Author Archives: Renee Targos

Backyard Paradise - Scottsdale Living Magazine Fall 2011

Transform Your Backyard Into A Paradise

Backyard Paradiso: Transform your backyard and entertain your guests outdoors.

Any patio can be turned into luxurious space given the right attention. But as you’re looking over your backyard, and possibly underwhelmed by its charm, try focusing on these three areas to create a fresh experience for you and your guests.

Relaxing Scents

There is nothing like the right amount of green and color to transform a desolate space into an inviting garden. Jay Harper, co-owner of Harper’s Nursery, says when looking at your little plot of paradise, think about bringing in plants that harmonize your senses of sight and smell.

“Jasmine and gardenias are fragrant,” Harper says. “Rosemary and lavender also smell good when touched. One thing to consider when entertaining at night, white flowers show up better than dark colors. White hibiscus are wonderful around a patio.”

When tackling the landscaping question, Harper suggests asking yourself what you like, whether it’s xeriscaping with low-water plants or creating a lush, green area. Another question to ask yourself if what fits with your lifestyle.

“Take into account future uses for your yard,” Harper says. “Perhaps you will want a pool later or have plans for children play areas.”

Two common mistakes to avoid are purchasing plants that will grow too big for the location or placing them in the wrong sun exposure. To prevent unsatisfactory results or dying plants, Harper says, “The best investment is to have a landscape architect or designer do a plan for you, whether you intend to do the project yourself or have it done for you. It will prevent you from having to do landscape in stages and won’t look like it was piecemealed together.”

Backyard Paradise Backyard Paradise Backyard Paradise  Backyard Paradise  Backyard Paradise
Photos: Kristine Deininger

Water Elements

If you think your pool needs a little refurbishing, Tim Maas, chief design consultant for Backyards Unlimited and Pool Jewelz, says to focus on the basics.

“The pool interior, deck and pool line tile are the standard ingredients of a pool,” Mass says. “If any one of these is shot, start there. Many people will not consider these low cost improvements, but it’s important to take care of these before adding water features, fire effects, boulder-scaping and lighting.”

If the inventory of your pool is looking good, then try dressing it up by adding accessories. Maas says the most popular elements are “glass tile interiors for pool, spa and fire features combined in one element.”

Other pool features include adding slides to pools and swim-up bars leading to gazebo and outdoor kitchens. “The new pool designs include 360-degree perimeter overflows where it appears you step right from the edge of deck into water without a cantilever edge,” Maas says.

For decks, Maas suggests natural stone such as travertine and Marbella. It will cost a little more but save you future maintenance problems.

As you plan to redo your deck, pool and outside entertainment area, Maas has a few tips when working with licensed contractors: “Get a few bids … remember the contractor and homeowner are entering into a marriage of sorts. You and the contractor should be able to talk things out. The last thing you want is for both parties looking for a divorce before the project is complete. This always adds to additional costs, so choose wisely.”

Backyard Paradise Backyard Paradise Backyard Living Outdoor kitchen
Photos: Backyards Unlimited

Furnishing Touches

Creating a place to sit and breathe in the fresh air on your patio is easily done with the right furniture pieces. For a cozy and comfortable, Nancy Djariri, owner/designer of Sunset Patio, says, “Cabana styles are fabulous with full swags or valences and inviting deep seating pieces that say you must lounge here.”

If you’re going for elegance, she suggests finding pieces that fit your space. In determining what furniture works best, Djariri says to consider total space, views, color schemes and décor themes.

Some furniture faux pas include choosing too much furniture, improperly placing it or adding old and new pieces together without cohesion. Djariri says you can correct your mistakes by looking through outdoor magazines to get ideas.

However, if you’re still spatially and décor-challenged, call a designer.

“When you walk through your house into your backyard, the key is to make the backyard an extension of your home, so it is inviting and comfortable,” says Djariri. “Everybody can achieve outdoor resort style living on any budget by putting a little time and thought into it.”

Photo: Sunset Patio Photo: Sunset Patio Photo: Sunset Patio Photo: Sunset Patio
Photos: Sunset Patio

For more information about transforming your own backyard, the following companies can help you out:

Harper’s Nursery
2529 N. Hayden Road
(480) 946-3481

Backyards Unlimited and Pool Jewelz
19120 N. Pima Road
(480) 941-4663

Sunset Patio
15020 N. Hayden Rd
(480) 203-2711

Scottsdale Living Magazine Fall 2011

Club SAR, Benefits of Boxing - Scottsdale Living Magazine Fall 2011

Club SAR, Mountainside Fitness Instructors Discuss Benefits Of Boxing

Club SAR, Mountainside Fitness Discuss Benefits Of Boxing

Road rage, workplace stress and a slow recovering economy are fueling hooks and uppercuts at boxing gyms across Scottsdale. Men and women of all ages are lacing up their gloves and reaping the sport’s payoffs in mental and physical health.

With a one-hour class burning approximately 400 to 800 calories, those who hit the boxing gyms are slimming down, building muscle and strengthening their minds and hearts.

“Boxing provides total body conditioning that includes strength, endurance and flexibility without having to focus on any one particular area,” says Tabitha Citro, athletic director at Mountainside Fitness, which offers boxing and kickboxing classes in Scottsdale. “It becomes a total package, an all-in-one sport.”

Dating back to 688 B.C. in ancient Greece, boxing has served as an outlet for those with combative tendencies. But for those who would prefer to not be hit, boxing conditioning can be accomplished without sparing.

“Some people are looking for the cardio benefits,” says Diedra Nietz, instructor at Club SAR in Scottsdale. “They don’t want to fight in the ring, but want to learn about self-defense and get in great shape. Many of our classes have people working at their own pace, on their own bag.”

Boxing conditioning classes often involve learning basic punches like jabs, hooks, uppercuts and footwork. Conditioning classes also include training to increase speed and strength using sprints, push-ups, sit-ups, squats and other grueling exercises that work the shoulders, core and legs.

The Great De-Stressor

Andrea Mijak, a school psychologist, started boxing to improve her performance in mixed martial arts. She fell in love with the sport and found that it helped reduced stress.

“When you are stressed, boxing can become a release,” Mijak says. “If you channel it, after the workout, the aggression is gone.”

Mijak says boxing has the ability take the negative energy that stress or anger creates and transforms it into something positive.

“Many of the boxers I’ve talked to say that boxing helped them to channel their aggression in a more positive way,” Mijak says. “It also empowers people. For some women, they might come in more timid, but after they get into it, they find they enjoy throwing a punch.”

Instructors say boxing is a workout that evolves into a skill set of fighting moves with increased coordination, confidence and strength. For those bored with going to the gym, boxing provides a workout with purpose, says Jonathan Couvdos, Club SAR instructor and former amateur boxer.

“It’s fun to work out when you have a goal,” Couvdos says. “At the end of it, you’re learning a technique and a sport. You forget you’re working out. Instead of running on a treadmill, when you do boxing conditioning, you’re getting a better workout, and it’s interesting.”

The Sweet Science

One of the great skills that boxing develops is the ability to respond to the unexpected. Boxers have to decide in split seconds on how to counter an opponent’s tactics.

Thomas Harrison, Club SAR manager/instructor and former amateur boxer, says boxing is called “the sweet science because it’s somewhat of a chess game. Yes, it is a fight, but there is thought involved. There is a method to fighting, such as counter-punching. You want to use your opponent’s moves against him. Hit without being hit. Accomplishing that requires a lot of study and practice.”

Learning to leverage one’s body to deliver heavy-hitting punches while maintaining balance and speedy responses also gives the brain a good workout.

“You’re working on your coordination, so it keeps you sharp,” Nietz says.  “You’re focusing on movements and what you do next. It teaches you to be quick on your feet.”

Self-Defense for Beginners

For people wanting to learn how to box for self-defense, boxing offers some basic building blocks. While it gives people confidence in throwing punches and taking hits, Citro says it’s just the beginning of learning to protect yourself.

“It provides a foundation for self-defense movements that could be applied to potentially dangerous situations,” Citro says. “It prepares the body to take a defensive mode in unexpected dangerous circumstances. But boxing should not be considered a substitute for a complete self-defense program. However, it provides great fundamental skills.”

Out of the Ring

Learning a sport and consistently exercising can also benefit your career. A study from the University of Bristol in England showed that 79 percent of people who exercised on days that they worked improved their professional performance.

“I think employers like the fact that people know a sport well,” Harrison says. “They know how to work hard, be regimented, disciplined and put themselves on the line to accomplish goals. All of that can be used in the corporate world.”

But for those who just want to punch something after a day at the office, taking it into the ring will serve as a stress-reliever and a big calorie-burning fitness program.

“(Boxing is) for people with different athletic abilities, from (those who weigh) 300 pounds to professional athletes who want to stay in shape during the off-season,“ Couvdos says. “It’s for anyone who wants to be challenged.”

For more information about Club SAR and Mountainside Fitness:

Club SAR
8055 E. Camelback Rd.
(480) 312-2669

Mountainside Fitness
11611 E. Sahuaro Dr.
(480) 889-8889

Scottsdale Living Magazine Fall 2011


Stacy Tetschner, National Speakers Association

National Speakers Association Shares Business Tips, Practices

Business Tips:

As your business trims the fat and weathers a tough economy, here are a few business tips and practices, from business professionals, including Stacy Tetschner of National Speakers Association and Pamela Barker of Genesis Strategic Planning Inc., to consider to keep your business afloat without burning out employees or missing opportunities.

Cut back or not?

Pamela Barker, Genesis Strategic Planning Inc.When money is tight, what should your business cut and keep? Some businesses are cutting essentials that cost them customers. To keep and grow your customer base, Stacy Tetschner, CEO of National Speakers Association, says to follow best-selling business writer, Jim Collins’ advice.

“Find out what you are best at,“ Tetschner says. “It’s great to generate alternative revenue sources, but don’t forget your core business. Make sure you provide that better than anyone else in the world.”

To keep your businesses performance level above the competition, Pamela Barker, president of Genesis Strategic Planning Inc., says to invest in your employees. “Make sure people are well trained, naturally wired for their roles, and share in your organization’s vision,” Barker says.  “Also, stay with services and products that have a high rate of return and are tailored to your niche market.”

Good service with a skeleton crew

Since 2008, many businesses survived by whittling down their staff. Employees who absorbed workloads of terminated positions are now facing burn out. Ownership in goal setting is one way to keep employees engaged and creating realistic, long-term work plans.

“It is important for teams to set thematic goals with everyone contributing action steps,” Barker says. “Patrick Lencioni’s team building material asks the critical question, ‘What must happen in the next 30, 60, or 90 days to consider this organization a success?’ Goals are set around the answer, but goals are set as a team.”

It’s also important to build the fire of excitement around what your organization is doing to keep employees inspired.

“Show your team your excitement about your vision,” Tetschner says. “Everyone wants to be excited about what they are doing and why they are doing it. And when your employees do incredible work for you, be sure to show your appreciation.”

Cheap marketing

Marketing and networking don’t always need to involve money. There are ways to stay connected to your community and interacting with the public without spending a dime.

Social media: Create a strategy with reachable goals for getting customers interested in your work using Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Sign up for Ragan’s Daily Headlines, a free e-newsletter with social media ideas (

Community presence: Barker says to stay in touch with your community by “serving on non-profit action committees, stay involved in the chamber, and the Better Business Bureau.”

Develop partnerships: Partner with non-competing businesses to provide discounts to customers. “You can share marketing expenses and enhance the brand image of each other,” Tetschner says.

Ready to launch?

With as much cutting back and energy put into surviving a fluctuating marketplace, this is actually a good time to launch well thought-out products and services. Tetschner says to look at what Apple did with iPhones.

For services, Barker says its an excellent time for pilot programs with solid strategies. “Create a win-win service for clients,”  Barker says. “Their participation in the pilot project can create a stronger relationship. It can also help to create a service with a proven track record for future clients.”

Before launching, continue to monitor and evaluate your business. “It is easy to identify opportunity areas,“ Tetschner says. “But in a time of doing more with less, it is important to decide what programs or products are not generating revenue or meeting goals and make a strategic decision to let them go.”

Adapting to unbalanced economic recovery

As the economy recovers in segments, its creating new challenges for professionals in the meeting industry. Stacy Tetschner, CEO of National Speakers Association, identifies two challenges and strategies for response.


Corporations are taking 60 days or less to book a meeting.

Respond by:

Understanding the meeting’s purpose — “When everyone understands, it makes decisions and selections that much quicker and focused.”

Identify what will be accomplished for the organization — “Think through how attendees connect, network and build professional community to how key messages are delivered and reinforced.”

Keep a sense of humor — “Make things happen in a cool and confident manner. Your bosses and clients will love you for it.”


Due to shorter booking times, former practices in forecasting businesses are not applicable, hindering long-term decision-making.

Respond by:

Keeping accurate historical records — “Everything from inquiries for meeting (looking for peak periods) to usage numbers at a meeting. With accurate numbers, new trends and dates can be developed. If this is going to be our new reality, we can develop good tools to forecast for shorter time frames.”

Evaluate in six- to 12-month ranges — “This will allow you to know possible pieces of future business, which can help negotiate and create a longer relationships (for better pricing) with vendors and suppliers.”

[stextbox id="grey"]The National Speakers Association flagship book, Paid to Speak: Best Practices for Building a Successful Speaking Business is available at[/stextbox]

Deliver on Your ROI, Business Meetings

Deliver On Your ROI With Proper Business Meeting Practices

With economic recovery plodding along over the past four years, what is giving businesses the biggest return on investment (ROI) with meetings today? We asked five experts in their fields for a thought on what works in the 2011 marketplace.

Delivering on ROI, MPI, Jim Fausel

Jim Fausel, president and COO, meetGCA

“The best business meeting practices from the past, still apply today. To say that meeting ROI initiatives are any fundamentally different detracts from the sole purpose of meetings — to engage others for information sharing, thought-provoking exchanges and reaping productive outcomes. Ten years ago those fundamentals still applied and were the cornerstone of why organizations and people decided to meet. Although we’ve seen many changes in the past several years in terms of technology and the fine-tuning of why meetings occur and the objectives necessary to achieve meeting success, businesses still should realize that focusing on engaging in meetings with their stakeholders is paramount to the bottom-line of the organization. It’s the human connections and the relationships garnered that matter. Whether it’s for a one-on-one business meeting or a conference of many attendees, continuing to provide stimulating content for the attendees will ensure ROI.”

Delivering on ROI, MPI, Tara Thain

Tara Thain, director of sales, SuperShuttle

“In regard to best practices, we keep it simple. We build a relationship with the client or individual traveler to ensure their transportation needs are met. Through technology and social media, we provide information to our customers regarding our reliable services. For groups and conventions, we provide documents to help them determine their transportation needs, such as proposals, service agreements, manifest arrangements. Educate your customer on your services + Provide the appropriate documents and options to your customer = Have their trust and repeat business.”

Delivering on ROI, MPI, Karolyn Kiburz

Karolyn Kiburz, president, Meetings and Concierges Source, LLC

“Formerly, it was evaluating if the guests enjoyed the conference, had a good experience, etc. (Now it’s) measuring the value of education, and how they are implementing it once they return to the workplace. They need to have their time/money translate into dollars for them once they get back to the office. Networking events are also key as so much business is done during that time. It used to be ‘have a cocktail and relax’ events. Now it’s ‘who can I meet to help me in my business and how can I help them’ events.

Pam Williams, meetings development manager, Visit Mesa:

“Providing good service and valuable resources has meant the most to our clients in the past. What’s important today are unique venues that set the stage to deliver savings and ROI. Additionally, we are working on programs to assist in promoting our clients meetings and events through social networking efforts and event landing pages that list opportunities and discounts for their attendees.”

Stephanie Wynn, principal executive, Eventify:

“Prior to 2008, business leaders in the meetings community use to be a little more lenient and flexible with business practices that delivered ROI. I think ROI was more of a goal and something of an after-thought, but since the economic decline, it’s become more of a way of life. Supplier quotes, client pricing, meetings packages, etc., used to be geared towards goodwill or with the thought that if you gave a little in terms of negotiation, it would lead to repeat business or brand loyalty. That’s no longer the case today. Today, suppliers, planners, clients, employees, and employers alike are asking what delivers ROI before planning or servicing even commences. Simply using the same tactic across the board will not work. Each case is unique and needs to be tailored to the organization or client’s needs. Things have become more streamlined, products have been eliminated, packages reduced, incentives have gone away, bare bones is the new norm. I wouldn’t say that today’s practices work — they are only temporary fixes to address the current economic climate.”

[stextbox id="grey"]For more information on ROI or MPI (Meeting Professionals International), visit[/stextbox]


10 Great Customer Service Success Stories - AZ Business Magazine September/October 2011

10 Great Customer Service Success Stories And Tips

Troy Hazard, author of the best-selling book “Future-Proofing Your Business”, offers these 10 tips for great customer service:

1. THE ANGRY CUSTOMER: In an argumentative situation, think of how you would feel in your customer’s shoes. Take time to consider his or her personality and position. The faster you start talking in your customer’s language, the quicker the route to an amicable result.

2. WHEN SERVICE GOES WRONG: Try these customer service tips practiced by an airline with flight problems: Acknowledge the problem and take time for face-to-face when possible. Anticipate the needs of the customer and make the customer comfortable. Communicate the solution and offer as much information as you can.

3. PERSONAL TOUCH: After buying a car, the salesman, would send information about things I was personally interested in. The salesman ended up selling $1.5 million to my friends through endorsement or referral.

4. TRUE CUSTOMER APPRECIATION: Sometimes we think we are rewarding our loyal customers when really we are offering them a bribe. A random thank you note that says, “Thanks for being a great customer, please accept this voucher as a sign of our appreciation” is a reward.

5. KEEPING IT REAL: When I owned an advertising business, I did not try to be what I was not. I did not make promises I could not keep. And it got me the client.

6. PROVE YOUR WORTH: Instead of trying to convince potential customers that you can do the job better than your competitor, simply demonstrate to them a service that your competitors simply won’t do.

7. THREE QUESTIONS OF CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS: Two of the most important aspects of building customer relationships are communication and consistency. Ask yourself:

* How often are you reaching out to your customers outside of the times they come to you?
* How often do you offer them something that is good for them, which has nothing to do with you selling them another product or service?
* How often do you train or retrain your staff on how to build better customer relationships?

8. INFORMATION OVER BRICKS AND MORTAR: There is only one way to truly build solid customer relationships — understand their needs and do not assume their expectations. Ask them why they purchase from you and how that purchase affects their lives. You can then use that data to develop a significant emotional connection.

9. ANTICIPATE EXPECTATIONS: Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and think about what they will want tomorrow — and deliver that product or service today.

10. BE SOCIAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA: As you launch your business into the world of social media marketing, remember that it is just that — social. It’s a means for your customers to praise or punish you.

[stextbox id="grey"]For more information by Troy Hazard about good customer service, visit his website at[/stextbox]

 Arizona Business Magazine September/October 2011


Meeting Professionals International, AZ Business Magazine September/October 2011

Face-To-Face Meetings Are Still Relevant, Despite Technology

Face-to-face meetings are back: Despite teleconferencing and technology, study shows meetings that provide human contact — face-to-face meetings — are still relevant.

As technology provides businesses with cost-effective means for communication with cloud technology, smart phones and Skype, one element among these virtual options will never be outdated — human contact.

MPI, Photos: Courtesy of MPI Arizona and Mark Skalny

Sure you can conduct a business meeting with your staff convened in a conference room to other parts of the country via teleconferencing. But meeting face-to-face is as personal — and effective — as you can get.

Dirk Smith, president and founder of Sports Destination, Inc., says face-to-face meetings haven’t fallen out style. “They might have fallen out of favor because of the economy,” he adds.

Jen Merkel, operations manager for CMI Resources, says she’s seen some scaling back in meetings, but lately, “in general, our clients seem to be back booking like they always have.”

In the white paper, “Why Face-to-Face Business Meeting Matter,” by Richard D. Arvey, professor at the Business School, National University of Singapore, it states that while business attributes 84 percent of communication to emails, teleconferences and other technology, meetings that provide human contact are still relevant.

Arvey states that physical meetings provide people with a way to build trust, figure out social norms, develop social identities and engage with each other. It also provides better business outcomes, with more negative outcomes associated with virtual meetings. Offsite meetings at hotels were surveyed to be 94 percent productive.MPI, Photos: Courtesy of MPI Arizona and Mark Skalny

“Technology makes it possible to connect with people from your own office, couch or pool deck, but when was the last time you made a new contact that way?” Merkel questions. “When a person attends a conference, they meet new people and have new experiences that are so much more than just looking at a laptop screen. Face-to-face conferences are far more enriching than virtual ones.”

In making efforts to be in the same physical space as other colleagues, co-workers or clients, “there is a perceived value in making the effort to physically meet,” Smith says. “Also, if you want to show off a product, to touch or feel something has intrinsic value for people. You can’t get that from a picture. People need to experience the value of interaction.”

Face-to-face meetings are important, but human interaction can sometimes create more complicated situations. Smith says face-to-face meetings tend to fail when there are no agendas, clear goals, important information, entertainment, or way to meet other people.

Merkel says he believes if your speaker isn’t engaging or meet the audience’s expectations — then attendees walk away with feeling they’ve wasted their time. One way to combat this is to ask audiences questions addressing these areas after meetings.

Another way is  to “listen to your planners,” Merkel adds. “They want the meeting to be as successful as you do, try to give them a little free reign to get creative and shake things up.”

Avery concludes in his paper that while teleconferencing and other virtual elements may be used by business, the key is to figure out the balance of virtual and face-to-face for creating a successful workforce.

[stextbox id="grey"]Check back next Friday, September 16, to read what Meeting Professionals International members had to say about the importance of face-to-face meetings.[/stextbox]


Arizona Business Magazine September/October 2011