Tag Archives: Tips


Tips for homeowners to avoid scorpions and other pests

In the heat of the season, its scorpions that drive people to call companies like Blue Sky Pest Control.

According to co-founder Nate Woolf, scorpions are among the most common pest complaints among homeowners this time of year. “We have one of the only poisonous varieties of scorpions in the area, the bark scorpion, “he said. “It’s been an active year because of the moisture for scorpions and other insects.”

Woolf and his co-founder Curtis Whalen, encourage Valley residents to take steps to make their homes less attractive to scorpions and other troublesome pests. “Removing leaf litter, keeping potted plants on stands away from the house, and avoid over watering,” cautioned Whalen.

Other steps homeowners can take include:

• Avoid overgrown vegetation near the house

• Steer clear of river rock and palm trees

• Watch for leaky faucets or standing water

• Keep tree limbs trimmed, especially near the home

Whalen is considered one of the top experts on insects in the country and believes in not just treating the home with their “secret sauce,” but also looking at each customer’s home for trouble spots. 

“We help homeowners recognize what they need to do and suggest habitat modifications,” Woolf says.  “One recommendation is trimming bushes six inches back from your home. Also, trimming tree limbs that hang over roofs is important, since the limbs and foliage provide a bridge for insects to get into your home.”

Woolf also says that old wood piles, tool bins, yard debris and certain types of landscaping become an inviting habitat for pests.

“We also look at conditions like weather stripping, daylight gaps in doorways and leaky downspouts, all of which are conductive to attracting a wide variety of insects.

summer energy demand

How to prepare your A/C and home for summer

After nearly 40 years of serving Valley families, the techs at Donley Service Center have pretty much seen it all. They’ve provided relief during Phoenix’s all-time record high of 122 and warmed plenty of homes not used to below freezing temperatures.

While July is usually our hottest month, now is the time to prepare your air conditioner and home to ensure the lowest energy bills and maximum efficiency. Donley experts are available to discuss the following tips:

Change your air filter

• Our dry, dusty climate can quickly clog your filter, which can lead to higher energy bills and more repairs. It’s a good idea to clean or replace your filter every month.

Clearing and cooling the area

• Planting shrubs or trees can provide shade to the a/c unit, which leads to less electricity being used. But, not too close or you’ll restrict airflow. Make sure the area is free of leaves, weeds and debris.

Seal the leaks

• The fastest way to save money is to use caulk or weather-stripping on your doors and windows.

Set it and forget it

• You won’t conserve energy by constantly changing the thermostat. Set it at the highest comfortable level and leave it. Or, try a programmable thermostat that will automatically adjust for times you are away and sleeping. Note: Keep your set back point 4 degrees or less when setting a programmable thermostat.

Use ceiling fans

• They move the air so you feel cooler, but turn them off when no one’s in the room.

Move the lamps

• Thermostats can pick up the heat from lamps, TV’s and appliances so keep them away.

Invest in sunscreen

• Keep blinds and drapes closed and install sunscreens to keep the heat out.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency saysthe average air conditioner lasts 15 to 20 years, in Arizona we generally experience a shorter life span – closer to 12-15 years. While it may seem like a pretty wide span, we know that properly maintained units that are checked annually by qualified technicians last the longest and run the most efficiently during our triple digits.


Tips to protecting yourself during Ebola crisis

As part of its series of advisories on how cleaning professionals can protect themselves from serious infection-especially now that Ebola has made it to the United States-Kaivac, developers of the No-Touch® and OmniFlex™ cleaning systems, suggests one way is to avoid handling dollar bills.

“While this sounds a bit extreme, the truth is infections can and do live on paper bills for many days after they have been touched by a person with the flu or some other infection,” says Matt Morrison, Communications Manager for Kaivac. “What this is really telling us is that when it comes to stopping the spread of infection we have to be on guard and take precautions at all times.”

In this case, Morrison advises cleaning workers to wear gloves and wash hands frequent as well as keeping a ready supply of hand sanitizers nearby at all times. As to other ways cleaning professionals can protect their health during their day-to-day activities, now with the Ebola scare and whenever the spread of infection is a concern, he advises the following:

• Avoid shaking hands; use the knuckle bump instead.
• Avoid large groupings of people; while Ebola specifically is not an airborne disease, if an ill person coughs, droplets can become airborne and pose a risk.
• Do not share tools with other cleaning workers.
• Do not wear personal protection gear (gloves, etc.) used by someone else.
• Avoid sharing facility keys with other cleaning workers; in a larger facility, have one worker in charge of opening and locking all interior doors.
• Install hand sanitation stations in all janitorial closets.
• Politely keep a distance from office and cleaning workers if a public outbreak of a disease is a concern.
• If concerned about touching something in a facility setting, don’t; refer the matter to a supervisor.

“This is a perfect time to also develop an infection-control training program,” adds Morrison. “Should there be more Ebola cases in the United States, this will probably become routine and frequent for cleaning crews throughout the country.”


How to Break Free from a Micromanager

Micromanagers are known for peering over employees’ shoulders, stifling their independence and meddling in the minutiae of their everyday work. And in a recent Accountemps survey, a majority of workers polled said they have firsthand experience with an overbearing boss. Fifty-nine percent of employees interviewed reported working for a micromanager at some point in their careers. The survey also found the constant scrutiny has a negative impact on most workers. Of those who felt they’d been micromanaged, 68 percent said it decreased their morale and 55 percent said it hurt their productivity.

The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, and conducted by an independent research firm. It includes responses from more than 450 employees 18 years of age and older who work in an office environment in the United States.

“Bosses micromanage for many different reasons, but no matter how good their intentions, taking a heavy-handed approach typically hurts employee output, job satisfaction and, as a result, retention efforts,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Motivating Employees For Dummies® (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). “Personally making sure every ‘t’ is crossed might help avoid some mistakes, but the costs associated with failing to trust your team can have a longer-term impact.”

Accountemps offers this six-step plan to help micromanagers learn to loosen the reins:

1. Recognize that you may be the problem. Does the word delegate make you wince? Do you feel you have to do it all and keep a controlling hand on everything at all times? You might be a micromanager.

2. Let it go. Start practicing restraint by dropping the red pen. You don’t need to put your personal stamp on every single item that passes your desk. Making changes to an employee’s work simply for the sake of making changes is a habit worth breaking.

3. Keep the check-ins in check. Constantly inquiring about routine assignments rarely helps employees get them done any faster or more efficiently. Provide clear directions upfront, check in once if need be and then trust your team members to do their jobs.

4. Stop sweating the small stuff. When you allow yourself to get bogged down by the little things, you’re taking away time and energy from bigger-picture organizational objectives that could have a far greater impact on the bottom line.

5. Get to the point (person). Identify a few tasks you currently handle that can be easily delegated to someone. Think about the time and skills needed for the job and then assign accordingly.

6. Empower your employees. When they’re managing projects, give team members the freedom to make decisions — and, yes, mistakes. You might encounter some initial hiccups, but in the long run, offering autonomy will help your employees build their problem-solving and leadership skills.

winter wardrobe

Survival Tips for Black Friday Shopping

It’s natural to want to get our holiday shopping done early. Black Friday, traditionally the day after Thanksgiving, begins America’s holiday season shopping frenzy. It is safe to say Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the years.

That being said, Black Friday is also the craziest shopping day of the year. Women are fighting over the last bag their daughter needs, the aisles are crowded, and you’ll see a whole new meaning to “busy parking lot.” We all understand why people do it, but how do they do it?

Early bird advantage. So, you’re finally at the mall and have been waiting for this day since Halloween. Make sure you do it right. Get there early so you don’t have to brave the parking lot right before the doors fly open. Leave your jacket in the car; If you are at a mall you wont need it. The Black Friday deals may cause a bit of sleep deprivation and leg soreness, but you’ll spend the rest of Christmas free of shopping — like a champion.

Keep calm. Keep calm and Black Friday on. Remember, the sales will continue throughout the holiday season. Black Friday can get very stressful, but it really does not need to be. Start with some research. Find exactly what you want and know where to get it at the best prices. Quite a few retailers will tease deals before Friday. Keep in mind that higher-end shops probably won’t have the best deals but may have the best atmosphere.

Dress for the occasion. Before you leave your house at the crack of dawn, make sure you are dressed appropriately. Comfy shoes are a must as you fly down the aisles of your favorite department store.

Make a plan. Double-check your purse to make sure you have your coupons or a list of items you need to get and which store has the deal you want. There is nothing more depressing than thinking you are getting 40 percent off and realizing you left your discounts on your counter.

Stay hydrated, fed. Don’t let dehydration slow you down. People forget that shopping really is a form a cardio. Therefore, it is in your best interest to eat before you go. If possible, eat with the people you are shopping with to ensure that your stomachs are on the same schedule. There is always someone in my family who needs to leave the mall an hour after we get there because they decided to skip lunch. There has never been a better time to put those Thanksgiving leftovers to use.

Get in the spirit. While shopping, remember what time of year it is. That’s right — the happy time of year.  Regardless of the holiday you celebrate this season, it is not only about shopping but having fun with friends and family. Stay jolly.

Fresh Water is Becoming Scarcer with the Planet's Changing Climate

Experts Offer Water Saving Tips

Now that summer is in full swing many of you are experiencing sticker shock as you open those water bills. There are some ways to save some water and save some money without emptying your pool or turning your yard into a barren wasteland.

City Property Management oversees nearly 300 homeowners associations in Arizona and understands that most homeowners have the desire to save water, save some green, and plant something green.

Think before you plant. If you are landscaping or re-landscaping your property remember you live in the desert, but that doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to cactus and rocks.

A Mexican Blue Palm makes more sense than a Queen Palm. An Acacia tree uses much less water than an orange tree. A Brittle Bush produces leaves all year long and uses much less water than a typical juniper.

If your landscaping is in place with plants that require moderate or heavy watering, there are still some ways to save water.

* Make sure your sprinklers are adjusted so you are watering the lawn and not the sidewalk
* Water in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are cooler to reduce evaporation
* Split lawn watering times if you have excessive runoff
* Use mulch around trees and shrubs to help your plants retain moisture
* Direct water from rain gutters and air conditioners to water loving plants
* Regularly check for leaks on automatic drip systems
* Consider a pool cover in the summer to reduce evaporation
*  When backwashing your pool, use the excess water on landscaping

“Where possible, we encourage the use of low water trees, shrubs and grasses in the associations we manage,” said Brian Lincks, President of City Property Management. “But that doesn’t mean these associations have to sacrifice aesthetics. There are countless green plants that flourish in our desert. There are also countless ways to save water and save a few dollars in the process.”


10 Tips to Write a Social Media Policy in Business

Most business owners are now aware that having a social media presence is important for the success of their businesses. While social media presents unthinkable growth opportunity, it also opens the company up to risk.

Thus, it is critical for a business owner to create and implement a strong social media policy that gives the company and its employees the freedom to grow through social media, while putting a set of concrete rules and guidelines in place that will keep the troops in line.

However, when you consider that no two social media policies will be the same because different organizations will have their own unique environments, it is important to call in the experts.

Steve Nicholls, author of Social Media in Business, international speaker, and social media strategist offers 10 tips to write a clear, well-defined social media policy.

1. Create a Task Force: Opinions and ethics may vary between different people; it is preferable that all members of upper management be consulted when developing a social media policy so that all reach agreement on policy content.

2. Define Appropriate Internal Use: It is important to outline what is acceptable and what is not to your employees when it comes to using social media platforms in the workplace. How much freedom employees will have when interacting on social media needs to be clarified based on your workplace environment in order to avoid any confusion.

3. Define Appropriate External Use: As we have seen time and time again, one slip on Facebook or Twitter can ruin a career or a business. Thus, it is important to define who will be allowed to communicate with the public and put an approval process in place.

4. Confidentiality: Content posted on social media platforms need to comply with the organization’s confidentiality and disclosure of proprietary data policies.

5. Accountability: Employees need to be held accountable for everything they write on social media sites.

6. Protect Employers Reputation: Employees have the duty to protect their employer’s reputation. It would also be useful to make employees aware that competitors might read what they post and thus that sensitive information is not to be disclosed as a consequence.

7. Be Clear on Copyright issues: It is advisable to include a clause dealing with copyright, plagiarism, libel and defamation of character issues.

8. Regularly Review and Update Policy: Regular reviews need to be organized and performed. A policy is not always consistent with what is actually taking place and the company need to pay attention and adjust accordingly to make sure it is a relevant and effective policy that promotes growth and safety.

9. Work Hard, Play Less: It is important to stress that social networking sites cannot interfere with primary job responsibilities so that employees do not lose perspective

10. To Whom Does it Apply: The social media policy needs to clarify who to treat as internal staff and thus who will follow the social media policy rules when external resources are brought in.


7 Tips for Choosing a Dental Plan for Small Businesses

Graduating students and alumni rate dental coverage among the top five most important benefits — medical insurance, yearly salary increase, 401(k) retirement plan, dental insurance and life insurance. In an increasingly competitive environment, a strong benefits package can play a key role in attracting and retaining top talent. Dental coverage has an important position in rounding out that package.

Unfortunately, many small business owners are unsure what to look for when choosing a dental benefits plan. In fact, 90 percent of benefits decision-makers rely on a broker or consultant to help them choose the best plan and carrier for their employees.

Here are seven tips from Delta Dental of Arizona to help you choose the best dental insurance plan for your company:

1. Understand your employees’ needs
Understanding your organization’s oral health needs is the first step in evaluating your dental benefits options. Different demographics face different oral health challenges. For example:
• Employees ages 20-39: This generation generally faces fewer oral health challenges. They benefit most from prevention and find value in a plan that covers basic cleanings and checkups. Members of this age group are more likely to be starting families.
• Employees ages 40-59: Members of this group often require restorative procedures. As their oral health needs change with age, they tend to seek ways to manage their health and wellness. They value a benefits carrier that provides access to expert resources and offers them choices to help confront oral health challenges.
• Employees ages 60+: Employees nearing retirement are more likely to face chronic conditions. They value a plan that helps them manage the expenses associated with more complicated procedures.

2. Find out how big the dentist network is
Employees are likely to be more satisfied with their dental plan when they can answer “yes” to this question: “Is my dentist in the network?” Having more in-network dentists to choose from improves network utilization rates simply because more employees are visiting an in-network dentist. This means more enrollees are enjoying protection from balance billing and saving the group money on claims – a satisfying result for the employer and employees.

3. Focus on preventative care
A strong dental insurance company will help employees manage their oral health by encouraging preventive care. This reduces long-term costs on the dental side and could also have a significant long-term impact on overall health and health care costs.

4. Ensure benefits information is available online
Progressive dental carriers’ online capabilities enhance customer service, provide flexibility and transparency and improve operating efficiency, from billing and paying claims to enrollment and enrollee communication.

5. Ask about customer satisfaction levels
An employer and its employees must have confidence that they’ll be taken care of after signing on with a carrier. Some carriers even include guarantees with financial penalties should they fail to meet agreed-upon service standards.

6. Consider adding enhanced benefits coverage
The U.S. Surgeon General’s office has noted correlations between periodontal disease and health care costs for certain medical conditions, and studies examining the effects of oral health on systemic medical conditions continue to point out even more potential connections.

For little or no increase in premium, many carriers can add enhanced benefits for individuals with medical conditions that may benefit from additional oral health care. This could include pregnant women and/or persons with diabetes, cardiac conditions, suppressed immune systems, risk of oral cancer and other systemic diseases.

7. Be picky
Medical and dental benefits operate under very different models. While the former focuses more on treatment, the latter concentrates primarily on prevention. Furthermore, building and maintaining an effective dentist network is much different than building a network of medical care providers.

All things equal, an employer should choose a dental carrier that’s an expert at providing and delivering effective, high-quality dental benefits. A carrier committed to providing such dental benefits will be intimately familiar with the latest dental research, will have aggregated data on dental utilization and dentist reimbursements, and will be able use that data to create better products and control costs.

Regardless of the dental benefits carrier they choose, employers should be commended for the decision to provide dental benefits to their employees. People with dental benefits exhibit more healthy behaviors and better oral health habits – including brushing, flossing and visiting the dentist more regularly – and are less likely to smoke.

David Hurley is the vice president of sales for Delta Dental of Arizona, the leading dental benefits provider in Arizona, serving more than 753,000 enrollees and more than 3,100 contracted dentists across the state.


Save money with smart open enrollment changes

Employers will soon be offering workers their yearly opportunity to make changes to their health care benefits. All too often this open-enrollment period has required combing through pages and pages of confusing insurance terms, according to an Associated Press report.

But this year workers will receive help translating that jargon thanks to a new requirement that insurers provide a user-friendly coverage summary of all health plans. Combined with innovative wellness plans that reward employees for staying health, experts say millions of workers should be able to make smarter benefit decision and save money in the process.

“There’s a $5 or $10 bill just sitting there,” says Jody Dietel, chief compliance officer with WageWorks. “They have to do a little bit of homework, but that $5 or $10 is theirs for the taking.”

More than 55 percent of insured workers estimate they waste up to $750 each year because of mistakes during open enrollment, according to a recent survey by insurance provider Aflac. Those wasted dollars are more crucial than ever. Even three years after the recession ended, 62 percent of middle class Americans tell the Pew Research Center they have been forced to cut back on spending in the past year.

Here are ways to make sure you’re getting every dollar’s worth from your health benefits:


“I think people spend less than an hour on (open enrollment) — not because they don’t want to — but because they feel it’s overwhelming and complicated,” says Rebecca Madsen, a senior vice president with UnitedHealth Group. Open enrollment generally starts in October or November for plans that begin Jan. 1.

Many insurers are trying to present benefit information in interesting, more user-friendly ways. UnitedHealth runs the website www.healthcarelane.com , which lets visitors explore a virtual town, where each person they encounter offers information and advice about a different health plan offering. The Department of Health and Human Services offers a more straightforward website designed to demystify health care topics: www.healthcare.gov .

This year’s open enrollment should be easier to navigate even for those who get their information from paper and ink sources. Starting this month insurers are required to provide standardized 8-page summaries that explain key terms and cost details of their plans. The rule was passed as part of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul and is intended to make it easier to compare policies and the costs and benefits of various plans.


Most large employers now offer wellness programs designed to keep employees healthy and, ultimately, cut medical expenses. These programs often come with financial perks to increase participation. More than 81 percent of businesses with 50 or more employees offer at least one wellness benefit, such as gym memberships, quit-smoking programs and stress management classes, according to the Wellness Council of America, an insurance industry group.

These companies are trying to curb health insurance costs that have climbed more than 25 percent over the last five years, outpacing inflation.

For several years now, many companies have offered cash or gift certificates to encourage employees to participate in their programs. Some still do, but low participation rates have prompted an increasing number to offer insurance cost breaks instead.

For instance, employees enrolled in UnitedHealth’s personal rewards program can cut their premiums by $1,000 per year for meeting basic health benchmarks for cholesterol, blood pressure and other measures.

“The two-pronged trend here is that there is more money on the table, but at the same time you have to do more to get it,” says Ian Duncan, actuary and professor of Actuarial Statistics at University of California, Santa Barbara.

In some cases employees must provide evidence they are filling important prescriptions, or attending exercise classes before they can claim the financial reward.

Meanwhile, other employers are trying an opposite strategy by assessing penalties on those who have health risk factors. Eleven percent of large employers require employees with unhealthy habits like smoking to complete classes to avoid higher premiums, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Experts say such carrot and stick approaches will likely increase in the years ahead. Under President Obama’s health care overhaul, employers can increase the value of such penalties to as much as 30 percent of workers’ total premiums.


Employers continue to give workers a chance to save money by setting aside pre-tax money for medical expenses. These flexible spending accounts can help employees save 20 to 40 percent on medical expenses not covered by insurance, such as braces, glasses and contact lenses.

Employees should estimate their out-of-pocket health care expenses and have that amount withdrawn from their paychecks over the course of the year. The money contributed to an FSA is not subject to payroll tax, which effectively lowers participants’ taxable income, but with the condition that they must spend the money before the end of the year. Money left in the account on Dec. 31 is forfeited.

Wageworks estimates about 75 percent of U.S. employees have access to a flexible savings account, though just 20 to 25 percent participate, mainly because of concerns about the “use it or lose it” rule.

The health overhaul makes one major change to flexible spending accounts beginning in 2013: Health care flexible spending accounts will be capped at $2,500, which could limit tax savings for people with large families or expensive medical conditions. The government previously didn’t limit how much workers could set aside, but most companies capped contributions at around $5,000.