Tuesday, November 26, 2013

River cruising: An easy way to explore and experience Europe

(BPT) - Europe is a popular destination for international travelers looking to visit the world's great capitals such as Paris, Amsterdam and Prague; to experience European culture; and to explore charming small towns. But planning a European trip can be daunting because it involves a lot of research to decide where to go, how to get there, and what to see. River cruising offers an excellent solution to this travel challenge for these reasons:

* See Europe's great cities: Many of Europe's greatest cities such as Budapest, Paris, Vienna and Prague developed along the rivers because of the easy means of transportation and trade, as well as access to fresh water. That's why river cruises can easily access so many of Europe's cosmopolitan cities, and even quaint towns and villages which developed along the river banks. Sleek, intimate ships hosting only about 200 passengers are much smaller than ocean cruise ships, and often can dock right in the heart of town so passengers can walk right off and start exploring.

* Immerse in the culture: In addition to being able to explore a new city each day of the cruise, river cruising allows travelers to develop a deep understanding of the cultures they explore. For example, Viking Cruises - the largest river cruise line - has launched 10 new river cruise ships this year alone and includes a "Cultural Curriculum" on all itineraries. This Culture Curriculum offers passengers language lessons, demonstrations of regional cooking and crafts, visits to local marketplaces and privileged access to cultural treasures. Whether privately touring the ancestral home of Prague's Prince Lobkowicz, or providing guided tours with the best English-speaking local guides, Viking Cruises offers many ways to get up close with local culture on their cruises.

* Explore alone or with a knowledgeable guide: River cruise travelers have the option to explore destinations on their own or with a local guide on a group tour. This flexibility gives passengers a chance to experience the local culture as they wish. For travelers with specific interests, Viking Cruises offers a complimentary concierge to help connect travelers with local treasures like a decadent chocolatier or reservations at local restaurants.

* Pack and unpack just once but see multiple destinations: River cruising gives passengers the freedom to travel without the hassle of changing hotels, packing and unpacking multiple times, or finding transportation. These smooth-sailing cruises are the fastest-growing travel segment also because the views along the river are ever-changing, providing a relaxing and highly scenic way to travel, and there's never any seasickness as can happen on an ocean cruise.

Because river cruising creates so many opportunities to visit different destinations on a relaxing, scenic vacation, it's easy to understand why these cruises are growing in popularity. Start planning your river cruise today and begin daydreaming about all the sites you're going to see and different cultures you can experience.

Courtesy of BPT

How do you get people to come to your party? It's all in the invitations

How%20to%20get%20people%20to%20come%20to%20your%20party It's a story that's been told a thousand times. You're throwing a reception and need to purchase some generic invitations, but you've passed the six week mark. Ms. Emily Post recommends to send them in the mail to your potential guests. Once inside your nearest invitations retail location, you browse the aisles and get a sinking feeling when you realize that nothing truly fits your needs and you're too late to customize something.
Or, perhaps you are a business owner seeking to retain your patrons by hosting a series of events and private parties to show appreciation for their business. You also have very limited time to dedicate to the creation of an invitation from the ground up, but you'd like to have something tangible to send to your customers.
Here are some tips for meeting your invitation needs:
* When designing your invitation, first and foremost, you want to ensure that your guests have a clear understanding of when and where the event will be. It's imperative that you allow enough time in your party planning to give those invited plenty of time to respond and reserve space in their calendars. If you find the date of your event quickly creeping up and you haven't finalized anything aside from the date itself, a save-the-date may be a good option for you. It serves as a courtesy by notifying guests to reserve the day, and lets them know more details will follow.
* If you are hosting your event in a remote location, be sure to include directions and look into getting a group discount on hotel accommodations for out-of-town visitors. Integrating this information into the invitation will assist attendees in making the ultimate decision as to whether or not to attend your event. Additionally, when giving the location, state whether it's outside or inside so guests can plan their attire. If you plan on holding your event on a boat, airplane or other vehicle, provide ample notice to your attendees. You should also feature the reason you're hosting the event prominently on the invitation itself. For instance, if you're hosting a gala to celebrate the election of a new president for your company, then attendees will know it's more formal than a birthday party for a child.
* The design, color and paper quality selection also play an integral role in grabbing your invitees' attention and getting them to commit to attend. This is why it is so important to take advantage of an invitation vendor who can accommodate your customization needs, with styles available in full color, in a matte, glossy or even linen finish and matching envelopes to complement your masterpiece. Be sure to include a way for your guests to RSVP. A low-cost option is to provide a phone number or email address where guests can leave their responses. If you want to be slightly more formal, include a response card with a pre-printed, postage-paid return address envelope with your invitations.
* Finally, it's important to remember to stamp those invitations and RSVP envelopes. Otherwise, the chances of you getting RSVPs will be slim to none. Following these simple tips will help you create the perfect invitation for your next big event.

Courtesy of BPT

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Before 2014, Find Your WHY

At a recent Chamber of Commerce event, a fellow board member was raving about a new book he was reading. He said it was one of those books that “haunts” you. I knew exactly what he meant. There are several books that hold that distinction in my library. The book he described was, Start with Why by Stuart Sinek. Since I read it, it has transformed my perspective…it influences many of my decisions, it will appear out of no where, it quietly reminds…it haunts.

Jim Collins Good to Great and Built to Last are 2 books that compare similar companies in the same industries. Collins looks at why some companies have success while other achieve greatness. Similarly, Start with Why compares several companies/leaders to their peers: Wright Brothers, Apple, Martin Luther King, and Southwest Airlines. These amazing innovators/leaders/companies all had something in common. They had a strong WHY.

He uses the example of Apple versus Dell. Companies understand WHAT they do. On the surface, Apple and Dell make computer electronics. Additionally, they understand HOW they do it. They have employees, factories, supply chains, distribution points and marketing. They also have the same access to talent and resources.

So….WHY do customers line up days in advance to get the latest iPhone? WHY are people more intrigued by the Apple Keynotes than the State of the Union? Conversely, WHY can’t you name Dell’s latest MP3? WHY wouldn’t you book an appointment weeks in advance to visit a Dell Store?

Many times, we assume that there is some inherent market advantage that leads to a company becoming great.

Assumption 1: First to market

Assumption 2: Technological/Talent advantage

Assumption 3: Price advantage

Assumption 4: Service advantage

Apple has/had none of these. 1. Most of their successful products were already available in the marketplace. 2. Most of the technology was already available. 3. Apple is very expensive and isn’t known for their Door Buster Deals. 4. You have to book an appointment sometimes weeks in advance to “visit” a store.

So…WHY are companies/leaders/ideas like Southwest, Martin Luther King, Apple and the Wright Brothers the first names in their fields? They were able to harness the power of WHY. Martin Luther King didn’t have a Strategic Plan, he had a DREAM. The Wright Brothers put together a team that wanted to achieve flight while their much more talented counter parts were busy in-fighting over who would take the fame and glory. Southwest Airlines became an employee first company and revolutionized the industry, while others (TED, iJet) have tried and failed to copy.

The Golden Triangle is an important structure in companies that understand their WHY. In the Golden Triangle, you start with the WHY (instead of What or How). Why is an emotional questions. Physiologically, the core of decisions are made emotionally. For instance, think of some of the biggest “life” decisions you have made. There is a lot of emotion that went into that decision. Yes you can rationalize the decision with logic, however logic is powerless without emotion. (We make decision with emotion, then rationalize with logic. Not the other way around)
Your WHY is embedded in emotion. It is a feeling. When you have a strong attachment and understanding of that feeling, the what and how become easy. At RE/MAX Realty Centre, our why is “To Improve the Lives of Our Associates”. Every decision, addition, change is hammered out against the anvil we call our WHY.

This time of the year, many business start looking forward to business planning for 2014. I would encourage you to add a special goal for the new year. Find your WHY.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five steps to create a customized outdoor living space with railing

(BPT) - Railing can upgrade any deck from drab to fab - adding style, as well as safety and support. In fact, it's often the one element that truly sets your outdoor living space apart from others in the neighborhood. Here are five steps to create the perfect perimeter for your deck.

1. Find ideas at your fingertips - From contemporary to classic, you can choose from a multitude of modular railing options in a variety of colors and materials to give your outdoor living space a dose of personality. Use the new Railing Configurator on the Trex Color Visualizer iPad app to experiment with more than 1,200 design combinations. Available for free in the Apple iTunes store, the app allows you to virtually mix and match posts, caps, rails and balusters, as well as change the backdrop to emulate your own outdoor living environment. Save images of your favorite designs and automatically generate a list of materials to make the purchase process easier.

2. Select low maintenance materials - When choosing railing, demand the same durability and high performance that you expect from your decking, so that you'll be able to spend more time relaxing on (rather than maintaining) your outdoor living space. Unlike wood, composite railing won't warp, rot or splinter and never needs sanding, staining or painting - even after years of exposure to the elements. In fact, it washes clean with only soap and water.- -

3. Preserve a picturesque view - Whether your deck looks out over a tranquil lake, a dramatic mountain range or just a meticulously landscaped backyard, the proper railing makes it possible to fully enjoy your vantage point. With its sleek and unobtrusive appearance, Trex Reveal Aluminum Railing maximizes scenic views by spanning long lengths for panoramic sightlines. Available in three neutral colors - charcoal black, bronze and classic white - Trex Reveal can be customized to suit the taste of any homeowner with two baluster options (square and round) and two post choices (aluminum and composite).

-"In addition to highlighting the beauty of your outdoor surroundings, aluminum railing offers unparalleled strength and features a powder coating that resists corrosion and color fading," says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex, the world's largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing. "For ultimate peace of mind, Trex Reveal is also backed by a 25-year limited warranty." For more outdoor living tips and ideas, visit www.trex.com.

4. Look to regional style trends - While personal taste is the biggest influencer when selecting railing for an outdoor living space, many homeowners look to the architectural styles of their particular regions for inspiration. For instance, on the East Coast, traditional colonial style balusters and crown profile railings remain most popular. However, West Coast homeowners tend to prefer sleek and streamlined railing components - including handrails and bottom rails with more contemporary beveled shapes. To learn about trends specific to your area, flip through a locally published home improvement or home decor magazine.--

5. Lighten up - Enhance the beauty of your railing and lengthen the time you can spend enjoying your deck with outdoor lighting that may be installed on rails and post caps. Not only will lighting set the mood for evening cocktail parties and al fresco dinners, but it also will add safety and security. Consider LED dimmable options to maximize energy efficiency.

Courtesy of BPT

Monday, November 18, 2013

RE/MAX Realty Centre v. the Competition

With over 37% growth in 2013 over last year, RE/MAX Realty Centre continues to prove why clients, customers, and the top agents in the industry are attracted to the company. If you want to put the power of RE/MAX Realty Centre please visit us at www.Realty-MD.com.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The do's and don'ts to selling your products online

(BPT) - Many small business owners are hopeful that offering their products online will increase their bottom line. But the digital marketplace is increasingly crowded and it can be hard to stand out from the pack. The good news is that being a small business can actually give you an edge over bigger brands - if you know how to use your size to your advantage. Here are the do's and don'ts you need to take your business to the next level:

Don't build your own online shopping platform. While you may believe that having your own website will attract new shoppers, website development and maintenance is expensive and time consuming. Unless your brand already has the visibility needed to attract consumers without advertising or marketing, traffic to the site will be hard to generate.

Don't expect your products to sell on a large online marketplace. While big online marketplaces, like Amazon or eBay, attract a high volume of online shoppers, unless customers are searching specifically for your brand or chance across your products via search, they will likely never see your products.

Do partner with a retail platform that can help you engage with your customers. OpenSky.com is a new and free social shopping marketplace dedicated to building the businesses of small merchants. OpenSky.com will provide you with your own customized online store, a new business toolkit including tips and support, and a built-in community of more than 2.5 million engaged social shoppers, enabling you to foster one-on-one connections and market your goods directly to them. Because they're already pre-disposed to shop, a follower of your brand on OpenSky is 27 times more likely to buy than a Facebook fan. These engaged followers lead to more sales with less cost to you. Best of all? It's incredibly easy. To begin, visit www.OpenSky.com/marketplace to learn more and join this fast-growing network of brands and customers.

Do market your products in a one-of-a-kind way. Create eye-catching content, making sure all your photos are high quality and shot in their best light.

Do establish yourself as an authority. Consider creating tips, recipes or behind-the-scene snippets. If your products are naturally-sourced, why not share photos from the beautiful hike that provided your inspiration for it? Sharing relevant and relatable content will keep your customers coming back.

Do use your size to your advantage. While big retailers are busy playing the price-cutting game, you can work smartly to connect with a community of loyal followers who really appreciate what you do. Harness the personal relationships you've made with customers through social platforms where you can strengthen connections by sharing product news, relevant content and personal reminders about new items you think they'll enjoy. Remember that what makes your small business special is your customers' opportunity to feel a personal connection with you, the entrepreneur and your passion - your product.

Do start now. While selling online may seem overwhelming, following these easy steps will help you make others fall in love with your brand.

Courtesy of BPT

Tips for meeting your financial goals this year

As with any other goal, the key to achieving your financial goals is laying out a process that will ultimately lead you to success.

If you've set yearly financial goals in the past, but have failed to achieve them, now is a great time to re-evaluate your process. And don't let past failures discourage you, because you are not alone - only 12 percent of consumers reached their financial goals in this year, according to a recent Zogby IBOPE survey commissioned by TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting companies.

"Now is the perfect time to appraise your current financial situation and make goals for where you want to be," says Heather Battison, TransUnion's senior director responsible for consumer education.

So what can you do to ensure financial success in the coming year? TransUnion offers five tips for planning and achieving your goals:

* Check your credit reports every three months. Monitoring your credit can help you recognize bad financial habits, like making late payments, which can affect credit score. Regularly checking your credit report is also a way to protect yourself against identity theft. If you ever run into a situation where you suspect identity theft, TransUnion provides a guide for what to do next.

* Check for accuracy. Make sure the information on your credit reports is up-to-date and reflects your current credit history. Give yourself at least 30 days to resolve any issues. Online dispute forms are available at TransUnion.com.

* Know your score. Your credit score helps determine your interest rates on credit purchases. A healthier credit score can help you receive the best interest rate, ultimately putting more money in your pocket as your work toward achieving your financial goals.

* Create a monthly spending plan and stick to it. Breaking down your spending habits into smaller and more manageable increments can help you achieve your financial goals. Through breaking it down by month, you can also set aside a fixed amount each month to deal with unexpected financial emergencies that may come up later in the year. If you don't have to spend this reserve fund, you can treat it as a year-end bonus, or, even better - put it toward next year's goals.

* Take additional measures to minimize your exposure to identity theft. In addition to frequently checking your credit, you can sign up for a credit monitoring service that will alert you whenever something changes in your report.

Setting yourself up for a successful financial year means developing plans now that you can execute as the year goes on. Additional planning tools to help you understand your credit information, manage your debt load, protect your identity and help you achieve your financial goals can be found TransUnion.com.

Courtesy of BPT

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Clarksburg, MD Real Estate Report October 2013

Here is the Clarksburg (zipcode 20871) Area supply and demand chart for October2013. The Green bars represent the percentage of available homes that went under contract this month. The absorption rate is determined by the number of homes on the market and the number of homes selling that month. Typically the Under Contracts are the lead indicator of activity since it usually takes 30-60 days for most homes to go from under contract to sold.

Clarksburg's absorption rate dropped below 20%. Some of this is a factor of the government shutdown and a seasonal slowing. New home inventory has also played a major role in the Clarksburg market. As we get closer to the end of the year I anticipate the absorption rate to hold steady.

If you are interested in learning more about this great market, speak with a professional at RE/MAX Realty Centre 301-774-5900

Absorption Rate

October 2013 17.6% absorption rate

October 2012 19.1% absorption rate

October 2011 10.4% absorption

Monday, November 11, 2013

Olney Real Estate Reports October 2013

Here is the Olney, Brookeville, Ashton, and Sandy Spring Area supply and demand chart forOctober2013. The Green bars represent the percentage of available homes that went under contract this month. The absorption rate is determined by the number of homes on the market and the number of homes selling that month.Typically the Under Contracts are the lead indicator of activity since it usually takes 30-60 days for most homes to go from under contract to sold.

We have seen a clear change in the marketplace from the spring. Bidding wars are no longer the norm, however well price/good condition homes are selling quickly. The government shutdown along with the time of the has made the market "feel" very slow, however the 22.3% absorption rate is very strong (25.5% county wide).

If you are interested in learning more about this great market, speak with a professional at RE/MAX Realty Centre 301-774-5900

Absorption Rate

October2013 22.3% absorption rate

October 2012 10.6% absorption rate

October2011 10.9% absorption

Montgomery County Real Estate Report October 2013

Here is the Montgomery County, MD supply and demand chart forOctober 2013. The Green bars represent the percentage of available homes that went under contract this month. The absorption rate is determined by the number of homes on the market and the number of homes selling that month. We are tracking the Under Contracts for a very specific reason. Typically the Under Contracts are the lead indicator of activity since it usually takes 30-60 days for most homes to go from under contract to sold.

The government shutdown greatly impactedthe Montgomery County real estate market for the short term. However, once the shutdown was over, we saw interest in the real estate bounce back. At 25% absorption, the market is still moving along a brisk pace. We will see some seasonal slowing of the market as Nov/Dec approaches.

If you are interested in learning if the market is moving in your direction, speak with a professional at RE/MAX Realty Centre 301-774-5900

Absorption Rate

October2013 25.5% absorption rate

October 2012 21.6% absorption rate

October 2011 15.3% absorption

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Massage tips to help ease your over-active muscles

(BPT) - Living an active lifestyle is being embraced by both young and old - helping to keep bodies healthy and fit. Whether you're trying a new sport or simply pushing yourself to the next level in your workout routine, you may experience aches and pain in muscles. Did you know massage therapy can help to alleviate discomfort naturally? Here are some- tips for achieving a great massage therapy experience.

"It's important to remember that increasing activity can take a toll on our bodies," says DeJuan Williams, massage therapy lead instructor at Everest College - St. Louis. "While there are many ways to ensure that our muscles, bones and joints stay healthy and injury-free, massage therapy is a great way to decrease stress, improve circulation and minimize fatigue."

Williams offers these tips for achieving the best massage therapy experience:

Start slowly. If you've been less active, give your body time to adjust and ease into more outdoor activities. "Having patience with your body can help minimize soreness," says Williams. "You may experience some discomfort after resuming strenuous outdoor activities, but massage therapy can play a role in providing comfort after an intense day."-

Find the right professional.Once you've decided to begin massage therapy, find a professional therapist who is licensed, insured and has academic credentials. "Reading online reviews and getting personal recommendations from friends are great sources," says Williams.

Ensure compatibility. At your first appointment, have a list of questions ready to determine if you're compatible with the massage therapist. "Ask them before you begin, to ensure you're comfortable with the therapist," says Williams. "You should also disclose any current health issues you're facing, in order to have the safest, most effective session." -

Customize your therapy. Discuss with the therapist any massage preferences you have, including depth of pressure, room temperature and music. "During the massage, feel free to speak up and let the therapist know if you'd like to adjust any aspects of the therapy," says Williams.

Relax and enjoy. The key to getting all the benefits of a massage is to relax your body and mind. Stopping or limiting your breathing during a massage can cause you to become tense and potentially hinder the effectiveness of your massage. "Especially if a particular muscle or joint area is sensitive from recent outdoor activity, try to breathe normally," says Williams. "Massages should never hurt, so be sure to communicate any discomfort immediately."

Stay hydrated, stay healthy. Making sure you're hydrated can help you to feel better pre- and post-massage. "Always drink extra fluids before and after massages to ensure that your muscles are hydrated, and to help flush toxins from the body," says Williams. "Just as it's important to be disciplined with a steady workout regimen, a consistent massage therapy plan can boost your overall health and keep you feeling great."

Courtesy of BPT