The Biz of Pacelinebiz

Turning things on end to achieve results!

Archive for August 2010

Has it been a year? Happy Anniversary!

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This is the 52nd blog entry marking my first year as a blogger.  I hope I have been able to inform as well as entertain.  I began with the commitment to alternate between business and non-business related topics.  So far I have only missed one week when I took a last minute long weekend trip in November last year.  For the summer months, I decided to change the format to mostly non-business topics to give myself a break.  I will return to alternating topics after Labor Day.  

 A few facts about the first year.  The top five blogs for 2010 were:

 1)      Health Care Reform Poll – Posted 3/29/10

2)      What Zone are you in? – Posted 7/5/10

3)      Apple iPad Hit or Miss? – Posted 8/23/10

4)      Drop in Visitors at Work – Posted 2/15/10

5)      Telecommuting to the Rescue – Posted 3/1/10

 The blog that had the most comments (4) was; Christmas 1979 versus Christmas 2009 posted – October 30, 2009

 I have noticed that an interesting  title for a blog post has a lot to do with the popularity.  It also helps to post something that is timely such as Steroids in Baseball, which I posted the same day as Mark McGwire’s announcement or Earthquake in Haiti, which was posted a few days after the quake happened.  I also must admit that I usually am wrong when I think I have posted a good subject with a killer title.   When writing my blog each week, I try to keep the word count of each post to less than 400 but it is sometimes difficult. Throughout the past year, my blog posts have been categorized into 77 different areas of subject matter.   

 I would appreciate comments so I can make modifications to how I am doing things.  I hope this coming year I improve and will be a regular stop during your weekly blog browsing.  Thank you for taking the time to read.  Have a great week and relaxing Labor Day weekend.

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Written by pacelinebiz

August 30, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Apple iPad – hit or miss?

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My wife won an Apple iPad at a seminar she attended this summer.  She has had her iPad for over a month now and she loves it.  I, on the other hand, was skeptical from the beginning but am now warming up to the device.

My original concern about this device was the cost for what you get in return.  I am a real “value for the price” type of consumer.  In these times many of us are.   The iPad she won has a list price of $599.  Before she won her iPad, she was interested in buying one and we visited an Apple store one weekend in June to check it out.  (This was my first time I had ever set foot into an Apple store)  We were browsing separately and I was checking out Macbooks and analyzing the Excel for Mac application with an employee.  After I lost interest, I found my way over to my wife who was fully engaged with an employee talking about the iPad.  I came over to see what was going on and she immediately handed me the device and told the Apple associate to convince me of its value.  He gave me a tour of the thing for a good 5 minutes and he showed me what it could do but I was still unconvinced that it was anything more than a toy despite his best (and patient) efforts. 

Lo and behold, a few weeks later, her prize arrived in the mail and I dodged a bullet.  She could play with her toy and after a few weeks I thought it would be sitting unused and I would be vindicated – and 600 dollars richer. Well, no such luck.  This iPad has become her replacement for her laptop computer when relaxing on the couch at night!  She now uses it to access her Microsoft Outlook e-mail account for work, surfs the web, plays games, uses many cool free “Apps”, and has even used it to prepare notes for a training class she was teaching. 

 I would say that if you are an Apple user you will be able to get more out of this quicker than a PC user but she was up and running with the iPad very quickly and it does not even come with an owners manual.  An owners manual is not needed it is so well designed.  It is NOT a toy and if you get the 3g version, you can use the internet just like any other mobile device with a much larger screen.  The touch screen concept takes a little to get used to but after a while is very user-friendly. The screen resolution is also very impressive and slide shows of pictures are as good as any PC I have seen.   I can’t recommend this as a replacement for a laptop for a person who uses spreadsheets and other similar software but for keeping up with emails and light memo writing it is very useful for business as well as for fun.  The iPad has been described as a computer that has been stripped down to the things that people use most often.  By doing so, it can be smaller, faster, lighter and cooler than a laptop could ever be.  I would recommend it for the computer user who mostly uses email, photos, games, music and web surfing.  My Mom and Dad would be good candidates for an iPad.  Why go through the hassle of learning about a computer when you can hit the ground running with an iPad? 

 There are some things my wife dislikes about her iPad but this may be due to unfamiliarity with Apple products.  She has not found out how to do anything else with it while music is playing.  She also has not figured out how to minimize one thing so she can do multiple tasks at once (have several windows open at once).  It would also be nice to have a USB port and it is very cumbersome to load music on the device using iTunes and your PC.  She has heard many very positive things about the genius feature but despite following directions on how to turn the feature on it still does not work.

 The bottom line?  I would recommend buying one as long as you are aware of the limitations or do not already have a laptop.  If you get the high-end model with 3g and 64GB, the price is $829 plus the cost of the 3g data plan.  If I were to guess, the iPad will be a top seller this Christmas season.

 Have a great week.

Written by pacelinebiz

August 23, 2010 at 6:01 pm

Playing with fire

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Today it’s time to talk about a dangerous combination.  This recipe can destroy vast amounts of wealth without notice.  Usually it happens right under your nose.  This is a recipe to avoid at all costs.  It has 2 main ingredients – motive and opportunity.  What does this simple mixture make?  Fraud.

Yes, today let’s talk briefly about fraud.  This can be stopped by eliminating one of the two ingredients.  Motive is always going to be there and you can’t control that.  Opportunity is under your control.  Even if you are a small company without the ability to have an internal audit department you can thwart fraud.  I will list a few things that a business owner can do to stop fraud before it starts.

 Elimination of opportunity.  This is really a simple concept.  Would you keep all of your cash in a glass jar in an unlocked office on a desk in plain view near a secluded exit?  Of course not, but there are things that  firms do that allow similar opportunities.  Below is a list of things to do to strengthen internal controls.

1)      Have cash accounts reconciled by a person who does not handle cash and review the reconciliation yourself if possible.  Do not allow the entire process to be done by one person.  Have someone open the mail and list all cash/checks received and prepare the bank deposit.   After the cash has been “inventoried” independently, you now have accountability.

2)      Have the person in charge of cash take regular vacations.  While on vacation you have the ability to “poke around” and a person who is dishonest would be unwilling to take vacation.  If that person in your company resists taking vacations that could be a warning sign.   Usually a person committing fraud is described as a perfect employee, never taking vacations and working late until everyone leaves.  (It takes a lot of work to cover your tracks)

3)      Review all checks that are being written.   Better yet, personally sign them if at all possible and ask questions about anything irregular.  Ask questions – even when you know things are ok.  Make the person who generates the checks feel as they are under scrutiny.  You do not want to be writing checks to an accomplice such as XYZ Company, (the cousin, brother in law etc of your employee).   Watch for bogus vendors.

4)      Review all payroll tax deposits made and get confirmation they are made.  Again, the best solution is to make the deposits yourself.  Stealing payroll tax deposits is a common fraud tactic because the notices from the taxing authorities are slow in coming and arrive by mail allowing for a long lead time.   This is another reason why you should have the most trusted person you know or yourself open the mail.  That way, no surprises arrive months after your employee is long gone with stolen funds.

5)      My final bit of advice is this.  Don’t abdicate the responsibility for internal controls to anyone else.  Be involved in your business and keep your schedule from becoming routine.  Have people think you can show up at any time.  You can use this for your advantage in another way.  You can “catch” your employees doing something right.  Reward that when you see it.

 Have a great week and by the way, did you take that vacation yet?

Written by pacelinebiz

August 16, 2010 at 10:00 pm

What I did on my summer vacation…

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Since I have switched my blog into summer mode focusing on lighthearted topics, I have devoted a good deal of time to the Summer and Summertime activities.  On May 31st I kicked this off with Songs of Summer.  On June 14th I reminisced about the Contrarian Vacation and on June 28th wrote about Amusement parks. July 19th the heat wave was in full force and I was thinking about a Cool Treat on a Hot Day – Ice Cream.  Last week I warned everyone that Time Was Running Out on Summer.  Today, I will continue with the Summer theme and share some vacation plans I am working on to fit in a vacation before the season turns to fall.  After Labor Day, I will return to writing on business related topics every other week and will report on our vacation we are planning. 

 Our plans are fairly well-developed for our vacation.  We are planning on going to the Finger Lakes in New York State.   The first thing on my list of things to do will be a visit to Cooperstown, New York and the Baseball Hall Of Fame.  I would love to stay all day but will be considerate to my wife and will try to limit the visit to a reasonable amount of time.  Another activity on the list is touring the countryside on our bicycles.  We also will stop at some of the wineries for some wine tasting.  A visit to my wife’s Great Aunt in Rochester will fill up an afternoon as we will be close enough to stop by for lunch.  We will rent a cottage on one of the lakes and fill the rest of our time with general laziness and eating.  We are looking forward to the time off to recharge our batteries.  We will not bring our laptop computers and will mostly likely not have access to the internet. Cell phones will be turned off and voicemail will be checked but returned for emergencies only.  We will bring one piece of technology that intrigues me. My wife won an Apple iPad at a conference recently and I am curious about what to do with it.  I may write about this later in the fall to give my review of this odd “toy”.  I have heard that many larger companies are buying them for business use.  More about the iPad later.  For now, I will go back to planning the rest of my vacation.

 Have a great week and enjoy your Summer as the days are becoming more precious as the days get shorter.

Written by pacelinebiz

August 9, 2010 at 8:16 am

Time is running out

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On April 26th, I blogged about the death of Old Man Winter and made a list of things I wanted do this summer.  Below is my list and a status report as we enter the last month of summer. 

  • Have a refreshing beverage on my patio after doing some relaxing yard work – DONE!
  • Grilling hot dogs and hamburgers after work – DONE (repeatedly)
  • Grilling a nice juicy steak on the weekend to pair with my favorite red wine – I still need to do this.  I have done both but not together.
  • Having a hot dog at the ball park with that good stadium mustard – maybe a few nachos too for good measure!  I had my hot dog but no nachos.
  • Going for a casual evening walk after dinner with my sweetie – DONE(repeatedly)
  • Stopping to smell the roses – I didn’t think I would get to this one and so far I have not.
  • Cutting the roses – DONE!
  • Golfing, poorly – DONE!
  • A 2 hour bike ride that leaves me with a warm, fuzzy, tired feeling – DONE (repeatedly)
  • Going to the wine festival in August – Going this Friday
  • Making a batch of sun tea – DONE, drinking some now.
  • Eating homemade strawberry pie – The strawberry season is over and I missed my pie.
  • Tending to my vegetable garden and eating beans, tomatoes, lettuce and peppers grown in my backyard Done, having beans tonight.
  • Getting that “look” for forgetting to put on sunscreen on that 2 hour bike ride – DONE (repeatedly)
  • Listening to live music played outdoors at a concert – I will get this one done when I go to the wine festival and listen to live jazz.
  • Playing corn-hole in the back yard with neighbors – Not done and my neighbors are moving this Friday.
  • Seeing my neighbors again after winter “hibernation” – This one is done but so far we have not been as social this summer.
  • Washing my salty car! – Done, 1 time.

 How are you doing on your summer to do list?  Take the time now before it is too late to enjoy the lazy crazy days of summer.  Have a great week and get to work on those summertime activities.

Written by pacelinebiz

August 2, 2010 at 5:39 pm