Why Valve is Releasing the Steam Deck

Earlier today Valve announced the Steam Deck, a handheld PC built with custom hardware with the support of AMD. The device itself is incredibly interesting, sporting a quad core Zen 2 CPU with the latest RDNA 2 APU available. The device sports a 7-inch touch screen, with an incredible number of buttons that can be customized to the users liking and even has their touch pad technology like on the Steam Controller. There will be three version at launch, all with the same hardware, but with the $399 USD version having 64 GB of storage, the $529 USD version including 256 GB and finally a 512 GB version for $649 USD.

Looking at the design of the Steam Deck, it appears incredibly positive, even though Valve previous forays in hardware has not gone well. The Steam Deck has already been compared to the Switch and posts all over the internet are already providing guides to readers on whether they should be interested in the Steam Deck or the Nintendo Switch. I am writing this as I do not think the Steam Deck is being built to compete against the Nintendo Switch, nor do I think it is meant as a play by Valve to compete against the other handheld gaming PC’s such as the GDP Win3, or the Aya Neo. I believe the Steam Deck has been built to help promote and grow Steam OS.

Now what I said may sound crazy, but please hear me out. Valve makes a lot of money. Like a ton. But it primarily makes that money from the sale of games and software on its store front. The issue is that store front relies primarily on Windows where most PC game sales occur. For this reason, Valve has been trying to build their own platform for many years. They started by trying to get manufacturers to build what they named Steam Machine’s with Steam OS included with the device. When that never even saw the light of day, they tried many other methods of trying to own the platform for their store front with little success. In the background though, they continued to work on and improve their Linux game compatibility, all for a moment like this.

Let’s step back for a moment. With the launch of the Switch in 2016, handheld gaming became a phenomenon. It was always huge, but the switch brought power and portability to the market when handheld devices like the 3ds were arguably, only portable. With that success, many people/companies decided that they would try and bring handheld PC gaming to the market. Hence the successful crowdfunding of the Win3 from GPD and the Aya Neo that I brought up earlier. The devices more than successful crowdfunding campaigns were a clear signal to Steam, and to the market at large that there was pent up demand for devices in the handheld gaming category.

When reviewers tried the Win3 the device had mild hardware issues, but the main pain point was Windows. Windows 10 is simply not a great experience on devices of this form factor. The UI in Windows 10 is not great for touchscreens and the just generally too small to enjoy properly.

Now we come back to the present and the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck does appear to superior to the other handheld gaming devices that have been released thus far in the hardware category, but it is the software that, I believe, Valve sees the greatest opportunity for success. For one, hardware is incredibly difficult to make profitable. Consoles from Sony and Xbox are well known to sell at a loss, so that the manufacturers can then profit from game sales, accessories, subscription, etc. With that, and the fact that Steam is Valve’s main source of revenue, they will do everything they can to both grow and protect, Steam, their main revenue source. How do you both grow, and protect Steam, you control the platform (OS) on a growing hardware type and allow other manufacturers to use said platform for their hardware.

In the interview linked below, they actually share that Steam OS will be available to be used by other manufacturers and that they welcome other manufacturers to build these types of devices if the demand is there. Steam OS has been available for free since its release, but they (Valve) want it to come installed on as much hardware as possible as preinstalled software allows for higher retention of users. Simply look at Google, Apple, and Microsoft for the success of preinstalled software.

Steam OS is what Valve is trying to sell with the release of the Steam Deck. They want Steam OS to be the next Windows for handheld gaming devices as that will both grow and protect Steam for the foreseeable future. They are betting that by releasing Steam Deck, they can help push the category into the mainstream and propel Steam OS onto as many devices as possible. Valve has been trying to gain control of its destiny for as long as Steam has existed. They know they rely on Microsoft’s continued semi-open garden, but they do not want to always have to look over their shoulder to see if the monster is coming for them. With Steam OS rebuilt for handheld devices, and the growth of the hardware category, they are looking to make the experience better for users, while profiting from a growing hardware category that they hope to control. Only time will tell whether they win control over their own destiny or will need to try looking for the next opportunity to open itself up.

PS. I stand with the pun in the title.

First Impressions of the Eve Spectrum

This is part of an ongoing series on the Eve Community forums.

Hello everyone!

This will be my first post with some actual hands-on time with the Spectrum, but it most definitely will not be the last! I plan to answer as many of the community’s questions as I can about the Spectrum as well as the topic I listed above!

Now on to what you are here for! I received the Spectrum Wednesday afternoon and was pleasantly surprised with the packaging! It was incredibly sturdy and made entirely of recyclable materials which is amazing. It did not have the print, but for launch they have the print, and it will make it look even better! For those who love a good unboxing, I do not believe they will be disappointed.

I was so captivated by the Spectrum itself that I did not take any photos of the box, so let me know if that would be interesting and I can go ahead and take some images to show you how it is made.

With that being said, the Spectrum is the main attraction, and it is a beautiful monitor. As someone who prefers something more neutral and sleeker, the Spectrum ticks all those boxes and more. The base is incredibly strong, made entirely of metal, while the monitor is just stunning with its entirely black frame. 👋

The Spectrum has a joystick and a power button. The joystick has four directions which are up, down, left, and right. You can also press down on the joystick. It is a very tactile joystick with a satisfying click. The power button though is a little mushy compared to the joystick, but not terrible.

Installing the Spectrum into my current office setup was easy. I have a dual monitor stand which supports VESA 100 which simply required me to remove the four screws preinstalled on the Spectrum and to attach the VESA bracket with the screws that came with my bracket. The screws that came with the Spectrum were too short to be used with my bracket, but your mileage may vary.

My previous office setup included two 1080p, 60Hz monitors. A 23-inch Acer, and a 27-inch Acer. Unfortunately, the 23-inch monitor did not have a VESA mount so for the time being I have been propping it up on some books to keep it level with the other monitor. The Spectrum I received replaced the 23-inch Acer monitor, and the books it sat upon, and I currently have another Spectrum on order which will be replacing the 27-inch Acer monitor.

For those doing a similar upgrade as I am doing. My impressions thus far are that 4K, 144Hz makes a DRAMATIC difference for work and for play. In Windows 10 I am noticing some subtle animations that I had no idea existed in the OS. Text and colors are much precise and clear compared to my previous 1080p monitor and gaming is simply a joy, especially with HDR enabled.

Though the experience with the hardware has been quite positive, the firmware specifically still needs refinement. When I first received the Spectrum, the monitor was unable to wake from sleep. That was fixed with version 090 which was available at the time, but I had not yet updated. Updating the Spectrum Firmware is thankfully easy. It simply requires downloading an updater on your computer and connecting the computer to the monitor via USB type C or B.

Currently, I am running firmware version 092 which has improved HDR, among other things. It still has some bugs. While playing Doom Eternal and Horizon Zero Dawn I ran into an issue where the monitor would lose all color and become black and white during cinematics or when a notification popped up from Microsoft Teams. I could easily fix the problem by turning off the monitor and turning it back on and it happened infrequently enough that it did not stop me from playing far more than I should have as I just lost track of time 😊

Eve and the firmware team are fixing bugs as we find them though and have been extremely transparent during the entire process. So far, I am confident that Eve will have the firmware perfected for the launch at the end of June and am excited to receive my second Spectrum!

Sorry for such a long post. If you read this far, thank you! Stay tuned for more content, sooner rather than later. I plan to share some PC game play and share my thoughts on gaming with Spectrum and the Xbox Series X next!

My Favorites of 2019

2019 was a fantastic year of learning, challenges and successes. I read some new fantastic novels, I enjoyed new and old songs and learned a ton from some of my favorite podcasts. Please enjoy the list I have made of my favorites of 2019.

Books

For the last few years, I have been keeping track of all the books that I read or that I am interested in reading in Goodreads. I had a goal of reading 50 books this year, but unfortunately I failed. I only read 40 books, but of the books that I have read, many of them I now consider my favorite. Below are my favorite in different categories.

Favorite New Series

My favorite new series of the year is hands down The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson. It is a fantasy novel, with incredible character development within a massively detailed world. As far as fantasy novels go, this is a must read and one of my favorite fantasy series.

The Way of Kings – Book One of The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson

Favorite Non-Fiction

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America;s Shining Women by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore was published in 2017, but it is my favorite non-fiction of the year. This was a difficult category for me, as there are many books which I read this year which I believe are important books to read for us to understand our world today. That being said, the Radium Girls tells a tragic story of how corporate greed and misogyny created a hellish situation for America’s shining women. It is a book that leaves a scar, but also teaches an important lesson of fighting against injustice, corruption and the necessary role government and unions play in building a better world for everyone through oversight of corporations.

Favorite Fiction Novel

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a fantasy novel, based on true events. It is a heartbreaking tale which brings to light the atrocities that black children suffered in the United States during the Jim-Crow era. As the conversation of reparations to black communities in the United States grows, this is an important book to read as it highlights the terrible injustices and racism that continues to this day.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

Honorable Mentions

The Man They Wanted Me to Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making by Jared Yates Sexton
A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World by Melinda Gates
How Democracies Die: What History Reveals About Our Future by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt

You can find all of the books I read in 2019 on Goodreads.

Music

You can find all of my most listened to songs on my Spotify playlist. I really enjoyed different music types of music this year, but below are a few of my favorites.

Favorite Album

My favorite album of the year is a very easy choice. I listened to it when I was at the gym, I sang along to the songs in the car, and I had the opportunity to watch a live performance in London. My favorite album of the year was none other than the Hamilton soundtrack from the incredible play written by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Favorite Song

It should come as no surprise that this year, my favorite song is also from the Hamilton Soundtrack. Wait for It sang by Leslie Odom Jr, is an incredible song which I simply love.

Favorite Instrumental Song

When I study, work or simply need to focus, I listen to video game soundtracks or movie soundtracks as I find that they help me focus at the task at hand. I created my own studying playlist of all my favorite songs, but the one I listened to most, is an old song from one of my favorite video games. The song named Guild Wars is named after the game and is my favorite instrumental song of the year.

Honorable Mentions

Podcast

My daily commute to work this year was 2 hours every day for most of the year. So to pass the time while driving, I would listen to many, many podcasts (and Audiobooks). If you don’t listen to podcast, I highly recommend it. They are a great way of learning new topics, listening to insightful stories and overall, just great entertainment.

The podcast I listened to most is Pod Save America. It is a podcast that highlights what is going on in American politics and the hosts clearly and concisely explain ongoing events with honesty and integrity. 1619 is a must listen to this year. It explores Slavery in the United States and the ongoing issues that black communities face such as racism. Philosophize This is my go to for a quick podcast to learn something new and to think more deeply. I highly recommend it for everyone who enjoys philosophy, or even those that don’t. Code Newbie is a great podcast for those learning to code, as the name implies, but it is also insightful, entertaining and well produced.

Movies

There were many blockbuster movies that came out this year. From the Lion King, to Star Wars. I haven’t watched as many movies this year as I would have hoped, but here are a few of my favorites.

Favorite Movie of 2019

My favorite movie of 2019 is Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. The story was very well written, the details and animations created by the crew were amazing and it had plenty of funny, and dramatic moments to create a great movie; especially for a lifetime fan of Pokemon.

Pokemon Detective Pikachu Trailer

Favorite Animated Movie

My choice for favorite animated movie of 2019 is a movie I never would have anticipated. I didn’t even want to watch it at first, but Caroline wanted to watch a Christmas movie together so I “settled” for Klaus. I am often wrong, though I don’t like to admit it (who does), but Klaus is a fantastic Christmas story and I can definitely see myself watching this movie every year.

Klaus Trailer

Shows

Watching a new show is a huge undertaking. This year, some of my favorite series came out, and thankfully they were just as good as I imagined. My favorite shows this year are the Mandalorian on Disney+ and The Witcher on Netflix. The Mandalorian is is Star Wars story with all the charm of the Star Wars franchise, but with none of the pressure to follow in the movies footsteps. It is a refreshing take and I highly recommend it to anyone. The Witcher is a show which is adapted from the books, but takes some cues from the incredible video game adaptations. The first season, which is on Netflix, is everything that I wished from the franchise and I am eagerly awaiting the next season’s release. Both of the shows were fantastic and I am looking forward to future seasons of both of them.

Articles

Every year, I read thousands of articles, from Medium, to The Washington Post. I have done a poor job in the last few years of keeping a record of all of the articles that I read, which is why it is one of my new years resolutions for 2020. Of the articles that I remember reading or saved for whatever reason, here are those that I recommend reading if you missed them.

Conclusion

I wrote this for myself to keep a record of my favorite content of 2019. Much of the content was inspiring, entertaining and/or insightful. Going over my favorites of the year allows me to think deeper on the content that I enjoyed and to remember the important information that make me who I am today. I hope that if you read through this, that you gain something from the content that I enjoyed this year and I wish you a happy new year!

First Day In Lloret de Mar, Spain

Caroline and I arrived in Lloret de Mar, Spain on September 30, 2019. Though it was our first day in Spain, I will mostly write about our first full day which was on October 1, 2019. On September 1, 2019, we were exhausted from planning, preparing and completing our wedding. We had very little sleep before we left for our three month honeymoon in Europe the very next day of the wedding. So when we landed in Spain, we took the bus to our Airbnb in Lloret de Mar, did the groceries, ate quickly and fell asleep; for 13 hours.

October 1, 2019

On October 1, 2019, our first full day in Lloret de Mar Spain, we woke up at 10 AM and ate our regular breakfast of toast with peanut butter with some Oatly. We prepared ourselves and went to the beach which is less than a 5 minute walk from our Airbnb.

Beach in Platja de Fenals.

Platja de Fenals

The nearby beach is named Platja de Fenals and is a beautiful white pebble sand beach with plenty of amenities.

Beautiful tree growing on some hard rocks with Platja de Fenals in the background.

We decided to take it easy and walked along the beach on a cobblestone path. Exploring the area and taking in the nearby attractions. There were boats for rent, scuba diving, etc.

Diving area near Platja de Fenals.
Diving area near Platja de Fenals.

There are plenty of natural attractions which we kept a note of such as a botanical garden, forest walking paths and though not natural a nearby ancient fort. We plan on exploring more of those in the next few days.

Along the walking path of Platja de Fenals.
Along the walking path of Platja de Fenals.

After exploring, we enjoyed reading on the beach so as to not wear ourselves out. I read What I Wish I Knew Before Learning to Code by Ali Spittel which is a short, but fantastic eBook about some key things people should know when they are trying to learn how to code.

Beautiful tree near Lloret de Mar.

Dinner and Gelato

After reading for a bit in the baking sun, we returned to our room to eat dinner. We ate Pesto Pasta with Lentils and drank some red, Spanish wine. After eating, we dressed up for the night time in Spain and went for a walk to downtown Lloret de Mar where we found plenty of stores and ate some fantastic Gelato.

Downtown street in Lloret de Mar.
Downtown street in Lloret de Mar.
Side street in Lloret de Mar.
Side street in Lloret de Mar.

We then returned to our room and enjoyed another small glass of wine on our patio, planning the next few days of adventures.

Easy Dark Theme Using Only CSS

As I was exploring Twitter today, I came upon what I believe to be the easiest way to add a dark theme to a website using only CSS.

When I had previously explored how to add a dark theme to a website, I had only ever found ways of doing so with JavaScript. I thought there must be a better way, but until today I just hadn’t found one. When I saw this easy solution, I decided I needed to try this out for myself and lo and behold it worked wonderfully! I went ahead and followed @rootgp ‘s tutorial which can be found on his website and figured out the best way of implementing the necessary code on to my website which I have built with Frontity.

Here is the code that I used to add dark mode to my website. Again this is all using CSS and is super simple.

@media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) {
  body {
    background-color: black;
  }
  h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, ul, figcaption, code {
    color: white !important;
  }
  blockquote {
    background-color: #181818 !important;
    color: white !important;
  }
.wp-block-code {
  background-color: #181818 !important;
  color: white !important;
  padding: 25px !important;
}
  .page-description {
    color:#808080 !important;
  }
}

As of today, you should be able to see the website match the users browser theme as long as the browser supports it. Let me know if there are any issues or if you have any suggestions or feedback. Message me on any platform where you can find me.

Navigating the Online Storefront

The three pillars of a successful online presence

The physical storefront, office or commercial location is a necessity for almost any business. Business leaders will fuss over the look, the location, the amenities available for clients, etc. What I have often found is that most business leaders pay more attention to the physical storefront compared to their online storefront, as they see it daily when coming in to work. It is a matter of perception, which can cost businesses a lot in missed revenue. This is because a businesses online presence is just as, if not more important than the physical location.

A business’s online presence increases its customer base multiple times over due to the shear amount of people using the internet to shop, review and research products. You may be wondering the volume of internet users. Here are some quick statistics:

I have found in my experience that there are three pillars that help in building a solid online foundation; Website, Social Media and Reviews.  The three pillars are key to creating a great foundation for an excellent online presence, but at the end of the day, the importance is in ensuring that attention is given in equal measure to a business’ online storefront and the physical location.  For smaller businesses, it is recommended they hire an individual internally to manage their online presence. Having at least one skilled employee managing a small company’s online presence can lead to a large return on investment. If hiring an employee is not possible, contracting the work to a third party can reap rewards, while lowering cost initially. Now, let us explore the three pillars of online success.

CUSTOMER DECISION JOURNEY CONCEPT

Website

The easiest way I have found to explain the importance of a website is to compare it to a physical location. To quickly generalize, a physical location needs to be built to offer products, services or both, it needs to be welcoming and it needs to offer information that helps customers make their purchasing decision. A website should be built with exactly the same thought process. Compared to the other pillars of an online presence, a website allows the business to have full control of what customers see and for this reason it is the one that I place the most value.

One of the main issues I have found when helping businesses with their digital footprint is their lack of attention to their website. Many businesses treat their physical location to daily cleaning and maintenance yet forego any type of cleaning, or maintenance to their website. This is a recipe for disaster. Businesses lose customers if their website is not properly maintained, as 57% of all mobile users have stated that they will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website. With over 50% of all website users visiting on a mobile device, that is a large loss of customers. I state this particular statistic as it is the most prevalent and harmful issue affecting businesses. All websites should be built for mobile first, yet I find far too often that businesses still use websites that were designed far too long ago and that are only built for desktops in mind.

To solve this issue of poorly maintained websites, there are now a plethora of new options that make building a website easy even for the less experienced. Here are a few of my recommendations:

WordPress

WordPress is the number one content management system (CMS) with 30% of all websites being powered through its technology. It is personally my favorite option as it is simple for people who do not have much experience with website design and is exceptionally customizable for those who are. It offers the ability to quickly and easily manage users and add content. It has thousands of themes to make it simple for most people to change the look to their needs and finally it has thousands of plugins to make the website do whatever they need it to do. The most amazing part of building a website with WordPress is that it can be done completely free. Though you will still need to buy a domain and host the website. To get started with WordPress here are few great plugins to help you along the way:

Shopify

Shopify is my second recommendation as it is very simple to use and is excellent for ecommerce. Whether you sell business to consumer (B2C) or business to business (B2B) Shopify has you covered with some amazing themes and some amazing capabilities. It can be used for much more then ecommerce, but it excels when used as an ecommerce site. When you consider the cost of hosting and purchasing a domain, it is not much more expensive than running a WordPress site.

Squarespace

Squarespace is my final recommendation and is very similar to Shopify. It can used for many different types of websites just like Shopify and is very quick top build with.

Social Media

The second pillar of an online presence is Social Media. Simply put, social media involves creating a page on a platform which allows you to grow a community of users on said platform. We all know of the typical social media platforms such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and now most online services try to integrate some social elements to bring in new users. In my experience, I have noticed that business leaders are often skeptical of the actual benefit social media has on businesses. Will it lead to more sales? If we join social media platforms will it simply open us up to criticism and toxicity? Which platform should we use? Let us explore each question individually.

Will it lead to more sales?

60% of small business owners are unable to track their return on investment (ROI) for their social media activities. For this reason, this is the important question that I have heard all the time and it has a very simple answer; It depends. The reason it is not a guarantee is that most businesses treat it like a side project. The reality is much different, businesses must pay close attention to it, they must create a plan for how often they will post, what they will post, who will be managing it, etc. A metric to keep in mind, 86% of people prefer honest and authentic dialogue. Once a plan is created and a business starts cultivating a community on whichever platform they choose, spontaneity and authenticity become important. With over 2 billion users on Facebook, 1 billion users on Instagram, 500 million on LinkedIn, etc. if you are unable to get one new sale, you are doing something wrong.

To get more sales through social media, companies have gone to influencers to advertise their products/services. Influencers are social media celebrities, if you will, that have a large following of people. Influencers, as they are so rightly named, are meant to influence their followers to buy into something. Typically, influencers will charge a fee to advertise their products or service. What I have found and that many companies are now doing, is that they are targeting micro-influencers. Micro-influencers are individuals which have a lower number of followers, but that are fans of your products/services. They will typically advertise to their followers for no cost at all, for the chance to win products/services or a small discount. Many companies have found great success in leveraging influencers to quickly grow a customer base.

Getting sales is great, but if a business is unable to track them, or worse misattributes them to some other medium, they may get discouraged by all the effort they have placed on building a presence on social media.  In my experience, the issue is not that companies are not getting sales from their social media activities, but that they do no understand how to properly set themselves up to track customers from the micro-moments to the final sale. All the major platforms allow for an in-depth look into the statistical data of its users, but to track users from the digital world to the physical purchase is typically where the disconnect occurs. To be able to bridge this gap, processes must be created and utilized, otherwise you may be misattributing sales.

If we join social media platforms will it simply open us to criticism and toxicity?

The reality is that social media is meant to be personal. It is meant to create communities, joining friends and like-minded people all over the world to talk and share their thoughts on whatever subjects they wish. As this is the internet, some people will be rude, callous and downright destructive. This should not frighten business leaders. Businesses need to take the criticism and toxicity in strides and try to resolve any situation that was not the excellent experience they should aim for. If a business does so, users will know when other users are being unreasonable and will think no less of a company for to trying to be better. What a growing business should truly be scared of is not that they can finally see and respond to the criticism and toxicity, but that they are unable to.

Which platform should we use?

There are many different approaches to properly choosing a platform. Depending on a company’s resources and its overall motivation, I typically recommend focusing on one or at the most two platforms in the beginning. This ensures that businesses stick with it, otherwise I have found that it becomes too much for most business to consistently manage their communities.  Once a business has decided on how many platforms they will actively utilize, the next question becomes which one? I have found that choosing a social media platform depends on who your customers are and what platform are they using. With hashtags (octothorpe symbol), it is possible to go on most social media platforms and see how many users are talking about a particular topic. Searching for your company can help give an idea of where you have the most potential customers. Facebook and Instagram are always great options. Their user base is incredibly large and as it is possible to share text, images and videos, it allows businesses to connect to users in many ways. LinkedIn and Twitter are often seen as more business-oriented which can be a boon for business to business sales.  If you have the resources to create videos, YouTube should potentially be your primary choice as it has over 1 billion users. There are many other options then simply the ones I have listed, though the important part is to remember to choose the one where your customers are and to stick with it.

Having explored the three questions posed by business leaders about social media, here are some tips and things to keep in mind when building a successful community:

  • Make a social media plan.
  • Be active, available and authentic.
  • Reward your loyal customers, by making them influencers.
  • Create a process to track conversions.
  • Stick with it.

The second pillar of building an online presence entails a lot of persistence. There will be plenty of trial and error to find what authentically fits a business’s culture and ethos. I am a firm believer that when done properly, social media can be a strong pillar of success.

Reviews

The third and final pillar of building a successful online presence is reviews. In 2017, 40% of YouTube users went on the platform to learn more about a product before they bought it. Everyday, we all swear by one product or service by how we dress, what we drive, by simply living our lives. With the internet, people have the power to become even more informed before they purchase a product. Reviews are how they make their choice of purchasing your companies’ product or service instead of your competitors. Reviews are even used by Google to decide your position in the search results. As such, every business should properly manage their reviews. When a business receives a negative review, just like in the social media pillar, they must respond to the criticism and try and resolve the situation. As I stated previously 94% of all organic search result are through Google. This makes it imperative that businesses take control of their business listing on Google. Google my Business  has many different features, but the most important features are that it allows for businesses to manage their address and contact information, and it allows for businesses to respond to reviews on their listing. Other websites to think about are Yelp, Facebook and any industry specific review site. For the automotive industry you could find DealerRater important or for health care specialist you may want to pay attention to RateMDs.

Reviews can also be used in tandem with social media for content or for comparison to your competitors. Electronic companies are known to come out with new products and to give them to reviewers for their thoughts. They then advertise the reviewer’s article or video to reach potential customers.

Conclusion

The online world is an ever-changing landscape, and for this reason it can daunting for business leaders who primarily work in the physical world. It allows for massive business growth, but when done haphazardly can turn potential customers away. This article has focused on the three pillars to a successful online presence; Website, Social Media and Reviews. A business’s website allows for full control over the content that is shown to potential customers, Social Media allows for a mix between a business’s content and user content, while Reviews are purely user content which needs to be used to make an even better future experience for a company’s customers.

Please let me know if there is anything that I have missed or that you have found to help in building a successful online presence. If you have any questions please email me at shaun.guimond@outlook.com.

Benefits to Consolidating Leases

For many growing businesses, the decision to lease new assets is an easy one. They need the assets for operations, their needs as a growing company can change dramatically in a short span of time and in the current, fast-paced, technological climate, purchasing new assets which may quickly become obsolete can be risky. On the financial side, leasing can improve liquidity, optimize working capital and save cash for strategic investments.  As such, business leaders and decision makers often find themselves juggling multiple lease agreements with differing interest rates, payment dates, end terms, etc. Managing the different factors for every lease agreement can become a major issue if someone is not on top of it, and often the businesses who are unable to afford such supervision, are the ones with the most lease agreements. From experience, lease consolidation can have many benefits in these circumstances such as Better Terms, Manageable Cash Flow and Time Savings. Let us explore each benefit individually:

Better Terms

For any growing business, the financial situation they were in when they first signed their leases is not the same as a few years down the road. As such, they may now have more bargaining power when they come to the table and have a wider variety of lessors to chose from. Based on businesses I have consulted, when they consolidate, it can lead them to receive an improved effective interest rate, a longer term, etc. Ultimately, this may mean saving even more cash for daily operations or strategic investments.

Below is a simple example with figurative numbers of how those terms may look:

Before
Duration (months) Monthly Payments Effective Interest Rate Residual Total Cost
Lease 1 60 $2,000 8% $1 $120,000
Lease 2 48 $1,000 10% $12,000 $48,000
Lease 3 24 $1,875 7% $5,000 $45,000
Lease 4 36 $1,666.67 11% $20,000 $60,000
Lease 5 48 $4,250 7.5% $50,000 $204,000
Total 43.2 $10,791.67 8.26% $87,001 $477,000
         
After Consolidated Lease 60 $7877.21 8% $90,000 $472,632.70

As can be seen from the table above, by consolidating the leases it is possible to save on the total cost of all the assets by lowering the effective interest rate. One of the most important parts for any business though, is the monthly payments which are drastically lower than what was being paid before consolidating as often it is possible to increase the duration of the lease to lower the payments. Therefore, creating more working capital for the business.

Manageable Cash Flow

As the saying goes, “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing”  and this holds true for having too many leases with different payment dates. If someone is not managing them properly, it can become a nightmare when payments are missed due to manual error or simply not having the cash available at the time. This can lead to paying unnecessary fees and interest, and even issues in the future getting new creditors. Consolidating leases can eliminate these issues by having only one payment date for all leased assets, leading to a more manageable cash flow.

For many businesses, even if they have not received the benefit of better terms when consolidating or end up paying more to consolidate due to their financial situation, it can be worth the cost to be able to better manage cash flow and save time.

Time Savings

Time is money and for business leaders that is especially true. I always hear leaders say they wish they had more time for the important things. That they feel like they are always fighting fires, but never have the time to sharpen their axe. Consolidating leases can save many hours of lease management allowing for more time to invest in what is important.

Conclusion

Having highlighted three ways, Better Terms, Manageable Cash Flow and Time Savings, that businesses can benefit from consolidating leases, it is important to keep in mind that every situation is different. Businesses may not always be able to attain all three benefits from consolidating, but sometimes only one of them is necessary to make it worthwhile.

Growth Through Travel

The last month has been very hectic. Caroline, my fiancé, was offered a job working as a dietitian in Vernon, BC a little over a month ago. Having lived exclusively in New-Brunswick, it was a big decision for us to move to any province, let alone, to the other coast. We had been hoping for this moment, applying for jobs in other provinces and talking about it for many months, but actually having the opportunity is scary. I believe that we both wanted to move even though it did scare us, because we wish to grow and experience more than what we would have by staying in New-Brunswick. For that reason, we ultimately decided that she should take the job and after only a couple of weeks of packing, we left on June 30th of 2018. We chose to drive from coast to coast, exploring our beautiful country in 11 days.

Leaving from Saint John, our first stop for the night was Montreal, where we enjoyed the warmest hospitality and tried to cool off as best as we could from the boiling weather.

View at Sainte-Anne-de-Belles-Vue

We then enjoyed Canada Day in Ottawa, ON, celebrating our pride for our country. It was a blazingly hot day, feeling like 47 degrees, but nothing was going to stop us. We walked about 20 kilometers in the city; enjoying the architecture, the view of the Rideau Canal, the events, and so much more. We ate a great meal at Pure Kitchen Ottawa before heading back to Parliament Hill where we sat on the grass and watched the concert. Listening to great Canadian musical artist such as Lights, The Dead South and Ruth B. Afterwards, the fireworks lit up the night sky behind Parliament Hill creating a beautiful backdrop that we will never forget.

Fireworks at Parliament Hill for Canada Day

From Ottawa, we travelled to Algonquin Provincial Park hiking for the day. We did a few small hikes to see as much as we could. One, named Lookout Trail was short, but fantastic.

The next morning in Algonquin, we left early, reaching Sudbury to enjoy a lunch at Tucos Taco Lounge and to see some of the neighboring area. After enjoying some great vegetarian food, we continued our trip to Pukaskwa National Park. The park is very secluded and offers the most beautiful beaches: white fine sand, very clear water, with hundreds of washed up trees give the beaches an atmosphere that we won’t soon forget. Personally, my favorite morning was hiking and finding those beaches the next day.

Beautiful beach at Pukaskwa National Park

After enjoying the hike, Sleeping Giant National Park, was our next stop. Driving along the northern coast of Lake Superior you can sometimes forget that it is not an ocean. The lake is so vast that it is mind-boggling and the height of the hills along the way allow for such wonderful sights that it reminds me very much of driving in Cape Breton. Arriving at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park we were greeted by a black bear (from a safe distance) and slept with the Giant.

Black Bear at Sleeping Giant National Park

The next morning, the Giant continued to slumber, and we pressed on towards Winnipeg. Thunder Bay was the first major city since Sudbury, so we decided to pass through it quickly. It was nice, but we were on a mission to reach Winnipeg, so we did not take much time to enjoy it. The closer we got to Winnipeg, the flatter the landscape became. It was both beautiful and eerie to be able to see in all directions with no hills in the way. The canola fields were in full bloom and made the entire area look vividly yellow. Once in Winnipeg, we enjoyed the downtown core; specifically, the Forks and the Johnston Terminal. We ate at Boon Burger for dinner which was very good and ended our night by visiting the Outlet Collection Mall which was very modern.

Large sign spelling Winnipeg

From Winnipeg, most of the trip to Regina the next day was much the same. Once we reached Regina, it was like Winnipeg in some ways, but not as populated. We went to a few malls, walked in the downtown core, visited the Science Center and went into two of their libraries. Out of all the activities we did, the libraries were the highlight of Regina for me. The libraries seemed to be very well organized and as I love reading, it was just relaxing to go through the selection.

Canola fields in bloom in the Canadian Prairies.

We woke up around 5:30 that morning in Regina as it must have been around 30 degrees already and we were boiling. We decided to head out since we could no longer sleep and the sooner we left the more time we would have in Calgary. After leaving Regina, the drive is very much the same as any other drive in the prairies. As soon, as we hit the Alberta provincial limits, we were hoping for a change of scenery, but that did not happen. The prairies continue up until Calgary, which made for a long drive. Arriving closer and closer to Calgary, we became aware of the city first, then of the shadows past Calgary. Those shadows were the Canadian Rocky’s and the city of Calgary had such a magnificent view of them. The city itself is beautiful and we just happened to arrive while the whole city was celebrating the Stampede. We decided that night that we would come back to Calgary and visit for more than only one day.

Bridge in Calgary

We left Calgary the next morning anxious to head into the mountains. Our next stop was Banff National Park and we wanted to make sure we had enough time to visit as much as we could. Just before the park, we visited Canmore as it had been a city that Caroline had been dreaming of visiting. After Canmore, we headed into the park, going to the Hoodoos, the city of Banff and Lake Louise. The whole area is unlike anything else in Canada. The beautiful crystal blue lakes, with the mountains in the background create a picturesque view from anywhere. We decided to only do a short hike up Little Beehive for a total of 9.6 km. It gave fantastic vantage points of the valley and of Lake Louise. Overall, we were captivated by the park and we were looking forward to exploring a bit more the next day.

View from the Hoodoos Lookout

We had decided to sleep at Castle Mountain camping and to place an alarm to wake up at 5:30 am as we wanted to visited Moraine Lake. It had been closed off the day before because of congestion, so we packed up and went on our way within fifteen minutes. We arrived around 6:15 and already the place was packed. We found one of the last parking spaces and explored around. It was beautiful! We walked around, taking pictures and just breathing it all in. A little later, we decided to head over to Yoho National Park as Caroline had heard of another lake named Emerald Lake. After exploring the three lakes, I would argue that Emerald Lake is the most beautiful of the three. It is a must see and we are looking forward to going again one day. During the same day, we also visited Takakkaw (magnificent in Cree) Falls and Wapta Falls. Both of the falls were inspiring and I recommend everyone to visit them.

People Canoeing in Emerald Lake

That night, we slept at Hoodoo Creek Campground and left the next morning towards Glacier National Park. We had planned to spend the day visiting Glacier National Park, but we changed our plans as it was raining, and we were a bit tired from our journey. We were only a few more hours from Vernon, BC, our new home, so we decided to head there directly. We were so curious to visit the city and to see our new apartment. Once we arrived, we were happily surprised by how nice the area is and of our new home. Everything is still new and exciting, but I have a feeling that even after that initial phase, we will still love it here.

View from our home in Vernon

So, ended our trip across the country. We had a blast and are already planning to visit Vancouver, Seattle (my dream city to visit) and Hawaii. We started this journey like any other, with some self-doubt and anxiety of the unknown. We persevered though, because we both wish to grow together. To learn, to experience, to become more than we are, because at the end of the day, what else is there?