Video Game Tester Jobs Can Jump Start You on Almost Any Game Development Path

September 23, 2016

Video game QA testing may be low on the game development totem pole, just above “personal projects” you’d never think about including in your resume. But used correctly, both can carry you a long way towards becoming a game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer.It’s all about broader experience inventory and growth through progress.It would seem fairly obvious. Look at anyone in college working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine, and what do you see them doing? That’s right, working at any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment) which they can find. They know even a role only loosely related to the one they aspire towards in their chosen field serves as a stepping stone towards more relevant positions once the opportunity becomes available.As is the case in medicine, software development is a industry made up of many narrow roles. If you’re only focused on “qualifying for your desired role”, you may end up short changing yourself in two ways. First, by not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained through non-professional work and personal hobbies. Second, by overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you.Let’s look at the first problem: “not recognizing applicable experience you’ve already obtained”.I don’t see this problem a lot in sales and marketing, regardless if it’s computer entertainment sales, advertisement sales, or used car sales. In fact, newer “greener” aspiring sales reps often need to learn a page from aspiring software developers about “Never put anything in your portfolio that someone wouldn’t pay you for”. Where the aspiring gaming professional falls short is recognizing what actually counts as valuable to those they present their resumes and portfolios to. They’ll often include what they consider “real job experience”, such as “Manager at Macy’s”, or “Audits and Accounting at Wells Fargo” (neither of which has anything to do with game or software development); but avoid including things like “my dorm mate and I wrote “Squares vs Circles” (an iPhone app) for fun while we were in college, it got 500,000 downloads within a month of release” (so what you are saying is, you wrote, developed, tested, and published popular and successful software on your own for fun?)It’s as if those aspiring to game development roles almost seem to have an “inferiority complex” when it comes to the kinds of experiences relevant to the gaming field. While considering any work they think of as “from a real company” with “a real paycheck attached” automatically more important. The thing is: the person looking over your resume doesn’t care about any of that. They’re not your dad who thinks you should get a “real job”, or your mom who worries about you’re “spending too much time on the internet”, they are people looking for someone with experience that has to do with games. Don’t discount experience because it was “just a personal project”. If you want to be hired in the area of game development you need to show how you have already performed successfully in game development. Whether or not you got paid, and regardless whether or not it resembles what you or your peers think of as “a real company”, “real work”, or “real professional”. What matters is that it was developing a game, and you completed the project as defined – or better. That’s what people want to hear about.

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Now take a look at the second problem: “overlooking potential resume building opportunities while limiting yourself only to the ones not available to you”.This one is a little trickier, because it requires a balancing act. You see, another important thing to remember is “Build your portfolio around a single focus”. I’m not going into detail about that here, as it mostly goes beyond the scope of this article. But, it needs to be mentioned as it’s the other end of the spectrum in so far as: on one level, you don’t want to overlook potential resume building opportunities, but at the same time, you don’t want to build a portfolio of non-relevant experience and garbage either.The best way to look at it is, if you have an opportunity to work in a position which is highly relevant to your desired role in gaming – say for example story line creator – by all means favor that work over work that’s less closely related. But when such positions are scarce or highly competitive, don’t overlook opportunity to work in any game development role – even if it falls outside the scope of the game development area you ultimately aspire towards.The reality is, jobs in game development are places where many come – but few may enter. There simply aren’t enough positions to fill in any one role for everyone who applies at the door. And even experience outside the role you aspire towards can help you as it gives you familiarity, exposure to a variety of technology, and broader experience with the roles of others you might have to later work with.The lowly and relatively low paying Video Game Tester Jobs.Compared to other gaming industry roles, video game QA tester is the lowest paying. According to The Game Developers 12th Annual Salary Survey (conducted in 2013), freelance and temporary assignment video game QA testers, with less than 3 years’ experience, earn an average of $22,000/yr., roughly equivalent to $10/hr. – assuming a 40 hour work week. This is because of the much lower amount of education needed to enter video game QA testing.However, consider those “working towards a career in a high paying field like medicine”, who I described at the beginning of this article; the ones taking “any job in a hospital, clinic, or private practice environment (a relevant environment)”. They’re doing this for a few good reasons. It helps to offset college costs, gives them a chance to gain experience and familiarization within a related work environment, and the jobs they take are often the “lower paying roles” due to lower entry-level education requirements – which equates to ease of entry. High turn-over rates as people in these positions attain the qualifications to move on to their desired careers, make these jobs readily available. And those who later move on to higher positions will have previous industry relevant experience to add to their resumes if needed. If needed being the key. If they don’t need it, or feel it would distract from experience more relevant to a particular job, they can always make less mention of it or leave it out entirely.Which bring us to the real question – why are those seeking software development careers so averse to including video game tester jobs along the way? Think back about the “inferiority complex” among “those aspiring to game development roles” which I spoke of earlier. And the corresponding “superiority complex” among those becoming “material” for higher paying, more respected roles such as graphics designer or programmer. When people think of, for example, becoming an environmental art designer, they often think of highly sophisticated technical skills, and expensive but well-worth-it college degrees – leading to well-earned and well-respected salaries. When people think of a QA tester job, they often think of someone who was lucky enough to get paid to play games.Video game quality assurance testing is seen by many as almost a kind of “red-headed-step-child”. Some treat it the same way one might treat a cheap book promising the secret to unbelievable income sold on a poorly done website alongside thin porn, payday loans, and mesothelioma related attorney services.The reality is – a video game tester job can provide the same things to the soon to be 3D character model designer that a clerical position with a small clinic provides to the soon to be medical technician, nurse, or doctor. Video game tester jobs are readily available, industry related, work with which you can offset other costs while in school or training for your desired role, gain experience and familiarity with the software development process, and which comes with relatively low entry requirements.Video game QA positions require only that you have a high aptitude for basic skills applicable to any job, such as attention to detail, ability to follow instructions, diligence, and being able to write reports. Yet they provide game industry experience, familiarity, and exposure to a wider variety of related technologies. Also, while QA testing may be “low paying” compared to other development roles, it’s actually on par with many part-time jobs that aren’t even career connected which people typically take while working towards their desired career path.

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The key is, don’t look at QA tester work as a job you “don’t take seriously”, consider it instead as a useful tool in a strategic plan. Consider those too good to be true offers you see promising “$4,000 a month playing games” for some small monthly fee. These offers are usually made by assignment aggregators. Assignment aggregators are companies in the business of offering a central location for freelance video game QA testers to find temporary video game QA assignments. Whether the promises of easy money come true or not, you could use those to get work (resume experience) handed to you even though you have not yet attained any work history or qualifications, in addition to some extra income. What you really want is for the assignments to serve as documented work history in QA Testing to support obtaining a regular entry-level position with a gaming company. You want to be able to say “I’ve completed projects in the gaming field”… as opposed to the other applicant who hasn’t.From here it depends on the options available to you, and your desired career path. If you’ve already chosen a career path in another game development role, then I’d recommend NOT moving all the way from freelance to full-time QA testing – as you want to focus your efforts on obtaining a job closer to your desired role. Until you do, you may wish to simply remain a freelance tester. Despite the lower hourly pay, this will give you the greatest flexibility and control over your time. Should you decide to become a regular part-time tester with a gaming company, the pay could actually outstrip many other non-career connected part-time jobs.If you’re still deciding when it comes to what role you want to have in game development, you may want to consider that QA testing does become more lucrative with experience – all-be-it not as quickly as in other development roles. It rises to just under $40,000/year as a full-time job with 3 years’ experience, and “maxes out” around $70,000/yr. Not as much as the $85,000/yr. you could be making as a programmer, but still fairly decent compared to other professional roles.Video game QA testing may be the lowest paid type of work in game development. However, those aspiring for such roles as game programmer, story line creator, or graphics designer would be wise to look beyond just work related to their desired role in game development.

Find Scrapbooking Titles in Music, Movies and Television

August 9, 2016

Are you ever stuck for a perfect phrase for your scrapbooking title? Maybe you just stick with the date or the seasons like summer or fall. Some scrapbookers title every page with the name of the subject in the photograph. It might be a place, like Disney World or the beach, or it could be a person’s name like Susan or Grandpa. Being creative with scrapbooking titles adds interest to a page layout just like embellishments and borders. Music, movies and television can offer inspiration and ideas for your scrapbooking titles that will capture the mood and theme of your next page layout.Scrapbooking Titles in MusicMusic inspires us all. How often have you heard a song on the radio and it immediately brings back a memory from years ago. It might be a song that was playing when you first dated your husband, or maybe it’s a song from your high school days that reminds you of your senior year. Songs have the ability to spark memories in all of us.

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For your next page layout, look to music for your inspiration. Song titles are great sources for scrapbooking page titles. Quoting a single song title may be all you need to say to start singing that song in your head. Some examples of song titles that could be used as scrapbooking page titles are “Simply Irresistible,” “Brown-eyed Girl,” and “You Are My sunshine.” Keep a list of possible song titles that would work well on your scrapbooking projects.Sometimes it’s the lyrics themselves that inspire us. You might want to use more than just the title. A lyric like, “These are the moments, and I could not ask for more,” will add just the right mood to a treasured photograph.Scrapbooking Titles in Television and MoviesConsider adapting television show titles like, “The Brady Bunch” and “Days of Our Lives” to a scrapbook page. Maybe something simple like “Survivor” or “Lost” says it all. Movie titles, such as, “Mission Impossible,” “Little Miss Sunshine” or “Back to the Future,” might be perfect for one of your layouts.Many TV and movie characters are known for a certain phrase or saying. These quotes often work well as scrapbooking titles. Does your favorite TV or movie character have a particular line that just fits with one of your photographs or scrapbooking pages? Think of phrases like, “How Sweet It Is,” “May the Force Be With You” or “Here’s Looking At You, Kid.”Scrapbooking Titles in Commercials and AdvertisingSlogans, sayings and jingles can all be a source of inspiration for scrapbooking titles. Those catchy phrases we never seem to forget also make fun headlines for our scrapbook pages. Scrapbooking titles can be found in the lyrics of commercial jingles, as well as, in the slogans on print advertising. The next time you are considering fast forwarding through the commercials of a taping of your favorite television show, you might consider listening to the advertisements for scrapbooking title ideas. There are many slogans that could easily be adapted to a page layout title. Consider using “I’m Lovin’ It,” or “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom,” or perhaps, “It’s the Real Thing” or “A Diamond Is Forever.”

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Movies, music and television can inspire a huge list of potential scrapbooking titles for just about any page layout. The next time you need ideas for a scrapbook page title just turn on your radio or television for inspiration.

Energy Explained Simply

October 7, 2016

Energy, it is fair to say, is a very vague concept. So where does one go to learn more? Does one have to take a physics course? I don’t think so, and to test my theory, I have tried to explain energy as briefly as I can, right here.Energy 101Energy is what makes the world go round. Literally. Every neuron that sparks in your brain, every electron that fires down a wire, every molecule burning in a fire, carries with it a sort of momentum that it passes on like a baton in a complex relay race. The batons are flooding in all directions all around us and across the universe – they are energy and we have learned how to harness them.The actual word “Energy” is a much abused term nowadays – because energy is used to represent such a disparate range of phenomena from heat to light to speed to weight, and because it seems to be able to change forms so readily, it is cannon fodder for pseudo-scientific and spiritual interpretation. However, you will be pleased to hear that it actually has a very clear (and consistent) nature.I like to think of energy being a bit like money – it is a sort of currency that can be traded. It takes on various forms (dollars/pounds/Swiss francs) and can be eventually cashed in to achieve something. However, just like money, once spent, it does not vanish. It simply moves on a new chapter in its life and may be reused indefinitely.To illustrate the point, let’s follow a ‘unit of energy’ through a visit to planet Earth to see what I mean. The [number] shows every time it changes currency (see the key below).The energy in our story starts off tied up in hydrogen atoms in the sun [1]. Suddenly, due to the immense pressure and heat, the nuclei of several atoms react to form a brand new helium atom, and a burst of radiation[2] is released. The radiation smashes into other nearby atoms heating them up so hot [4] that they glow, sending light [2] off into space. Several minutes pass in silence before the light bursts through the atmosphere and plunges down to the rainforest hitting a leaf. In the leaf the burst of power smashes a molecule of carbon dioxide and helps free the carbon to make food for the plant [3]. The plant may be eaten (giving food ‘Calories’), or may fall to the ground and settle and age for millions of years turning perhaps to coal. That coal may be dug up and burned to give heat [4] in a power station, boiling water to supply compressed steam [5] that may drive a turbine [6] which may be used to generate electricity [7] which we may then use in our homes to heat/light/move/cook or perhaps to recharge our mobile phone [3]. That energy will then be used to transmit microwaves when you make a call [2] which will mostly dissipate into the environment heating it (very) slightly [4]. Eventually the warmed earth radiates [2] this excess of heat off into the void where perhaps it will have another life…Energy currencies:[1] Matter is energy, according the Einstein, and the quantity relates to mass according to E=mc^2 (c is a constant equal to the speed of light).[2] Radiation (like sunlight) is a flow of energy, and energy content relates the frequency according to E=hf (h is the Planck constant).[3] Chemical energy – the most complex energy, a mixture of different tensions in nuclear and electromagnetic force fields.[4] Thermal (heat) energy- this is really just a sneaky form of kinetic energy [6 below] – small particles moving and vibrating fast are sensed by us as heat.[5] Compression (or tension) energy – while compressed air is again a sneaky form of kinetic energy[6], a compressed spring is different – it’s energy is more like chemical energy and is stored by creating tension in the force fields present in nature (gravity, electromagnetism and nuclear forces).

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[6] Kinetic energy – is energy by virtue of movement (like a speeding bullet or unstoppable train)[7] Electrical energy – this energy, like a compressed spring, is stored as stress in force fields, in this case electromagnetic force-fields.This short story is testament to an enormous quantity of learning by our species, but there are some clear exclusions to be read into the story: Energy fields (auras) or the energy lines in the body that conduct the “chi” (or life force) of Asian medical tradition
Energy lines on the Earth (aka Ley lines)
Negative or positive energy (as in positive or negative “vibes”)These energy currencies relate to theories and beliefs that science has been unable to verify and thus they have no known “exchange rate”. Asking how many light bulbs can you power with your Chi is thus a nonsensical question, whereas it would not be for any scientifically supported form of energy. And since energy flows account for all actions in the universe, not being exchangeable would be rather limiting.Where exactly is Energy kept?This may sound like s strange question, we know Energy is kept in batteries, petrol tanks and chocolate chip cookies. But the question is, where exactly is it stored in those things?Energy is stored in several ways:as movement – any mass moving has energy by virtue of the movement, which is called Kinetic Energy
as matter – Einstein figured out that matter is just a form of energy, and the exchange rate is amazing – 1g = 90,000,000,000,000,000 joules (from E=mc^2)
as tension in force fieldsThat last one sounds a bit cryptic, but actually most of the energy we use is in this form – petrol, food, batteries and even a raised hammer all store energy in what are essentially compressed (or stretched springs).What is a force field? Why on earth did I have to bring that up?All of space (even the interstellar vacuum) is permeated by force fields. The one we all know best is gravity – we know that if we lift a weight, we have to exert effort and that effort is then stored in that weight and can be recovered later by dropping it on your foot.Gravity is only one of several force fields known to science. Magnetic fields are very similar – it takes energy to pull a magnet off the fridge, and so it is actually an energy store when kept away from the fridge.The next force field is that created by electric charge (the electric field). For many years this was though to be a field all on its own but a chap called James Clerk Maxwell realised that electric fields and magnetic fields are in some senses two sides of the same coin, so physicists now talk of ‘electromagnetic’ fields. It turns out that electric energy (such as that stored in a capacitor) consists of tensions in this field, much like a raised weight is a tension in a gravity field. Perhaps surprisingly, light (as well as radio waves, microwaves and x-rays) are also energy stored in fluctuations of an energy field.Much chemical energy is also stored in electric fields – for example, most atoms consist of positively charged nuclei and negatively charged electrons, and the further apart they are kept, the more energy they hold, just liked raised weights. As an electron is allowed to get closer to the nucleus, energy is released (generally as radiation, such as light – thus hot things glow).The least well known force field is the strong ‘nuclear’ force. This is the forces that holds the subatomic particles (protons) together in the nucleus of atoms. Since the protons are all positively charged, they should want to repel each other, but something is keeping them at bay, and so physicists have inferred this force field must exist. It turns out their theory holds water, because if you can drag these protons a little bit apart, they will suddenly fly off with gusto. The strong nuclear force turns out to be bloody strong, but only works over a tiny distance. It rarely affects us as we rarely store energy with this energy field.Now we understand force fields we can look at how molecules (petrol, oxygen, chocolate) store energy. All molecules are made of atoms connected to one other via various ‘bonds’ and these bonds are like springs. Different types of molecules have different amount of tension in these bonds – it turns out coal molecules, created millions of years ago with energy from the sun, are crammed full of tense bonds that are dying to re-arrange to more relaxed configurations, which is exactly what happens when we apply oxygen and the little heat to start the reaction.The complexity of the tensions in molecules are perhaps the most amazing in nature, as it is their re-arrangements that fuel life as we know it.What exactly is Heat then?You may have noticed that I did not include heat as a form of energy store above. But surely hot things are an energy store?Yes, they are, but heat is actually just a sort of illusion. We use heat as a catch all term to describe the kinetic energy of the molecules and atoms. If you have a bottle of air, the temperature of the air is a direct consequence of the average speed of the molecules of gas jetting around bashing into one another.As you heat the air, you are actually just increasing the speed of particles. If you compress the air, you may not increase their speed, but you will have more particles in the same volume, which also ‘feels’ hotter.Solids are a little different – the atoms and molecules in solids do not have the freedom to fly around, so instead, they vibrate. It is like each molecule is constrained by elastic bands pulling in all directions. If the molecule is still, it is cold, but if it is bouncing around like a pinball, then it has kinetic energy, and feels hotter.You can see from this viewpoint, that to talk of the temperature of an atom, or of a vacuum, is meaningless, because temperature is a macroscopic property of matter. On the other hand, you could technically argue that a flying bullet is red hot because it has so much kinetic energy…Is Energy Reusable?We as a species, have learned how to tap into flows of energy to get them to do our bidding. So big question: Will we use it all up?Scientists have found that energy is pretty much indestructible – it is never “used-up”, it merely flows from one form into another. The problem is thus not that we will run out, but that we might foolishly convert it all into some unusable form.Electricity is an example of really useful energy – we have machines that convert electricity into almost anything, whereas heat is only useful if you are cold, and light is only useful if you are in the dark.Engineers also talk about the quality (or grade) of energy. An engineer would always prefer 1 litre of water 70 degrees warmer than room temperature, than 70 litres of water 1 degree warmer, even though these contain roughly the same embodied energy. You can use the hot water to boil an egg, or make tea, or you could mix it with 69 litres of room temperature water to heat it all by 1 degree. It is more flexible.Unfortunately, most of the machines we use, turn good energy (electricity, petrol, light) into bad energy (usually “low grade heat”).Why is low grade heat so bad? It turns out we have no decent machine to convert low grade heat into other forms of energy. In fact we cannot technically convert any forms of heat into energy unless we have something cold to hand which we are also willing to warm up; our machines can thus only extract energy by using hot an cold things together. A steam engine relies just as much on the environment that cools and condenses water vapour as it does on the coal its belly. Power stations rely on their cooling towers as much as their furnaces. It turns out that all our heat machines are stuck in this trap.

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So, in summary, heat itself is not useful – it is temperature differences that we know how to harness, and the bigger the better.This picture of energy lets us think differently about how we interact with energy. We have learned a few key facts:Energy is not destroyed, and cannot be totally used up – this should give us hope
Energy is harnessed to do our dirty work, but tends to end up stuck in some ‘hard to use’ formSo all we need to do to save ourselves is:Re-use the same energy over and over
by finding some way to extract energy from low grade heatAlas, this is a harder nut to crack than fission power, so I am not holding my breath. It turns out that there is another annoying universal law (the Second Law of Thermodynamics) that says that every time energy flows, it will somehow become less useful, like water running downhill. This is because energy can only flow one way: from something hot to something cold – thus once something hot and something cold meet and the temperature evens out, you have forever lost the useful energy you had.It is as if we had a mountain range and were using avalanches to drive our engines. Not only will our mountains get shorter over time but our valleys will fill up too, and soon we will live on a flat plane and our engines will be silent.The Big PictureSo the useful energy in the universe is being used up. Should we worry?Yes and no.Yes, you should worry because locally we are running out of easy sources of energy and will now have to start using sustainable ones. If we do not ramp up fast enough we will have catastrophic shortages.No, should should no worry that we will run out, because there are sustainable sources – the sun pumps out so much more than we use, it is virtually limitless.Oh, and yes again – because burning everything is messing up the chemistry of the atmosphere, which is also likely to cause catastrophe. Good news is that the solution to this is the same – most renewable energy sources do not have this unhappy side effect.Oh, and in the really long term, yes we should worry again. All the energy in the universe will eventually convert to heat, and the heat will probably spread evenly throughout the universe, and even though all the energy will still be present and accounted for, it would be impossible to use and the universe would basically stop. Pretty dismal, but this is what many physicists believe: we all exist in the eddy currents of heat flows as the universe gradually heads for a luke-warm, and dead, equilibrium.=============If you liked this article, you might like my series on efficient motoring.

Understanding Science – Its Application in Daily Life

August 29, 2016

Science is derived from the Latin term ‘scientia’, which means ‘knowledge.’ It is a systematic explanation of every element present in the universe. To understand the subject, you simply have to look around you. Everything you see, whether it is your computer screen, a pen, papers, your pet, the sun, or other things are all elements of science. Science covers everything from the smallest particle in an atom present in the circuits of your computer, to the complicated electrical fluctuations and chemical interactions within our bodies that enable us to read and perform other normal activities.The Characteristics of ScienceScience helps in answering questions in a simple and logical manner. It can also lead to advancements in technology, and help us improve our knowledge on enormously useful and important topics, like the environment, natural hazards, our health, and others. Science is the reason for the developments in the modern world, and scientists across the world continue to work, to unravel the mysteries of the universe. A multi-faceted and complex subject, science has fairly straightforward basic characteristics.

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Science limits its focus to the natural world, avoiding supernatural explanation about any given matter. It educates us about the natural world, what it is made of, what it contains, and how it works. It is more than a collection of factual data, and science is a long road to understanding the universe. It identifies answers by carrying out tests rather than speculating results. Observations and ideas form an integral part of science. Scientific ideas are accepted because they go through rigorous testing processes, but the emergence of new perspectives and evidences make these ideas subject to revisions.Fields and Branches of ScienceScience is commonly classified under two major categories: Social sciences (study of societies and human behavior), and natural sciences (study of natural phenomena such as biological life). Other disciplines in the subject include applied and interdisciplinary sciences, such as medicine and engineering. Although these scientific disciplines have their own expertise and nomenclature, they often include other inter-related disciplines.

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Formal science is another branch of the subject, which includes mathematics, logic, and statistics. Formal sciences are crucial in the formulation of laws, hypotheses, and theories related to social sciences (the manner in which humans or animals think or act), and natural sciences (the explanation about how everything works). Each discipline of science has sub-divisions that focus on particular sections of the subject.Why Study It?Science offers wide scope for people who are interested in exploring the mysteries of the universe. Getting science help will ensure that you better understand the natural world and how it works. A good science tutor is greatly beneficial for students who find the study of science difficult.

World’s Top Golf Resorts: Train and Play for Your Vacation!

September 11, 2016

The finest golf resorts in the United States, Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean can be your choice for your next vacation. Make it a train-and-play golf vacation! So many package deals are available to make your trip much more than a break from your routine. A golf vacation will be a practical experience of improving your golf game, enjoying a phenomenally peaceful and luxurious setting, and visiting a different state or a different country! This planning guide will point you to some of the best-rated golf resorts in the world.Whether you ultimately book for yourself or through an experienced golf travel specialist, begin your research online where you can find premium golf courses and travel bargains. Rates, resort amenities and golf course details are available. But look further for the packages that include airfare, hotel accommodations and green fees to get your best value. The typical packaged Golf Resort Vacation will include most of these features:Airfare
Resort Accommodations
Confirmed Tee Times
Prepaid Green Fees
Shared Cart for 18 Holes
Equipment Rental
Golf Lessons
Meals at Exclusive Restaurants
Transfers to the Course
Transfers to the Airport
All Taxes and Service ChargesGolf courses are planned in lovely surroundings where you can take in sea breezes or views of lush vegetation, and you can combine golf with other resort amenities to provide a well-rounded vacation.For instance, try one of the many glamorous Club Med Golf Resorts with beautiful fairways in the most unforgettable, inviting locations around the world. Club Med offers deals including the best equipment and golf lessons for all levels! Its locations include Cancun, Mexico, as well as Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Other locations span the world: Turks and Caicos, Mauritius, Portugal, France, Italy, Brazil, Thailand, Morocco, Egypt, Senegal, and in the United States–Sandpiper Bay, Florida.

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Scotland has some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world and there are approximately 100 resorts, called “golf hotels,” among the 500-plus golf courses throughout the country. Best known are Turnberry, Gleneagles and The Old Course Hotel St. Andrews. Each of these has spa, leisure facilities, excellent restaurants and “golf tuition” packages for all levels.Mexico has numerous golf resorts perched in luxurious coastal locations. There are golf resorts at Cancun, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos. Also, Mexico has its championship Baja version of California’s famous “Pebble Beach” golf resort, called Bajamar, only a few hours’ drive from San Diego in Ensenada.For the United States, check online for some of the golf resorts suggested by key magazines such as Golflink’s which publishes The Top 100 United States Golf Courses. This issue ranks the best out of more than 21,000 public and private golf courses across the country. However, within that one hundred courses, you want to search for the resorts with package programs and golf lessons. Among the top hundred, you will find that the main vacation-destination states with golf resorts are in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas. Let’s review these states for their best locations:In sunny, always temperate Florida, Club Med’s Sandpiper Bay Golf Academy offers 2-day and 3-day golf courses. The Academy includes all aspects of the game, such as Chipping, Putting, Bunker, Pitching and Lob Shot, Full Swing with Irons and Woods. A video analyzing your swing is provided, as well as an optional video comparing your swing to that of a pro player. Also, the area within and around Miami has regional golf resorts for year-round vacationing. Each resort offers on-site amenities and services, both on and off the course, and minutes away from major Miami attractions, like South Beach and Miami MetroZoo. You will have a multitude of options during a golf vacation here.
Arizona has a climate that is suitable for many months of the year and Scottsdale has nearly 200 golf courses, many with the picturesque backdrop of the Sonoran Desert. It is a golf destination with golf schools and pro shops. Here, many resorts offer high-quality accommodations and championship golf courses. Most golf resorts offer packages where hotel guests can have discounted green fees. Also, Sedona, Arizona, offers numerous golf resorts with a mild year-round climate and spectacular red-rock scenic views.
In California, Pebble Beach has been known for being a small coastal golf destination nestled in beautiful Monterey County. It is home of the prominent Pebble Beach Golf Links, the Pebble Beach Lodge and the prestigious Inn at Spanish Bay. Each year, golfers return to rub shoulders with golf professionals and experience nature at its finest on the magnificent golf course laid out by leading golf course designers. The harmony of golf layouts and the majestic coast are awe-inspiring!
Another golfer’s paradise is conveniently located along the south Atlantic coast at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It combines natural beauty and world-class golf on a barrier island 12 miles long and five miles wide. Nicklaus, Palmer and other golf legends have frequently played these championship courses. Since the first course opened at Sea Pines in 1961, there are now emerald links at Harbour Town and outstanding courses in Bluffton, as the Hilton Head area has become a major golf center. It is legendary for its spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean, scenic marshes, and maritime forests with abundant wildlife. The temperate climate and year-round sunshine also makes Hilton Head Island the perfect place to tee off.
Las Vegas, Nevada, is quietly emerging as one of the United States’ fastest growing golf destinations amidst the glitz and glamour of its casinos. The city’s huge convention center and innumerable hotel rooms make it a natural haven for large-scale golf events. With the year-round sunshine and mild temperatures, and plenty to do after a full day of playing golf from gambling to seeing entertaining shows, this golf destination will continue to grow.
CNN ranked Austin, Texas the No. 1 city for golf in its Golf.com of 2010. Framed by the Texas Hill Country, Austin’s golf courses are among the best in the United States. The region is highlighted by the Wolfdancer Golf Club which was named No. 56 in Golfweek’s top 100 resort golf courses in 2009. In addition to being a great contemporary music city, and home of numerous celebrities, Austin offers vacationing golfers great barbeque, an idyllic, year-round climate and luxury accommodations.

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Your best package deal will be at all-inclusive resorts, where air flight, lodging, meals and golf activities are rolled into one price. On the other hand, consider traditional hotels and resorts in the locations suggested. With a little online planning, one of the finest golf resorts in the world can be your affordable choice. Enjoy the location, the exploration of the region while you improve your golf game and provide a joyful, well-rounded vacation for your family and loved ones!(c) 2012 Elizabeth McMillian

Rep V. Direct: How to Best Organize a Sales Team

September 9, 2016

Sales executives are constantly searching for the ideal structure of the sales team. Should the team be composed only of direct sales people? Should the team be composed only of manufacturers’ representatives? Experience shows that a hybrid sales organization, composed of a blend of direct and indirect sales employees (manufacturers’ representatives), combines optimal performance, cost effectiveness and flexibility.If one observes several sales organizations over an extended period, she’s able to see that relatively often, sales executives make sweeping changes to those organizations, from all direct to all rep, and from all rep to all direct. Invariably, the observer is able to note that sales management ultimately reverses many of those sweeping changes. Sometimes sales executives benefit from observing changes made by others. Unfortunately, too many sales executives develop the understanding of the benefits of a hybrid organization by making one or more poor decisions and then repairing the organization after problems surface. The most durable of sales organizations are those that use a hybrid technique, employing a mix of both direct sales staff and manufacturers’ representatives. Sales teams composed entirely of all direct people or entirely of manufacturers’ representatives are generally not ideal.Why “Direct Only” Teams Are Not IdealMany CEOs and executive teams believe that the best way to build relationships with customers is with a sales team composed only of direct employees. In this example, sales staff cannot be distracted with unrelated business and other product lines. No one can blame the inexperienced CEO and executive team for thinking this way. A salesperson is able to devote 100 percent of this time to the company. A direct sales team suffers from far fewer distractions than a rep sales team. However, experienced CEOs and executive teams understand that they must thoroughly look at a direct sales team before converting to it. Direct sales teams are quite expensive to train and support. The company must support offices in all major markets. Those offices bring along with them assorted costs: rent, administrative support, office equipment, utilities, etc. A competent manager who can work well and represent the company without direct supervision must manage the office. The company must train and occasionally upgrade each office manager.When sales are growing, the office manager must hire and train new sales staff. The company must train the manager in hiring and training techniques. The company must also train the office manager in firing techniques, in hopes of avoiding legal problems.As sales grow, the office must expand to meet growing demands upon the sales office. Cost of sales rises as sales grow. Sales, however, do not grow forever. Ultimately, sales flatten and roll over. Sales usually roll over earlier and more abruptly than hiring plans. Sales may dip at anytime during the year, but hiring plans are usually set at the beginning of each calendar or fiscal year. As a result, hiring is sometimes still underway when industry and office sales are falling. Such dynamics create an environment whereby cost of sales, (as measured by the total cost of running the sales office, divided by the total revenue that the office generates, expressed as a share of sales) rises rapidly.

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When a sales office has healthy sales, the company can manage its cost of sales and support them at a predetermined level. If sales grow for a long period, the company can manage the office to cut cost of sales. The sales office can benefit from economies of scale. A sales office supporting 20 salesmen doesn’t need more copiers, fax machines and conference rooms than an office supporting only 10 salesmen. Unfortunately, sales ultimately roll over. It is difficult to cut costs immediately. The office manager must usually see several months or quarters of declining sales before realizing that he must cut costs, including headcount. During this time, cost of sales rises, sometimes well above tolerated levels. The sales office manager and the company cannot cut costs quickly. Which is a chief reason that totally direct sales teams are undesirable.Why “Rep Only” Teams Don’t Yield Peak PerformanceRep only sales organizations afford a number of benefits to the sales executive. The sales teams are already in place. Hiring and firing of salesmen is not the direct responsibility of the sales executive or his regional sales managers. Manufacturers’ representatives generally hire and fire as sales move up and down. The cost of running a rep only sales organization rise and fall directly with the level of sales. A significant benefit of the rep only sales organization is that cost drops immediately when sales drop. It’s possible to accurately forecast cost of sales as a share of total revenue. Cost can never get out of control by hiring too many salesmen, buying too many computers, or leasing too large an office; not infrequent problems for direct sales organizations.Manufacturers’ representatives are not always the panacea for companies looking to hire or expand a sales organization. Large customers often demand direct sales staff; not indirect staff from a manufacturers’ representative. Large customers view their largest suppliers as strategic partners, and like the ability to communicate directly with those suppliers. Communications is sometimes slower and less clear when a customer must communicate with a manufacturers’ representative, who in turn communicates with the supplier. Customers may set the style with which they deal with suppliers as part of their purchasing strategy. For example, they may decide to deal with no more than two or three suppliers on any commodity and to deal with those suppliers directly. This disallows conducting business through manufacturers’ representatives. A supplier must recognize and honor such a strategy, or be ready to suffer undesirable consequences. A supplier must never turn a tin ear to a request from a customer demanding direct sales representation.Large suppliers view their largest customers as strategic partners, and like the ability to communicate directly with those customers. They view the delay when communicating through a manufacturers’ representative as an unnecessary burden. When large suppliers invest management time with strategic customers, they do not want to dilute that investment by sharing management time with manufacturers’ representatives. The incapacity to offer direct coverage to strategic customers is the primary reason that a sales team composed only of manufacturers’ representatives is unattractive.First and Foremost: Do No HarmRecognizing that something is wrong, many sales executives make bold, sweeping structural changes to their sales teams. Fire all reps and hire a direct sales team. Fire all direct salesmen and hire a network of manufacturers’ representatives. Either approach will certainly repair some problems. More than likely, however, extreme changes are very prone to creating new problems of equal or greater scale.Why do so many companies replace one poor-performing sales organization with another that destined to yield performance that is no better than the original? The two most common reasons are inexperience and weakness of the sales executive compared to the rest of the management team. Perhaps the inexperienced sales executive has risen through a single company with an all-direct or all-rep sales force. Now, managing the global sales organization, he opts for sweeping change from all-direct to all-rep, or from all-rep to all-direct sales without benefit of understanding thoroughly the benefits and problems with either a pure-rep or pure-direct organization. Alternatively, the inexperienced sales executive may have developed his management skill at a company employing an all-direct sales organization. He may not feel comfortable managing if hired into an all-rep company. No one can fault a sales manager if he sees massive problems and concludes that he must make sweeping change to an all-direct sales organization. Only inexperience allows him to make a major, highly disruptive change.Another reason companies make dramatic changes in the structure of a sales organization is that the sales executive is weak. If cost-of-sales, expressed as a share revenue is too high, the CEO, the rest of the executive team, or both can apply pressure on the sales executive to affect change and cut cost. If the sales executive lacks the strength to defend his team or the structure of the sales organization, he merely becomes the messenger, not the manager.

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The message to the sales executive feeling pressure to make sweeping change in a sales organization is to adhere to the Hippocratic Oath: First, do no harm. Any sweeping change imposed upon the structure of a sales team will initially be disruptive. Make sure to justify the disruption and be very sure that the change, once implemented, is most likely irreversible. Sweeping change brings disruption, higher cost of sales and lower productivity. All of this might be worthwhile. However, if a sales manager imposes sweeping change and then reverses course within a year or two, disruption from the reversal is much greater and more costly. A reversal of an organization change brings with it disruption, higher cost of sales and lower productivity just like the original change. However, an organizational reversal can erode the sales team’s enthusiasm. A company can handle disruption, higher cost of sales and lower productivity if repaired relatively quickly. Repair of an unmotivated sales team takes much more time.”Hybrid Sales Teams” Work BestA supplier always looks to optimize its sales organization. If a company continuously focuses on cost of the sales organization, use of manufacturers’ representatives is mandatory. The benefits of manufacturers’ representatives are too great to ignore. However, manufacturers’ representatives may not satisfy the requirements for some customers. Strategic customers demand direct interface, excluding the use of reps. The best alternative then, is to merge some of the best features of both a rep and a direct sales organization. Implement a direct sales team to cover the sales to all strategic customers, while simultaneously bringing about a sales team of manufacturers’ representatives to cover all other customers.A hybrid sales team benefits from the cost effectiveness of manufacturers’ representatives. The same team can deal directly with strategic customers. The sales executive may take advantage of the non-disruptive flexibility when adding or deleting customers on strategic customer list. A secondary benefit of a hybrid sales organization is bench strength. Well-seasoned, top-performing direct sales personnel represent a talent pool from which from which to draw regional sales managers.ConclusionExperience shows that a hybrid sales organization, composed of a blend of direct and manufacturers’ representatives combines optimal performance, cost effectiveness and flexibility. The most durable sales organization is one that uses a hybrid technique. Sales teams composed entirely of all direct staff or entirely of manufacturers’ representatives too often underperform.

Use of Drones in Aerospace/Defense

October 9, 2016

The development of unmanned aerial systems, or drones was initially for military purposes. As these aerial systems did not require an onboard pilot, they were seen as a useful weapon on the battlefield. Not only does a drone decrease the mortality rate of the soldiers, it also provides the military a chance to spy on the enemy in a discrete manner.Drones have become an important component of national defense for the following reasons.· A drone is an unmanned vehicle, that is, it does not require any one to be on it to be controlled. This is possible because it can be controlled using a remote control. Though it is mandatory that it is still controlled by a trained pilot, it does not require the pilot to go with it.

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· The US military has been using drones to search for terrorists in Afghanistan and have proved how useful they are for conducting covert military operations.· Drones can be used for various purposes such as searching for hidden terrorists, gunning the terrorists down in their own areas and searching for the hidden landmines using hyperspectral imaging sensors.· Keeping an eye on the air space of the country.· Keeping a check on the borders of the country without threatening the lives of the most precious soldiers.The use of the US Army’s Global Hawk in the combat field of Afghanistan has already made news. This has triggered a race between countries to own and develop this technology as soon as possible. Countries like UK and China and India are already way ahead in the research and development of drones for their respective defense forces.The use of drones even by the army is not only for combat and espionage purposes. This technology is largely being developed for the times when a crisis hits the nation. The military is trying to use drones in areas that have suffered fire or earthquake where the military and air force is called in to rescue people. This is the humanitarian aspect of the use of drones. Drones are sent in difficult to reach places to search for survivors. When the images from a drone shows the presence of any survivor, special teams are sent in to carry out rescue operation. This has saved many lives and is sure to save a number of lives in future too.

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The countries that are trying to be the controlling factors in the world need to have this technology soon. UK has started by bringing together all of its top engineers to develop homemade UAVs and there were news about the flight of their first UAV named Taranis.The use of UAVs cannot replace the fighter jets or the satellites, however, they can be used for surveillance missions that can’t be performed by fighter jets as they are too big and therefore can be spotted quite easily by radar. Drones are definitely one of the “must haves” for any good army in the future.

The 7 Pillars of Branding

September 13, 2016

Although the question of branding has always been essential part of marketing and has been approached with multi-dimension models, sometimes these studies have been made without systematic approach or with full of redundancy or ad-hoc views. Unlike marketing which has the widely-known and usable, practical 7P-model, branding still misses such a sort of basic structure which makes the skeleton of all branding story.Here I am making an outline of such a simplified model to help people in successfully designing brands and also to better understanding the already existing ones. I collected 7 layers of the branding with 7 different tasks to be completed in everyday actions. I hope this can be useful for the readers, too.Right before entering this syllabus, we need to define what brand and branding is: in our view brand is a vision that is related to a specific company, product or any specific entity which lives in people and materializes to them. Branding is the art of deliberate control over the whole process.First pillar: Publicly knownA brand always defines a smaller or bigger group of people who are somehow aware of the product or the service in question. This is the prerequisite or trivial condition of all brands: if you are the only one who knows a specific service or uses a specific product and no information is publicized, the service or product is unable to evolve into a brand. This is the primary task of all marketing efforts, making our specific product or service (along with its whole branding costume) widely known on the addressed market: the majority of the marketing budget is used for this purpose. At this point we normally pay attention to the details of the publicity of all brands: target segment(s), its content, geographic, demography, media, communication methods, timing etc.Task 1: design and make your publicityHowever, the fame of a product or service is not exclusively based on the publicity gained (mostly depending on the money available for promoting the brand) via frontal, push-type of promotion. Money spent on communications is a very important factor to reach the second stage of publicity: the people involved in the communications flow will probably share the information with each other and start a – sometimes very simple and few words – discussion about the product or service heard. The act of sharing the information with each other happens or has happened with all known brands. Suggestions, opinions made in public are very important in articulating brand and thus creating or strengthening/weakening brands. This is why the importance of Facebook in contemporary marketing cannot be overestimated enough, or, with similar effect, the customer service/problem handling has always been focal point of customer satisfaction and branding, too.The publicity of branding therefore incorporates all means of sharing the information related to a specific brand or service. There are two basic type of publicities: there is of course the strictly controlled information sharing method (typically: marketing communications) and we also have to face a second publicity, the huge uncontrolled means of communication. When we are thinking on designing a new brand or just examining an existing one, we have to enlist all the ways how the specific brand gains publicity and sort them by relevance with regards to the public coverage and effect, making special attention to the uncontrolled ways of publicity.The success of controlling publicity is a key to profit from branding, however, public control will never mean information monopoly over the media and over the outcome: even situations when a company has theoretically 100% control over the situation (e.g. customer care desk at the office or shop), it is always a challenge to control what is exactly happening there, what is going to be told or heard. Thus, from micro to macro level the publicity always carries a huge uncertainty factor with regards to reach, direct effect and future implications.Second pillar: Associative and narrative – stories aroundThe discussions initiated and information shared publicly about a brand (or a branded product or service) would show up the next major characteristic of brands, that is, the power of the coupling or association related to the branded products or services. In other words, branding means that we create stories around a brand. Brand identity or personality, brand vision, brand promise are the official stories reflecting the narrative of a generic brand on different levels. Marketing creative planning is exactly doing the same around a specific product of a brand (e.g. ‘The environment friendly Toyota Prius’ as a story), while general brand stories (I mean the Toyota brand in the example) or associations are on higher level only. We therefore have to consider several layers of brand stories or narratives when examining them. It is very useful when these stories are consistent and formed professionally and are not contradicting to each other.

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Brands are incorporating many stories and ideas not just from individual products and services determined by the company but stories and ideas also coming from the public. Unfortunately – as we mentioned above – we cannot control the majority of the perceptions of our brand. Individual opinions, perceived qualities, good or bad experiences are building the narrative universe, or more simply, the stories of a brand.Task 2: define and drive brand storiesNotwithstanding the above, we can drive these brand stories and narrow them to the desired ones on at least two-three different areas. The mission statement of a company/organization is the very source of official brand stories and determines the branding direction via its written values and operational reasons. Secondly, the slogan or the tagline of a brand (like LG’s Life’s Good) is meant to embody the driving narrative story and works like a magnet: collects all the associations around a brand. The third layer of story comes along with specific products or services: repeating the slogans, taglines while inserting the logo of the brand on individual products/services makes the specific product or service painted with the general brand’s associations and qualities. The individual story of a product or service is like a topping on the branding cake. Pure brand campaigns on the other hand are always aiming outlining and fixing the desired main stories and narratives of qualities in the customers.Controlling publicity cannot be done without controlling the stories attached to a specific brand and seems the major task of all branding and communications managers. Here, we have to highlight a related issue which behaves like the blind spot of the branding: rebranding. Rebranding campaigns are to change the very basic story of a brand. This is the reason why these campaigns fail many times and real rebranding is a very seldom event.Third pillar: Concrete and multiplicative formIn real life we always give tangible forms to brands because we want to make profit from our money spent. Brand without concrete product/service to buy (or without a related person when we talk about personal brands) is useless or just a promise (like the newly planned Jolla mobile OS with only a demo video). The embodiment of a Brand is an essential part of its very nature.Normally we use the power of a general Brand Name for many individual products. An already existing brand hands over its potentials (its stories of qualities, usage, value etc.) to specific, individual products and even when we see a new product of an already known brand we are already having a presupposition or sense of certain expectations towards the brand new product. A VW car is perceived for many as a reliable one; however, it may happen that a much lower quality is introduced in a new model than what the brand had fulfilled at its predecessors.Task 3: make several appearances to utilize brand powerMost times we may say that a brand is transferred into several products and therefore it is multiplicative. It is very seldom that an earned reputation of a brand represented in only one product or service. For example the perfume 4711 seems to be transferred only into one product for a long time, but the brand’s product portfolio today consists of more than one item: after shave or even shower gel is also produced. Start-ups typically own only one product and normally the first product is the one that determines and forms the brand later on. Initially, the brand is typically built upon on only one product or service and this is why it is very sensitive when entering a market with a new company and a new product: it also determines the future brand and products the company assessed with.Personal brands, seen superficially, are not multiplicative: a person who has double face (see politicians) and therefore not able to form a consistent and concrete personal brand, are subject to lose their reputation and their face rapidly. This is because brands can have only one concrete (credible) story, without major contradictions. The multiplicative nature of personal brands should be investigated from another perspective. In case we regard a person’s appearances in public as concretizations and multiplications of his/her brand, we are closer to the truth and we understand better why celebrities and politicians are so keen on public appearances.Fourth pillar: Unique propositionThe history of branding is stemming from the wish of making a producer’s goods identifiable. This is not just to ensure the identity of goods but also to prevent from copying and forgery. The brands around us are still carrying these old attributes: the logo of the company/brand is expressing the uniqueness of a brand (supported by law as trade marks) and helps us to identify a specific brand in the universe of brands and signs.Sometimes it is very hard to make distinction based on the products/services alone: Pepsi and its rivals put in a neutral glass next to each other are unidentifiable, so the use of branding techniques is crucial for gaining profit for both companies. Just like in the cola case, the technological industry also heavily relies on the branding when selling its products or services: PCs, laptops, smart phones or internet accesses are very similar to each other. Or, a tax advisory service consultant firm is facing real challenges to provide specific brand vision.Task 4: find and use the means of brand differentiationsThe unique proposition of the brands has to be built up and shown for the public: the individual logos of brands on devices for example help the company to make distinction from their competitors and help the customers to identify different market players in order to make a personal choice of preference. Most times companies heavily rely on the unique brand distinguishers, like stories about their unique market segment, tailor-made products, additional services they provide etc. Sometimes, when stories among a group of competitors are very similar or compatible (like the Big Four Auditors) and even their service is similar, a common story may evolve around them focusing on more the similarity and indirectly expressing the exclusivity of the group members.Fifth pillar: ValueWhen we identify a brand on its telltale signs (e.g. design) or logo we do not think on what we see first (the product itself) but rather we focus on the brand value represented by the specific product or service. We may say (even without seeing the product) that if you are having Martin Logan stereo speakers that is very cool, but if you are having Philips that is not so awesome. Different brands represent different values: there are low-end and high-end brands with many in between. Start-up companies have to position their brand value on the axis predetermined by the existing market players. Making decision on positioning the companies’ services or products on the lower or higher end of this axis has nothing to do with ethical values: a low-end, cheap car helps many disabled or poor people without doubt. Rather, making the choice of brand values determine the market we are about to target. And this target market decision affects our business outlooks directly. When Toyota launched it Lexus series and decided to focus on the higher end cars they probably considered the higher profit option.The value of a brand is also expressed in a more measurable way. In general ledgers brands are valued as a part of the company’s goodwill and are very sensitive for new product introductions and for amortization, too. From financial point of view brands regarded as assets that have been created due to investment and are also subject to lose or increase their values.Task 5: define and carry brand valuesThe value of a brand emanates into individual products of a company and the value of the sold products affects the value of the brands. More surprisingly, the value of a brand may transfer over the buyer persona influencing the perceived value of a person in a certain group of people (see Apple fan-effect) while the network-effect of the public also modifies the brand value (exclusivity, limited models are also able to increase brand value).The relative price of a product or the whole branded portfolio both has very special connection with the brand value: the higher the price positioned the harder to imagine low brand value. This is because the narrative of the price (see Second pillar) influences the brand value. Other narratives of a brand (how durable it is, for instance, or which celebrities are using this brand) heavily effect the brand value, too. Similarly, the extent of public spread (see First pillar – how much the brand is known, how much spent on advertising) also effects the brand value.Brand value is determined by several other factors even not listed here. It is partly the result of deliberate actions of the company (market positioning of the brand and its products) but also exposed to external factors (like time) and public opinion.( LG’s rebranding from the low-end Goldstar brand to the higher positioned LG showed that value propositions of a brand require efforts in both areas. Grundig made the opposite U-turn when sold to Chinese company.)

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Sixth pillar: personal relationAll the pillars encountered previously are summoning on personal level because the nature and the definition of branding 100% relates to human feelings and perceptions. Most cases we can translate this personal effect and feelings to perceived brand values and the position of a brand in the customers’ head. People know or do not know, like or dislike brands, become haters or fans of brands, recommend or just accept certain brands.Task 6: turn personal relation to actionAs a result, this personal disposition of a brand clearly ends up in the relation to the act of buying. We, marketing professionals should not deny the aboriginal intention of our branding efforts to influence buying decisions on personal level. We are not just simply influencing people in business for the sake of general human aims: we do not want world peace; we do want to have our specific products and services sold. We want to convince John or Clair Smith as individual customers to select our service or product. This is the action we – or more generally: the investors – expect from any investments (including brand campaigns) made.Fortunately we not all live in the business sector, not all follow business aims (i.e. sales) in our lives. Surprisingly, non-profit organizations are not so much different from business ventures from this point of view. Non-profits also want to have a specific action to be reached: an action that is maybe appearing directly (like giving donation for starving people) but can be mental action or change to be targeted (for instance diversity campaigns).The personal relation to a branded entity can be outlined in a matrix where on the first axis we can define the readiness or probability of buying action (or in a non-profit: readiness for action) and on the second axis we may highlight the level of brand’s emotional acceptance.The personal relation to a specific brand with regards to the ultimate sales reason can be mapped as shown, but we should not forget that personal emotions and relations to brands are much wider than presented above: some people feel that their beloved brand is expressing also their way of life, involving several other actions well beyond a simple shopping; or just feeling neutral about a brand while the person is not going to be represented in any commercial situation (like myself with any hunting brands, although I know some of them).We should therefore identify very precisely the personal relations to our brand of our existing and potential customers and we should make focused actions to harvest the branding efforts we have previously made.Seventh pillar: Exposure to timeWe have already mentioned before the amortization as an important factor in brand values. The simple reason of amortization is that the brands (via materialized products/services) and the customers live in time.The general life exposure to time factor represented in concrete shapes with regards to brand itself and to its specific products/services. (Amortization is only the result of that process.) Brand perception very much effected by the products/services in timeline (e.g. how much up-to-date the product is reflects the brand’s state-of-the-art nature) and on the other hand the brand itself (without looking at individual products) also has an individual character which has its own life-cycle (how old a brand is, what type of products they represent).Task 7: Consider time: plan and replan over timeBrands do not last for ever and are changing over time, even without deliberate actions. Amortization expresses the time-factor in economic terms but all the pillars mentioned before has a time layer. The repeated actions of marketing campaigns, the product developments or changes in market environments change the face of the brand even if it is not perceived by the company. The sad story of Nokia is a perfect example of how this specific brand was effected by the time factor in all possible way, from the publicity of its phones (a complete new generation has skipped Nokia phones), through the changes in the narratives attached to the brand, with the refreshed need to be unique again to the sharp decline of the brand value.

How To Start A Photography Business – Knowing When You’re Really Ready And Knowing Other Differences

October 6, 2016

Here’s a question: How do you know when you’re ready to start a photography business? Answer: When you ‘know’ that you ‘know’ (the doublespeak is for emphasis) the difference between your artistic photography skills and your understanding of business. Knowing the difference makes the difference between success and failure when you start any type of business, for that matter.Tip #1Think about it, the art of taking pictures is getting easier and easier – especially with the advancement of technology. Digital technology has made photography so easy that it appears that everybody and their brothers and their sisters are photographers! Such ease makes photography a very popular attraction and very compelling to start a photo biz.But, what many budding photographers fail to realize and take seriously is that: Business is Business. Whether selling teddy bears, cell phones or photography, the business principles are the same. And they are basic and simple (not easy – simple). Successful photographers aren’t necessarily the most skilled. They understand and practice the basic and simple principles of running a photography business. They also don’t confuse the quality of their photography with the need to plan, market and operate their photography business.Don’t be confused! You must consistently produce top-notch quality products and photographic services. Constantly improving your skills is critical. So is the learning and consistent practice of business principles. If you don’t consistently practice the necessary business principles, budding photographers that do know the difference and practice the principles will get the customers and the business that should be yours. If you fail to practice the principles you will fail at your photography business attempts. Period. You will be another charter member of the ‘starving artist’ club! There’s a reason why they’re ‘starving!’

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Once you do start a picture-taking business, every day that you’re in business there’s opportunity to grow and prosper, and the chance to stagnate and fail. Your being clear on the difference between photography practices and business practices determine the success of your photography business more than your photographic skills and talents. Be sure to spend as much time developing your photography skills as you do your business (marketing, self-promotion activities, for example) skills and you will find success.Compliment vs Reality – Tip #2Most budding photographers have this experience: a good friend, family member or neighbor sees a photograph and ‘raves’ how good it looks and how ‘valuable’ it ‘should’ be! Somewhere in their raving they proclaim, “you should sell that, you’ll probably make a lot of money!” Red flag warning! What is given as a compliment of your photograph is instantly translated to your having a “diamond” that you can sell and that will change your ‘status’ in life. Here’s a test: the next time you receive such a ‘compliment,’ do this: thank them and then ask them how much are they willing to pay you for the photo? I promise you that the same ‘expert’ that just raved about your valuable artwork will pass on the ‘opportunity’ to grab up your ‘valuable’ artistic photo. In the photography business value is determined by other criteria than a compliment or two. Knowing the difference contributes to your success in business.Develop your knowledge and skill and your confidence as a photographer will dramatically increase. Likewise with business: develop and practice basic business principles and your confidence as a successful professional photographer will dramatically increase. I promise.Research Builds Confidence – Tip #3Do your research. Go online and read the available research on the business of photography. Read before you buy. Online research is just a click away. Take your time. Take advantage of free and easily available information online. If you choose to buy something offered, determine what goals you want to accomplish and ask yourself will what you’re buying help you to really meet your goals. Avoid the resources that promise and guarantee you that you can make $200 – $300 a day overnight – for obvious reasons. Also, there are no “secrets that the pros don’t want you to know!” There is information that you do not know now. But, isn’t information that is unknowable or impossible to find out – they’re just unknown to you at this time. Do your research. Besides, if they’re for sale, how “secret” can they be? Do your researchIn the business of photography, it is more profitable to specialize. Specialization (also referred to as your “photography niche”) is how your customers will find you. Another development of technology is how customers – those who can afford and are willing to spend money for photography – find the photography that they buy. They look for something specific (in photographer speak that means “photography niche”). Go online and do a search on “photography niche” and take advantage of the information available. Remember, read before you buy; there are no “secrets that the pros don’t want you to know;” and great photography does not sell itself. In the world of business, nothing does.For business purposes, go online and do a search on different business topics that you want more information about. For example, do a search for “photography marketing” or “marketing for photographers” or “amateur photography tips” or “how to sell photos online” or “how to start a photography business” etc. etc. Read before you buy.Know And Start Where You Are And Be ‘Sincere’ – Tip #4

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Start where you are with the equipment that you have. If you don’t have a photography studio don’t take on photography jobs that require a studio. Don’t be all things to all people – remember, specialize (research “photography niche” – you’ll be head and shoulders above the majority of your competition). If you feel that you have to purchase equipment to take on a job – that’s a red flag that you’re not ready, yet. In successful photography, the profit is in the “photography niche” and your understanding of that simple difference.Doing your research will prepare you for one of the biggest challenges most photographers have – pricing. The challenge of knowing exactly what to charge stops most of us in our tracks. It shouldn’t! Do your research. Search “photography pricing,” for example. The information is available and most of it is free. Remember, read before you buy.In my opinion, there really is no one criteria needed to start a profitable photo business. However, my experience has convinced me that self-confidence is the most significant asset a photographer in business can possess. You develop that self-confidence by knowing what you know and knowing what you don’t know – and being crystal clear on the difference. Confidence is gained by knowing the necessary criteria needed and knowing that you possess the knowledge and skills to consistently accomplish tasks in a satisfactory manner.Research, develop and practice both your photography knowledge and skills as well as your photography business knowledge and skills.Finally, when vaudevillian, George Burns, was asked what was the secret to his successful career, he responded – “sincerity, be sincere – even if you have to fake it!”

3 Benefits to Using Cloud Yoga Business Software for Your Yoga Studio

August 8, 2016

A Fictional Tale of Two Yoga Teachers:Wendy and John are each starting a yoga studio. They have their space, a website, and recently opened for business.They also chose to administer as much of their business as possible on computers (who doesn’t these days). They each have a laptop so they can be mobile, or so they think. They also have a desktop in their studio.Students are coming to their classes and they’re delighted by this. Yet, they both desire more students. Their business is in a growth stage.When not teaching classes and chatting with students, they’re on their computers taking care of the financial aspects, marketing, curriculum / class planning, and overall administration of their business.When they started, they weren’t sure the direction their business would take so they held off buying any specific business management software. Instead they used Word and Excel to take care of their software needs. So far their software set up is working okay, but they see the writing on the wall how something more sophisticated could save them time.Wendy and John go online to start looking at yoga business software options. They’re pleased that there’s a lot of options. Of course options mean making a decision.Wendy decides to go with a cloud computing software platform while John opts for an installation software option.Wendy’s option requires that she pay a monthly cost to use her software. John likes the fact he only pays one time for the software.Wendy logs into her software account through the Internet and sets up your software for your business. It takes a few days to get familiar with it, but within a week she has her software working for her with a class schedule set up and she’s put her student contact information into the database. She also set up her autoresponder email account and integrated it with your student contacts.John installed his software on both his laptop and desktop computer. He opted for no server and instead figured out how to network the two computers together so when a change is made in one computer it’s reflected in the other computer. He spent about a day getting his software installed and networked.

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Like Wendy, he takes a few days inputting his student contact information and formatting his class schedule in the scheduling software. His email software is separate, but he’s managed to integrate it using an APP with his installation-based yoga business software.Fast forward 2 years. Both their yoga businesses are doing better than ever. Each of them hire 2 teachers to teach designated classes and a receptionist. This growth required more computers for their staff. Wendy, simply upgrades here software to add another user. Her staff simply logs into the software through the Internet.John buys another license and then goes through the installation process. Now he must network another computer. He’s read that using a server is a good idea, but has no idea how to set up a server. Given his business is growing, he decides to hire a networking consultant. After buying a dedicated server and paying networking consultant fees, John spent $1,500. His software also upgraded 6 months ago and so he paid $300 in upgrade fees.As their businesses grew, both Wendy and John started selling some retail items in their studio and on their website. They also discovered how effective email marketing is to student retention and growing their business. Wendy’s online software platform offered e-commerce, credit card processing, and integrated e-mail marketing software. She was able to set up her stores and beef up her e-mail marketing quickly.John leased credit card processing hardware, bought a license for e-commerce software and continues to use his original e-mail marketing software that’s integrated with his student contact database.At this point Wendy’s entire yoga business software is centralized and accessible over the Internet. John uses several software services that are installed and networked among his computers. As John’s business grows, his computing needs become more complex and he now has his networking consultant on speed-dial.He now budgets annually for computer consultant fees – something he never anticipated. He of course has heard about cloud software and is now interested in making the switch, but is reluctant given the amount he’s invested in his desktop installation software. He’s going to wait and see.Wendy pays a monthly fee for her service, but is pleased with how easy it is to add new users and grow her business with hardly an interruption in doing her core activities – which is teaching yoga and marketing her business. In fact, Wendy is considering opening another yoga studio knowing aside from finding and designing space, here business is easily duplicated at another location.John would love to expand to another location, but is concerned about the expense of expanding and managing his business so that all his business information integrates seamlessly between his multiple locations. He puts expansion on hold.About Cloud Computing SoftwareWhat is Cloud Computing Software?It’s software that’s hosted by the software company. When you sign up, you get an account and all your software is handled on the cloud – that is hosted and powered by the company’s servers – not your servers. You simply access it online.The biggest reason business owners are reluctant to use cloud computing is the ongoing cost. Most cloud computing software platforms charge monthly to use the service. This ongoing cost is understandably a concern, especially for new businesses. The last thing you want is to be committed to ongoing costs if at all possible avoided.However, when you look at the long-term of your business, and your software in particular, there’s ease-of-use and expansion to consider. With installation software you must always consider the upgrade costs and potential for paying consultants to maintain and grow your network. These unforeseen costs can be hefty in the long run.
3 Key Benefits to Using Cloud Software for Your Yoga Business Software

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1. Access it AnywhereBecause it’s accessible over the Internet, you can access your entire software set up wherever you have an Internet connection (which is pretty much everywhere these days).2. Integrates it with your WebsitesA quality cloud software service for yoga studios makes it easy to update it simultaneously with your websites. For example, when you make changes to your class schedule, those changes are immediately reflected on your website where you post your class schedule. There’s no need to go into your website(s) and manually make the changes (assuming you remember to do this).Also, if you have e-commerce on your website selling gift certificates, yoga class packages, and perhaps gear and apparel, when you make pricing changes (or any changes) in your software, it’s immediately reflected in your website(s).3. No installation and networking costsThis is a biggie. Many business owners when starting out with buying software tend to undermine this. With cloud computing you don’t have to worry about installation and networking your software. As you can see from the above Tale of 2 Yoga Teachers, John’s software costs escalated beyond what he anticipated because of unforeseen consultant costs. This is common with specialized business installation software. Networking software among computers is not an easy task and usually requires an expert to do it well.Will your yoga business fail by not using cloud computing yoga business software? No, but it could make administration and growth more difficult.