Can yYou Are What You Eatou identify these foods from their list of ingredients? This should be an easy test, but the ingredients below make it much more challenging. Take the test and see if you can guess the food item. Many nutritionists would argue these are not really food. If we follow Michael Pollan’s advice In Defense of Food,  the processed items below would not meet the criteria for “food”.

  1. WHEAT FLOUR, BARLEY MALT, NIACIN, IRON, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID, WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SOYBEAN OIL, SALT, YEAST, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, SODIUM STEAROYL LACTYLATE, CALCIUM PROPIONATE, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, AMMONIUM SULFATE, CALCIUM SULFATE, SOY LECITHIN.
  2. CHICKEN STOCK, WATER, COOKED RICE, COOKED CHICKEN MEAT, CARROTS, SALT, CHICKEN FAT, POTATO STARCH, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, CELERY, COOKED MECHANICALLY SEPARATED CHICKEN, CHICKEN FLAVOR, ONION POWDER, MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, FLAVORING, DISODIUM INOSINATE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, BETA CAROTENE, SOY PROTEIN ISOLATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, LACTIC ACID, DEHYDRATED GARLIC, CHICKEN POWDER, CHICKEN FAT.
  3. WHOLE GRAIN OAT FLOUR, SUGAR, CORN FLOUR, WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR, RICE FLOUR, SALT, CALCIUM CARBONATE, DISODIUM PHOSPHATE, REDUCED IRON, NIACINAMIDE, ZINC OXIDE, BHT, YELLOW 5, YELLOW 6, THIAMIN MONONITRATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID.

Were you able to identify the “food” here? Check out the list below to see if you guessed correctly, and to determine why each food item has a boldfaced ingredient.

  1. SUPERMARKET WHITE BREAD (STOP & SHOP WHITE BREAD)
  2. CAMPBELL’S CLASSIC CHICKEN WITH RICE SOUP (GUESS HOW MUCH SALT IS IN THIS PRODUCT)
  3. LIFE CEREAL FROM QUAKER OATS  (HEALTHY LIFE CEREAL SEEMS LIKE AN OXYMORON)

Notable Notes:

The boldfaced ingredients are common on the top 10 lists of important food additives to avoid.

Campbell’s classic chicken with rice soup has 820mg of sodium for a ½ cup serving, though many people would likely consume a cup. 1,640mg of sodium is all or most of the daily recommended sodium intake, which ranges from 1,500 to 2,300mg.

As consumers become more aware of the benefits of single ingredient foods, and the issues with fast food and the western diet, it’s important to take a look at what many adults and children ingest on a daily basis. Processed foods like the examples above can commonly include 20 ingredients or more.

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NY Times Sells Boston Globe

  • Posted on August 4, 2013
  • by Alan Blume

Twenty years ago, my mornings began with a short jaunt to the front door. A quick bend at the waist, and I retrieved my coveted prize, a neatly folded Boston Globe. The Globe was as much an integral part of my mornings, as my “lahge – regulah” Dunkin Donuts coffee. I’d repeat my coffee and newspaper ritual seven days a week, appreciating both the size and substance of the Boston Sunday Globe, replete with news, politics, sports and typically boasting large real estate, help wanted, auto and classified sections. Some Sundays, it seemed as if the Globe weighed five pounds when retrieving it from its’ customary and usual position at the front door. And around that time, The New York Times purchased the prestigious Boston Globe, for over $1 Billion.

Times, technology and habits changed, for me and most Bostonians. As the Internet grew more pervasive, the Globe grew thinner and less substantial. Initially, I moved to delivery three days a week, then just Sundays. Some years later, I stopped the Globe completely, opting for the Sunday Times for a few more years. The cancellation call made me sad, I’d miss reading the Globe, and thought it a fine publication which I enjoyed for decades.

Fast forward to today, as the New York Times announced it “agreed to sell The Boston Globe and its other New England media properties to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox” for $70 million, a prolific drop in value, as The Times bought the Globe in 1993 for $1.1 billion. The Globe, like most newspapers, has seen a precipitous drop in ad revenue. As ads declined in newspapers, they shifted to the Internet, providing large revenue streams for Google and other search engines, websites and more recently, social media networks.

I hope both the Globe and The Times find a model that works for them. Reporting from reputable news sources is an important check and balance in our democracy, and both organizations have provided some keen, if not eye opening investigative reporting. The likelihood that any traditional newspaper distribution model will work well in the future seems low. After all, cutting down trees, processing them into paper, printing and folding them, loading them onto trucks, and delivering them to houses seems rather absurd today, akin to the challenges of the US Postal Service delivering physical mail from Maine to Hawaii for under 50 cents.Starbucks Cup

The only constant is change, and the Globe and The Times are trying to change with the times. As with many Bostonians, and the rest of the world, pervasive, immediate (and often free) Internet based news is supplanting traditional newspapers. It’s unlikely this trend will ebb any time soon. And though I would have bet against it, I also changed to Starbuck’s coffee, eschewing the weaker Dunkin Donuts coffee offered at my former coffee shop venue, in favor of a more robust Venti. Though in Boston, many, many people still order their Dunkin Donuts coffee every morning, “Give me a lahge regulah“, but then they check their news via Wi-Fi.

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On May 10th, 2011 the Associated Press reported that the Postal Service is hemorrhaging money, reporting a loss of more than $2 billion over the first three months of the year and warning it could be forced to default on federal payments. The only surprise here, is if this came as a surprise to anyone.

In May 2010 I posted a blog entitled, “Tuesday’s Mail – Should Your Tax Dollars Subsidize Direct Mail?”  It expressed concern that the US Postal Service was spending time and money in pursuit of an antiquated business. My suggestion in that blog was to immediately move to a maximum delivery schedule of five days per week.  In that blog, I displayed a photo of my mail for that Tuesday, somewhat representative of my mail on any given day. The only important mail I receive are client checks, which probably should, and certainly could, be paid electronically.

Snail Mail - An Anachronism

Snail Mail - An Anachronism

Perhaps the Postal Service is a quick and easy target for savings and an opportunity for our government to show they are serious about reducing wasteful spending. What if we reduced mail delivery to five days per week and cut down on the 200,000 USPS trucks visiting millions of households every day? Even better, can we physically deliver snail mail four days per week? Think of the fuel savings and pollution mitigation from these changes. Perhaps the labor force changes can be accomplished through attrition and reassignment. Perhaps the government can use this as one example of how the US plans to cut fuel waste by encouraging an electronic and greener mail delivery system. Certain agencies are already doing so. The Social Security Administration has already announced the end of paper checks effective on March 1, 2011 for new recipients, and on March 1, 2013 for current benefit recipients. The Treasury estimates the transition to electronic payment will save an estimated $300 million over the first five years, and $120 million each year thereafter. That’s a huge amount of snail mail, important snail mail, that will disappear off mail trucks. More importantly it’s a compelling signal indicating change is needed, and needed now.

The agency says the $2.2 billion Postal Service loss covers the period from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2011. Shall we round it and call it about $8 billion, up from about $6 billion last year? Though the Postal Service doesn’t receive tax money, the US government will become responsible if the organization defaults, or in other words, tax payers will be holding the bag. I realize the wheels of government turn slowly, but seriously, do we really need to take half a decade to decide we no longer need junk mail delivered six days per week?

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The 1973 oil crisis started in October 1973, when the members of Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) including Arab members of OPEC, plus Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, launched an oil embargo against the U.S. The impact of the embargo resulted in prices quadrupling from approximately $3 per barrel to $12 per barrel. This resulted in fuel rationing, long lines at gas stations and even a reduction in the speed limit across the US. The crisis also prompted a call for individuals and businesses to conserve energy, including a campaign with the tag line “Don’t Be Fuelish”.

Hummer vs. Hybrid

Hummer vs. Hybrid

Though prices leveled off after 1974, there was another huge price spike in 1979 and then again with the onset of Desert Storm. Oil prices have seen great volatility, most notably due to unrest in the Middle East, as is evident today with prices recently eclipsing $112 a barrel. During the last couple of decades we’ve seen the advent and explosive adoption of SUV’s and minivans including the Explorer, Suburban, Navigator, Escalade and Hummer, to name a few of the larger models. Though there has been widespread adoption of SUVs, there has been relatively modest acceptance of Hybrids or dramatic improvement in fuel efficiency for that matter. Alternative fuels for transportation vehicles still remains something closer to science fiction than near term reality.

In retrospect, with the volatility in oil prices and the political uncertainty with the oil producing countries in the Middle East, one might have thought there would be an all out effort to dramatically curb our appetite for Middle East oil, and the gas guzzlers which consume this oil at an accelerated rate. Even the “Drill Baby Drill” supporters, must suspect the limited supply and expected supply duration of oil would prove the need to support alternatives regardless of the interim source. Though vehicles have seen incremental improvement in mileage, it is not significant enough to dramatically curb oil and gas consumption. (Go to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) for more consumption information, they collect, analyze, and disseminate energy information and statistics at: http://www.eia.doe.gov/).

But here we are again, with another spike in oil prices correlating to increased pricing at the pump. In the US, gas is now approaching $4.00 per gallon, and in Europe and many other countries it is considerably higher. One important question which continues to remain elusive is, how high do prices have to go, and how much volatility must there be, before we see explosive adoption of hybrids and alternative fuel sources? Will our backs be against the wall before doing so? Can consumers demand, or at least demonstrate a willingness to purchase vehicles with dramatically better fuel consumption to send a message that we are ready to make the change? Can government show a willingness to lead us to a better and faster path to improved fuel economy and adoption of alternative energy options. This is no easy task, but then again, we’ve had an ample opportunity to do so since the oil price spike warning shot was fired in 1973.

Let’s say there were approximately 11 million cars sold in the US in 2010, and about  275,000 were hybrids. I use this metric with all due consideration to the fact that defining exactly what constitutes a “car” is no easy feat, let’s just consider this a general estimate. The best selling hybrid was the Prius with approximately 141,000 sold. This remains significantly below SUV sales levels in the US. For example, recent sales figures show the Honda CR-V netted sales of over 200,000 units and Lexus RX sales increased to almost 100,000. The Chevrolet Equinox ranked in the middle with sales of about 150,000 vehicles. All three of these might fall under a vague category called “fuel efficient SUVs”, the question remains, is that good news or bad news? Is the term fuel efficient SUV oxymoronic, or is it an indication that we are moving, or perhaps creeping, toward more fuel efficient sentiments? Hybrid SUVs would perhaps be more worthy of a fuel efficient SUV title, nonetheless, even a Hybrid SUV is consuming oil.

So where does that leave us? Most should agree that fuel consumption will increase over the coming decades, and will do so rapidly. With China and India emerging as the largest auto markets in the world, they can dwarf the number of vehicles in use by the US and EU. Thus it is almost a certainty that gas consumption will rise dramatically. On the other side of the coin, the supply side, many experts agree that world oil production is in the process of peaking. Some say it has already happened, others predict it will happen by 2018, some say it won’t be until 2050. Everyone seems to agree that the day will come when we will hit the bottom of the oil well, and that day isn’t too far off, be it  50, 100 or even 150 years.

Perhaps we’ve been conditioned to think that scientists and engineers will bail us out of this problem. Perhaps viable alternatives will appear with a precipitous increase in gas and home heating fuel prices. There have been many alternatives discussed from hydrogen to biofuels, from eclectic cars to methane power. It is obviously challenging as little has been accomplished from a behavioral standpoint since 1973, 40 years later we’re still driving gas fueled vehicles, some of them much larger than their predecessors and only incrementally better when it comes to fuel consumption. One thing we can say for certain, for many there is a love affair between people and their cars and changing consumer behavior when it comes to making sacrifices won’t be easy. Styling, acceleration, comfort, roominess, reliability and performance are always on the minds of consumers. Fuel efficiency ranks somewhere on that list, though it is difficult to ascertain where. It would seem one of two changes will cause a drastic change in driving behavior; dramatically higher gas prices, or a new fuel source that offers consumers stylish vehicles with good acceleration, comfort, roominess and performance at a price point comparable to what they are paying today. If hybrid vehicles (or other alternative fuel vehicles) offered good acceleration, comfort, roominess and performance and reliability at a competitive price point, many consumers would adopt sooner. Regardless. at $6 per gallon it is likely we’ll see a significant change in automobile purchasing behavior, and at $10 per gallon we’ll see truly significant changes in alternative fuels for vehicles, and home heating, and  manufacturing and other oil consumptive activities. In any case, I’m betting that we’ll see a much more dramatic change over the next 40 years than we’ve seen over the preceding 40. Though no wager is guaranteed, I’d say it’s a very likely bet.

PS  Virtual businesses rarely use any type of vehicle – For more on virtual go to: http://startmarketingtech.com or http://www.alanblume.com or read Your Virtual Success (Career Press).

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Your Virtual Success - virtual sales, marketing and business - photo from Flickr

Office Buildings Are Obsolete - "GoVirtual, Baby, Go Virtual"

These days, office buildings simply seem like an outdated concept, a horse drawn carriage in the age of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet, a stereo turntable in an iPod era. Of course towering skyscrapers and massive office buildings composed of brick and mortar, conference rooms and cubicles made sense at one time, but with the advent of pervasive internet connectivity and virtual meeting tools, these office buildings are rapidly becoming obsolete, resulting in unfortunate collateral damage like massive oil and gas consumption, unnecessary expense and wasted productivity. Office buildings, though seemingly innocuous, are one of the key catalysts causing us to use 350 million gallons of gas per day, and waste millions of hours of valuable time and productivity. Does is make sense for millions of white collar workers to spend an hour commuting into a city, searching for parking, scurrying across crowded streets to then spend 99 percent of their time working from their PC, talking on the phone, and communicating through email and on-line Web meetings?

Reducing the national commute is no longer a want; it is a clearly defined need as is evident by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling a mile down under the ocean illustrates the extreme lengths we as a society are willing to go to fuel our need for oil and gas. Why do we need so much oil, and why are we importing over 60% of the oil we need? Figures vary, but some, including the NRDC, estimate that passenger cars use up “40 percent of the oil consumed in America”. Many organizations are calling for improved fuel consumption, smaller cars, hybrid vehicles and carpooling. But I look at these suggestions, albeit good ones, as treating the symptoms but not the disease. We could easily cut passenger car fuel consumption in half (or perhaps by as much a 75%), if companies adopted a virtual approach to business, abandoning the tiring and tedious commute and embracing a home office based, internet model.

According to Wikipedia, “Estimates suggest that over 50 million U.S. workers (about 40% of the working population) could work from home at least part of the time yet, in 2008, only 2.5 million employees (not including the self-employed) considered home their primary place of business.” Yes, there are millions of telecommuters and home office based businesses now operating out of their respective homes, but this could and should be increased tenfold.

There are three major factors which need to be addressed to foster a dramatic increase the numbers of home based workers.

1. A new management style will need to be embraced by companies; management needs to be focus on results and not on the close daily supervision and behaviors of individual employees.

2. Workers need to learn how to work from home and get comfortable with the home based office concept.

3. A shift in tools toward cloud computing and away from traditional enterprise applications may be required.

Of these three factors, the first two represent a change management paradigm shift which as we all know can be very challenging and time consuming. The latter is a technology shift, more readily and rapidly addressable, almost everything this writer does is now cloud computing based. My days are now comprised of a handful of Skype calls, several web meetings, eMarketing, SEO (search engine optimization), website makeovers, blogging and Social Media Marketing and Networking, all done in the internet cloud.

Are office buildings and all they represent the underlying cause for the BP Deepwater Horizon oil well leak in the Gulf of Mexico? Can we rapidly curb our appetite for oil by adopting a virtual approach to business and commuting? Will the echoes of the Michael Steele and Sarah Palin slogan “Drill, Baby, Drill” someday change to “Go Virtual, Baby, Go Virtual”? I think virtual business and management will be an evolution rather than a revolution, behavioral change lags technological change. This change, however, is happening and it is a change for the better, a more eco-friendly and lifestyle friendly model, and certainly a change for increased productivity and decreased fuel consumption. As this evolution unfolds, what will happen to all those office buildings? I believe they will simply be repurposed, whether they morph to condos, research facilities and light industrial (yes there will still be jobs which require onsite venues), warehouse space, and community, athletic or recreational facilities. Or perhaps they will slowly evolve to some purpose beyond our current scope of understanding or speculation. Regardless of what shall happen to these office building obelisks, encompassing both impressive and generic icons of an anachronistic business model, I think many would agree that it seems like an inherently bad idea to continue to foster a commuter centric model which requires millions of white collar workers to burn oil, time and money in this virtual age.

OK, I’ll say it, “Go Virtual, Baby, Go Virtual”.

For more information, read Your Virtual Success (Career Press), available at Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble or Indie bookstores (or online). Or go to one of my websites: http://www.yourvirtualsuccess.net, http://www.startupselling.com. Has your company, agency, or professional services firm started the transition to a more efficient and productive virtual sales, virtual marketing or virtual business model?

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We certainly like our mailman who faithfully delivers our mail, or to be politically correct perhaps we should say mail person or postal worker. Yet on most days, we should simply say why is he coming at all? Though we do receive physical checks each week, these could be delivered twice a week, or we could simply ask clients to pay via PayPal or online transfer. On occasion we receive a letter from a friend, but 99% of the time friend and family communications is now provided through email or social networking. My children’s grandparents, as they near 80 years old, have now moved to email as their primary method of communication.

Last Tuesday, our diligent and timely mail person delivered 11 mail items to our house. All of them were solicitations of one type or another including (see photo): Asian Food, Pool Supplies, Electronics, Cosmetics, Replacement Windows, Credit Card Offer, Window & Gutter Cleaning, University Fund Raising, Household Items, Religious Fund Raising and a Technical School Brochure.  All of this went into the recycling bucket, with the exception of the 20% household item coupon my wife might use. Of course, this store already has our email and could have emailed us the coupon. The University fundraising mailer makes no sense to me, as they have my email and my phone number, and email and call frequently. Even the window replacement vendor has our email as we had conversed in the past.

Don’t get me wrong, I respect the right of these companies to market their products and services, I just don’t think we should subsidize it, or expend time, money and gas to deliver it. Candidly, I’d like to see less trees, energy, cost and waste that is associated with the creation and delivery of paper in general. Direct mail, now known as snail mail, is an anachronism, a phonograph type solution in an iPod age. The post office, which has been running losses of over $1.5 Billion per quarter, recently offered the following statements in their 10-Q quarterly report.

  • “The recent losses are primarily attributable to unprecedented declines in mail volumes that began in 2008.”
  • “The Postal Service projects debt outstanding at year-end to increase over the September 30, 2009 balance by the maximum allowable $3 billion, to $13.2 billion. The $15 billion debt ceiling will become insufficient in 2011.”

Though taxpayers don’t fund the loss directly, the USPS borrows from the treasury to pay for the deficits. The net result is dollars out of taxpayer pockets. Should Congress move quickly here, after all, $1.5 billion in losses per quarter to deliver direct mail does seem a tad unreasonable? Recently, it was proposed that six day a week mail service should end. This is a ridiculous interim step. Discussions should revolve around reducing deliveries to three days a week, and we should increase the fees to direct mail marketers to encourage companies to offer more electronic marketing. There are now many choices available that are more efficient and environmentally friendly than direct mail: eMail, Social Media Marketing, SEO, and Web Seminar Marketing to mention just a few. All of these alternatives are less oil consumptive and less labor intensive than the “596,000 workers and over 218,000 vehicles” the post office uses according to Wikipedia.  Wikipedia continues on to say, the USPS “is the second-largest civilian employer in the United States (after Wal-Mart) and the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world.” That’s a lot of brick and mortar infrastructure to deliver my 11 pieces of direct marketing “junk mail”, and I doubt we want to run a $6 Billion annual deficit to accomplish this. Is there still a place for the United States Post Office? I think a scaled down version is still called for, there undoubtedly remains a need to deliver paper based documents which are still necessary and important. With the dramatic increase in virtual solutions, email, social networking and digital documents, perhaps three a day per week postal services is more reasonable and more cost effective. Will this scaled down version result in a dramatic reduction in deficits? One would certainly hope so, but at a minimum, it would result in a dramatic reduction in gas, oil and overhead. Regardless, my credo remains, go virtual, don’t go postal.

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New Score: Online Magazines 1, Paper Based Magazines 0

  • Posted on April 23, 2010
  • by Alan Blume

It’s rare that I receive a hard copy version of a magazine these days. Somehow Inc. magazine is arriving at my door for free, though I cannot recall how or why this arrangement occurred, perhaps it was from remnant sky miles on airline programs which remained unused or some other type of promotion. I like Inc. magazine and think many of the articles are interesting and thought provoking, once you can find them. In the March 2010 issue, for example, the reader first finds content on page six with a short profile accompanied by a large photograph, on page 14 there is a letter from the editor and on page 17 there is reader mail (hopefully email).

For reasons unknown, I started counting the number of ad pages in the March issue. The reader is provided with three pages of content in the first 17 pages of the magazine, or a ratio of about 82% advertisements to 18% content. Continuing on to page 41, there is approximately 14 pages of content out of 24 pages, which is a happier ratio of 42% advertisements to 52% content. Overall, in the first 41 pages I found 17 pages of content which translates to roughly 40% reader content and 60% advertisement. Of course, if I had the patience, I would have analyzed all of the pages of the magazine. A quick Google search led me to a web site called Magazine.org, which states that the average (traditional) magazine is about a 50/50 ratio between ads and content. Overall, I guarantee my down and dirty research to be somewhere between relatively accurate to completely anecdotal and spurious. Feel free to contact me as you browse your own magazine pages counting ads versus content should your due diligence and subsequent findings prove otherwise!

Let’s compare my Inc. magazine findings with an online magazine (Ezine). I would estimate that the Ezine I review daily has a ratio of 60% content to 40% advertisements, which is much better than the paper based version of Inc., or the Magazine.org estimate. However, and this is an important caveat, whenever the reader selects an online article to read, content always appears. In a traditional magazine, it’s somewhat more challenging, and certainly more time consuming to find the table of contents and then leaf through the publication to arrive at page 41 to read your article. We all have a propensity to browse paper based magazines page by page until an article catches our eye.

Our online information consumption continues to grow as our paper based habits dwindle. We receive the New York Times on Sundays though we have questioned how long we will continue to subscribe to the paper based version. Our Boston Globe and Boston magazine delivery days have long since passed. We continue to embrace a virtual and online centric manner of content fulfillment, which is easier, faster and certainly more environmentally friendly. Though there are often too many online ads, banner ads, click throughs and pop ups appearing in online content, my household seems to quote Yahoo, blogs, and online resources far more than we might say, “I read an interesting article in the paper.” In my opinion, though it is early in the game, the score looks like online magazines 1, paper based magazines 0, in what is almost certain to be a long term rout.

For more information on web marketing and web based selling go to Sell More & Work Less, or StartUpSelling.

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Last week, I was discussing an eMarketing, Web seminar and warm call strategy with one of my sales agents, who I will refer to as Joe. He’s worked with me for almost 6 months, and has done very well. We were discussing our outbound lead generation programs when the conversation turned to our mutual and virtual business lifestyle. He started by commenting about his car. “I was driving almost 30,000 miles per year, each year for the last three years”, he said. I was lucky to keep a car for more than three years, and when I traded it in, the value had dropped like a rock.”

Cars are extremely expensive to operate, with the IRS using a current figure of approximately 50 cents per mile to cover the cost of operating a car. At 50 cents a mile, Joe was spending about $15,000 per year on auto expenses alone, and to make matters worse, the company he was working for did not reimburse him for car expenses. From Joe’s perspective, that meant an income stream of say $100,000 per year dropped to $85,000. But it was actually worse than that, because it takes at least $20,000 in income to net earnings of $15,000. So he felt his effective income had dropped to about $80,000. Joe continued, “These days, I drive less than 100 miles a week, and even then, most of the mileage is optional.” Joe’s virtual business lifestyle allows him to work far more productively than the old days of a suit and tie, drive to the prospect, shake hands and drive to the next prospect type selling. And of course, this also meant fewer suits, shirts, ties, dry cleaning bills, restaurants and fast food meals, etc.

Recently we were on a web meeting with a prospective client, the CEO of an insurance agency, and he commented on the difficulty of obtaining on site appointments with prospects. He said it was getting progressively harder to secure an on-site meeting; fewer and fewer executives were willing to meet him in person to discuss their business insurance needs. He was both surprised and frustrated, though his comment made perfect sense to us. On-site meetings are becoming an outdated concept for many businesses, and this is being caused by both buyer and seller alike.

Our case in point is Joe. Should Joe spend $15,000 per year to drive to his prospects? He was selling business insurance at the time, nothing needed to be physically present to accomplish this. It wasn’t a tactile job, he wasn’t repairing a car engine or painting a house, it was a conceptual or informational sale. Relationship building is easier in person, but expertise and professionalism can still be conveyed by phone, and can be conveyed even easier in a web meeting. Personally, I think the days of commuting, selling and buying in person are coming to a close for many businesses. Though this may not be true for everything, for example you can’t test drive a car virtually (at least not yet), it is true for many, many, many, products, services and solutions. And we think the time to be test driving the virtual sales model for your business is today.

For more information read Your Virtual Success on www.alanblume.com

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Seth Godin offered an interesting blog post this morning, “Without fortune cookies, are there fortunes? A magazine with a million subscribers might spend more than a million dollars to deliver a single issue to its subscribers… the freelance budget for the writers and photographers (the real reason people read the magazine) is less than 15% of the cost, perhaps a lot less… What happens to the writers and photographers? Where do they get their money now?” Seth continues that there is a new opportunity for writers to offer content independently, creating their own niche and space with thousands of followers, though this new endeavor will be challenging for many writers, with the ultimate fate of newspapers and magazines, writers may have little choice.

From my own experience as a writer, I’ve seen the extremely slow and lethargic publishing industry grind out a process to edit, promote and print my upcoming book. All told, it will be about 14 months start to finish, from the time I signed my contract to the time the book is actually on shelves at Barnes & Noble, Borders and Amazon (I guess Amazon must have shelves too). Advances on royalties are modest for all of those who are not Bill Clinton or Sarah Palin. And once the book starts selling, there is still a significant lag before a writer receives royalties. Then again, my model is to support my B2B Marketing Services firm, StartUpSelling, Inc. The primary goal is that my book(s) promote my business, and my business creates profits allowing me to write more books. Magazines are predicted to suffer a similar fate to book publishers, with most periodicals paying freelance writers tiny sums, and those magazines which still have a full time writing staff under pressure to reduce costs and salaries. We need writers, reporters and authors – how will they find a path to profits?

Where is the publishing world going? It seems to be moving in a logical direction toward electronic distribution and it seems to be heading there fast. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. If Barnes & Noble are offering an electronic reading device with a large Point of Sale display as soon as you walk in their store, you know things are changing in their industry, and changing fast. In the not distant future, books may be available on your Kindle, Nook or Vook for a buck or two and articles available for 10 cents. Writers may publish directly, cutting out the middle man, drastically reducing the time and money to publish. Readers might subscribe to an online news publication for a dollar a week, or a writers web site for a dollar a month. One thing is certain, newspapers will no longer be delivered, paper based books will become a novelty and magazines will become an Eco-anachronism. But I’m confident that writers will be here forever. So I guess that’s two things for certain.

Seth Godin’s Blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/

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Office buildings are an obsolete idea. Perhaps they made sense at one time, but with today’s pervasive internet connectivity and continuing advances in virtual meeting tools, these office buildings are an anachronism and an expensive one as you will see in a moment. An ABC News Report today (presented on Yahoo) by Jon Karl highlighted the hundreds of millions of dollars spent annually to maintain empty government buildings. The report is entitled, Your Tax Dollars Pay for Vacant Buildings. Karl reported that the Veteran’s Administration alone spends $170 Million per year on vacant government buildings. A couple of examples offered by Karl included a VA hospital near Chicago which has been vacant for 15 years, but cannot be sold by the VA as they must get Congress to approve and sell. Another was Washington Federal Building #8, a prime real estate parcel that has been empty for almost decade. It’s worth $100 Million dollars and is so close to the US Capital Building it was readily seen from their reporting vantage point. Why has Building #8 been empty so long? They have been waiting for funding from Congress for renovations.

Karl offers a good example of what can and should be done with these buildings – noting the sale of a huge old Post Office building in Chicago, vacant since the nineties. The massive structure was actually used for a set on Dark Knight – perhaps the Government should go into the movie business – after all, many members of Congress seem like great actors and have provided years of personal and professional entertainment – and in some cases they even did so on purpose. Borrowing the famous quote attributed to Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, which seems to relate to nicely to this subject: “A Billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you add up to real money.” Where do we go from here? Email your Congressman/Senator urging them to sell these vacant properties. Vacant buildings for 10 and 15 years – we can do better than that.

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Posted in: business, eco-friendly, Government Spending, Virtual Business
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