Sunday, February 23, 2014

Student of the week - Louden Green

Louden Green a fifth grade student from Jordan-Small Middle School is The Windham Eagle student of the week. Greene is our fifth grade student of the month at JSMS.  “Louden is a focused learner who consistently contributes to classroom conversations and asks questions.  Louden enjoys listening to his iPod, playing outside and riding his bike.  He has one sister, a dog named Johnny Cash and two fish.  He loves science and if he was President of the world, he would demand world peace. 

Keep it Clean - By Kaile Warren

Of all the things to consider when hiring a contractor, one of the least often considered or talked about issue is how well the project will be cleaned on a daily basis. Additionally, how well existing fixtures, furniture, etc. will be taken care of, is seldom locked down prior to construction. The lack of a cleaning expectation, as well as a protection plan, is often times the basis for a breakdown in the relationship between contractor and owner.

When you look at a breakdown of your contractors pricing, you will often times see debris removal as a line-item in the bid. It is seldom that you will see daily clean up, or property protection as a line-item. As an owner, you need to make sure you hold your contractor accountable for protection of existing furniture, fixtures, etc., as well as a complete daily clean up. 

One would think professional contractors would automatically keep their job site clean, safe and picked up. However, this assumption is frequently a mistake. When negotiating your contract, do not be bashful about getting your expectations into your written agreement. It is better to set the expectations upfront, rather to be disappointed or in a conflict on the back end of a project.

A dirty, messy worksite can lead to collateral damage, safety issues and in general, poor quality work. Scratching furniture by setting debris against it, contaminating paint by setting paint cans in or near piles of dirt and or dust on the floor, and stepping on nails left in walkways, are just some of the issues an unkempt worksite will create. 

As a property owner, take the lead when it comes to keeping your worksite clean. Require your contractor to do daily cleanings, and to also have a professional cleaning done at points throughout the work or at its completion. 

Too many times homeowners just suck it up (yes, pun intended) when it comes to a dusty, dirty worksite. Make your expectations known upfront, not after the fact. It’s your property and health. Protect it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Insight - A hand up or a hand out? - by Michelle Libby

Augusta released data on the use of Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) welfare cards this past week. The information requested by The Maine Wire, the online news site of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, found that “thousands of transactions where taxpayer-funded welfare benefits were used at bars, liquor stores, smoke shops and other inappropriate venues.”

How many of us have thought about the wasted money that is supposed to be used to help families get by, but instead are used for bad habits and frankly, wants, not needs? 

I am not against helping families and individuals who need a hand. It’s those people who abuse the system and know that they can “make more money” sitting at home on the couch with their hand extended, rather than go to work at a minimum wage job. 

What does this say to those people who work for minimum wage? What are we teaching our children and peers? Is it better to sit around and wait for a hand out? 

There are always exceptions and those people are the ones who need help and are not happy about having to ask for it. It’s the entitled, self-serving, system abusers who are perfectly healthy and refuse to work that get my goat. 

When will the system change so that people can help themselves out of their situation? Augusta should be concerned with creating systems that have people “working” doing volunteer work for their EBT card…work that they are qualified to do or could be trained to do. There are a lot of unfilled positions out there. Perhaps they don’t pay enough to buy that new convertible, but wouldn’t it make those people feel better about themselves if they were able to contribute to the community and not just feed off the government. 

"Maine has, pound-for-pound, the second-largest welfare system in the nation and that system has doubled in size over the past 20 years without any change to the poverty rate…,” said assistant house Republican leader Alex Willette of Mapleton. “The Democrats' insistence on maintaining the status quo is simply not an option.” 

I’m not sure if it is a party issue, but someone in Augusta needs to take a good hard look at what’s going on in our state and pass some legislation that makes sense and gives us a chance to make Maine the great state it can be. 

-          Michelle Libby

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Doing the bathroom remodel right

It is that time of year when bathroom remodels become a high priority for homeowners. While getting the right design, materials, colors, etcetera, is time consuming, these tasks are nevertheless some of the more enjoyable aspects of remodeling a bathroom.

The most common reasons people remodel their bathrooms are because they want to enlarge, update, create a new use for an existing space or they want to personalize their bathroom. In most cases, choosing the right contractor makes a world of difference in the overall success of remodeling a bathroom.

Today, I want to expose you to things you need to be mindful of before you begin redoing your bathroom. There are issues that often times can blow an already tight budget, or in worst case scenarios these items can drastically alter the completion time and/or plans.
When a client calls me to remodel their bathroom, I first off walk them through what I call the out-of-sight issues that need to be considered. Yes, picking out tile, marble and vanity tops are the fun things, as they should be. But getting your bathroom, right and tight is critical.

First off, make sure the existing floor is secure and suitable for the type of fixtures and flooring you will be installing. Have the contractor look for rotted areas in the floor. Also check for squeaks and make sure the floor is level. Additionally, if you are moving the location of the shower etc, make sure the plumbing below can be adapted without the need to cut through framing beams.

Consider the existing insulation, or lack thereof in the bathroom. Chances are you may want to redo the interior walls. Such an event often leads to installing new insulation or at a minimum adding to the old. You will also want the wiring to be checked to gain some insight into the overall electrical costs. A lot of people think an electrician can just jump off this or that wire. When the reality is that often times a bathroom remodeling project requires substantial wiring work.

Finally, when remodeling a bath give a lot of consideration to installing a noise barrier. Next to the living room, the bathroom is often times the noisiest room in the house. What with running water, toilet flushing, hair dryers and more, a bathroom can be noisy. This issue is never more apparent then when someone is using the bath early in the morning or late at night.

Remember, make this a fun project. At the same time, ask a lot of questions in order to know what you currently don't know before work begins.

Resolutions for a business

If you are making New Year's resolutions, do they involve your business or you as a professional business person? Think about this. A majority of your customers or clients are making New Year’s resolutions. While your customers/clients are in the mood to make changes, it is the perfect time to make a stronger connection, or to reconnect.

I have always wondered why businesses do not put out a questionnaire to their customers, inquiring about their resolutions. There is much to learn about your customer base by learning what they want to change. Make the questionnaire anonymous or not. Also, offer a small discount for people to take the time to fill out the questionnaire.

Some business owners set goals the first of each year to build their consumer/client base. I think it is important to also set a goal to further harvest your existing consumer base. Connecting with your consumer base via resolution is a creative way to gain a more personal understanding of your consumer.

You want your business to have top-of-mind-awareness with your consumers. The best way to build that awareness is to connect in a deeper, more meaningful way than your competition does. If you have a better understanding of how your customers want to improve themselves and the world around them, then you have a competitive advantage.

The secret to having success with this is how well you aggregate, analyze and implement your learnings. The goal to doing this should be for you to be able to better tailor your business to meet the ever changing needs and desires of your consumers. 

Information is a power tool to have in your business - building toolbox. You can buy a lot of research data. But, at the end of the day would you rather make a business decision using general data collected from the masses, or would you rather have important personal information collected directly from your customers/clients?

Try an anonymous questionnaire that asks for resolutions and why they are important to the person. The answers just may unlock the marketing secret to building a deeper recurring relationship with your consumer base.