computer system setup

In the ever-changing world of technology, there are always new things to see and new things to buy to aid you in your technological quandaries. This goes for private use, but also for the professional side of technological use, namely  desktop computers and laptops.

When you are looking to optimize your employees’ efficiency, sometimes you need a dual monitor stand to clear their desk of monitor bases, allowing for more desk room for paperwork, or sometimes you need a more powerful laptop to handle larger, more complex workloads.

Quality Control.

The quality of your work equipment is highly important. As a work tool, you use these pieces of equipment 5 days a week, nearly every week of the year, so cheap products are likely to need replacing regularly. This can end up costing you a lot of money, and ultimately isn’t worth the hassle just to save a few dollars in the short term. Buying high-grade monitor stands is an investment in long-term usage, and more than that, it maximises your desktop space, making it much easier to organise and spread out your physical work.

Durability.

Even when not buying the highest quality of stands available, you should, at the very least, consider buying a durable stand, as it ensures that the high level of usage won’t degrade the materials very quickly. It also means that you can use older, heavier monitors without worrying about the less durable monitor stands breaking under the weight. The durability of your monitor stand is important, but not as important as the maneuverability of the joints, so don’t sacrifice function for resilience.

Trusted Brands.

Monitors are expensive pieces of equipment, so purchasing a lower quality monitor mount to support the weight of that equipment doesn’t logically follow. Branching out and trying new companies is a great way to find the right product for you, and it expands your potential product list to include more options. Trusted, reliable brands will also have certifications and accreditations that provide insight into the performance and durability of a product, so there shouldn’t be too much issue in finding evidence of your chosen company’s quality on their website.

Research & Development.

Looking into the policies of the companies you are choosing between is a fantastic way to get an idea of the goals of a company, and what it directs its profits toward. A company who has very little to offer in the way of products, and a less transparent policy on its research and development, for instance, can be waving a red flag for the long-term outcome of its products. Choosing a company who has a wider variety of products, invests its money in research and development of its products, and has statements and goals detailed publicly can be a better candidate, as you know they are seeking to better their products, be clear in their intentions, and benefit the buyer most of all. All of this means a better product for you, doubly so if they have a long and storied history with these policies.

Company Policy.

Finally, we get to the tricky part of the selection process. Ethical sourcing can be tough for product-based companies, but companies big and small manage to do it, so it’s down to your personal preference as to how much you let that affect your decision. The bottom line is that a healthy amount of research into the companies you might be buying from is a must when looking at new products, and your overall satisfaction with the end result will be worth the extra work put in the beginning.

With all of these points to keep in mind when buying monitor stands, you’re sure to get a better idea of the kinds of companies that make monitor stands, as well as their practices and their materials used.

(Photo by The Associated Press)

Nearly four months after the historic flood of 2016, thousands of Baton Rouge-area residents have yet to return home. More troubling, thousands of others have not even begun the recovery and rebuilding process because they don’t have a clear title to their homes and, therefore, are ineligible for assistance from agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

It’s a big problem—not only for those flood victims but for the neighborhoods from which they have been uprooted. The longer they are gone, the longer their houses stand vacant and partially gutted, and the longer it will take for those areas overall to make a comeback.

That’s why a recently announced initiative of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation is so significant. With support from a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant, BRAF is underwriting a program to help people clear their property titles, potentially making them eligible for thousands of dollars in federal grant money they can use to repair their flood-damaged homes.

“We know that long-term it benefits the community when people own their own home,” says John Spain, executive vice president of BRAF. “People who own a home take care of it and take care of the neighborhood around them, so the goal is to provide free legal services to clear as many titles as we can so we can get people back in their own homes.”

The issue of clear title plagues residents of many of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, where older family houses are passed down by generation, without legally transferring the title to a new owners’ name. It’s a problem on several levels and especially after a disaster like the flood because in order to receive federal assistance a home must be in the resident’s name.

In October, a survey conducted by the community group MetroMorphosis found that while 87% of north Baton Rouge residents have sought federal disaster recovery assistance, only 68% have received any money—and those funds have been minimal. The clear title issue is one of the main reasons for the delay.

Together, BRAF and Kellogg have committed $550,000 to begin tackling the problem. The program will be free, and it promises to find all potential heirs to the properties and ask them to sign over their ownership to the person living in the home. BRAF will give priority to flood victims who have already applied for disaster assistance and would otherwise be eligible were it not for a question over the title of their home. Over the next nine to 12 months, the organization is hoping to clear 500 titles, with 500 more as the goal in phase two.

The program is the latest of several BRAF has launched in the wake of the flood. Earlier this year, it created the Louisiana Flood Relief Fund, which to date has raised some $6.1 million and awarded $4.5 million in flood relief grants to local nonprofit organizations. While BRAF officials concede they’d hoped to raise more for the fund, they say they’re doing what they can with what they’ve been given.

Says Spain: “We’re trying to help as many people as we can.”

—Stephanie Riegel

The post How a new clear title program is helping flood victims get back in their homes appeared first on Baton Rouge Business Report.

This week in retail started with the news that Amazon would be opening Amazon Go, a cashier-free, app-based shopping experience concept that I am almost certain will grow into a chain with hundreds, if not thousands, of locations. Amazon pretty much invented e-commerce and now they are sending clear signals that they intend to reinvent physical retail as well.

While the Amazon Go concept is clearly innovative and a great example of competing by creating an effortless experience, it’s not like no one saw this coming. I moderated a conference panel 3 years ago on the blending of physical and digital retail, including app-assisted shopping. Meanwhile, “robot retail” startup, Hointer, (also offering cashier-free checkout) was founded back in 2011. One key tidbit from the Amazon Go promo video that’s not getting noticed in the media coverage, is that Amazon has been working on the design and technology of the store for 4 years.

If Amazon decides to step on the gas with expanding Amazon Go it will take a big chunk of business away from many incumbent convenience stores and small format grocers. If you think the damage will be limited to grocery—don’t be so complacent—Rebecca Minkoff is also piloting a self checkout concept and Amazon is clearly determined to make Amazon Fashion a success in the long run (self-checkout is just one of many innovations they could bring to the apparel category).

Now that Amazon has a 4-year head start (and potentially some patent protection to boot), incumbent retailers find themselves once again trailing behind another technology-led disruption to their business. Why do we keep seeing these cycles of disruptive innovation with incumbents falling further behind? I have a few favorite reasons:

  • Status quo inertia – In established industries like retail, the status quo can breed a powerful sense of complacency. I can imagine an internal narrative like this: “Hey we have cashiers and they are not that expensive plus there are those impulse buys of candy and tabloids when consumers get stuck in long lines. We’ll throw up a couple of self-checkout lines to check the tech box.” Fine, until Amazon comes along and completely redesigns the experience to be effortless and data informed from end to end.
  • Lack of a disciplined and patient approach to innovation – Experts in the field of innovation point out that coming up with ideas is the relatively easy part, but actually bringing innovations to market is hard. Many retailers who are organized around running their existing businesses don’t have the discipline built-in to filter innovation ideas and test them with consumers. Alternately, they don’t have the patience required for the process and systems changes needed to scale innovations beyond a few pilot stores.
  • Quarterly earnings myopia – Investing in the future often involves short-term pain (expense, sales comping down) for long-term gain. Amazon has a deep understanding of this and has never let Wall Street-driven, short-term thinking influence it’s decision making. Sadly, this can’t be said for the majority of retailers, and it’s led them to be gun shy about even small innovations like better CRM or the use of Beacon technology in their stores.
  • Losing the talent wars – It takes a lot of really smart people and specialized knowledge to bring an Amazon Go to market. Unfortunately for retailers and most brands the war for that kind of talent is increasingly being won by a very short list of tech companies, including Amazon.

All this isn’t to say that retailers should chase Amazon down the cashier-free rabbit hole. Instead, retailers should assess what kinds of innovation are on-brand for themselves and—critically—which types of innovations are within the scope of their near-future capabilities and investment bandwidth. Ultimately, for retailers to bring pioneering retail concepts to market, they will need to get inside the mind of the customer, elevate their strategic thinking, conduct realistic assessments of their own technology and infrastructure, and develop a rigorous approach to piloting and implementation. These are all things Amazon excels at doing.

That’s my take on why most of retail largely ignored an obvious trend and let Amazon beat everyone to market, again. I’d love to hear your point of view: Is there another way to look at this? Or, if you agree, what other lessons do you think retailers still haven’t learned?

YouTube

YouTube

This week, Tilman Fertitta meets with Jed Malitz, the sculptor behind Jed Malitz V2 Gallery.

Jed Malitz V2 Gallery features glass sculptures and contemporary artwork, however, according to the episode description, the founder “lets his pride determine his high prices.” The gallery, which is located in New Orleans, displays the original artwork of more than 10 artists. In 2009, according to the founder’s website, “Malitz first dreamed of ethereal human forms made of floating ribbons. In 2011, Malitz ended his IT career and dedicated himself to creating these forms. He completed building the first glass sculptures in 2012.” He has since been creating large glass sculptures and ink on metal works and has been featured on numerous websites.

Fertitta is looking to furnish his new building lobby with conversation-starting pieces of artwork. Meeting Malitz, he calls the artwork “unique,” but is worried that he has only sold one sculpture in four years. He thinks the artwork is too expensive, which has a cost based on what one sale was. He can’t afford to create any new pieces until existing ones are sold and will more than likely be out of business in six months.

He challenges him to raise his profile with a gallery event by inviting writers and art critics. They all seem to agree that the $200,000 price tag is outrageous. There were no buyers so, after some encouragement from his wife and push from Fertitta, Malitz decides to develop new ideas, even if that doesn’t include lowering the cost. The ideas for his new pieces, which feature green glass, are immediately shot down by Fertitta because they would clash with everything in the hotel lobby. Fertitta likes the concept, however, and hopes to make it work in the end.

On Bid Day, Malitz proposes a bronze-colored piece of wall art for his hotel lobby, which Fertitta likes much better. Since they last met, however, he has not sold any other pieces of art. He has visited with curators, who told him that his prices were fair. Fertitta encourages him to listen to his wife’s suggestions and lower his prices. His ask is $205,000 for the piece of wall art, which Fertitta sharply declines. Fertitta counters at $100,000 but he feels as though the markdown would be “catastrophic” to his business. No deal is made.

According to CNBC, the reality television show “introduces promising companies across the country to one of America’s most successful businessmen: billionaire hospitality mogul Tilman Fertitta, Chairman, CEO, and sole shareholder of Landry’s, Inc.” Featured entrepreneurs present their small business to Fertitta in the hopes that he will place a large purchase order. But before they make their pitch, they must prove to the hospitality mogul that their product is worth it through challenges and customer feedback.

Social Media Reacts to Jed Malitz V2 Gallery’s Appearance on “Billion Dollar Buyer”

What were your thoughts on Jed Malitz’s attitude regarding his artwork? Do you think Fertitta’s offer should have been accepted? Sound off in the comments section below!

Polish & Plates

Polish & Plates

This week, Tilman Fertitta meets with Caitlin Picou of Kismet Cosmetics.

Kismet Cosmetics is a lipstick brand with “a cautious owner” who keeps the business moving forward, according to the episode description. Their makeup lines are created by the team behind Kismet, in addition to local fashion bloggers and designers. According to their website, “We wanted to create a beauty brand that works with your clothing. We wanted to think of this brand as a fashion brand, not just another beauty line.” Their collections include lip gloss, bath bombs, bronzing lotion, illuminators and more.

Fertitta is immediately impressed by their coloring and packaging, but is concerned that she doesn’t have full-time help for orders. He is also discouraged when she says she doesn’t have a business plan. She currently does about $55,000 per year in revenue but hopes to increase to half a million in the next five years.

For their challenge, he puts their cosmetics line up against a leading national brand at the Golden Nugget. Ultimately, people seem very impressed with Kismet, including Fertitta, who tries the lipstick for himself. He calls their lipstick smooth and even kisses the mirror to cast his vote. Adding an additional layer to the challenge, he asks them to go out and sell some lipsticks, which does not go as well since the owner is not as much of a natural salesperson as her part-time worker Brittany.

After meeting with the entrepreneurial school at the University of Houston, Picou presents her business plan, which includes bringing Brittany on full-time for sales and marketing and getting a line of credit in order to pay her salary. On Bid Day, they explain that they hope to expand, but Fertitta is concerned that they won’t hit their large projection numbers. They ask for a $30,000 purchase order for five boutique locations ($500 per store). He wants to put the products in 11 locations, which totals a $55,000 order in year one with his updated numbers.

According to CNBC, the reality television show “introduces promising companies across the country to one of America’s most successful businessmen: billionaire hospitality mogul Tilman Fertitta, Chairman, CEO, and sole shareholder of Landry’s, Inc.” Featured entrepreneurs present their small business to Fertitta in the hopes that he will place a large purchase order. But before they make their pitch, they must prove to the hospitality mogul that their product is worth it through challenges and customer feedback.

Social Media Reacts to Kismet Cosmetics’ Appearance on “Billion Dollar Buyer”

Would you buy products from Kismet Cosmetics? Did you like Fertitta’s offer? Sound off in the comments section below!