Why You Should Own Your Website

This article was orginally published at Strella Social Media on December 19, 2012.

Big WWWA professional website is the most crucial marketing tool that a small business owner has at his or her disposal. Establishing and retaining full ownership and control of your website is equally important in the rapidly shifting online world.

There are scores of “out-of-the-box” options out there from large, well-known companies that offer an easy and (seemingly) low-cost gateway towards establishing their own website. Such options can be very attractive to those who have little or no experience with websites because they often including editing tools where business owners can create their site. However, beware of some potent fine print that accompanies these “great” deals.

The first common issue is a lack of control over updating content or expanding the site. When a site is new, it is also small. The handful of pages and/or features you get with these “out-of-the-box” deals is usually sufficient for a start-up, but inevitably a business’s needs will change or grow (or both). This is where the large, well-known company makes their real money, often charging exorbitant amounts for additions or simple changes. For those old enough to remember, think about the old “12 records for a penny” deals. These club memberships were great upfront, but you were committed to buy each month for a couple years at whatever “regular club prices” they decided to charge you.

The second typical issue is ownership. Depending on which company you’re dealing with, these issues could range from simple challenges like being unable to control the Twitter handle that appears when a reader selects the “share” button to more complex difficulties such as site copyright. I had a client who ultimately didn’t own anything on his existing site even though the images were of him and his staff and the words described his business. Lack of ownership can also have an adverse effect on search engine optimization (SEO) as limits are placed on how pages are constructed and the types of tools available to help improve your SEO.

As a website designer who specializes in creating custom websites, I obviously have an interest in promoting well-built websites. I have several clients who were entangled in these “out-of-the-box” schemes and the limitations were so severe that we were forced to rebuild the entire site to make even basic enhancements. Building your site organically may be a slower and (initially) more costly option but you will reap the rewards in the long run by maintaining ownership and control.

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The Uphill Battle Facing Small Business

This article was orginally published at Strella Social Media on November 19, 2012.

Uphill Battle Facing Small BusinessNext Saturday, November 24th has been deemed Small Business Saturday, positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the post-Thanksgiving shopping spurt. On the surface, this is a very good thing. It brings widespread awareness to small business in general and should cause consumers to think of the little noticed shops they may routinely pass on their way to the big box store.

I must admit, however, that I have some skepticism about this initiative. First, it was launched by American Express, a multi-billion dollar, multi-national, corporation that may be about as far from “small” as one can get. AMEX has also registered the terms “Shop Small” and “Small Business Saturday,” which means that an actual small business may get into trouble if they used these terms in this context without permission or sanction from AMEX. I don’t mean to dump too much on American Express as I still think this is a great awareness campaign for small businesses, but let’s be frank; it is a big advertisement for their financial services.

There is also a bit of cynicism with the term “small business” itself. It has been volleyed around the political world in recent times as a mere catch phrase, well focus-tested and positive. In a way, saying you’re in favor of small business is like saying you’re for “world peace,” a great sounding concept, but totally meaningless unless you’re willing to look at the finer details needed to achieve such a lofty goal.

In the past political season, we’ve heard both sides speak how they were in favor of “small businesses” or the “middle class.” But when you look at some of the finer details, you see that the opposite is true. When the IRS audits a large corporation, they receive an average of $9,173 per man hour in recovered tax revenue. When small and medium size business are audited, that figure is only $702 per hour, a ratio difference of about 13 to 1 in actual dollars for the U.S. Treasury. Yet small-and-medium-sized-businesses are audited about 30% MORE than large corporations. Why?

The answer is that small businesses are easier targets. They don’t have the resources to properly fight these audits, so they are “low hanging fruit” for bureaucrats who are more concerned with their own success rates than actual dollars recovered for the taxpayers and, of course, this proves devastating for many small business owners. This stat alone should make you furious but there are many more examples of the deck being stacked against small business.

The point is, small business is a great attribute in a free society but there are many unnecessary burdens that inhibit our growth and survival. Most people agree that they want small business to thrive and it is time we all take some responsibility in challenging these burdens.

Clear and Unfiltered

This article was orginally published at Big Blue Bullfrog on October 3, 2012.

First Presidential Debate in DenverYesterday was the final day of the regular season in Major League baseball, and what a regular season it was. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers won the triple crown (finished first in home runs, RBIs, and batting average) a feat accomplished for the first time in my lifetime, the Oakland A’s won their division on the final day, the Washington Nationals became the first team from DC to make the postseason in merely 80 years, and the Baltimore Orioles made the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. But the baseball regular season wasn’t the only thing that ended last night.

With the first presidential debate last night in Denver, the fog of deception that was fabricated to make Mitt Romney look like he is an unacceptable choice for the highest office in the land has been permanently dispensed. In fact, some of the more enjoyable moments of the debate were those when President Obama appeared absolutely lost because Mitt Romney refused to accept the caricature of his positions created by the left. But Mitt Romney is not a caricature and his legitimacy shone brightly in contrast with the president last night in this debate which focused exclusively on domestic policy.

Without the filter of campaign commercials or slanted media analysis, the candidates were presented bare (without teleprompters) and had to rely on their own knowledge and wits. In this setting, it was clear who had command of the issues of the day and that was the challenger. A long running CNN poll, which has been taken after every Presidential debate since 1980 had Romney winning by an astonishing 67% to 25%, shattering all previous margins.

A lot of the initial analysis of the debate claimed that Romney won because he was more “aggressive” and one analyst actually said Romney got the edge in time using a football analogy. Actually, President Obama clocked in with nearly five more minutes than Governor Romney and it only felt like Romney spoke longer because his words had so much more substance than Obama’s well used platitudes and stereotyped preconceptions.

There are still two presidential debates remaining this month along with one vice presidential debate, so this race is far from over with 33 days until the election. However, anyone who paid close attention last night has got to like Romney’s chances at this point.

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Goodnight, Good Guy

August 21, 2012
by J.D.Cook

 
Pap Pap and Me, 2008The following is the eulogy, written and delivered by J.D. Cook at his grandfather Pat Albano’s funeral on August 20th.
 
On behalf of my family I’d like to thank you all for coming to honor my late grandfather’s memory.

Born Pasquale John Albano; his friends and family came to know him best as Pat while his grandchildren dubbed him Pap Pap. Pat’s childhood home became the sight of many happy Christmas’s for his grandchildren. He would entertain his grandson Jake and granddaughter Erin with silly stories created over misheard phrases or words. His grandson Bryen would often find himself being chased through the house by Pat pretending to be a ghoul or ghost and whenever I needed a ride to football practice or home from school he was there.

This is, of course, a snap shot into Pat’s life near its conclusion. He was born in Hazleton Pennsylvania; the 9th of 10 children and spent the vast majority of his life here; taking an interest in local politics and serving the community for 31 years as a mail man who would ring the door bell for the elderly folks when their social security checks arrived. Pat was one of the great unsung pillars of the Hazleton community who never asked for anything in return for the years of service and effort he put into the city. He was the back bone of an American generation that emphasized hard work, generosity and friendliness.

This is best emphasized by his relationship with Morris and Bessie, two Jewish Russian immigrants, who he met while on his mail route. Although originally virtual strangers to him he became friends with them and as they grew older he helped them run errands, visit doctors and provided friendship for them in the twilight of their lives.
Of course he did the same for his family; taking care of his sister Theresa for twelve years.

Pat AlbanoPat graduated from the Hazleton High School which many of us know as “the castle” in 1954 and many years later he worked to preserve the building which has since been reopened as a middle school. It was a great source of pride for him while he lived. After high school, he spent a short time in the army visiting Texas, Kentucky and Washington D.C. Perhaps it was during this time that he picked up his love for Johnny Cash as he stayed near the base in San Antonio where Cash wrote his famous tune “Folsom Prison Blues”. Not long after returning to Hazleton and starting as a mailman, he married Peggy Fay, my Nana, whom he had two children with. Although their marital relationship did not work out; they remained lifelong friends and my Nana was always near Pat’s side in his last days.

Pat spent his life as a member of the Democratic Party and was always willing to discuss politics; although the debates between him and his son Ric, a conservative, tended to become pretty energized around the dinner table of Pat’s childhood home at 671 Monges Street on Nanny Goat Hill. This home has stayed in the Albano family as his daughter Cindy moved in and took care of him before his health deteriorated to the point of requiring a nursing home where he continued on into his own personal sunset long after Doctors had all but wrote him off.

Life is a garden that one sows throughout life. Moments like Pat’s 65th Birthday; where he danced his feet off; attending a Neil Diamond concert and singing at the top of his lungs with his Daughter-in-law Karyn; or just driving through New York City to see the World Trade Center with his son were the metaphoric fruits of his garden. Simple times like these are the measure of a man’s life. Pat’s garden was full and his 75 years on Earth are something to admire and marvel at but I will not say do not weep; for not all tears are sad.

I’ll leave you all with a quote from the 19th century poet Ralph Waldo Emerson which has been at the forefront of my mind since I received news of my Pap Pap’s passing. It is striking because it not only relates to those of us left in Pat’s absence but to Pat himself wherever he has transcended to.

Finish each day and be done with it.
You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Thank You.

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J.D. Cook

 

The R & R Music Express


Mitt Romney and Paul RyanI was a professional disc jokey for several years starting in the late 1980s through the early years of this century. One of those incarnations of my DJ business was called R & R Music Express, which was a partnership between my buddy “Rico” and me . This morning I found that we have a new “R & R express” as Mitt Romney chose Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan.

I love this choice as Ryan is brilliant, bold, young, and from a modest working class background. In the last two years, he has become the clear fiscal leader in Congress and has put out a bold budget each year as a fiscal guru. This has made him a lightening rod from some quarters, but shows his willingness to put himself out there as an agent of change in an era when the Senate hasn’t passed a budget in over three years. In this health care summit in early 2010, Ryan shows his absolute mastery of budgetary matters:

Ryan is 42 and has been in congress for most of his adult life, having been first elected in 1998. This makes him a good counter-balance to Romney’s vast business experience (as well as in several other factors). Yet, in a near-hilarious article in The New Yorker this morning, Ryan Lizza lamented Paul Ryan’s lack of private sector experience by stating he has no business-world experience “…besides summer jobs working at McDonald’s or at his family’s construction company, or waiting tables as a young Washington staffer…” As if to say we don’t want anyone who has had to work THOSE kind of jobs. No, Ryan does not fit into the left wing’s narrative about Republican “Wall Street” elitists. In fact, even though Ryan has been in Washington for nearly 14 years, he still sleeps on a cot in his office when congress is in session and returns to his wife and three children in Wisconsin at every possible opportunity.

In announcing Paul Ryan as his VP running mate this morning, Romney mistakenly called him the next PRESIDENT of the United States. Well, perhaps not the NEXT President.

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