved “game night” with my family. Often we would get together with another family and the parents would play some sort of game and we kids would play on our own table. As I got older, I got to start playing at the adult table and it was always a fun time. Great bonding with parents, family, and friends.

Back then we would play dominos, tri-ominoes, quad-ominoes, card games like Uno™, Skip-Bo™, rook, spades, and hearts. Of course there were also games of Monopoly™, Sorry™, The Game of Life, and a few others. Later on we added Trivial Pursuit™ and Taboo™ which were new to the scene. Pretty much all of these games started off being fun. After a while a few definitely stood out. Like Monopoly™ which never seemed to ever actually have a winner. Somebody might have ended up winning the game, but everyone was bored with the game after about 45 minutes. Actually finishing a game of Monopoly was more of a statement of commitment than an indication of fun. 

I strongly suspect that most people who HATE board games and “game night” do so because of their experiences with Monopoly early in life. Admit it, when you saw the title, what is the board game you thought of immediately?

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way…

These days there are tons of options that absolutely blow away those old-school games we all love to hate. These games are so different from games like Monopoly™ because they move more quickly and keep people engaged during every player’s turn, not just your own. 

There is a lot of support out there for family game night and all of the benefits it provides your family:

7 Benefits of a Family Games Night

5 Reasons to Have a Family Game Night 

National Family Game Night and the Benefits of Game-Playing

Top 3 Board Games to Revive Family Game Night in Your House:


1. Ticket To Ride – This 2004 Game of the Year is an excellent game that emphasizes geography, sequencing, problem-solving, and planning for 2-5 players ages 8+. In our family with 7 kids (ages 8-15), this is definitely the most popular. Games typically last right at an hour, which is great for keeping everyone’s attention engaged. Often we’ll play 2 or more games in a sitting because they’re quick and fun.

TTR is easy to teach and to learn. You can only do one of 3 things on each turn and turns move very quickly. Some games we’ve played have lasted 45 minutes or less. The board consists of a map of the USA with cities linked by train routes. Your goal is to buy routes and connect cities to complete your “tickets.” Each player has 45 train cars and when any player gets down to 2 or less, the game ends after one more turn.

There’s a ton of strategy you can apply, but the kids have fun collecting cards, buying routes, and completing tickets. 

Consider also buying the 1910 expansion which has more route cards and bigger train cards which are easier to shuffle. Also, there is a Ticket to Ride: Europe edition and 1912 expansion for it. These will teach a little European geography. There are many other expansions available as well, all of which are solid additions to the game, but are by no means required.

 

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2. Carcassonne  - Another game of the year selection for 2-5 players ages 8+, Carcassonne is totally different from any other game I’ve ever played. It’s my wife Holley’s favorite board game. This one teaches pattern-matching, strategy,& spatial awareness.

Each player draws a tile randomly from the draw bag and has to connect a tile to ones previously played (the starting tile is always the same). Tiles can be connected by a road, plain, or city wall.

You have little men that you place strategically in order to gain points and win the game. Placing a man on an unoccupied road makes him a robber. The longer the road becomes, the more points he is worth. Complete the road and you collect the points and can re-use the man. Placing the man on a plain makes him a farmer. The more city gates his farm touches, the more points he is worth, but he must remain a farmer throughout the game.

Placing a man in an unoccupied city makes him a knight. The larger the city becomes, the more points he is worth. Completing the city walls allows you to collect the points and retrieve the man for re-use. Placing a man in an abbey makes him a monk and you get 1 point for each tile which is placed adjacent to the abbey (up to 9 points).

Once the tiles are all gone, the player with the highest score wins. Because there are only 35 tiles, games go very quickly (20-25 minutes). All players are engaged the whole time because you can play both offense and defense, plus you need to pattern-match in order to use certain tiles and to complete your roads and cities.

The basic game has only 35 tiles, but there are expansions that add more and different tiles as well as new rules. The Carcassonne Big Box (see above) has the original game and the 5 most popular expansions. There are still other expansions available to keep it fun an new.

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3. The Settlers of Catan - 2-4 player ages 10+. I think this is my favorite of these 3 (though only by a hair). It teaches resource management, spatial awareness, trading/bartering, and strategy, of course.

Settlers is another game that is probably different than anything you’ve played before. The “board” of this game is one you set up with hexagonal tiles which are placed inside an included frame which holds everything together. On these tiles, you place disks that have a number from 2-12. The tiles themselves have different terrains which provide different resources (wheat, wool, clay, lumber, or stone) when the number on the disk is rolled.

Each player starts out with 2 settlements and 1 road segment per settlement. These are placed on a turn-by turn basis to start the game. After that, each player’s turn starts with a roll of the dice. Whatever number comes up causes the tiles with that number to produce resources for whichever settlements are touching it. This makes this game fun because everyone is playing every turn! Another aspect of the game that adds to this element is the element of trading/bartering. When you have a ton of wheat but need some clay and another player has clay to spare, it may work out as a win-win. The trading can happen at any point, but has to be initiated by a player on their own turn.

As you collect resources, you use them to buy roads and then build settlements and eventually cities. You can also buy development cards which can provide lots of benefits. Each settlement is worth 1 victory point. Cities are worth 2. The longest continuous road is worth one. The development card deck includes a few victory points as well as knights (which fend off The Robber – which moves any time a 7 is rolled and causes all sorts of havoc.) The game is over when the first player reaches 10 points.

These games can go quickly or can take longer. I think the average at our house is probably around 80-90 minutes (with 5 players). Interestingly the first couple of games (with 3 players) only went about 45 minutes. Once all the players know how to play, it can go very quickly.

As with the other games, there are several expansions. I would definitely recommend getting the 5-6 player expansion. I’ve also played the Cities and Knights expansion (loved it!) I’ll probably buy Cities and Knights soon. One downside to the Catan expansions is that each has its own separate 5-6 player expansion you have to buy if you want to play with more people.

We are eagerly awaiting Catan Junior (ages 6+), which should arrive tomorrow. Hopefully this will be a good bridge for the younger ones in the family to learn the basics.

Question: Do you play board games or card games? What is your favorite for family game night?

One of the gifts I received this Christmas was the VuPoint Magic Want III portable scanner. Considering I just did a small series of posts on “going paperless,” I thought it would be a good focus of a review oriented towards that role.

 
VuPoint Solutions PDS-ST441-VP Magic Wand Portable Scanner w/ Preview Display, 900 DPI Resolution, USB 2.0 (Black)

Overview: 

The Magic Wand is an extremely portable full-color document scanner that you can use to scan papers, receipts, images into your computer for archiving, graphics, etc. It’s about 1.5″ tall and wide and roughly 10″ long, which is TINY compared to most scanners you’ll come across. 

It runs on 2 AA batteries (included) and saves the images is scans onto an microSD card that you supply. It also has a 1″ color display for settings and preview.

Set-Up:

Honestly, setup was super easy for me on my Mac. I literally just installed the batteries and inserted an 8Gb microSD and turned it on. I scanned a few sheets then connected it to my Mac using the included cable. The Mac automatically detected the device and offered to import the images into iPhoto. I ignored that and imported into Lightroom instead. Worked like a charm.

Usage:

This scanner is a manual scanner. Whatever item you want to scan you will place on a flat surface, then place the scanner on top of it, then push the scan button and using your hands, pull the scanner down the page as steadily as you can until you get to the end. It works best on a flat surface and it’s important that you pull very straight, or the image you produce will have some distortion. That may not matter if you’re scanning a receipt or simple document. There are rollers on the bottom of the device that seem to help you pull it straight, so maybe I’ll get better at scanning over time. I’ve only had it a few days, after all.

Each image you scan takes several seconds to scan. The lower resolution scan (which is a usable 300dpi) in color takes about 3 seconds for a letter-sized sheet. 600dpi is 6 seconds. 1050dpi (Fine resolution) is 11 seconds. This isn’t bad at all, but it certainly doesn’t touch the ScanSnap.

I noticed on Amazon that you can buy a “Scanning Stand” for these devices. For scanning photos, I think that would be a good investment (the stand is only $13.75) if you are planning on doing a lot of photo scanning.

It will save your files as JPEGs or PDFs.

Discussion:

Would this be an ideal solution for going paperless in your home office or small business office? After all, that’s the focus of this review. I don’t think it’s ideal, but it would function. 

What keeps it from being ideal?

1. It scans a single side of your page at one time. This may not be a big deal for your particular use, but I find that dual-sided scanning accounts for about 30% of my scanning or more.

2. Scanning a pile of documents becomes tedious. Sheet-fed scanners like the Scan-Snap are perfect for scanning a pile of papers. You just load them up and hit the button. With this, each individual sheet (and each side of it) is its own chore.

3. Scan quality is highly dependent on the user. Maybe the scan table would help with this. Also, if you’re scanning receipts, this doesn’t matter one bit, as long as you can read it (which should never be a problem). 

Where do I see myself using this in my paperless workflow?

The really cool thing about this scanner is its size. It’s so small, I can see taking it on business trips and scanning receipts at night instead of waiting to do it at home. This will definitely fit in whatever laptop bag you have. Or your purse. Plus, it’s not heavy so why not bring it just in case. For scanning a few items at a time, it works great.

The other thing I think this scanner is uniquely suited for is scanning items in place. For instance, if you want to just scan the cover of a book, you can do that pretty easily with this scanner, whereas you’d have to essentially destroy the book (taking off its cover) to do the same with the ScanSnap. A flatbed scanner will work for that purpose well (probably even better) but takes 4 square feet of your precious desktop space (which is why the ones I own aren’t even in use currently). I can also see utility in scanning items where they lay. Like something hanging on a wall. Or a magazine spread. Or a piece of wood that you’d like to scan for the texture.

Pros:

Super portable! 
Easy Set-Up (it just works!)
Can scan an item where it lays.
Expandable memory 

Cons:

Image distortion is common.
Software de-skewing isn’t as good as ScanSnap
Multi-page scans get tedious. 

Paperless Office Utility: 3 out of 5 stars.

Top20

It amazes me that I was able to post consistently since July. During that period of time, I’ve produced about 80 posts, so I thought I’d bring together the top 20 of them for the year. Next year, there’ll be a lot more to choose from as I have plenty planned for 2013.

Top 20 Posts of 2012

A User’s Review of YNAB 4

$10-20 Gifts You Should Consider Getting Your Guy For Christmas

How to Help Her Direct Sales Business Day-to-Day

Incentive Trips ROCK!

Gift Guide for your Guy – $5-10

Direct Sales Husband’s Handbook – Part 6 – Debunking The Pyramid Scheme Thing

$20-40 Gifts Your Guy Will Love for Christmas

The 7 Keys to Direct Sales Business Accountability

Live It Up! Thirty-One Gifts National Conference 2012 Photo Gallery

Business Tax Basics 

Direct Sales Husband’s Handbook Rundown

Business Organization – Setting Up An Office

Consider the Paperless Office

Start Some Conversations! 4 Great Ways to Promote Your Wife’s Direct Sales Business

You Need A Budget

Business Organization Part 2 – Time & Calendar Management

Top 7 Free Resources to Improve Your Graphics Skills

Do’s And Don’ts of Going Paperless in Direct Sales

Paperless WorkFLow for Direct Sales Using Evernote

Time Management For Direct Sales & Small Business

 

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Bonus! Updated Direct Sales Husband’s Handbook Rundown (Part 2)

Incentive Trips ROCK! - My take on the Thirty-One Gifts leadership incentive trip from 2012 & suggestions on how to make sure your wife earns that trip.

Incentive Trips – The Obvious and the Hidden Gems - why you husbands should actually GO on that incentive trip with your wife. I was surprised at how many direct sales ladies went to Cancun by themselves or took a friend, leaving their husband at home.

Resources for the Direct Sales Husband - a run down of the surprisingly few direct sales resources for husbands.

Run That Business, or It Will Run You! - Simple business principles to follow in order for your direct sales business to thrive.

Leading From Within - why you should start within your home when it comes to leadership.

Business Tax Basics - new to running a business and paying taxes on it? Start here.

Business Data – What Should I Follow? - data analysis is how you determine where and how you’re growing your direct sales business. It can help you identify important trends or weaknesses.

How to Help Her Direct Sales Business Day-to-Day - the title pretty much says it all. One of my most-read posts.

Start Some Conversations! 4 Great Ways to Promote Your Wife’s Direct Sales Business - fast-talking your way to direct-sales business success. Well, not exactly, but you get the idea…

Be An Idea Sounding Board - like focused or directed brainstorming. Definitely somewhere most husbands need help.

Business Organization – Setting Up An Office - This is a great way for a husband to get involved with his wife’s direct sales business!

Business Organization Part 2 – Time & Calendar Management - important aspects for any small business owner. Running your own business can get hairy if you’re not organized.

Consider the Paperless Office - Going paperless is an awesome thing for small business people. Check this out!

Paperless WorkFlow for Direct Sales Using Evernote - Some notes on one of the best paperless assets out there – Evernote

Do’s And Don’ts of Going Paperless in Direct Sales - what should you, and shouldn’t you, scan when going paperless?

Time Management For Direct Sales & Small Business - Everyone’s heard of “time management,” but where do you start?

More Time Management Resources - essentially part 2 of the article above.

 

Hopefully you’ve found something on this blog useful in 2012. Or maybe this is the first time you’ve come across it yourself. Either way, please share this resource with someone you know who is involved in the Direct Sales Business. There are millions of married women in America who are doing direct sales by themselves. Maybe educating their husbands can change that a little bit. I truly believe that can in a very major way change some lives and families for the better. Maybe a lot of them. That’s my mission with The Direct Sales Husband’s Handbook. Help me spread it.

Thank you, and Happy New year!

-Jason