Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cherry Blossoms and Rebirth - Our Fascination with New Beginnings!

It is Spring and I am once again focusing on starting anew.  There have been many changes in my personal and professional life in the past year.  Each has me thinking about how "new beginnings" are what make life miraculous.......

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”     Albert Einstein  

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the Cherry Blossoms in Washington D.C on numerous occasions - and it never grows old!

Each time I am awestruck by their beauty.  Judging by the amount of people that make the trek, I am not alone.

However, I believe that it is not just their beauty that makes the cherry blossoms such a draw.  I think it is also the feeling of renewal and a “fresh start” that captivate!

The truth is, being confronted by possibilities is intoxicating. There is a sense of euphoria that comes from knowing something new is possible.

I propose that this feeling is addictive!

In my personal life, each time I visit a new city or someone in my family is graduating or getting married, I am able to feel a resurgence of anticipation and excitement.

My children are also a constant source of new beginnings.  The knowledge that so much is on the horizon for them fills me with a sense of wonder.

Professionally, starting my own business has been the greatest adventure.  Anyone who has ever done the same knows exactly what I mean.  Launching your own company is  filled with “firsts”. It is an obvious and natural time to feel anticipation and excitement.

That feeling is a little harder to replicate as the years go on.  But I do not believe it is impossible.

It think you can capture that feeling on a regular basis if you are open to it.  Being willing to take a new approach to an old problem or venturing out in a new direction can help cultivate that feeling of renewal.

Spring is the Perfect Time to Rekindle Your “Fresh Start”! "Tweet This"

The year is fully underway and the busyness that comes at the beginning of a new year has settled.

I think this is the ideal time to look for renewed inspiration in your business and in your life.  Inspiration is all around you.  The welcome bloom of the trees and the emergence of the first daffodils and crocuses - each serve as a reminder that rebirth is possible.

I challenge you to find your own inspiration.  My yearly visit to the cherry blossoms is one of mine.  What is yours?

Please Share this and Spread the Word!  Thanks!

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I invite you to visit my website,, for more articles of inspiration and to find out more about what I do!  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Small Business Spotlight - Business Expansion Enterprises

This week in “Small Business Spotlight”, I would like to highlight Diane Bianchi and her small business, Business Expansion Enterprises!

Business Expansion Enterprises is a locally owned and operated business consultant practice founded by Diane Bianchi.  Diane has been a small business owner with her husband Walt for the past 10 years.  They first partnered in a carpet and upholstery cleaning business and, since closing that in October 2012, have started a new venture.

Diane has first-hand experience on what it’s like to run a small business in the present day economy and, with her husband, has succeeded in continuing to expand the carpet cleaning business using tools she learned from education and from experience.

Over time, Diane has observed the failing economy in the Mon Valley area (an area along the Monongahela River 20 miles South of Pittsburgh) and decided to do something about it.

Diane wanted to share her knowledge and experience with other small business owners in the area.  Her goal is to help them to flourish and prosper, despite any non-optimum economic conditions.

That is how Business Expansion Enterprises was born!  B.E.E. will help you and your company Set and Achieve Business Goals,  Organize Your Business, Manage Finances and Statistics, and Help You Become more Efficient. 

B.E.E. also specializes in Marketing, including internet and Social Media Marketing.  Diane can help you set up your social media accounts and offers the ongoing “day to day” services of posting updates and links to keep your business’ social media presence current.

Diane’s goal is to truly help other small business owners expand and grow their business.  She is committed to helping you fulfill your dreams of creating your own business and has the expertise give you the tools you need.

If you are interested learning more about what Business Expansion Enterprises can offer, Please Contact Diane by phone at 724-613-2899 or by email at .

You can also visit her website for more information!

For more articles in the “Small Business Spotlight” series, be sure to visit Access Profiles - “Week in Review”.  You can also learn more about Small Business Issues at or the API Blog.  Thanks!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

6 Tips on Using Background and Due Diligence Checks in Your Business

"Trust But Verify" Ronald Reagan
We adopted this quote as our company motto and it precisely sums up our belief that what we do is important and truly helps others. Find out how we can help you too.....

Most employers have heard discussions concerning the effectiveness and uses of background checks and due diligence investigations during the course of their business. Questions arise concerning whether running these checks are wise or even necessary. At API we firmly believe they are!  

Having information on the people you employ and the companies you do business with may make the difference between a safe and profitable work environment and one that is rife with uncertainty.

We believe that being forewarned is forearmed. Having information at your disposal on your applicant's or potential partner's prior criminal acts, especially violent ones, or a past history of civil suits allows you to make a much more informed decision.

However, that is not to say that the whole issue of background checks isn’t confusing. When and how you can legally use them, on whom should you run them, and what types of things you should check, are all legitimate questions and causes for concern.

6 Tips for Using Background Checks in Your Business

1. Choose a Background Check Company Wisely
Our best advice, find a company where you feel like you are partners in the process, not where you are simply being "told" what to do. The best choice is to find a screening company that is invested in your success and helps you make good employment decisions. The most important thing is for you to feel comfortable.

It is also important that the information they provide is verified through the court system.  This helps avoid errors in their reports and lessens the possibility of dispute by the subject of the background check.

Find out more about choosing the right Background Check company for you here!

2. Stay Updated on EEOC Guidelines concerning Pre-Employment Screening
Currently there are two key issues when it comes to employment background checks that you must keep in mind. First, only past criminal history that directly impacts the ability to do the open position should be considered. Second, each applicant must be given the revised “Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act” and sign a stand alone authorization permitting the check. The first outlines an applicant’s rights in disputing any adverse employment reaction based on the criminal history report and the second assures that your applicant understands those rights and agrees to the background check.

It is still possible, and recommended, that all applicants undergo a background investigation. It is simply important to be aware of the legal uses and be compliant. A good background check company will help you with this.

3. Run Background Checks on Temps and Interns
Despite them being hired for the “short term”, both temporary workers and interns are still part of your workforce. They are privy to your company information and are, in fact, representatives of your company.

It is also important to remember that these workers still come in contact with your other employees and possibly clients and customers. Therefore, as with long-term employees, safety should be of concern. Learn more about why screening interns is simply good business here!

6 Tips to Help You Navigate the World of Background Checks and get the Information You Really Need! "Tweet This"

4. Run Periodic Background Checks on Existing Employees
Much like random drug and alcohol tests, scheduling additional background checks during the term of employment is wise. Any initial background check conducted only takes into account
information that exists at that time.

Running subsequent background checks makes sense. It will uncover any new dangerous or unsafe behavior of which you should be aware.

Doing an additional background check is also a great practice prior to offering a promotion.

Find out more about when and how to re-screen your existing employees here!

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Social Media as Part of Your Background Checks
When it comes to checking an applicant's social sites, “public” information can be of great help as part of the background check process. Many times profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook can actually help clarify or “round out” the information provided in a traditional resume.

The only practice that should be avoided at all costs, and which is in fact illegal in some states, is the request for any social media passwords. We predict that more states will follow in prohibiting any
attempt to obtain passwords for current or potential employee.

6. Use Background Checks to “Vet” Other Companies
Before deciding to do business with another company, run a Due Diligence check! We at API recommend this include a civil record report.

A civil report will include any litigation or bankruptcy in which the company may have been involved. Knowing whether they have sued, or been sued by, other companies or clients is sound

Don’t let the process of background checks scare you off. Using them wisely, and following these tips, will not only put your company on more solid footing, it will help you make better business choices.

Authored by

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Small Business Spotlight - Exquisite Gift Baskets

This week’s Small Business Spotlight Shout-Out Goes to Connie Obee and her company, Exquisite Gift Baskets!

Connie’s journey started when she quit her job on 9/11/2001.  She was in a job that she disliked and really needed a change.  Her son, Paul, was only 16 months old and, being a single mother, Connie wanted to focus on creating a life for her and her son.

Connie also knew she wanted to be her own boss.  Out of this desire, Exquisite Gift Baskets was born.

Connie said the idea of gift baskets really did “just call out to her”!  She officially started her business on November 1, 2001.  The majority of that first year, Connie concentrated on learning everything she could about the gift basket business and the ins and outs of being a business owner.

Connie found there was definitely a need for a good, quality, gift basket business in her area.  She decided to focus on what she calls the “love” in creating her gift baskets.  Connie only builds her baskets with products she would personally want and her clients have even dubbed her “the basket lady”!

Exquisite Gift Baskets takes pride in offering their customers “made to order” baskets.  According to Connie, her goal is to “ensure that every person that orders a gift basket from me and/or receives a gift basket from me has the very best experience.”  

Connie also believes in providing a consistently “superior quality product” at a reasonable price.  Exquisite Gift Baskets strives for personalized service and a “better than expected” customer service experience.

Exquisite Gift Baskets offers a wide variety of customizable baskets.  From Gourmet gift baskets full of hand-selected treats, to holiday and themed baskets - she truly has it all!  Connie also specializes in corporate  and “one of a kind” baskets.

Each basket is only created after your order is placed.  They are not mass-produced.  In this way you are always assured of getting the freshest, hand-selected products.  This attention to details really sets Exquisite Gift Baskets apart!

However, what I think really makes Connie and Exquisite Gift Baskets so unique is her devotion and enthusiasm.  These words from Connie sum it up completely:

“I absolutely love it (Exquisite Gift Baskets), and everyday I love doing it even more.”

I invite you to check out Connie’s website, and Facebook page, for more information and some wonderful pictures of her baskets!

For more on this continuing “Spotlight on Small Business” series, check out Access Profiles - “Week in Review” and for Small Business and Background Check information!

Monday, March 18, 2013

4 Tips on Using Your Business and Social Media to “Pay it Forward”!

#SmBiz #PayitForward

The idea of "Paying It Forward" has been a focus of mine since the beginning of my business, but it has gained even greater strength in recent years.  And it is not as hard as you think!  Read on.......

Although written long ago, these words still hold true.  For me, the greatest way to realize success yourself is to help others achieve theirs.

While I believe many of us feel this way, we are simply not sure where to begin.  We find it easy to “pay it forward” within your own circle of family and friends.  But how can we take it beyond our “inner circle” and truly make a difference?

I put this question to myself and found a path that works for me.  I decided to focus my efforts on helping other small business owners.  My thoughts are to promote their businesses and hopefully start a “pay it forward” cycle of success!

If you would like to give it a try, Here are 4 Tips to Get You Started:

1.  Use Your Social Media Sites

I started my path in small ways.  I actively “liked”, commented, and shared the posts and blogs of others through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. In this way I was able to help others find the engagement and audience they needed to get the word out about what they do.  I continue to try and do this daily.  This is a very easy step, but can really make a difference.

2.  Shop Small

I also am “buying small” more often.  I have purchased jewelry, soaps, and greeting cards through small businesses both online and in my neighborhood.  Then I make sure to put a review on their company page or website, and also share it on my own page to let others know of my experience.  Besides helping these businesses, I have found some great new products this way!

3.  Share Other’s Blogs and Articles

I have begun to feature other blog writers in my online paper.  I searched for articles within my social network connections and made sure to feature them in my latest edition.

To get more traffic to their blog, I would also share the paper through all my social media channels.   I then make sure to let the authors know they have been featured.

4.  Promote Other Businesses

Another venture of mine was to start a blog series called “Small Business Spotlight”.  Periodically I have highlighted one small business in my paper.  Through my article I help promote this business by letting others know a little more about who they are and what they do.

Each of these steps is designed to help where I can.  Selfishly, I have found I love it!

This doesn’t mean I don’t focus on the success of my own business, but I find that wanting to “pay it forward” to others and my own goals need not be mutually exclusive.

I close with these words:  

And, for me, that makes the most sense of all!

Help Pay it Forward and Share!  Leave a comment too ~ I would love to hear from You!

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thinking of making Changes in Your Small Business? Be Sure to Keep Your Core Values in Mind!

#SmallBiz #BusinessGrowth

"Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights."  ~Pauline R. Kezer

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Savannah, GA.  I was inspired by the city’s ability to meld the old and the new.  

Everywhere you look you can see evidence of Savannah’s rich history.  According to Savannah tourism guides, 22 of the original 24 “squares” have been preserved throughout the city and are an integral part of downtown Savannah life.

However, Savannah is anything but backward.  Modern conveniences thrive alongside historic cobblestone streets and monuments.  In one of Savannah’s most popular restaurants, The Olde Pink House, the building itself dates back to 1789 but the kitchens are updated and air conditioning is added for the comfort of diners.

This concept of preservation and progress got me thinking about how it could be used in my own life and business.  The need to move forward at all costs needs to be tempered by the idea of keeping what works.

My call.......keep what is important and only embrace changes that enhance and complement your core values.

Before making Changes in Your Small Business,  Keep Your Core Values in Mind!  "Tweet This"

It is important not to change the fundamentals.  These fundamentals are the foundation upon which you built your company.  They are your core purpose and goals.

Therefore, it is not simply out with the old and in with the new. Integration between the two is what really leads to success.  To achieve this goal, many companies are returning to “real person” customer service over automated systems.  While automation was seen as “progress”, companies are realizing that their fundamental desire to provide personal customer service suffers.

It is important to realize;  “All change is not growth, as all movement is not forward”.  ~Ellen Glasgow

Making changes can actually move your company “backward” if they are not in line with your foundation or core.

While I fully believe that progress and change are great goals, preserving some traditions are equally as important.  Change should come about only when that change stays in line with your core values and beliefs.

The ability to blend the old with the new is what intrigues me. As I observed in the city of Savannah, it is not only possible, it works!

Please Pay it Forward and Share this article on Your Favorite Social Sites!  And please leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!

Authored by

Be sure to check out my Website to learn more about me and the Services I offer to help you in your Small Business! 

You can also find links to connect with me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more Here

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Free to Choose ~ A Legacy We Leave Our Daughters

Created by Kimberly Kline

“Your ambition should be to get as much life out of living as you possibly can, as much enjoyment, as much interest, as much experience, as much understanding. Not simply be what is generally called a ‘success’.” 
Eleanor Roosevelt

The 1960s was a time when many women were fighting for equality.  We wanted the chance to succeed in every way open to men.  I applaud those strong women who worked hard at putting cracks in that barrier.

I was very lucky that I grew up being told I could accomplish anything I chose to do.  There was never anything that was closed to me.  For this I am thankful.

While things are infinitely better than they were then, the issue of equality still rears its ugly head.  I read stories every day concerning disparate pay for equal work or statistics on the lack of women in top executive positions.

Some of this can be attributed to discrimination.  However, I would also like to propose another possible reason. Women are choosing a different path.

Maybe the need to “have it all” that has been re-evaluated. While we still want opportunities open to us, it is what we choose to do with those opportunities that has changed.

Even Hilary Rodham Clinton, arguably a very “successful” woman in the traditional sense, has prioritized what matters to her:

Our lives are a mixture of different roles. Most of us are doing the best we can to find whatever the right balance is . . . For me, that balance is family, work, and service.

Rodham Clinton’s “balance” lists family first and includes service. Like many of us, she appreciates and values more than what can be provided through her work.

Many of us are placing our focus on this different value set.  A real balance between work and “life” is our goal.  Money and status is not the driving force.  We want to create a life of value.

Creating a Life of Value is the Ultimate Success!  "Tweet This"

That value, of course, is subjective.  But the desire to work at something that “matters” resonates with many.  It may no longer be the big money or boardroom position that drives us.

What we, as women, have now earned is a choice.  Each of us can decide our own goals and have the freedom to pursue them. We also need to recognize that one woman’s choice may not be our own.  The celebration should be in the choice itself.  

It is this ability to choose that we leave to our own daughters.  I know I want my own daughter to find fulfillment in whatever way is important to her.  Whether it lies in the traditional “corporate track” or not is up to her.  And I wish the same thing for our sons.

And that is the way it should be.

My only hope is that finding a life of purpose and value is part of the equation!

I close with these words from former first lady, Barbara Bush:

Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people - your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way.
Please Pay it Forward and Share this article.  Leave a comment too ~ 
I would Love to Hear what You Think!

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