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Every woman starts to become interested in skincare as she ages and sees those fine lines forming around her eyes and mouth. Those wrinkles and sagging skin that just doesn’t glow like it used to. And many women start to realise that natural skincare products are by far the best skincare products. But how do you find the best natural skincare products?

However the first question to ask is why would you want to use natural skincare products? What does “natural” mean and what is the difference between “natural” skincare products and other skincare products?

There is no formal definition of “natural” when it comes to skincare and anti aging products. However to me “natural” means “safe” skincare products.

Safe? Aren’t all skincare products safe? Why would they be unsafe?

Sadly the answer is that not all skincare products and anti aging products (or cosmetics or beauty products for that matter) are safe. It is gradually becoming known that many skincare and anti aging products and cosmetics, perfumes, body care and beauty products contain ingredients that may in fact be damaging to your skin or even your health. I first became aware of this when my young daughter had a terrible skin reaction to her first use of cosmetics when she had her first ballet concert, and have been interested in this ever since.

Many ingredients that go into our skincare products and cosmetics in the US are banned in other countries, like European countries. But here it’s perfectly legal to use suspect ingredients in our skincare and anti aging products and the FDA doesn’t regulate against this. The problem is so bad that there are whole organizations set up to try and foster the manufacture of safe skincare products and cosmetics.

I’ll give you an example. A recent study found lead in over 50% of big brand lipsticks tested. Scary isn’t it?

So many people are turning to natural skincare products and cosmetics to find safe products. And of course they want to find the best natural skincare products because the companies that make skincare products from all natural, and safe, ingredients, aren’t the big brand name companies.

Most companies that make natural skincare products have signed the “Compact for Safe Cosmetics” to evidence their commitment to producing safe products. And these natural skincare products are usually much more effective than their less safe but more well known cousins which you see advertised on TV and on the shelves of the stores.

That’s because the companies that make the best natural skincare products are small niche companies. They can’t compete on marketing budget, so they compete on product quality. To survive they need to produce top shelf products so that customers come back over and over again. So they don’t need to spend up big on TV advertising.

There are excellent natural skincare products made up into a complete scientific skincare system that are available to buy and are safe to use, and extremely effective. They aren’t made by the big name skincare companies or cosmetics companies, but if you manage to find them they are cost comparable or even cheaper than the big brands, and safe to use.

Looking for an interior designer or interior decorator can be overwhelming if you are not sure which designer you need for the scope or your project. Are you building, renovating or moving and need professional advice? Are you planning to sell your property and not sure how to get ready for the first inspection?

This document gives you answers to frequently asked questions in regards to interior design, interior decorating, colour consulting and property styling.

It will help you finding the right designer for your interior design and decorating projects and eventually create your individual style in your home.

What is the difference between an interior designer and an interior stylist?

You may have asked yourself this question already when facing a building or renovation project. Do I need an interior designer, an interior decorator, a colour consultant or an interior stylist?

The answer is that it depends on the scope of the project.

An interior designer is a skilled professional who is designing interior environments according to your briefing. The interior designer either modifies what already exists (renovation) or provides an entirely new design for a space (new build). In this case the interior designer works closely with the architect and comes in at an early stage of the project. Interior designers work either along a team in design firm or on their own.

What is the job of an interior stylist? An interior stylist is a designer or consultant in a field subject to changes in style, especially fashion or interior decoration. An interior stylist cultivates or maintains any particular style and in most cases stylist are finders, keepers and collectors of beautiful objects.

The interior stylist can help you finding your own style, creating beautiful interiors that are unique and meaningful. This can be achieved with the simplest things and does not have to be expensive. The only thing you need to do is keep your eyes open to beautiful things in nature, architecture, design, museums, art, exhibitions, books, textiles and travel. There is only one rule: Only collect or buy things that mean something to you!

How does a colour consultation work?

The colour consultation focuses on creating a colour scheme for a specific room or space or the whole house according to your briefing. A qualified colour consultant can help you with interior and exterior colour schemes.

Prior to designing a colour scheme for you the colour consultant should always talk to you about the mood and atmosphere you would like to achieve in your space. He will explain to you the differences between the paint companies and their products and choose the right product for your needs. After designing the colour scheme you will receive a written recommendation including a specification sheet and brushouts ready for your painter to start.

Why is it important to seek advice from a designer when choosing colours?

Colour is the most powerful tool when it comes to non-verbal communication and the design element that makes a space come alive. Colour brings individuality in a space and it is one of the most useful tools to master when finding your own style.

Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute, says in her book Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color: “Among other uses, color stimulates and works synergistically with all of the senses, symbolizes abstract concepts and thoughts, expresses fantasy or wish fulfillment, recalls another time or place and produces an aesthetic or emotional response.”

When choosing a colour for a room or house it is important to think about the mood and atmosphere you would like to achieve. Is it a dark room or flooded with natural light? In which direction is the room facing? How are the proportions? Do you live in a small apartment or a contemporary newly built house with open plan living areas? All this needs to be considered when choosing colours for a space.

If you are overwhelmed by the choice of colours available – yes, there are thousands on the market – how can you start finding your personal colour scheme?

For some people it is a longer journey, for others it comes more naturally. The most important thing is to take some time, open your eyes, walk around your home and absorb the colour combinations you see. Then start gathering all the pieces you love. This can be anything from old porcelain, travel souvenirs, photographs, artwork, clothes, tear sheets from magazines, fabric swatches, stationary, a collection of stones, feathers or glass objects.

And don’t forget nature as inspiration for a colour scheme (interior or exterior). If you live near the ocean, shades of blues and greens can be used to link your interior with its surroundings. Flowers, butterflies, stones, shells, driftwood are fantastic inspirations for colour schemes.

Once you have gathered all your beloved treasures in one spot, play around with the pieces, group them by colours and you will see a colour palette emerge. This “moodboard” is a great starting point for your interior designer, interior stylist or colour consultant to help you creating an individual and personal space, a home that reflects who you are and a place that you love coming home to.

Stylist’s tip: Before you start painting always buy a test pot and paint a large sheet of paper or cardboard (one square metre) with your colour. Tape it to the walls in your room and study it for a couple of days. Look at it in daylight and artificial light. This is very important as colours change depending on the light, the orientation of the room, other colours in the room and spatial elements like furniture and artwork for example.

What is the difference between a colour and a styling consultation?

The colour consultation focuses on creating a colour scheme for a specific room or space or the whole house according to your briefing. A qualified colour consultant can help you with interior and exterior colour schemes.

The styling consultation focuses on creating a certain (Your) style in your home or simply on answering all your questions about colours, style, furniture sourcing and placement, art sourcing and placement, displays of your collections, accessories, proportions in a space, lighting etc.

Again it is vital that the designer listens to what you would like to achieve (briefing) and makes sure that he understood what you want (debriefing). Don’t let the interior designer or interior stylist talk you into something you don’t like!

How do I maximise the output of my styling consultation?

Are you planning to colour, redecorate or renovate, but don’t know where to start? Do you have lots of questions about colour schemes, furniture placement, how to display your collections, books or other beloved things? Are you not sure whether to redecorate with your old furniture and accessories or to renovate and create a new look? Do you need inspirations where to source furniture and accessories, second hand pieces or antiques?

If you prepare your first consultation with your stylist properly, you will get answers to all the questions you have. Here are my tips how to maximise the output from your styling or colour consultation:

• Be clear what you would like the outcome of the consultation to be.

• Decide which room or space you would like to focus on. Is it only one room or the whole house?

• Prepare yourself with tear sheets from interior design magazines like Real Living, Inside Out, Belle or Vogue Living. There are plenty on the market so choose the one that speaks to you most and start collecting pages of everything you like: colour schemes, furniture, accessories, room layouts, rugs, flooring, wallpaper, decorative items and everything that speaks to you. If you do this for a couple of weeks you will clearly see what you like and find your own personal style.

• Keep your eyes open to the beautiful things around you: nature, architecture, design, museums, art, exhibitions, books, textiles and travel.

• Make sure that your stylist is listening and explain what you want to achieve with your styling project, what you would like a room to do for you and what mood you would like to create in your space.

And finally one of the most important things: Don’t let the stylist talk you into something you don’t like! You have to live in the space and you need to feel comfortable and at home! It is all about creating your home with your personal touch.

How do I find my own style?

The answer is as simple as this: explore the world around you and appreciate the beauty that lies within everything you discover!

Keep your eyes open and your mind excited! Discover and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you every day! Find inspiration in nature, buildings, shops, exhibitions, museums, art, events, markets, magazines and of course books.

One of my favourite books I spotted in a museum shop is called: How to be an explorer of the world by Keri Smith. On the back it says: “At any given moment, no matter where you are, there are hundreds of things around you that are interesting and worth documenting.”

A stylist’s tip: always carry a little notebook and a pen with you in order to be able to sketch, doodle and write down what you discover.

Keep all your findings, notes and pictures in a folder or box and keep searching for at least four to eight weeks. Then start to group things by colour or theme and you will discover what your style is. And there are no rules. It is all about finding what you like!

Books for your inspiration

This is a list of books that I personally own and love! They are all a fantastic source of inspiration and creative ideas for your home.

Sibella Court: Bowerbird

Shannon Fricke: Sense of Style

Megan Morton: Home Love

Holly Becker: Decorate

Susanna Salk: Be Your Own Decorator

Geraldine James: Creative Walls

Hans Blomquist: The Natural Home

Is it necessary to seek advice from a stylist when I want to sell my property?

If you plan to sell your house it is worth investing in a styling consultation. A professional property stylist can help you to achieve maximum impact when presenting your home to potential buyers. A property stylist will help you to get ready for the first inspection by giving you advice on how to style your house with what you have. He will help you with colour schemes that attract potential buyers. He will also advice if you need rental furniture to style each room according to its function and help potential buyers to envisage themselves in the space. Property styling is all about creating a wow factor in key areas of your home and help the buyers to envisage themselves in your space. Once the styling is done don’t forget to book your stylist for the real estate photography shoot to make sure everything looks perfect on this day!

Market Driven Innovation (MDI) is designing, managing and implementing your innovation process based on the needs and wants from your key markets. MDI is not new, but still today, many companies have found it difficult to transform their innovation work from their entrenched technology and product forward approach they have been using to a market back approach. Often, their entire business processes have been built around their assets and products they produce and their go-to-market strategy based on their historical sales experiences. The result of this behavior is premature commoditization of their value propositions, their most important assets. Market Driven Innovation is based on a strict set of principles:

o Engineering/technical resourcing decisions are made based on a validated market need and an attractive business case.

o Organizational Focus is achieved from understanding market segments and targeting the most attractive segments for growth

o A cross-functional team approach, marketing, technical, and sales all contribute to the growth initiative together, and thus are aligned on the strategy:

o Accelerated ramp up after launch from a higher operational knowledge of the market

o Accelerated technology development because better design specifications from a segmented market

o Driven by business leaders who make resource allocation decisions consistent with the strategic direction of the business, and link development to marketing process.

Market Driven innovation begins with a business orientation towards specific and targeted markets. These markets define strategy which defines resource allocations especially those resources dedicated to the innovation process. In this context we define innovation as the creation of value, and Market Driven Innovation as placing emphasis on customer values, beginning with choices as how a business goes to market; to how they position their brand and products in those markets they proactively choose to serve; to the nature of their product improvements; and to their search for new products and services that may more effectively meeting the emerging future needs of their targeted markets.

Identifying these target markets is core to Market Driven Innovation. Understanding what drives market growth and major unmet needs of the key market players as well as how they define value and establish the basis for generating growth ideas and concepts – straight from the market. These ideas and concepts are the genesis of the innovation process. The more market back concepts, the more opportunities for successful growth. Knowing target markets enables a business to:

o Design, communicate, and deliver more robust value propositions aimed at specific market segments

o Capture more of the value we provide because they can measure the value and make strategic pricing decisions that are consistent with their marketing strategy.

o Apply resources more effectively where they bring value by focusing them only on where value is identified.

o Develop and bring new offerings to the market faster because they know what the market values and how to deliver their offering based on value.

o Evaluate new markets where they can bring more powerful value propositions and new offerings

These elements of business design when generated from a market back learning model, form the basis for a market driven organization, and more specifically, Market Driven Innovation as a core driver of your growth process:

o Provides business management with facts from direct contact with the marketplace to decide which concepts merit moving forward with resourcing.

o Balances depth and speed in this disciplined approach using an organized set of activities.

o Enables cross function teams to develop a common understanding, direction, and shared values throughout the innovation cycle

o Enhances chances of success

Voice of the Customer (VOC) captured early and operationally is an essential component of creating and delivering value with the growth process. Capturing VOC is not a trivial or casual activity, and well thought our and designed VOC is critical to Market Driven Innovation. Effective VOC requires:

o Learning Customers desired outcomes – what they want to happen to help them become more successful.

o Getting to Fact based and data driven information that can be translated into offering features that address the customer outcomes.

o Clearly identifies the benefits the customer will receive and thus the discrete value they will place on an effective solution to them.

o Must be well understood by both marketing and technical in the same way with an aligned sense of the relationship to strategy and core competencies.

VOC is the work you do and do well before you even think of applying technical resources to do product development work. In this regard, you don’t misuse valuable and limited technical capacity. Technical people need to focus on projects that have been market validated both to focus their limited resources and provide them with advanced market specifications that help accelerate the development cycle.

To this end, as we will discuss more later, you engage your technical resources along side of your Marketing people to co-learn VOC, and thus both are better prepared to do their work that is defined by your targeted markets. In this way our resources are aligned from day one of an innovation effort through to launch of a new offering. A key outcome of an aligned and shared approach is achieving success faster and at less overall cost. No wasted costs as a result of false starts and lingering stops.

The three key components or a successful change to market oriented MDI are:

o Creating The Right Mindset – Leaders set the agenda

o Building the necessary skill set – A common framework for implementing

o Providing the best toolset – Fact based information guides decisions

Incorporating all three into the business process is a requirement for successful transformation to a market driven organization. It’s as straight forward as knowing where you are going, how to get there, and a map to take you there. We will discuss each of these three success drivers in more detail below

Creating the right mindset

Leaders must take charge of the agenda beginning with examining and changing how they lead, what marketing and technical practitioners do differently, and most importantly, how they work together using a rigorous framework from concept selection through to offering commercialization. Leadership owns the MDI process highlighted below. The first two levels in the process, Concept Development/selection and Market Validation are the critical elements. In this model, Leadership does not resource technology development until sufficient market evidence and validation provides the basis for resourcing. Technology resources only work on market validated concepts. Leadership’s ownership of the process means they:

o Demonstrate the value and set expectation

o Focus and align the organization around strategic direction and core capabilities.

o Identify, and guide the performance requirements necessary to generate the profit results.

o Organize people to assure the right combination of organizational strengths are applied to both know and act effectively on markets.

Three crucial questions are answered in market validation and business case development:
1. Is there an external basis for believing the concept has sufficient value to the market to proceed?
2. What is the best validated value proposition that sets the design basis for development?
3. Can we make money from developing and commercializing this value proposition?

Building the Necessary Skillset

The Innovation provides the basis for skill development and tool utilization. Each element of the framework requires specific work designed to deliver decisions to move from one element to the other. A short description of the work elements are describe below.

Concept Development and selection: Developing and characterizing concepts (sometimes called the “Fuzzy Front End”). Idea generation methods are generally well-known and most work well enough to assure a good set of concepts to evaluate. What we uniquely require is a concept characterization approach that helps the evaluators better understand and choose among several concepts.

Market Validation: Once a project has been chartered, a decision (stage gate) is made to resource to development and includes four key components, validated market landscape; Value Proposition Development; Competitive Alternative Assessment; and Business Model Evaluation. A validated market landscape identifies and characterizes the market spaces in which the concept may bring value. In this context, it provides the basis for demand, and thus the first real attempt at generating revenue potential. It identifies the key specifiers and influencers, and begins to describe their unmet needs that the concept may address as well as key hurdles that must be overcome to have a successful and sustainable initiative.

The Value Proposition is a description of the value your concept will bring to the targeted market, the benefits the market will receive, and how you will get paid for bringing the value. Value proposition development is the holy grail of marketing. If you learn your value proposition, and it truly brings the market real value, you can build the remainder of your growth initiative around it. Value propositions must be measurable and actionable.

Business Case Development: Before you engage in developing the required technology, answer the questrion – “Can we make money on this value proposition?”. Market Driven Innovation often requires a new way to go to market to accelerate and maximize acceptance and value capture. Value adding chain analysis through to the end user is an important skillset to utilize for business model evaluation. Business models are defined by what customers are selected; how we capture value; our level of strategic control; and the scope of our value proposition. The Business Case should be determined as early in the innovation process as possible. Opportunity modeling can provide the necessary basis for understanding the top line potential and the marketing cost for the innovation.

Technical Development:Effective market validation provides the product developers/designers a clear and crisp basis for building in the necessary design elements into an innovation. We now know the needs (what the market is willing to pay for) and the wants (potential areas of uniqueness). No more starts and stops caused by changing specifications from learning on the fly. Product developers can utilize their best practices with the certainty that they are on the right track. Because we begin the development process with clear market understanding, we now can bring the key customers into the development cycle early and often. We know their testing protocols, and their current standards by the competitive alternative they are using today. We design, we test, we engage the customer to test, we upgrade. Active parallel processing accelerates the development process and we get to launch faster.

Commercial Launch: Preparing for the launch includes the short term developing the marketing entry plan and the marketing mix, and the longer term multigenerational planning. These should be done together since the longer term positioning could have an effect on the launch protocol. The launch plan includes the target market; the offering positioning based on the value proposition; the communications strategy and plan; the channel strategy and plan; the pricing strategy and implementation plan driven by long term optimal pricing decisions. Multigenerational planning (beyond the launch); includes second and third generation offerings; strategy mapping; and a revenue acceleration plan. The managing process and control plan are incorporated into the commercial launch to assure optimum demand creation and delivery

Providing a Useful toolset

The toolset necessary to enable Market Driven Innovation consists of an integrated qualitative and quantitative set that enables the Market Driven Innovation team to successfully address the critical market questions identified in their chartered project. Two interdependent approaches make up the composite of Voice of the Customer (Market Driven). Together, they are designed to answer all the questions necessary to progress through the innovation process defined earlier.

A qualitative market learning tool should be installed to translate concepts into possible value propositions, begin the segmentation process, define the industry structure and dynamics, and expose the relative value vs. competitive alternatives. It also provides the basis for design of the quantitative VOC that follows once a decision is made to proceed to the business case and technical development stages.

A quantitative instrument that captures: concept tests including value elements and price; attribute importance rankings and current performance ratings; outcomes rankings; feature benefits; and competitive ratings. Other pertinent information to assist in segmentation should also be incorporated.

Getting Started With Market Driven Innovation: Market Driven Innovation can either be installed inside a business unit which is structured with both a technical and marketing unit, or can be institutionalized within a corporation as “the way we innovate”. The initiation for each is different given both the breadth and depth the sponsors must address in the change process. It is simpler and much faster to initiate change in an organization that is both ready and organizationally integrated. The leadership can evolve the change live while doing their innovation work by starting with a few projects that are definitive and have a short horizon. As the teams demonstrate success the change process takes on a life of its own and becomes a natural new way of doing work. The basic framework for such an approach is:

o Leadership diagnostic to define both scope and level of change required. Many groups already have an external perspective to their work and thus, change becomes a reinforcement of their beliefs.

o Develop and agree on a project plan to install MDI.

o Training the leadership and team on MDI elements. Utilize one or two projects to exemplify throughout the training. Note: the idea here is just in time training. Teams are trained on each element then they experience the element and move forward to training and experience thought each stage of the process. Prevents training fatigue and accelerates progress towards commercialization

o Select and charter projects.

o Customize framework to fit organizational culture and existing operational approaches and language.

In the last few months we’ve seen a lot of Health Care Reform rules and regulations being introduced by the Health and Human Services Department. Every time that happens, the media gets hold of it and all kinds of articles are written in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the TV network news programs talk about it. All the analysts start talking about the pros and cons, and what it means to businesses and individuals.

The problem with this is, many times one writer looked at the regulation, and wrote a piece about it. Then other writers start using pieces from that first article and rewriting parts to fit their article. By the time the information gets widely distributed, the actual regulations and rules get twisted and distorted, and what actually shows up in the media sometimes just doesn’t truly represent the reality of what the regulations say.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what is going on with ObamaCare, and one of the things that I’ve noticed in discussions with clients, is that there’s an underlying set of myths that people have picked up about health care reform that just aren’t true. But because of all they’ve heard in the media, people believe these myths are actually true.

Today we’re going to talk about three myths I hear most commonly. Not everybody believes these myths, but enough do, and others are unsure what to believe, so it warrants dispelling these myths now.

The first one is that health care reform only affects uninsured people. The second one is that Medicare benefits and the Medicare program isn’t going to be affected by health care reform. And then the last one is that health care reform is going to reduce the costs of healthcare.

Health Care Reform Only Affects Uninsured

Let’s look at the first myth about health care reform only affecting uninsured people. In a lot of the discussions I have with clients, there are several expressions they use: “I already have coverage, so I won’t be affected by ObamaCare,” or “I’ll just keep my grandfathered health insurance plan,” and the last one – and this one I can give them a little bit of leeway, because part of what they’re saying is true — is “I have group health insurance, so I won’t be affected by health care reform.”

Well, the reality is that health care reform is actually going to affect everybody. Starting in 2014, we’re going to have a whole new set of health plans, and those plans have very rich benefits with lots of extra features that the existing plans today don’t offer. So these new plans are going to be higher cost.

Health Care Reform’s Effect On People With Health Insurance

People that currently have health insurance are going to be transitioned into these new plans sometime in 2014. So the insured will be directly affected by this because the health plans they have today are going away, and they will be mapped into a new ObamaCare plan in 2014.

Health Care Reform Effect On The Uninsured

The uninsured have an additional issue in that if they don’t get health insurance in 2014, they face a mandate penalty. Some of the healthy uninsured are going to look at that penalty and say, “Well, the penalty is 1% of my adjusted gross income; I make $50,000, so I’ll pay a $500 penalty or $1,000 for health insurance. In that case I’ll just take the penalty.” But either way, they will be directly affected by health care reform. Through the mandate it affects the insured as well as the uninsured.

Health Care Reform Effect On People With Grandfathered Health Plans

People that have grandfathered health insurance plans are not going to be directly affected by health care reform. But because of the life cycle of their grandfathered health plan, it’s going to make those plans more costly as they discover that there are plans available now that they can easily transfer to that have a richer set of benefits that would be more beneficial for any chronic health issues they may have.

For people who stay in those grandfathered plans, the pool of subscribers in the plan are going to start to shrink, and as that happens, the cost of those grandfathered health insurance plans will increase even faster than they are now. Therefore, people in grandfathered health plans will also be impacted by ObamaCare.

Health Care Reform Effect On People With Group Health Insurance

The last one, the small group marketplace, is going to be the most notably affected by health care reform. Even though the health care reform regulations predominantly affect large and medium-sized companies, and companies that have 50 or more employees, smaller companies will also be affected, even though they’re exempt from ObamaCare itself.

What many surveys and polls are starting to show is that some of the businesses that have 10 or fewer employees are going to look seriously at their option to drop health insurance coverage altogether, and no longer have it as an expense of the company. Instead, they will have their employees get health insurance through the health insurance exchanges.

In fact, some of the carriers are now saying they anticipate that up to 50% of small groups with 10 or fewer employees are going to drop their health insurance plan sometime between 2014 and 2016. That will have a very large effect on all people who have group health insurance, especially if they’re in one of those small companies that drop health insurance coverage.

It’s not just uninsured that are going to be affected by health care reform, everybody is going to be impacted.

Health Care Reform Will Not Affect Medicare

The next myth was that health care reform would not affect Medicare. This one is kind of funny because right from the very get-go, the most notable cuts were specifically targeting the Medicare program. When you look at Medicare’s portion of the overall federal, you can see that in 1970, Medicare was 4% of the U.S. federal budget, and by 2011, it had grown to 16% of the federal budget.

If we look at it over the last 10 years, from 2002 to 2012, Medicare is the fastest growing part of the major entitlement programs in the federal government, and it’s grown by almost 70% during that period of time.

Because of how large Medicare is and how fast it’s growing, it’s one of the key programs that ObamaCare is trying to get a handle on, so it doesn’t bankrupts the U.S. Medicare is going to be impacted, and in fact the initial cuts to Medicare have already been set at about $716 billion.

Medicare Advantage Cuts And The Effects

Of that $716 billion cut, the Medicare Advantage program gets cut the most, and will see the bulk of the effects. What that’s going to do is increase the premiums people pay for their Medicare Advantage plans, and reduce the benefits of those plans.

Increased Medicare Advantage Costs

Right now, many people choose Medicare Advantage plans because they have zero premium. When given a choice on Medicare plans, they view it as an easy choice because it’s a free program for them, “Sure, I get Medicare benefits, I don’t pay anything for it; why not.” Now they’re going to see Medicare premiums start to climb, and go from zero to $70, $80, $90, $100. We’ve already seen that with some of the Blue Cross Medicare Advantage plans this year. It’s going to get worse as we go forward in the future.

Reduced Medicare Advantage Benefits

In order to minimize the premium increases, what many Medicare Advantage plans will do is increase the copayments, increase the deductibles, and change the co-insurance rates. In order to keep the premiums down, they’ll just push more of the costs onto the Medicare Advantage recipients. Increased premiums and reduced benefits are what we’re going to see coming in Medicare Advantage plan.

Fewer Medicare Physicians

And then if that wasn’t bad enough, as Medicare doctors begin receiving lower and lower reimbursements for Medicare Advantage people, they’re going to stop taking new Medicare Advantage recipients. We’re going to see the pool of doctors to support people in Medicare starting to shrink as well, unless changes are made over the course of the next five years. So Medicare is going to be affected, and it’s going to be affected dramatically by health care reform. Everybody’s kind of on pins and needles, waiting to see what’s going to happen there.

Health Care Reform Will Reduce Healthcare Costs

The last one, and probably the biggest myth about health care reform, is everybody thinking that ObamaCare will reduce healthcare costs. That’s completely hogwash. Early on in the process, when they were trying to come up with the rules and regulations, the emphasis and one of the goals for reform was to reduce healthcare costs.

But somewhere along the line, the goal actually shifted from cost reduction to regulation of the health insurance industry. Once they made that transition, they pushed cost reductions to the back burner. There are some small cost reduction components in ObamaCare, but the real emphasis is on regulating health insurance. The new plans, for example, have much richer benefits than many plans today: richer benefits means richer prices.

Health Care Reform Subsidies: Will They Make Plans Affordable?

A lot of people hope, “The subsidies are going to make health insurance plans more affordable, won’t they?” Yes, in some cases the subsidies will help to make the plans affordable for people. But if you make $1 too much, the affordable plans are suddenly going to become very expensive and can cost thousands of dollars more over the course of a year. Will a subsidy make it affordable or not affordable is really subject to debate at this point in time. We’re going to have to actually see what the rates look like for these plans.

New Health Care Reform Taxes Passed On To Consumers

Then there’s a whole ton of new health care reform taxes that have been added into the system to help pay for ObamaCare. That means everybody who has a health insurance plan, whether it’s in a large group, a small group, or just as an individual, is going to be taxed in order to pay for the cost of reform. Health care reform adds various taxes on health care that insurance companies will have to collect and pay, but they’re just going to pass it right through to us, the consumer.

Mandate Won’t Reduce Uninsured Very Much

During the initial years of health care reform, the mandate is actually pretty weak. The mandate says that everyone must get health insurance or pay a penalty (a tax). What that’s going to do is make healthy people just sit on the sidelines and wait for the mandate to get to the point where it finally forces them to buy health insurance. People with chronic health conditions that couldn’t get health insurance previously, are all going to jump into healthcare at the beginning of 2014.

At the end of that year, the cost for the plans is going to go up in 2015. I can guarantee that that’s going to happen, because the young healthy people are not going to be motivated to get into the plans. They won’t see the benefit of joining an expensive plan, whereas the chronically ill people are going to get into the plans and drive the costs up.

Health Care Reform’s Purpose Is Just A Matter Of Semantics

The last portion of this is, one of the key things – and it’s funny, I saw it for the first two years, 2010, and ’11 – one of the key things that was listed in the documentation from the Obama administration was: Health Care Reform would help reduce the cost that we would see in the future if we do nothing today. That was emphasized over and over again. That was how they presented health care cost reduction, that it would reduce the future costs. Not today, but it would reduce what we would pay in the future if we did nothing about it now.

Well, that’s great, 10 years from now we’re going to pay less than we might have paid. And we all know how accurate future projections usually are. In the meantime, we’re all paying more today, and we’re going to pay even more in 2014 and more in 2015 and 2016. People are going to be pretty upset about that.

Conclusion

Those three myths, that health care reform is only going to affect the uninsured, that it won’t affect Medicare beneficiaries, and that ObamaCare is going to reduce healthcare costs, are just that. They are myths. There’s nothing to them.

It’s really important that you pay attention to what’s happening with health care reform, because there are more changes that are coming as we go through this year, 2013. Knowing how to position yourself so that you’re in the right spot to be able to make the best decision at the beginning of 2014 is going to be really important for everybody.

Have you heard of the waterless cooking method? It is a relatively new method of cooking that has many advantages. In the past, a lot of household cooking has involved cooking food with water. When cooked in water, however, a lot of the food’s nutritional value, not to mention the flavor, is taken away. Waterless cooking allows you to cook food in it own juices, retaining all the vitamins and minerals as well as most of the original flavor. There is no need to add water to foods (especially vegetables) because the natural moisture in the food is released and the steam created helps the cooking process. The steam is circulated throughout the pot and falls back into the food allowing it to stay moist and juicy.

So what are the advantages to waterless cooking? First of all, it is an easy way to cook. Many times you can use a one-pan cooking method so that all the food (meat, veggies and potatoes) is cooked together. This also allows for easier clean up with only one pan to wash up. And the new waterless cookware, with its superior heat distribution, tends to have less chance of food burning or sticking.

Waterless cooking also tends to cook food a lot faster. With the new waterless cookware available now the heat is evenly distributed along the bottom of the pot or pan. Because of this, there are no ‘hot-spots’ that may tend to burn your food. The lid of the pot forms a seal, which locks in the heat (as well as the moisture) so the cooking time is decreased.

As mentioned, waterless cooking is a healthy way to cook. None of the nutrients are lost during cooking, and you don’t need to add oil to stop the food from sticking to the pan, which also makes it healthier. The natural color and texture of the food is also retained which makes the food more appealing. Foods that are supposed to be crisp tend to keep their crunchy texture as well.

The features of waterless cookware that allow this cooking method to work include a flat bottom on the pots and pans which allow the most efficient means of heat transfer. The flat bottom connects with your stove element better, whether it be the coils of an electric stove or a gas unit, so that the heat transfer is more efficient. The cookware also has an iron core and an aluminum or copper base plate built into it that helps to retain a continuous, constant cooking temperature even after the heating element has been turned off.

Waterless cookware is typically made of high-grade stainless steel, which is better than other traditional pans in a couple of different ways. The stainless steel does not allow the taste of the metal to transfer to your food, as may be the case with aluminum or Teflon-coated cookware. Some companies use surgical stainless steel, which is the highest grade you can get for a real quality product. The stainless steel is easy to clean, durable (enabling it to last an extremely long time) and it allows you to keep your cookware sterilized.

One of the main features of waterless cookware is the special lid that keeps the natural moisture in the food from escaping. The lid forms a seal with the pot and lets the natural juices form into steam so the food cooks in its own natural juices, retaining all the nutrients and original flavors. There is a steam valve that whistles and tells you when you should turn off the heat (once the juices have created sufficient steam). In this way you save energy when cooking and the food is always cooked at a constant temperature.

Although it is referred to as waterless cooking, one thing you should do before cooking with this method is to rinse your food in water and then drain it before cooking. This ensures there will be enough water clinging to the food to create enough steam, mixed with foods natural juices, to cook it properly.

Cooking times with the waterless cooking method is generally a little less than traditional cooking times, depending on personal tastes for doneness. You should always cook your food at medium to low temperatures because the special waterless cookware construction allows the unit to conduct heat in the most efficient manner. You must also resist the urge to lift the lid during the cooking process as this will lengthen the cooking time and may even allow the food to dry out when the steam escapes.

The steam valve will tell you when you should turn off your stove element-when the correct temperature has been reached to allow the food to cook itself. When the steam valve whistles, turn off your stove, but do not lift the lid until the specified cooking time has elapsed-then you can open the lid and serve out your hot food. As a tip, put warm water into the unit after the food has been removed and let it sit while you eat so clean-up will be a snap afterwards.

Most recipes can be adapted (with a few alterations) to using the waterless cooking method as well. You will discover that old favorites will taste better and new recipes will be simple to master. The waterless cooking method is a new and healthier way to cook. It is more energy efficient, allows the food to retain its own juices, texture and color, and is an easy way to cook.

We live in an information overloaded society, yet we actually know so little. While I was reading this book I took a straw poll of some people I know, and 100% of them had no idea who the Colwell brothers, or Herb Allen are. So much information, yet so little knowledge is a real problem in today’s world. The three cowboy brothers and Herb, probably did more for world peace, or at least peaceful co-existence than any President, or any government organization has ever done. Frank McGee has produced a great book that chronicles the story of these eclectic individuals. Even better the book is peppered with photographs of the actual people and events.

The story starts right after WWII, the Colwell’s are in their teens, and have a true skill in the entertainment world, initially self taught, they make their mark on the radio landscape, appearing in the Tex Williams weekly show. Invited to ‘tour’ overseas for one month the young brothers can not resist, and against their parents better judgment they set off on their adventure. It was almost a decade before they returned to the US. As part of MRA (Moral Re-Armament) and later Up With People they joined in the youthful mission to try and make the planet a better place. As the saying goes, ‘They boldly went where no man has gone before’. If there was conflict, you can guarantee that the Colwell brothers were not far away, acting as ambassadors of peace.

A Song For The World is a great and heartfelt work, Frank McGee has certainly done his homework, he follows the Colwell’s and Allen across the planet. From India, Africa, China, Russia, and just about every other country you can think of, we vicariously watch these kids grow into men, and subsequently fathers. Very late in the book McGee talks about how they became married men, and I have to admit it is a pretty strange tale. As nomadic minstrels they had little opportunity to go through the conventional courtship rituals. Instead they married first and dated later! While this sounds bizarre, the formula obviously worked for them.

There are very few musicians that have the bragging rights that these guys have, they have played for Kings and Queens, Emperors and Empresses, they have entertained millions of people, and yet never had a top 10 hit! This is a fascinating read and reveals a side of humanity that today is sadly in short supply, happiness, caring, and above all giving. We can learn much from the selfless actions of the Colwell brothers and Herb Allen.

Running a business can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying ventures one can partake in life. However, running a business can also be an extremely demanding, and at times, stressful career move. Luckily there are a wide range of business services that can help to take some of the weight off of your shoulders and allow you to focus on the core elements of your business.

The first service is chartered accountancy. A huge part of your business is going to be dealing with the financial aspects of its day to day operations. Many feel employing the services of an accountant to be a bit of a waste of money. This is usually because they have some understanding of what is needed and required and feel that they will be more than capable of keeping on top of all their accounts and book keeping. Although this may be fine for small businesses or start ups, as a business grows, so does the amount of accountancy work. Another point to make is that hiring an accountant is not as expensive as many would be lead to believe. So for a small yearly fee, you could rest assured that your accounts are being professionally managed, allowing you to focus on your business.

Another popular service is outsourced sales and lead generation. Today, more than ever, businesses are outsourcing their lead generation and sales tasks; so that they can focus their in house teams efforts on the key aspects of the business. Outsourcing is beneficial in many ways and can have a huge impact on the growth and success of a business. When you outsource a service such as lead generation and sales, you are acquiring the service of a highly skilled and dedicated team who are specifically trained to excel in sales and lead generation. This means that less time is spent training staff in-house, allowing that management time to be set to more important, core aspects of your business. Another huge benefit of this outsourced service is the quality and quantity of the leads and sales that you will receive. By allowing highly trained, professionals deal with these parts of your business; you will be rewarded with more relevant leads, and a larger volume of sales.

Finally we have Records Management. Although not a service that will improve sales or leads, records management will improve the organisation and efficiency of your business. Records management or Document Storage as it is often referred to, is when your business documents and media is stored in an external storage facility. This will free up a lot of office space and lead to a more organised and efficient way of operating your business. A good Records Management facility will allow you to quickly and efficiently access any of your stored documents at any point. These facilities are kept at optimum temperatures and are closely guarded, meaning your documents will be safe and in perfect condition should you require them.

These are just three of the many services that could improve and enhance your business. By employing one or a few of these business services you could find yourself with more time to focus on the core aspects of your business, leading to a more successful business for you and your staff.

Organic foods are pure and natural foods. These are prepared by natural means and no harmful chemicals are used in their farming or agricultural process. Most of these organic foods are good for health as they are rich in vitamins and minerals. The best thing about organic foods is that no fertilizers, medicines or chemicals are used in their production and thus they are free from any harmful products.

Organic foods are not just good for health but they are also good for nature. It is often seen that in the agricultural process of most of the foods and vegetables, we use fertilizers so as to get better results. These chemicals and fertilizers used today are harming the soil and nature. Organic foods are just perfect for nature and human health. In the production of these foods, there is no harm to the soil, water or farms.

Production of organic foods is much easier and affordable. They require less energy and also the consumption of fuel is much low as compared to the production of other foods and vegetables. Today you get to see more and more industrialization of organic products. This is so because they are getting more popular these days. People working in this field are looking forward for new methods and technologies that should be used so as to get better results. They want that there should be more researches done. More methods should be found so as make these healthy organic foods popular among people.

Although, these foods are good for health as well as nature, you will be surprised to know that they only fulfill 1 to 2% of our food requirements. It is so because they are not yet popular among common man. A research in the recent past had made it clear that organic foods can take the place of other foods and fulfill the food requirements of a common man. Not only this, there is no need of any extra agricultural land or resources.

There are many of the ideal methods that can help you in getting ideal physique and to get size zero figures like a celebrity. You should try out these methods that can really help you in getting best celebrity smile which you always dreams of.

Prav is an article writer, marketer, freelancer and full time blogger who write for various niches. Please review his site and get in touch with him if you are interested in getting the article marketing services and article writing services at affordable prices.

Coffee! The eye opening elixir. Coffee! Black, drinkable, the energizing drink that livens our lives. Coffee! A long history from an exotic unknown berry to a massive commodity production, back to exotic again. And what a past this bitter black beverage has had. The dancing goats, to high volume commodity sales, to the near extinction of the finest of quality coffee beans, the art of growing and handling coffee berries has never died. It has only been altered though out time.

Coffee! The eye opening elixir. Coffee! Black, drinkable, the energizing drink that livens our lives. Coffee! A long history from an exotic unknown berry to a massive commodity production, back to exotic again. One must hand it to that little coffee shop from Seattle that now encompasses the globe. They sure did take the world by storm. In one fell swoop that little coffee company took a commodity beverage and cast it back into the exotic drinkable realm where it was born from as well as distorting the beauty of specialty gourmet coffee for future generations. What is now perceived as a quality coffee bean has traveled back to the art of commodity coffee. The competition on the street corner for a drinkable cup of coffee has become fierce. Each brewer says that their brew is the “perfect cup of coffee”. However they all grab from the same commodity level stocks. Of course without these commodity grown stocks coffee would be in greatly diminished supplies. Yes, coffee is in diminished supply. That is the supply of good quality coffee beans had almost vanished over the last couple of decades as corner boutiques converted to the ravishing corner coffee shop.

There is a change! Finally there is a change in the air. The very small boutique coffee shop and coffee roaster is finally allowed the glory of finding high quality coffee beans once again. Small farm and niche green coffee beans are now becoming available to the fair trade coffee market. Quality organic coffee is being selectively grown just for the small independent coffee roasting operations.

Finally we have coffee drinkers who care more and more about the people of the Earth and the planet that we live on. We now have coffee drinkers who care about the survival of coffee farmers and the lands on which the coffee bean is grown. There are specialty coffee drinkers who cherish the survival and health of our mother earth.

Sustainable Organic Fair Trade Coffee is finally becoming a household request. Fair trade is good for the people. Organic coffee is healthier for you as well as giving health back to our planet.

Fair trade coffee provides a fair platform for the whole supply chain of this wonderful drink. Fair trade coffee beans mean fair prices for those who drink it. It may not be the cheapest coffee to buy however for the quality and sustainability the prices are equitable. It also provides better wages and living conditions for those who grow and produce the sought after bean. Fair trade is an agreement between farmers, workers, shippers, and consumers to care about each other and everyone involved. After all that is what community and health is all about.

Foresight by coffee growers proved beneficial. The few that saw a future for renewed exotic demand set course with new direction. Armed with a brighter knowledge these coffee plantations moved away from the distorted massive commodity market left to flounder by that little coffee shop from Seattle. These foresight seers set their sights on a smaller specialty marketplace. This knowledge was that there would be a need for finely grown and carefully cared for coffee beans. They knew that the land was important, that their community was important, and the survival of quality coffee was important. There would be a need for carefully grown, hand selected, artistically roasted, and rushed to the discerning consumers waiting coffee grinder and brewing system coffee. Out of the fair trade coffee supply grew the expertise to market the perfect cup of coffee. Quality fair trade organic coffee beans are available. Still a consumer can find the organic coffee they seek for their cup of coffee at the corner commodity brewer. Astute coffee drinkers find it a poor substitute for the real experience of fine coffee.

Those coffee drinkers with the discerning desire for the perfect bitter tinged elixir must still seek the out of the way roasters to fulfill their needs. They must discover the hidden gems in the coffee roasting world. And, yes, there are those little gems and merchants, imports, roasters, and sellers. And yes there are many who like yourself desire their cup of coffee to stand out as the pure enjoyment of a cup of coffee should be. After all tingling taste buds and allowing your senses to dance around the flavors of coffee is what life is all about. Allowing your mouth to wrap around the delicate chocolate or nutty earth flavors of the coffee bean and the smoky power of a fine roast is what we seek as a coffee drinker.

If, and when, you find that little quality niche coffee shop hold onto it tight allowing it to grow and become sustainable. Seek out the online coffee merchant that has done the leg work of finding the best roasters and fastest service. Get that cup of coffee. Get your organic blend. Get the roast you desire. Get the fair trade coffee beans you deserve. Don’t let go.

Yes, people drink coffee to stimulate their minds for the long stress filled hour of the day. Stimulating the senses is more important as well. Awakening the olfactory system with quality flavor from specialty hand selected coffee puts the shear aspect of the lowly commodity coffee production into a totally insignificant perspective. Hum drum becomes the everyday ordinary cup of coffee sold at all of the corner coffee shops. Taste bud boredom is a crime of depriving the human senses of ecstasy that we all crave and deserve. Alive taste buds cause the human being to be alive, excited, and adventurous in our every day activities. Start your day with an eye opening sense grabbing cup of coffee and know that your day will be brighter more enjoyable and full of experience. And further know that when you purchase great organic fair trade coffee that you are caring for the planet that gives us our daily life.

Online reviews on automotive dealer’s website are valued features and play a key role in influencing the customer’s automotive buying decision. Online reviews are sought after by customers using Internet at every stage of car buying process, as they offer existing customer experiences on vehicle models, services, policies etc of particular automotive dealers. It is important to include online reviews and testimonials in dealer websites as they help in retaining the existing customers and builds initial trust among potential customers. It helps to increase sales as prospective customers prefer to deal with dealers they can trust.

Positive Impacts:
Online reviews positively impact the dealership sales by increasing the confidence among both existing and potential customers.

Credibility
Potential customers perceive online reviews as authentic, genuine opinions from other customers and feel that they are receiving accurate information. They provide an effective way for dealers to communicate with customers. A good number of positive reviews on dealer website mentioning satisfactory experiences of customers are likely to instill confidence among potential customers. The potential customer can feel more comfortable and satisfied when reading a comprehensive evaluation of the dealer from a large number of customers. Even, the way dealers handle negative reviews by customers by quickly and efficiently resolving problems increases the trustworthiness of the dealers. It is likely that such unhappy customers will revert back to the same dealer.

Included In Consideration Set
The customers usually have a pre-defined set of vehicles that they prefer to buy. The automotive dealers in order to increase their sales needs to persuade the customers to alter their consideration set. The customer generated content like vehicle ratings and reviews, consumer ratings and reviews, dealer ratings and reviews can be effectively used by automotive dealers to alter the consideration set of these automotive internet users. The information given through dealer ratings and reviews can effectively target the new-vehicle buying customer segment. The reviews enhance dealer consideration among customers as both positive and negative reviews increases awareness level of the particular dealer. Also, positive reviews improve the attitude of customers towards dealers. Thus, expanding the consideration set helps to increase automotive dealership sales.

Reassurance
The online reviews and testimonials at automotive dealer website provide reassurance to the new customers that the dealer stands for professionalism, quality, credibility, and security. Reviews by previous customers reassure the potential customers that it is safe to deal with this dealer and there is commitment to customer’s privacy. Providing reviews on dealership website also increases conversion rates as it increases trust and confidence among first time visitors. Thus, existing and new customers will confide upon the dealership that helps to increase sales.

Negative Impacts If Not Monitored:
The negative online reviews can have impact on the attitude of customers towards automotive dealers.

Left Out From Consideration Set
Online reviews influence the purchasing decisions of automotive internet users. Also, they are checked while researching for a particular car on the Internet. Thus, ignoring or not monitoring the online reviews means failing to effectively target the large segment of automotive internet users and getting left out from user’s consideration. Poor online reviews and testimonials can fail to persuade, build confidence and trust among first time visitors and lose out on important prospective customers.

Needs More Time To Convince The Buyer
Online reviews and testimonials indicate the satisfaction of other customers due to better services and quality offered by dealer. Potential customers reading improperly monitored reviews are likely to view the dealer as less reliable and not trustable. Thus, the dealers may have to put in more efforts and time to convince the customers.

As online reviews are like online conversations between customers, automotive dealers need to actively get involved in them that can result in sales growth. The automotive dealers can leverage online reviews and testimonials by existing customers to generate new customers by efficiently targeting them at each step of car buying process.