What It Takes to Digitally Transform a Business

What It Takes to Digitally Transform a Business

Most new businesses have the benefit of starting from scratch with fully digital processes. They’ll lay the groundwork for the business with critical apps and other technology that can heighten productivity, save on costs, and maintain environmental sustainability.

But for businesses that have operated for years, or even decades with paper records and manual processes, the idea of converting to a digital environment can be intimidating. Many digital transformation attempts go wrong, so if you want to be successful, you need to understand exactly what it takes to make such a program work.

What Is a Digital Transformation?

First, you need to understand what it means to “digitize” your work, or digitally transform your organization. This can mean different things to different people, but digital transformation occurs whenever you take a formerly manual or paper-based process and upgrade it so it can be done with digital tools.

For example, you might convert your paper records in filing cabinets into digital records, stored in an online database. You might turn a manual, paper-based inventorying process into something completed with digital scanners.

In some cases, a business may attempt to fully digitally transform itself; every operation, from the top down, must change in some way. These large-scale efforts are often intensive and expensive, but they have the power to save an organization a ton of money and improve productivity indefinitely.

Keys to Success in Digital Transformation

There are several important fundamentals to ensure your digital transformation is a success, including:

  • A clear vision. First, you need to have a clear vision of what you’re trying to achieve. Merely adopting the “digital is better” mentality isn’t enough. You have to know which products and services are currently available, and understand exactly how they’re going to make your organization “better.” You can dig into specifics later, but you should have a clear overarching vision of how your organization will improve from the start.
  • Documented goals, tasks, and subtasks. From there, you’ll need to formally document as much of your plan as possible. You’ll need high-level goals and sub-goals to achieve, complete with a timeline on when to achieve them. You’ll also need to break this digital transformation project down in terms of tasks and subtasks. Who will be responsible for achieving these? When must they be complete?
  • Leadership and accountability. It’s important for your digital transformation to have a clear leader and accountability throughout the team. Ideally, one point person will be in charge of executing the full digital transformation; it’s their job to assign tasks and ensure deadlines get met. Along the way, various individuals will be assigned responsibilities and tasks, and it’s important to instill accountability in them so they’re motivated to finish their work.
  • Access to the right tools. It should go without saying that your digital transformation success is largely dependent on the types of tools you’re using for the transformation. With bad hardware, bad software, or an incomplete set of tools, your digital transformation simply won’t work. It’s on you to research what types of tools your organization needs, which specific products are the best in each category, and how those products can all work together.
  • Employee unity. Employees often resist change, for the same reasons we all resist change in various areas of our lives. However, if your digital transformation is going to be successful, your employees all need to be on board. Spend some time educating your employees on the importance of digital transformation, and assuage the concerns of people who are reluctant to adapt.
  • Appropriate timing. It’s not a good idea to start a digital transformation in the middle of your busiest season. Timing your transformation will be challenging, but it’s an important consideration to bear in mind.
  • Coordinated changeovers. Similarly, it’s important to coordinate changeovers from old systems to new systems. If some of your team members start using a digital system on Monday, but others are still using a paper-based or manual method on Wednesday, you’ll struggle to reconcile the differences. Make sure all your official “launch” dates are clear and understood—and set a firm expiration date for now-obsolete processes.
  • Room for flexibility. Having a solid, consistent plan for how you’re going to operate digitally in the future is good, but you also need room for flexibility. Your best-laid plans aren’t always going to work out as intended, and new ideas for improvement will constantly emerge. Prepare to adapt as you roll out your new systems.

Planning and executing a digital transformation is harder than it first seems, especially for a large organization. But with the right goals, plenty of proactive critical thinking, and a supportive team to help you along the way, you can greatly improve your organization with minimal downtime or obstacles.

5 Smart Tips and Tactics for Spending Less on Your Next Car

5 Smart Tips and Tactics for Spending Less on Your Next Car

Buying a car can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive. With the right strategies, you can lower the cost, get a better deal, and spend less on your monthly payments. Sound good? Read on!

5 Tips for Spending Less on Your Next Car

If you’re like the average person, a house is the most expensive purchase you’ll ever make. But vehicles come in a close second. Thankfully, there are ample opportunities to save. Here are a few highly recommended suggestions:

1. Set Your Budget

Start by asking yourself two questions:

  • How much can I spend?
  • How much do I want to spend?

For some people, the answer to these questions is the same. But if you want to make a fiscally sound decision, you should probably spend less than you can afford to pay.

Once you set your budget, it’s important that you stick to this budget. (And it’s also wise to remember that you don’t have to max out your budget. If you know you can afford to spend $20,000 on a car, paying $17,000 is even better.)

2. Know Where to Find Deals

Sourcing the right deal is half the battle. The same vehicle can cost 15 to 20 percent less than it does at another dealership, but you have to know where to look.

Buying from a private party will almost always yield a lower price. (No added fees and expenses.) And if you’re in a state with high property tax rates, buying across state lines could save you a few hundred to several thousand dollars.

3. Use This Little-Known Email Trick

Tom Niejadlik is in the car business. He’s spent more than 15 years in car showrooms, negotiating with buyers, and mastering the ins and outs of the business. And while he’s seen a variety of negotiation tactics and techniques over this time, there’s one method he says is most effective right now; it involves sending one simple email.

You can read about the process in this article, but here’s the gist of the methodology:

  • Do your research and find out the fair market price for the type of car you’re interested in.
  • Locate seven to 10 dealerships in your region that have the car you’re looking for.
  • Send an email and visibly CC a salesperson from each dealership on the message.
  • In your email, include the fact that you’ve selected a vehicle you want to buy, have already test driven it, and are ready to buy. Explain any options that you must have and that you’re aware of all costs associated with these various options. You should also mention that you’re pre-approved for financing, but would prefer to finance through the seller.
  • Give the dealers 24 hours to respond with their best offer and promise to provide a credit card deposit over the phone.

Dealers hate emails like this, but many will bite. And the best part about it is that you’re showing the dealers they have competition. Some will ignore your email, but you should get at least three to five responses. You can then use these deals as leverage to negotiate even lower offers.

4. Secure a Low Interest Loan

The purchase price of the vehicle is the first major element you need to flesh out. However, it’s also imperative that you secure the lowest car loan rate possible. This requires shopping around online and comparing various rates from different lenders.

5. Buy Used Over New

Buying a new vehicle might seem attractive when you’re on a test drive and you find yourself intoxicated by that new car smell, but it’s rarely a smart choice. New cars depreciate rapidly in the first year – losing more than 20 percent in the first year alone. Why not buy a pre-owned vehicle with low mileage and let someone else take that hit?

Be an Intentional Car Buyer

Lazy car buyers get taken for a ride every single time. Not only do lazy buyers pay too much for their vehicles, but they also overpay on high-interest loans. If you want to spend less money, you have to become an intentional car buyer. This means carefully weighing the details and paying attention to every little aspect (including budgeting, deal sourcing, financing, etc.). Hopefully this article has provided you with a good starting point to begin your search.

3 Professionals That Can Help Win Your Car Accident Case

3 Professionals That Can Help Win Your Car Accident Case

So you’ve just been in a car accident. It’s the sort of thing that happens to just about everyone at least once in their lives, but particularly if you’ve been in a serious accident, the aftermath can be frightening and leave you with a lot of questions about what to do next. Seeking medical care is a top priority, as is contacting your insurance and finding an attorney. For those car accident victims hoping for an optimal legal outcome, though, seeking out additional expert help beyond these core players can make a big difference.

Who do you want supporting your case when you enter the courtroom? These 3 types of consultants can all offer valuable information, helping you claim victory and collect the damages you deserve.

Industry Standards

In any given case, your lawyer will determine what experts to consult in support of your case, but at the Gainesville-based law firm Fine, Farkash, and Parlapiano, PA, the team often brings on accident reconstruction experts, economists, care planners, and other medical experts when litigating car accident cases. As a group, this set of experts is uniquely positioned to identify factors ranging from fault to loss of income and long-term care needs. While your lawyers can identify key areas of concern, they don’t have the specialist knowledge and authority to argue these issues to juries and insurance companies on their own.

Reconstructing The Scene

One of the most valuable expert groups in any car accident case is the accident reconstruction specialist, a role that is essentially self-explanatory. The question many people have about accident reconstruction experts, though, is how important are they? After all, with video cameras just about everywhere these days, what can these experts show that cameras can’t?

Traffic reconstruction experts provide valuable information based on visits to the accident scene, evaluation of the damage done to the vehicles, study of debris and tire tracks, and study of surveillance video and medical and police records. There really aren’t other experts besides your lawyer who gets to see all of these pieces in one place. Their knowledge of car accident mechanics and ability to synthesize this information brings a critical, comprehensive view of the event into the courtroom.

Effective Economists

Why would an economist consult on a car accident case? It may seem like an odd fit, but if you want to get the maximum financial settlement, you want a labor economist on your side. That’s because a labor economist can testify to your earning capacity, consider how future industry changes and market growth could impact your future earnings, and – most importantly – what financial losses any accident-related injuries might have caused. Those are losses you can recover.

The Medical Side

Anyone familiar with the use of expert witnesses in car accident cases can tell you that medical evaluation is a standard part of any car accident case, but you need more than just a doctor to evaluate your injuries. Rather, your lawyer can also bring on a medical expert with a specialization in long-term care planning. If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident, you may need special care, therapies, adaptive equipment, or changes to your home, and that’s where these specialists come in. Not only can they assess your medical needs, but they can also estimate the costs of appropriate care.

While your lawyer is the point person for all parts of your car accident case, additional experts play a critical role in your lawsuit’s overall success. By bringing together their combined expertise, you provide the court and the insurance companies all the information they need to find in your favor.

Everything You Need to Know About Aquamarine

Everything You Need to Know About Aquamarine

Aquamarine has long been a popular choice for rings and other forms of jewelry, and it’s seeing a resurgence in popularity. Interested buyers are shopping for aquamarine engagement rings, and fashion-conscious consumers are integrating more aquamarine jewelry into their daily attire.

But what is aquamarine, and what should you know about it before you buy it?

What Is Aquamarine?

First, let’s talk about the physics of aquamarine as a gemstone. It’s technically part of the beryl family of minerals, occurring as a light blue or cyan shade. There’s also a deep blue variety that’s sometimes called maxixe.

Aquamarine occurs in most places that yield beryl in general, with Colombia leading international production; it can also be found in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming and in the Sawatch Range of central Colorado. Generally speaking, the quality of aquamarine is determined based on its color and richness.

Symbolism and History

Aquamarine has a rich symbolism to support its use as a gemstone. In some circles, aquamarine is believed to embody the purity of clear water, and deep relaxation. It’s also associated with calmness, cleansing, and letting go. Historically, aquamarine was believed to be valued by mermaids—which is why many sailors wore or carried aquamarine as a totem of protection and good fortune. Still today, aquamarine is heavily associated with the sea.

Traditionally, aquamarine is also the birthstone of people born in March. In this context, aquamarine is believed to represent youth, health, and hope, and is heavily associated with spring.

How to Buy Aquamarine

If you’re interested in buying aquamarine rings or other forms of jewelry, there are a few factors worth your consideration.

For starters, you can review aquamarine stones with the four “C’s,” much like you could with a diamond:

  • Color. For aquamarine, the ideal color is something dark blue to slightly greenish blue, with a moderate intensity that still allows light to penetrate. That said, your personal preference may vary, and there’s a fairly wide spectrum of color to choose from in aquamarine.
  • Clarity. Inclusions in your aquamarine should be rare, with good transparency. Related gemstones, like emerald, frequently tolerate inclusions; however, aquamarine should be as clear as possible. You may be able to find aquamarine with a milky discoloration for a discount, if you don’t mind its appearance.
  • Cut. Aquamarine is a workable stone, so you’ll be able to see it in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. That said, aquamarine is most commonly cut to resemble emeralds, or as round cuts. If you’re looking for something unique, you can look for vintage aquamarine rings or customize your own design.
  • Carat weight. Aquamarine is rare, but not as rare as the diamond. Accordingly, you may be able to find gems of 25 carats or more. Generally speaking, the larger the carat weight, the deeper the color is going to be; gems under five carats tend to be pale, while bigger gems will offer a richer color.

Be on the lookout for scams and “fake” aquamarine. Because the color and transparency can be readily imitated, unscrupulous sellers may be inclined to try and sell you something false. Real, fine aquamarine is both rare and expensive, so expect to pay a high amount for a quality gemstone.

Additionally, you’ll notice that aquamarine and blue topaz have a similar color and structure. However, blue topaz is much less expensive. Blue topaz is less expensive, because it’s common and easy to produce; you can treat colorless topaz with radiation to get this color. Some aquamarine is similarly treated to enhance its blue color, but it’s still much rarer and more collectable; it’s also considered finer and richer in color.

Some rings may come with side stones, meant to complement the center stone. If these stones are all aquamarine, be prepared for a slight color mismatch. Remember, the richness of the aquamarine’s color will deepen as it increases in size, so smaller stones may end up looking paler by comparison.

Depending on the jeweler where you purchase your piece, you may be able to learn the origins of the aquamarine stone; however, most people do not take the origin of the stone into consideration. An aquamarine stone with the same color, clarity, cut, and carat weight will be priced the same regardless of where it is originally found.

Reviewing Aquamarine

While there are some “standard” ways to evaluate aquamarine, some of your decision will boil down to personal preference; you may prefer a paler or deeper color, or a shade that’s pure blue or closer to green. The best way to make your aquamarine buying decision is to review as many stones as possible, taking their prices into consideration as well, so you can learn and identify your wants.

Here’s What to Do If You’re a Victim of Medical Malpractice

Here’s What to Do If You’re a Victim of Medical Malpractice

When an employee messes up your order at a fast food restaurant, it’s frustrating, but understandable. When a medical professional makes a mistake, it’s unacceptable. Research from Johns Hopkins University found that “10 percent of all U.S. deaths are now due to medical error.” Their research also found that it’s the third highest cause of death, and many cases are not recognized as such.

Medical professionals need to be held accountable for their mistakes, so if you suspect that you or someone you love has been the victim of medical malpractice, it’s important to take the right steps to rectify the situation.

Here’s what you can and should do.

Call an Attorney

The very first step before you approach the hospital about the problem should be to call your attorney. You don’t want to contact the hospital so that they build up their defenses before you have a case. Let your attorney do the heavy lifting and contact the hospital for you.

An attorney is absolutely essential in a medical malpractice case. “Unlike many other forms of negligence, a medical malpractice case involves a highly complex set of standards,” explain the attorneys at Serious Injury Law Group in Montgomery, AL. “In general, you must prove the applicable standard of care. You also must show that the health care professional failed to meet that standard of care. This can be challenging. The standard of care is somewhat subjective and requires other similarly licensed and trained health care providers to testify about what went wrong.”

Speaking with an attorney enables you to build up your case and perform the associated steps for pressing charges in the correct order.

Seek a Second Opinion

Whether a mistake is obvious or it’s simply suspicious, you’ll want a second opinion from a qualified medical professional to present as evidence in court. They’ll need to assess the mistake to determine whether or not it could have been prevented.

Seek a top-rated specialist to corroborate your claims. They’ll want to review your medical records, perform tests, and conduct background research before giving you a diagnosis and identifying any medical errors. The second doctor will also do the best they can to help you heal.

Write Everything Down

Keep a detailed record of everything you’ve gone through, the pain you’re experiencing, and what’s happening day to day. This may come in handy during the proceedings.

According to FindLaw.com, a “personal diary could arguably contain relevant evidence. Legally, under the rules of evidence and discovery, a party is entitled to inspect and copy any and all documents that could potentially lead to the discovery of useful evidence to support their case or position. While a diary is going to be considered hearsay, there are numerous exceptions to hearsay rules that would allow a diary’s use in court.”

The journal could be used to identify both physical and emotional symptoms related to an injury. It could also show the difference between life before and after the injury to demonstrate that a medical malpractice mistake was life-altering.

Don’t Blab About the Issue

Other than confiding in close confidants, legal professionals, or a new healthcare provider, it’s important to keep your suspicions to yourself. It can feel good to vent about it to everyone who will listen, but this could cause problems with your case down the road.

Most importantly, don’t talk about it online! The things you say on social media can be used against you in a court of law. If you really need to vent, find a trustworthy friend or family member who won’t blab.

Taking the proper steps during a medical malpractice claim is essential to helping you win your case. Most importantly, contact a medical malpractice attorney in your state who can facilitate your case and help you through this trying time.

Practical Tips for Avoiding the 3 Most Common Types of Distracted Driving

Practical Tips for Avoiding the 3 Most Common Types of Distracted Driving

While drunk driving, speeding, and road rage often nab the headlines, the data reveals that distracted driving is really the most dangerous threat to the safety of our roads.

Data gathered by the NHTSA shows that distracted driving was responsible for at least 3,155 deaths in 2017 (and hundreds of thousands of additional injuries). And, at least for now, the numbers are trending in the wrong direction.

Though drivers can be distracted by any number of causes, behaviors, or stimuli, there are ultimately three common types that stand out more than the rest.

Let’s take a look at how you can identify and avoid them when you’re behind the wheel:

1. Visual Distractions

As the name indicates, these are distractions that take your eyes off the road and require you to perform visual “double-duty” when driving. Mobile devices and electronics are among the most common visual diversions.

“While drivers can face many different distractions in the car, cell phones are the most common – and deadliest – distraction,” Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. explains. “Texting while driving, for instance, can drastically increase your risk of being involved in an accident and needing medical care. People who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle collision, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.”

According to the NHTSA, sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds at a time. When traveling 55 miles per hour, that’s like driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Other visual distractions include fidgeting with the radio dial and looking at GPS directions. It doesn’t have to involve electronics, though. You can just as easily become distracted by a passing billboard or blue lights on the side of the road.

The best way to avoid smartphone-related distractions is to turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode while driving. And if you must use your phone, be sure to use a hands-free solution.

2. Manual Distractions

Manual distractions aren’t discussed as much as visual culprits, but they’re just as dangerous. They consist of anything that requires a driver to take one or both hands off the wheel in order to perform an action or task. Examples include:

  • Eating fast food
  • Attempting to locate an item in your purse
  • Reaching into a briefcase in the backseat
  • Trying to break up a fight between quarreling kids
  • Handing snacks to a toddler in the backseat

Manual distractions are dangerous because they compromise both your focus and your physical ability to drive. While you might be capable of driving with one hand under most circumstances, all it takes is a sudden lane change or an unexpected red light to put you in a compromising situation.

The best way to defeat manual distractions is to prevent the temptation. This means keeping your purse/briefcase in the trunk; never getting fast food to go; and setting clear expectations with passengers (particularly little ones).

3. Cognitive Distractions

This third category gets ignored a lot of times, but it’s one of the major causes of distraction-related car accidents.

A cognitive distraction is anything that takes your mind off of your primary obligation: driving. It may include a podcast or audio book, conversation with someone in the passenger’s seat, or a preoccupation with a work project or relationship issue.

While most people are able to drive while thinking about other things, it can become an issue in scenarios where you need to make split-second decisions. Cognitive distractions slow reaction time and can pose a threat under these circumstances.

Cognitive distractions are arguably the most difficult kind to prevent. If you find that you’re easily distracted by podcasts and audiobooks, try the radio instead. If in-cabin conversations hold your mind hostage, try driving alone. The more proactive you are about these culprits, the safer you’ll be.

Say Goodbye to Distracted Driving

Distracted driving might be rampant, but you don’t have to be a willing participant. Now that you’re aware of the major causes of distracted driving, you can implement proactive strategies and techniques to ensure you no longer succumb to these dangerous and deadly diversions. Do your part to make our roads safer!

How to Find a Good House in a Competitive Area

How to Find a Good House in a Competitive Area

Buying a new house can be exciting, but it can also be stressful if you’re competing with other buyers. In competitive markets, the prices are high, the buyers are ravenous, and good homes seem to fly off the market without so much as an opportunity to make an offer.

There are some obvious ways around this. For example, you could start looking in neighborhoods that are less competitive, sacrificing your personal taste or distance from work to secure a less-contested home for a lower price. But if you’re interested in getting a great house for a decent deal in the hottest part of the city, you’ll need to step up your strategy.

Work With an Aggressive Buying Agent

For starters, make sure you’re working with an agent. A buying agent will work on your behalf to sniff out the best deals, and help you initiate and negotiate an offer that secures you a good home faster. If they understand the local market, they’ll be able to jump on good houses faster, and they’ll work quickly to get in touch with you and schedule tours. They may also be able to provide you with location-specific advice; for example, you may learn that in this neighborhood, home sellers tend to lean toward offers with no contingencies.

Become an Agent in Your Own Right

It’s a time-intensive step, to be sure, but if you truly want a competitive advantage over the other buyers in the area, one of the best assets you can have is a real estate license. Depending on where you live, you can likely get your real estate license entirely online in a matter of weeks. Once you’re fully qualified, you’ll have early access to deals before they ever get to market—and you’ll have a deeper knowledge of how real estate transactions work, so you can make more intelligent, competitive offers. Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll be able to do full-time or part-time work as a practicing real estate agent in the future, which can be an excellent source of personal revenue.

Be Ready to Jump

If you’re the type of person who likes to take their time with big decisions and think through every variable, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s going to work against you in a competitive housing market. If houses are being bought almost instantly when they become available for sale, you’re never going to make an impact with this strategy. Instead, you need to be ready to review new houses and put together an offer fast. Talk with your partner, if applicable, and make sure you understand your wants and needs thoroughly; when you see a house that meets most of your wants and needs, get an offer together quickly. You might not have much time.

Skip the Contingencies

Contingencies are a good way to protect yourself when buying a home, and to get a bit more value out of your transaction. If your home inspection reveals small things wrong with the home, like a cracked wall, or a minor plumbing issue, in a cool market, you might demand that the homeowner fix these things before you move in. But contingencies will make your offer stand out in a competitive market—and not in a good way. If a home seller has multiple offers on the table, and some of them are contingency-free, they’re going to take immediate priority. If there’s something that needs to be fixed, consider fixing it yourself when you move in instead of putting the additional pressure on the home seller.

Make a Serious Offer

The give-and-take negotiation process of a typical home sale is disrupted slightly in a competitive market. Listen to your agent and pay attention to trending sale prices in the area, and be ready to make a serious offer. If homes are frequently selling above list price, your offers need to be similarly above list price. If a seller makes a higher-than-expected counteroffer, consider it seriously.

If you’re making high offers and are still struggling to get attention, consider making an all-cash offer. This may or may not be feasible, depending on the price of the home and your current financial resources, but it can make a big difference if it’s an available option to you.

Knowing When to Quit

Sometimes, the high prices and stressful transactions of a popular area simply aren’t worth it. Make sure you understand your home buying priorities inside and out, and be prepared to call it quits if it isn’t worth the extra stress. There are lots of neighborhoods out there, and chances are, you can find something similar to what you want in a cheaper, more reasonable alternative area.