Saturday, October 21, 2017


Here's my TROY-BILT FLEX review after using the Flex Power Base and the Wide Area Mower and Pressure Washer around the GardenFork Testing Grounds. The testing grounds, otherwise known as my yard, are typical of what your average homeowner has: grass, trees, some weeds, dogs.

I've known the Troy-Bilt brand for many years. Their rear tine rototillers are the best, I think, and make life easy, especially if you've ever wrestled with a front tine tiller.

So when I was asked if I'd like to try out Troy Bilt's new Flex system, I signed on. The delivery truck brought 3 boxes of Flex components, and I got 4 free wood pallets from the truck driver. Neat.


Here's the way I describe the Flex system: Its all based on a power unit that a bunch of different tools snap onto. The Flex base is like the rear half of a walk behind self propelled snowblower with a PTO out the front that snaps into several different attachments. I like the idea of having one power source and a bunch of outdoor equipment attachments. So I only have to maintain one engine, not an engine for every outdoor power tool in the garage. Plus, you save on garage storage space – the attachments have a smaller footprint – making it all easier to store.

If you've ever been on a working farm, all the tractors have a PTO (power take off) shaft on the back and sometimes front to run different machines, this is the same concept for the Flex line.

Right now Troy-Bilt has mower, snow thrower, pressure washer, and leaf blower attachments for the power base, I'm told a log splitter and a few other attachments are in the works. I'd really like that log splitter, it would make fast work of the pines I've been dropping for next winter's sap season.

I chose the Wide Area Mower and the Pressure Washer attachments to test out. The back of my clapboard house has mold growing on it, so this was perfect. We'll be making a video showing the power washing and mowing this summer.

It feels solid. This is kinda intangible, I know, but you know how some mowers just feel cheap? This doesn't, it has good feel and nice power.

The power wheels are better, they are pnuematic, meaning they have air in them instead of solid plastic wheels of many self-propelled walk behinds. The rig powers nicely through the lawn. The drive system is robust, unlike many self-propelled mowers that have a small belt that powers the wheels.

The mower deck is 28″ wide, so I'm already saving time from my 20″ wide walk behind mower. Rough math tells me that every 3 passes with the Flex is 4 passes with my smaller mower.

The front wheels spin free, so you can make surprisingly tight turns for such a large mower deck. You can also lock the wheels for when you are mowing on hills for better control.

The Flex powers through the yard at a nice clip with enough power to go up a moderate hill. The lever that controls the speed of the wheels takes a few minutes to master, the low end of the range is short, so when you grab the lever, it starts moving faster than you expect at first. You should wear ear protection, the Flex mower isn't super loud, but it all adds up.

I then worked with the Pressure Washer attachment. Here's where the advantages of the Flex system become clear. I don't have to own a pressure washer that has its own engine, this pressure washer just snaps onto the Flex base. One less engine to maintain.

The pressure washer comes with 5 spray nozzles and 40′ of hose, plenty to get up to the 2nd floor of your house and wash the siding. It pumps 3,000 psi, which is more than enough for what you all are doing around the house. I used a friend's power washer a while back and it was made mostly of plastic, this isn't. Plus I like the hose rack, its large enough to store all of the hose, unlike some other washers I've used where the hose storage never works.

I know GardenFork is all about ‘done is better than perfect', but sometimes the details matter, and the photo below makes that clear to me. When I put gas in the Flex tank, I saw the cap was chained, and the chain was metal, not plastic. It's not something many would notice, but that tells me the people who designed this designed it to last.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Best Portable Laptop Battery Chargers

The whole point of having a laptop is so you can be connected on-the-go, but sometimes your laptop's battery life might have other plans. Portable laptop chargers (for example: GOAL ZERO VENTURE 30 RECHARGER will help keep you powered up, but choosing the right one to purchase can be tricky. The best chargers work with a variety of systems, are lightweight and have the proper power outputs needed to juice up your device. So if you're stumped on which to buy, our list of top portable laptop chargers available in 2017 can help.

MAXOAK External Battery Power Bank for Laptop & Notebook
The MAXOAK External Battery is a versatile power beast. First, it features six charging ports. One is a 20-volt/3-amp port for laptops, one is 12-volt/2.5-amp port for digital cameras, two are 5-volt/2.1-amp USB ports and two 5 volt/1 amp USB ports. Second, it has 50,000 mAh of battery life, meaning you could recharge your laptop and phones many times before having to recharge the external battery power bank. Third, it measures just 8.1 x 5.3 x 1.3 inches and weighs 2.77 pounds, so it could easily fit into your camping bag and it won’t be that much heavier. Finally, it includes 14 types of laptop connectors, so it covers most models but not Apple laptops. If you don’t have an Apple laptop or a laptop that uses USB Type C, you’ll likely be able to plug it in, but be sure to check if your laptop is supported before purchasing.

Crave PowerPack CRVPP101

The Crave PowerPack CRVPP101 is a powerful portable charger for recharging nearly any device you can throw at it. It measures 6 x 8 x 2 inches, weighs two pounds and has 50,000 mAh in battery capacity, which means it could charge your phones and laptops multiple times before it needs a recharge. For ports, the device has four USB charging ports and two laptop power supply ports. It’s compatible with many laptop brands, including Sony, Acer, Dell, IBM, Fujitsu, HP, NEC, Toshiba, Samsung and Lenovo. However, it does not work with Apple laptops and you should be sure to check if your specific connector is compatible with this charger before purchasing. Also be sure double check that your laptop charger draws less than five amps for compatibility. On top of all these features, it also includes a micro-USB cable and a travel pouch, so you can go anywhere with it, whether it’s camping or a road trip.

ChargeTech Portable AC Battery Pace

ChargeTech Enterprises is a fascinating small company that got its start on Indiegogo, raising about $450,000 to make “the best portable AC power supply.” Since that time, the ChargeTech Portable AC Battery Pack has become a popular item that anyone can buy on Amazon. This unit measures 7.5 x 5.2 x 1 inches and weighs 1.56 pounds. It offers 27,000 mAh of battery and can charge electronic items that are up to 85 watts, including laptops, digital cameras, curling irons and more. On top of having an AC outlet, it also has two USB ports that charge at 2.4 amps, so you can easily charge your phone or tablet too. On the top of the unit, you’ll find four blue LED lights that tell you how much battery the device has left. Keep in mind that with this battery only being able to charge electronics up to 85 watts, you’ll want to closely check the settings on what you are attempting to charge before charging.

Intocircuit Power Monster 32000-mAh Portable Charger Power Bank

More than just a laptop charger, this 32000-mAh capacity portable charger will provide more than one full charge to most laptops and can give 15 or more charges to your smartphone. It can charge three devices at one time and features a smart LCD screen that displays the power level, charging and discharging status. This charger also comes with a UK, US and EU power adapter, making it perfect for travel. It’s a bit heavy at 3.2 pounds, but it's still a great value. It comes with a 12-month replacement warranty, a 30-day money back guarantee and a lifetime support guarantee.

Poweradd Pilot Pro2 23000 mAh Multi-Voltage Portable Charger

This external charger has the capability of charging your laptop, as well as two USB devices at the same time. It comes with a number of connectors and has adjustable voltage outputs to meet the needs of your various devices. An LCD display window lets you know exactly how much power you have left, and as a safety feature this charger will automatically shut off when a short circuit or overload happens, in order to keep your devices safe. The ten included notebook connectors will fit DC models A through K and each USB output is 5V. This is a little heavier and larger than the RAVPower model, at 8.5 x 6.9 X 3.3 inches and 2.1 pounds, but it’s still worth buying, especially with the 24-month limited product warranty. With the low price and the ability to adjust the voltage needs, this charger is a great for someone who has a variety of devices with differing power requirements; it also eliminates the need to buy multiple portable chargers.

XTPower MP-30000 Power Bank
The XTPower MP-30000 charger is brick shaped as opposed to the other models, which are long and flat. It’s a very reasonable price, and contains the standard three outputs (one laptop, two USB). Easy to use, this model can be operated with only one button. The XTPower charger also comes with a 10-laptop DC adapter, a 70cm DC cable and a 70cm USB to Micro USB cable. And it will fit DC output models A through M with its DC adaptor cable. Despite its brick-like shape (,8.46 x 3.15 x 1.51 inches), this model only weighs 1.81 pounds.

Lizone Extra Pro

The Lizone Extra Pro external battery charger is capable of charging most 13” laptops a full two times on one charge. This lithium-ion battery includes a full-speed laptop DC port (up to 4.5A 90W) and USB port charge up to 2.1A. Available in both black and silver, the aluminum body Lizone is just 1.5 pounds and measures 6.5 x 4.8 x .8 inches. It can perform more than 600 charges over its lifetime and it has a battery bar on the side that displays the current charge of the external battery. Alongside your laptop, the Lizone can power your iPhone 6s Plus more than 14 times before running out of power. However the DC output port likely means you’ll need to provide your own cable.

Turcom Ultra Capacity Portable External Battery Pack

This charger is available in black, silver and pink, and is compatible with a variety of popular laptops and notebook-style devices. It is powered by a rechargeable Lithium-Ion 33600 mAh battery. The specifications are 15V input and a 24V output 15V/20V – 125Wh. This battery has an eight-hour charging time and weighs 2.4 pounds, and it'll work with USB devices (you'll also be able to power multiple devices at one time). A manufacturer’s warranty is also available for this device. With its large capacity and stylish color options, this is a solid, fashionable choice for someone who wants a little variety or customization when it comes to the look of their portable charger.

Friday, July 28, 2017

What Are Pay Stubs for? identifies this component of the paycheck which employees could retain after having deposited the paycheck received by them. The customary information contained there's the total paid, some private information of the employee for use of the plaintiff, and a continuing computation of earnings all around the entire year or for the whole length of the employee's employment. It is most common for the to offer thorough information of deductions taken towards insurance gains, taxes, retirement programs, and these like features that could influence the employees' pay.

Paychecks generally signify the payment which an employer makes for their workers. It functions as a method of maintaining a check on the documents to permit the employer and the worker to absolutely keep a track of their wages or other benefit paid from time to time. A is a record that's generally connected to the pay check for providing details regarding the payment made to the worker. The design and data included in paychecks can vary with the company, however, certain features are typical.

The most usual information in a pay check is made up of the title of the worker, the Social Security Number of the employee or a different identifier provided by the employer. It normally has a special number for every employee with the intention of keeping internal documents, as well as the name together with the address of their employer. The would also define the purpose of making the payment, the period for which it's being created, and a rest up of the sum, if the employee is becoming paid on hourly basis. The may also show the whole sum paid within a period of one year or possibly a longer period.

An important quality of issuing is to keep the employee informed on the numerous deductions created for the use of taxation. Usually, these can be reflected individually, such as state tax, federal taxation, retirement plan and health gain etc.. Additionally, it will demonstrate the deductions made for the week or month for which the worker is getting paid, as well as the overall deductions,  created so far for the year. Aside from keeping the workers informed of the amounts paid and the deduction created, it helps to keep a record with the intention of paying taxes along with other useful details.

It's advised for to be kept until you file your annual tax return. Though companies would offer the last statement at the close of the year prior to January 31 of each year, it's a good idea to keep the to compare and make sure that the numbers are true. Normally, tax specialists suggest one to keep the listing of taxes paid within the previous seven decades.

It's crucial to eliminate this with the support of a shredding machine, because these may be utilized for collecting substantial parts of private information, such as the date of arrival along with the social security number.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Wearing the MOULTRIE HD VIDEO GLASSES in Realtree Xtra, you'll be able to capture high-definition 720p footage of that elusive trophy buck and document your encounter for all time. A built-in point-of-view camera allows for the hands-free recording of HD video with sound on an included 8GB microSD card. Thanks to these video glasses, you can record hunting, fishing, sports and outdoor field activity without a large, bulky camera. Simply put these cool camo glasses on and capture the action wherever you look.

Realtree is the world’s leading camouflage designer, marketer and licensor with over 2,000 licensees utilizing the Realtree camouflage brand. Thousands of outdoor and lifestyle products are available in Realtree camouflage patterns. In addition, Realtree is committed to supporting individuals and groups that work to ensure our outdoor heritage, the conservation of natural places, and the wildlife that resides there.

Records 720p HD video with sound
Simple one button ON/OFF operation
Rechargeable lithium battery with approximately 2 hours of continuous recording
Interchangeable polarized and clear lenses
Realtree® Xtra camo finish
USB charging cable
Rugged carrying case
8GB micro SD card included (installed)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Big ways small businesses can give back to their communities

Giving back to the community is a big part of operating your business in a socially responsible manner, and it can significantly improve your business model. Although big businesses give thousands of dollars to charitable causes, small businesses can also offer community service in ways that have a large impact.

How to give back

Generally, a monetary contribution is the common form of giving back to the community; however, there are many beneficial ways your business can provide time and effort to worthy causes.

1. Encourage employees to volunteer

It costs only time to set aside a day for community service, which may be over a weekend or holiday. Employees can volunteer to visit and play with orphaned children, help paint a room in an elderly person's home, or simply serve and feed children with special needs. You can select the ideal cause by discussing options with your employees so they will be enthusiastic about the choice.

2. Offer your expertise

As a business owner, you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be beneficial to the community. Your expertise in business can also be useful to nonprofit institutions. Choose an organization that could use your help and schedule to share at a time that is convenient for you.

3. Hold contests at your workplace

Employees are your biggest asset in your charitable efforts. You can decide to conduct an internal donations race by establishing different teams to compete for cash prizes that go toward a worthy cause. This method works in two ways: it instills teamwork in your staff, and it gives your employees a sense of responsibility for the less fortunate in the community.

4. Change collections and "round ups"

Most customers would gladly donate their change when offered the opportunity and information about the charitable beneficiary. For a brick-and-mortar business, you can have cans at various spots in your store or offices where your customers and visitors can deposit loose change. Ensure that the cans are well labeled to indicate the cause or organization they are supporting. For an online business, you can allow customers to round up their payments so that the difference goes to charity. Again, specify the beneficiary.

5. Upsell on charitable causes

Another way to make donations for a worthy cause is by setting aside a certain percentage of each sale to go to an organization of your choice. This can be done on a regular basis. Alternatively, you can make donations to a single organization or various organizations in a given year. You may also consider making a collection box available to take donations from customers in the form of money, food, or clothing items.

6. Offer future discounts on products

You can offer discounts to customers who donate food or clothing towards a cause you are supporting. The best way to get your customers energetic about this is by providing different percentages on discounts depending on what they donate. This should get the customers excited about giving as much as possible in order to secure substantial discounts in the future.

7. Tweets or likes on social media

One of the simplest ways of supporting a worthy cause is by posting an image on social networks and dedicating a certain amount of money for each like and retweet. Urge your audience to share the image. Depending on how active your audience, who are ideally your customers, becomes, you should be able to come up with a reasonable amount to donate.

Merits of philanthropy

There are many external benefits for businesses engaged in social good. From getting your name out in the community to bringing in new customers, you get to experience increased purchasing behavior and greater customer satisfaction as well as higher employee retention. It all starts with listening to what is happening in your customers' lives and defining ways that you can provide assistance when possible. Here are some salient benefits.

1. Decrease your tax liability
. In most cases, your small business will receive a full tax deduction on charitable contributions.

2. Boost your reputation.Philanthropy accords your business positive publicity and reputation, which are essential for success in business. As you contribute to social causes and attract publicity, your visibility will be enhanced, which ultimately affects your sales. Likewise, you can recover from a bad reputation by having the commitment to doing good for the community.

3. Improved client base and motivated employees. Giving back to the community attracts a client base that tends to be better educated and willing to spend an extra dollar because they are aware that it is going back to a good cause. In addition, the success of your small business becomes more important to your team because they are part of an establishment that makes a positive impact on the community. Giving back becomes an incentive for employee loyalty because they know they are working for something bigger than the periodic paycheck.

4. Gain unique advantage. Philanthropy differentiates your company and gives you an edge over the competition. Consumers will look for products and services from those organizations that place equal emphasis on their business and social interests by working to better society. When quality and price are equal, the critical factor influencing brand choice is purpose; thus, being socially responsible sets you apart from competing ventures.

5. Boosts morale.Giving something back to the community feels good; the feeling of reward is apparent and makes the business owner happy. Happy business operators tend to lead successful ventures. Generally, business owners want to see that their enterprise is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

In general, a small business can be part of community service in small ways that can bring about significant changes. Help should be seen not only in monetary terms, but also in the assistance that can be given to those who may not be capable of performing their activities well. When your business gets into the habit of assisting the community, it becomes recognizable by more customers. Customers may want to refer others to your products and services because of the worthy causes you support. Have a schedule on how often you wish to serve in this capacity so the normal activities of your business will not be impacted negatively.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Small business social media management: You can handle the truth

In an increasingly digital world in which your small business interacts with existing and potential customers over the Internet, having a social media presence is a must. You have to leverage social media, and the key to success with social media management for any business boils down to teaching your audience something new.

Your social media strategy should plant a conversation among consumers about your business, products, or services so that they are favorably disposed or driven to your business website. It should also place emphasis on teaching your audience something.

What is social media management?

In today's social media landscape, it has become easier for people to engage, interact, and collaborate with businesses on various levels, whether it's giving feedback, learning new ideas, or even purchasing products through special online promotions. As you further engage your audience, the volume of your conversations is bound to rise, becoming a challenge to track effectively.

Social media management is about having a system in place that will monitor, filter, contribute to, measure, and guide your social media presence, akin to managing a community website forum. You should have personnel who can devote some time to help you manage outbound and incoming online interactions, along with other marketing activities, efficiently.

The objective of social media management is to streamline and consolidate the way your company listens to and participates in conversations on various social networking platforms, including blogs. By monitoring what people are saying about your business, you can automate the process of simultaneously delivering your outgoing messages on the various social media outlets, amplifying your social media presence.

Feedback: Should you care?

Social media is like word-of-mouth on steroids. It is vital that you tap into and join online conversations about your business, your industry, and your areas of expertise, as well as those of your competitors. Keep a pulse on what users are saying — good or bad — about your business, competitors, and major trends. Your outbound social media strategy should focus on representing your business in a positive, authentic fashion to build credibility for your business and link to customers and prospects quickly.

Although there will be a wealth of information in the feedback you receive from current and future customers, not every comment received is going to be useful. Social media management will enhance the way you get your arms around the many-headed social media Hydra that can often get nasty when negative conversations about your business emerge.

You can handle the truth

Be prepared to handle negative feedback. Often, this type of feedback is an opportunity to grow. For instance, you can learn something that customers want changed regarding your product or service. As part of your social media strategy, evaluate remarks carefully and figure out how to react to negative comments swiftly and appropriately.

Have a clear-cut reaction plan that includes damage-control procedures to ensure that the issue is addressed quickly and effectively. Again, like word-of-mouth on steroids, unhappy or dissatisfied customers, disgruntled employees, and even false feedback can damage your business reputation in no time.

Address potentially false comments that may skew opinions about your business and lead to brand damage. By streamlining and integrating customer interactions, you can steer the discussion in a constructive and informative manner.

Here are some suggestions for handling negative comments:

Don't delete negative feedback unless it contains inappropriate language or lewd comments.

Don't respond defensively. This will likely initiate a battle with the audience.

Don't ignore negative feedback. Treat the conversation as you would on a telephone call. Your customer service representative wouldn't hang up on a complaining customer, right?

Determine whether the feedback has some truth to it. Stay calm, manage your ego, and acknowledge the feedback. If the customer has a legitimate complaint, genuinely and publicly apologize. You may then take the conversation offline and offer a solution.

If you consider a comment as slightly misguided or if, in your view, the feedback is only partially true, acknowledge the error or mistake and offer apologies. Try to correct any misinformation. You may respond to the source offline and provide a solution.

If the feedback is outright wrong, far from the truth, or just a perceived dissatisfaction, acknowledge the comment and write a general apology. Try to get more details offline. If it is highly subjective and nasty, avoid getting emotionally involved in the opinion, but use it to improve customer relations and demonstrate compassion for those customers who are upset.

As a general rule, walk in the customer's shoes and make it easy for them to give their feedback. Be transparent when addressing their concerns. Done right, social media sites can help you better understand prospective and existing customer needs. They can also increase your visibility and generate leads.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Increase Your Social Media Reach: 5 Tips

The social media reach of your business is largely influenced by the content you post and its "shareability" — that is, how and whether others like, comment, link or share it. Providing content that triggers emotional or surprise responses is more likely to be circulated in social networks. When you are posting an article that is factual, spin it to evoke emotion or provide an unexpected fact to elicit surprise.

Above all, your goal is conversion, which means turning audiences into active, loyal customers. Your social network platforms should serve as lead generators for your small business.

1. Share useful content

Content marketing has come to define how businesses share useful information and indirectly advertise without selling. You can expand the social media reach of your business by writing and sharing instructive articles, blog posts or tips and tricks. Adding value to peoples' everyday lives will likely lead them to subscribe to you and further share the content with their followers.

Additionally, your posts must be consistent in order to attract more visits from people who want to remain up-to-date. Provide original, quality content that seeks to answer customers' questions related to your industry or area of expertise.

2. Social media integration

It is important for customers to know you are on social media. Promote your social network presence by integrating social media in your product packaging, service communications and traditional marketing campaigns to alert the public about where to find you on the social web. You just need to include your social network addresses on your packaging, printed materials, email signature, Website and other advertisements or promotional items.

3. Engagement and feedback

Interacting and engaging with other people is one of the most important functions of content marketing. Make sure to always acknowledge and thank those that comment, provide feedback or even complain about your product or service to assure them that there is a real person representing your company. People want to be heard, and participating in discussions creates that sense of community.

Make an effort to configure your page to block content that contains specific keywords or profanity, but do not delete negative content. Instead, address it objectively and promptly to create trust.

4. Organize contests on social media

An effective way to extend your reach is to organize a social media contest, such as a sweepstakes where participants retweet a funny but educational video about your product or service or a photo caption contest where entrants submit a photo of a friend and fill in a caption about how your product makes them stand out. This ensures both the actual participant and their friend become engaged in your business social site. A contest will reward loyal followers, fans and/or readers and can be leveraged as motivation for a new audience (potential customers) to connect their profile. Companies such as Constant Contact offer social campaign tools that are easy to use.

5. Offer to guest post

Guest posts are an excellent way to expand your reach to audiences in an unfamiliar community. Ensure your business name is mentioned alongside your posts. Though many people might not know who you are and what your business is about, a well-written guest post can compel a user to connect with you or share your post. This will not only increase your reach socially, it will translate to an increased customer base.

Marketing is essential to your business. However, as you create truly great content and share it on your social networks, do not overwhelm your followers with branded posts. Content marketing should be subtle, unlike traditional push advertising. Follow the 80/20 rule and limit promotional posts to 20 percent of your content. Having an effective social media strategy ensures that regularly published, relevant posts will stand out from a cluttered social media news feed, giving you the most exposure possible.