Skip to content

Innovation Is Key

September 27, 2017

History will show that every time the United States’ free market system was met with economic crisis, innovation and technology was ushered in at the 11th hour to save the day. Our great nation and its free economy have faced over forty-seven recessions since its conception. Advances in farming technology allowed us to overcome the challenges an economic engine, which depended on agriculture production in the late 1700s. After the Civil War, it was the race to connect America coast-to-coast that spurred on the age of the railroads. Evolutions in manufacturing processes and the spread of available electric power allowed for hard goods to cost less and be readily available on demand in the late 1800s.

After World War I, it was the ignition of the automobile industry that transformed the way we travel. Globalization was a result of World War II, which followed the aches and pains of the Great Depression. The airline industry age of the 1960s and the computer age of the 1980s—all heroes which save our nation from the brink of economic disaster. The Information Age of the 1990s and today’s Digital Age provided significant employment opportunity and replaced many of the lost jobs of yesteryear, allowing for those that lost their previous career position a chance to transition to new employment. Behind each revolution was technology and innovation; conveniences that allowed us to do things better, faster and at a lower cost.

Today, our country faces yet another critical fiscal crisis. Economists that provide statements that were are not in a recession are dead wrong. Our nation’s debt is the highest in history, with the U.S. Debt Clock now showing a U.S. National Debt of just over 17 trillion dollars in the red, and a total U.S. debt just over $61 trillion dollars in the red, it does not take an economist to realize that we need innovation and technology once again to step up to home plate and hit a home run. While Wall Street might be on fire, experiencing record highs and seeing peak profits, it is a very different picture on Main Street U.S.A. In order for our national debt to be cleared today, each U.S. citizen would have to cut a check for $56,000, and each taxpayer would need to shell out another $151k for us to clear the slate.

The White House and advocates on the hill are calling for a national increase to minimum wage, raising the current hourly rate from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour. Participants in the “Minimum Wage Economy” labor force want $15 per hour. Skeptics and the opposition to the minimum wage hike argue that such a large increase will slow down the even slow economy and deter small business owners from expanding their operations or hire any additional help. Advocates for the minimum wage hike say that the majority of the available jobs are minimum wage low paying entry-level jobs, jobs that cannot sustain the very households that provide the labor. Both sides of the argument are still missing the bigger picture . . . even by raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is not going to make an impact on paying down $17 trillion in national debt.

My question is this, if we demand a higher standard of wages or revenue, then why are we settling for mediocrity? Are going to undermine the value of a tradesman or professional who spent years refining their craft or expertise so that we can feel good about giving everyone and “equal” footing? What about demanding a strong national industrial policy that breaks all the barriers that are holding back new job creation from industry sectors relating to technology and innovation? Why are we not considering sun setting regulation that stifles small business and deter them from hiring local employees instead of penalizing them for frivolous victimless civil matters? Why don’t regulators sit down and coach small businesses on how to navigate through the regulatory landscape instead of crushing their dreams with over-burdened enforcement action? Why are we not revisiting trade policies that allow for the balance of fair trade instead of free trade? Most of all, why are incentives provided to companies that take jobs off U.S. soil and we over tax and over regulate the companies and businesses who choose to stay behind, because it the right thing to do?

I could go on and on about policy and the regulatory landscape, but in the mist of it, we need innovation to swoop in like Superman and save the day.

Technology and innovation that creates hard goods, hard goods that need to be manufactured, can provide employment opportunities for skilled workers who have had to settle for a minimum wage job. No other industry can provide for such saving grace than the green industry and the tech arena. With public policy mounting in line with the available selection of product lines aimed at environmental mitigation, energy conservation, and efficiency, are products and market segments which not only provide jobs, but economic benefits to consumers, if they embrace them. Early market adoption of community based, value creating technology will allow for yet another wave of local and regional job creation to take hold. In addition to skilled labor for manufacturing, the green industry provides a platform for accountants to provide energy audits and surveys. We have already seen the transition of construction workers who have become trained and readied to install solar and LED technology. Retrofit technology and innovation in the emissions industry and fuel economy movement offer jobs to technicians who lost their jobs during the General Motors and Chrysler dealer consolidations.

The new-found riches in natural gas, light sweet crude and advances in propane for auto gas (even with the controversial practice of fracking) have giving the United States the ability to replace foreign fossil fuels with domestic supplies. Other local businesses have been stimulated as a result of domestic energy exploration, such as trucking, construction and real estate. With massive reserves of natural gas waiting to be extracted, the U.S. now has a value export besides consumer goods to offset trade balances and debt. Coal still used in other parts of the world can still be mined from high yield areas such as Pennsylvania and Kentucky and can still keep these traditional mining jobs alive, yet again creating another commodity ready for export.

The digital media age still yields vast opportunities. Content creation and content management focuses on targeted users within a specific geographic and/or demographic audience. These jobs are jobs that can be filled with folks that base skill sets derived from journalism and traditional media backgrounds; marketing and advertising professionals, communication and cable industries; as well as workers from the computer era, retrained and updated on new technological delivery devices that give direct content to consumers. Behind the scenes I/T networking jobs are still in high demand; this time instead of tying together the web of desk top computers, it is become a job of mobile device management, integrating the thousands of apps and connecting tens of millions of end users. Design and functionality will continue to thrive as we the consumer asks for style, convenience, and information at the very tip of our fingers when we want it.

No matter the technology, innovation is the key to jump starting Main Street again. These jobs can fill local store fronts and vacant space. Main Street is counting on us to believe in it again. Micro industries and micro economies are a valuable tool to reinvent ourselves. With unemployment at an all-time high (sorry but the statistics do lie), all options to create free market free economy jobs need to be on the table. Who will step up to the plate and be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, or who will be the next Elon Musk? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, as history will demonstrate, innovation will prevail just in the nick of time.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Advertisements

Good Gravy! Sides for a Special Diet Thanksgiving

November 22, 2017

While traditional Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie still have a prominent place on today’s holiday tables, times are a-changin’. The rise in awareness of special diets, along with the wider availability of ingredients once considered exotic, have brought unexpected and delightful dishes to holiday feasts. It’s no longer uncommon to see a meatless Thanksgiving feast that features a portabella-and-shiitake mushroom potpie instead of turkey. Or how about a lower-sugar cranberry sauce sweetened with agave nectar and jazzed up with red wine, or lower-carb, antioxidant-rich purple mashed potatoes instead of russets? The sky’s the limit.

Quinoa has quickly become one of my favorite grains. It’s versatile and works well in soups, salads, and side dishes. While growing up during the 1970s and 1980s, the mention of quinoa would have resulted in quizzical stares, but today I make a gluten-free and vegan quinoa, leek, and sage stuffing that pleases my traditionalist relatives, as well as the more health conscious people in my circle. I originally discovered this gem on Kevin Jacob’s A Garden for the House blog. Below is his original recipe, and I’ve tweaked it a bit by omitting the butter (for a vegan version) and adding a sprinkle of chopped fresh rosemary:

http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2015/11/gf-stuffing-quinoa-with-leeks-and-sun-dried-tomatoes/

Root and cruciferous vegetables are the stars of fall, found in abundance in grocery stores and farmers markets. Yet carrots seem to take a backstage to carb-heavy potatoes, cauliflower and the like on the Thanksgiving table. Here’s a simple yet healthy recipe, courtesy of The Food Network, to bring vitamin-rich, lower-carb carrots to the forefront. To give the dish a more festive appearance, use some heirloom purple and white carrots, in addition to the traditional orange variety:

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/sauteed-carrots-recipe-1916159

Condiments can stymie even the most well-meaning cooks when preparing a Thanksgiving meal for guests with dietary restrictions. It’s one of those details that are way too easy to forget about until the last minute, until you notice a vegan or lactose intolerant guest searching for something other than butter to spread on a roll or bread; it’s a good idea to have on hand a non-dairy butter replacement or savory marmalade.

Gravy is a popular choice to top both meat or non-meat substitutes and potatoes, but most gravy is made with meat. There are some good (and not-so-good) meatless and mushroom-based gravy on the market, but this Golden Gravy, made popular by Real Food Daily restaurant in Los Angeles, Calif., and later published in their cookbook and reposted on numerous blogs, is rich, creamy gravy with zero animal products. It has wowed the omnivores and carnivores in my circle (use low-sodium tamari sauce and omit the salt for a low-sodium version):

http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/golden-gravy-312205

This holiday season, share traditional fare, or dishes that incorporate twists of our favorite classics, or anything in between—food is the universal language that brings everyone together. Cheers to a happy and peaceful holiday season!

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.

 

Community Benefits of Barter

October 26, 2017

The collateral damage of big-box retail invasion into Main Street USA can been seen from coast to coast. All one has to do is get off any major interstate highway exit and head into a historic small town, and you will find a number of empty store fronts, empty parking lots, and “for sale” signs in the windows of buildings. If you travel past the Main Street, usually on the outskirts of town in between another adjacent town, you will find a big box retailer. These stores which might employ a few local people to fulfill the jobs necessary in running a large retailer operation still send its profits out of the community, back to corporate headquarters.

As Main Street businesses struggle with the new normal, it searches for other ways to stay competitive and in keeping those spending dollars in the local community. Many local business owners also live in the same town in which their business services, so it is by no surprise their passion for local pride and wanting to preserve a local economic system. One way of preserving local value creation is with barter.

Since most large big box retailers are only interested in cash, credit, or debit transactions; barter is a unique way for local businesses to capture local and regional clientele, both direct to consumer, and business-to-business in helping them meet their needs. Barter for a local or small business can benefit a community because it’s a system meant to encourage localized trade in one geographic location. It keeps the economic value close to home, direct to those who will use those products and services.

Barter allows for an individual and/or a business to realize real value for their time. With barter, no one ever has to discount their services or products to obtain new clients. Barter allows for your business to gain exposure to new audiences, without the need to spend outrageous budgets on advertising. Being a part of trading network allows you to target specific needs within the network and offer your services to those niche clients. Barter also allows for a business to strengthen relationships with other bartering businesses, keeping both small businesses strong.

Bartering provides flexibility for a small business and/or an individual, such as the ability to get the things they need while conserving hard cash for other business expenditures outside the community. Barter is still a financial contract, so both parties involved in the mutual exchange need to adhere to the agreement. To do otherwise would be no different from not paying for a service or product. Make sure when you do barter, all details of the barter are clearly communicated.

Barter is a simple system that devoid the complex inner workings of a controlled monetary system, allowing for the sense of freedom to conduct commerce between two parties without experiencing the restriction of value on their goods and/or services. When using barter, both sides usually find economic advantages, such as wasting less to get the job done, and provide more of a concentrated effort toward meeting the need of the service, rather than trying to extract more from the other side.

With barter, there is an absence of common measure of value, meaning that there usually is a void in understanding the true value in one good for another as a set standard; for instance, how many eggs must be exchanged for a gallon of milk? Also the inability to divide up a parcel of a commodity presents a challenge. Unlike money, goods cannot be divided or subdivided. This makes for unique situations when trading a larger good for a number of smaller goods. A platform such as Badger Barter, where barter is composed of a trade credit, eliminates this sort of issue.

Barter, without some sort of third-party credit system, makes for other logistical challenges such as deferred payment and transportation an issue, since in a direct barter, everything is an instant exchange. However, in the setting of a tight-knit community where people trust one another, individuals and small businesses can make agreements with each other on time of delivery, and deadlines in which a barter exchange must be realized. Barter keeps a community and its merchants close, and most of all, the community can enjoy the complete benefit of having the true wealth of the exchange stay within the confines of the borders of the community.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative journalist, a consultant for small businesses and CEO for Extreme Energy Solutions, Inc., which creates ecofriendly consumer products and emissions-reduction technology. He is the author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource, and Life in the Green Lane—in Pursuit of the American Dream, as well as many articles addressing environmental concerns, small business and public policy. To view the article sourced, visit Water.usgs.gov/edu/activity-drip.html. For more information, visit SamBurlum.com

 

 

Learning from Adversity

October 23, 2017

Source: Good small business owners are recognized for overcoming challenges; however, great small business leaders are recognized for their ability to capitalize on adversity. Adversity provides the average small business owner the chance to see what their business and character is made of, and if handled appropriately, you can the lessons learned from the adversity to grow your small business.

Not all business owners handle adversity the same. Some business owners have closed their doors because what was deemed a crisis at the time by the business owner, was too much risk to bear. Some business owners have an innate natural ability to shrug off just about any business catastrophe, pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and begin marching again. So, what can adversity teach us? How can adversity work to our advantage? As a small business owner, will you allow for adversity to challenge you or will you conquer it?

Before we can review external factors and challenges to our business, we must first look inward. Some adversity is of our own doing. It is impossible to be right all the time, however, when we fail in business or make a bad business decision, we must own it. It’s your mistake, and it’s time to tackle it. How do you tackle your mistakes? By learning from them.

Adversity builds character. Out of the ashes of adversity, you will develop an iron stomach for negative commentary. Whenever your business experiences something positive, it may be months or even years before your accomplishment is recognized. This is due to society’s love affair  with failure. For some strange reason, when someone fails, society wants to celebrate it. The King of NASCAR, Race Car Legend Richard Petty said it best,

“No one wants to quit when ‘he’ is losing, and no one wants to quit when ‘he’ is winning.”

During your bout with adversity, every critic will be at your door with no short of unsolicited opinions on what you did wrong for your business to fail. Adversity provides another opportunity for you and your business to prove them wrong. Adversity will test the character of those around you. Do you have true friends and colleagues that support you, or are they fair-weather friends? Everyone says they are there for you, and want to be there when things are “okay,” however when things get hard, people seem to change their mind. Adversity will provide you the answers you seek when testing who you are surrounded by.

Adversity is the ultimate test of time. Will you have what it takes to wait out the challenge and fend off adversity? Will your personal ability to be patient grow, or will you become even more frustrated when things don’t work out exactly to your demands? Adversity will help you improve your patience through your small business. You are going to need a lot of patience, because in business you are dealing with people. Not all people will understand you, especially new vendors, employees or clients that come to the table with their own expectations. Patience will become your best friend.

Adversity will help develop your judgment in making better business decisions. Guided by the lessons learned from mistakes, and having a better understanding of timing (patience) your ability to see the signs of what is next in a business cycle, and being able to head disaster off at the pass, comes with experience. Business owners who never have to face a crisis never get a chance to develop better judgement. During the process of adversity, your senses and awareness will sharpen and heighten, as you will always be looking for trouble before it happens, enabling you to successfully mitigate risk, and keep your business on the desired track.

Your business has flaws and weaknesses – no business is perfect. Adversity will show you your business’s flaws, allowing you to take action in making improvements where ever it is needed. This will require you to be specific and disciplined in your focusing on what matters most.

After successfully navigating through several adverse challenges, you will become better at handling a crisis and managing problems. Adversity will allow you to manage future crisis, where you will find yourself less frequently hitting the panic button. Eventually, as a great small business owner, you will be able to manage the problem, instead of the problem managing you. Leadership during handling an adverse situation reflects your ability to identify the source of the challenge, envision a viable solution to the problem, and then the implementation of the solution in such a way that to everyone else, it seems like an everyday part of doing business.

Surviving adversity sends a powerful message to your clients, and staff, as well as the competition. When your business can still deliver to its clients, regardless of the business disruption, it tells the story to your clients that they matter the most. Most people understand if your business experiences such, however, you will always want to communicate the status of the challenge, what you’re doing to tackle the challenge, and the results of your plan. Your clients will know that you are willing against all odds to overcome issues in meeting their expectations, and this sends the message that your business has the skill of resiliency.

Resiliency is the one skill set and trait your competitors will come to envy as you begin to champion every challenge that comes your way. Nothing can stop you when you begin to perceive adversity as an opportunity. No other business owner will ever wish the worse on you, because you like eat problems for breakfast, and doing so only make your business a bigger better competitor.

As a small business owner, you are the captain of the ship. Remember to take a breath—a deep breath—and don’t react or make any decision on the spur of the moment. People will be shouting, demanding, and pressuring you to make decisions without yourself even knowing all the facts. You must become the voice of reason. You must be the steady rock during the turbulence – the captain who can navigate through the storm. But first, you must not do anything except breathe.

Next, I put a silence to all the noise and static, and then remove myself from the fury and the fire. This enables me to approach the matter with a clear head. I do my best not to allow the panic of others to wash over me, which would only hurt my ability to see the situation with clarity. Then I can proceed in taking on the challenge head on without the opinion of others that in many cases do not have all of the facts.

When you first find out about the challenge, it’s important to know the situation and work through the emotional shock yourself. I have felt a series of emotions at the same time when seeing the challenge ahead, face-on. Feeling the emotions of anger, frustration, anxiety, fear and doubt are a normal human reaction; however, you must get command of your emotions. Much like a general on the battlefront, you must put the emotion aside and take command of the situation.

I inform my closest circles that I am aware of the situation and I am in process of gathering all the facts. As a small business owner, your support system may be comprised of a manager, your spouse, your accountant, your attorney, and close mentors and advisors. It is important to demonstrate to them that you are aware of the situation and are willing to deal with the matter head-on.

Before I make any decision, I collect all pertinent information. I take out a sheet of paper and write down the facts. I make two columns: facts that support our ability to overcome the issue, and facts that are outright against the business. I further dig for the source of the issue. Sometimes the motive of where the challenge stemmed from will provide great insight on your ability to discern what are the facts, and the rumor. Knowing the source of the issue and the facts places you in a position to develop a plan for combating a challenge.

Next, I put together a battle plan based on a few scenarios. Just as with life, rarely do things go according to plan, and so I prepare a few options that I could be comfortable with depending on any change in circumstances.

I also research what other business leaders have done in the past in a similar situation. I compare the severity of their business crisis to my business crisis. I compare the choices they made as well as the results. If the results were positive, and in the direction of the business’s vision, then I enhance my action plans based on proven results.

Once I have a set of battle plans drawn up, it is time to propose them to my team. Then it is time to sit back and listen. Your team may have a different perspective which is based on their experience. Their vantage point and wisdom will help you to remove poor choices and options, scaling down the battle plan so that it can be as effective as possible. New ideas may also be proposed, and so you must be flexible in changing the plan if the ideas are more relevant to the situation. As a collective, ask the question, “is this attainable?”

Once a plan has been decided on, invest the time to implement it. Set up meetings with staff and managers, and assign tasks. It is important to also assign yourself some tasks to handle, for your role in taking action is the example of true leadership others will follow. If you are passing the plan to others without yourself having any role in it, you will send the message that you are just trying to shift the responsibilities down the line, which others will resent and feel like the scapegoat if the plan fails.

While explaining the plan to overcome the challenge, you must transfer a sense of confidence so others will also have faith in the plan. If you have no faith in the plan or its potential outcome, then others will be hesitant to take action. The ones that do, will be acting from a place of feeling obligated. Not because of their personal connection to you, or because they believe the plan will provide a positive result. This means you will want to provide supporting facts to your plan.

Once the challenge has been conquered, review with your team about what practices were the most effective. This will allow for your team to be empowered for solving challenges. It is very important that you and your team reflect on what they have learned from the adverse experience. As a business owner, you will want to reward your team for doing such a great job.

While handling the challenge, I still always have a focus with the bigger picture in mind. Knowing your why and having a love affair and obsession with your vision will help you see past the adversity, where some of your energy is always being directed toward your vision, your chief aim, your goals. Challenges are short-term interruptions you and your business experience in its long-term business plan. You must see adversity as an opportunity to strengthen your business, your character, and your market presence.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Growing Your Network

October 16, 2017

Source: Every business needs a support network it can turn to for advice, to help grow its market presence, and provide referrals. Every step in growing your small business network will require you to invest into relationships with potential clients, vendors, employees, and community advocates. So, where do you start?

It is critical to your business’s growth and health that you establish a network of support around you. Every small business needs to have a legion of community advocacy on its side when the business environment becomes hostile. Some of your flow of client referrals may come from other business owners you have developed a relationship with over time, who do not offer the same services as your business. In the event your business experiences a disruption, who are the fellow colleagues in the business community that you can turn to in order to keep your business on track? It’s vital to establish and maintain positive relationships within the industry or business community, for two things will come out of it: resources and opportunities.

A business grows and thrives on building relationships with people. It is very important to join or be part of a business or community network. Joining either a trade organization or a local chamber of commerce will allow your business to outreach towards experienced mentors who have “been there and done that” in the business world. This provides you the luxury of learning from their mistakes and successes.

Joining a business or trade organization will lend your business instant credibility. Most consumers view the lone wolf as such that, a predator out to take their money. However, when a business joins an organization, it usually must qualify under a vetting process that deems the business and its owner credible. You can make personal connections with people, some who may offer client referrals, and in turn you may have clients you cannot serve, and will need to send them somewhere.

Having a network will increase your purchasing power. You can get better group rates if multiple business owners come together to join in using a shared services model to source things like health care or office supplies. Many business organizations or trade groups have preferred vendors which they refer to for business liability insurance, financing, or other business to business services, which may cater their expertise to a specific industry or geographic area.

When building any business relationship, the goal in mind should be to create a mutual or greater value exchange. Whether it is the exchange of ideas, or client referrals or vendor referrals, keep in mind, time is money, and to waste a person’s time without an equal or greater value exchange is to also waste their money as well as your own. Business relationships should be reviewed as long-term. Just because you met someone today or had a discussion with a new business contact today, does not mean they are obligated to you in any way, unless of course you and the other party sign a contract. You must approach each relationship with a pure intention that what you offer will uplift or enhance their life or business in one shape or form.

So where do you go to join? There are local business organizations and trade groups which are a good place to start. I suggest researching your local Chamber of Commerce. This is the place where business owners, politics and community all come together. Chamber of Commerce offers several opportunities to network with other businesses, which is also your audience if your business sells to other businesses. The Chamber of Commerce is an educational resource for your business as they will be able to connect you to information on how to acclimate your business within the local community. Also, the Chamber offers opportunities to connect with the community though a myriad of local events open to the public, giving businesses an opportunity to showcase their products or services to the general local public.

Organizations such as the National Small Business Association, National Federation of Independent Businesses, and National Small Business Association are small business trade organizations that blend solving industry issues with community advocacy to leadership in government. These organizations allow for businesses to network with each other and provide a voice for small businesses collectively, as well as on behalf of small businesses concerning regulatory matters and legislation that will either help or hurt the small business owner.

So how do you build a relationship with the community around you? Community outreach should be a priority when mapping out your marketing and advertising campaign and budget. Not all community outreach costs money. Sometimes it involves investing your time. Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Elks Lodge, and the VFW-American Legion are staples in the community. They are organizations led by local business owners and community leaders that perform good works aimed at uplifting the community. Through your service in one of these organizations, you will get to develop relationships with other people who will recognize your dedication to help others.

Some businesses take the lead by organizing a community activity. 5K runs are a very popular way to get people to gather together for a good cause. The money raised can be donated to charity, and you have plenty of opportunities to get your business name in front of people, leading up to, during, and after the event. As the host and main sponsor, your business name and contact information would be placed on all the event’s marketing materials, sign up forms, social media, and mentioned during the event. You can have a team staffing a booth or table of information made available to racers and supporters.

Another role your business can play in growing its network is becoming a member of a community activist group. This can be tricky because some community activism is driven by political agendas, and so it is important to not push an agenda or get involved with any group that requires you to vacate your personal values or alienates your clients. If you’re a business that caters to female clientele like a beauty parlor, you may choose to help a community activist group that supports women who are victims of domestic violence. If your business is in the environmental industry, you may want to take up cause with a group that advocates for better environmental practices.

Wherever you choose to build relationships, make sure that you are joining because in your heart you want to make a difference, want to help others and effectively uplift the community around you. If you volunteer or join a business organization or trade group with the intent that it’s all about what you can get out of someone else, your actions, words and mannerisms will speak out for your wrong intentions and people will take notice. Building a community and network goes hand in hand in lending your time, expertise, and sometimes financial resources in serving others. Remember, you get back what you give.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Earth Wind and Fire – The Climate Change Debate Rages On

October 4, 2017

Source: No matter which side of the climate change debate you might be on, there is one thing for certain—pollution in its many forms does exist, and it originates from man’s bad habits and irresponsible actions when treating Mother Earth with care. When will we claim our misdeeds and begin to turn around the trend? It’s up to us to make that decision . . .

Seems like the jury is still out about climate change and global warming as believers and debunkers on both sides continue to cast their stones toward the other camp, claiming each side and their scientific community have it wrong. The climate change community purports that human activity has significantly affected our planet’s expediency of the rise of global warming, while opponents debate that global warming is nothing more than a natural phenomenon, and human influence would not be able to create such drastic changes to our planet’s atmosphere.

One thing is certain—no matter what side of the debate you may be on, there is no denying pollution or the effects pollution has on our environment, or to our physical health. Pollution is real, and the most dangerous pollution is the kind we cannot see, for it leaves room for much debate and misinterpretation. Just because we cannot always see it does not mean is not there or that it does not exist.

I can share with you first-hand, from testing technology in the lab and in the field, that pollution—especially toxic harmful vehicle emissions—is a real threat. I have been witness to a number of vehicles tested before the application of a green technology, as the vehicle was sold to the vehicle owner from factory. I have then witnessed a number of vehicles tested after having an emissions reduction green technology installed, such as the Smart Emissions Reducer

These tests were conducted with either a five-gas analyzer and/or with a diesel emissions opacity tester (just like the same testing device used for diesel emissions inspections testing). The testing equipment measures a number of toxic vehicle emissions including hydrocarbons (HC), nitrogen oxides (Nox), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide, and opacity.

Vehicles tested before the device was installed and then after retrofitted with the Smart Emissions Reducer clearly demonstrates that the unseen threat does exists, and it can be mitigated when we choose to allow innovation to do its job.

An article written by Harrison H. Schmitt, an adjunct professor of engineering and at UW-Madison, and William Happer, a professor of physics at Princeton University, both claim that carbon dioxide is not the worst offender; it is other thicker harmful toxic chemical agents such as the unburnt fuel from vehicle tailpipes which are to blame.

These pollutants are dubbed the invisible killers. Unburned hydrocarbons are a major contributor to air pollution. Harmful toxic vehicle emissions as a part of air pollution have had drastic effects on the health of young children.

A study conducted in Newark, New Jersey, found that children living in Newark are three times are more likely to get asthma as a result of poor air quality. Heavy truck traffic, industrial plants, and the very busy sea port are to blame in the area, as these are major contributors of harmful toxic emissions. One in four children must content with asthma in this New Jersey city, effecting children’s ability to learn. Over a half of million school days are lost by children grades K through 12 as a result of poor air quality in Newark, per research presented to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Dr. Ana Baptista, claims, “More people die of pollution than of gunshot wounds in Newark.” Baptista is a co-chair of the Passaic River Superfund Community Advisory Group.

Newark is not alone in this fight. Other major cities with air pollution issues include Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle; cities that have some of the largest sea ports and highest volume of truck traffic in the region.

There is no denying the facts, regardless of what side you are on of the climate change-global warming debate. By our own behaviors and lack of adopting new technological innovations, we are choking ourselves and our children to death.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO and President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in New Jersey. Samuel K. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant and managing Director of ESLC Inc., a consulting firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race To Protect Our Most Important Natural Resouce – Water.

The Minimum Wage Debate – What are We Really Missing?

September 20, 2017

Source: Sam Burlum begins the discussion relating the minimum wage debate: do we make law to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour as some are demanding, or are we missing the bigger picture and asking for the wrong request?

In June of 2015, the City of Los Angeles had adopted an ordinance which mandates the hourly minimum wage to be raised to $15 per hour over the next four years. Prior to the action by the governing body of L.A., the City of Seattle passed a similar ordinance. This came after much public outcry over the issues that surround the dubbed “income inequality” and “fair share” for individuals who may receive minimum wage compensation for entry-level positions or jobs that are considered low-skilled work. Theses recent actions taken by government that mandate individuals to be compensated based on their need rather than being compensated on their performance sets a very dangerous precedents.

There are many questions to be answered as we debate this issue. This is a very complicated issue that deserves more discussion and inclusion of input from economist, small businesses, and intellects who have studied social and community engineering. Government officials who were quick to answer a call of action to mandate the minimum wage hike to $15 per hour were either responding to popular consensus or just eager to capture political votes, I doubt thought of the severe consequences of this very action. There are many economic and social ramifications that small business and society will have to tackle for years to come as a result of increasing the minimum wage in the name of income inequality.

Concerns surrounding the minimum wage hike are far beyond the common arguments discussed by small business and consumers that speak against the measure, afraid it will cause a spike in prices of products and services that rely on entry-level labor to provide. With the middle class continuing to struggle to meet their family’s daily needs, they now have to add into the equation higher prices for goods or services once considered “affordable,” or “economical.” Such an example is in the area of fast food restaurants, where a family of four would entertain a meal for just under $20; has now jumped up in the past 10 years to double the cost. With workers in such establishments now demanding higher pay for entry level work, restaurant chains will be forced to pass along the cost to the consumer, thus making the fast food less affordable.

We must also tackle the issue of what someone’s value, time, and/or skill set are worth. Having to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour for a job or task that clearly does not justly match the service or labor provided will have workers in jobs that require further education and training, maybe more dangerous, or require more investment into the craft will surely be advocating for a larger paycheck that reflects their individual value proposition. For instance, a truck driver whom must content with an industry which is over-regulated and must invest time into extensive training, sometimes without pay, can expect to be paid between $13 per hour to $23 per hour, depending on experience and safety record, according to payscale.com research. The average median pay for a truck driver is $17 per hour. Why would someone want to risk their lives behind the wheel, assume all of the stress and responsibility, and have to deal with being away from home for weeks at a time, for $17 per hour, when they can work a Mc-Job without any stress for $15 per hour and be home every night? Clearly the stage is being set for a serious disagreement by folks whom provide more value than those who are working at entry-level positions.

Opponents also says that a minimum wage hike sends the wrong message overall to society. By “entitling” people to make what are wages usually reserved for middle class families and the trades, we are sending a message that society is diminishing the value and virtue of self-responsibility. When a person is compensated based on need, and not on performance or based on the skill sets they provide, we are undermining incentive for those who wish to provide quality work, those who wish to continue to invest into their trade or professions in order to stay competitive in the job market. If everyone is to receive equal pay regardless of the value they bring to the table, then why should anyone work so hard?

One area of great debate is how do we justify a $15 per hour minimum wage for someone who works in an entry-level position, when someone who serves in the military and puts his or her life on the line to defend our freedoms, who will face hostile situations, only makes between $15 to $22 per hour, depending on the range of skill sets and assignments they are commanded to carry out. If one can make $15 per hour as an entry level position, then why would anyone want to join the military as a career choice knowing that such a job consists of far more risk? To offer $15 per hour for a job reserved clearly as entry level, in this situation should be reconsidered and denied as a matter of national security.

Companies are already looking for ways to lessen the need of minimum wage workers in their operations. In retail and grocery stores, automated self-service checkout registers are quickly replacing cashiers and front-end clerks. You may see one individual who would now oversee four registers where in the past you would have one clerk to every register. Fast food restaurants and airports have been replacing people with self-service kiosk. Some businesses have stopped hiring all together, including some businesses interviewed who are family owned and located on Main Street. More workers are also hired as part-time and are limited hours, so they can never reach full-time status.

Mandated minimum wage increases are just a bandage on the broken arm of the much severe challenge at large. The real source of the problem is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but yet everyone is afraid to say it. As we the people, we should not be demanding $15 per hour compensation for a minimum wage job; we should be demanding better jobs. Jobs associated with minimum wage compensation are usually jobs set aside for low-skill or no-skill workers. These are usually entry-level positions where the value provided by the employee is not of its greatest value relating to the product or service offered to the consumer. With the economic downturn in the United States, and the vast migration of manufacturing jobs lost to cheaper labor overseas, individuals once in middle management or low-paying skilled jobs have had to resort to accepting what work is available.

Instead of demanding that politicians write laws that increases minimum wage, we should be demanding our jobs back that did allow us to properly support our families. We should be asking our nation’s leaders to address the hard questions, such as how are they (the elected officials or government decision makers) going to help recreate the preexisting conditions necessary that will foster innovation, encourage the renewal of the entrepreneurial spirit, and restore American free enterprise. Provided the opportunity to properly operate without the over burdensome number of government regulations, and control over free trade agreements, such companies would provide many quality jobs to support products and services manufactured here on U.S. soil. We should be holding elected officials and government regulators accountable to their actions that created today’s unfriendly and adversarial business climate that has forced many companies to move valuable manufacturing jobs overseas, jobs in which paid at entry-level above the $15 per hour mark.

We should be questioning the very ideals and details of free trade and be demanding fair trade where these policies have diluted the American market place with goods that are cheap replicas of lesser quality from foreign countries instead of making policy that would protect our very own income producing centers and industries. Instead of trying to be politically correct in the “global village” how come we did not protect our valuable industry profit centers that needed a well-qualified skilled labor force to assist in the success of the company, in which that company would then offer its goods as a valuable export to the world?

The issue of income inequality is just a cover-up, masking the much bigger problem at large: where are all of the jobs that would allow for an individual to challenge themselves in seeking higher education or mastering a trade or specific niche skill set? Have we not any jobs left that allow for our society to take onto himself or herself the responsibility in seeking or aspiring to higher advancement? Are we a nation that now produces nothing but roll back deals, ATM fees, and Big Macs? Are we setting a trend where mediocrity rules and the true value creation is minimized? The answer to this entire debate is better jobs that offer better compensation equivalent to the skill sets provided by the worker. The answer is to minimize some of the adversarial conditions which discourage entrepreneurs from making financial investments and which prevents them from taking a risk. To do those two things we would be providing something much greater than income equality; we would be providing opportunity equality, which fosters by natural progression far more individual wealth and freedom.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.