Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

July 16, 2018

As a Home Improvement professional, it is vital that you are familiar with the many trends that have entered the Home Improvement market. Just like the Fashion Industry, things tend to be in-style one moment, and out of style the next. But, just like the Fashion Industry, things that were once popular often regain their popularity as time passes.

Chances are, if you’ve been a contractor for some time, you’ll recognize a few of these trends. Some of them were once quite trendy, and then their popularity faded. Now, though, they have regained popularity and become very trendy, especially for smaller homes.

Right now, small homes are incredibly popular, due to their size, affordability, and lack of damage to the environment. Those reasons make these homes very popular, especially with Millennials, who are concerned about size, affordability, and making sure the environment remains stable and secure.

Hardwood Plywood Furniture

Hardwood plywood is a very familiar material. It was used a lot, back in the day, and it is still used a lot. However, it is very easy to forget just how much you can do with it.

You can use hardwood plywood for all kinds of furniture. Whether you’re using it for tables or chairs or desks; hardwood plywood is a fantastic material due to this incredible amount of flexibility and its open-ended nature as a material.

This doesn’t really get into the heart of why it is so popular, though. In reality, the reason it is so popular is because, while it is an inexpensive material that can be used for many different types of furniture, it is also an incredibly beautiful material, and it comes in many different colors and hues, which are all absolutely stunning!

Unique Metal Furniture Pieces

Metal furniture is very stylish, giving off a very “futuristic” aura, while also remaining incredibly durable and incredibly versatile, due to the many styles and shapes that these furniture pieces are crafted in!

More and more people want to have unique contemporary furniture that they can use as a focal point for their home. People want to differentiate their homes from those of others, and unique metal furniture is one of the best, and most popular, ways to do it.

As a professional, you should know that Id Metalco is one of the best brands for finding these unique and stunning pieces that people love using in their homes!

Handcrafted Furniture

Handcrafted furniture is an excellent addition to any home, but especially small homes. Why is this? Small homes have less space, and they need to not only maximize that space, but, using fewer pieces of furniture, they need to create the feelings that they want to be in their home. Having a great piece of handcrafted furniture – such as an Amish bookcase – creates a sense of history, practicality, togetherness, and relaxation that is vital for any home, but even more so in a small one!

High Performance Flooring

It goes without saying, but flooring covers the entirety of a home. Therefore, it is one of the most expensive and time-consuming processes that comes in when you have to work on a home. On top of that, most flooring materials aren’t very good for the environment, and some are actually very unsanitary.

Engineered hardwood flooring has become a trend due to the fact that it is incredibly durable – it’s engineered to be that way – and it’s better for the environment. On top of that, it requires less maintenance! More and more people are having engineered hardwood flooring installed, because of those reasons.


(Taken from

As of September 23, 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began enforcing new silica safety standards for the construction industry. Even though that was the better part of a year ago, many contractors are still not in compliance, whether purposefully or because they don’t fully understand the new regulations.

Respirable crystalline silica is a serious health risk for construction workers, putting you and your crew at increased risk for silicosis, an incurable lung disease that ends in death, lung cancers, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and kidney disease. Because of the seriousness of long term exposure to silica, OSHA continues to issue updated standards as more is learned on the topic.

What are Common Ways of Being Exposed to Silica?

Cutting, grinding, drilling, crushing or mixing materials containing sand, stone, concrete, brick or mortar are the easiest and most common ways for workers to be exposed to respirable crystalline silica. Since these are very common tasks on any jobsite, it pays to be aware of the new OSHA requirements. Even if you don’t believe that silica is a true health hazard, you should be concerned about the fines that OSHA will levy when they find you’re out of compliance.

How Do I Achieve Compliance?

You have two options to achieve compliance. You can regularly sample the air that your guys work in and submit them to OSHA or just grab a copy of OSHA’s Small Entity Compliance Guide for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for Construction and follow the instructions for each tool listed. For example, under “Stationary Masonry Saws,” OSHA requires the following silica control methods:

“Use saw equipped with integrated water delivery system that continuously feeds water to the blade,” or “Operate and maintain tool in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions to minimize dust emissions.”

Dust suppression is a common theme in this handy little e-book. But you can’t suppress everything, which is why there’s also a requirement for respiratory protection based on how long your workers will be using a particular tool. Requirements start at a Minimum Assigned Protection Factor (APF) of 10 and go up from there, depending on the job, risk of exposure and amount of silica likely to be in the air.

Other important items required to get your household in order include:

  • Eliminating dry sweeping areas where silica has been present, also don’t allow cleaning areas or clothing with compressed air. Both will send the particles back up into the air where they can be inhaled.
  • Have a written exposure plan that includes details on the type of work your employees are likely to perform that may lead to silica exposure, as well as ways to protect them from it. You’ll also want to assign someone responsible on the crew to enforce it.
  • Send your crew to the doctor on a regular basis for medical exams. If an employee will be required to wear a respirator for 30 or more days a year, they’ll need a baseline chest x-ray to check for silicosis, then regular follow-up x-rays, depending on their level of exposure each year.

Dustless Construction Sites are the Future

Respirable crystalline silica is a serious hazard on many construction sites, which is why larger contractors have been in transition to dustless work sites for years. Although it may cost you a little bit more to pay for equipment that can be run wet or attached to a vac, the long-term effects can’t really have a price put on them. It can take many, many years for signs of silica damage to appear, at which point it’s too late.

Like mesothelioma, silicosis is a condition that’s a side effect of handling construction materials in ways that we all once thought were perfectly safe. What sort of construction jobs have you done in the past that are now considered to be dangerous? This should be interesting. 🙂

You’ve seen the news coverage—another day, another highly visible immigration raid on a business. All politics aside, there is no denying the federal government is making a big, loud statement that it will continue to come down hard on the companies that flout hiring rules. A very different sort of enforcement action that tends to fly below the radar, but still can be intimidating and costly is an inspection of your hiring records by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE has drastically stepped up these inspections, as well. In 2017, more than 1,300 ICE audits of I-9 hiring paperwork resulted in 71 indictments. The agency’s leadership is committed to keeping the pressure on all companies, regardless of size, concerning proper handling of I-9 forms. In reality, your construction business probably will never undergo an ICE audit. It will probably also never be struck by an earthquake, flooded by a hurricane or leveled by a natural gas explosion, but it’s a good idea to have insurance just in case.

The same is true for dealing with ICE and your employee I-9 forms. You can roll the dice and hope you never receive the dreaded Notice of Inspection (NOI). But if you do receive one, you will have 3 days and no more to prepare. Guess what happens when you hire an immigration attorney and tell them he/she has 3 days to prepare your company for the ICE inspectors. That’s right; you have the honor of paying maximum fees for the necessary legal work due to the duress of the extremely short deadline.

The 3-day prep window also means the lawyers might not be able to catch and correct every mistake in time. Get ready to shell out even more cash to pay the ICE fines for the overlooked I-9 problems.

For example, let’s say you have eight employees, and your 3-day panic review misses three employment violations and three technical violations. The three employment violations involve knowingly hiring and/or continuing to employ people who do not have the necessary documents to prove they are eligible to work in the U.S. Those fines could reach around $24,000 total. The three technical violations essentially involve poor record keeping and could total about $5,200 in ICE fines.

That’s almost $30,000 in fines in this hypothetical example of a company with eight employees. Things could go downhill fast for a company with, say, 50, 100 or 200 employees.  The math is simple—and frightening. But it doesn’t have to go that way. A more prudent approach is to get help from a qualified immigration attorney now, before you are faced with ICE inspectors showing up in 3 days. The benefits of being pro-active by retaining an attorney to make sure your I-9 house is in order are many.

First, you’ll avoid premium billing rates for legal assistance. That savings, alone, can be substantial. The more employee files you have, the more money you will save. Secondly, by digging into the files before you are forced to do so, you may be treated more leniently than if you wait for a NOI. ICE inspectors have significant discretion to reduce fines when the companies they audit show an honest, good-faith commitment to complying with the rules. That’s true even if your I-9 files needed major corrections based on your lawyer’s own review of the files.

Provided you and your legal team make the needed changes, and thoroughly document them, there’s a good chance your previous mistakes will incur much lighter penalties. As an attorney who has reviewed thousands of I-9 files and guided clients through dozens of ICE audits, I’ve seen firsthand how favorably most inspectors look upon sincere efforts to get those I-9 files into good shape. That can mean savings of tens of thousands of dollars.

Finally, getting ahead of any I-9 problems now provides a lot of peace of mind. As a business owner or executive, you know how elusive that can be. Correcting your I-9 files and knowing you’re in compliance should ICE come calling could not only stave off some expensive penalties, it might just help you sleep a little better at night.

by Deepak Ahluwalia

July 13, 2018

(Regulations and forms related to these hiring practices can be found at:

Nancy Mann Jackson

Lose weight. Save more. Spend less. Be a gym rat—and actually like it.

Many people try to tackle all of these goals, and it makes perfect sense: According to a bevy of research, if you’re doing well in the health department, you’re probably in good financial shape too—and vice versa.

For example, a study out of the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis found that future-minded people who contributed to a 401(k) were more likely to take steps to improve their health.

Another Duke University study found that low credit scores could be used to predict increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

These findings may seem discouraging if you haven’t been living (or spending) healthily—but researcher Salomon Israel, a coauthor of the Duke study, says there’s an opportunity to turn it around.

“It is not [necessarily] lack of exercise or poor diet, per se, that is leading to poor financial choices,” Israel says. “Rather, a person who possesses the skills to better manage their health is more likely to possess the skills to better manage their finances.”

To help you refine those skills, we’re delving into how five key aspects of your health can influence your money—from how much slumber you clock each night to whether your stress levels are in the stratosphere.

#1: How Sleep Affects Your Finances

Remember those all-nighters you used to pull in college before midterms?

Science has an explanation for the wooziness you felt right before you crashed: Going without sleep for 24 or more hours makes a person perform as if they had a blood-alcohol level of .1%—.02% more than the legal limit for drunk driving.

Most likely, all-nighters aren’t your M.O. anymore, but if you’re consistently getting just four or five hours of sleep a night, your decision-making skills may not be as sharp as they could be. And that can have implications for your money.

“Lack of sleep can cause us to make many poor decisions, all leading to negative financial consequences,” says Bob Gavlak, a CFP® with Strategic Wealth Partners in Seven Hills, Ohio. “It could be as simple as buying a magazine that you don’t need at the grocery, or as big as drastically overpaying for a new car.”


How to Get Healthier The first step is to commit to an earlier bedtime in order to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

And make sure to follow proper sleep hygiene, like hanging room-darkening window treatments, setting your thermostat to about 65 degrees, and avoiding the use of electronics (like that smartphone!) before hitting the sheets.

If nine hours seems too tall an order, look instead for windows in your day to catch a quick, 10-minute power nap. A Harvard study showed that napping can increase memory and cognitive function, which may just be the boost you need to be more alert at work—and make smarter money decisions.

So catch up on some extra winks on the train to work, or on a Saturday afternoon, and soon enough, a financially productive 2016 won’t just be a dream.

Instead of filling up on empty calories, add more energy-boosting foods to your diet, like almonds and blueberries, so you’ll have a clear mind to tackle financial to-dos.

#2: How Diet Affects Your Finances

Eating too many restaurant meals is a hallmark of poor nutrition—those who indulge too often have higher levels of obesity, body fat and unhealthy BMIs.

Plus, as anyone carefully tracking his expenses can attest to, dining out can also wreak havoc on your wallet. According to the USDA, a family of four eating moderately at home will spend about $245 per week on food—that’s half of what they’d shell out eating at restaurants.

And there’s more: It seems that eating high-fat restaurant meals may also affect cognitive abilities. In an Oxford University lab study, researchers found that rats eating a high-fat diet for several days showed signs of short-term memory loss and lower levels of brain function than those receiving a low-fat diet over the same period.

“There are a lot of parallels between good eating habits and good financial habits,” says Jeff Reeves, author of “The Frugal Investor’s Guide to Finding Great Stocks.” “If you don’t have the discipline to say no to junk food or count calories, you probably make a lot of impulse buys and have trouble balancing your checkbook. Self-control is the key to good financial health, as well as a healthy diet.”

How to Get Healthier “A good tip for your nutrition and finances is to plan your meals in advance,” Gavlak says. “Even if you plan to go out for a few meals during the week, it still helps prevent gut decisions to stop at a restaurant instead of eating a good, home-cooked meal.”

And feel free to take a few short-cuts if it means you’ll be motivated to maintain your healthy diet.

“Don’t feel guilty about spending a little extra money for prewashed spinach or precut carrots,” says Marguerita Cheng, a CFP® and C.E.O. of Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Rockville, Md. “If it means you eat at home and you eat better, it’s worth it.”

Bonus tip: Instead of filling up on empty calories, add more energy-boosting foods to your diet, like almonds and blueberries, so you’ll have a clear mind to tackle your financial to-dos.

#3: How Exercise Affects Your Finances

We won’t sugarcoat it. Exercising regularly is no easy feat. But skip this good-for-you habit, and you’re likely to sacrifice more than just a smaller pants size.


For starters, regular exercise results in more energy for your brain, boosting your cognitive ability and sharpening your memory. So one consequence of staying sedentary could be that you’re operating at a significant disadvantage at work, compared to your more active coworkers.

You could also be missing out on a positive attitude that could help you tackle your finances head-on. “Exercise can improve confidence, which can help people make more informed decisions and take the meaningful actions necessary to reach their goals,” Cheng says.

In fact, Cheng says she often comes up with many of her most creative ideas after attending a cardio kickboxing or Zumba fitness class.

How to Get Healthier To fully gain the health benefits from exercise, try to clock about two and a half hours of exercise each week. If you need to ease into it, make it fun by incorporating more physical activity into your daily schedule—like, say, biking to work instead of driving, or watching your favorite TV show while on the elliptical.

The upshot? You’ll start to notice the benefits of sticking to healthy habits.

“In turn, you can take that experience and apply it to your financial goals,” Gavlak says. “If you want to pay off debt, increase your savings, or be ready to retire early, you’ll need discipline to stick to a long-term plan, much like regular exercise.”

“Try to notice patterns as to what causes stress, and how you react to it. Then, instead of buying things as a result, focus on doing things.”

#4: How Stress Affects Your Finances

Sure, a healthy level of stress can keep you motivated to stay on task and get things done. But, these days, many Americans suffer from unhealthy amounts of stress—which can lead to decreased productivity at the office.

Research from professional services firm Towers Watson shows that, among workers who say they are experiencing high stress levels, 57% reported that they were disengaged at work. The stressed-out crowd also said they missed more work than their peers.

What’s more, stress can take a toll on your wallet. “Just as there may be stress-eating, there may be stress-spending,” Cheng says.

Even though many call it “retail therapy,” Cheng says this kind of emotional spending leads to more problems than solutions.

How to Get Healthier Reducing stress may seem like a giant undertaking—but even baby steps can make a difference to your well-being.

“Try to notice patterns as to what causes stress, and how you react to it. Then, instead of buying things as a result, focus on doing things,” Cheng says. So whenever you need a break, pick up a good book, call a friend, or go for a jog.

Another big stress reliever? De-cluttering.

To help you feel more in control, reorganize your physical space and get rid of unnecessary things. If you can, apply this treatment to your schedule too. Giving up activities that are unfulfilling or unnecessary can provide more free time for yourself—and the things that really matter to you.

#5: How Depression Affects Your Finances

Stress isn’t the only negative emotion that can lead to overspending—sadness has been proven to have the same effect … with some pretty serious, straightforward financial consequences.

In fact, individuals over 50 with debt have been found to be eight times more likely to report feeling depressed than those who live comfortably, according to a research analysis conducted at the University of Bristol in the UK.

How to Get Healthier Public policies, like the Affordable Care Act, are making strides to improve Americans’ health—and therefore the resulting negative financial outcomes—by providing broader insurance coverage to more people.

Having access to physicians, mental health support, and medications is certainly one piece of the puzzle—but there are actionable ways to reduce your financial burden on your own too.

For starters, you can adopt the “snowball” method of paying off debt. You list out all of your debts, and rank them according to the highest interest rate. From there, you pay the minimum on each, but tackle the highest-interest card with full force. Once that debt is paid off, you move onto paying off the next high-interest debt and the next—until you’re completely debt-free.

If, along the way, you notice a depressed mood is continuing to sideline your progress, Gavlak suggests building in some “thinking time” before you pull the trigger on new purchases.

“If you see a pair of shoes and think you just have to have them, wait a couple of days before buying them,” Gavlak says. “After that, if you still want them and can afford them, go ahead. But often, you’ll find that you don’t really need or want that item like you thought you did.”

EPLI covers businesses against claims by workers that their legal rights as employees of the company have been violated.

The number of lawsuits filed by employees against their employers has been rising. While most suits are filed against large corporations, no company is immune to such lawsuits. Recognizing that smaller companies now need this kind of protection, some insurers provide this coverage as an endorsement to their Businessowners Policy (BOP). An endorsement changes the terms and conditions of the policy. Other companies offer EPLI as a stand-alone coverage.

EPLI provides protection against many kinds of employee lawsuits, including claims of:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Wrongful termination
  • Breach of employment contract
  • Negligent evaluation
  • Failure to employ or promote
  • Wrongful discipline
  • Deprivation of career opportunity
  • Wrongful infliction of emotional distress
  • Mismanagement of employee benefit plans

The cost of EPLI coverage depends on your type of business, the number of employees you have and various risk factors such as whether your company has been sued over employment practices in the past. The policies will reimburse your company against the costs of defending a lawsuit in court and for judgments and settlements. The policy covers legal costs, whether your company wins or loses the suit. Policies also typically do not pay for punitive damages or civil or criminal fines. Liabilities covered by other insurance policies such as workers compensation are excluded from EPLI policies.

To prevent employee lawsuits, educate your managers and employees so that you minimize problems in the first place:

  • Create effective hiring and screening programs to avoid discrimination in hiring.
  • Post corporate policies throughout the workplace and place them in employee handbooks so policies are clear to everyone.
  • Show employees what steps to take if they are the object of sexual harassment or discrimination by a supervisor. Make sure supervisors know where the company stands on what behaviors are not permissible.
  • Document everything that occurs and the steps your company is taking to prevent and solve employee disputes.

Mental wellbeing describes your mental state – how you are feeling and how well you can cope with day-to-day life.

Our mental wellbeing is dynamic. It can change from moment to moment, day to day, month to month or year to year.

If you have good mental wellbeing you are able to:

  • feel relatively confident in yourself and have positive self-esteem
  • feel and express a range of emotions
  • build and maintain good relationships with others
  • feel engaged with the world around you
  • live and work productively
  • cope with the stresses of daily life
  • adapt and manage in times of change and uncertainty

This page covers some ideas to stay mentally well and develop your ability to cope with the up and downs of life: