Why Many Recruitment Companies Will Miss Out On Recruitment Growth in 2014

If you have been reading all the latest recruitment industry and national press you will know that the economy is on the upturn. In fact, the recruitment sector is predicated to have its best year in 2014.

Pricewaterhousecoopers, in a recent survey reported that over 1200 CEO’s identified that recruiting key talent was a number one priority for their own business growth.

In theory then all is looking good and perhaps the challenging times of the last few years are over? Unfortunately not so. With growth comes competition and a need to become ‘distinctive’ in your own recruitment sector. To become the recruitment company of choice for candidates, clients and new employees a mindset shift will have to take place. Your company profile may need to change to stand out and a key driver for this will be your people and the culture you develop within your recruitment organisation.

Here in lies the challenge. Why? Because most recruitment organisations don’t realise this. Historically you only need to carry out some research on what company’s do that excel in a buoyant market. In fact look at the Sunday Times top 100 companies for the last couple of years and you will notice a number of recruitment companies. A significant percentage cites staff development as a key reason for their growth.

Where can you start and what do you need to pay attention to in 2014. Here are my top 5 that I predict will give you your biggest return.

1. Think big and have a vision

The truth is few people think big and surprisingly many companies don’t have a defined vision of where they want to go. I will apologise to Mac users in advance and many moons ago Bill Gates had a vision of a computer in every home. At the time people thought he was crazy and now many homes in the Western world have at least one computer; in the last year Dell one of a number of computer hardware suppliers made 13 billion dollars in just one year. Setting a vision works. Make sure your recruitment company has one so your people know where they are going and have something to aim for.

2. Company culture is a key part of your brand

I am a great advocate of marketing as a way to bring in clients candidates and talent. Your ‘brand’ needs to stand out amongst all the others out there and many people miss the connection that your employees and the culture within your organisation are also a key part of your brand.

Create the right culture (and communicate it) through developing your team and growth is almost guaranteed.

3. Candidate engagement

The current buzzword flying around LinkedIn and various recruiting blogs. Engaging clients through marketing and social media is key and then what? At some point candidates are going to speak to a real person.

If your recruitment consultants don’t know what to say to engage and influence you are in trouble. Having a desperate air and ‘bull in a china shop’ communication strategy won’t work. So train your staff what will work and watch what happens.

4. Develop your staff- consultants and leaders

A nice lead on from number 3. The last few years have seen many recruiters relying on their current skills or just working longer hours to generate the billings they want. Hard work is all well and good; however imagine the uplift in billings your team will produce with some honing of skills? One of the key ‘gripes’ employees have is that they don’t get ‘developed’ or that there isn’t a system for improvement.

Development is an investment not a cost. Many recruitment training organisations will even guarantee the increases you can expect in revenue.

5. Attract talent

Businesses grow through the right business strategy delivered by the best people. Read that again please! You can’t do it on your own. If you ‘try’ and do that you will put yourself in an early grave.

So recruit great people and develop them. If you are taking action on number 1-4 talent will want to work with you I guarantee it.

There you have it 5 key areas of focus for you to reflect over the next few weeks if you are serious about making 2014 spectacular.

What Atlanta Snowstorm 2014 Risk Is Lurking to Blindside You?

You and I will have things go bump in the night. For someone from Boston, how big a deal can a projected 2 inches of snow be?

Well in Atlanta that was a 17 hour trip in the Atlanta blizzard of 2014, even though I left early when I learned about the snow.

What I did not know was that:

(1) the building manager where my car was parked would pre-emptively lock the normal exit gate and force us to go down five levels and out a slick 45 degree icy hillside on a side street with no traffic light access. Their decision to unilaterally limit their exposure for someone sliding on snow on their top deck became an unrecoverable event of a very long trip. And it looks like I was only 5 minutes late on getting out before they locked exits (leave your thoughts on that decision for a customer orientation discussion).

(2) The Atlanta mayor decided to send everyone home at the same time, flooding the highways with a million people, rather than spreading out dismissals.

(3) Atlanta people do not fill their gas tanks on weekends in snow season, in case, it really snows. That lead to hundreds of cars stalled in traffic UNTIL they run out of gas in the middle of the road to further clog roads.

Using hindsight, I should have either (1) left the luncheon earlier, (2) gotten a hotel nearby to wait out what was then a one inch snow, or (3) been lucky enough to have decided not to go to the meeting.

Having lived in New England for a decade, I knew how to drive in snow and ice, consistently refill my gas tank on the weekend, and had a loving spouse call me saying that it actually snowed this time.

Where in your life or business should you (1) have some version of a contingency plan in place for WHEN, not IF something really strange yet foreseeable occurs, (2) proactively create a list of the top 3 foreseeable and reasonably likely to occur situations to avoid, and (3) have some financial or emotional reserves in place for your WHEN, not IF event?

Some organizations call this process contingency planning, a risk assessment, risk management, operational risk management, enterprise risk management, or even a strategic orientation of your annual budget process. The fact is that if your organization does not regularly engage in at least one of those business best practices, your version of the Atlanta snowstorm 2014 is lurking to blind-side you and your business.

Failing to plan for any of your Million Dollar Blind Spots that actually are very foreseeable for someone to second guess your decision that might have been made on what you thought were the best facts available. And truthfully if you done minimal contingency planning on your unique foreseeable risks, you would have generated a better frame of reference and insight.

Looking Ahead: SMB IT Trends for 2014

For hundreds of years, mankind has dreamed about the future; we’ve written books, we’ve made movies, and we’ve even engaged with those among us who have the ability to predict the future. There have been several notorious seers over the years but none more famous than the legendary Jeanne Dixon who was counsel to the stars and even a certain First Lady over 40 years ago. Reportedly, she was on the mark with predicting the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert, Martin Luther King and Gandhi. She also foresaw the launch of the first satellite Sputnik and the historic defeat of Dewey by Harry Truman. Another well-known seer was science fiction author Isaac Asimov who wrote about solar power, the rise of automated work tasks, and visual phone calls; all things we find commonplace now. Clairvoyance, as illustrated in the two examples above, is extremely rare, and while I am not a gifted seer, I certainly do have insight into SMB technology trends for 2014.

Before delving into my predictions for 2014, it’s wise to review the highlights from this past year. 2013 proved to be a year of social media, mobile technology adoption, cloud computing, virtualization, and collaboration solutions. These technologies trends were pretty much on par for what I was predicating back at the end of 2012, though the sheer volume of cloud adoption amongst the SMB community may have been a bit of a surprise.

While we will see a lot of the same technology trends in 2014 as we did in 2013, this coming year foresees increased technology expansion and adoption rates. The continued growth of cloud solutions will continue unabated, with more workloads moving off-site. At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference this past July, CEO Steve Ballmer reiterated the company’s message as they are transitioning into a devices and services company. Nowhere will this be more evident than in the expansion of Windows Azure for the SMB marketplace. Azure was first introduced in 2009 as a suite of products in the cloud that allowed users to create enterprise-class applications without having to build out their own infrastructure.

To this point, the majority of workloads and solutions leveraging the Azure fabric were products of the enterprise community. However, Microsoft envisioned the power of Azure in the SMB space and is crafting offerings to make that happen. Some of those applications will be around something called big data, which I will explore further later.

Other cloud applications that will continue to rise include off-site backups, business continuity, disaster recovery, and managed security. While backups have been on the rise for a few years now, there are still fewer than one in ten small to mid-sized businesses that utilize a remote backup or backup-as-a-service solution. VSR Magazine states that according to the “2013 State of Cloud Backup” study commissioned by Intronis, “A large percentage of SMBs do not purchase backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solutions from their IT service providers until after they have experienced a data disaster.” (VSR Magazine, 2013) The chances of a small to mid-sized business recovering from a catastrophic data loss is not good, and in fact, within two years after the loss more than 50% will have gone out of business if they didn’t close their doors immediately after. So the continued push to grow cloud-based backup and disaster recovery solutions will be steady along with related solutions like cold standby domain controllers and off-site virtualized cold servers.

When it comes to actual data generated by SMBs, the need for storage required to archive it has exploded. According to the SMB Group, “(of the) 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (already created), 90% of it has been generated in the last two years alone.” (SMB Group, 2013) All of this data is not only held onsite, but in large repositories in the cloud. This point dovetails nicely into my next point of big data and predictive analytics which has historically been limited to large enterprises. However, in 2014 there is expectation that the need to drill into this mountain of information will filter down into the SMB space. The SMB Group goes on to explain that finding usable data among the mounds of information that encompass big data is like finding a needle in a haystack. Consider all of the disparate types of data being moved into cyberspace: photos on Instagram, videos on YouTube, tweets on Twitter, e-receipts from POS applications, and much more.

SMBs have shied away from the thought of big data analysis because of the sheer volume of information, but there will be tools and specialized partners who will be more visible and available to help navigate that massive sea of information. According to a blog post by Brock Clauser, “By analyzing an enormous amount of data in real time, organization will become quicker to make decisions on competition, internal efficiencies and customer insight.” (Clauser, 2013) You may have noticed on some social media sites that the advertisements along the sides are often something you may have looked for in the past. These ads are no accident rather the work of predictive analytics of big data you have unknowingly provided via the public Internet. The SMB community, likely retail outfits initially, will be leverage big data and predicative analytics to better understand what their customers want and expect from them. Using that same thinking it’s easy to see how business of all types will benefit from usable information delivered via big data predicative analytics.

Mobility should continue to be a hot topic as well especially around BYOD (bring your own device). There are still some major potential pitfalls to the growing trend of letting workers use their personal devices for work. The rate of intrusion into the company network through these devices has been rising, and the data loss from lost or stolen devices continues to be an issue. There will be an ongoing push to secure any device with access to the network via data protection and if necessary data destruction. According to IT Business Edge, “Through 2014, employee-owned devices will be compromised by malware at more than double the rate of corporate-owned devices.” (IT Business Edge, 2013) The addition of a management tool, whether onsite or in the cloud, is necessary and will make the difference between a crippling breach and smooth sailing.

Another technology trend I will be following closely through 2014 is the demise of the PC. Personally, I don’t believe that desktops and laptops will disappear from the business or personal landscape like the dinosaurs who once roamed the earth. That being said, the way we use, share and access information is ever evolving. 2013 was the year of the cloud, and public clouds, private clouds and hybrid clouds were everywhere. Well, for 2014 we’re now talking about personal clouds which is basically the ability to have information and applications in one central repository and accessible from a variety of devices including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. While the idea of the personal cloud is not yet widespread, there is a segment of the SMB community that wants to remain lean and agile and the personal cloud concept will likely help them do that.

One final topic I’d like to touch on is the increased focus on security and forensics. I attended a Cyber-Security forum in mid-November sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The keynote speaker, IBM Chief Privacy Officer Christina Peters told the audience, “Security and privacy go hand in hand. You can’t be secure without considering privacy.” More and more incursions are happening to small entities as well as large ones. In fact, there are many attackers with bad intent that are specifically targeting the SMB in order to gain access to their much-larger vendors and suppliers. So the focus on being safe and secure is going to continue to increase. With the news of insider misdeeds, having the ability to detect and contain threats from the human side will continue to rise. Specific firms are more suited to this work, such as Evestigations of Malvern, PA, stocked with certified security specialists and forensic analysts. They may not be someone the typical SMB would have on speed dial, but would be invaluable once something goes awry!

Mine is only one opinion as to what will be on the SMB radar in 2014. Heaven knows there will be other things that appear, with the constant acceleration of technology innovation. Will it be so “sci-fi” as to give us teleportation devices or flying cars? Maybe not in the short term, but I will never rule anything out. Maybe some of those Hollywood blockbusters might not look so far-fetched after all!

Works Cited

IT Business Edge. (2013). Top Predicitions for IT Organization and Users for 2013 and Beyond. Retrieved from itbusinessedge.com/slideshows/top-predictions-for-it-organizations-and-users-for-2013-and-beyond.html

SMB Group. (2013, April 30). Is big data relevant for SMBs? Retrieved from smb-gr.com/blogs-laurie-mccabe/is-big-data-relevant-for-smbs-2/

VSR Magazine. (2013, November 26). STUDY: SMBs are Putting Themselves at Risk for Crippling Data Losses. Retrieved from vsr.edgl.com/reseller-stories/STUDY–SMBs-are-Putting-Themselves-at-Risk-for-Crippling-Data-Losses89576

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray: It’s Here and It’s the Best ‘Vette So Far

After all of the rumors, blurry leaked magazine covers and artist renderings, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette C7 is finally here. OK, so is the Corvette Stingray (as it is officially called) worth all the hullabaloo surrounding it? Short answer, yes. Long answer, absolutely, positively, without a doubt, yes. But, as LeVar Burton was fond of saying in Reading Rainbow, you don’t have to take my word for it. The design and specs can speak for themselves.

Let start with the most important bit, the powerplant. The 2014 Corvette Stingray is still powered by a 6.2 liter LT1 V8 engine, but now it is churning out an estimated 450 horse and 450 lb-ft of torque. 450 & 450 for the base Corvette. Yeehaw! At 2,000 rpm when other cars, such as the Ferrari 458 Italia and the Porsche 911, are putting out about 200 lb-ft, the Corvette’s LT1 is cranking at 400, an increase of about 50 lb-ft over the C6. That’s quite a bit of grunt. While there’s no word on the base C7 Corvette’s weight, we do know that it will sprint from 0 to 60 mph in under four seconds. The prevailing wisdom puts that number closer to 3.7 or 3.8 seconds. Yeehaw, again! And, you can have flawless 0-60 runs all day long because the 2014 Corvette has launch control. Yeehaw, a third time!

And, it sounds good too. The exhaust diameter has grown from 2.5 inches to 2.75 inches over the last generation and is far less restrictive to the tune of a 13 percent improvement on the standard exhaust and 27 percent on the active exhaust system. A pair of butterfly valves refine the exhaust note further when cruising in V-4 mode through the cylinder deactivation. By the way, I’m not entirely sure that true cylinder deactivation has ever really played well with a manual transmission. I look forward to seeing it work here.

Did I mention it should get nearly 30 mpg? Not too bad for a car that will give the Millenium Falcon a run for its money. The fuel efficiency comes due to the integration of a few new-to-Corvette technologies. For the first time, Active Fuel Management, cylinder deactivation, continuously variable valve timing, an advanced combustion system that will deliver more power with less fuel, direct injection, less overall weight and better aerodynamics all contribute to give the Stingray the Corvette’s best ever fuel economy.

All the power, torque and crazy fuel saving technologies mean little if you can’t get the generated power to the wheels. That’s where the new –>TREMEC TR6070 seven-speed gearbox with Active Rev Matching comes into play. There have been a few cars where the engine’s CPU will automatically match the revs on a downshift. It was a big deal with the current iteration of the Camaro a few years back, if you recall. The C7 will actually rev match on both upshifts and downshifts, a first. The Corvette’s brain will actually “sense” which gear the driver is shifting into and match the revs accordingly on the fly. No more throttle blipping. If stick shift isn’t your thing, a Hydra-Matic 6L80 six-speed automatic with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters is also available.

Now that the power is to the wheels, it has to get to the ground and get there in such a way that you stay on the road. In a move that is a bit at odds with the rest of the auto industry, the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette’s wheels and tires are smaller than those on the current base ‘Vette. At 18 inches in the front and 19 inches in the rear, the wheel diameters are unchanged. However, at 8.5 inches in width up front and 10 inches out back, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are an inch and two inches narrower, respectively. The helps the car in two main ways, better road feel and better aerodynamics. Overall grip should stay the same due to a stickier rubber on the Pilot Super Sports.

On the road, Chevrolet has added the creatively named Drive Mode Selector that tailors 12 vehicle attributes (active fuel management, automatic shift points, throttle, steering effort, Magnetic Ride Control suspension compliance, exhaust note and stability/traction control intervention points, etc, etc). to the driver’s driving needs and wants at any particular moment. The Drive Mode Selector has five modes, Weather, Eco, Tour, Sport and Track. Each has differing and customizable degrees of vehicular freedom and electronic nannying. The Drive Mode Selector is operated through a twitsty knob very conveniently located just aft of the gear shift lever.

In keeping with the 2014 Stingray’s trend of trying to anticipate a driver’s needs, the Drive Mode Selector also changes the information the driver gets on their gauge cluster. In Tour, Eco and Weather modes, the display shows info for trip data, audio and navigation. Sport mode shows traditional sports car gauges. Track mode is trying to be straight up racecar with a lap timer and everything.

The 2014 Corvette Stingray is quite the handler, too. It will hit 1g on the skidpad. That is thanks to some serious thought put into the cars overall design as it relates to handling. The new Corvette’s wheelbase is about an inch longer than the C6 with its front a rear tracks stretching about an inch each. Not only does this offer a more stable feel on the road, but the turning radius has shrunk about two feet. The new Corvette is a model of maneuverability.

As standard, the C7 comes equipped with 35mm-piston Bilstein monotube shocks that connect to dual-path aluminum shock mounts. Opt for the Z51 Performance Package and you get 45mm-piston Bilstein dampers. For those who go all in, the Z51 is available with the third-generation Magnetic Ride Control that is 40 percent faster reacting than in previous generations, enabling improved ride comfort and body control.

The new electric power steering system allows for variable effort, feel and ratios depending on driving situation. Also, due to a steering column increase in stiffness of 150 percent and a shaft torsional increase in stiffness of 600 percent, the new steering system is five times stiffer overall, and hopefully more precise, than in the C6.

Going faster means you need to be able to stop. The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette comes standard with Four-piston fixed caliper Brembo brakes derived from racing. Up front, 13.3 inch rotors and 12.6 inch in the back. Stopping distance has been improved by nine percent from the C6 to the C7. With the Z51 Performance Package and you get dual-cast, slotted 13.6-inch front rotors and 13.3-inch slotted rear rotors.

It can pretty much go without saying that the past few generations of Corvettes have had somewhat lackluster interiors. As a matter of fact, they were downright cheesy. Thankfully not anymore. The designers were given a blank slate to change all that. The new interior is a very driver oriented spaces full of Napa leather with fine stitching, carbon fiber, micro-suede, real aluminum trim (not that painted plastic crap) and is fully-wrapped in soft surfaces. So much better. As a matter of fact, according the GM, the new interior tested better in focus groups than that of the Audi R8 and Porsche 911.

The seats are better too. Two options of seats are available, both on ultra-light magnesium frames. The GT seat is designed for all-around comfort and the Competition Sport seat has serious bolsters to finally offer support on the track commensurate the Corvette’s performance. So far, the 2014 Corvette’s interior can come in black, gray, red and Kalahari brown.

Outside, yes, it still looks like a Corvette, but it finally looks like the Corvette we’ve been dreaming of. The headlights, are far more detailed and visually dynamic than those of the past. They are almost Ferrari-like with the LEDs running up the sides. The dual-element taillights are sure to be a point of controversy for quite a while. The squared-off, tightly spaced lamps are a departure from the tradional lamps of old but a departure in a good direction. The sculpted lenses stand up well to the angular and sculptural shape of the new body.

Under its beautiful beautiful skin, the Corvette is completely new. Lightweight materials and components like the carbon fiber hood and removable roof panel, composite fenders, doors and quarter panels, carbon-nano composite underbody panels and an aluminum frame (that is 57 percent stiffer and 99 lbs lighter than that of the C6) give the ‘Vette and ideal 50/50 weight distribution.

Hopefully the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette be as good in the real world as it is on paper. We’ll just have to wait and see. The Stingray is scheduled to hit dealerships sometime around September.

Brazil WC 2014 Teams

Brazil is one of the clear favorites to win the final match – many would say the top favorite. Home field advantage is not the only power factor working for the Cariocas, as they are in a fantastic playing shape at the moment, having crushed everything in their way lately, with the only notable exceptions being a couple of friendlies. Tradition, too, designates Brazil as the favorite: they have won the most Cups – 5 and their playing style has always been spectacular and consistently strong, a feat which no rival can boast.

The Verde-Amarela roster will be quite invincible, with Neymar and Hulk delivering deadly blows to the opponents, joined by the attacking midfielders Oscar and Willian. The midfield will be further strengthened by Ramires, Paulinho and Lucas Leiva, while the defense will become an impenetrable fortress thanks to Thiago Silva, Dante and David Luis. As to goalkeeping, the Brazilian fans hope to see Julio Cesar recover by the next summer, but if that won’t happen, Victor will get his chance to shine.

Spain is poised to unleash the Red Fury this time around as well, currently fortified by the Golden Generation which won the Cup in 2010. Besides that, they are the 2008 and 2012 European champions, a team more than likely to give the Brazilians goose bumps should a direct confrontation occur. Negredo and David Villa will be merciless against any goalkeeper, Xabi Alonso and Iniesta will assist them in midfield and Sergio Ramos will solidify the defense together with Pique. Finally, Spain’s net will be very hard to hit, defended by the legendary Iker Casillas.

Germany’s national football team goes to Brazil with one thing in mind: emulating Bayern’s latest performance of being undefeated and coming out on top in any possible match. It won’t be too hard, since many of their players hail from the Bavarian club. Mario Gotze, Tony Kroos and Thomas Muller will be intimidating their opponents at the World Cup just like they do in the Bundesliga and Champions League, while their Dortmund rivals Sven Bender, Marco Reus and Marcel Shmeltzer will join forces with them in order to power the German winning machine on yet another quest for the world title.

Italy is a serious favorite as well, its star-studded roster featuring valuable Serie A players and a few ones playing in other top-profile leagues. Mario Balotelli stands ready to wreak havoc in the opponents’ defense, while veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo will be helped by Motta and Diamanti. Everyone knows how tough the Italian defenders are – Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Christian Maggio will all but confirm it. Gianluigi Buffon is expected to play, but in case his shape won’t be as good as it once was, Lazio’s Federico Marchetti will be defending the Azzuri’s goal.

Portugal, despite lacking the general strength which characterizes the above-mentioned teams and having qualified only after a win in the playoffs, has Cristiano Ronaldo on its roster, a player of incontestable value and charisma, bound to lead his nation at least toward a third place finish.

Argentina comes back with high hopes, looking forward to Lionel Messi recovering by February and being able to play in full swing by June. The mega-star will be aided by such talents as Sergio Romero, Pablo Zabaleta, Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero, among others, forming a veritable powerhouse able to break their contenders’ fans’ hearts anytime.

Let’s take a look at the other CONMEBOL qualified teams:

Colombia finished two points behind Argentina, the leader, in the qualification group and seems to have regained its once serious contender status. Chile ended up in third, four points behind Argentina, and this time around they hope it won’t be Brazil they’ll have to contend with should they advance to the Round of 16. Indeed, the hosting nation was the Chileans nemesis in both 2010 and 1998 – the last two tournaments where Chile was present.

Ecuador and Uruguay both amassed 25 points, but the latter had to go through the playoffs due to Ecuador’s better goal difference. That they did, humiliating Jordan with a 5-0 score while away and cruise-controlling in Montevideo at 0-0. At any rate, both Ecuador and Uruguay are expected to make it to the Round of 16, but it all depends on who they’ll get to meet in the group stage.

UEFA nations are always highly esteemed due to the difficulty of qualifying out of that region. Here are the other European teams that made it to WC 2014:

France will be guided by 1998 champion Didier Deschamps from the sidelines, a coach who managed to turn the tables in the second leg of the playoffs and send Ukraine’s rest-assured attitude up in smoke. This is in fact the most unpredictable team and one that can make bookmakers sigh anytime – no one knows – will they be magnificent as in 1998 and 2006 or mediocre as in 2002 and 2010. All that can be ascertained is that they have some very valuable players, but it’s up to them to create the much-needed chemistry and make France great again.

The Netherlands are looking forward to shaking off the huge Euro 2012 disappointment, where they lost all three matches in the group of death that also featured Germany, Portugal and Denmark. Still, the Clockwork Orange was very close to winning the 2010 Cup, losing to Spain by 0-1 in extra time. Just like France, this team can produce the greatest surprise, be it positive or negative.

Switzerland is currently in the Top 10 according to FIFA, a roster manned by young talents and coached by the great Otmar Hitzfeld. Anyone can expect them to repeat the 2006 performance, when they reached the Round of 16 and placed tenth overall.

England’s team is full of valuable players, as it was always the case, but the ever-persisting problem is getting them to work well together and carry the Three Lions past the quarter finals, a stage which seems like an impregnable wall, with the only notable exception being the 1966 World Cup, the only championship won by the English.

Belgium is back after a two-tournament hiatus and can indeed put up a performance comparable to that of 1986, when they ended up in fourth place. How about being currently ranked fifth by FIFA and being in an incredible playing shape? The Belgians might upset any big team’s plans by sending them home early.

Russia is yet another squad on the rise, directed by the one and only Fabio Capello and featuring many players from the Russian League – an increasingly strong championship as a result of the huge late investments put into it. Plus, they will try to provide their fans with a reason to celebrate, something that hasn’t occurred in a long time as far as World Cups or European Championships are concerned.

Greece made it to the final tournament by winning the first playoff game against Romania and tying the second one; however, it is a highly-ranked nation by FIFA, eleventh. Despite an overall disappointing World Cup record, they are the 2004 European champions and the 2012 quarter finalists in the same tough (many argue that it is tougher than the World Cup) competition.

Bosnia and Herzegovina will make its first appearance at a final tournament and will do its best to advance to the Round of 16. Croatia, another former Yugoslav nation, has a much richer history – in 1998 they placed third; at the European level, The Blazers were quarter finalists twice.

Now that we have all European and South American teams covered, let’s take a look at the rest of the world. The first thing that comes to mind is the CONCACAF, a region which has experienced significant developments in the last couple of decades. That is especially true when one refers to the USA, a team credited with very low chances even in ’94, when America hosted the World Cup. Nowadays it’s a completely different picture – they are in fact expected to make it to the quarter finals. Aided by Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, two seasoned players who have plenty of WC experience and led by Jurgen Klinsmann, it would come as no surprise if they do in fact advance that far – The Yanks might even be semi finalists in 2014.

Mexico is another CONCACAF powerhouse, despite having to go through the playoffs this time around, which they did by trashing New Zealand: 5-1 at home and 4-2 away. El Tricolor was present in the Round of 16 at every tournament since 1994 – the question is whether the standard will be carried past that stage in Brazil.

Honduras only played at two other World Cups, in 1982 and 2010 and never won a match, a trend it hopes to reverse the next summer. Costa Rica had three previous appearances, the most notable being the one in 1990, when Los Ticos went to the Round of 16.

The African national teams are also a force to be reckoned with, having overturned the odds against powerful squads on numerous occasions. CAF will be represented by five countries at the upcoming WC.

Nigeria was impressive in the ’90s and is looking forward to being that way again, after a decade of lackluster performance at the Cup. The Ivory Coast is the highest ranked among the five and played decently in both 2006 and 2010. Ghana, however, was a quarter-finalist in 2010 after eliminating Team USA in the Round of 16 – will they make it that far in 2014 as well?

Cameroon, just like Nigeria, hopes to recreate its onetime greatness, however tough a task it may be when confronted with top European and South American squads. Algeria, on the other hand, would like to attain such a level for the first time, having never gotten past the group stage.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will be sending four representatives to Brazil, each standing a real chance at generating surprise results, at least in the groups:

Australia is making its third World Cup appearance in a row and if things work the same way they did in 2006, the Socceroos will be once again contending to play in the quarter finals. South Korea, aka the Taegeuk Warriors, have been present in every tournament since 1986 and in 2002 they placed fourth, utilizing the home field advantage at the max. Japan, a co-hosting nation, only got a taste of the Round of 16 back then, a stage that was also reached in 2010, denoting a good playing shape. Iran participated in 1978, 1998 and 2006, eliminated in the group stage all three times.

Austin Texas Rental Market Will Grow Through 2014!

As the rest of the US and global markets remain uncertain, Austin Texas is looking as bright as ever according to economist Angelos Angelou. “We will have a healthy economy, the envy of many cities around the country, Austin today leads the charts on every measure of economic growth one can think of.”

Angelos is generally very conservative when making employment forecasts. He predicted 19,000 new jobs in 2012 however; we ended 26,000, which is a welcome sight!

The areas already booming population will expand another 7 percent by 2014, Angelou said, coming just shy of 2 million. Meanwhile, Austin employers will add 29,000 jobs next year and another 30,000 in 2014

Unemployment lowered to 5.3%, which is well below the 7.8% national average spurred by a business and tax friendly environment.

The country and large employers are noticing, he stated, pointing to Apple, Facebook, GM, Visa and Samsung, which call Austin home. Furthermore, Apple is on-track to double its workforce in the coming years, which may make it the largest employer in Austin.

Austin hosted its first Formula One race which was a huge hit and brought millions in tax revenue to the city. South by Southwest and ACL also continue to grow. This positive impact has been seen with the low occupancy rate in the hospitality and increasing wages.

Real estate values and rents remain strong. Continued population growth has the potential to create a lasting and severe shortage of residential real estate in the near future, Angelou said.

Savvy investors know that real estate is a great way to build real wealth. With rental property you have multiple income streams that are increasing your wealth:

  • Cash on cash return (ROI from rental income)
  • Property appreciation (wealth increases)
  • Tenants paying mortgage builds equity/wealth for you!
  • Tax benefits (Write-offs, deprecation, etc)
  • Purchase equity

The Austin TX rental property market offers great cash flow whether you are investing in single family homes, multi-units or apartment complexes. Each has its advantage and disadvantage. We personally focus on single family and up to 4plexes as opposed to apartments. This is due to the ease of obtaining traditional financing and the amount of foreclosures on the market. Furthermore we see huge upside on home values as the markets continue to normalize. Apartment complexes do tend to offer better cash on cash returns but the financing is harder to obtain and the value of the property is tied more to rental prices rather than comparables.

Six Ways to Showcase Your Curriculum to LCME Using Intelligent Curriculum Management Software

When it comes to curriculum, preparing for your accreditation review can be a complicated process. The Liaison Council on Medical Education (LCME) in conjunction with the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) is more intensely focused on maintaining the standards around curriculum than ever before. What does this mean for your school?

  • Accreditors are asking for more proof and more rigor around standards, which means you have to track and report on more information in more detail and at more frequent intervals.
  • Your curriculum committee is held to a higher standard than ever before, which means you need the right tools to adjust your curriculum on a more frequent and planned basis as the needs of society change.
  • Instead of making changes once every four or so years, you need to demonstrate a process of continuous improvement.
  • The LCME is phasing out CurrMIT and putting a new Curriculum Inventory Portal in place to facilitate a more frequent transfer of more detailed information. Your school will be required to have tools in place to enable this data transfer by 2014.

This trend toward a more rigorous focus on curriculum standards is expected to continue and will likely increase. The implications? Waiting for years between accreditation reviews and then conducting a major overhaul just months before an accreditation review will likely no longer be an acceptable practice.

Do you have the resources and tools to manage these changes?

Traditionally, accessing, tracking and presenting curriculum information has been an onerous task, requiring many hours of research, analysis and tedious report writing on behalf of administrators. In many cases, significant duplication of effort is spent exporting data from one system and uploading it to another, and hours are spent formatting the data in Word or Excel. As accreditation and reporting requirements become more rigorous, and the amount and frequency of information and detail required increases, many traditional methods of reporting will simply require too much overhead and become unsustainable.

So what is the answer?

Intelligent curriculum management software. With recent software innovations, you can virtually eliminate the duplication of tasks and save vast amounts of time spent unnecessarily accessing and re-entering data. With all data centralized, you can easily track, aggregate, sort and analyze information, and then directly link it to national reporting databases, such as the LCME’s CurrMIT.

Currently, many schools do not upload their curriculum information to CurrMIT because they don’t have an efficient process in place to do so. However, by 2014 all medical schools in North America will be required to systematically report their data against national standards through the LCME’s new Curriculum Inventory Portal (CIP), which will replace CurrMIT. To do this, every school will need to have some sort of tool in place to facilitate the data transfer. One of those tools is intelligent curriculum management software.

Here are the top six ways you can use curriculum management software at your school:

1. Give All Stakeholders a View

Your school needs to enable students, residents, faculty, and administrative staff to access their learning objectives, course schedules, assessments and learning materials – often across multiple geographic locations. To further complicate matters, each stakeholder group requires access to different types of information, and at different access levels. This is a daunting challenge, especially when you consider the number of faculty, students and courses at your school. Nevertheless, access to much of this information is actually required under LCME accreditation standards. For example:

  • The ED-3 standard requires that all medical students, faculty, residents and others know the objectives of your medical program.
  • The ED-24 standard requires that residents who teach must “receive a copy of the course or clerkship/clerkship rotation objectives”.

Using intelligent curriculum management software, all of your information is entered and stored in a central system. You are able to set up different access levels and customize software views for unique audiences – which can be accessed through any computer or mobile device that is connected to the Internet. The result? All of your stakeholders will be able to access the information they need, when they need it. And you will be able to export and report on this data at any time.

2. Identify Gaps and Redundancies

The LCME’s ED-37 standard mandates that all medical schools must monitor their curriculum, including the content that is taught in each discipline, in order to ensure that educational objectives are achieved. With new software technology, you are able to track objectives, content and learning activities for every course, and easily identify redundancies and gaps. Better yet, you can say goodbye to accreditation issues as you will be able to easily demonstrate the comprehensive nature of your system and access specific course and learning details.

3. Track and Report on your Different Teaching Types

The LCME’s ED-5-A standard requires that “the methods of instruction and assessment used in courses and clerkships will provide medical students with opportunities to develop lifelong learning skills.” This means you need to link educational and assessment methods back to individual learning experiences, and then report on this data in a way that showcases the types of teaching that make your school unique. With intelligent software, all data school-wide is tracked centrally, enabling you to more easily create reports for accreditation purposes.

4. Demonstrate “Hot Topics”

The LCME’s ED-10 regulation requires that in addition to basic science and clinical subjects, your curriculum must include “behavioral and socioeconomic subjects”. These subjects fall into the category of Hot Topics or issues of the day that many government agencies, including the federal government, would likely be interested in. Using intelligent software, you will be able to track and report on where and when these hot topics are taught in your curriculum, and satisfy educational requirements.

5. Reduce Time Spent Entering Data for LCME

It can take up to eight to 10 hours for administrative staff to enter data for just one course into the CurrMIT system, and this doesn’t factor in maintenance time. Imagine how much time you’re wasting by manually entering in the data for every course in your curriculum? With intelligent software, you can link directly to the CurrMIT system and simply transfer the existing data that was originally entered by your faculty. With the LCME transitioning to a new CIP in 2014, it’s important to make sure you select a curriculum software tool that will be able to transition with you.

6. Get More Done Than Just Mapping

With traditional curriculum mapping software, you only access your software sporadically to map or make adjustments, and the rest of the time it falls out of use. With the new comprehensive and intelligent software available today, mapping is completely integrated with other functionality that is used by staff and students daily, including scheduling. Because you’re using the system as a part of your day-to-day operations, you will be much more likely to keep your mappings up to date and avoid costly efforts to quickly produce mappings for accreditation.

As accreditation standards around curriculum continue to tighten, how prepared is your medical school to track and report on more and more data related to learning – and keep up with the increasing demands of learners and competency-based education trends? Do you have the right tool in place to meet the new LCME data transfer requirements for their new CIP that will be in place for 2014?

By implementing the right curriculum management software system, you can better manage vast amounts of data, meet important accreditation requirements and demonstrate a process of continuous improvement. You will eliminate task duplication and drastically reduce the amount of time spent entering and re-entering data. Best of all, you will gain a comprehensive system to map, manage, schedule and assess your curriculum.

Your 401-K: How to Make Money Investing in 2014, 2015 and Beyond

Some people make money investing in 401-k plans consistently, while most make money and then give most of their profits back in a bad market. In 2014, 2015 and beyond, good money management and asset allocation are the keys to investing money in 401-k plans if you want to KEEP the money you’ve already accumulated in your plan. Here’s how to do it.

Investing money in 401-k plans is the key to a successful retirement, but for over a dozen years it’s been difficult to make money and KEEP IT. Twice investors have been clipped for 50% or more investing money in 401-k funds. Good money management in 2014, 2015 and beyond and a change in your 401-k asset allocation could help you protect your assets. After all, if you take a 50% loss, you’ve got to then double your money just to get even.

If your plan is typical you could have a dozen or more options for investing money in your 401-k plan, and all but one or two of these are mutual funds: mostly stock funds and bond funds. Do you know where your money is? Money management is your job if you want to make money over the long term, and step one is to review your 401-k asset allocation (your portfolio) from time to time, at least once a year. If you haven’t reviewed your portfolio lately do it now. You might be taking more risk than you think.

Stock funds have outperformed all other options for over 5 years running. This means that if you had about half of your assets in stocks 5 years ago, you’ve likely got the vast majority of your money there now. And this means that a big decline in the stock market in 2014, 2015 and beyond could severely hurt your plans for retirement. Sometimes it pays to be heavily into stock funds. Other times it’s best to be more conservative when investing money in 401-k plans.

If your 401-k asset allocation shows that you are more than 50% invested in stock funds consider cutting back. After 5 very good years, the stock market could be running out of steam. If your plan offers a safe STABLE ACCOUNT that pays interest, take advantage of it. It could pay 3%, 4% or more, and you won’t find interest rates like that anywhere else. Remember, investing money in 401-k plans is a long-term proposition and your future retirement income will depend on whether or not you make money investing consistently.

Bond funds need your attention as well. These have been good options for over 30 years because they perform well when interest rates are falling. When rates go up they LOSE money; and in 2014, 2015 and beyond rates are expected to go up after falling for more than 30 years. In other words, bond funds are NOT safe options. If you want to lighten up on risk, your plan likely offers one or two safe options: a stable account and a money market fund.

Consider the stable account first because it will pay a higher interest rate. As for your 401-k asset allocation: equal allocation to a safe option, stock funds and bond funds makes good sense, both for the assets you hold and for new contributions going in from your paycheck. With this asset allocation average investors you can still make money investing in 401-k plans if present trends continue. If the stock market tanks or interest rates rise, money in the safe options will soften the blow.

Investors need to understand that both the economy and market trends change. You can make money investing in 401-k plans over the long term without taking undo risk. The key to success for 2014, 2015 and beyond is good money management and more safety in your 401-k asset allocation. Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry, and to keep some powder dry in safe options, awaiting future opportunity.

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games Organizing Committee

The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games Organizing Committee comprises of some of the most distinguished politicians in Russia. The committee will take the responsibility of managing all events related to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games, including execution of financial plans for the Sochi 2014 budget. The committee will not only monitor and manage the course of the Olympic objects’ development, but resolve all issues around the environment, public relations and political image. The committee is spearheaded by three members:

  • Alexander Zhukov is a former deputy prime minister of Russia who was recently elected as President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in May 2010. Before entering politics, Zhukov successfully finished his Economics and Mathematics degree at the Moscow State University. He also finished his master’s degree from the Harvard Business School in 1991. Zhukov served as vice president of the AVTOTRAKTOR Industry and became a board director for East-West Bank in 1992. He formally began his political career in 1994 when he was appointed by former acting Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin to serve as deputy head for the State Duma Financial Committee. A decade later, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov appointed Zhukov as the first Russian deputy prime minister under his rule. Prior to his appointment as head of the ROC, Zhukov has played an active role during the initial preparations for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games last year. He will take over Leonid Tyagachev’s seat after his voluntary resignation as 2010 Vancouver Olympic Committee head.
  • Dmitry Kozak is the current deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation. He is famously known to his countrymen as a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kozak served as chairman of the Putin’s campaign team when the latter ran for presidency during the 2004 Russian Presidential Elections. He also became an active member of the media committee administered by the Russian government until 2008. Born in the remote village of Bondurovo located in the Kirovohrad region, Kozak served as the head of the legal department of the Monolit-Kirovstroy Company and chief legal consultant for the Russian Association of Trade Ports in 1989.
  • Alexei Kudrin is the country’s deputy prime minister for finance. He entered the world of politics in 1996 under the presidential rule of Boris Yeltsin. With more than ten years of service, Kudrin’s highly-reputed status in approving budget reforms and intensifying the country’s “free market” rule earned him the “2010 Finance Minister of the Year” award from Euromoney magazine and World Trade Organization. Born in October 12, 1960, Kudrin graduated in Finance and Economics.

What Colours Your 2014?

The rapidity of reproduction means that what we see on the fashion catwalks takes little time to filter into the home, generally starting with accessories and accent pieces before transitioning to larger-scale, higher investment items. But the use of colour is important to observe. While each colour body and/or manufacturer has at least one dominant neutral colour scheme within their 2014 trend palettes, colour definitely comes into play.

Martin Tustin-Fuchs, brand manager for Dulux paint, explains that with the 2014 palette, “we’ll see novel shades and unexpected combinations of colours in the year ahead in all areas of home decor – reds are more tangy, oranges are more expressive, greens are more jeweled, and blues are more tropical.”

Indeed, there has already been a shift to deeper, richer tones throughout fall 2013. Colours remain bright, bold and playful, which is a continuation – and furtherance – of current trends. Darker shades of gray are again (or still) being universally dubbed “the new black,” and gray undertones persist in influencing many of the most appealing shades, earthy hues and neutrals among them.

But 2014 also draws attention toward blues, purples and pinks. A few could be branded “pastels,” but more often than not, the tones are lively and bold. Consider some of the following descriptions from the Pantone View home and interiors 2014 trend palettes:

  • a melding of both vibrant and deep hues… intertwined in intriguingly inventive colour combinations
  • colours of power and energy counter-balanced by the… hues that express the necessity for introspection and calm
  • both svelte and voluptuous… attention to detail and the drama of high fashion… can be theatrical in nature
  • a sense of adventure, wit, experimentation and discovery… “tongue in cheek” in attitude and highly original in colour juxtapositioning and cleverly conceived in evocative combinations
  • a symphony of elevated and voluptuous color to… evoke an atmosphere full of vivid richness and blissful excess

Reds will deviate from the berry tones of recent years toward more energetic reds with orange undertones. Pair these emboldened hues with rich jewel tones, elegant darks, warm browns, spicy oranges or other bright hues.

Oranges move away from the more citrus-like tones of late to a more spicy, earthy palette. Though these new orange hues lack the pink undertones of prior seasons, they look fantastic with pastel pinks and grays, or can be tempered with more complementary dark blues and turquoise.

Yellows have returned in a big way with a resurgence in gold and brass tones. While just about anything will go, look for a greater dominance among softer, more delicate yellows, such as PPG’s 2014 colour of the year, Turning Oakleaf.

Greens made a strong comeback in 2013 with the strength of emerald and other jewel tones. With the prevalence of blues and grays, it should come as no surprise that greens will lean more toward the blue spectrum, embracing hybrids like teal. Watery palettes, combining multiples shades of greens and blues, will no doubt be a favorite. Based on early trend palettes for 2015, expect to see more green, both directly and as undertones for prominent blues and yellows as 2014 draws to a close.

Blues will favor the ocean, from tropical paradise to deepest sea. With all the agates and high-sheen finishes seen at High Point, expect blue to sparkle.

Violets are moving along two distinct pathways, as is evidenced by Pantone’s Radiant Orchid versus Sherwin-Williams’ Exclusive Plum. The red-purples are more daring and thought provoking, while the blue-purples are much softer, bringing with them a certain tranquility.

For those with a less vivid approach to colour, boldness and vibrancy are counter-balanced by sophistication and simple elegance. In cases such as this, colours are unassuming and are harmonized rather than fighting for centre stage.

There is more subtlety in the transition between tones within a particular scheme, presenting a more classic, timeless feel. Keep in mind that “timeless” does not necessarily equate to an abundance of typical neutral tones. There is plenty of room for experimentation; use it!