Sunday, August 28, 2005

Katrina and Friends (Part 1 of ?) ...

From the road:

Slidell, LA: The only thing on anyone's mind today has to be Katrina. It is no longer a question of when to evacuate New Orleans, it is where you are headed.

"Where?" is not as simple a question as it seems because accommodations can be a problem. A friend of ours called this morning from Starkville MS to say that she still felt in harm's way, but the closest motel rooms she could find were in Pine Bluff, AR and Huntsville AL.

We implemented what is affectionately called the "Susan plan." This is so brilliant that I am reluctant to disclose it, but we don't have enough readers to cause any problems for us next time. Just don't tell anyone else.

The plan begins with us leaving on the day that most people spend gathering enough information for an informed decision on evacuation. We leave early (Susan woke me up at 5 a.m. this time, for a 6 a.m. departure). We drive to Slidell (LA, 30 miles NE from home) and stay with friends (the best, those Neubauers) there.

We watch TV in Slidell to see whether the current threat is for real. Since we are so close to home, if we did not have to leave, we spend some quality time with our friends and return. This time, of course, we spent Saturday with the gravity of this situation becoming all too clear.

Normally we then go to Covington LA, 30 miles west of Slidell, and 50 miles from home, where it is usually far enough away to ride out the storm. Not this time.

We are currently on our way to Tuscaloosa AL, home of the Crimson Tide. Tune in Thursday for what happened from there.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, August 25, 2005

What will they think of next?

This is an experiment with Blogger for Word. Still, these stories should be of interest.

Moreover, 8/24/2005 5:42:00 PM

Base Closing Panel Aids Some, Hurts Others
... in New Jersey to high-fives in Louisiana, politicians and workers Wednesday tried to absorb a ... Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, after hearing that lobbying by state officials apparently ...
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Moreover, 8/24/2005 5:19:00 AM

Report says obesity rates climbing in nearly all states
WASHINGTON Oregon is the only state not getting fatter. ... states with the highest percentage of obese adults are Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana and Tennessee. ...
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jbv's Competitive Edge 

"State-of-the-art" in Internet marketing …

This is a continuation of an interview where Jay Beavy of the Second Fortune blog on Internet marketing (IM) asks questions of John Vinturella, author of Release Your Inner Entrepreneur (RYIE).

How would you assess the "state-of-the-art" in Internet marketing?

I think that in some ways we are entering a more constructive period in IM. Search engines are leading us full-circle, back to where sites are recognized for quality of content. We are leaving a period of intense reliance on the ability of SEOs (search engine optimizers) to "game" our site to prominence.

At the risk of sounding like an old-timer (which, I guess, I am), there was a time before the Web, when the 'Net was a text-only medium. If the dialer worked, and the phone at the other end answered, and the sounds of establishing a "ppp connection" were favorable, then, we could explore, for example, Tulane University's Gopher site. (Show of hands, who remembers Gopher?)

A site was basically a directory of documents, and the documents were generally current and authoritative or their authors would not have bothered to upload them. Lists of useful links were precious, and search engines were just beginning to find their footing.

Once the Web made the Internet sufficiently user-friendly, online documents proliferated. Search engines, rather primitive by today's standards, took on importance as guides to this wide array of information. And businesses began to see the commercial potential of the new medium.

A new industry was born, SEO, to figure out how to gain top positions on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). For a while, keywords were everything. Here is a quick course in SEO:

Figure out the words or phrases your prospective customers are likely to use, and find out how stiff the competition is for them. Narrow your efforts to those with the best “Keyword Effectiveness Indicators“(KEIs).

Skillfully craft meta statements. Sprinkle your keywords through your text, heavier at the beginning and end, to the proper “density.” Use them in your links and image “alts.” Decide which is more appropriate, a large number of themed pages or a "mininet."

Once your "on-page" factors are in good shape, work on the "off-page" component. Trade links with related pages, use your keywords in the links back, vary the text of the links. Author and distribute articles ...

The process has gotten a bit more rational recently but new skills are being required all the time. Can you build a Google site map? Do you "get" RSS?

Off-page factors are in ascendancy. Link popularity is important, because it is presumed that quality content drives links. This presumption may be a bit shaky, but we sooo... want to believe it.

Sure, there are games still being played. The level of fear that many IM practitioners feel about writing an article is second only to the fear of having to present it in public. So we have software available for compiling our blogs automatically from RSS feeds. And the search engines are getting smart enough to tell authored text from that which is merely "scraped."

"Fire sales" and giveaways are putting volumes of poorly written and outdated material in the hands of thousands of IMers bent on cashing in on resell rights, and distributing parts of them as original articles. And article directories are increasingly using human editors to qualify contributed material.

More next time…


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, August 21, 2005

RYIE invades the world of Internet marketing…

Editor Jay Beavy of the Second Fortune blog on Internet marketing (IM) talks to John Vinturella, author of Release Your Inner Entrepreneur (RYIE).

Why don’t I hear the “e” word that much in the Internet marketing world?

More to the point, most IM practitioners are wondering what an "ivory tower" concept like entrepreneurship has to do with Internet marketing. The answer is ... EVERYTHING! We think RYIE’s subtitle says it all:

Because you don't want to just build a list...
You want to build a BUSINESS.

Did you consider doing the book with an IM “biggie?”

The "gurus" that I contacted about joint venturing on this book had various comments, but several indicated to me a feeling that the rank-and-file IMers are not quite up to talking about so complex a topic as business-building. Other comments were that the topic is too abstract, that you mostly want to hear about blogging, pinging, clicking, and autoresponding.

Now, I don't minimize the importance of these topics, but I feel you will be far more effective if these go from center-stage to merely techniques that help us toward our goal of business and financial success.

Still, there is some reason why 98.5% of IMers never make money at it. But they are the source of the fortunes that the other 1.5% make. This failure rate is not based on any scientific evidence, but seems to have become the consensus of industry observers. So, unless you are already TOO successful at making money online, read our book, because we are going to develop some perspectives that will help you to, as they say, "reach the next level."

How will reading the book change the odds of success?

The American Heritage Dictionary defines an entrepreneur as "a person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for business ventures." If you are not satisfied with the performance of your business to-date, take a minute to assess how you are doing at organizing, operating, and assuming risk.

RYIE leads you through assessing the approach to the marketplace that works best for you, while addressing the “real” opportunities out there. It then helps you to make realistic estimates of the time and resources required to be successful. You then draw up a broad and flexible plan that will lead to a successful implementation.

Most readers go into this process while trying to dodge the "hard stuff," like self-assessment, forecasting, and business planning. But you avoid them at your own peril.

More next time…


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, August 18, 2005

On-Guard …

According to the Small Business Administration, today more than half (53%) of the small businesses in the U.S. are home-based. Entrepreneur magazine estimates that $427 billion is generated each year by home-based businesses. That is bigger than General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler combined. According to IDC, home-based businesses create an estimated 8,500 new jobs daily.

So, it’s pretty much can’t-miss? Not so fast. Last time we talked about FTC warnings about some of the scams going on. Let’s go back to the FTC for some more words of caution.

Many ads promising work-at-home riches omit the fact that you may have to work many hours without pay. Or they don't disclose all the costs you will have to pay.

Countless work-at-home schemes require you to spend your own money to place newspaper ads; make photocopies; or buy the envelopes, paper, stamps, and other supplies or equipment you need to do the job. The companies sponsoring the ads also may demand that you pay for instructions or "tutorial" software. Consumers deceived by these ads have lost thousands of dollars, in addition to their time and energy.

Questions to Ask

Legitimate work-at-home program sponsors should tell you - in writing - what's involved in the program they are selling. Here are some questions you might ask a promoter:

What tasks will I have to perform?
(Ask the program sponsor to list every step of the job.)

Will I be paid a salary or will my pay be based on commission?

Who will pay me?

When will I get my first paycheck?

What is the total cost of the work-at-home program, including supplies, equipment and membership fees? What will I get for my money?

The answers to these questions may help you determine whether a work-at-home program is appropriate for your circumstances, and whether it is legitimate.

You also might want to check out the company with your local consumer protection agency, state Attorney General and the Better Business Bureau, not only where the company is located, but also where you live. These organizations can tell you whether they have received complaints about the work-at-home program that interests you.

But be wary: the absence of complaints doesn't necessarily mean the company is legitimate. Unscrupulous companies may settle complaints, change their names or move to avoid detection.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Classic work-at-home scams …

Are you on the lookout for work-at-home opportunities? The FTC has given us a "heads-up" on the following:

Medical billing. Ads for pre-packaged businesses - known as billing centers - are in newspapers, on television and on the Internet. If you respond, you'll get a sales pitch about the crisis in the health care system, due partly to the overwhelming task of processing paper claims. They will tell you that you can be part of the solution by providing electronic claim processing.

What they won't tell you is that they rarely provide experienced sales staff or contacts within the medical community. Their "package" that costs you several thousands of dollars gets you no closer to success than if you started on your own.

Few consumers who purchase a medical billing business opportunity are able to find clients, start a business and generate revenues - let alone recover their investment and earn a substantial income. Competition in the medical billing market is fierce and revolves around a number of large and well-established firms.

Envelope stuffing. Promoters usually advertise that, for a "small" fee, they will tell you how to earn money stuffing envelopes at home. Later - when it's too late - you find out that the promoter never had any employment to offer.

Instead, for your fee, you're likely to get a letter telling you to place the same "envelope-stuffing" ad in newspapers or magazines, or to send the ad to friends and relatives. The only way you'll earn money is if people respond to your work-at-home ad.

Assembly or craft work. These programs often require you to invest hundreds of dollars in equipment or supplies. Or they require you to spend many hours producing goods for a company that has promised to buy them. For example, you might have to buy a sewing or sign-making machine from the company, or materials to make items like aprons, baby shoes or plastic signs.

However, after you've purchased the supplies or equipment and performed the work, fraudulent operators don't pay you. In fact, many consumers have had companies refuse to pay for their work because it didn't meet "quality standards."

Unfortunately, no work is ever "up to standard," leaving workers with relatively expensive equipment and supplies - and no income. To sell their goods, these workers must find their own customers.

We’ll tell you about some ways to guard against scams next time…


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Home-Based Business ...

You wake up to an inbox full of email. An overnight package is delivered. It's business as usual; just another day at the office. However, unlike most traditional offices in the country, there's a baby sleeping in the next room, a dog playing out back, and the smell of a home-made breakfast wafting through the air. This is the new workplace of the 2000s -- the Home Office.

What's behind the move to the Home Office? Modern technology. Powerful computers, high-speed Internet connections, laser and color printers, cellular phones, and toll-free phone numbers are now easily accessible and affordable to home-based businesses. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that "...most home-based businesses -- especially start-ups -- can stick to the basics and equip themselves for $3,000 to $5,000."

According to IDC, a top national research firm, there are between 34.3 million and 36.6 million home office households in the United States alone. They also conducted a recent survey indicating that the average income for income-generating home office households is $63,000 a year.

A November 2000 report from the SBA's Office of Advocacy showed that in 2000 nearly 20,000 entrepreneurs grossed more than $1 million operating from a home-based environment. Further, they estimated that the number of U.S. households that had a home-based business then exceeded 12 percent. Newsweek magazine has estimated that, by 2005, 50% of the households in the United States will be involved in a home-based business.

And these businesses enjoy a healthy rate of success. About 70% of home-based businesses will last over a three-year period, compared to 29% of other business ventures, according to the Home-Based Business Institute. Find/SVP reports that 89% with household incomes greater than $80,000 have a home office compared to 14% of those with incomes below $25,000.

There are many advantages to working from home -- no commuting time, flexible hours, casual dress, proximity to children and the "comforts" of home. "Clearly, the home-office is the wave of the future and is here to stay," says Richard Ekstract, chairman of the Home Office Association of America (HOAA). "Where else could you become a great success in your field and still be able to send the kids off to school and welcome them in the afternoon when they come home?"

It all sounds so good! Where do I sign up? More next time...


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Morial legacy at stake ...

The charges are beginning to pile up in the ongoing investigation of the administration of former mayor Marc Morial. Morial’s uncle, Glenn Haydel, was indicted on Friday on charges that he embezzled $350,000 in public funds under contracts he had to run the city's public transportation system.

At a news conference Friday, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said rooting out corrupt officials who take bribes and demand kickbacks is the best way to revitalize a city shunned by businesses that want no part in having to deal with corruption. He defined corruption in New Orleans and Louisiana. as "endemic."

Local pundits are beginning to project the impact that these finding will have on the legacy of Marc’s tenure in office. Morial has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but federal authorities have broken open several “deals” agreed to in Marc’s administration that were not in the best interests of New Orleans taxpayers.

Marc served two terms as mayor and now heads the National Urban League, a powerful and venerated black organization based in New York City. The formerly ever-present Marc has been unavailable for comment for some time now.

In a recent Times-Picayune article, Frank Donze and Bruce Eggler took on the rumors suggesting that former Mayor Marc Morial's two-year tenure as president of the New York City-based National Urban League might soon be over. The rumor has only reached print in one source, a rather obscure newspaper, but now that it has been reported Urban League officials can be called on to address the issue.

Michael Critelli, chairman of the Urban League's National Board of Trustees, issued a statement giving Morial an unqualified vote of confidence. Morial spokeswoman Michele Moore insists that it's all a baseless rumor that has taken on a life of its own, and she has threatened legal action against reporters who repeat the rumor or seek to verify it by calling Urban League board members.

Since when is seeking to verify a rumor an offense worth of legal action? The T-P writers expand on Moore’s methods:

“The only thing more virulent than the rumor seems to be Moore's reaction to inquiries about it. In an e-mail to publisher Cedric Muhammad, Moore demanded an immediate retraction and threatened legal action "for slander, defamation of character and libel."

Treated to a similar blast of invective last week, an Associated Press reporter advised Moore that the vehemence of her reaction convinced him he must be on to something.“


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Feds take a closer look at "Dollar" Bill ...

U.S. Representative William Jefferson (picture from his congressional web site) best summed up this still breaking story on Wednesday afternoon:

"Today, federal law enforcement officers executed search warrants on my Washington, D.C., and New Orleans homes as well as my vehicle in Washington. Subpoenas were issued to me, in my official capacity, to the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and to members of my Washington and New Orleans office staff. I do not know the extent or precise nature of this investigation but I am cooperating fully with the authorities."

In an "interview" of sorts on the TV news, I saw U.S. Attorney Jim Letten stop to tell a reporter that basically he could sooooo not talk about it. He would not even say if his office had knowledge of or was involved in the search.

WDSU did manage to get some perspective on these actions from former Assistant U.S. Attorney Julian Murray:

"This is astounding," Murray said. "You can't say it's unprecedented, but it certainly is quite a move. I mean, a man's home and his car -- to get any magistrate or judge to issue a search warrant for a United States congressman, you can pretty much imagine there has to have been a lot of probable cause would have gone into that."

Jefferson was elected to Congress in 1990 as the first black House member in the state since Reconstruction, and serves on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. His district includes most of New Orleans.

Jefferson’s brother-in-law, former judge Alan Green was recently convicted of mail fraud. The evidence presented in that case included phone conversations between the two that revealed some questionable approaches to campaign finance.

So, is "Dollar Bill" a goner? I found it very interesting that Jefferson did not spout the usually proffered political statement about how he is completely innocent and will be totally vindicated.

What’s your take on this story?


jbv's Competitive Edge