8 Tips for Success from Entrepreneurial Leader Bill Taylor

As an entrepreneur, co-founder of Fast Company magazine and a bestselling author, Bill Taylor has shaped the global conversation about how business owners can compete. Taylor is an expert on how owners can thrive in today’s competitive market and not only will he be sharing his expertise as a keynote speaker at The NATSO Show, he sat down with Stop Watch to share insights he has gained while researching his latest book, Be the Only: Thriving in a World Where Best Isn’t Good Enough .

 

ACKNOWLEDGE THE COMPETITION In the current operating environment, business owners face a plethora of competition. “Fundamentally the job today is no longer trying to be the best at what lots of other people do. It is to be the only one who does what you do,” Taylor said. “The real opportunity and the real challenge is to admit to yourself that we’re in a world that is more fiercely competitive than ever and your competitors are more competent than ever.S

SET YOURSELF APART Once operators understand the fact that they are facing increased competition, they should ask them - selves what they offer that their competitors don’t and identify the experiences they’re creating for their customers. Taylor said, “What are the promises you’re making that only you can make?” To identify what they are best at, Taylor suggests business owners ask themselves what their customers would miss if the company were to go out of business tomorrow. “In almost any in - dustry there are so many competitors that if company A goes out of business Company B, C and D would be happy to serve their customers. You have to ask yourself, ‘What are we doing that if we stopped doing it our customers would feel that absence?’ That is the beginning of understanding what are the kernels of distinction that make us different and compelling,” he said. Taylor told Stop Watch, “Ultimately successful companies today are willing to do what other companies can’t or won’t do.”

GO BEYOND CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES Too many business owners allow themselves to believe that if they’ve been successful in the past, maintaining the status quo is risk free, but that isn’t true, Taylor said. “Playing it safe may wind up being the riskiest decision of all. If you’re open to what is going on, you see in industry after industry that new entrants, new experiences and new technologies are changing the logic of business. So we have to assume that simply doing more of the same is not a prescription of more success but instead a formula for eventual failure,” he said. To remain successful, business owners need to create a sense of “positive dissatisfaction with the status quo” so they become comfortable with experimenting. Taylor suggests operators start with small changes. “Over a few years, taking little bets might create a line of sight into how they can create big change in the future,” he said.

 LOOK PAST THE NUMBERS Data and analytics are important, but they don’t always tell business owners the full story. “You can’t let what you know limit what you can imagine,” Taylor said. “We worship at the altar of information, but my sense is what is in short supply today are provocative sets of imagination.”

 BE OPEN TO POSSIBILITIES One of the most important roles within an organization is to reshape what is possible and to look for dramatically new ways to solve an old problem, Taylor said. “Look for services and offerings and experiences customers don’t know they want until you provide them to them,” he explained. A challenge within any business, particularly those that have experienced leaders, is that it can become harder to see new opportunities and recognize important patterns because expertise and knowledge can get in the way of innovation, Taylor said.

COMMUNICATE ACROSS THE GENERATIONS Particularly in family businesses that include multiple generations, it is important that different age groups communicate with each other. “There needs to be conversations where the new, young crowd says to the predecessors, ‘We want to make sure you don’t get too comfortable with the formula of success you’ve had up until now. We’ve grown up with a different technology and with different expectations of customer service,’” Taylor said. “They have to be the force that tries to get the older generation dissatisfied with the status quo and open their mind to a new willingness to experience new opportunities.”

 

INVEST IN TECHNOLOGY WISELY Technology can be a powerful force in any company, but it is best used when it enriches a company’s capacity for human connection and interaction with their customers, Taylor said. “Don’t look at technology as a way of eliminating the human touch but to provide it,” he explained. Technology, such as self-serve kiosks, can enhance the customer experience because it eliminates the opportunity for error. “Customers who order their own stuff are more accurate,” Taylor said. “The question then becomes, ‘With that staff resource freed up, what does it allow our employees to do to add to the experience to make it more fun, interesting and colorful so now customers are pleased that they got the sandwiches they wanted and the experience is more memorable?’”

 OFFER A PERSONAL TOUCH Taylor said that in a world with increased focus on technology, anything business leaders can do “to infuse their organization with small gestures, little touches, modest symbols or rituals to show customers that we’re treating them not as a data point as a demographic or market segment, but as a real life flesh and blood human being” holds value, adding that for business owners, it is just as important to be kind as it is to be clever. “We cannot loose sight of the human factor in business and you have to look for opportunities to go the extra mile, so do a little something your customers will give you extra credit for,” Taylor said.



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Unleashing the Power of Meetings: A Well Planned Meeting can Increase Productivity, Boost Morale and Generate New Ideas

In February during The NATSO Show 2016, three members of the Future Leaders Steering Council will facilitate what for many has become the highlight of The NATSO Show— the Great Ideas! for Independent Operators Workshop.Corey Berkstresser, general manager at Lee Hi Travel Plaza, Gerald Daniel, chief operating officer at Liberty Petroleum Distributors, and Herb Hargraves, director of fuel and retail sales for Cash Magic, will come together to guide conversations that will help show attendees uncover their next great idea. To help them prepare for their facilitation gig, they met with NATSO staff and Jeffery Cufaude, a meeting facilitator, to learn more about managing group dynamics and maximizing attendees’ contributions.  Berkstresser, Hargraves, Daniel and Cufaude sat down with Stop Watch to share their insights on what contributes to an effective meeting—whether it is with staff, peers or customers.

 

MAKING THE MOST OF A MEETING

As director of fuel and retail sales for Cash Magic, Hargraves understands the value of regular meetings—both with upper management as well as the front-line employees. Hargraves said team meetings can bring everyone up to date on the most current way of thinking within the organization as well as how the property and the company is doing. “That makes them more comfortable and more productive employees,” he said. Not only are meetings an opportunity for employees to learn from management, they give management an opportunity to learn from employees who are down in the trenches. “Because they are listening to the customers and interact with them, it gives the executive level and mid-level executives a chance to talk with the other supervisors in the ranks and the front-line staff,” Hargraves said. While business meetings can be valuable tools within an organization, simply calling a meeting doesn’t mean it will be effective— planning and preparation does. To make the most of everyone’s time, truckstop and travel plaza managers said they spend time establishing the goals of a meeting, drafting agendas and creating talking points.

 

PRE-PLANNING FOR SUCCESS

Hargraves said effective meetings start well ahead of the actual event. “Spending more time on pre-planning the exact flow of how you want the meeting to go is crucial to leading a successful meeting,” he said, adding that identifying what the meeting should accomplish, what attendees are going to talk about, how the meeting facilitator will transition from topic to topic and what he or she will do for roundtable settings are important elements of the pre-planning process. The timing of meetings can be important, Daniel said. He suggests meetings start at five minutes past the hour. “Why do meetings always start on the hour? It takes five minutes to get off a previous meeting, hence meeting should start at five minutes on the hours,” he said. In work meetings, Berkstresser said it is important to determine which staff members truly need to attend. “Only include employees that need to be a part of the topics being discussed. Before the meeting starts, make sure you give them the information they need so they understand why you’ve included them at the meeting,” he said.

 

 

 

UNDERSTANDING EXPECTATIONS

 Hargraves said that it is important for everyone attending a meeting to understand what the expectations are. Utilizing an agenda, outlining the timing of breaks and taking care of housekeeping items, such as where the restrooms are, can help with this. “It is important for the human element,” he said. Berkstresser said it is also helpful to set the tone for the meeting as soon as it starts. “The opening of the meeting is the best time to get everyone excited about being there. You can let them know it is going to be an energetic meeting and that you’re looking for their feedback to make it a success,” he said.

 

KEEPING MEETINGS ON TOPIC

 It is not surprising that within a group setting, meetings can sometimes get off topic, but Daniel said keeping the meeting on track is crucial to its success. “Stay flexible but have an agenda,” he said. Hargraves said it helps to be assertive if a conversation gets too far off course. “You can’t just sit and listen to the conversation happening,” he said. “You can say, ‘I don’t want to be rude, but I’m the facilitator and it is my duty to interrupt the meeting,’” he said, adding that a white board or presentation notepad can be an effective tool to help the group regain focus. “If we get off of topic, I’ll say, ‘That isn’t what we’re here to talk about today, but I think that is a great point. Let’s put it up here so we don’t forget about it. We can discuss it after the meeting is over.’” Simply taking a five-minute break can keep a meeting from getting off track, Daniel said. So can taking a few minutes to go over what has happened so far. “Summarize the conversation, check for accuracy, pose a question that allows for some level of agreement, and ask if they all agree to this,” he said.  Cufaude said, it is important for those leading a meeting to keep an eye on the clock. By planning how they’ll manage the time throughout the meeting, they can keep control of the clock, which can be particularly important during interactive portions of a meeting.

 

FACILITATING INVOLVEMENT

To encourage participants to speak up during the meeting, Daniel said he provides verbal cues, such as, “Who has an idea on _____?” and “Let’s hear from someone who has shed some light on _____?” Daniel also checks in on how the meeting is going, and asks participants to chime in and give their input while providing some guidance. “When asking a question, give them an example to better understand the question being asked,” Daniel said, adding that it can be helpful to use real-life examples rather than hypothetical situations. Both Daniel and Hargraves said it is important to find ways to include attendees who aren’t as comfortable speaking up. “Introverts participate too. Just because they are not speaking, does not mean they are not engaged or participating. Give them space to gather their ideas,” Daniel said. To encourage participants to speak up during the meeting, Hargraves walks through the room of attendees rather than standing up in front. “When I’m talking about a subject, I’ll make eye contact with someone in the back of the room. That way it makes them more comfortable if they have a question,” he said. Cufaude said it could also help to let people reflect and write responses on their own before sharing with others and allow participants to “opt-in” to when they share rather than always going around the room in order.

 

 

DECIDING WHEN TO MEET

There are a number of times when it is important for truckstop and travel plaza managers to hold meetings. Daniel utilizes weekly face-to-face meetings with staff, which last about an hour and a half. He also holds daily 15-minute calls in the morning with key individuals in the company. “These are line-up calls, where we try to start the day off with positive messages, and highlight the most important thing that we need to do today. We try not to solve all the world’s problems on this call,” he said.

Hargraves regularly takes part in meetings with his peers as well as meetings with upper management, regional management and front-line employees at the store. In addition to sharing information, Hargraves said he learns about new product and service ideas during the sessions. He suggests that management meet at least quarterly with employees, which will increase their comfort level with what is going on in the business and provide regular opportunities for sharing ideas. To make the most of the different types of meetings he has, Hargraves said he adapts his communication style depending on the meeting. “At a regional meeting you give a global view. With the store manager, you’re talking about what the region is doing. With the front line, it is about their key job functions on a daily basis and more of a hands-on view,” he said. It can also be helpful for travel plaza employees to meet with drivers. “We have tried to bridge the gap between consumer and retailer. If there is a complaint, we say, ‘We’re glad you brought that to our attention. We’re going to address it and this is what we can do,’” Hargraves said. “Sometimes it is a hard bridge to gap between the retailer and the consumer, but we do it by ensuring the driver’s concern has been heard.”

 

DETERMINING THE FOLLOW UP

Once the meeting is coming to a close, Berkstresser said it is helpful to clarify what’s next. “If you spell out the next steps, it makes follow-up more likely. You can agree on what needs to be done, when it will be done and who will do it,” he said, adding that you can make a list and distribute it after the meeting. “Then you can follow up with the employees who are responsible and see how it’s going and if they need support.”



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Top Economist Shares His Outlook for the Year Ahead

Truckstop and travel plaza operators attend The NATSO Show to gain insights into the trends that will affect their business. At this year’s show, Bob Costello, senior vice president and chief economist at American Trucking Associations will share his insights during a keynote address, offering predictions on the economy, the trucking industry and the year ahead. Stop Watch sat down with Costello to get a preview of what’s to come.

 

Q:  What do you anticipate from the economy in 2016 and how will that affect the trucking industry? COSTELLO: The economy was growing at 2.5 percent or lower in the second half of 2015 as an inventory adjustment became a drag on the overall GDP figures. For 2016, GDP can accelerate some, increasing slightly more than 2.5 percent. Once we get through an inventory adjustment— i.e. too much inventory throughout the supply chain—the decent economic growth will have a positive impact on the trucking industry.

 

Q:  What indicators within the trucking industry should truckstop and travel plaza operators look at to gain insight into their markets?

COSTELLO: If NATSO members want to look to trucking data and compare that with their data, they should look at Not Seasonally Adjusted trucking data. The best numbers would be loads and miles. If NATSO members want to see the underlying trends in trucking data outside of normal seasonality, like holidays, then they should look at Seasonally Adjusted data. The best numbers would be loads and miles. If NATSO members want to see the underlying trends in trucking data outside of normal seasonality, like holidays, then they should look at Seasonally Adjusted data. Loads and miles and revenue are good ones. In terms of driver spending power, they should look at driver wages.

 

Q: What type of growth do you expect to see in alternative fuels? Do you expect that to alter demand and/or the cost of diesel fuel?

COSTELLO: With the large drop in diesel fuel prices over the last year, alternative fuel vehicles are not as attractive, especially in the over-the-road irregular route truckload industry. There are still opportunities in the dedicated truckload market where the shipper helps pay for the equipment and with private fleets.

 

Q: What are the top issues the trucking industry is facing in 2016? Can you share your predictions on what that means for your members and do you have any thoughts on what it could mean for the truckstop and travel plaza industry?

COSTELLO: It is still the driver shortage from my perspective. ATA estimates a shortage of between 35,000 and 40,000 drivers, with new drivers entering the profession slower than drivers are leaving. Driver retention and recruitment will be the difference between growing as a company or shrinking. For NATSO members, it translates into higher pay for drivers, which means they should have more money to spend at travel centers.

 

Q: What present-day challenges within your sector of the industry do you see influencing truckstop and travel plaza operators?

 COSTELLO: There is a technician shortage in the U.S. It might provide more opportunities for value-added services from NATSO members. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that trucking will need to recruit 67,000 new technicians by 2022 due to growth or to replace those currently working in the industry. That figure is in addition to the more than 75,000 new diesel engine specialists BLS anticipates will be needed by 2022.



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Where: Anew Travel Center, Zeeland, Michigan Great Idea: Dedicated Pump for Rv Traffic

Anew Travel Center, which is located in Zeeland, Michigan, is a family-ownedand-operated company with more than 65 years in the transportation industry. The Meeuwsen family decided to build their truckstop in 2013 to offer renewable energy sources, including ethanol and biodiesel blends, to end consumers.

                 After noticing that at other stations large recreational vehicles (RV) and trucks pulling trailers had a dif- ficult time getting in and out of the pumps to fuel, they decided to add an innovative feature of a dedicated pump for RV traffic.

                In an effort to make their pumps easily accessible and convenient for the customers, they placed the RV pump in a location that did not require any sharp turns and was a straight pull through.

                The truckstop is located near a lake where a lot of travelers drive RVs, pull boats and tow campers. Once the word spread that they had an easily accessible pump, it drew travelers on their way to the campsite at the lake. It has been a great success and RVers all agree it is a huge advantage to be able to easily pull in and out of the station.

                The pump offers regular gasoline (E10), as well as E15, E30 and E85. This allows their customers to choose how much ethanol that want to put in their vehicles and RVs.



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Fuel, Fun and Root Beer Flavor in Knoxville, Tennessee

With 175 parking spots, five service bays and 300 to 500 drivers coming through the door every day, Knoxville West TA Travel Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, keeps busy. “You know, we have a big piece of property, but my general manager and I make sure we touch each department every day,” said Sam Smith, vice president of operations. In addition to the service center, the location features a retail store, diesel and gas sales and a food court. Smith shared a few of the things that have kept the location thriving since opening in 1989.

 

 MAKE IT FUN

“The truckstop business is a challenging business, but we make it fun,” Smith said. For example, each year the location participates in a national, annual event called Run for the Wall. On Memorial Day, primarily veterans ride their motorcycles across the country to convene in Washington, D.C., stopping at the truckstop on their way. On the Wednesday before Memorial Day weekend, the truckstop has a band to entertain the motorcyclists when they stop for gasoline and coffee and donuts. Smith said, “Our general manager, Randy Smith, is a 21-year retired Master Sergeant in the Marine Corps and he put this together 10 years ago. It is a fun day!”

 

MAD SCIENCE OF FUEL

A year ago the truckstop started treating their fuel tanks on a regular basis. “With the introduction of ultra-lowsulfur diesel (ULSD) and biodiesel, you are more likely to have bacteria and fungus in your tank, which can be a big problem if you don’t treat it properly,” Smith said. “I take this on personally,” he added, even calling himself the mad scientist of diesel fuel. They test the fuel monthly and treat it with Tank Clean. This focus on the quality of their fuel has been successful and many regular customers comment on it.

 

WILLINGNESS TO TRY NEW THINGS

“We have tried many different things over the years. Some haven’t worked, but we make sure to try new things all the time,” Smith said. When it comes to new projects, Smith takes the lead. “I am the guy that keeps our financial balls in the air. I create the budget, bid it out and oversee the project. I also measure its results to make sure we’ve gotten a good return on our investment. We’ve really come far in 18 years,” he said. A recent venture was turning their TV room into more of a movie room. “We have leather chairs and Blue Ray discs,” he said, adding that they also converted their game room into a sports bar for their professional driver customers. It has a bar with root beer on tap, peanuts and three big televisions. While they started their food court in the 1990s, they have expanded it. They recently reimaged three out of four brands in food court, where they offer Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeyes and Subway. They also expanded their location’s offerings to include Dunkin Donuts three years ago.

 

STRONG EMPLOYEE RETENTION

Knoxville West TA Travel Center has a lot of long-term employees. “Our shop manager, for instance, has been there since the month it opened. We have mechanics that have been there for 15 to 20 years. We have a fuel desk cashier that has been there since the day place opened named Lucy. And my general manager has been there for 15 years,” Smith proudly shared. “These people really make us unique,” Smith said. Smith sees his role as the daily cheerleader. Every day he visits the front line staff and asks them about their day and their families and what he can do to make their jobs easier. He makes sure to act on the improvement suggestions he gathers. Smith’s final advice on employees? “Make sure you hire the friendliest person you can,” he said. Also, he encouraged fellow operators to invest in a full-time maintenance staff person. “We are an equipment intensive business, if something breaks down you have to hire to call a third party. Our full-time maintenance man cleans and maintains the equipment, which prevents things from breaking down so frequently. He also maintains good relationships with vendors so we get parts quickly,” Smith said.



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One –on-One with NATSO Staff: Which Items In The New UST Regulations Will Be Most Expensive For My Truckstop?

The new Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) revised Underground Storage Tank Regulations rules have left several truckstop and travel plaza operators wondering which items in the new UST regulations will be most expensive.

The answer is, it depends. There are several factors that will affect the final cost of compliance for operators, such as what type of equipment they have installed, what the status of their state regulations are, etc., but at a high level, these are the major takeaways from the final rule that equipment owners should be aware of:

 

Secondary Containment.Of interest to operators is that new and replaced tanks and piping must be secondarily contained with interstitial monitoring systems, and new dispenser systems must be equipped with under-dispenser containment. The rule also includes secondary containment testing requirements.

 

 Walkthrough Inspections. As part of the operation and maintenance inspection requirements, the final rule requires periodic walkthrough inspections to detect releases. For example, operators must check spill preventing equipment and fill caps every 30 days and containment sumps annually. The rule also includes additional requirements for periodic spill, overfill and secondary containment monitoring.

 

Spill Containment Testing. Spill prevention equipment must be tested every three years.

 

Overfill Containment Inspections.Ball float valves in vent lines have been eliminated as an option for satisfying overfill prevention requirements for new/replaced flow restrictors.

 

Operator Training. The rule requires owners/operators to designate at least one individual for each of three “classes” of operators, and those operators must be trained in certain areas.

 

One of NATSO’s primary roles is to deliver solutions to members’ challenges. Each day members tap into the expertise of NATSO’s staff for answers to some of their most pressing questions. If you have questions on the rule, be sure to reach out to me at dfialkov@natso.com or (703) 739-8501.



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The NATSO Foundation Awards $25,000 in Scholarships

When DeShawn Blanding learned that he had received a Bill Moon Scholarship award, his first reaction was to drive to the TravelCenters of America location in Manning, South Carolina, where his mother is the assistant general manager to tell her the news in person.

                 “I walked in and told her. She started smiling and gave me a big hug and told me how proud she was of me,” Blanding said.

                Blanding’s mother, Barbara Blanding, has worked at the TA location for 30 years. “She started off as a cashier and worked her way up to management,” Blanding said, adding that he worked in the Country Pride restaurant at the location for two years. “I stopped working there this summer so I could go to school.”

                 Blanding is one of five students to receive a $5,000 Bill Moon Scholarship from The NATSO Foundation. He is pursuing environmental studies as a freshman at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and would like to be an environmental attorney.

                Each of the recipients is impressive. This is the fourth year Victoria Stavish has received the Bill Moon Scholarship. “This year will be my fourth year in college, my third year as a resident assistant, and my second year enrolled at the University of Montana Skaggs School of Pharmacy doctorate program,” Stavish said, adding that this summer she interned at the Fresh Market Pharmacy in Missoula, Montana.

                Stavish’s mother, Lori Stavish, works at Muralt’s Travel Plaza in Missoula, and Stavish has worked for All Events Catering, which is also owned by the Muralt family, in the past.

                Daryll Marie Carlson is also a repeat winner of the award. This is her second time receiving the honor. She is entering her junior year studying marine biology at Stanford University. Her father, Daryll Carlson, is the maintenance manager at the Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza in Sacramento, California, where he is in charge of the janitorial staff and coordinating repairs and maintenance.

                Scholarship recipient Maraid Jimenez also has ties to Sacramento 49er Travel Plaza, where her mother, Florentina Jimenez, works in food prep at the restaurant. Jimenez is entering the University of California at Berkley as a freshman. She plans to major in either Latin American studies or society and environment.

                Alexander Barsa is starting his second year at County College of Morris in Randolph, New Jersey. He is majoring in mechanical engineering technology and is attending school while also working at Kingtown Truck Stop where he assists with maintenance. “The latest project involved constructing a drainage diversion system to alleviate excess storm water and to allow it to seep back into the ground,” he said, adding that because he supports himself while also attending school, the scholarship will allow him to concentrate and put more effort into his education, which will improve his grades.

                Recipients agreed that the recognition and financial assistance meant a lot to them and their families. “Both of my parents are very proud of me for winning this scholarship. They know that this means less financial stress for me and constantly say that I have worked hard for it,” Jimenez said.

                Blanding said, “I grew up in a single parent household. My mom struggled a little bit to take care of her five kids. I know if I didn’t have any scholarships, I would not have been able to attend school.”

                Carlson said she will get to experience additional learning opportunities thanks to the scholarship. “This upcoming year, Stanford is giving me the chance to go to Australia and do hands-on research in my area of study, marine biology, giving me valuable skills and experience for the future,” she said. “Opportunities such as this are ones that I can thank the NATSO Foundation’s generous support for.”

                The scholarship is named after Bill Moon, who founded the Iowa 80 Group and made substantial contributions to NATSO, actively supporting and participating in industry-related government affairs issues. He served as chairman of NATSO in 1989 and as the first chairman of the NATSO Foundation in 1990.

                The NATSO Foundation releases the scholarship application each spring and applicants are judged by a independent review with selections based on academic merit, financial need, community activities and a short essay.



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More Drivers Taking to the Road During the Day

When Keith Wade, operations director at Dodge City Petro, held a driver appreciation day this year, he had hundreds of hot dogs to giveaway for lunch and two bands drivers could sit and enjoy. Unfortunately, drivers were in too much of a rush to stop.

"They were here and they’d honk their horns, but it was 1:00 in the afternoon and we had 1,200 trucks just waving at us,” Wade said, adding that the event proved how valuable drivers’ daytime hours have become. “Now if you have a customer appreciation day, you have to do it at night.” FACTORS INFLUENCING DRIVER STOPS How often, when and where drivers stop is driven by a number of factors, but one of the most important is the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s hours-of-service regulation. The agency issued new rules in July 2013, which have resulted in more daytime driving for the trucking industry as well as more driving on weekdays rather than weekends, the American Transportation Research Institute reported in its study Quantifying Impacts from the 34- Hour Restart Provisions.

                “This shift of drivers’ on-duty time to more congested driving periods is not unexpected. In fact, FMCSA’s new 34-hour restart regulation directly and indirectly advocates for this day-part shift,” ATRI said. “At a July 29, 2014, Senate hearing, FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro touted the benefits of nighttime sleep vs. daytime sleep, saying the rule’s requirement that a weekly restart include two 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. periods pushes drivers to nighttime rest.”

                “For us, we’ve seen the driving habits change with more drivers Monday to Friday and fewer drivers on the weekends and fewer drivers at night,” said Dan Alsaker, president of Broadway Truck Stops. “It seems there has been an influx of trucks moving from the night to day.”

 

Alsaker said carriers are implementing electronic onboard recorders, which is also altering stopping patterns. “It does tighten up their range of flexibility and opportunity quite a bit,” he said, adding that he is seeing drivers pull over much earlier in the day.

                The same holds true for Wade who said the location’s drivers’ lounge starts filling up around 6:00 p.m. Dodge City Petro does 70 percent of its showers between 6:00 p.m. and midnight. “We’ve got to keep more custodians on at night and our staff is beefed up. We’re busy drying and washing towels,” Wade said, adding that truck service has also picked up at night. “The guys are here at night and that is when they’re going to do their oil changes.”

 CHANGES IN PURCHASING PATTERNS

 Yet despite the earlier stops in the evening, Alsaker said that isn’t translating into dinner sales in the sit-down restaurant, possibly because drivers are spending more time in their cabs, which are becoming more comfortable and have more storage space for cooking tools.

                “We’ve seen a number of manufacturers selling cooking skillets that you can plug into your cigarette lighters and Crockpots you can secure in your cab and plug into your cigarette lighter,” Alsaker said. “We sell a fair amount of that merchandise.”

                Alsaker said restaurant sales have picked up in the morning hours with drivers eating a hearty meal. Similarly, Jami Powell, restaurant manager at Big Boys Truckstop, said she sees a steady breakfast crowd from 7:00 a.m. to noon. Then sales die out until the evening.

                Like Alsaker, Beth Westemeyer, director of business development for Anew Travel Center, said Monday through Friday tend to be the busiest and the location has an early morning rush for breakfast between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and then another lunch rush between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. “During the summer when there are outdoor sporting events and leagues, we see another late night rush about 9 p.m.—the kids all want ice cream after their games,” she said.

                To keep up with the morning rush, Anew Travel Center, has a full-time kitchen staff member to prepare breakfast and lunch, and the graveyard shift preps for breakfast, including baking donuts and pastries.

                Wade said the bulk of his daytime sit-down restaurant traffic comes from locals. To help attract them, Wade created a commercial that has helped the location achieve a 1 to 1.5 percent increase in revenue. “We had an advertising group come in and help us out. It was easier and not quite as expensive as you’d think,” Wade said (see the commercial at www.natso.com/ dodgecitycommercial).

 

DRIVERS RUSH TO GET BACK ON THE ROAD

Truckstop operators said that not only have they seen a shift in drivers’ peak stopping times, they’re also finding that drivers are pushing to get out on the road faster than they have before.

                Alsaker said drivers are eating fewer sit-down meals than they have in the past. “Remembering that truck drivers fuel once a day and we’re seeing the eating patterns go from 1.8 meals a day three-tofour years ago to 1.5 meals a day today, that means they are doing some grab-and-go in between,” Alsaker said, adding that while Broadway Truck Stops hasn’t seen an influx of drivers visiting the locations’ sit down restaurants, the deli case has grown enormously.

                For Wade, sales at the location’s Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen are doing well. “We targeted it so drivers see it right as they come in at the fuel islands and go to the fuel desk. It is tearing it up because they’re in and out so quick,” he said.

                To capture drivers who are eager to get on the road, Big Boys is adding to its grab-and-go items and prepares extra products in the restaurant that drivers can take with them on the road and eat later. “We want people to be able to grab homemade meals here and go down the road with it,” she said. “We know drivers’ time is extremely valuable, so we’re trying to make it a quicker experience.”

                Anew Travel Center has increased its grab-and-go selections and tries to make food as convenient as possible for drivers, such as hand-held sandwiches and take-out sides. “We are also seeing a shift in the requests for healthier options, so we have been offering on a daily basis a chef salad, veggie and fruit cups, yogurt and oatmeal. These items are top sellers in our deli,” Westemeyer said.

                Not only does Anew Travel Center offer a variety of options, the location tries to keep them available at all times. “We ensure we always have food out and it is fresh, because if a driver stops even once and we are out of an item they are looking for, we may have just lost a customer, and every one counts,” Westemeyer said.

 

 

               

 

 

 

 

 

               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



via Business Feeds

For refugee camps, a waterless toilet to improve health and safety

One of the most humiliating realities for Middle Eastern refugees involves a basic human need: going to the bathroom. At camps like Zaatari in Jordan, people walk miles and wait in endless lines to use unsanitary facilities, raising the possibility of disease.

The indignity is particularly crushing for girls and young women, who risk being attacked using communal toilets late at night. Others simply try not to go, and risk contracting urinary tract infections.

In response, some refugees have resorted to simply digging pits in the ground and trying to drain the sewage through trenches. It’s a grave sanitary hazard that affects more than 2 billion people worldwide.

Now, an MIT spinout, change:WATER Labs, plans to bring dignified sanitation to this population by developing a compact, evaporative toilet for homes without power or plumbing. Because sewage is mostly water, it’s possible to rapidly vaporize it, eliminating up to 95 percent of daily sewage volumes.

The change:Water Labs team includes: Diana Yousef, a research associate with MIT’s D-Lab; Huda Elasaad, a visiting scholar with MIT’s D-Lab; Conor Smith MBA ’18; and Yongji Wang and Yunteng Cao, PhD students in the MIT Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The toilet has a polymer material that functions as a sponge, soaking up liquid water, released as water vapor into the air; it also contains residual waste, preventing pollution. Residue would be collected once or twice per month.

Co-founder Yousef, a biochemist, says her team will build their first prototype in the next several months, using a pilot partner in the Middle East who has offered one of its refugee shelters as a test site. She says the project could be transformative for refugees, especially young girls.

The team is gearing up to participate in the Hult Prize regional social entrepreneurship competition in March. This year’s theme is “Reawakening Human Potential,” and the winner receives $1 million toward their project. Change:Water Labs won the MIT qualifier round of the competition in December.

Smith credits his experience at MIT with helping to develop his innovative mentality.

“When I came to MIT, I knew that the entrepreneurship programs were well-known and strong, but the resources at Sloan and the greater MIT community have been even better and more plentiful than I expected.  In many ways, it has inspired my own endeavors and provided the connections to entrepreneurs with whom I’ve been able to bounce ideas around, seek advice, and collaborate,” Smith says.

To the change:Water Labs team, refugee camps are hopefully just the beginning.

“Safe sanitation for all is a motto and mission of the organization,” Smith says. “Initially, we’re focusing on refugee camps like Zaatari, where lack of affordable toilets have turned these camps into massive cesspools. And beyond the camps, there is incredible potential to apply this solution to the more than a billion non-sewered households around the world.”



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Toys-To-Life And Gaming Industries Turn To Startups For Innovation

Toys-To-Life is a trend that incorporates physical toys into digital games. The industry had bumps, but startups are now driving Toys-To-Life innovation.

The gaming and toy industries have often been dominated by a small group of companies with the assets and marketing reach to secure shelf space in retail stores and online traffic. The continued growth of the Toys-to-Life sector, however, is shifting the scales in favor of small businesses and solopreneurs alike.

Toys-to-Life is a gaming trend that incorporates physical toys into digital games. With the launch of Activision’s Skylanders occurring in 2011, the industry is projected to grow to over $8 billion in revenue by 2013. When other major names like Disney and Lego joined in on the toys-to-life movement, it seemed that this industry would also be dominated by major players. The opposite has been the case, however, as Disney left not only Toys-to-Life but the entire gaming industry earlier this year.

Initially, industry pundits were saying Disney’s exit was the beginning of the end of the movement. However, the emergence of several innovative startups in the space tells a different story. In fact, it would seem that Disney’s size and experience may have been what prevented it from innovating at the pace required by this developing industry.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses, however, are experiencing increased success in both the toy and gaming industries. Jia Shen is the CEO and founder of PowerCore, a company that helps make digitally activated toys and objects for gaming experiences. At a recent DesignerCon in Pasadena California, Shen and his team partnered with fellow exhibitors in a digital version of a scavenger hunt to demonstrate the potential for augmented reality beyond games like Pokemon Go.

Examples of Toys-To-Life Innovation

Reinvigorating Older Franchises

One of the key ways Toys-to-Life is impacting the toy and gaming industries alike is its ability to revive popular franchises that may no longer be in the spotlight. Shen shares, “In a recent project, we partnered with Mattel, Animoca Brands, and Super7 to create a line of character cards that activate powerups in the new He-Man Tappers of Greyskull mobile game. We do this by using NFC (near-field-communication) technology to make the cards scannable from the game.”

Integrations like these create intrigue for existing franchises by generating new and exciting versions of gameplay. Toys-to-life enabled games encourage consumers to collect the various characters or power-ups required for enhanced gameplay, making it easier than ever for brands to bundle toys and games that go together.

The Toy Blank

Another trend in toys that is giving small businesses an edge is the emergence of the Toy Blank. Shen explains, “Toy Blanks, also known as Toy Platforms, are becoming a sound way for brands to license their characters to companies who can produce and distribute them more quickly. Players like Funko and Lego are mainstream examples of how much demand there is for this kind of toy.” As licensed toys designed by smaller toy manufacturers grow in popularity, there will be increased opportunities for designers and manufacturers to collaborate.

3D Printing Enabling Faster Innovation

Finally, larger companies are turning to firms with 3D printing capabilities to more rapidly prototype both standard and digitally activated toys. One reason pushing these larger organizations to leverage startups with 3D printing capabilities is the complexity involved in the modeling process.

Most 3D printers require a significant amount of engineering or computer science expertise, which means to develop their own solutions most companies would have to hire entirely new, highly qualified teams to maintain any 3D printing efforts. The result is an increase in demand for 3D printing startups that can meet the needs of larger organizations.

Enabling Designers

All of these changes are bringing about mutually beneficial updates for designers, game makers, and larger brands. By partnering with larger firms, small businesses in the toy and gaming industries can access assets that would otherwise be unattainable. By the same token, established industry leaders can leverage the innovation and lean speed with which startups operate to create content and collectibles that consumers want.

Conclusion

The relationship between startups and established toy brands is a model for how other industries can innovate. Innovation moves rapidly today, and startups are frequently the ones driving that change. If established companies want to survive successive cycles of disruption, and if young startups want a boost in their early days, partnerships can be mutually beneficial.

Skylanders Balloon Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Toys-To-Life And Gaming Industries Turn To Startups For Innovation" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

Toys-To-Life And Gaming Industries Turn To Startups For Innovation

Toys-To-Life is a trend that incorporates physical toys into digital games. The industry had bumps, but startups are now driving Toys-To-Life innovation.

The gaming and toy industries have often been dominated by a small group of companies with the assets and marketing reach to secure shelf space in retail stores and online traffic. The continued growth of the Toys-to-Life sector, however, is shifting the scales in favor of small businesses and solopreneurs alike.

Toys-to-Life is a gaming trend that incorporates physical toys into digital games. With the launch of Activision’s Skylanders occurring in 2011, the industry is projected to grow to over $8 billion in revenue by 2013. When other major names like Disney and Lego joined in on the toys-to-life movement, it seemed that this industry would also be dominated by major players. The opposite has been the case, however, as Disney left not only Toys-to-Life but the entire gaming industry earlier this year.

Initially, industry pundits were saying Disney’s exit was the beginning of the end of the movement. However, the emergence of several innovative startups in the space tells a different story. In fact, it would seem that Disney’s size and experience may have been what prevented it from innovating at the pace required by this developing industry.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses, however, are experiencing increased success in both the toy and gaming industries. Jia Shen is the CEO and founder of PowerCore, a company that helps make digitally activated toys and objects for gaming experiences. At a recent DesignerCon in Pasadena California, Shen and his team partnered with fellow exhibitors in a digital version of a scavenger hunt to demonstrate the potential for augmented reality beyond games like Pokemon Go.

Examples of Toys-To-Life Innovation

Reinvigorating Older Franchises

One of the key ways Toys-to-Life is impacting the toy and gaming industries alike is its ability to revive popular franchises that may no longer be in the spotlight. Shen shares, “In a recent project, we partnered with Mattel, Animoca Brands, and Super7 to create a line of character cards that activate powerups in the new He-Man Tappers of Greyskull mobile game. We do this by using NFC (near-field-communication) technology to make the cards scannable from the game.”

Integrations like these create intrigue for existing franchises by generating new and exciting versions of gameplay. Toys-to-life enabled games encourage consumers to collect the various characters or power-ups required for enhanced gameplay, making it easier than ever for brands to bundle toys and games that go together.

The Toy Blank

Another trend in toys that is giving small businesses an edge is the emergence of the Toy Blank. Shen explains, “Toy Blanks, also known as Toy Platforms, are becoming a sound way for brands to license their characters to companies who can produce and distribute them more quickly. Players like Funko and Lego are mainstream examples of how much demand there is for this kind of toy.” As licensed toys designed by smaller toy manufacturers grow in popularity, there will be increased opportunities for designers and manufacturers to collaborate.

3D Printing Enabling Faster Innovation

Finally, larger companies are turning to firms with 3D printing capabilities to more rapidly prototype both standard and digitally activated toys. One reason pushing these larger organizations to leverage startups with 3D printing capabilities is the complexity involved in the modeling process.

Most 3D printers require a significant amount of engineering or computer science expertise, which means to develop their own solutions most companies would have to hire entirely new, highly qualified teams to maintain any 3D printing efforts. The result is an increase in demand for 3D printing startups that can meet the needs of larger organizations.

Enabling Designers

All of these changes are bringing about mutually beneficial updates for designers, game makers, and larger brands. By partnering with larger firms, small businesses in the toy and gaming industries can access assets that would otherwise be unattainable. By the same token, established industry leaders can leverage the innovation and lean speed with which startups operate to create content and collectibles that consumers want.

Conclusion

The relationship between startups and established toy brands is a model for how other industries can innovate. Innovation moves rapidly today, and startups are frequently the ones driving that change. If established companies want to survive successive cycles of disruption, and if young startups want a boost in their early days, partnerships can be mutually beneficial.

Skylanders Balloon Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Toys-To-Life And Gaming Industries Turn To Startups For Innovation" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Senate Confirms Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation

The U.S. Senate on Jan. 31 voted 93 to 6, confirming Elaine Chao as the 18th Secretary of Transportation, replacing outgoing Secretary Anthony Foxx.

Chao, who served as the Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, and as Deputy Secretary of Transportation under George H.W. Bush, was viewed as the least contentious of all of President Trump’s nominees for cabinet positions.

In congratulating Madam Secretary Chao, NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings said the travel plaza and truckstop industry looks forward to working with her on a broad spectrum of issues, including the need to find permanent, sustainable solutions to funding the Highway Trust Fund. She urged Secretary Chao, however, to seek solutions that solve the nation’s infrastructure investment challenges without harming the interstate-exit based businesses that help to support the nation’s economy and their local communities or putting public safety at risk.

“Specifically, we hope that the Department of Transportation will eschew such revenue schemes as tolling and commercializing rest areas, both of which harm interstate exit-based businesses, the local communities that they support and consumers,” Mullings said. “NATSO and the entire truckstop and travel plaza community are eager to work with Madam Secretary Chao to address the nation’s infrastructure needs in the interest of building a safer, more efficient national infrastructure network that will serve today’s modern economy."

During her confirmation hearing in mid-January, Secretary Chao said the Trump Administration would leverage private investment along with direct federal spending to address the nation’s infrastructure needs.

Private sector financing is a funding strategy that could lead to revenue schemes such as tolling and rest area commercialization, which NATSO opposes. NATSO has long supported increasing the motor fuels tax as the most efficient method of increasing infrastructure funding.

Secretary Chao’s confirmation came as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee prepared to hold a hearing to examine the challenges facing the nation’s infrastructure on Feb. 1.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) said that he plans to meet with Secretary Chao soon.

Rep. Shuster said Jan. 31 following the Congressional GOP retreat that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) laid out a “game plan” and looks to do something in late spring or early summer driven by tax reform.

The House is expected to roll out its fiscal 2018 budget in late April or early May.



via Business Feeds

What is an Infopreneur?

What is an Infopreneur?

A couple of decades ago, pursuing self-employment in the information industry was pretty difficult. Starting a publication was cumbersome and costly, blogging wasn’t an option and podcasts hadn’t even been dreamed up. For most aspiring entrepreneurs, making a steady living sharing your professional knowledge with others was an impossible pipe dream.

Thanks to the dawn of the web and a wide range of emerging technologies, that dream is now completely attainable for anyone and everyone — and those who choose that lifestyle are generally referred to as “infopreneurs”.

What is an Infopreneur?

Simply put, an infopreneur is a professional who collects information from multiple sources and personal experiences and uses it to create a unique package for consumers. And although the internet has hugely simplified that process, the term itself actually predates the era of digital celebrities. Harold “Skip” Weitzen coined the term in the 1980s elaborating on his own interpretation of what it means to be an infopreneur in the 1988 book “Infopreneurs: Turning Data Into Dollars”.

In the 20th Century, aspiring infopreneurs produced value-added reports and professional advice through mediums like self-published books, audio cassettes and CD-ROMs. After establishing personal a brand, an infopreneur could then work to establish sustainable self-employment sharing his or her insights on regular conference circuits and earning passive income generated through product sales.

Fast forward to 2017, and the internet, the emergence of social media and breakthroughs in self-publishing technologies have all made it far quicker and cheaper to get a foothold as an infoprenur. Sites like WordPress, YouTube and Facebook mean that anyone and everyone can share information and distribute it in a matter of seconds for free. Meanwhile, advertising services like AdWords and a variety of other methods of monetizing content mean that the right individual can start seeing steady income in record time.

To be clear, the ever-increasing simplicity of web publishing and distribution does not guarantee success — and in order to be a successful infopreneur, you will need to exercise plenty of effort and cunning. The web is absolutely flooded with self-labelled experts and professional bloggers in various fields. In order to stand out from the crowd and generate a following, you’ve got to establish your own unique selling points and some sort of signature style and flair.

Why Be an Infopreneur?

Just like any type of self-employment, pursuing a career as an infopreneur comes with plenty of perks. You get to choose when and where to apply yourself, and chase work that genuinely interests and engages you. At the same time, unlike other kinds of business startups, becoming an infopreneur carries far fewer risks.

First and foremost, it’s not hard to bootstrap a career in selling information. One of the easiest ways to begin establishing yourself as an infopreneur is to launch a blog or YouTube channel. Hosting fees for sites like WordPress are quite affordable and producing a quality eBook costs only time. Distributing self-published books and magazines online via Amazon and other platforms can be fairly cheap, too.

Meanwhile, infopreneurs generally don’t have to worry about ordinary startup overhead like brick-and-mortar costs or eCommerce support. It’s also far easier for infopreneurs to start generating some form of return on investment.

Can You Succeed as an Infopreneur?

If you feel like you’ve got the drive, determination and experience necessary to establish yourself as a credible source of useful information, you may want to consider pursuing self-employment as an infopreneur. So long as you’ve got internet access, you can produce and widely distribute content at virtually no cost. You’ve got little to lose, and plenty to gain.

Yet in order to taste success, you’ll need to come up with something unique. Every month, bloggers churn out about 73.9 million posts on WordPress, and there are literally millions of eBooks doing the rounds on Amazon. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to do market research and establish a built-in online following for the content you produce.

The road to success for infopreneurs is never easy — but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve it.

Working at Laptop Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What is an Infopreneur?" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

What is an Infopreneur?

What is an Infopreneur?

A couple of decades ago, pursuing self-employment in the information industry was pretty difficult. Starting a publication was cumbersome and costly, blogging wasn’t an option and podcasts hadn’t even been dreamed up. For most aspiring entrepreneurs, making a steady living sharing your professional knowledge with others was an impossible pipe dream.

Thanks to the dawn of the web and a wide range of emerging technologies, that dream is now completely attainable for anyone and everyone — and those who choose that lifestyle are generally referred to as “infopreneurs”.

What is an Infopreneur?

Simply put, an infopreneur is a professional who collects information from multiple sources and personal experiences and uses it to create a unique package for consumers. And although the internet has hugely simplified that process, the term itself actually predates the era of digital celebrities. Harold “Skip” Weitzen coined the term in the 1980s elaborating on his own interpretation of what it means to be an infopreneur in the 1988 book “Infopreneurs: Turning Data Into Dollars”.

In the 20th Century, aspiring infopreneurs produced value-added reports and professional advice through mediums like self-published books, audio cassettes and CD-ROMs. After establishing personal a brand, an infopreneur could then work to establish sustainable self-employment sharing his or her insights on regular conference circuits and earning passive income generated through product sales.

Fast forward to 2017, and the internet, the emergence of social media and breakthroughs in self-publishing technologies have all made it far quicker and cheaper to get a foothold as an infoprenur. Sites like WordPress, YouTube and Facebook mean that anyone and everyone can share information and distribute it in a matter of seconds for free. Meanwhile, advertising services like AdWords and a variety of other methods of monetizing content mean that the right individual can start seeing steady income in record time.

To be clear, the ever-increasing simplicity of web publishing and distribution does not guarantee success — and in order to be a successful infopreneur, you will need to exercise plenty of effort and cunning. The web is absolutely flooded with self-labelled experts and professional bloggers in various fields. In order to stand out from the crowd and generate a following, you’ve got to establish your own unique selling points and some sort of signature style and flair.

Why Be an Infopreneur?

Just like any type of self-employment, pursuing a career as an infopreneur comes with plenty of perks. You get to choose when and where to apply yourself, and chase work that genuinely interests and engages you. At the same time, unlike other kinds of business startups, becoming an infopreneur carries far fewer risks.

First and foremost, it’s not hard to bootstrap a career in selling information. One of the easiest ways to begin establishing yourself as an infopreneur is to launch a blog or YouTube channel. Hosting fees for sites like WordPress are quite affordable and producing a quality eBook costs only time. Distributing self-published books and magazines online via Amazon and other platforms can be fairly cheap, too.

Meanwhile, infopreneurs generally don’t have to worry about ordinary startup overhead like brick-and-mortar costs or eCommerce support. It’s also far easier for infopreneurs to start generating some form of return on investment.

Can You Succeed as an Infopreneur?

If you feel like you’ve got the drive, determination and experience necessary to establish yourself as a credible source of useful information, you may want to consider pursuing self-employment as an infopreneur. So long as you’ve got internet access, you can produce and widely distribute content at virtually no cost. You’ve got little to lose, and plenty to gain.

Yet in order to taste success, you’ll need to come up with something unique. Every month, bloggers churn out about 73.9 million posts on WordPress, and there are literally millions of eBooks doing the rounds on Amazon. If you want to stand out from the crowd, you’ll need to do market research and establish a built-in online following for the content you produce.

The road to success for infopreneurs is never easy — but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve it.

Working at Laptop Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "What is an Infopreneur?" was first published on Small Business Trends



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25 Desktop Photo Editing Tools You May Not Know About

25 Desktop Photo Editing Tools You May Not Know About

Because of smartphones, owners of these devices have access to high-quality cameras with them at all times. This has made it possible for people to take pictures anywhere and post them right away, for business or personal applications. But the images they take are not always picture-perfect, which is why having a photo editing application you can access right away in your browser has become a valuable tool.

The 25 desktop photo editing tools on this list will let you edit your images with basic and sophisticated tools right from your browser without having to install them on your system.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools

Pixlr

The Pixlr editor comes with a wide range of tools that will allow you to perform many different functions that are similar to Photoshop. And just like Photoshop, it has the Layers functionality to give you greater control of the images you edit. This includes adjustments, distortions, filters, and transformations.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Pixlr

If you don’t want to go into that much detail, you can use Pixlr Express to quickly open your image and use the slider-based interface to make basic adjustments. You can make enhancements by sharpening the image, cropping and adjusting the exposure along with several different filters. 

Fotor

Fotor has an easy to use interface that lets you edit images, create collages and greeting cards with frames, clip art and text. It has five different modules with a collection of filters with standard and specialized photo editing, including one designed to enhance selfies. Some of the filters are, color splash, black and white, lens flare and more.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Fotor

The collage feature lets you drop photos into 1:1, 3:4 or 4:3 aspect ratios with 80 templates, or you can create your own.

PicMonkey

PicMonkey  has three groups of functions separated into Edit/Touch Up, Design and Collage so you can manipulate your images. In addition to standard editing features such as cropping, effects, touchups and resizing, the design function gives you a blank canvas so you can create invitations, posters, leaflets and more for your business quickly and easily.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - PicMonkey

The design function has templates for a wide range of projects so you can create graphics for your website, social media page or to print out on paper.

BeFunky

Once you upload your picture on BeFunky, the user interface lets you edit your image in a straightforward manner with multiple options. This app lets you transform your image and make it more engaging with frames, filters, effects and collage templates. The slider for each function lets you control the level of manipulation for each effect.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - BeFunky

Ready-made templates for event graphics, small business, blogger resources, social media headers, social media graphics, and greeting cards are available with subcategories to create customized projects with a large number of elements.

Ribbet 

Ribbet has a single click auto-fix function to quickly enhance your image when you don’t have time and you need to post it right away. Crop, rotate, exposure, colors, sharpen, and resize also come as standard editing features along with collage. After you finish editing your image, you can save it to the local hard drive, Picasa and Google+, Flickr and Facebook.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Ribbet

You also get special effects, stickers, text, frames, touchup, pro features, and seasonal filters which can be customized to fit your needs. 

Upperpix

Upperpix comes with several different applications to edit your images online. You can apply filters, add text, draw, merge and add colors to your images. Basic shapes can also be integrated into an image to add custom background to highlight a particular product or service in a website.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Upperpix

A Layers/Objects panel lets you view the different layers and objects you’ve added to your image to better manage the editing process.

FotoFlexer

FotoFlexer has been around long enough to perfect the user interface, and it has done a great job to make the process of editing a photograph as easy as possible. The tabbed interface have basic edits, effects, animations, beautify tools, distort, and layer with great functionalities. It also includes an eyedropper tool so you can match colors of your image perfectly.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - FotoFlexer

FotoFlexer also has an auto fix button, a red eye removal tool, and dozens of effects such as a greyscale, cartoon, sepia, color splash, blur edges, comic, and color rotate effect.

LunaPic

LunaPic has a simple look that is deceptive, because it has a load of features. You get a magic wand selection, gradients, blending, animation effects, texts, drawing and more. The save provides some of them most popular formats, including gif, jpg, png, bmp, pdf, swf (flash), mpg and avi (movie files).

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - LunaPic

Once you’re finished, you can use the built-in sharing feature with your audience on Facebook, Twitter or Picasa.

Sumo Paint

Sumo Paint has a user interface that looks like Photoshop, and it has tools for performing extreme touchups with a huge number of filter effects that comes included in this app. A fully loaded toolbar has many features Photoshop users will be familiar with, such as selection, painting, shapes, cropping, and transform tools, zoom, eyedropper, and foreground/background colors.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Sumo Paint

Photoshop Express

You can’t mention photo editing without Photoshop, and Adobe has a stripped down version called Photoshop Express  that brings the technology and experience of the company to this app. You will get editing tools such as white balance, saturation, exposure, crop, rotate and more.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Photoshop Express

While it does provide some powerful editing tools, it does fall short when it comes to providing creative tools such as collage, decorating, filters and others.

Picozu

With Picozu you can connect with social media sites and cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive or SkyDrive to get your images and share them. You can edit your image using brushes, filters, and layers, as well as color fill, magic eraser, freehand selection, cropping, selections and more.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Picozu

Some of the other advanced editing tools are distortion, edge detection, noise, blur and others

Polarr

Polarr has many features, including a great selection of tutorials. Editing features such as cropping, lighting, and color correction tools are readily available, but you also get advanced functions. Histogram editor, curve adjustments, gradient mask and radial mask, sharpening and clarity tools as well as a large number of filters.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Polarr

You can save in .JPEG or .PNG format with pixel size and image quality percentage and share them on Facebook, or Twitter.

Aviary

As part of the Adobe family of products, Aviary provides professionally designed filters, stickers and frames, frames and overlays, and touch-up tools so you can create and share your images. You can stylize images with more than 100 filters, draw and add text to enhance images with Hi-Def.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Aviary

The editing features include crop, rotate, and straighten along with being able to modify brightness, contrast, highlights and shadows.

Canva

Canva is a tool that lets you design professional grade graphics, but also edits photos. The platform provides more than 1 million layouts, stock photographs and illustrations with easy to use drag and drop functionality. The preset filters let you easily edit images with brightness, contrast, saturation, tint, blur, and vignette.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Canva

This is a very useful application for small businesses that want to design their own posters, flyers, logos, presentations and more. It has a library of more than 1 million premium images or design with hundreds of free elements and fonts to make this possible.

Fotor Online HDR Software

Unlike standard digital cameras, High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography is able to capture a wider range of lights and colors to produce images that are extremely vivid while retaining the details that might be lost. The Fotor HDR Software has advanced HDR technologies to deliver the same effects using alignment, ghost reduction, and Local/Global Tone Mapping.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Fotor Online HDR Software

The result is an HDR effect that will give your images new life.

Fotostars

Fotostars has an array of filters and effects to change and enhance any image quickly and easily. It includes 50 photo effects and photo frames to add unique styles and characters to your images. You can then add text and use the constructor to edit it with color grading, desaturation, image noise, lateral shadow, sepia transformation and more.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Fotostars

These features come with cropping tools as well as blurring and dream effects with a layers menu and customizable camera control. Images can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, Mail, Instagram, iMessage, iPhoto, WhatsApp and other social media and email clients.

piZap

PiZap photo editor has more than 50 million followers, which may be attributed to the multiple of features it provides. With PiZap, you can edit photos and decorate them with more than 200 fonts, outlines and text affects and use over 1,000 stickers to further embellish your images.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - piZap

The online photo editing tool has the basic features, but it also includes Instagram style filters, light FX, textures, special effects and painting tools. If you are feeling creative, you can use the MEME and Emoji maker to create one of a kind images for your audience.

Photo Lab

Photo Lab gives you more than 600 effects to create almost any imaginable scenario for your picture. You can use creative artistic effects to create collages for multiple images with holiday e-card templates and fun face montages. The photorealistic effects lets you insert your images into books, dollar bills, magazine covers or mobile devices to market your small business.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Photo Lab

The photo editor has crop, rotate, color adjustment, lighting, sharpness, and touch-up functions.

PicBuzz

PicBuzz is a great promotional tool you can use for your business to increase brand awareness and attract more customers. Filters and effects address, hotels, restaurants, artists and designers can be used with realistic photo montages.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - PicBuzz

If you can’t find one that suits your industry, you can create your own photo templates and use it for yourself, or it can be a business opportunity by offering them for sale.

Afterlight

Afterlight is an easy to use editor with 15 adjustment tools, 74 filters, 78 textures and a list of 128 frames to place your images. The cropping and transforming tools have 15 different preset functions to quickly make the most common adjustments. But you can also use the rotating tool, vertical and horizontal flipping tools, and straightening along with the standard editing tools to get the right effect

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Afterlight

TinyPNG

Compression is an important feature if you plan using your images online, especially mobile Internet. TinyPNG is able to optimize your PNG and JPEG image with perfect balance in quality and file size by selectively decreasing the number of colors in the image. This means it requires fewer bytes to store and transmit the data, which makes your website faster for end users.

TinyPNG is currently being used by some of the biggest brands in the world, including Samsung, Sony, EA, Walmart, Bank of America and many others. While this is not a photo editing tool, it is just as useful for anyone that has a digital presence.

Phixr

Phixr is a complete imaging solution in which you can manipulate the photo by rotating, flipping, and resizing it based in pixels, percentage or standard sizes. The color effect has more than 70 options, including normalize, auto white balance, color enhance, black and white, sepia and auto contrast.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Phixr

You can decorate the photos with stock objects, borders and textures as well as adding fun effects by converting images to oil paintings or charcoal drawing.  Image editing tools can sharpen, blur, and soften your photographs while removing red eye and whitening teeth.

Free Online Photo Editor

The Free Online Photo Editor is an application that is very basic, but it delivers in terms of getting the job done quickly and efficiently. It includes basic functionality like cropping, re-sizing, brightness/contrast adjustments, working with text, and a number of effects. If you are looking for a no frills solution, this is it.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Free Online Photo Editor

iPiccy

This application has been dubbed as the online alternative to GIMP, and with so many features, iPiccy might have earned the title. It has a lot of useful and powerful photo editing tools, including more than 110 photo effects, tools and filters that let you add text and stickers as well as create collages.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - iPiccy

The tools are categorized under Basic, Advanced, Adjustments, Color, and Filters and you can use them for one-click fix to the image, resize, crop, rotate, sharpen, or flip the picture, as well as edit the exposure, hue, saturation, and colors. 

Pixelmator

Pixelmator is a full-featured and powerful image editing app for the Mac that lets you create advanced composition using many of the tools it provides. It has pixel accurate editing so you can apply or remove any effect.

Desktop Photo Editing Tools - Pixelmator

You can paint, retouch and draw on new or existing images and add more than 160 effects and see the results in real-time. The color correction tools are professional grade, which lets you adjust exposure, hue, saturation, shadows and highlights, brightness, contrast, and much more.

Conclusion

While Photoshop is the gold standard when it comes to photo editing and manipulation, it has a high learning curve and it is not cheap. These 25 browser-based desktop photo editors let you quickly edit images without having to worry if you have the right application on your computer.

Finding the right solution will depend on your specific needs and how much functionality you will require to make it possible. If you plan on make mobile a big part of  photo editing make sure it has a mobile app. And as always, try the free version first and if it delivers for you, go for the premium version, if it is available.

Photo Studio Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "25 Desktop Photo Editing Tools You May Not Know About" was first published on Small Business Trends



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