5 Tips to Reduce Your Costs on Web Development

Guess what is the first concern a client has when it comes to a new web development project? Right, cost.

To get good quality services for a low price is not that easy, basically, you receive what you paid for. However, some extra costs can be reduced, if companies strive to invest smartly into their web projects.

Web development

Read these 5 tips and discover how to optimize your web development process and benefit from lower cost.

1. Make up a brief

What is brief? In terms of web development process, it’s a short summary of an overall project management plan. Make everything as clear as possible before you start any development – gather the requirements and write them down.…



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4 GPS Tracking Devices that Will Keep Tabs on Your Company Vehicles

When you own a fleet of vehicles, you understand the importance of keeping operating costs low and productivity rates high. GPS tracking devices can help you reach that goal by providing a link between you and your vehicles, so you can keep tabs on fuel costs, driver behavior, idle times and route efficiency.

GPS tracking

With GPS tracking, you can:

  • Track and manage your vehicles at all times.
  • Keep tabs on driving speeds to prevent speeding tickets and reduce legal costs. The true cost of a speeding ticket in some states can be over $1,000.
  • Keep track of cargo to prevent employee theft and ensure deliveries get where they need to go.


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Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled World

Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled WorldData has transformed business. With data, businesses can market efficiently, engage on a deeper level with their computers, and deliver products and services faster than ever. Data has also given more power to consumers, allowing unprecedented access to a business with a click. All of this access, however, comes at a risk. Credit card numbers can be stolen, passwords hacked and complete websites taken over by hackers or trolls. Data for the People: How to Make Our Post-Privacy Economy Work for You explores the implications of living in an always-connected and constantly changing,data-filled world.

What is Data for the People About?

For the past hundred years, we’ve cherished privacy, but the time has come to recognize that privacy is now only an illusion.”
– – Data for the People

In order to have information, you have to exchange something. If you want a product delivered to my home, you have to give your address to the store that will deliver it. If yoou want to get hired by a business, you have to provide confidential information (your address, Social Security Number, employment history, etc.) to the HR department or manager.

The majority of people today don’t think twice about doing this.

Data for the People argues that you might need to rethink this approach when it comes to things like social media, artificial intelligence, Big Data and the Internet of Things. Unlike previous generations, relationships in the new age of data are much more complicated. You reveal more about yourself, consciously or unconsciously, in this age than ever before. You aren’t just revealing your address, you’re revealing your interests, passions, habits, and more without even realizing it every time you go to the ATM, click “Like” on Facebook, or order something online.

The outdated idea that if you don’t share, you keep your information private no longer works in a world with Google searches, camera phones, analytics tools and social media. Instead, as author Andreas Weigend advocates, businesses should develop a new model of transparency that lets consumers know what they are gaining in exchange for their information so they can make an informed decision if they want to participate. Weigend argues that, if customers don’t fight for this, they may end up in a world where their data can be used against them rather than for them.

Weigend is a former Chief Scientist for Amazon and currently serves as a professor, consultant, keynote speaker and director of the Social Data Lab. Weigend teaches the popular “Social Data Revolution” course at Stanford University along with other courses at UC Berkely, and around the world.

What Was Best About Data for the People?

Data for the People emphasizes the responsibility businesses and customers share in this new world of data sharing. This is something many businesses fail to discuss at a deep level, despite the constant pressure for more transparency. The book actually breaks down what transparency could look like and how everyone, from the owner of Facebook down to the Facebook user and everyone in between, can be more proactive about protecting their rights to data.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Data for the People lays out a new set of data rights for everyone. It also specifically demonstrates how businesses have navigated the confusing world of data rights (like requiring ID for verification and accountability). Data for the People focuses most of its recommendations, from the consumer point of view. More discussion on the impact of data privacy and rights from the point of view of business (like a small business who wants to target customer user’s cell phones for a marketing campaign) would be even more helpful.

Why Read Data for the People?

Data for the People is written for everyone but offers different advice for the two basic groups of people out there, people who provide content (consumers) and people who use the data they provide. For consumers, the book is a call to urge businesses like Facebook or Google to adopt a higher level of transparency and access. For people who use the data (like businesses or government), this book is a rallying call demanding accountability and responsibility. Getting any piece of data from a consumer is risky (and potentially costly), so businesses need to take every precaution they can to keep the data they collect safe from danger while also providing access to the right people. This is a juggling act that businesses will continue to face.

This article, "Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled World" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled World

Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled WorldData has transformed business. With data, businesses can market efficiently, engage on a deeper level with their computers, and deliver products and services faster than ever. Data has also given more power to consumers, allowing unprecedented access to a business with a click. All of this access, however, comes at a risk. Credit card numbers can be stolen, passwords hacked and complete websites taken over by hackers or trolls. Data for the People: How to Make Our Post-Privacy Economy Work for You explores the implications of living in an always-connected and constantly changing,data-filled world.

What is Data for the People About?

For the past hundred years, we’ve cherished privacy, but the time has come to recognize that privacy is now only an illusion.”
– – Data for the People

In order to have information, you have to exchange something. If you want a product delivered to my home, you have to give your address to the store that will deliver it. If yoou want to get hired by a business, you have to provide confidential information (your address, Social Security Number, employment history, etc.) to the HR department or manager.

The majority of people today don’t think twice about doing this.

Data for the People argues that you might need to rethink this approach when it comes to things like social media, artificial intelligence, Big Data and the Internet of Things. Unlike previous generations, relationships in the new age of data are much more complicated. You reveal more about yourself, consciously or unconsciously, in this age than ever before. You aren’t just revealing your address, you’re revealing your interests, passions, habits, and more without even realizing it every time you go to the ATM, click “Like” on Facebook, or order something online.

The outdated idea that if you don’t share, you keep your information private no longer works in a world with Google searches, camera phones, analytics tools and social media. Instead, as author Andreas Weigend advocates, businesses should develop a new model of transparency that lets consumers know what they are gaining in exchange for their information so they can make an informed decision if they want to participate. Weigend argues that, if customers don’t fight for this, they may end up in a world where their data can be used against them rather than for them.

Weigend is a former Chief Scientist for Amazon and currently serves as a professor, consultant, keynote speaker and director of the Social Data Lab. Weigend teaches the popular “Social Data Revolution” course at Stanford University along with other courses at UC Berkely, and around the world.

What Was Best About Data for the People?

Data for the People emphasizes the responsibility businesses and customers share in this new world of data sharing. This is something many businesses fail to discuss at a deep level, despite the constant pressure for more transparency. The book actually breaks down what transparency could look like and how everyone, from the owner of Facebook down to the Facebook user and everyone in between, can be more proactive about protecting their rights to data.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Data for the People lays out a new set of data rights for everyone. It also specifically demonstrates how businesses have navigated the confusing world of data rights (like requiring ID for verification and accountability). Data for the People focuses most of its recommendations, from the consumer point of view. More discussion on the impact of data privacy and rights from the point of view of business (like a small business who wants to target customer user’s cell phones for a marketing campaign) would be even more helpful.

Why Read Data for the People?

Data for the People is written for everyone but offers different advice for the two basic groups of people out there, people who provide content (consumers) and people who use the data they provide. For consumers, the book is a call to urge businesses like Facebook or Google to adopt a higher level of transparency and access. For people who use the data (like businesses or government), this book is a rallying call demanding accountability and responsibility. Getting any piece of data from a consumer is risky (and potentially costly), so businesses need to take every precaution they can to keep the data they collect safe from danger while also providing access to the right people. This is a juggling act that businesses will continue to face.

This article, "Data for the People: Understanding the Dark Side of a Data-Filled World" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Politics and Pie at NATSO Day on the Hill

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Joel Hamilton, Joplin 44 Petro, Tiffany Wlazlowski Neuman, NATSO, and Bob Wollenman, Deluxe Truck Stop, met with Michael Lowry, Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Missouri).

NATSO members made their annual pilgrimage to Capitol Hill May 15–17, meeting with Senators and Mem­bers of Congress to voice how vi­tally important the truckstop and travel plaza industry is to the na­tional economy and how Congres­sional votes affect the industry’s ability to thrive.

This year, NATSO members met with legislators on two key issues: the need for Congress to find a sus­tainable source for highway fund­ing that does not undercut Inter­state exit-based businesses through tolling or rest area commercializa­tion, as well as our concerns with efforts to repeal the debit swipe fee reforms.

After a welcome from NATSO staff and Government Affairs Com­mittee Chairman Dan Alsaker, the event kicked off with a regulatory update from John Eichberger, ex­ecutive director of the non-profit Fuels Institute. Eichberber provid­ed a detailed update on diesel fuel quality issues confronting the trav­el plaza industry, including corro­sion in ULSD tanks, as well as fuel quality issues the trucking industry is confronting. Following Eich­berger, Merchant Payments Coali­tion Legal Counsel Doug Kantor, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson, updated attendees on debit and credit swipe fee issues, including an important legislative update as well as information regarding on­going litigation between merchants and the card companies. Eichberg­er’s remarks were sponsored by the Center for Quality Assurance.

On Tuesday morning, NATSO held the first ever Human Re­sources Share Group. The Human Resources Share Group was spon­sored by Federated Insurance.

At lunch, attendees heard from American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear who discussed the outlook for President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure pro­posal as well as tolling initiatives across the United States and the future of au­tonomous vehicles in trucking.

On Wednesday, May 17, more than 50 NATSO members gath­ered in Washington, D.C., and met with their elected officials. Wednesday evening NATSO host­ed its annual Capitol Hill pie re­ception, serving nearly 250 pies to legislators and their staff. This an­nual event carries NATSO’s name to all 535 Members of Congress. The pie reception was sponsored by Love’s Travel Stops and Coun­try Stores Inc., Pilot Flying J, S&D Coffee & Tea and TravelCenters of America. 

Photo credit: Charles Archambault 



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Bob’s Pickle Pops Proves Even Weird Products Can Appeal to Customers

Bob's Pickle Pops Proves That Even Weird Products Can Appeal to Customers

Think you have a weird product that no customers would go for? The story of Bob’s Pickle Pops might prove you wrong.

Bob’s Pickle Pops is a business that provides a really weird product — frozen pickle juice. Think freezer pops but with pickle juice instead of sweet, fruity flavors.

Sound gross? Maybe to you. But there’s actually a decent sized market for the product.

Co-founder of Bob’s Pickle Pops John Howard actually owned a roller skating rink before starting this latest business. Pickles were one of the most popular items at the snack bar. And when the pickles ran out, he started serving the juice. Then the juice became more popular than the actual pickles, and he started freezing it just to keep up with demand.

Now, Bob’s Pickle Pop’s are actually stocked in Walmart stores and have been featured on the Food Network.

Bob’s Pickle Pops Prove that Weird Products Sell

This doesn’t mean that every weird business idea is going to succeed. But there are some unexpected ideas out there that could surprise people. So the next time you’re considering a new idea for your business, don’t just dismiss something because you think it’s too weird. Do some research or testing to see if there’s a market out there for your very own weird business offering.

Image: Bob’s Pickle Pops

This article, "Bob’s Pickle Pops Proves Even Weird Products Can Appeal to Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Bob’s Pickle Pops Proves Even Weird Products Can Appeal to Customers

Bob's Pickle Pops Proves That Even Weird Products Can Appeal to Customers

Think you have a weird product that no customers would go for? The story of Bob’s Pickle Pops might prove you wrong.

Bob’s Pickle Pops is a business that provides a really weird product — frozen pickle juice. Think freezer pops but with pickle juice instead of sweet, fruity flavors.

Sound gross? Maybe to you. But there’s actually a decent sized market for the product.

Co-founder of Bob’s Pickle Pops John Howard actually owned a roller skating rink before starting this latest business. Pickles were one of the most popular items at the snack bar. And when the pickles ran out, he started serving the juice. Then the juice became more popular than the actual pickles, and he started freezing it just to keep up with demand.

Now, Bob’s Pickle Pop’s are actually stocked in Walmart stores and have been featured on the Food Network.

Bob’s Pickle Pops Prove that Weird Products Sell

This doesn’t mean that every weird business idea is going to succeed. But there are some unexpected ideas out there that could surprise people. So the next time you’re considering a new idea for your business, don’t just dismiss something because you think it’s too weird. Do some research or testing to see if there’s a market out there for your very own weird business offering.

Image: Bob’s Pickle Pops

This article, "Bob’s Pickle Pops Proves Even Weird Products Can Appeal to Customers" was first published on Small Business Trends



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Pop-Up Fitting Room

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Sometimes great ideas can come from outside the truckstop and travel plaza industry.

Target has developed a fitting room that could be placed in an existing space or built-in as part of new construction. It doesn’t take a lot of space and could be a great solution for locations that are seeing an increase in apparel sales.

Photo credit: Lisa Mullings/NATSO



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A Destination Spot for the Professional Truck Driver and the Local Community in Columbia, South Carolina

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This spring, TravelCenters of America (TA) opened a new Petro Stopping Center in Columbia, South Carolina. The 42,000-square-foot facility has eight diesel lanes, parking for 134 trucks, 10 showers, a CAT Scale, a Minute Mart convenience store, a very large game center, a t.v./movie room and a workout room.

In an effort to make a destination spot for the professional truck driver as well as the local community, it also has a Starbucks, a 16-lane bowling alley, 10 BP-branded gasoline lanes, a Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant and 315 car parking spots.

“This is the first time we’ve added so many car parking spots and the re­strooms are huge. There is one in the front of the facility and one by the bowling alley,” said Barry Richards, executive vice president for TA.

He added, “You don’t want to alienate your core business, but you can’t continue to play to such a small portion of the potential business.”

The truckstop has several inno­vative technology options, such as laundry facilities that text you when the loads are done. They also devel­oped a system that texts drivers when showers are ready. “We do run into a little bit of resistance from drivers that don’t want to give out their cell phone numbers, so we still have the normal monitors,” Richards said.

The location officially opened March 15. To spread the word about the new location, they sent out an­nouncements, including press releas­es and personal outreach from their fleet sales team, to all the fleets.

“We did scratch our chin a few times because we wanted to reach the local community because of all the great amenities,” Richards said.

Because the location is one mile from the University of South Caro­lina, they had the mascot come for the VIP launch party. They also in­vited the local Chamber of Com­merce. “The president was just stunned. He couldn’t believe how much action it was attracting,” Richards said.

In a number of TA’s sites, the company’s name might not be known, but its partners’ names are. “When you can incorporate some of those brands, you can let their name bring recognition,” Richards said.

Something they hadn’t necessarily encountered before was the need to create separate phone numbers for several of the profit centers. For ex­ample, people need to be able to eas­ily reach the bowling alley and the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant.

The Quaker Steak and Lube res­taurant has seating for 276, includ­ing 38 patio seats. One of the walls in the restaurant has glass doors so you can see what is going on in the bowling alley. “It is an exciting place. The place just hops,” said Richards.

In the restaurant, servers walk around with iPads for table-side ordering. “We still have the tradi­tional service stations around the restaurant in addition to the iPads,” Richards explained.

The restaurant has a unique staff position—marketing and advertis­ing consultant. “We insist on one in each site,” Richards said, adding that those in the position spend half their time in the restaurant and half their time in the community. “The marketing consultant went around to the local businesses passing out her card. I must have seen her on three different TV shows.”

“The bowling alley is a first for us,” Richards said. TA hired a certi­fied bowling instructor, who is now on staff, to help set it up. They of­fer fun events, such as cosmic bowl­ing, and the Quaker Steak and Lube provides the food for the bowling alley. “It is like being in a night­club,” Richards said.

In the game room, there are banks of motorcycles customers can race together. There are also a couple of simulators, such as golf and basket­ball. “If you are a golf enthusiast but the weather isn’t cooperating, you can go in,” Richards shared.

Both the bowling alley and game room are available for parties. In the bowling alley, there is a giant screen where you can play your own video. The bowling alley also has partitions that can come down to create more of a private party experience. In the game room, party hosts can load up cards for their guest to use to play the games. During the first weekend, TA had ten parties booked.

Photo credit: TravelCenters of America



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Increase Sales with Top-Selling Items

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Stocking the shelves with top-selling items can keep customers coming back and increase profits, but finding the hot items isn’t always easy. NATSO members told Stop Watch they turn to trade shows, outside retailers and social media to find the next hot item, and they are sometimes sur­prised by what sells and what doesn’t.  

Uncovering the Next Hot Item
ruckstop and travel plaza operators said they look for inspiration in sev­eral places. Herb Hargraves, director of fuel and retail operations for Cash Magic Casino, visits local competi­tion, grocery stores and large chain retailers to see what they are selling.

“I couple this with suggestions from vendors and other retailers to deter­mine if the items will match our de­mographic,” he said, adding that he also turns to social media—Instagram and Facebook—to research new prod­ucts. “I review their Instagram and see what others are saying about their products, how many followers they have and how many likes they have. I have found that this helps gauge the interest in a product that I am consid­ering launching in our stores.”

One recent addition Hargraves made after seeing the item on Ins­tagram is a product called Oral I.V., a four-pack of a natural hydration activator that supplements some­one’s water intake. “The general idea of the product is to help keep you fully hydrated if you are going to be working outside in the sun all day, hitting the gym hard and even if you are planning a night out on the town drinking, you can use this prior to any of the above activities to help you recover faster,” he said.

Hargraves said the product is sell­ing well at the stores he has identi­fied as healthy stores, which are the locations that sell a large volume of protein bars and Muscle Milk. “As the weather continues to get hotter I anticipate construction workers and oil industry employees will try it as well,” he said, adding that is he is working with Oral I.V. to hold sam­pling events where customers can try it before they buy it, which he be­lieves will spur sales, and to produce a lower retail version to fit within the metrics of a c-store everyday item and bring the price point down to that similar to 5-Hour Energy.

Erin Osborne, a merchandiser for Hat Six Travel Plaza, has had suc­cess with a range of items, includ­ing rocks, fossils, nightlights, dishes and clothing. To find new items, Osborne said she and a colleague go to a different show about once a month. She also works with her vendors. “I always ask my vendors, ‘What do you have that is new?’ I try to stay up to date,” she said.

The dishes Hat Six sells have a western theme and Osborne said they “flew” out of the location. Os­borne said the location also has a hard time keeping stepping stones on the shelves. “They are amazingly good sellers,” she said. “The stepping stones have sayings on them and the majority are for someone you love who has passed away,” she said.

Don Paddock, president of Chair­man’s Circle member KSG Distrib­uting, said he has seen operators have success with several new prod­ucts, such as the company’s Sun Lilly roll-up sun hats, a “Beat the Heat” line from Gold Coast Hats and Fit­Kicks active wear. KSG rolled the products out during The NATSO Show and also helps operators with displays. “We try to create a vehicle to sell the product and attract cus­tomers’ attention,” Paddock said.

Chuck White, NATSO Chair­man's Circle member and vice presi­dent of brands and marketing for DAS Companies Inc., said mobile technology is a mass trend for gen­eral consumers and truck drivers. He said 84 percent of truck drivers access the internet daily and 71 per­cent own a smartphone. “In the U.S. only 68 percent of consumers own a smart phone, so the trucker is ahead of the curve,” he said.

That means technology-related products can sell well. White said the BlueParrott B450XT Bluetooth Headset and Plantronics Voyager 5200 Bluetooth headset are be­coming top sellers. “Another major trend is ELD sales. Rand McNally has a new, multi-purpose product that is not only a traditional tablet but has built-in GPS, an ELD add-on component and a host of other things that are a business tool for the pro-driver,” White said.

Unexpected Winners
Hargraves said he has items sell well that he wasn’t expecting. They in­clude adult coloring books, Tropiceel natural healing creams, key chains by KeyStaks and high-performance K2 Coolers, which are priced between $129 and $399. Hargraves has also had success with winter hats, which surprised him because of the warm weather in Louisiana.

Coats and poncho-like wraps have gone over well at Hat Six, Osborne said, adding that no one was sure the wraps would sell. “We hung them right by the door and re­ally didn’t expect to move any, but we sold out of all of them and had to keep buying them,” she said. “It is generally the stuff you don’t think will sell that flies out of here.”

Sean Flynn, general manager of Flynn’s Travel Plaza, said several years ago one of his managers got talked into buying a big order of toy monkeys that clapped their hands and played the Macarena song. “We had something like 200 of these things. I thought they were ugly and figured that there was no way they’d sell,” Flynn said. “So we put them right on the counter to try and un­load them. Every single one sold.”

Plus, they sold out so quickly, the location decided to order more, which Flynn said was a mistake. “That second order took months to sell out. It was the novelty of the original shipment that sold them, and I guess all of my customers that wanted one bought one the first time,” Flynn said.

Schulte said he is a big fan of “blow­ing and going,” the concept of grab­bing onto a trend, selling it while its hot, then moving on to something else. When the Billy Bass singing fish craze took off in the 90s, Schulte bought into it at Petro. “It took off and had legs. After that, they had other singing animals, but those of us that just stopped with Billy Bass were the victors,” he said. “You have to ask yourself, is it a staple item that is hot for your location or really just a one-and-done item that you bring in and sell out and let it go.”

Paddock said, “Sometimes it is better just to get in and get off and get on. We try not to ride things too long unless it has proven to be a continuous seller.”

Operators also said they’ve pur­chased items they thought would sell well that didn’t move. “We ordered shoulder dollies. I thought those would sell, but they haven’t,” Osborne said.

Flynn said he always thought HeaterMeals—self-heating, shelf-stable, individual meals—would have sold better. “They are a tasty meal that doesn’t need refrigeration, which you can heat up in your truck or anywhere else for that matter. We never did as well with them as I would have expected,” he said.

When trying new items, Schulte suggests locations start with smaller quantities so they aren’t stuck with products if they don’t sell.

Mike Lawshe, president of Chair­man’s Circle member Paragon So­lutions, said operators need to be open to new products, even if some don’t become hits. “Give yourself permission to fail by trying new things, but from a failure you can gain knowledge,” he said. “Too of­ten we limit ourselves to what the other are doing. That is not where you’re going to become an outlier.”

Paddock said KSG protects opera­tors on items that don’t sell and can swap products out. “The last thing we want is for them to have a bad taste in their mouth,” he said.

Paddock said operators can also try new products on a limited ba­sis to test the waters. Within KSG’s “Beat the Heat” line of hats, some customers will introduce one or two styles before adding more.

Know Your Customer
Schulte suggests operators look at current trends in food or retail. “In many cases there is no reason that whatever is selling at other locations won’t sell with us depending on who the customer is,” he said, adding that the key is to know who is stopping with you.

For example, headphones have been popular recently, but they aren’t necessarily a top seller among profes­sional drivers because they can’t use them while driving. “But if you have a lot of car customers, they may be a good option because other passengers in the car might need headphones for their devices,” Schulte said.

>White said he sees three custom­ers, the trucker, business traveler and leisure traveler. “We tend to think of products along that con­tinuum,” he said. “Do they appeal to 100 percent, 75 percent or 50 percent of the audience?”

White said operators can talk with drivers to better understand their customers, request informa­tion from vendors and look at in­dustry information, such as that provided by NATSO.

Operators said many of the staples continually sell well. Hargraves said the overall best-selling items at the company’s locations are grab-and-go salty and sweet snacks, such as chips, pastries, candy and soda. He has also seen an increase in the amount of sales on healthier snacks as well, such as Core Power high protein drinks, Muscle Milk, protein bars and gra­nola bars. “Our customers have also increased purchases of our sandwich­es supplied by our grocery vendor,” Hargraves said.

Offer Variety
Changing merchandise regularly also gives customers a reason to stop in so they can see what is new. “If things are always changing it makes it fun to come in here,” Osborne said.

Schulte said Marshalls and TJ Maxx have built on their success by fre­quently changing up their offerings. “We want people to be surprised. We want them to shop our stores and we do that by making sure we have dif­ferent things all the time,” he said.

Lawshe suggests operators cre­ate change and tap into the seasons. “Your customers will say, ‘It’s St. Pat­rick’s Day. I know I can find some­thing there,’” he said. “Create the expectation and be consistent. You’re trying to become a destination.”

The right displays and layout can help boost sales, and vendors can sometimes help operators find the best solution. On its FitKicks products, KSG has seven different ways customers can display the products, including on the counter or on end caps. “We try to give them a lot of options. The sales rep that knows the store will come in and show them a sample,” Paddock said.

Paddock said many of the dis­plays can stay year round and KSG swaps out merchandise to match the seasons. One wing display, for example, could feature winter hats during cold months and ice towels once temperatures heat up. “We’ll put that in a store so we’ll change it three to four times a year. The re­tailer allows us to control that space and pick the new items,” he said.

Take A Holistic Approach
“Just about every customer says, ‘What are the hot sellers, what do I need to have?’ Ultimately, there is no silver bullet,” Lawshe said.

However, when operators approach sales holistically and execute with a combination of design and good, quality offerings, their success in sell­ing those products increases, Lawshe explained, and the key is to create an environment that enhances key items. “It is creating an expectation by the customer that you have what they want multiple times,” he explained.

For example, at Hat Six, the loca­tion brought in multiple food offer­ings and added a proprietary deli. “They’ve taken the broad approach of offering more food options and customizing them to not only the truckstop traffic but also the locals. They are not a one-trick pony,” Law­she said.

White said vendors can offer in­sight into the right displays and positioning to help spur sales. “We as a supplier have a responsibility to provide the right product to the customers, then offer promotional opportunities that would increase conversion or getting the product merchandised well,” White said.

Photo credit: Hat Six



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Massive Infrastructure Bill Could Slip Into 2018

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said Congressional work on President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure package may be pushed until early next year as lawmakers focus on healthcare and tax reform and a bevy of other must-pass bills in the coming months.

In speaking with reporters, Sen. Thune said Congress continues to wait on more formal direction from the White House regarding its infrastructure proposal. He added that it would be hard to transact legislation requiring a significant amount of floor time in light of the current legislative calendar.

In meetings with NATSO staff the week of June 30, several members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee also indicated that a massive infrastructure package was unlikely in 2017.  The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to focus on passing Federal aviation legislation and by late summer Congress will turn its attention to appropriations as the Federal government’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

Although the Trump Administration has yet to unveil a detailed infrastructure proposal, the Administration in May released a 2018 budget proposal that included recommendations to change federal law in a manner that would harm the truckstop and travel plaza industry.

Specifically, the budget proposal indicated that the Trump Administration would like to “liberalize tolling policy and allow private investment in rest areas,” both of which NATSO strongly opposes.

NATSO and its industry partners, including members of the Alliance for Toll-Free Interstates, continue to meet with lawmakers to educate them about the negative impact that tolls and commercial rest areas will have on the business community, consumers, local towns and communities and safety.



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Increased Competition: Battling Big Box Retailers

More and more businesses are expanding their services and creeping into territory that was once served primarily by the truckstop and travel plaza industry. Throughout the year, Stop Watch is examining specific groups that are entering this space, including dealerships, carriers’ distribution centers and turnpikes, how they’re changing and what NATSO members need to know about the category. Visit http://ift.tt/2lTP5bW to see all the articles.

Battling Big Box Retailers
Big box stores are working to create greater convenience for shoppers and finding ways to get shoppers to buy something they didn’t traditionally buy at the location. That strategy could attract truckstop and travel plaza customers, cutting into sales at NATSO member locations, said Darren Schulte, vice president of membership for NATSO.

“This isn’t necessarily anything new, but big box retailers are in­creasingly selling products that tra­ditionally belonged in other areas,” Schulte said. “They’re trying to get that customer who may have been one of our customers.”

Lowe’s home improvement stores have added sandwich franchises, Home Depot has added flat-screen televisions, and Walmart and Tar­get have added grab-and-go foods. “Those examples all mean fewer stops for us. Now you can go to Walmart and get a rotisserie chicken to go and gas up your car,” Schulte said.

Retailers are also moving their gr­ab-and-go food offerings to the front of the store. Target recently rolled out its new design ideas for a store in Richmond, Texas, which it said will provide even more convenience. The store will feature two separate en­trances, including one for shoppers that plan to leisurely shop the loca­tion and another for shoppers who are looking to pick up a few items and get in and out quickly.

At the entrance for the speed-con­scious consumer, Target will offer fast access to groceries, a wine and beer shop, self-checkout lanes and a dedicated order pickup counter, which are all located close together. “At the ‘ease’ entrance of the store, you’re in for fast, fun, seamless shop­ping,” Target said on its website.

For those that are in even more of a hurry, Target will offer reserved parking spaces and associates will deliver online orders to shop­pers’ vehicles.

Schulte said Target’s new concept is something operators should no­tice. “Target’s new design with a focus on convenience is something that travel plazas and truckstops can take lessons from. Imagine, smaller format stores that one day place gasoline and diesel pumps out front on their interstate loca­tions,” he said.

To compete, Schulte recom­mends operators continue their fo­cus on speed and convenience and look for innovative ways to add more options to their truckstop and travel plaza locations. “People keep taking business from us, but we don’t always keep adding new opportunities. We have to stop be­ing frightened about putting food trucks on our lots or using our parking lots to sell wood in the winter or flowers in the summer,” Schulte said. “Operators have to think of different things to get people to their locations.” 



via Business Feeds

NATSO Foundation Partners With DHS Blue Campaign to Fight Human Trafficking

HT-Poster-Option-1---11x17-English-and-Spanish---NATSO-1.jpg

The NATSO Foundation has part­nered with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Blue Campaign to combat human traf­ficking, marking the latest chapter in the NATSO Foundation’s multi-pronged anti-human trafficking initia­tive to fight human trafficking along America’s Interstate Highway System. Through this alliance with the DHS Blue Campaign, the NATSO Founda­tion will provide the DHS Blue Cam­paign’s training and awareness materi­als—including posters, handouts and other materials to the nation’s truck­stops and travel plazas, which will en­hance the NATSO Foundation’s edu­cational resources.

Download the posts at http://ift.tt/2tt0mGd.

“As an industry that caters to mil­lions of travelers every year, truck­stops and travel plazas and their em­ployees are in a key position to help identify and stop human trafficking along America’s highway system,” said NATSO Foundation President Lisa Mullings. “Sadly, human trafficking has been reported across all modes of transportation and in many legiti­mate businesses that unknowingly are used for this illicit activity. Truckstops and travel plazas are effectively creat­ing the equivalent of a Neighborhood Watch program so that our industry is equipped to help if we encounter a vic­tim of this horrible crime.”

For more than five years, the NATSO Foundation has been helping members of the truckstop and travel plaza com­munity engage in the fight against hu­man trafficking. The NATSO Founda­tion’s goal is to provide the truckstop and travel plaza industry with the nec­essary tools to train owners, operators and employees so that those individuals are equipped to help if they encounter a victim of this horrible crime.

The NATSO Foundation works closely with the Department of Trans­portation, Polaris Project, the Nation­al Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Truckers Against Traffick­ing and other organizations to gain insight into best practices on how to educate members of the truckstop and travel plaza community to iden­tify suspected cases of human traffick­ing and report the information to the appropriate authorities.

The NATSO Foundation in 2016 launched an online course titled, “The Role of Truckstops in Combating Hu­man Trafficking” to help truckstops and travel plazas train their staff in recogniz­ing and responding to suspected inci­dents of human trafficking. The course is available on the NATSO Founda­tion’s website free of charge so that any member of the truckstop and travel pla­za industry can leverage this educational resource. The course can be accessed at http://ift.tt/20PXF7k

dhs



via Business Feeds

We Need to Talk: Ten Tips for Having Difficult Conversations with Truckstop Employees

Employers rarely look forward to difficult conversations, but they can be necessary to effectively manage a team. Avoiding conflict can lead to greater issues down the road. Whether it’s a performance issue, a personality conflict or a dissatisfied employee, truckstop owners and operators said addressing the issue head-on, being empathetic and documenting the discussion can make it easier to navigate a challenging conversation.

“For me all difficult conversations start with the goal of leaving the team member with dignity, a plan for success and a way out if they cannot meet expectations,” said Ericka Schapekahm, director of human resources and special projects for Coffee Cup Fuel Stops. “I have found that setting expectations, always being honest and including them in the solution takes the sting out of difficult conversations and is more likely to make it a positive experience.”

Darren Schulte, vice president of membership for NATSO, said, managers need to embrace direct feedback. “Companies have to have a culture of addressing issues, both the good and the bad. It is critical to find the things people are doing well and address those and you also have to have a culture where you address issues,” he said. “A lot of us view corrective actions as negatives and we shouldn’t. Corrective actions aren’t always negative. They can be positive because you’re taking the time and effort to fix somebody’s problems.”

One of the most common mistakes managers make is trying to avoid the conversation, Schapekahm said. “So many leaders feel that all feedback is negative, so they hold on to critical items hoping it will get better,” she said. “I hear things a lot like: ‘I was hoping she would figure it out by watching the others,’ ‘I wish he would do it the way I showed him,’ or ‘It was in their training, they should know.’” 

Most of the time, those statements are used to avoid having to tell someone they are doing something wrong, saving the leader from an uncomfortable conversation. “I have a rule in leadership: Do not wish and hope for things to change, make them change through leadership,” Schapekahm said. “When a leader approaches me with hopes and wishes, I ask them, ‘What have you done to make that a reality?’”

Don't Wait
Rather than holding on to critical feedback, Schapekahm suggests taking employees aside during down time and having a nice, honest conversation about what the leader saw and how the employee can do it better or correctly. Schapekahm said leaders have an obligation to be timely in having difficult conversations. “Old bad news is confusing and counter productive,” she said. “Do not wait until you are mad or frustrated. Do it the first time you see it. Be positive, offer solutions, ask if they understand and tell them you’ll check back to see how it is going.”

Managers should never assume a problem will go away, Schulte said. “Not addressing it leads to bigger and bigger issues,” he said. “Difficult employees, like anything, can turn into something positive or something very negative.”

Think Positive
While difficult conversations can be a challenge, Cindy Knight, human resources manager at Rochelle Petro Travel Plaza, said not to go into them assuming the worst of the employee. “Frame it in a question at first to see if maybe they don’t even realize it or are lacking knowledge in some way,” Knight said. 

Keep in Confidential
Knight said a common mistake she has seen is the manager talking to everyone about it except the employee. Knight said difficult conversations should always take place in private and never in front of other employees. “If there is any potential for legal issues arising out of the conversation or the topic, it’s always good to have a witnessing manager with you,” she said.

Knight added that letting employees know that the conversation will be kept confidential generally makes them feel better.

Review Expectations
Schapekahm reviews expectations and reminds employees of their training on the topic at hand. “Ask them how they feel they are doing and what roadblocks they have,” she said, adding that it is important to listen carefully.

Any roadblocks should be addressed seriously, even if they are more perceived than real, to ensure they are not in the way as they try to course correct. 

Next Schapekahm acknowledges areas where the employees are performing well, then moves into what she has seen. “Talk to them about specifics, dates and conversations. Make it real to them,” she said.

Be Detailed
Schapekahm suggests being specific about what is happening, providing solid examples and offering specific incidents so employees can tie their feedback to specific behavior. “Team members deserve honest feedback from the moment they start so they understand how to be successful. Honesty includes having a clear vision of what you expect and clearly communicating it so that when they are not meeting expectations, they are not surprised to get the feedback,” she said, adding that employees may be embarrassed by a conversation, but they should never be surprised.

A common mistake is not being prepared with good documentation, good examples, and a plan for success or a way out for the employee. “We approach each difficult conversation with honesty. The goal is always to make them successful, but we also leave them with dignity when we tell them the role is not a good fit for them,” Schapekahm said.

Solicit Feedback
Schapekahm also asks employees for their solutions. “We generally ask them to create their own action plan, then we supplement with specifics, deadlines and appropriate [steps] to take,” Schapekahm said.

“Be positive about the plan and the possibility of their success,” Schapekahm said, adding that employers should also be realistic about consequences.

Document the Process
Schulte recommends employers document issues in a multi-step process. “Try to get the person to document and sign what you’re talking about so they acknowledge it,” he said.

Documenting conversations throughout the year will help ensure managers remember the

positive feedback they have given throughout the year when it is time to write reviews. “Most managers are very busy and forget the great stuff from several months ago, so good feedback documentation is just as important as critical feedback documentation,” Schapekahm said.

Good documentation can be very simple, and it does not necessarily have to be lengthy. It can include the date, a brief outline of the con­versation, main topic covered, ex­pectations set, solutions discussed, plan in place and consequences,” Schapekahm said.

For example: “Today we spoke to Jared about his chronic tardiness. We showed him his last two weeks of in punches and asked him if there was something keeping him from ar­riving on time. He stated his alarm clock doesn’t work. We asked him what else he can use, could he buy a new one. He stated his phone has an alarm feature. He will be setting an alarm on his phone and purchasing a clock soon. We informed him more late punches will result in written corrective action.”

Coffee Cup Fuel Stops has simple documentation forms that leaders can fill it in easily for day-to-day coaching. “More serious coaching conversations are documented in more detail with a witness to the conversation. Documentation is critical,” Schapekahm said.

Get Prepared
Managers could lack the training that helps them feel prepared to handle difficult con­versations. Managers who haven’t had training in conflict resolution can take part in online or in-person training to learn more about han­dling the process. The NATSO Train­ing Manual also has information on conflict resolution and NATSO staff can serve as a resource. “We can help them develop a corrective action pro­cess, and we can be guides to assist them in putting programs together because it is not easy,” Schulte said. “Most companies don’t have cultures of addressing problems because it is hard to address a problem. You often end up waiting until you’re angry. Then it is a major issue.”

Schulte also suggested members draw on their colleagues within the industry to work through solutions. “Use fellow NATSO members in the industry and reach out to them to ask them how they’ve handled differ­ent situations,” he said.

Focus on Policy
Sometimes topics can get personal, such as a need to address an employee’s body odor. Knight suggests reviewing the related policy if there is one, such as employees must shower before coming to work, and remind the employee that every­one is to abide by the policy. “Most likely they will figure it out, indicate understanding and appreciate ending the conversation quickly,” Knight said. “Usually that one comes up to due to other employees complaints, but I don’t bring the complaints up unless they just aren’t getting the message or they deny and push back. 

Even if conversations get uncom­fortable, Knight said it is impor­tant to resist the temptation to say, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ or ‘It’s ok.’ “That will just send them the signal they can go right back to what they were doing,” she said. “Then you just negated the whole meeting.”

Be Direct
Above all, Schulte said it is crucial that leaders don’t shy away from difficult conversations, and managers should never assume a prob­lem will go away. “When you have a difficult employee, there is a tendency to wait and wait and wait, but difficult employees only get worse. They don’t get better,” Schulte said.

He suggests addressing the issue head on. “Difficult employees are worth sav­ing. It is critical to address it directly and address it early,” Schulte said.



via Business Feeds

In the News: iPhone Anniversary, Plunging Smartphone Bills and More

The iPhone made its official debut t 10 years ago. The device that changed the landscape of the smartphone industry offers some unique business lessons and of course — tools for business.

And businesses using these tools got some good news recently too. Bills for data streaming on the phones are going down. The reason? Smartphone saturation. What an appropriate bit of news as the device that started it all celebrates its first decade. Read about these updates and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Mobile Technology

iPhone Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Shows Risks and Rewards of Creating a Whole New Product

This week 10 years ago, the original iPhone was released to the public. Now we know that the iPhone is a hugely successful and transforming product. But back then, Apple took a huge risk in creating something so different from what customers were used to. And the process for creating the product was far from easy.

Plunging Smartphone Bills Are Good News for Small Business Owners in Two Ways

U.S. cellular service costs are plunging. The consumer-price index for wireless phone service dropped 12.5 percent between May 2016 and May 2017, according to the Labor Department. That’s a pretty significant drop that could have an impact on consumers and businesses alike.

Economy

Half of All Small Businesses Fail by Year 5 – Here’s Why (INFOGRAPHIC)

Every business owner wants to succeed. But achieving success doesn’t come easy to most entrepreneurs. Fifty percent of small businesses, in fact, fail in their fifth year. This shocking revelation comes from new data presented by online insurance service provider, InsuranceQuotes.

Hear the Voice of Small Business in this Metlife #MetLifeSmallBiz Twitter Chat

Small business owners feel confident about their prospects, according to the latest Small Biz Index. The recent survey of 1,000 small business owners was conducted by MetLife (@Metlife) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce between April 30 and April 21, 2017. According to the data gathered, 60.6 percent of small business owners said they have a positive outlook for their company.

Employment

35 Percent of Employees May Take Your Confidential Information

Employees leaving your organization might be putting your business at risk. That’s if they are like the 35 percent of employees who say it’s common to take company information with them when leaving a company. This startling revelation comes from a new study (PDF) by tech giant Dell (NASDAQ:DVMT). The research has provided several other interesting insights too.

New Fiverr Pro Service Offers Handpicked Freelancers for Small Business

Hiring professional freelancers for your next project just got easier. Israel-based freelance marketplace Fiverr has announced Fiverr Pro, “the newest high-end initiative of Fiverr’s global marketplace for talent,” the company says.

Finance

40 Percent of Small Businesses Have Had Cash Flow Issues Within the Last Year

Small businesses have a tough time managing money and payments, a study has found. According to research conducted by WePay, an online payment service provider, 41 percent of businesses report having experienced cash flow challenges. Sixteen percent say they have experienced payment fraud — just in the last year.

One in Six Small Business Owners Set to Get Good Credit Score News on July 1

On July 1 there will be significant changes to consumer credit scores as America’s three largest credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) will be dropping nearly all civil debts and some tax liens from their reports.

Banks, Other Lenders See Small Business Approval Rates Drop in May

May turned out to be a tough month for small businesses seeking funds. Loan approval rates at big banks, small banks, alternative lenders and credit unions declined, the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index has revealed.

Management

1 in 5 Small Business Owners Would Give up a Vacation Day Rather Than Their Smartphone

As summer kicks in, more small business owners and entrepreneurs are likely planning to pack up and go on a much deserved vacation. While conventional advice is to switch off the smartphone and step away from the office for that deserved break, a new study has found smartphones can actually help you relax while on vacation.

Marketing Tips

School Just Ended but Back to School Marketing Begins Now (INFOGRAPHIC)

Recent marketing insights from Bing reports students are planning their back to school purchases while still enjoying their summer break. So, when does back to school shopping begin? A look at search volume for back-to-school basics shows that it starts earlier than many small business marketers might have guessed.

Free eBook to Drive Summer Marketing for Local Businesses

There’s no denying it: Summer is here. To kick off the season, folks are uncovering their grills for the first time in eight or nine months and firing up some ‘shrimp on the barbie.’ A little corn on the cob, freshly-sliced watermelon and homemade cherry cobbler round out the all-American picnics taking place in backyards across the country.

Snapchat Introduces New Feature: Will it Help You with Marketing?

Snapchat (NYSE:SNAP) announced a new feature this week that could impact how your business markets to local consumers. Snap Map, as it’s called, is a location based service that shows Snapchat users where their friends are hanging out nearby.

BloomPro Offers Services to Independent Florists

Independent florists may be interested in a new offering from online floral marketplace BloomNation. The new service, called BloomPro, basically offers independent florists the option of having a dedicated floral commerce account manager at their disposal without having to hire one.

Retail Trends

Specialty Food Show Brings Some Unique Niches to the Forefront

The Summer Fancy Food Show takes place in New York this week, showcasing hundreds of specialty food makers with some really unique products. The Summer Fancy Food Show The Specialty Food Organization puts on the show each summer, along with one in California each winter.

Snap Poll: 76 Percent of In Store Shoppers Change Their Minds After Consulting Their Phones

An unscientific poll of a few dozen shoppers revealed that many consult their phones before they buy something. The poll — commissioned by Edgenet — was taken of 60 big-box store shoppers in Nashville between May 22 and June 5.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Millennial Couple Brings Clean Juice to the Masses

Clean eating isn’t just about improving health. It can be an entire lifestyle shift. And for one couple, it even led to a great business opportunity. The founders of Clean Juice decided to start their business after seeing just how much of an impact clean eating made for them personally. Read about their journey and more in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Operations

How Will New Homeland Security Travel Requirements Impact Your Small Business? Be Prepared

The Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly this week announced enhanced security screening measures for all commercial flights to the United States.

Technology Trends

GoDaddy Introduces New Small Business Security Features

If you have a small business website, you know how dangerous malware and viruses can be. Open the wrong email and you can infect your entire network. It’s important to be protected against online attacks on your reputation too. Compounding the need for new security products is the evolution of malware.

What is Google Posts? If You Don’t Know, You’d Better Read This

There’s a new tool for establishing your digital presence on the web, but it isn’t available to your small business just yet. Google Posts lets your business create content on Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), which can then be optimized to rank high in search results. When it was first launched in 2016, it was during the Presidential campaign, and it was intended for the candidates.

Could Robots Make Small Business Manufacturing a Reality?

Manufacturing offers opportunities often less known to small business owners. This is because these opportunities aren’t always viable for small businesses with limited resources. That could all be changing though, thanks to some high tech innovations

iPhone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "In the News: iPhone Anniversary, Plunging Smartphone Bills and More" was first published on Small Business Trends



RSS Business Feeds

In the News: iPhone Anniversary, Plunging Smartphone Bills and More

The iPhone made its official debut t 10 years ago. The device that changed the landscape of the smartphone industry offers some unique business lessons and of course — tools for business.

And businesses using these tools got some good news recently too. Bills for data streaming on the phones are going down. The reason? Smartphone saturation. What an appropriate bit of news as the device that started it all celebrates its first decade. Read about these updates and more in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Mobile Technology

iPhone Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Shows Risks and Rewards of Creating a Whole New Product

This week 10 years ago, the original iPhone was released to the public. Now we know that the iPhone is a hugely successful and transforming product. But back then, Apple took a huge risk in creating something so different from what customers were used to. And the process for creating the product was far from easy.

Plunging Smartphone Bills Are Good News for Small Business Owners in Two Ways

U.S. cellular service costs are plunging. The consumer-price index for wireless phone service dropped 12.5 percent between May 2016 and May 2017, according to the Labor Department. That’s a pretty significant drop that could have an impact on consumers and businesses alike.

Economy

Half of All Small Businesses Fail by Year 5 – Here’s Why (INFOGRAPHIC)

Every business owner wants to succeed. But achieving success doesn’t come easy to most entrepreneurs. Fifty percent of small businesses, in fact, fail in their fifth year. This shocking revelation comes from new data presented by online insurance service provider, InsuranceQuotes.

Hear the Voice of Small Business in this Metlife #MetLifeSmallBiz Twitter Chat

Small business owners feel confident about their prospects, according to the latest Small Biz Index. The recent survey of 1,000 small business owners was conducted by MetLife (@Metlife) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce between April 30 and April 21, 2017. According to the data gathered, 60.6 percent of small business owners said they have a positive outlook for their company.

Employment

35 Percent of Employees May Take Your Confidential Information

Employees leaving your organization might be putting your business at risk. That’s if they are like the 35 percent of employees who say it’s common to take company information with them when leaving a company. This startling revelation comes from a new study (PDF) by tech giant Dell (NASDAQ:DVMT). The research has provided several other interesting insights too.

New Fiverr Pro Service Offers Handpicked Freelancers for Small Business

Hiring professional freelancers for your next project just got easier. Israel-based freelance marketplace Fiverr has announced Fiverr Pro, “the newest high-end initiative of Fiverr’s global marketplace for talent,” the company says.

Finance

40 Percent of Small Businesses Have Had Cash Flow Issues Within the Last Year

Small businesses have a tough time managing money and payments, a study has found. According to research conducted by WePay, an online payment service provider, 41 percent of businesses report having experienced cash flow challenges. Sixteen percent say they have experienced payment fraud — just in the last year.

One in Six Small Business Owners Set to Get Good Credit Score News on July 1

On July 1 there will be significant changes to consumer credit scores as America’s three largest credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) will be dropping nearly all civil debts and some tax liens from their reports.

Banks, Other Lenders See Small Business Approval Rates Drop in May

May turned out to be a tough month for small businesses seeking funds. Loan approval rates at big banks, small banks, alternative lenders and credit unions declined, the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index has revealed.

Management

1 in 5 Small Business Owners Would Give up a Vacation Day Rather Than Their Smartphone

As summer kicks in, more small business owners and entrepreneurs are likely planning to pack up and go on a much deserved vacation. While conventional advice is to switch off the smartphone and step away from the office for that deserved break, a new study has found smartphones can actually help you relax while on vacation.

Marketing Tips

School Just Ended but Back to School Marketing Begins Now (INFOGRAPHIC)

Recent marketing insights from Bing reports students are planning their back to school purchases while still enjoying their summer break. So, when does back to school shopping begin? A look at search volume for back-to-school basics shows that it starts earlier than many small business marketers might have guessed.

Free eBook to Drive Summer Marketing for Local Businesses

There’s no denying it: Summer is here. To kick off the season, folks are uncovering their grills for the first time in eight or nine months and firing up some ‘shrimp on the barbie.’ A little corn on the cob, freshly-sliced watermelon and homemade cherry cobbler round out the all-American picnics taking place in backyards across the country.

Snapchat Introduces New Feature: Will it Help You with Marketing?

Snapchat (NYSE:SNAP) announced a new feature this week that could impact how your business markets to local consumers. Snap Map, as it’s called, is a location based service that shows Snapchat users where their friends are hanging out nearby.

BloomPro Offers Services to Independent Florists

Independent florists may be interested in a new offering from online floral marketplace BloomNation. The new service, called BloomPro, basically offers independent florists the option of having a dedicated floral commerce account manager at their disposal without having to hire one.

Retail Trends

Specialty Food Show Brings Some Unique Niches to the Forefront

The Summer Fancy Food Show takes place in New York this week, showcasing hundreds of specialty food makers with some really unique products. The Summer Fancy Food Show The Specialty Food Organization puts on the show each summer, along with one in California each winter.

Snap Poll: 76 Percent of In Store Shoppers Change Their Minds After Consulting Their Phones

An unscientific poll of a few dozen shoppers revealed that many consult their phones before they buy something. The poll — commissioned by Edgenet — was taken of 60 big-box store shoppers in Nashville between May 22 and June 5.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: Millennial Couple Brings Clean Juice to the Masses

Clean eating isn’t just about improving health. It can be an entire lifestyle shift. And for one couple, it even led to a great business opportunity. The founders of Clean Juice decided to start their business after seeing just how much of an impact clean eating made for them personally. Read about their journey and more in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

Small Business Operations

How Will New Homeland Security Travel Requirements Impact Your Small Business? Be Prepared

The Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly this week announced enhanced security screening measures for all commercial flights to the United States.

Technology Trends

GoDaddy Introduces New Small Business Security Features

If you have a small business website, you know how dangerous malware and viruses can be. Open the wrong email and you can infect your entire network. It’s important to be protected against online attacks on your reputation too. Compounding the need for new security products is the evolution of malware.

What is Google Posts? If You Don’t Know, You’d Better Read This

There’s a new tool for establishing your digital presence on the web, but it isn’t available to your small business just yet. Google Posts lets your business create content on Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), which can then be optimized to rank high in search results. When it was first launched in 2016, it was during the Presidential campaign, and it was intended for the candidates.

Could Robots Make Small Business Manufacturing a Reality?

Manufacturing offers opportunities often less known to small business owners. This is because these opportunities aren’t always viable for small businesses with limited resources. That could all be changing though, thanks to some high tech innovations

iPhone Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "In the News: iPhone Anniversary, Plunging Smartphone Bills and More" was first published on Small Business Trends



via Small Business Trends Business Feeds

ATRI’s Driver Diaries Give Real-World Perspective to Truck Parking Concerns

TruckParkinginArticle.jpg

To tap into first-hand accounts of professional truck drivers and gain insight into their daily parking needs, the American Transportation Research Institute launched its Truck Parking Diary project in March 2016, document­ing the experiences of drivers as they find safe, available truck parking. 

“Every year for three years we’ve been surveying thousands of driv­ers with high-level surveys, but we haven’t been able to do a lot of data mining,” said Dan Murray, vice president of ATRI. “This allowed us to understand it isn’t a homog­enous population of drivers with the same issues.”

As part of the diary project, drivers recorded their parking experiences and issues over 14 days of driving, representing over 4,700 unique parking stops documented in the diaries. The report stated that private truckstops are drivers’ preferred location for 10-hour required HOS breaks, but drivers’ preferred stops can vary based on a number of factors.

Gender Differences
Murray said he was surprised to learn that women’s and men’s issues were different. For example, ATRI found that women preferred public parking rather than private truckstops. “They felt the lighting and security was bet­ter at the public rest [areas] and they weren’t being bothered by a lot of people,” Murray said, adding that fe­male drivers often brought food with them because it was healthier and more cost effective. “When you have these one-on-one conversations you realize the issues surrounding gender alone are different.”

There are generational differences among drivers as well. “The stereo­types hold true. Older drivers want to minimize technology utilization. As drivers get younger and younger, they want to rely on smartphone apps and online reservation systems, Murray said. “It is not shocking, but it validates what the stereotype is.” 

Murray said the latest research made him realize truck parking solutions will vary based on the different types of drivers. “It gives insight to the private truckstop operators,” Murray said.

Time-of-Day Challenges
The ATRI study found that drivers looking for parking between the hours of 4:00 p.m. and midnight face a num­ber of challenges, including increased search times and truck parking spaces used by non-commercial vehicles.

Just over 61 percent of drivers re­ported that time-of-day impacts truck parking availability. Some drivers in the sample avoid truck parking challenges by operating at night or beginning their duty cycle in the early morning. Some drivers provided estimates of when finding available parking is most dif­ficult, and those who did said finding parking becomes uncertain between 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

ATRI’s diary research also docu­mented the amount of lost revenue drivers experience by parking earlier than they otherwise needed to just to find parking. “There are a large per­centage of drivers who are stopping their revenue time 40 to 60 minutes early to look for parking. They’re not getting paid for that,” Murray said. “They know it is hitting them in the pocket book but very few people really understand that.”

The study found that stopping ear­ly cut individual driver’s productiv­ity by 9,300 revenue-earning miles a year, which equated to lost wages of $4,600 annually, ATRI said.

Parking Selection
The majority of drivers—55.5 per­cent—used websites or smartphone applications to find parking; 53.4 percent use GPS; 37.7 percent use books. Almost half of drivers in the study—45.6 percent—have used a parking reservation system before, and 15 percent have the reservation fees covered by their carrier.

However, truck parking reserva­tions were the second most cited parking issue among drivers, with 25.6 percent listing it as a concern. Drivers reported that truck park­ing reservations effectively reduce parking supply, observing that these spots go unused and that free parking spaces reach capacity.

The report made several recommen­dations for the private sector, includ­ing enforcing driver parking behav­ior so multiple spots aren’t needlessly used by a single vehicle. “Truckstop enforcement of ‘parking manners’ to maximize existing supply could im­prove capacity issues,” the report said.

Another issue identified in the re­port is the use of truck parking spaces by bobtail trucks. “Dedicated bob­tail truck parking or allowing bobtail trucks to park in the car lot would pre­vent bobtail trucks from using park­ing that could accommodate a tractor trailer combination,” the report said.

Future Studies
Murray said ATRI will conduct driver diaries again to gain even more insight. “We hope to get to a level where we could provide al­most design-specific recommen­dations to people building truck parking,” he said.

About the Drivers

88% were male

12% were female

91% do not drive dedicated, regularly scheduled runs

4.7% operate as team drivers

87% operate in the for-hire segment

13% drive for private fleets

72.3% are employee drivers

25.7% are independent contractors leased to a motor carrier

2% are owner-operators

90.4% spend more than five nights away from home per week

8.2% spend three to four nights away per week

1.4% spend one to two nights away

94% select truck parking locations on their own

4% do not do any advanced planning of their stops

0.7% of dispatchers select parking for drivers

Average Length of Haul

35.8% Regional (100–599 miles per trip)

33.1% Inter-Regional (600–999 miles per trip)

31.1% Long Haul (1,000+ miles per trip)

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Last year, the NATSO Foundation launched the mobile app PARK MY TRUCK, a highway safety initiative to help professional drivers find available truck parking.

The app was created by the Truck Parking Leadership Initiative, which includes the NATSO Foundation, NATSO Inc., the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and ATRI. Park My Truck includes the total number of truck parking spaces for nearly 4,500 truckstops in the United States and some rest areas. In addition to being an important industry initiative, Park My Truck is an exciting new way for drivers to find your truckstops or travel plazas. Reasons to participate include:

  • Participation is free and simple—all you need is the ability to count.
  • Participation in the app shows your commitment to provide safe, reliable parking for your customers.
  • The success of this initiative hinges on the nation’s truck parking providers working in partnership to supply drivers with current, reliable data on available truck parking.

Truck parking providers can contact the NATSO Foundation at (855) 650-6935 or hello@parkmytruck.com to establish an account to provide truck parking availability.

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Photo credit: Amy Toner/NATSO



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June 2017 updates for Get & Transform in Excel 2016 and the Power Query add-in

Today, we released eight data transformation and connectivity updates for Get & Transform—a powerful set of Excel 2016 features based on the Power Query technology, which provides fast, easy data gathering and shaping capabilities.

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Benedict of Oracle Team USA: How Sensors, Data, Drones and Video Shape the Chase for the America’s Cup

Through this series I have the opportunity to speak with a variety of interesting people on a great many topics. But this week’s conversation was the first time I had the chance to do so sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in Bermuda … watching Oracle Team USA compete for the America’s Cup against Emirates Team New Zealand. And while the end result wasn’t what we hoped for, with Team USA losing 7-1, It was still a great experience and an opportunity to learn how modern tech is changing the race.

Realtime Data Driven Strategies

Benedict, a member of Oracle Team USA, took a few minutes away from the race to share how the team is using an unbelievable amount of data they are able to collect during the race, along with video and pictures captured, to help change strategies in realtime to move the team forward. And while this is fascinating to see how modern tech is changing the race for The Cup, there are definite business lessons to take away. Plus, I get to bust out my cabana wear for the first time in a while. So I owe a big debt of gratitude to the folks at Oracle for inviting me down to see the races and learn more about technology’s role in the event.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To see the whole conversation check out the embedded video above and the audio player below.

* * * * *

Benedict of Oracle Team USA: How to Use Sensors, Data, Drones, and Video to Create Realtime Data Driven Strategies for the America’s CupBrent Leary: There was a tech talk around how Oracle Team USA is using technology to do what they do. One of the things that stuck me, was the statement that back when the race got started in 1851, it was about technology. People would probably think 1851, what kind of technology was that back there? But now today it’s definitely about technology. Maybe you could talk about kind of the evolution of how technology has played a role in this.

Benedict: Sure, so basically if you look at this Cup, and the previous Cup, the biggest news were the foiling systems. In the past, the boats were sitting in the waters, so you always had a lot of drag, and the drag stopped you accelerating. So in these two Cups we now have foiling catamarans. They lift out of the water, similar to an airplane, and they can go three times the wind speed, which is a different story basically. The hulls do not touch the water anymore. Therefore, they just go faster and faster.

Brent Leary: This morning we talked about, being there at the end of the day, taking this video, taking all the data that’s coming from sensors, and turning that into strategy. Talk a little bit about how you’re able to take all this data you have access to now, and how that plays a role in strategy.

Benedict: We have around 300 to 350 sensors on board, and they take measurements every 5 seconds. This data is being streamed right away to a boat, which follows the race boat all the time. Then they store it back on Oracle databases. We have a huge container over there, with services set up, and it’s air conditioned, since it’s pretty hot here, but it plays a huge role for the engineers because now they always can flip back, and combine the moving pictures, like the video pics, with the data. So you can see how the boat is performing.

Benedict of Oracle Team USA: How to Use Sensors, Data, Drones, and Video to Create Realtime Data Driven Strategies for the America’s Cup

There’s a drone always following the boat. So we always have drone pictures, and that’s a good thing that we have everything synced together. So all the engineers, they just can grab all this data, to see how the boat performs under which conditions. They see what changes it made, due to the changes they made on the boat. That’s the biggest challenge basically, because sometimes you don’t know if the change you’re doing is as good as the theory tells you. So they go back and forth, and back and forth.

Over the last week, they went out three times. Today they took the boat off the water, took all the data. They analyzed it. They made some changes, put the boat back in the water. So they had hectic times.

Brent Leary: Is that gonna be what happens tonight as well?

Benedict: I think they went out tonight, or this afternoon again to do some little testing again, but the boat performance wasn’t the issue today. We had two not so good stories I should say.

Brent Leary: Okay, well let’s talk a little bit maybe about the future. What do you think is going to happen with the use of technology and data two years from now, four years from now?

Benedict: So I’m not sure how familiar your audience is about the America’s Cup, the tricky thing is, the winner takes all the rights to decide what’s gonna happen. So right now, it’s a very technology driven game, because the boats are leading edge, they’re foiling, a lot of technology involved, so maybe in the next Cup, we might not foil, because the winner decides on what boats we’re gonna race. So that is gonna be a tricky thing.

For sure there’s also technology involved, in order to make the boat as fast as possible to the given rules they decide, but right now we don’t know. Is it a foiling boat? Is it a catamaran? Is it a monohull? Is it a trimaran? We have no idea. So if Oracle will win, there’s already a kind of set scenario which four teams agreed on, how to proceed, so there’s already a schedule, and they decided on boat designs. But if Emirates Team New Zealand keeps them going, you don’t know what happens. We don’t know. They might go back and say we’re going to race on monohulls as we did in 2007 with the America’s Cup class boats. So you don’t know.

This article, "Benedict of Oracle Team USA: How Sensors, Data, Drones and Video Shape the Chase for the America’s Cup" was first published on Small Business Trends



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