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Four Business Tips from a Successful, Local, Small Business

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Article by Aly Schmidt, Seattle Marketplace Manager

Before I made it to the front desk at Budget Blinds in West Seattle. I was greeted with a handshake and a warm “How can we help you today?” from co-owner Kendra Hammer.

Owning a thriving small business in a market like Seattle is quite a feat. The Washington State Employment Security Department reports that King County accommodates nearly 1.28 million jobs in its very diverse labor market. However, Parrish and Kendra Hammer, the owners of Budget Blinds of West Seattle, have endured quite a bit more than Seattle’s demanding market. When they moved their young family of four to Seattle to start their business they did not know about the economic downturn or the family hardships outside of work they would soon face. Even so, they were able to succeed.

Kendra Hammer offers the following tips for leading a successful small local business:

Learn to Delegate

“It’s hard to hand things off to others when you know you are good at what you do,” Kendra said.

The couple knew all the functions within their business but when they needed extra hands it was often difficult to pass the workload on. To ensure a smooth transition Kendra began hands-on training with her employees. That freed the couple to begin focusing on other business priorities outside of the office. They have been able to add more jobs to the area and create more opportunities for better customer service. Delegation really came into play when their family was faced with unexpected hardship which led Kendra to tell me about another priority of hers.

Always Find the Silver Lining

“Six and a half years ago my daughter had a brain aneurysm rupture and she suffered a stroke,” Kendra said. “Six months after that, the repair they made ruptured and she had to have emergency open brain surgery.”

It was through this trying time the Hammer’s really focused on delegating to their staff, but it’s also where they learned times of hardship can create great growth. Believe it or not, this hard time helped the Hammer’s develop a new sales structure. Parrish and Kendra had to alternate their schedules so one of them could work while the other could care for their daughter. Their hours spent in sales dropped tremendously but their sales numbers seemed unaffected.

“To this day, we don’t go out on sales calls two days in a row,” Kendra said.

Unintentionally they found a more efficient way of operating. The mother of two always tries to find a silver lining in every hardship and encourages all others to do the same.

Go the Extra Mile

“A lot of our customers are moving into a new place and have nothing for their windows … we will automatically provide temporary window treatments for any bathrooms and any bedrooms that are being slept in until their order arrives,” Kendra said.

The extra effort put forth by Budget Blinds of West Seattle is meant to help customers while they get settled in. It’s also not something the Budget Blinds brand requires.

“It just makes our customers feel taken care of,” Kendra said, “That’s really important to us.”

The Hammer’s exemplify going above and beyond in more ways than one. They also follow up with each customer a few weeks after installation to ensure everything is working well, they have been a BBB Accredited Business for almost 10 years, and they have a showroom to display all the products they offer. The Budget Blinds business model is traditionally a shop-at-home-service with all their products available in vans. However, Parrish and Kendra decided a store front would give them the presence in the community they wanted and they have seen their extra investment pay off.

Get Involved in Your Community

“Sponsoring local events or becoming involved in community groups pays off in more than one way,” Kendra said.

She believes a business can grow their presence in the community while having fun. This leads to more public relations and increased clientele. Kendra feels strongly about community involvement so Budget Blinds of West Seattle has a diversified array of events and groups they support. Each year they are approached by almost a dozen schools in the area to support auctions and fundraisers. They sponsor the West Seattle Blog, Westside Baby and they even purchased ad space in programs for the local theatre and arts.

“I don’t have to search for events to help anymore, people come to us because they know we like to be involved,” Kendra said. “It’s wonderful.”

Like the Hammers, most business owners deal with growth, personal setbacks, customer service and the community in their service area. Whether you are thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, changing a few things in your existing business operations, or you are a consumer looking for types of businesses to trust, I hope this list of tips inspires you to step out and do something new or set new expectations for who you choose to do business with.

Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book Sees an Increase in Impostor Scams

Scam Alert Indicates Rip Off And Advertisement
Scam Alert Showing Rip Off And Sign

The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Consumer Sentinel Network released its annual Data Book with over 3.1 million complaints from the 2016 calendar year. Better Business Bureau is a major contributor of complaint data along with other non-governmental organizations and many state law enforcement organizations.

By sharing this report, law enforcement partners across the nation can use the database information to track emerging trends in scams and deception and to help with pending investigations.

The data book is based on unverified complaints reported by consumers with 42 percent of those complaints being fraud complaints, 13 percent identity theft complaints and 45 percent other types of complaints.

Out of the 30 complaint categories, debt collection was ranked number one with 28 percent of the overall complaints. Impostor scams and identity theft scams came in second with 13 percent each, followed by 10 percent of the complaints involving Telephone and Mobile Services.Impostor scams grew from 11 percent to 13 percent in the last year which means it’s a growing problem.

The data book includes national statistics as well as a state-by-state listing of top complaint categories in each state. Based on the consumer complaints from 2016, the breakdown of complaints from BBB Northwest states is as follows.

ALASKA

There was a total of 3,376 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints in Alaska. Of that, there were 2,663 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaint categories by Alaska consumers were:

  1. Prizes, Sweepstakes, and Lotteries (Complaints: 599, Percentage: 22%)
  2. Impostor Scams (Complaints: 472, Percentage: 18%)
  3. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 177, Percentage: 7%)
  4. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 172, Percentage: 6%)
  5. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 154, Percentage: 6%)
  6. Debt Collection (Complaints: 143, Percentage: 5%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 105, Percentage: 4%)
  8. Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report Users (Complaints: 69, Percentage: 3%)
  9. Internet Services (Complaints: 64, Percentage: 2%)
  10. Credit Cards (Complaints: 58, Percentage: 2%)

There was a total of 713 identity theft complaints from Alaska victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Employment- or Tax-Related Fraud (Complaints: 349, Percentage: 49%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 169, Percentage: 24%)
  3. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 88, Percentage: 12%)
  4. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 48, Percentage: 7%)
  5. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 42, Percentage: 6%)
  6. Loan or Lease Fraud (Complaints: 33, Percentage: 5%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 71, Percentage: 10%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 1, Percentage: <1%)

IDAHO

There was a total of 9,148 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints in Idaho. Of that, there were 7,800 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaint categories by Idaho consumers were:

  1. Impostor Scams (Complaints: 1,849, Percentage: 24%)
  2. Debt Collection (Complaints: 1,000, Percentage: 13%)
  3. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 713, Percentage: 9%)
  4. Prizes, Sweepstakes, and Lotteries (Complaints: 700, Percentage: 9%)
  5. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 477, Percentage: 6%)
  6. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 386, Percentage: 5%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 347, Percentage: 4%)
  8. Internet Services (Complaints: 231, Percentage: 3%)
  9. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 221, Percentage: 3%)
  10. Credit Bureaus, Information Furnishers and Report (Complaints: 176, Percentage: 2%)

There was a total of 1,348 identity theft complaints from Idaho victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Employment- or Tax-Related Fraud (Complaints: 509, Percentage: 38%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 371, Percentage: 28%)
  3. Loan or Lease Fraud (Complaints: 183, Percentage: 14%)
  4. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 116, Percentage: 9%)
  5. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 113, Percentage: 8%)
  6. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 47, Percentage: 3%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 176, Percentage: 13%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints:-, Percentage: -)

MONTANA

There was a total of 5,311 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints in Montana. Of that, there were 4,600 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaint categories by Montana consumers were:

  1. Impostor Scams (Complaints: 1,222, Percentage: 27%)
  2. Prizes, Sweepstakes, and Lotteries (Complaints: 695, Percentage: 15%)
  3. Debt Collection (Complaints: 400, Percentage: 9%)
  4. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 385, Percentage: 8%)
  5. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 279, Percentage: 6%)
  6. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 236, Percentage: 5%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 159, Percentage: 3%)
  8. Foreign Money Offers and Counterfeit Check Scams (Complaints: 107, Percentage: 2%)
  9. Internet Services (Complaints: 101, Percentage: 2%)
  10. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 88, 2%)

There was a total of 711 identity theft complaints from Montana victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Employment- or Tax-Related Fraud (Complaints: 292, Percentage: 41%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 226, Percentage: 32%)
  3. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 70, Percentage: 10%)
  4. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 50, Percentage: 7%)
  5. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 37, 5%)
  6. Loan or Lease Fraud (Complaints: 31, Percentage: 4%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 84, Percentage: 12%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 2, Percentage: <1%)

OREGON

There was a total of 26,697 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints in Oregon. Of that, there were 22,385 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaint categories by Oregon consumers were:

  1. Impostor Scams (Complaints: 5,363, Percentage: 24%)
  2. Debt Collection (Complaints: 3,717, Percentage: 17%)
  3. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 2,279, Percentage: 10%)
  4. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries (Complaints: 1,758, Percentage: 8%)
  5. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 1,671, Percentage: 7%)
  6. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 1,052, Percentage: 5%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 737, Percentage: 3%)
  8. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 520, Percentage: 2%)
  9. Internet Services (Complaints: 518, Percentage: 2%)
  10. Credit Cards (Complaints: 510, Percentage: 2%)

There were a total of 4,312 identity theft complaints from Oregon victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 1,571, Percentage: 36%)
  2. Employment- or Tax-Related Fraud (Complaints: 1,506, Percentage: 35%)
  3. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 511, Percentage: 12%)
  4. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 356, Percentage: 8%)
  5. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 221, Percentage: 5%)
  6. Loan or Lease Fraud (Complaints: 168, Percentage: 4%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 513, Percentage: 12%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 8, Percentage: <1%)

WASHINGTON

There was a total of 48,733 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints in Washington. Of that, there were 40,423 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaint categories by Washington consumers were:

  1. Impostor Scams (Complaints: 9,783, Percentage: 24%)
  2. Debt Collection (Complaints: 6,463, Percentage: 16%)
  3. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 4,234, Percentage: 10%)
  4. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 3,042, Percentage: 8%)
  5. Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries (Complaints: 1,994, Percentage: 5%)
  6. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 1,923, Percentage: 5%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 1,593, Percentage: 4%)
  8. Internet Services (Complaints: 1,213, Percentage: 3%)
  9. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 961, Percentage: 2%)
  10. Credit Cards (Complaints: 871, Percentage: 2%)

There were a total of 8,310 identity theft complaints from Washington victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 3,421, Percentage: 41%)
  2. Employment- or Tax-Related Fraud (Complaints: 2,478, Percentage: 30%)
  3. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 1,052, Percentage: 13%)
  4. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 696, Percentage: 8%)
  5. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 452, Percentage: 5%)
  6. Loan or Lease Fraud (Complaints: 356, Percentage: 4%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 1,098, Percentage: 13%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 19, Percentage: <1%)

WYOMING

There was a total of 2,874 identity theft, fraud and other consumer complaints in Wyoming. Of that, there were 2,437 fraud and other complaints.

The top 10 fraud and other complaint categories by Wyoming consumers were:

  1. Impostor Scams (Complaints: 489, Percentage: 20%)
  2. Prizes, Sweepstakes, and Lotteries (Complaints: 315, Percentage: 13%)
  3. Debt Collection (Complaints: 291, Percentage: 12%)
  4. Telephone and Mobile Services (Complaints: 216, Percentage: 9%)
  5. Banks and Lenders (Complaints: 155, Percentage: 6%)
  6. Shop-at-Home and Catalog Sales (Complaints: 153, Percentage: 6%)
  7. Auto-Related Complaints (Complaints: 92, Percentage: 4%)
  8. Television and Electronic Media (Complaints: 68, Percentage: 3%)
  9. Internet Services (Complaints: 64, Percentage: 3%)
  10. Foreign Money Offers and Counterfeit Check (Complaints: 55, Percentage: 2%)

There was a total of 437 identity theft complaints from Wyoming victims.

The following are the types of identity thefts reported:

  1. Employment- or Tax-Related Fraud (Complaints: 162, Percentage: 37%)
  2. Credit Card Fraud (Complaints: 124, Percentage: 28%)
  3. Bank Fraud (Complaints: 49, Percentage: 11%)
  4. Phone or Utilities Fraud (Complaints: 40, Percentage: 9%)
  5. Loan or Lease Fraud (Complaints: 33, Percentage: 8%)
  6. Government Documents or Benefits Fraud (Complaints: 21, Percentage: 5%)
  7. Other (Complaints: 55, Percentage: 13%)
  8. Attempted Identity Theft (Complaints: 1, Percentage:  <1%)

 

 

 

Google’s “Mobilegeddon” and What it Means for Your Website

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Written by Jordan Stambaugh, Owner of Stambaugh Designs 

Google recently updated their search algorithm to include one important new metric – mobile devices. It was rumored that an update was coming that would totally change the online search landscape and the rumors were right.

What are the risks of not having a mobile friendly website?

Google’s search algorithm looks at over 200 factors when choosing which website to rank over another. Now one of those factors, and arguably the most important variable, is mobile-friendliness. Before the search algorithm update in 2015, all websites were created equal – a mobile-friendly website was not favored over one that was not.

This is no longer the case.

If your tree service website is not optimized for mobile devices then you run the risk of not showing up in search results when people search for your “Tree Service + Your City” on their mobile devices.

Many businesses are starting to realize the importance of ranking well on Google. If you don’t show up on the first page of Google, you’re practically invisible.

What makes a website mobile friendly? 

A mobile friendly website is a website that responds to the size of the user’s screen. There’s a Bellingham, Washington tree service website that is mobile friendly. The navigation, text and images all respond nicely to the size of the user’s screen.

You can test if your website is mobile friendly by using Google’s Mobile Friendly Test Tool.

A quicker way to see if a website is mobile friendly is to resize your browser window (on a desktop or laptop computer). If the text, images, and forms all scale down to fit nicely in the smaller browser window then congratulations! Your website is mobile friendly.

If you discover that you have over set text and images are cut off by the browser’s window, then unfortunately your website isn’t optimized for viewing on mobile devices.

About a year ago it was official – people search for things more on their smartphones than desktop computers. If your website isn’t mobile friendly then you’re bumped out of those search results.

It’s not too late to update your website. 

Let’s face it – more and more business is being conducted online. By not showing up on the first page of Google you could be leaving a lot of business on the table. But there is good news!

It’s not too late to update your website to have a mobile friendly design. By getting a mobile friendly website you will start to perform better in mobile search results which can bring you more business leads.

Your website should be viewed as your best employee – only if it’s optimized. A website works 24/7/365 with no over time. It’s also more effective than canvassing a neighborhood with a few of your crew members because people searching for your business on Google already want what you offer.



Jordan M. Stambaugh has a degree in Digital Media Design and specializes in website creation and SEO services for local businesses.

He has helped numerous businesses rank in local search results, generating more revenue for companies in the tree service, home improvement, dental, plumbing, painting, repairs, beauty, solar industries and more.

 You’ll find him at Stambaugh Designs helping companies grow their business and at his business and design blog writing about website design and internet marketing.

Washington Company Supports Employee Growth

zeroezWritten by Kirstin Davis, Marketplace Director Eastern Washington/North Idaho

Tenaciously smart, no jerks, be real, bold regard and coolness.

These could be considered adjectives or community pool rules, but instead they are the core values of Zerorez Spokane. The words stand life size inside the company building in Spokane Valley.

Skateboards, beards, massage loungers, mascots and Foosball.

These could be things you see on fraternity row at a University, but instead they are the visuals you see as you wander the Zerorez Spokane warehouse. When 23-year-old Jeremy McGee decided he was going to honor his entrepreneurial spirit, he started with the fortitude and energy of all the above.

“I just wanted to have something I could build, something that would allow me to work with people, grow my talents and theirs too,” he said.

McGee climbed into his first and only cleaning truck in 2004. But he didn’t have many jobs that first day. So, he got out and started knocking on doors.

Eventually his perseverance and customer service skills paid off and one truck turned into multiple trucks. As McGee matured so did the business and McGee knew things were progressing to another level.

“The most monumental tipping point was moving from being a technician and actually doing the work to being the leader,” McGee said.

Eventually, McGee stepped away from operations and marketing and hired directors for the roles. This allowed him to focus on mentoring his team so they could make day-to-day decisions independently. Today, Zerorez Spokane employs 30 people and has a fleet of 14 trucks.

The Zerorez warehouse is a playground of support, creativity and elbow grease. Company culture is a priority for McGee, who fosters personal and professional growth for all team members. Many technicians clean carpets for two to four years and don’t imagine being in the position long term.

“We are completely transparent when techs come on board,” McGee said. “This is an opportunity for them to grow in a span of time and then move on to bigger and better things, and that’s what we hope for them.”

Tyson Chapman was one of the first cleaning technicians for McGee. He worked his way up to a technician leader and became part of the management team. Eventually, Chapman was ready for more and McGee was more than happy to continue supporting his ambition.

In 2014, they strategized a plan to take the Zerorez brand to the Tri-Cities, with Chapman taking on the leadership role. McGee would provide the start-up funding, hiring and marketing resources while Chapman took to the streets with a cleaning van. The first month was the most successful in franchise history. Last year Chapman bought McGee out and today Chapman has five trucks servicing the Tri-Cities.

“If you are about yourself and try to make a buck, that can work.,” Chapman said. “If you in turn do something for others, you will grow.”

You won’t find a community service policy at Zerorez, however it is big part of the culture and authentic. It may be in the form of a food drive, pink shoe covers in October or donated cleaning services.

“If they see a need to take care of somebody that is in grief or need, they can act on it,” McGee said. “Technicians feel empowered by this ability to give back. It’s not a mandate —we don’t regulate it.”

McGee’s products are simplified with alkaline based and oxidized empowered water.

“We were green before green was cool,” McGee said.

High temperature water and efficient equipment allows them to clean without using soaps or shampoos, which are designed to attract dirt.

Cleaning inside people’s homes is a very personal service and requires excellent customer service and trust. Legitimacy and reputation is a priority for McGee and was one of the reasons he decided to become a BBB Accredited Business in 2011. According to McGee, customer service satisfaction for the industry is on average 30 percent, but Zerorez sits at 82 percent. McGee said they set goals to improve the customer experience.

“It’s helped us really know how we can better serve the customer,” he said. “It gives us something else to watch and learn from.”

Even as an established entrepreneur with a young family, McGee sleeps well.

“It is a simple industry,” he said. “What allows me to sleep at night is knowing that we’re being honest and doing the right thing and the customer gets to see that happen personally.”

Missoula Builder Offers Tips of the Trade

jbuilthealthyhomesWritten by Dan Buchta, Montana Marketplace Director

The real estate market has been heating up in the Northwest region and home values have been shooting up. Home values are so hot across the state of Montana that many are looking to reinvest in their home by considering home remodel projects. Still, others see it as a good time to cash in on their home’s rising value so they can build their dream home on a new lot.

For some, taking on a home remodeling project can be intimidating. Then there is the time and effort that goes into building a home. From selecting the lot, floorplans, finishes, securing financing and even finding the right builder —it can be one of the most daunting projects ever attempted.

Jason Townley from J Built Healthy Homes, LLC knows the realities of constructing a home. Two years ago, Townley relocated his home building business to Missoula from Kalispell. He got started in the home building business more than 30 years ago, as a carpenter for a Master Builder and over the years he has expanded his talents and training to include all aspects of construction from design and planning, materials selection, built in furniture design, paperwork, etc., all the way to completion of the project.

To help promote his business in a new city, Townley turned to Better Business Bureau. The BBB was a household name where he grew up, just 20 miles outside of Boston. He

associates the BBB brand with trust and said he finds himself more likely to hire someone with the BBB seal.

“When I moved to Missoula, I didn’t really know many people and nobody knew about my business,” he said. “I figured that I would be more likely to hire a business with the BBB seal and that there are probably a lot of other people out there like me who feel the same way.”

Jason likes to work with a small to medium sized crews and to be involved on-site from start to finish on every project.

“For me it is great because it is always different, it is always changing, you are not just framing house, after house, after house –which gets boring,” Townley said. “When you build a house, side it and then go inside and build the cabinets, built-ins, and trim —it gives you an appreciation for when you are framing the house on how the whole project is supposed to come together.”

It is also a very different landscape for finding help today than it was five years ago. It seems there has been some pent-up demand for building, remodeling, and home repair services and now consumers are aggressively hiring for these services. What does that mean for people looking to build their dream home? They will find that builders and remodelers are less willing to discount their services as they might have in the past. Because discounting could mean cutting corners.

“Watch out for builders or contractors who are more like sales people,” Townley said. “They may have a silver tongue and quote you a price that is in your budget, but then they start the work and they tell you that the job will require extra time and more money.”

He also advised for people to trust their instincts.

“You should have a good gut feeling about the person you are going to hire. This person may be spending weeks inside your home,” he said. “Make sure it is someone you feel good about being there.”

For anyone taking on a home remodeling project or building a new home it’s important to be patient with the timeline.

“People watch HGTV and all these home shows and they see a home get a complete makeover in two days,” Townley said. “A lot of time, that is what they expect when they hire a contractor or builder. It is unrealistic. It takes time to get a job done right.”

It is evident that Townley is passionate about his work. While he is a licensed contractor, he prefers the title of builder.

“Contractors just do the paperwork,” he said. “Builders do the paperwork, manage the subs, and actually do the physical work. I love doing the physical work that is involved in building a home – that is the fun part.”

When asked about the biggest challenges of his job, he stated he tries to share and articulate how the finished project will look by laying it out on paper. Two people can look at the same layout with a different perspective. The challenge is getting on the same page as the homeowner and making sure the finished product meets the vision the homeowner had at the start of the project.

“I just want them to be happy,” he said. “And I want to make sure that the finished job meets their expectations.”

Idaho Business Fueled by the Sun

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Written by Emily Valla, Senior Marketplace Director

As Carl Simpson points out the contraptions on a roof at a Meridian home, his eyes light up. He is clearly passionate about what he does, and why he does it. For the past seven years, Simpson has installed more than 1,000 solar tubes as part of his Treasure Valley- based business, Renewable Energy Northwest.

You may have heard of solar panels providing electricity to homes and businesses —and Simpson can do that too —but, his expertise is on solar thermal energy. Think, heating your hot water by the power of the sun.

The tubes sit on top of a roof, on an exterior wall, or even on the ground, and absorb energy from the sun. Simpson describes the unit as two glass tubes with a vacuum in between.

“The ultra violet rays go inside the tube, and (the inside) can be 400 degrees in an hour even at negative 30 degrees,” said Simpson.

The outside, however, would match the temperature.

BBB Credibility

Renewable Energy NW became BBB Accredited in 2012. Accreditation is important to Simpson, because he doesn’t have many competitors, which isn’t typically why businesses seek accreditation. What Simpson does is unique, and he often finds potential customers don’t know much about solar thermal energy. When they go to seek other quotes, Simpson says they don’t always find other options. So, to establish credibility, he sought to align with Better Business Bureau.

“(It’s) extremely important that we deliver satisfaction and affordable renewable energy solutions,” Simpson said in an email.

He wants his customers to do their homework and find he is committed to upholding BBB Standards.

Solar Power Savings

Simpson regularly outfits existing homes, to the tune of about 80 per year, but he does just as many new construction homes. He says that’s where there is the most opportunity: solar energy can be integrated into the design from the start. A large portion of Simpson’s business is commercial projects.

One of Simpson’s favorite projects was a car wash in Fruitland. He says the installation paid for itself within 18 months, when comparing the cost savings over natural gas to heat the water used in the wash. A CPA by training, Simpson pays close attention to the numbers when it comes to cost savings. He wants clients to be aware of incentives available to them for installing the solar units, and he sends links to the possible options along with quotes before beginning a project.

Potential cost savings are a big attractant for potential customers, as are environmental impacts. Simpson says his system is 94 percent efficient, and can function on days with minimal sunlight. Customers often begin with just heating hot water, which Simpson says is about a quarter of most customer’s energy bills. If they’re interested, customers can also do heating and cooling systems, including radiant floor heat. Simpson says homeowners with pools are often attracted to solar energy.

For those considering making the switch to solar thermal energy, Simpson encourages them to do their homework. He suggests asking questions about permitting and what the installation process is, as this is an important safety step.

Important questions to ask include: What is the strategy to prevent overheating? How will the installed units look? What is the warranty if anything breaks? As satisfied customers are the core of Simpson’s business, he offers a 10-year warranty on panels.

And to ensure he’s doing everything he can to assist the customer he welcomes customer feedback.

To learn more about Renewable Energy NW visit renewableenergynwllc.com.

New Incentives for Employers Help Workers Recover After a Workplace Injury

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Leah with one of her patients.

Written by Rena Shawver,  L&I Return to Work Partnerships

Leah’s Story

When a horse reared up behind her, all Leah could do was hope for the best as the 1,200-pound animal came down on top of her.  The vet tech knew instantly her back was broken.  After multiple surgeries to repair several breaks and a long recovery period, Leah had recovered physically as much as possible.  Among other things, her “new normal” meant no heavy lifting. She realized her permanent physical restrictions would not allow her to work with large animals again.  But being a veterinarian technician was the only work she knew; and she loved her job. 

Today, Leah is working full-time as a vet tech with a new employer at a small animal emergency clinic. Although she was hired for her skill, as a certified preferred worker through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), her employment comes with financial incentives that will benefit both her and her employer.

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Veterinarian technician Leah Wiltse-Perry was severely injured when a horse she was leading reared up and came down on her, breaking her back in several places. Through the Preferred Worker Program, she’s been able to find a medically-appropriate permanent job as a vet tech working with small animals at Pet Emergency Clinic in Spokane.

Supporting workers after recovery

Like Leah, some workers are not able to go back to their old jobs because of permanent medical restrictions caused by a workplace injury or illness. They’ve healed but are limited from doing certain tasks.

L&I certifies these workers through the Preferred Worker Program and provides financial incentives and premium relief to eligible employers who create medically-appropriate, long-term jobs for preferred workers.

Major changes to the Preferred Worker Program

Last January, the Washington State Legislature expanded the Preferred Worker Program to allow all employers in Washington State, including the employer of injury and self-insured employers, the opportunity to hire a preferred worker.

Under the rules of the expanded program, employers will receive the following:

  • Financial protection against subsequent claims,
  • Premium relief,
  • Bonus payment equal to 10% of the worker’s wages or $10,000, whichever is less, for continuous employment, and
  • Reimbursement for:
    • 50% of the base wages paid to the preferred worker, up to $10,000.
    • Some of the cost of tools, clothing, and equipment the worker needs to do the job.
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Leah shows her supervisor, Mike O’Dea, DVM, and her Vocational Service Specialist, Ellen Nagourney, how the modified equipment bought through L&I’s incentive programs help her at work.

Why offer incentives to support jobs?

Many employers at heart want to help their workers after an injury, but find making that transition from the job of injury to a new job that meets the worker’s physical or mental restrictions a hardship financially.

Preferred Worker Program incentives help the worker and employer keep their relationship, giving them extra support and guidance through a transition period often with the help of a vocational counselor.

Other return-to-work incentives

Stay at Work is another return-to-work incentive program. L&I reimburses eligible employers for some of their costs when they provide temporary, light-duty jobs for injured workers while they heal. Employers covered through the workers’ compensation State Fund may qualify for financial incentives from both the Stay at Work Program and the Preferred Worker Program.

Hiring employers could also qualify for additional financial help to modify equipment at worksites that will help preferred workers complete certain work-related tasks.

Using return-to-work programs help lower an employers’ workers’ compensation costs both in the short and long-term.

Learn more about the Preferred Worker Program

Already, about 100 employers have contacted L&I with interest in hiring some of the 1,500 certified preferred workers who are ready to work and are supported by the financial incentives of the Preferred Worker Program.

To learn more, sign up for one of L&I’s  Preferred Worker workshops by going to www.Lni.wa.gov/PreferredWorker.  Or contact the Preferred Worker Program by phone at 1-800-845-2634 or by email at PrefWorkerProg@Lni.wa.gov to ask how to apply for preferred worker benefits.

Hear more about Leah’s story by watching this video.

January Scam Wrap-Up

Scam Computer Key

The following are scams that were reported to Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest in January. In most instances names and locations have been omitted to protect the victims’ privacy.

ALASKA

This month there were 17 scams reported in Alaska with an estimated $6,100 lost.

Utility Scam

An Anchorage resident reported someone impersonated Municipal Light and Power in order to steal $300 from them. They claim they received a call from someone saying they needed to pay their electricity bill or they would be disconnected. The caller told them someone would be by their home in a few hours to disconnect the power if they didn’t pay up over the phone. After getting off the phone with the person the victim called back to say they were not with that utility company. The person on the other end of the phone preceded to pretend to be someone else. The Anchorage resident ceased communication.

Online Purchase Scam

An Anchorage man reported he lost $4,650 when he tried to purchase a Cockatoo for $1,400. The man claimed he was told to use United Pet Express to ship the bird. When he contacted the shipping company they informed him he needed to make a $2,400 deposit to cover any issues with delivery, which he did. Before the bird was shipped he was told he needed to pay $750 to cover the birds’ shots. Finally, he received a message from the “delivery man” stating he needed another $690 to drop off the bird and the refund. The man refused the pay any more money, and never received the bird.

OREGON

This month there were 83 scams reported in Oregon with an estimated $2,860 lost.

Counterfeit product

A Medford woman reports she lost $429 after she ordered two hoverboards from a California company for Christmas. The woman reports one of the hoverboards did not work. She called the company, but got a message stating the voicemail box was full. She emailed the company three times and got a response from customer service asking what was wrong with the machine. After explaining her problem, she never received a response. Her order did not come with a return address and repeated attempts to contact the company have not been answered.

Rental Home scam

A Gresham woman reported she lost $400 in a rental home scam. The woman reports she found a Craigslist ad for a rental house in Portland. The landlord said they lived in New York and requested she send a deposit via MoneyGram to his personal assistant and then he would send the keys. The women sent $400, but never received the keys.

IDAHO

This month there were 106 scams reported to Scam Tracker out of Idaho with an estimated $17,775 lost.

Facebook friend scam

A Caldwell man reported a fake Facebook friend tried to con him out of thousands of dollars. The man states he received a message on Facebook from who appeared to be an old friend of his. The friend said he had won $150,000 through a Facebook contest and the Caldwell man was also listed as a winner. He was told to send a message to “Agent Terry Williams” with “Non-Governmental Organization.” The man did this and was told by the “agent” that in order to receive his funds he would need to pay up. The man states: “He then sent me a list of amounts I could claim as my winnings starting at $100,000 and going up to $600,000. The catch here is that you pay $1,050 to claim $100,00, up to $10,500 to claim $600,000.” He was also told he needed to keep the contest a secret. The man became suspicious and reported the incident to BBB Scam Tracker.

Tax Collection scam

A Boise man reported he received an automated voice message claiming to be the IRS and he had a lawsuit and federal arrest warrant issued against him. He was told to call a number immediately. The man knew he did not have any legal action against him and did not call the number. He then reported the incident to BBB Scam Tracker.

MONTANA

This month there were 14 scams reported to Scam Tracker out of Montana with an estimated $300 lost.

Passport service scheme

A Manhattan woman reported she lost $178 when she tried to expedite the passport process for her five-year-old. The woman used an online service that told her they could help rush the process on obtaining a passport for her child. However, after paying the fee she contacted the National Passport Information Center and was informed the child had to be present at the office in order to obtain a passport and the information she was receiving from the business was not accurate.

Online Windows Support scam

A Deer Lodge woman reported she was almost victim of a tech scam. The woman reports she was working on her computer when she received a notice with a Microsoft logo telling her she had a virus and to call 877-767-7342. The woman called the number and spoke to man named “Bruno Williams.” He asked to do a diagnostic test to her computer remotely. The woman became suspicious and hung up on the man.

WASHINGTON

This month there were 200 scams reported to Scam Tracker out of Washington with an estimated $9,600 lost.

Online pet purchase scam

A Spanaway woman reported she lost $505 in a pet purchase scam. The woman reports she purchased a puppy from http://www.modestshihtzu.com via MoneyGram. The woman states once the seller received the money they requested additional funds to transport the dog in a special crate. When she refused, the seller told her they would deliver a dead puppy at her doorstep. The woman ceased speaking with the seller, but have received threatening emails from them.

Pierce County Sheriff Imposter Scam

A Buckley woman reports she received a call from someone claiming to be with the Pierce County Sheriff. The woman reports she received a call from a “Lt. Parker” who told her a warrant had been issued for her arrest for failure to appear for a civil duty court in December. She became suspicious when the caller told her she needed to purchase $1,975 in MoneyPak cards and to call the “Sheriff’s Treasurer” to give them the confirmation numbers so she wouldn’t be arrested when she went to the sheriff’s office to sign some paperwork. The woman contacted her local police department and confirmed the call was a scam.

Top Five Marketing Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now

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Written by guest blogger Corianne Burton, SEO Specialist with N2Q Consulting

“Make the customer number one.” “The customer is always right.” “Customer service is priority numero uno.”

These platitudes may seem tired, but they speak a long-known marketing truth. However, foundational marketing often makes the mistake of simply denying the fact that the customer comes first.

Thinking you know better than your audience, seeing consumers as numbers and not people, and failing to give customers their due attention are seemingly trite mantras from days of old… but they’ll come back to haunt you. If you become tone deaf to these truths, you’ll pay in lost traffic, missed prospects and opportunities, and even your loyal, long-time customers going a new direction. The good news is that you can still take back the success of your marketing campaigns. Just make sure to address these key foundational errors that many marketing firms make.

1. Thinking You Have All the Answers

…Or thinking that you need to have them. Marketing is tricky; it’s an ever-changing field of consumer attraction. While you may have great ideas, keeping current and creative requires humility. You must step back from all the good that you know (or, believe you should know) in order to listen. To learn. To ask questions.

Stop relying on the tried and not-so-true marketing methods. They only maintain the status quo and – as you can tell by our name – this is something we don’t like. To say no to the quo and move into the great beyond, you must listen to experts in the field, ask questions and get creative with marketing efforts that work well for your company and with its goals. If you need help, ask. After all, holding fast to the idea of being a jack-of-all-trades may hurt your endgame.

2. Believing One Size-Fits-All

Furthermore, making assumptions and following stock strategies reaps problems for campaigns and your client relationships. In other words, marketing proposed to “fit everyone” likely fits no one. Failing to listen to your audience or understand the goals of your company lead to lackluster marketing campaigns.

Focus on a segmented, targeted audience rather than a broad one. Taking into account the habits, triggers, interests, goals and hopes of prospects allows you to tailor your marketing to better meet their needs. Plus, matching these details to the goals, products and services of your company helps build relationships. This considerate attention leads to loyal customers.

3. Avoiding the Social Scene

You may desire to remain aloof from the crowd (whether digital or real world), but being antisocial in marketing efforts hurts your business. While social media proves vital to success (for those companies whose customers engage with it), half-hearted efforts produce full failures. Yes, nothing is better than a poorly run campaign.

To take advantage of social media, make sure you’re attending to Facebook or blog comments and questions. Build relationships rather than broadcasting or promoting yourself through these platforms. You’ll be rewarded by knowing more about your audience. The truth is consumers want to know that you see who they are beyond a mere notch in your sales belt.

4. Not Taking Advantage of Analytics

In the activity of a week, assessing the impact of marketing campaigns by “feel” proves difficult. Often this critical assessment gets set aside for lead chasing and advertising. Yet, marketing 101 teaches that tracking and measuring results is crucial for knowing what is working.

Fortunately, a host of analytics offer help in determining your return on investment. Google Analytics, social media analytics such as Facebook insights, and email campaign data give feedback to let you know where adjustments need to be made for greater success. Use the figures and switch up campaigns by concentrating your efforts on what works.

5. Failing to Draft a Strategy

Digital marketing and technology bring a flurry of business boosting options to your door step. It’s exciting! Unfortunately, these opportunities also prove overwhelming, even paralyzing to your marketing efforts. Or, if you eagerly jump in with both feet wherever you can, you run the risk of landing in the wrong place.

Marketing objectives and goals culminating in a strategy are vital. Identify where you want to go and the tactics on how to get there become clearer. Plus, assessing each marketing component to ensure it leads to the same destination proves easier. Your analytics will more accurately measure what you intend to when your direction is set.

The Wrap

Whether you go DIY or hire a creative agency to get your efforts flowing, addressing the details of your marketing campaign proves critical to your success. Your audience does come first. The customer really is numero uno.

Humble yourself to listen to your prospects, customers, industry experts and even your competition to adopt a marketing strategy which tailor fits your company and demographic. Engage with your audience to build loyal relationships. Be sure to use analytics to measure and adjust as needed.

Doing nothing out of fear or everything out of eagerness yields poor marketing results. Money and time are precious commodities poured into these efforts. Use them wisely by developing an intentional marketing campaign that avoids these top marketing mistakes.

To speak with a beyond the status quo marketing firm for help with any marketing efforts that overwhelm or allude you, reach out to N2Q today. We love to see you succeed.