Essential Must Have Marketing Tools for Most Small Businesses

Source: Quick to gain a cult consumer following and loyal customer base, most businesses begin to advertise their product and/or service offerings without a plan, which can cause the business to spend valuable dollars in advertising which may not have been the right fit in attracting potential clients from specific targeted audiences.  In order to reach any group of potential customers effectively, every small business needs essential marketing tools that will help them better direct their advertising budgets towards better use while reaching more clients for potential deal acquisition.

A quality marketing plan, which includes an advertising campaign, and an ongoing on-line presence, is the best place for every small business to invest their focus financially. Yet most small business owners say they cannot afford it. I tell them that they cannot afford to be invisible and allow for their competition to gain all the potential customers. A small business can invest tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising and see absolutely no results. The reason for this is that in order to know what types of advertising will best suit your business reach, you need to understand your goals and targets, your ideal clientele, and a defined budget you have available to allocate towards marketing and advertising.

With the plethora of choices, where do you begin? It can be a daunting task and it can be easy to get overwhelmed, however there are some tools that every small business must have to keep them on point and remain actively focused on their goals.

A business needs a quality marketing campaign.  Notice I said, “quality?” There are folks out there that will charge you thousands of dollars on a marketing plan, without taking the time to understand your business. The most complete marketing exercise is where an outside marketing and branding firm takes the time to research your business goals, your personal goals as the business owner, your vision, and your core values. They then take all of this data and compile it into a report that is the foundation for the road map in the most ideal client acquisition for your business. The marketing plan aligns your value proposition product or service with the ideal demographic of potential client within a geographic territory.

In order to stay in front of people, you need a quality advertising plan that properly represents your message to the public. Again, I mention the word “quality.” Any sales representative can give you an ad buy kit with the list of prices for ad space in the newspaper or on radio. However, a quality advertising campaign is going to take into account all of the audience you desire to specifically reach (based on demographics and geographic region), and provide you multiple avenues with which you can gain an audience with these potential clients. Your advertising campaign should be a mix of traditional advertising and online campaigns, with a detail of expected reaches. Advertising results should be measurable so that new client acquisition ratio can be properly assessed. This would look like, “x number of advertising dollars spent = x number of new clients,” and then broken down dollar for dollar with the return on the investment into advertising. Utilizing this plan will allow you to also gauge the most effective advertising medias for your business.

Living in a digital era, you must be able to have an effective website that is mobile friendly. Your website is your business card to the world. As technology continues to evolve, so should your website’s abilities to be searched for and found on multiple types of devices. There are 80% of individuals under the age 40 who use their mobile device for email, internet searches, and financial transactions. If your website is not mobile friendly, then your business will not be seen. Your website should also be able to support video, audio, as well as have multiple placements for a call to action that excites the viewer and engages them into wanting to know more or even make a purchase.

Keep an open mind to alternative forms of payment. Paper money, coins, and debit/credit cards are just a few ways people pay for things today. You need to expand your horizon to be able to accept crypto-currency, electronic wallet payments, and barter. Once you have decided on which platforms of payment your business will accept, you need to include it in your advertising materials. There are folks whom are loyal to one payment preference over another, and you need to let them know you are in a position to service their needs.

Cause marketing must be a part of our overall marketing strategies if you are going to have community brand value. Younger consumers do take notice of businesses that donate to local community causes and charities. They will patron those businesses that offer back something to a non-profit cause, especially when it is a cause that the consumer can identify with. Your plan on giving back should be consistent year to year. A business can build out an event around their contribution to the good cause, which gets noticed by local media.

Have an alliance with a freelance news reporter associated with local media. With the consolidation of newspapers and media outlets across America, most news stories, articles, and press releases do not get published unless someone with press credentials submits it to the reporting news wires. Most newspapers and publications have cut their staff and pluck from the news wires to save money on hiring dedicated reporters as well as the time required for getting content ready for print. Most freelance news reporters, journalists, and/or investigate reporters have credentials to submit content to news wires. When a reporter or journalist submits the content, it is deemed more creditable since the reporter has to vet the facts.

Hard physical marketing takeaways are still relevant, especially when you are marketing your business at a trade show or at a special buying market event.  Business cards are still the number one marketing tool when you are making an introduction to another party for the first time. Many folks fail to carry a business card on their person. Other marketing materials such as brochures, sell sheets, and post card mailers, are take away items that a client will have in their hand as a reminder to consider making a purchase. Letter head and thank you cards are also a must.

Branding your business is more than selecting a clip art logo. There are many generic logo designs to choose from in clip art or online. Today, the attention span of a consumer is less than 15 seconds, and if your logo is not dynamic enough, you will fall into the trap of getting lost in the sauce. Your logo should be the beacon of your brand, the message you wish to share, and explain what it is that you do without a lengthy conversation. You can take the time and make the investment to have the right logo crafted that will last for decades for your business or you can waste time and money on getting a generic logo design. In the end, if you choose the later route, you will also create channel confusion with your customer audience because they may stumble through in the transition from one branding to the next.

Many sales do not generate from social media, however positive social engagement about your product or service is now mandatory in a world where good news is noticed, but bad press moves at lightning speed. Social media business pages should not just be a bull horn for shouting to potential audiences to purchase your goods/services; it should be a platform of education. One where your business provides informative, engaging material and interesting facts to folks about your field of practice that they may not otherwise be aware of. Social media business pages on Facebook, Linked-in, and others are not the place to tell your business’s story, but just provide snippets of information which will peak the potential client’s interest.

A small introductory video about your business is an extra step that assures you someone will take notice of your business. You Tube is the premier platform for hosting video content for marketing your product and/or service, regardless how big or small your company may be.  The best part is that it is a free service for you to use, and the step-by-step upload process, gives your video additional search engine optimization so your video will rank higher in more relevant searches. Over time you can add to your video library content that can be re-purposed and shared in social media campaigns, or videos that can be sent to potential clients as part of your dribble marketing practices. It is suggested the shorter the introductory video the better. This takes some practice in trying to fit in who you are, what your business does, where you are located, what your value proposition is, why you are better than your competitor and what’s in it for the viewer of the video – all in less than 30 seconds.

Search engine ranking has become more and more competitive as the race to capture command over key words and ad word phrases intensifies on the internet. You will need a SEO plan that is phased in over time and that will stay relevant as your business expands in products and/or services offered. This will take careful consideration as you prepare a set of words and phrases that are unique to your business and industry situation, while being relevant to the common consumer. This is so that your business shows up on their radar, preferably on the first or second pages of their internet search.

The more upfront time, resources, and thought you invest into your business’s marketing tools, the more productive your results will be in staying in front of potential clients and while retaining top of the mind awareness with your current clients.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who author’s 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 Ogdensburg, 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 a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.

America’s Endangered Species, The Main Street Business

Source: A trend has been sweeping across the American landscape – the disappearance of small, family owned, individually owned and operated “Main Street Businesses.” Small business is the economic driver of the economy, the known provider for the majority of local jobs and the main consumer of wholesale goods. Here, we will take a look at major factors influencing this trend and some steps which we can adopt to assist in reversing it.

America faces a number of serious issues as it looks to turn around its economy, job growth and infrastructure, while simultaneously tackling a number of social and moral concerns. One of the country’s most valuable assets to economic recovery, local and regional job growth, and the creation of new innovation is the family owned small business. However, in today’s hostile geo-political climate, it is getting far too difficult for a small business to survive. Why is this happening and who’s to blame? It is we who decide with our consumer dollars the fate of the economic health of our local communities. Ultimately we are to blame for this issue that now plagues our community. The responsibility falls on each of us to change our consumer habits and ideals in order to reverse this trend. We vote with our dollars on how our Main Streets will be shaped, and the view today is dismal.

Small businesses face a number of challenges right from inception, which makes one think twice about wanting to own their own business. The amount of local and state regulations that a small business must follow, chews at the working capital and the amount of profit a business will be afforded, even before the business rings the cash register. Instead of embracing small business as a well worthy community asset, civil agencies with police powers have honed in their focus on penalizing businesses for the slightest infractions as a way to increase revenue for local and state government. This occurs where such agencies and governing bodies have lost tax revenue as populations have relocated for lower cost and greener pastures. Our nation needs every small business it gets, yet some penalties in controlled industries could potentially be so severe that a business would never recover the loss and be forced to shutter its doors.

Fees incurred to register a business will take a huge bite out of any initial investment. Obtaining building permits for construction and the cost of numerous inspections which often include high-salaried professionals are needed to maneuver through the complicated rules of local and state planning and zoning laws. Oftentimes, these necessary evils are overlooked when creating a new business investment budget by folks planning to start a brick and mortar business location. Overruns in legal fees can jump to tens of thousands of dollars if a business chooses to locate in a town that desires to not foster a business community. Yearly inspections, updates to state statutes and local ordinances, and ever changing regulations force small businesses to retain legal counsel on a regular basis.

Employee-employer relations are one of the largest risks with liability for a small business. The local store owner must spend valuable time in training staff – usually training the new hire themselves. They must hire folks at a pay scale that will be advantageous to the business’s economic health and within the allowance of that business’s available cash flow. Local businesses are limited to the initial talent they can hire based on the available dollars within that business dedicated to payroll. Small businesses also struggle to retain talent when long term staff looks to earn more money or desire more perks beyond the paycheck.

One of the costliest benefits for a small business to provide is health care. Most small businesses only hire part time employees because they cannot afford to offer additional benefits to full time staffers.  In the profession of business consulting, I have observed a number of clients; ones who owned small businesses. They lost key employees to competitors because they could not afford to offer more financial compensation and/or benefits to their employees.

Small businesses also face an unfair disadvantage of limited economic buying power. Most small businesses are limited on the amount of cash they can dedicate toward inventory. Those that are dependent on product based cash flow, such as a local variety store or hardware store, only have so many dollars available to spend on purchasing inventory. These businesses are limited in where they can store said inventory. Small businesses are not purchasing large volumes of goods to resell relative to say a chain store that may be able to purchase a specific product for a number of stores. The result is that they do not get the same volume breaks as a big box retailer. This factor will have an effect on the overall price a small business can retail a product for to its customers.

Small business owners face a very burdensome and complicated tax code which impacts the business’s ability to expand and grow. Many of America’s small family owned Main Street businesses are either sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC) or an S-Corporation. All of these business structures are pass-through companies, meaning that the profits and or losses of the business, as well as all taxes due (including payroll and sales tax) are ultimately the responsibility of the business owner. In the event the owner’s business does very well, the additional net profits are then reflected on the personal taxes of the business owner. In a household where the business owner’s spouse might also work and is successful financially in their career, it automatically pushes both earners into a higher tax bracket. Thus, the business owner must pay more taxes; money the business owner may have set aside toward either hiring more help or expanding the business’s product or service offerings. Most small business owners do not have the resources to hire a team of professionals to help limit tax liabilities; nor do they have the buying power of a major corporation with which to negotiate such things as payroll taxes and/or property tax incentives.

Local family owned businesses individually do not have the lobbying power to influence local legislation. Many are required to pay for memberships to trade organizations and/or business advocacy groups that will fight on their behalf on issues that affect the business’s ability to operate. Most large corporations have consultants standing by which are employed to lobby full time for legislation that benefits the corporation’s business model while also placing additional restrictions or regulatory burdens on small business.

As consumers, we have not made it easier for a small business to thrive. Much of their survival and success are dependent on the relationships created within the local community it calls home. A small business will usually support local causes and events important to the local demographic/geographic area in hopes to maintain positive relationships with potential customers. Because small businesses don’t have the buying power of a big box retailer, the prices for goods or services will be slightly higher than the larger chain retailer.

Understandably, consumers have put aside the importance of having a healthy relationship with the local store owner in order to save a few bucks on products or services needed. Getting the most for our money on groceries seems like a responsible act.  Yet as consumers we fail to realize the long term effect these decisions have on those seeking to earn an income in our own neighborhood. We have come to expect the bigger, better deal for less, without thinking about the consequences our buying decisions may have when we choose not to purchase our needs locally. This frame of mind for the consumer will ultimately create an economic ripple that will reach right back into their own homes.

In making a decision to purchase products “locally” I do mean from an independently owned family owned and operated business. A big box retailer located minutes from your home is not considered buying local. When we purchase goods and services from a local family owned business, that business usually will keep its revenue within the community, instead of sending profits to some large corporate entity located elsewhere.

The local small business generally provides a balance of choice in products and brands for consumers. Regional product brands get their start by offering new innovation via the local merchant. You will find in many locally owned groceries, is that they will feature local brands and products manufactured locally; brands and products you may not find at large chain retailers. By supporting locally owned businesses, we are also choosing to support local suppliers. Even the quality of the goods that a small business offers is oftentimes much better than the quality of products found at chain discount stores.

Our choice to pay a few cents more for something at a local retailer makes all the difference in how we shape our local Main Street business community. We have to make a vote with our wallets to support local businesses before they all disappear, leaving us with chain store retailers. Many of these local businesses may be operated by a neighbor, friend, or family member.  As Main Streets become a ghostly sight across America, know that your spending habits were the vote that decided if your local business would exist or become one of the extinct species that helped build the America we now live in.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who author’s 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 Ogdensburg, 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 a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.

Branding the Right Message About Your Business

Source: A company’s brand is more than just a logo or graphic; it is the internal and external message that a business represents to its employees, investors, clients, and to the surrounding community, one which best describes what that business does, why it exists, as well as what the business and its’ leadership believes in. What does your brand say about your company? What should be considered when branding your business? We report…..

So you just founded your venture. It could be a local, small, family owned Main Street business or a large endeavor with hopes to expand globally, creating a far reaching effect. Regardless of the size of your business, the message you choose to send to the street is paramount in explaining what type of business you have, the purpose your business serves, the product or service it offers, as well as the demographic populace and geographic locale in which you offer your value creation.

The next step most folks do, is to set out getting a logo or graphic created so they have an image to place on their business card. Then, when they pitch their business, there is a visual reminder for others about their company. Initially, this can be a costly mistake for many business owners. As we continue on in the article, it is further explained how understanding the entire meaning behind “branding” a company – including the completion of a branding exercise, is crucial for that company’s foundational success. This is because as a business out grows their initial logo or changes its product/service offering mix, the logo becomes obsolete.

Branding is more than just a logo or a font. It is the representation of all the internal and external factors about the company, translated into a set of graphics and text that tell the “elevator pitch” about the company; reminding people about all the dimensions of that business. Branding exercises and creation by a full-service marketing and advertising firm can cost thousands of dollars, but the investment in the long run will save tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in having to re-brand a business owner’s company later and/or lost business due to the wrong message sent about the company to potential customers.

There are many factors that should be taken into consideration when learning how to properly brand one’s company. As founders of a business or an entrepreneurial enterprise, sometimes personal preferences get in the way of selecting company logo or graphic color schemes. Instead, it should be the story that tells the “why” behind the business that should be the deciding factor of the imagery and content selected for sharing a company’s message with the public. Just because the entrepreneur thinks it’s a cool look, does not mean that the general public will understand the logo or even be able to identify with its significance. That is why much thought, attention, and detail must be taken when deciding the final translation of a company brand.

The message you send to potential audiences about your company needs to be with a definite purpose in mind. It should summarize in brief the products and services being provided, and why the products and services should be deemed noteworthy by potential customers. Behind every business is a leader, or a group of leaders that are the drivers of that business, and the “why” they embrace, should be reflected throughout the context of the brand. Your brand should also have consistency throughout the entire purpose, or scope, of the company. Nothing is more confusing to a potential customer than picking some logo or tag saying that fails to reflect all of the company’s products/services.

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When branding a company, consider internal factors just the same as the external message desired to be shared with clients. Internal branding is a reflection of a company’s internal core values, of which include a code of ethics, morals and beliefs, how the company should be organized, and the disciplines within the company an owner desires their staff to adopt. Internal branding should examine any message the employees need to understand. Using words such as “the company,” or “this business” versus, “the team,” and “our associates,” creates very distinct feels. A business owner should want to create a work experience where their employees realize how they are a part of a greater cause, and that their contributions are part of the greater success of the company; not one that fosters a culture of “cut throat – every person for themselves,” job environment.

Words and phrases such as previously mentioned, are located in a company employee handbook, on the company website, or on social media. How social media marketing is utilized will reflect the internal culture of any company.  Language selection is extremely important. It is so powerful and can either be very inviting and attractive to the right individuals a company wishes to employ, or it can be a total turn off for some; alienating many of the best talent that may otherwise have been recruited. Oftentimes, businesses focus on the external message they desire to purport without considering long term branding strategies for expanding their business, which would include recruiting talent to assist with such growth.

It is important to understand that an external message is more than just a sales pitch. The most valuable brands in the world don’t sell products, but the brand itself, for it has been said, “People don’t by products, they buy brands.” That means that a company’s brand must contain more information than just the products and/or services being sold. Within the external brand, its’ symbolism (which is the logo, color scheme, and anything visual) as well as the content (tag lines, by-lines, copy in ads, and anything auditory) should say what the business believes in, stands for, product/service offered, and the audience it serves; without saying it. That may sound confusing, but this is the most complicated consideration when choosing all the moving parts in successfully branding a business to the public.

Most marketing and advertising firms will usually begin the branding journey with a series of discovery sessions, in order to gain a better understanding of who the founders/leadership of the business are.  Part of the exercise is finding out the “why” behind the decision to go into business in the first place, or what the purpose is that has driven someone to take their invention or creation to the next level. Personality and core values are taken in consideration when trying to include a story being portrayed to the public. This is part of the “why” the potential customer should purchase a company’s product or service. Next, the branding expert will want information regarding all of the moving parts of an owner’s business. This will include a company’s current status, as well as what the company is expected to look like in five, ten, and even twenty-five years from now. The bigger picture is reflected as part of the brand.

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Branding experts will take a deep look at which target audience is the right fit for a company’s product or service. They will research the demographic and geographic of every target potential client, and align them with what you have to offer. To many business owner’s and entrepreneur’s surprise, the target market they intended to sell to, may not be the right or best fit, after the branding research demonstrates larger opportunities not originally considered. Maybe a product or service is better suited for sales opportunities overseas where there is a greater need for a company’s invention. It is also possible that research may show an initial targeted audience may be lesser in volume of numbers than originally considered, but may be willing to pay more per individual sale for the item planning to be marketed. The branding exercises reveal so many options and truths about a business an owner may have not even realized.

Branding experts add value to a company because their train of thought is objective and concise. They examine a business, its’ products and services, as well as the owner’s positioning without judgement or bias. Branding experts are not working on behalf of any client nor are they working on the owner’s behalf (as in the founder, whom usually has an emotional tie to their value creation and company). These experts take a pragmatic approach to review all aspects of a business, utilizing part logic, part statistics and research, and part understanding on how the company’s potential audience should respond to the brand that ultimately translates the business’s message. They do this in a systematic series of questions and exercises. The more detail and time that is spent on the initial branding exercises, the more precise the branding expert will be in coining the logo, tag line, and content about the business.

A branding expert should be a company’s marketing department’s best friend, one that remains available throughout all of the phases of a company’s growth. Having the ability to work with one branding expert will assist you in the expediency to re-brand your company, for the initial branding expert already knows your back story and has monitored your growth. A changing message, product/service line expansion or the retelling of a story are all taken into consideration. The expert can eventually envision the business’s journey much the same as the company’s leadership, which will allow for consistent brand continuity throughout the entire company’s life cycle.

It would be foolish to think that small local businesses only need is a logo. Investing in appropriately telling the company’s story to the public will have a direct result on whether or not the public will have reason to develop a belief as to why they should patron from a particular business. Today, it is critical that small local businesses invest into proper branding just as much as a major corporation if it is to outlast the competition, as well as remain intriguing enough to the average consumer considering to give your business a try. A company’s brand should be strong enough that it reflects all of its’ internal and external messages while providing a need to be part of the cult following the brand a company represents.

A brand should carry a sense of value and integrity. Consumers don’t trust products or sales people; they trust brands – brands that follow through on their word even when everything is not perfect. The most profitable of companies in the world understand that their brand is more than a brand; it’s a culture and practice that consumers have come to trust in; making good on its promises even when it made a mistake. This takes patience, for great brands are built over time. Branding is an investment in one’s self, their company, their value creation, their value proposition, and the statement desired to make in the marketplace. The right brand will last a life time, while others will fade away. So brand wisely.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who author’s 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 Ogdensburg, 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 a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.

Homeless and Displaced Veterans; America’s Hidden Pandemic

Source: As a Nation, our society faces many insurmountable challenges; however one of our most pressing issues that affect the quality of life in communities is the rapid rise in Veteran displacement and homelessness. Sam Burlum examines what is at the core of this issue and the available resources in solving this matter.

The statistics are alarming; beyond alarming. It’s as if the alarm has been signaling to our great nation, yet many of us decided to turn the radio up, similar to when we hear that irritating noise our car may make when it needs a repair, however at that time it is easier to ignore it than be inconvenienced by taking time out to solve the problem. Veteran homelessness is rising at an unprecedented rate. Even with the number of non-profit organizations that outreach to homeless veterans aimed at getting Veterans off the street and into a home and/or back to work, the amount of homeless Veterans outpace the investment of time it takes to reach a Veteran and get their situation resolved.

The National Alliance for Homelessness published their report in 2014, in which they sampled homeless populations in which were reported across the nation, whereas one January 2013 night, over 610,042 individuals experienced homelessness. Veterans accounted for about 10% of this total figure, or around 60,000 Veterans were accounted for as reported to be homeless. Currently there are just less than four-hundred thousand retired military personnel, who include former enlisted personnel, officers, and related staff, whom received military retiree benefits. Also included in this demographic, are disabled Veterans, and Veterans whom suffer from mental illness. That means over 15% of this population are homeless. Like I mentioned, that is only those that have reported to be homeless.

There are a number of homeless Veterans whom either go unnoticed or refuse to reach out for help for a number of reasons. The largest contributor to why most non-reporting homeless Veterans refuse or hide from help relates to mental health. The largest mental health issue that diminishes this demographics’ ability to function in society, able to integrate back into civilian life, is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PTSD. The number of Veterans affected by PTSD depends on the era they served, as indicated by the US Department of Defense.

Over twenty percent of Veterans (about 500,000) whom served during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have experienced PTSD. This has increased from the Gulf War, where only twelve percent of the military (about 84,000 Veterans) served had PTSD. As it relates those military personnel whom served in Vietnam, a more recent study demonstrated over 30 percent of returning Veterans (about 770,000) had admitted and/or were diagnosed with PTSD. Prior to Vietnam, very few statistics were kept on this subject matter.  The numbers of homeless Veterans that stem from the demographic of those that served in Vietnam and those that served during Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom are so parallel in spite of gap between the ages of generations that served.

So what is the cause of PTSD? And how do we solve this Pandemic issue that is in every corner of the United States? PTSD is also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event; either experiencing it or witnessing it, according to the Mayo Clinic. However Jack Clark, Founder of Save A Warrior has a different view.

“PTSD is not a condition of the mind or a mental health issue. What we have found, is PTSD is a condition that the inner heart and emotional state must be healed of the wounds and stresses of battle that impact so many whom hide their emotions from family, friends, and fellow colleagues in fear of being mocked,” added Clark.

“We focus on bringing peace to heart and then mind, so our Cohorts can now come to terms with the things they had to deal with as a part of battle, first touching upon the inner peace of themselves, learning to forgive themselves, then others. Save A Warrior has had a 100% success rate without having to use the normal aids of prescription drugs,” Continued Clark during an interview with Sam Burlum a few years ago at the SAW Facility, Malibu California.

“Veterans are either too scared or are too embarrassed to ask for help, and so we need to reach out to the community and their families to bring them out of hiding and into the light so we can offer them all the assistance that we have available,” provided Sandy Mitchell, founder of Project Help, a 501c3 non-profit that delivers on a number of Veteran assistant services including clothing drives, fundraisers, and lending a hand to other causes where proceeds directly benefit Veterans in need.

Veterans have disclosed to this investigate reporter that it has taken them years to get help from the VA. The VA as Veterans know it as, is the US Department of Veteran Affairs. “Gerry” as provided this name. he did not want to reveal his complete name for this interview, was a Veteran whom served late in the Vietnam Campaign, and continued to serve in the Military until the mid-1980’s.

“It took me years just to get someone at the VA to give me an answer on how I can access my benefits. When I finally did get access, I waited for what felt like forever to get medical assistance for aliments I had related to my service in the field,” shared Gerry, “I see in regular hospital, illegal immigrants whom don’t speak a word of English get better care than I whom served this country.”

“I can’t believe after eight years of service in the Navy, it took the Administration another two to four years to just get my application in front of an advocate and case worker. If I were a criminal, I would have had service afforded to me right away,” added Matthew B., from New Jersey, a Veteran of the Navy whom served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. “It’s no reason why this system has to be so complicated.  When you complain about it, it seems then magically your application gets lost or you go to the back of the line. Who wants to sign up to serve in the military if we are treated like second class citizens,” questioned Matthew.

The VA has defended its position, in saying, “There is a process in which each Veteran’s needs must follow a protocol in order for the need to be addressed, and we have limited resources available,” when called the VA Hospital in East Orange, New Jersey, as the receptionist refused to provide her name.

According to US Department of Veteran Affairs, the 2017 Budget for the VA is over $182.3 billion dollars, a far cry from poverty, in which homeless Veterans experience. So with so many dollars dedicated to the VA, one would have to ask the question, “why are so many Veteran’s homeless and/or displaced?”

It seems like when our nation needs to focus on solving these pandemic and systemic issues, we have turned a blind eye and worries more about what how a professional football player decides to make a political statement. It is civic our duty to hold our political leaders to a vow of assisting our nation’s veterans.

Without a doubt, men and women whom put their lives on the line to fight and defend the freedoms and civil liberties afforded to us under the US Constitution, deserve better.  Each of us, whom did not serve in battle or in uniform, should take notice to this rising tide. It is our duty and our privilege to serve those whom fought on our behalf. We have a responsibility to do so. What message are we sending to young men and women that would have considered joining the military, when we cannot care for those properly that return home from the battlefield. That is the battle on the homeland that now matters the most.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who author’s 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 Ogdensburg, 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 a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.

What Was The Real Root of the Auto Industry Emissions Scandal?

Source: With the list of automobile manufactures that had “cheated” on their vehicle emissions and/or fuel economy results growing weekly, many are quick to criticize the auto industry, however is there more behind the reasoning why so many manufactures had allegedly lied about their results? We take a look at several factors that contributed to this systemic issue.

First there was Volkswagen, which included all of the VW Group (Audi, Bentley, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Porsche, Ducati, Scania, Seat, and Skoda); then there was Mercedes; then fell Mitsubishi, joined by Fiat, Peugeot, Renault, Hyundai and Kia, BMW, and even the American vehicle manufacture main stays Ford and General Motors offered their fair share of having to make amends with consumers for representing false fuel economy and/or emissions results on their window stickers. You would thing that these corporations with vast research and development departments would be able to breeze through testing protocols with ease, however many of them still have not been able to obtain the peak efficiencies to meet mandated benchmarks. Or is the problem more complicated than that? So with so many manufacturers having this issue, what is the core of the problem?

My own investigative research has found there are a number of factors which has contributed to the auto industry having issues during testing their products; some which are technical in nature, and some which are due to the complicated regulation in place which pushes the envelope beyond reason.  Some of the pre-existing market conditions are responsible for manufactures having to push their limits in order to stay competitive.

Manufactures have had to put their reputations at risk in order not to be responsible for hefty gas guzzling taxes and pollution penalties associated with the Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (known as CAFÉ), and GHG emissions standards.  Traditionally, these standards would be raised incrementally, so manufactures were given ample time to develop technology that would help engines become more efficient without compromising either better fuel economy or vehicle performance. In 2009, it was announced that vehicle manufactures would have to jump up from 22.5 miles per gallon average, to 35 miles per gallon by 2016. In 2011, the Obama Administration announced that that standard would now be pushed up to 54.5 miles per gallon average by year 2025. Vehicles models with a higher gas guzzler tax, would suffer a slide in sales due to consumers not wanting to pay the extra price for not meeting these benchmarks.

This cat and mouse game did not begin in 2015 with the VW scandal; it has gone on since these two sets of standards, both CAFÉ and GHG, were introduced in 1975 and 1978 respectively. Since these laws were instituted, Cadillac in 1995 had its bout with the EPA over the issue of pollution controls related to the line of 4.9-liter V-8 engines. The company then, General Motors was forced to cough up a whopping $45 million over to the US EPA to settle out the matter. In 1998 the diesel engine manufactures of Caterpillar, Cummings, Detroit Diesel, Mack, International, Volvo and others had to deal with a major investigation into their potential violations of environmental laws under the Clean Air Act, which cost the companies’ combined over $1 billion dollars which was doled out to regulatory civil penalties. That same year, Ford and Honda had their rounds with the US Justice Department over emissions control manipulation.

I predicted that when VW was found to be allegedly cheating on their results, that this was just the beginning. There would be more car manufactures that would either be investigated, or would come forth on their own as a good faith measure in exchange for leniency on fines and penalties. But the issue is larger than just manufactures using tactics to “cheat.” It is like the unspoken issue auto racing, in order to catch the cheaters, you must sometimes cheat yourself. But why cheat when you can innovate or adopt innovation from third party sources?

When one manufacture hears that another manufacture just achieved x-number of more miles per gallon more out of their product, and that number exceeds the current record holder, the competitive race is on to catch up to the adversary. With limited market share of car buyers in the world, the United States being one of the largest markets in the world (having over 300 million vehicles on the American roads, that is one car per person regardless of age and their eligibility to drive), it is no wonder why manufactures are willing to take such risk. There are over 28 major brands of vehicles which account for 80% of the entire new vehicle manufactured in the world (65 million new vehicles manufactured in 2012); over 7 million were sold in the United States. In order to capture market share, manufactures have had to find ways to better market their product, even if that meant exaggerating their emissions and fuel economy results. Once another vehicle manufacture would one-up everyone, then it forced others to follow.

Part in of the issue is self-pride. No manufacture after spending hundreds of millions of dollars on research and development, wants to tell their shareholders that they could not meet regulatory benchmarks and that instead of paying out to dividends, net earnings would now have to fork over taxes, penalties, and fines for not meeting regulatory benchmarks. In some cases, manufactures don’t want to admit that they cannot solve the problem. When millions of dollars are dedicated to a program, such as emissions reduction innovation, most companies desire to develop their own solutions than go outside their labs. This becomes more of a pride issue which in turn becomes a momentary issue. The last person to turn to outside research and development teams as an answer to expedite product development on a wide scale was Lee Iacocca while he was lead at Chrysler.

The public policy and incentive based policies where vehicle manufactures would get special tax credits that could be passed down to consumers, only amplified the situation. As each manufacture jockeyed for position of whom was going to be first in line for these incentives, incentives the could market toward potential consumers, this would be a tactical advantage for any auto manufacture whom could capture the lion’s share of incentives, thus driving the sticker price down for consumers at the time of their new vehicle purchase.

Then there is the technical perspective of why vehicle manufactures “cheated,” or did they not “cheat” at all, but were trying to follow one set of guidelines, which forced them to have to tweak other programs in order to meet these more stringent regulations? Here is where it gets complicated, and so I will do my best to present these arguments in laymen terms.

When vehicle inspection procedures were changed from having to test vehicle pollution and emissions at the tailpipe to having to be checked via the car’s on-board diagnostic port (OBD), the rules of engagement significantly changed for the auto industry. Auto manufactures had to adopt computer protocols, a system of Readiness Monitors and drive cycles that must cycle completely in order for the vehicle to come into compliance before it is able to either be tested for a repair verification, or worst yet, a regulatory emissions test. These protocols can sometimes conflict with the existing engine controls and components on a vehicle and in order for one to be functioning, sometimes other controls and/or modules have to be delayed or shut off for an extended period of time. In some cases, this very protocol is conflicting with other mandated protocols. This is where the technical confusion begins to be introduced.

I also argue that some of the testing procedures are out of date. The auto industry has evolved where your vehicle is a giant computer with an engine attached, as a result there are far more variables to take into consideration, such as all the added technology, yet these tests protocols for emissions and fuel economy have not changed since their introduction. Some of these test are incapable of measuring the true impact of some of the added on technology manufactures have adopted in order to make the engine run more efficient. I had personally experienced this when we were conducting test for retrofit emissions technology formally under development, called the Smart Emissions Reducer.

Then there is the issue of “cold start” conditions. This is when a vehicle emissions is looked at when a vehicle is to be tested after sitting for a period of 24 hours, the vehicle is tested at start up for emissions and is ran through a series of testing procedures until the vehicle reaches benchmarks of operational speeds, and then is brought back down to slower speeds. This is called coast up and coast down. Issue is that these tests can be conflicting with the vehicles need to cycle through “drive cycles” before it is ready to come into compliance and offer accurate data information. Upon cold start, most vehicle controls are not yet fully functional since they are now operated by the vehicles computer.

Furthermore, vehicle manufactures are mandated on many areas of technical competency of what they can and can’t do to solve some of these obstacles. For instance, there are some measures that are defined by mandate and have been a mainstay, such as the catalytic converter, and EGR. Manufactures have to find a fix using outside the box thinking yet must stay confined to regulation and mandates.

When you combine all of these factors, you can see why the issue of so many vehicle manufactures having skewed emissions and/or fuel economy testing results has ran away on the industry. This is by no means meant to be a free pass to the auto industry, they have a responsibility to deliver to consumers, product that is aimed at providing the best measures and quality, including emissions and fuel economy however they are not the only ones at fault. So what are the fixes you ask? Well that is content better saved for another article.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who author’s 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 Ogdensburg, 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 a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.

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The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource: Part 3-Quantity Vs. Quality

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 6/01/16, a www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Source: With hundreds of bottled water brands out there, and a large spectrum of prices, how does one choose a brand of bottled water? We provide insight to what makes a quality bottled water worth its price and how to evaluate a good deal on bottled water when you see one advertised.

Who would have thought we would be paying upwards of two and three dollars in some cases for a bottle of water when thirty years ago a person would just put a glass under their faucet and drink what came out of the pipe. It seems our society took clean fresh water for drinking for granted, and now because so many of local fresh water sources have been polluted, many of us have resorted to purchasing water from the supermarket.

So how good is that water that is on sale for $2.99 for a case of (24)-16 ounce bottles, and why is it that some waters are priced above that for just one bottle? How do we make buying decisions on the quality of water we choose to put in our bodies, or it is purely economics that dictate our buying decisions. With so many brands and selections, how does a consumer choose the right bottled water?

The bottled water industry is a $9 billion dollar industry, with Pepsi’s Aquafina being the largest in the business, followed by Coke’s Dasani; and then Nestlé’s Poland Spring are the top three brands; however are you getting what you think you are getting when you purchase product from the large brands? Is a good deal or a good price really the value that is perceived?

First you have to consider the very source of the water, in where it comes from.  Most of the cost effective, or in some consumers’ minds, “cheap” water, is nothing more than filtered and refined municipal water; meaning water that comes from public sources and companies pay for access to these water sources.

There is much brand confusion which tricks consumers to think that these waters come from other sources; for instance some of these waters may be labeled with packaging that shows ice caps or mountain springs or rivers, when in fact when you read the fine print, the truth is revealed that the water comes from municipal sources. Other wording such as “natural” and “purified” create the illusion that these waters are as of high quality as some of their competitors. So to know exactly what you are getting, a consumer must know the difference in the types of waters that are available and the quality of their sources.

Some of the best water comes from Artesian well. This is water that comes from a contained isolated source from deep beneath layers of rock and sand. The water is above the actual water aquafer, and is not influenced by any man made water sources such as municipal water wells. Waters that fall into this category include H2O Energy Flow and Fiji water. This water is viewed as some of the best water a consumer can buy. Usually these sources are well protected and are miles away from any industrial, commercial, and/or residential zones.

Purified water is water that has passed through extensive filtration process. Other names for water in this category might also be seen as distilled water, deionized water, or purified drinking water. Most of these waters come from municipal water sources, which are processed through large commercial filtration systems. These systems usually comprise of both mechanical and chemical filtering processes. This is the lowest quality of bottled water a consumer can purchase.

Mineral water is water that contains minerals and trace elements from its natural source. No minerals and or chemicals can be added to this water. All minerals must be disclosed and this water must be monitored on a regular basis. No more than 250 parts per million may be detected in this water before it must be purified.

Drinking water is just another marketing practice of saying bottled water. This water must pass the sniff test for humans to be able to consume this water, outside of using it for other purposes such as cooking, bathing, or laundry. Sweeteners and chemicals are highly prohibited from being added to these waters. Sometimes you will see flavors added to these waters, however the trace amounts of flavoring is so minimal so it can remain bottled water and not as a soda or juice.

Some waters have a balanced pH. PH in science is a measurement and formula for calculating acidity and alkaline conditions.  The most ideal balanced condition is a pH of 7.8. Other trace minerals to keep in mind that are important for the body are calcium and magnesium. Waters that contain these trace minerals are usually considered higher end water.

Other indicators that a water source is pure and of higher quality is that the label of the product will provide additional information including whether or not the water is arsenic free, chlorine free, BPA free, MTBE free, chromium 6 free, and trace pharmaceuticals free. These are items you typically could expect to be in water that comes from municipal sources.

Now that you have the low down on the types and qualities of bottled water, now you have to decide whether water is a cost or an investment. If price is the most important factor in your buying habits, then you most certainly will not be getting the top shelf best quality water available. When you look at such a valuable commodity such as water as a cost, you are automaticity shutting out any product information available about which water is actually better for you. If you see your buying habits as investments, it demonstrates that you are willing to pay a little more for quality. As the consumer, ultimately, the choice is yours, just know the value you are getting when you chose price over quality.

Other alternative water supplies that an individual can consider which have grown in popularity over the past few years in include the collection of rain water; where rain barrels have been set up to collect runoff water for garden irrigation, washing cars, and property maintenance. Cisterns and cistern systems have also made a comeback. These types of systems consist of large tanks or sealed reservoir systems that collect water from rain water, snow melts, runoff, and/or fountains; where water is redirected into these storage tanks. These systems can be simple where the water is for non-human consumption (irrigation, washing of cars, clothing, etc.), and is either not filtered or filtered minimally. Some systems are significant in nature and are outfitted in partnership with commercial filtration units so that the water can be used for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

Many homes in America have their own well water; where a well is either dug and/or drilled until the drilling rig hits an aquifer or water source. A pump is placed in the well, usually powered by electric, which pumps the water to the top of the well for distribution of the water to faucet. Homes located in rural areas usually have some sort of well for water source. The only cost in this source is the maintenance and powering of the actual well equipment, unless the water is considered “hard water,” meaning the water contains hard heavy metals such as iron. In this situation, a filtration system is added to purify the water to be more palatable.

But what price can you put on the most important natural resource known to man? What is the price one is willing to pay to sacrifice clean fresh drinking water sources?  No matter the situation, we all have a responsibility to keep our lakes and rivers free of pollution and garbage; we all have a responsibility to be mindful not to damage or pollute ground water sources. Our very next glass of water counts on it.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who author’s 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 Ogdensburg, 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 a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.

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The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource: Part 2-Distribution & Delivery

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 5/15/16, a www.SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Source: Water must sometimes travel over hundreds of miles in distances to reach those that depend on it the most. What is the real price of distribution and delivery of fresh drinking water, and how do we protect clean drinking water from being contaminated during its journey its final destination?

Water; without it our society comes to a screeching holt. Water is the source of life, and the vast majority of our way of being depends on it. From manufacturing, to food production, water is required to help us feed our planet and build the modern conveniences of today. Water is our most precious resource on planet earth, yet we put our future at risk every time we either waste this valuable commodity, and/or abuse it with pollutants.

Half of the United States depends on clean fresh water sources that must be re-distributed from another part of the country, sometimes having to travel hundreds of miles from its original source. With this journey, water faces another set of risk; the risk of being contaminated during its travel to its final point of delivery to customer. Aging infrastructure is at the center of attention, with recent series of circumstances of lead contamination in water supplies for Cities of Flint Michigan and Newark, which this corresponding issue runs parallel with the issue of available clean fresh drinking water.

A stressed economy, and metro centers with aged infrastructure and a shrinking population, only compounds amounting complications on how to fund and fix decaying pipes and waterways. In the instance of Flint, it’s not the distance in which the water must travel that is the issue, but how the water must get to end users. Flint’s Mayor Karen Weaver stated that it would take over $1.5 billion dollars to update the infrastructure that carries fresh water supply to residents and businesses in the region. In a report, published on March 21, 2016; it was found that the aging pipes that carried Flint’s water supply to residents, was contaminating the water due to old lead pipes. Decaying pipes would leak traces of lead into the water supply, which would then affect the quality of water at the faucet. The complete report can be reviewed by clicking here.

In other parts of the United States, such as baron Southwest, including the “four corner” states, which include Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah; have faced rapid population growth in the cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix, Santa Fe, and Salt Lake City, all which are major urban metro centers whom rely on water sources as far away as Colorado, face major water shortages. As these urban centers populations grow, infrastructure and the demand for clean fresh water increase, while the main supply, the Colorado River becomes over taxed and dwindles. New residents, whom locate to these metro areas, forget that these cities are in the desert, and bring with them the introduction of plant life and urban landscape not native or natural to the area. As more homes and lawns are added to the system, the demand for water rises. Residents must make choices about curb appeal sacrifices in the name of water conservation.

California has also faced water crisis in the past few years. The amount of record rainfall needed to naturally sustain Southern California and its agriculture industry has been far below the norms. Urban zones like Los Angeles and San Diego have seen a rise in population growth. With the lack of rainfall, California is facing serious water shortage concerns. California is home to 70% of the nation’s fresh fruits and nuts, and 55% of the nation’s vegetable supply. Many parts of the state have instituted water restrictions on watering of lawns and washing of cars and sidewalks; however these practices are too little too late. As of recent, California has been getting water from water supplies that are tied to the Sierra Mountains of Nevada; in order to meet clean freshwater demands.

The further fresh clean drinking water must travel; the more at risk the water is to being contaminated along the way. In West Virginia, the Elk River was recently polluted by a manufacturing company whom was dumping pollutants which made its way into the waterway. This water is the main source of fresh clean drinking water for Central West Virginia. The further water must travel to the point of delivery, the more filtration systems will need to be added to the system before the water is deemed potable.

New York City, home to over 8.5 + million people, gets its drinking water from the upstate New York. This means water must travel up to 125 miles before it is processed and filtered before it can be sent to kitchens and bathrooms all over the five boroughs.

So what standards are in place to assure that the water that has traveled hundreds of miles is the same or better quality as it is at the source? In the case of New York City, since most of the water is naturally filtered through a series of watershed areas, NYC water is relatively clean. NYC did begin to build a new state of the art water filtration plant known as the Croton Water Filtration Project. NYC infrastructure does have some aging issues, in which over 36 million gallons of clean fresh drinking water are lost to leaking each day.

In Flint, it’s a much different story. In order to save money, Flint Michigan began to source its water from the Flint River, which contains significant amount of chlorides, a corrosive agent to lead pipes. The filtration systems in place were in fact functional but when the water had traveled through the aging infrastructure, lead began to end up in water coming out of the tap. Since this issue was brought to light, the City of Flint had switched back to their original water source, water from Lake Huron.

Other types of technology are currently being explored in how to purify and re-distribute waste water into a usable water source for building cooling systems and refrigeration, irrigation for agriculture, and/or water for manufacturing or maintenance needs, so clean fresh water dedicated for drinking water can be preserved solely for human consumption. Gray water is water from showers, laundry, sinks, and other non-sewage sources. Though this water cannot be digested by humans, it can be reused for the purposes of toilet water, irrigation, laundry, and car washes. Both biological and mechanical filtration systems are utilized in filtering and purifying gray water so it can be used again.

Sea and ocean water are being considered in places located near these sources, and where water is absolutely scarce. This process of removing saline, salt, and other harmful agents from sea or salt water is already used on ships and submarines. As it stands, 1% of the world’s population relies on this process for clean drinking water, however it is estimated by 2025, over 14% of the world’s population will be getting their drinking water from desalination.

As our population grows, and our access to clean fresh drinking water dwindles, the market of bottled water for sale will skyrocket. Our society has been trained by consumer habit and a strong marketing effort, where we now expect ourselves to purchase a case of bottled water as part of our practice when shopping for groceries. Thou these sources of water seem to be a bit better and trusted than scooping up water from our local lake or stream; not all bottled water is created equal as we discuss this in our next article; “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource: Part 3-Quanitity vs. Quality.”

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who author’s 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 Ogdensburg, 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 a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration.

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