Creating a business plan for a start-up

3 Tips For Creating A Better Workplace Environment

When you are striving to have a successful business you need to be just as concerned about your employees as you are about revenue. Creating a positive workplace will increase productivity and improve the experience for your customers.

Get Physical

The workplace environment begins with the layout and objects within your business. You should periodically assess components of the physical environment to determine if they are conducive to the type of workplace you want. Periodically ask your employees if there are improvements you can make or maintain a suggestion box to collect information anonymously. Small problems, such as the lack of natural lighting or uncomfortable workplace furniture can make the environment miserable for your employees. Additionally, concerns with lighting or ergonomics can lead to lower productivity and more instances of minor ailments, such as headaches and musculoskeletal strain.

When possible, avoiding the traditional office or cubicle can improve the workplace environment. The physical boundaries created by walls can decrease communication between employees and can add to workplace stress. If changing the office layout is not an option, encourage employees to walk around and interact between their assigned duties or on breaks. Occasionally, have employees deliver messages in person–rather than through email–or hand out printed documents–instead of sending attachments. Incorporating some traditional methods of communication is an easy, but effective way to overcome physical barriers in your business.

Identify Engagement Issues

Employee engagement is an important and critical component of a good workplace environment. Not only do engaged employees promote better business-customer relationships, but engaged employees can affect the image of your business. When customers interact with employees who believe in the company’s mission and have a vested interest in the success of your business, they will likely have a positive experience.

Consider implementing surveys, through a place like Scarlett Employee Surveys, to identify problems within your business. Although many businesses choose to have a yearly survey, it also helps to have surveys quarterly, since you may have changes in staff. This will help you identify problems quicker. Your surveys should be designed to address overall problems with engagement and be easy to analyze by department or team. It does little to help your business if you see overall engagement is high, but neglect to see a specific department scores abnormally low.

Not only can you determine overall problems, but you can possibly identify the source of the problem. For example, if there is a trend that disengaged employees feel they are not fully utilized or have no room to grow, it may be time to consider which opportunities exist in your business. Perhaps the overall environment of your business would improve if employees were reorganized to fill different roles or you made tangible opportunities for your employees to secure better positions within the business.

Try Team Building

No matter the type of business you have, employees working together in a healthy and productive manner will improve your business and boost morale. Consider implementing team building exercises to help employees become familiar with each other, especially if they work in different areas of your business. Team building exercises can range from activities that are fun or silly, to activities that are necessary for your business.

For example, if it is difficult to set aside time during the workday for team building activities, you may want your employees to work together on a project, such as creating next month’s newsletter or deciding the appropriate items to order for the store. Although this task may be outside of their standard workplace duties, each employee can learn more about the strengths of the people around them and your employees may learn new skills in the process.

Many factors will influence the workplace environment of your business. By addressing the most common and influential concerns, you can help improve productivity and the morale of your employees.

Learn More

What Every Homeowner Needs To Know About Fuel & Nitrogen Dioxide

When fuel is burned, the combustion process produces several gases. One of the gases is carbon monoxide, which most people are familiar with due to the dangers of inhaling carbon monoxide. However, many people don’t realize that nitrogen dioxide is another dangerous gas that is also produced during combustion.

If your home has a furnace that operates with heating oil and/or you have gas-operated appliances, it’s very important that you know about nitrogen dioxide because it can cause serious illnesses in you and your family members. Here’s what you need to know about nitrogen dioxide and how to prevent it in your home.

Where Does Nitrogen Dioxide Come From?  

Nitrogen oxide is produced when fuel of any type is burned, such as oil, wood, propane, gasoline, and diesel. The completed combustion produces nitrogen dioxide. This is a bit different from how carbon monoxide is produced. Carbon monoxide is made when the combustion process is not completed, such as when the furnace shuts off too soon and the oil did not combust. These gases are supposed to escape through a vent. Therefore, you’ll want to make sure the vents of your combustible furnace and appliances are not blocked.

What Are the Health Risks of Nitrogen Dioxide?

Nitrogen dioxide irritates the eyes, nose, and throat, which can lead to breathing problems in people with asthma and other lung conditions, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). These symptoms are typical when nitrogen dioxide is in low concentration and/or exposure has been limited. Obviously, health risks are more troubling when there’s more of the dangerous gas in the air and/or there’s been a prolonged exposure.

Symptoms of nitrogen dioxide poisoning and toxicity can include headache, abdominal pain and nausea. The person may choke and have shortness of breath. As the toxicity levels increase, the person may begin breathing rapidly and their heart rate may increase. A reduction in the amount of oxygen in their body could result in their fingers and toes turning blue.


  • If you or a loved one has symptoms of poisoning and toxicity, go to the nearest ER as quickly as possible for treatment.
  • If you or someone in your household has unexplained breathing problems and/or irritation of their eyes, nose, and throat, leave the house immediately for fresh air and call an HVAC service.

Treatment for poisoning and toxicity will likely include oxygen treatment, which could be through mechanical ventilation or incubation in severe cases.

Is Nitrogen Dioxide Detectable by Human Senses?

In high concentrations, nitrogen dioxide has a reddish-brown color and a strong, pungent odor. However, the color and odor are undetectable when the gas is in low concentrations.

But just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean it’s not at a dangerous level. Prolonged exposure to nitrogen dioxide, even at minuscule amounts, can cause serious health implications. Also, the odor from nitrogen dioxide can paralyze your olfactory nerves, similar to how you get so used to an odor that you no longer smell it.

Are there Nitrogen Dioxide Detectors Available?

Similar to carbon monoxide detectors, there are nitrogen dioxide detectors available to install in homes that have appliances and furnaces that use combustible fuel sources. It’s a good idea to install these devices near the sleeping areas of the home as well as near the furnace and any appliances that operate with combustible fuel.

In conclusion, nitrogen dioxide and other dangerous gases are why it’s crucially important to make sure your furnace and fuel-consuming appliances are vented to the outdoors. To make sure your furnace is properly ventilated, hire an HVAC service to conduct a test. If the HVAC service determines that the furnace has good ventilation, call an appliance repair service to check the vents from the appliances in your home.  

For more information, contact a company like Shakley Mechanical Inc

Learn More

3 Services Your New Real Estate Business Can Offer To Stand Out From The Crowd

While the industry tends to be unpredictable, starting a new real estate business offers a variety of benefits to take advantage of. You get to be your own boss and set your work hours and you have optimal control over your profit margins. You’ll also have an opportunity to create variation in your workload by going the extra mile and acting as a financial adviser, life coach, and maybe even a counselor in addition to wearing your hat as a real estate agent.

But as a new real estate company, it’s important to stand out from the crowd of competition so you can ensure success right out of the gate – here are three services you can use to set yourself apart from other real estate service providers and quickly attract a profitable customer base:

24 Hour Answering

One of the best ways to attract new customers and set yourself apart from the competition is to employ 24 hour answering services to intercept customer and colleague calls anytime you aren’t able to answer the calls yourself. This is especially helpful if you plan to work with clients live out of the state or country.

Having a live customer service representative makes for more personal communication than an answering machine, and many service providers are happy to provide specific information to your customers when they connect with you one on one. You should be able to provide your answering service provider with a list of important information that can be relayed to customers such as:

  • Your regular working hours
  • MLS access codes and listings
  • Website addresses
  • Your business phone number and physical address

By having your answering service provide your callers basic company and housing marketing information, you may be able to address many peoples’ issues without the need for call backs.

Integration Services

Consider getting acquainted with the schools, libraries, community clubs, utility providers, and other service companies in the area you serve so you can provide integration services to your clients. By learning about all of the businesses, services, and programs in your area, you’ll be able to put together personalized lists for your clients that make it convenient and stress free to get settled into their new community.

Everything from babysitting service options and doctor office locations to driver licensing centers and power company directions should be investigated and added to your master list of community resources. You can then create a custom list of resources for each client based on the specific neighborhood they are moving to as well as their personal needs and preferences.

Follow-up Support

An interesting service you can offer your clients that many real estate companies don’t is follow up support. By making sure that you are available for clients if they have questions, concerns, or problems after buying and moving into their home, you establish yourself as a reliable and professional agent who clients can count on even after the deal has been done.

Take the time to call your clients about 30 days after escrow closes to offer a helping hand with things like finding contractors or repair technicians to work with, filing for renovation permits, and establishing residency within the state if they’re new to the area. Consider asking clients to fill out questionnaires in return for your follow up services so you can gain insight into what you’re doing right and what you can improve on.

By implementing these services into your overall business process, you should be able to make it easy enough for your clients to buy their dream house that you’ll likely benefit from free ongoing word-of-mouth advertising.

For more information, consider sites like

Learn More

Live In A Hurricane Prone Area? Make Life After A Storm Easier With Pre-Planned Storm Storage

When a hurricane is about to hit your area and you need to evacuate your home, you’ve got a limited amount of time to decide what to pack up and take with you. In most cases, because of time and space restraints, hurricane victims grab only their identifying documents (driver’s licenses, birth certificates) and a change of clothes before seeking safer ground. When the damage settles, though, and they’re left to resume their lives with nothing more than a folder full of paperwork, day-to-day life becomes especially challenging while they wait for their insurance companies to process their claims.

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, renting a self storage unit now could make starting over a little bit easier should your home succumb to a natural disaster.

Choosing The Right Storage Unit

While nobody can absolutely guarantee that their establishment will not be damaged by an act of God, many storage facilities are built to withstand a tremendous amount of inclement weather. Right now, while the weather is calm and you’ve got plenty of time, call all the storage facilities in your area and ask each if their establishment is built to withstand category five hurricanes. The ones that do are safe places to store your belongings in heavy rain and winds speeds of up to 155 miles per hour.

The ideal storage unit for you is on a mid-level of a multi-level facility. A mid-level unit will be safer from rain damage than a unit on the top floor, and it will also be safer from flooding than the bottom units are.

If your budget allows, it’s also a good idea to opt for a climate-controlled storage unit. In hurricane-proof storage facilities, climate-controlled storage units will be hooked to generators that will allow your unit to maintain consistent temperature and humidity levels, even if the power goes out. Many insurance companies won’t cover moisture-related damages, and controlling the humidity will help thwart mold and mildew in your unit during the wet weather.

Understand The Weather Warning System And Be Ready To Move

Make a list ahead of time of what you’ll want to pack away in your storage unit to make resuming your life after a hurricane easier. Think about what your family would absolutely need to restore normalcy if forced to start over. A set of dishes, blankets and pillows, a week’s worth of clothes, some non-perishable snacks, and sentimental items are all worthy of stashing away in a safe zone until an impeding storm has passed.

When the national weather system issues a hurricane watch, there’s a possibility that a storm is going to hit your area. Now’s the time to start gathering all of the things on your list and moving them to an area close to your home’s front door.

When the weather service issues a hurricane warning, the storm is probably going to hit you and you’ve got about 36 hours before it does so. As soon as a warning is issued, pack up your vehicle with the things from your list and get them transported to your storage unit, and then get yourself and your family safely out of the area.

Store Smart

Opt for the smallest storage unit available. You’re not looking to store enough to furnish a whole new household — you only want to provide your family with a little comfort in the days following the storm. Your unit should be kept mostly empty during non-storm weather, but a stashing a few things in there will help your safe storage efforts should the time come to use your unit. What should you keep in your unit? A shelving unit is a good idea, along with a few wooden pallets. This will allow you to keep both big and small items off of the floor and allow air to circulate around them.

As even added security, leave a few bags of charcoal in the corners of your unit. If a hurricane hits your area and you have to use your unit, cut a few holes in the bags while you’re storing your things. The charcoal will help to absorb any humidity that builds up in your storage unit during the storm.

If your home is ever destroyed by a hurricane, the days following the disaster will be incredibly difficult. Make them a little bit easier by having a weather-proof storage facility ready and waiting to keep some daily-use items safe during a storm.

Learn More

4 Ways To Improve Your Sleep

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you might suffer from what hundreds of thousands Americans across the country suffer from, insomnia. Insomnia is the chronic inability to sleep. There are numerous reasons why people suffer from this issue, and the causes wildly range from the quality of their mattress to the amount of work they perform throughout the day. Luckily, there are steps you can take to correct the problem of insomnia. Throughout the course of this brief article, you will learn of 4 ways to improve your sleep.

Upgrade Your Mattress

This might be considered a costly way for you to be able to get a few more winks of sleep per night, but for some, this is the only way in which a good night’s sleep can be earned. The quality of your mattress is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of sleep you receive each night. If your mattress is growing old in age, or if you find that it is thinning itself out, chances are you aren’t receiving the highest quality of sleep that you possibly could each night. When your level of sleep is suffering due to the logistics of a mattress, it is perhaps time to purchase a new one. Talk with someone from a store like West Coast Mattress to learn more about different mattress types.

Stick To A Sleep Schedule

Those that go to bed every night at the same time and awake at the same time every morning will find that they are able to achieve a better night’s sleep throughout the night. Forcing yourself to go to sleep at the same time every night will help your body acclimate itself to a new sleep schedule, and its natural rhythms and time cycle will adjust accordingly. If you are the kind of person who does adhere to a strict sleep schedule but have lately found out that you are not able to sleep as well as you usually do, it is generally recommended that you do something relaxing for 15 minutes or so, and then attempt to sleep again.

Pay Attention To What You Eat and Drink

Having a healthy diet can also ensure that you receive a solid night of sleep. There are several foods and beverages that can keep you up throughout the night, in addition to being unhealthy for your body in a myriad of other ways! It is also recommended that you do not eat and drink right before going to sleep, as this might cause disruptive frequent bathroom visits throughout the night that will disturb an otherwise peaceful rest. Both stimulants and depressives should be avoided before bedtime. Alcohol and coffee can both cause disruptive forms of sleep and, if you are having issues with sleeping, you might want to excise both of these things from your body in total.

Physical Activity

Include physical activity throughout your day. Physical activity can help you achieve a peaceful rest at night. It is highly recommended for your health that you receive at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. However, you can also think of other activity that you do that is physically oriented as exercise. For example, if you are a person who enjoys working on cars, make it a point to do a bit of extra work under the hood. It’s good for you and can help to tire your body out a bit at night, so you’re not restless during the nighttime hours. Even a good stretch can help to tire you out at the end of the day!

Many people have trouble sleeping at night, so consider yourself in good company. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight on how to rectify the issue of insomnia.

Learn More

4 Mistakes Retail Workers Make When Storing Stock In Cardboard Boxes

Thousands of suppliers distribute their products to retailers in corrugated cardboard boxes. Corrugated cardboard is light, strong, cheap and easy to recycle, so it’s unsurprising that so many companies use this material. Nonetheless, once the stock arrives at your store, it’s important to store items carefully, or you could end up facing ruined stock and even injured customers or employees. Protect your stock by avoiding the four following mistakes that retail workers commonly make when storing stock in cardboard boxes.

Failure to use stretch film when necessary

Stretch film is a useful extra tool you can use when storing a large number of boxes. By wrapping stretch film around a batch of boxes, you can cut the risk of damage because the load is less vulnerable to shocks and vibrations. A roll of stretch film is quick and easy to apply, too, so it doesn’t take much time to use this material in the warehouse and other storage areas.

Employees can sometimes forget to use stretch film. or they may just decide it isn’t necessary. You may even decide to cut costs and ban use of the material. This is often a mistake. It’s far easier to move a pallet of cardboard boxes that are held in place by stretch wrap. What’s more, a large stack of boxes is unlikely to topple over if somebody has wrapped the entire batch in stretch wrap first.

Stretch film is often useful when you need to store boxes in cold storage. In these conditions, packing tape on the box may become slippery with moisture, which can make it easier to knock over a large stack. Stretch film will allow you to pull out one or two boxes at a time, leaving the remainder safely stored.

Pallet overhang

If you store cardboard boxes on a pallet, it’s vital that you make sure the edges of the boxes sit perfectly inside the outer edge of the pallet. Pallet overhang occurs when the edge of one or more of the boxes hangs over the pallet.

If this happens, you can seriously diminish the strength of the cardboard boxes. In some cases, two sides of the box will have to support the full weight of the contents, which can quickly lead to disaster.

People working in warehouses will sometimes rush to pack stock away and may not notice (or care about) pallet overhang. This is something all managers should look for and deal with straight away. If an unwitting colleague pulls a box out of the stack, he or she is much more likely to bring the whole thing down.

Failure to tackle damages quickly enough

Even with the best handling procedures possible, accidents can still happen, and you can’t account for every eventuality. Nonetheless, if breakages occur, it’s important to tackle the mess as quickly as possible. If the contents of one box spill over a stack of boxes, you could quickly ruin a whole stock batch. Make sure your employees know that as soon as they see (or even suspect) damage, they should always carefully inspect each box and immediately remove broken items.

Pallet misuse

Wooden pallets help you keep stock off the floor and can make it easier to move large quantities with special handling equipment. Nonetheless, bad habits can increase the risk of stock damage.

Pallets normally consist of strips of wood nailed together, with gaps between each plank. These gaps can weaken a corrugated cardboard box because you can no longer evenly distribute the weight of the contents. As such, you should always use special deckboards that you place on top of the pallet, so your boxes have a flat surface to sit on.

You should also make sure the stack is not too high. As a general rule, if you put as many boxes as possible on a pallet, you should always end up with a cube, where the height of the stack is the same as the width and length of your pallet. Every inch you store boxes above this limit weakens the strength of the stack and makes an accident more likely.

Many retailers receive their stock in corrugated cardboard boxes. Make sure your employees know how to store these boxes correctly, or your stock could go straight in the trash.

Learn More

Chain Link Camouflage: Cover Up That Chain Link Fence With These Tips

When it comes to commercial fencing, one of the most popular options is chain link fence. If you’re hesitant to install chain link fence around your property because you don’t want to create an industrial-like atmosphere, you’re in for a surprise. There are many ways to customize or camouflage a chain link fence and make it a cohesive part of your commercial property. Here are a few tips to give that fence a whole new look without sacrificing your property security in the process.

Buy Some Outdoor Spray Paint

If you’ve ever painted a room a different color, you know how much of a difference a fresh coat of paint can make. The same can also hold true for a chain link fence, because any paint you apply is going to give the fence a whole new look. Once you’ve got a good layer of paint on it, seal it with a clear coat once it’s dry. That preserves the paint so that it doesn’t chip as easy. Just make sure you have some plywood barriers behind the area you’re painting, because the plywood will catch any over-spray.

Invest in Privacy Slats

Privacy slats are a great way to completely alter the appearance of a chain link fence. You can find privacy slats in many different materials, colors and patterns. Whether you’re looking for something that looks like wooden panels or you want colored vinyl inserts, you can find all kinds of them. You can even choose patterned panels such as bricks or custom designs with your company’s logo or brand colors.

Privacy slats are great options for chain link fence, because they don’t interfere with the security of the fence. The smooth surface is difficult to scale, and you have the option to only cover one side of the fence, if you prefer. For example, if you only want the outside-facing portion of the fence covered, that’s a viable option. You can also create a cohesive look by installing the panels on the inside as well.

Another benefit of privacy slats is that they’re really easy to install. The panels interlock, and they slide into a secure channel at the base of the fence. Once they’re all attached together, they create a solid barrier that will stay intact and cover the fence.

Turn It Into a Living Fence

If you want to cover your chain link fence in a more natural manner, you can turn it into a living fence. Use it as a support structure for climbing vines or flowering plants, such as honeysuckle, ivy or clematis. These plants will grow rapidly, climbing the chain links with ease. Look for plants that are somewhat forgiving so you don’t have to retain a landscaper more often than is necessary.

In addition to climbing plants, you can also reap the benefits of fresh produce while still covering those chain link panels. Plants like berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and squash all grow well in vertical environments, making them great planting options for hiding a fence. Just make sure that any lightweight plants are staked to poles along the fence because they’ll need the added support.

Some bean plants as well as any strawberry plants fall under this category and need a bit more help. When you plant things like this and encourage your company cafeteria to use the crops for your food production, you may even gain a great marketing angle to reach a new customer base solely due to your sustainability efforts.

As you can see, chain link fences can be anything but boring, institutionalized structures. With these tips, you can enjoy all of the benefits of chain link fence and still customize its appearance. Talk with your fence installation contractor today about the best options for your property.

Learn More