How To Fight Panic Attacks With Simple Exercise

hrpdPeople who suffer from panic disorder often do not feel like going out and hanging with people. In some cases, they just lay in bed and sit in front of TV. Social contacts are often harmed and the person finds difficult to leave the home. But the key for solving problems with panic lays in hanging with people and physical activity. If you do not know how to deal with panic attacks, try to be more physically active and talk with people about your problems sometimes.

You are probably scared to tell them, but if you have at least one friend you can talk to, then you are a happy person and you should use the chance to talk about your panic disorder. Also, if you have a friend who is willing to help you, invite that person to keep you company while you are exercising. It does not have to be serious sport, but some physical activity that will keep your circulation flow. You can go for jogging or trekking. Even gardening can do you good, so consider growing tomatoes in your backyard if you can. In addition, you can get yourself a bike and go for a ride sometimes.

Types Of Exercises When Treating Panic Disorder

Panic attacks may make a person to feel fatigue, but the truth is that being physically active will do that person more good than just laying in bed all the time. If you are coping with panic disorder and would like to know how to deal with panic attacks, follow these steps. Every day try to walk. Even when the panic attack occurs, try to walk slowly. Find a nice place near your home where you can walk like park or a forest. It would be good to find a friend who will walk with you.

Remember this is all mental. There are programs like Panic Away that were created to help panic attacks, which tackle the source of these issues. Putting these ideas to work have shown to be effective.

Meanwhile, walking is good for your anxiety. When you are moving your muscles, your body is producing endorphins; hormones that will make you feel happier. Also, sun and fresh air will affect your body positively and start the natural healing process. Maybe it seems to you that it is better for you to stay inside, but even if it is raining, you should spend some time outdoor every day because nature will help you in curing your condition. The good weather will make you feel better.

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Choosing The Best Paper For The Job

Your service is great and your prices are low, but

in this information-deluged society, your brochure still might end up on the junk mail heap. Make sure that doesn’t happen by putting your message on the right paper.

The Ends Justify the Means

The type of printer that you ultimately use dictates the kind of paper you’ll be printing on.

ctbpTo compensate for the high temperatures reached during the printing process, lasers require special paper, one with an extremely smooth surface that accepts toner well to produce sharp output. Most paper manufacturers–including such well-known names as Hammermill, Laseredge, and Weyerhaeuser–sell smooth, sturdy white paper for laser printers. Mail-order companies like PaperDirect, queblo, Paper Access, Idea Art, and BeaverPrints specialize in laser stock in multiple colors, distinctive textures, and preprinted designs such as marbelized latterhead or pink rice backgrounds. These designs are typically available on a range of formats, from stationery and trifold brochures to envelopes.

Most speciality paper is photocopier safe and, for large runs, accepatable for professional offset printing. For camera-ready mechanicals (layouts you’ve prepared in ready-to-print from for a quick-print shop to photograph and reproduce), look for bright-white laer paper that prevents wax or adhesive from seeing through when you’re pasting onto a mechanical board. Two good choices are Hammermill’s economical Laser Plus, $13.50 for a box of 500 letter-size sheets from PaperDirect, and Laseredge 65, $33 from Queblo for 250 sheets.

Ink-jet printers require paper that minimizes ink spread and maximizes color saturation. Many of the brand-name campanies offer such special white paper, and even some reprinted or colored laser stock will work in ink jets. Make sure you check paper stock for an indication, such as a logo, stating that it is suitable for ink-jet printing. PaperDirect, Queblo, and Micro Format also offer coated brightwhite paper designed for color ink-jet printer output.

Projecting Your Image

Because paper manufactures create lines of paper in many colors and textures, different weights, or with professionally created designs and borders, you can choose a color and style that reflects your business’s identity and maintains a consistent look across any materials you produce.

“Since I don’t have a color printer, the predesigned sets allow me to include colors in my brochure,” says Bryan Kisiel, a Pennsylvania CPA who develops his own marketing materials. “I look for a set that will mesh the design ideas I have. It’s more appealing than one color with black lettering, and I don’t have to pay an arm and a let to have something designed for me.”

David Gallup of Gallup Communications, a proposal development consultancy in Fort Collins, Colorado, uses predesigned sets–letterhead and business cards–because he thinks they “make for a nice, cohesive marketing package.”

Bright, splashy colors and abstract designs strike a less formal note that pinstripe blues or grays and muted tones. For instance, Robbin Juris, a principal of New York City’s Quaternion Group consulting firm, chose a textured gray paper for its brochure to project an “elegant and businesslike” image.

Deja Vu

When you want to be eco-conscious, try recycled paper. It may prove good for business, too. Kisiel is considering recycled paper in part because he thinks it will draw a positive response.

Most paper manufacturers offer recycled coated and uncoated papers in many impressive finishes. You may pay a slight premium for recycled paper–for example, Msterpiece’s recycled 24-pound Laser-Sharp DTP white paper is $10 for one 500-sheet box through PaperDirect; that’s the same price the company charges for Hammermill’s hefty and bright 24-pound Laser Print paper and $6 more than it asks for a box of its economical Weyerhaeuser First Choice paper. On the plus side, recycled paper with fiber, fur, and flecks in it is a thing of the past. Recycled paper is now also conditioned to stand up to the high heat of laser printers without damaging them.

Not all materials area available in recycled papers. Also make sure when mixing recycled and unrecycled papter that all the materials blend attractively.

Paper With a Purpose

When it comes to the mateials your business uses, one paper type and weight doesn’t fit all.

Corporate letterhead and stationery. You could choose a sulphite bond–the standard wood-pulp paper–for letterhead and stationery, but a 24-pound or better 100 percent cotton-bond paper with matching envelopes feels richer, conveys a prestigious image, and stands up better over time. Typically, you’ll pay about $6 per 100 sheets for 100 percent cotton-bond paper.

Hal Paluk, precent of the Los Angeles–based Pawluk Group, an advertising and marketing consulting firm, has chosen a 24-pound classic laid finish for the cover letter that accompanies his promotional materials. Laid papers–which generally have a ribbed look–give the feel of having been produced in small quantities, and that conveys a sense of exclusively.

For the same reason, you may want to consider watermarked or shadowmarked papers. These markes are visible when the paper is held up to the light. Watermarks appear raised, like an outline, whereas shadowmarks appear slightly recessed and darker.

Promotional materials.

The best power for brochures is good over or opaque stock in the 60-pound and higher category. After all, you want your brochure to be able to withstand numerous handlings.

But if you’re planning to run the brochure through a laser printer, ink-jet printer, or photocopier, verify that the device can handle the paper thickness; any weight above 24 or 28 pounds may pose difficulties. (Almost all the brochures from the specialty paper vendors we mention are laser-printer compatible, costing $20 to $30 per 100-sheet box of two-sided predesigned trifild brochures.)

Bret Terwilleger of Olden & Associates, a marketing and advertising design firm in Memphis, stresses that color improves response rates for direct mailings. Pawluk is working with a copy center to produce his company’s brochure, in which one side is four color and the other is black and white. “I’ll paste in the color ad and have the copy center do both sides on 32-pound ledger stock I found in an art supply house,” he says.

Those who want the four-color look with less hassle may want to check out BeaverPrints’s brochures, which come preprinted with color stock photography, featuring all-purpose images such as “woman on phone.” A box of 100 brochures is $23.

When selecting a design, you may need to opt for a more austere look to accommodate a full description of your services without making the brochure look cluttered.

Reports and proposals.

Terwilleger points out that you should use uncoated paper for text-laden documents. Uncoated papers, which reduce glare, are an optimum choice for good readibility. Light, solid-colored pages provide the best contrast with dark text and the easier reading for lengthy publications. Speckled or fibered papers aren’t a good choice for annual reports or other documents that contain important financial information in the text-a speck could easily be mistaken for a decimal.

A cover can make or break a proposal. Using vellum (see-through) overlays, clear plastic covers, and coordinating-color binders or folders creates a more attractive package. You should choose an 80-pound cover stock–lighter, if you’re printing directly on a standard laser on ink-jet printer–for the finishing touch.

Business cards and notecards.

Sturdy 70- or 80-pound or heavier cover stock creates the best impression. Do-it-yourself laser-printed cards from the direct-mail houses are convenient and economical (around $20 for a 50-sheet box), though at about 24 to 38 pounds they’re fairly lightweight. You’ll get the best effect if the color and design matches your other materials.

Newsletter. Newsletter producers should be concerned about the weight of the paper: Consider the mailings costs. Use a medium-weight paper–say, 60 pounds, if your materials will be offset printed.

You can find preprinted newsletter templates in a variety of muted colors and professional styles from companies like Queblo. Otherwise, stick with solid or slightly flecked papers to maximize readability and minimize visual competition with graphics.

Proceeds With Caution

Using stock from direct-mail houses is easy, but it’s not necessarily the best choice. For example, Juris opted to have business cards printed commercially. “We just weren’t happy with the rough edges left by the performations” of the PaperDirect stock, she says.

Margaret Eves, of Wellhouse Research in Georgia, is working with a graphic artist to develop her own logo and design. “I send out 15 to 20 brochures a week to market any business. If I have to buy PaperDirect stock for my brochure, it adds up.” Another worry is that other people may be competing for attention using the same predesigned paper you’ve chosen. Eves wants a distinctive look, and “PaperDirect can’t guarantee that.”

Juris echoes the overriding sentiment: “If you can produce a professional-looking document, the impression you give is that you’re a big company with lots of resources.” With a little thought, you can make sure your business materials are worth more than the paper they’re printed on.

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Video Is Key For Your Business

vikfywFrom customer testimonials to product demos, nothing quite delivers the message like video. That’s why many companies – large and small – are turning to video to help sell their products or services. You can, too. You just need to assemble the tools and start shooting.

Get in gear. When it comes time to invest in some basic video equipment, the first place to start is with a camcorder for capturing the footage. Although most home units deliver acceptable quality, they generally lack key media features. Here are some features to look for if you’ve decided to buy a new camera.

Start with Hi-8 or S-VHS compatibility, which offers better quality than 8mm or VHS. Then consider optical image stabilization to steady camcorder motion, a valuable feature even if you plan on shooting all footage from a tripod. The lens should zoom to at least 10X, although 15X provides a much greater range and is, therefore, preferable. Interchangeable lenses, available primarily on professional equipment, allow for flexibility and an upgrade path to higher quality and higher zoom ratios. Finally, high-end camcorders should include time-code stamping, which helps keep track of the individual video frames for editing and capture use.

A good basic camera is Sony’s CCD-TR101, a Hi-8 camera with Steady Shot image stabilization, time-code stamping capability, and 10X zoom. Priced at $1,899 list, you should expect a street price of around $1,500

At roughly twice the price ($4,000 list), the Canon L2 Hi-8 camera delivers 15X zoom, interchangeable lenses, and time-code stamping. In most instances, the price difference translates directly to lens quality, which allows the Canon ([516] 488-6700, [800] 828-4040) to deliver perceptibly better quality than the TR101 unit. You get what you pay for.

Hot and new – but untested for this review – is the Sharp ([201] 529-8200, [800] 237-4277 VL-H410U Viewcam ($2,499; $2,100 street), a Hi-8 camera using a color LCD view screen on its side panel rather than the traditional camcorder focus unit. With the optional Viewcamteleport VR-MS1U, users can share still images with other Viewcam owners via ordinary phone lines, providing a semblance of real-time still-image teleconferencing. The Viewcam also features 16X zoom, digital image stabilization, and a docking station that connects the camera to your television or VCR for playback or recording.

Digitize. Once you’ve shot the footage, the next trick is getting it into your computer. Video capture, or digitization, is when the analog video from the camcorder is converted into the digital format that your computer understands. This requires an internal video capture card, which connects via cable to the camcorder.

Requirement number one for your capture card is hardware-based capture compression, enabling the board to squeeze the incoming video stream for storage. Capture cards without hardware compression skip too many incoming frames, rendering the video unusable.

Next up is S-video input, a feature once again favored over composite video for its higher quality. Finally, the capture card should also deliver a video editing program for such functions as titling and the Video for Windows software that enables you to play back your videos and distribute your clips. Audio capture also requires a sound board (see “Adding Audio to the Mix”).

By the way, the computer you use plays a role in all of this, too. You’ll be happiest working on at least a 66MHz 486 computer or a 68040- or Power-Pc-based Macintosh with a minimum of 500MB of disk space, since captured video requires 20MB or more per second. Also the more RAM, the better. If you’ve been looking for an excuse to buy that extra 8MB of RAM, now’s the time; working with video is absolutely dreary without at least 16MB.

Smart Video Recorder Pro ($570 list) features Intel’s ([503] 629-7354, [800] 538-3373) own Indeo video-compression technology and ships with Digital Video Producer, Asymetrix’s video editing and capture program. Other products worth considering are ATI’s ([905] 882-2600) Video It ($499 list) and Creative Labs’s Video Blaster RT300 ($499 list). If you prefer Macintosh, check out Apple’s Video System for the Quadra 630. This $149 add-in card provides either composite or S-video input as well as recording to QuickTime format.

Shoot ‘em up. When you’re ready to shoot, you’ll achieve the best results by using a tripod and by minimizing your motions. For example, avoid panning and zooming whenever possible. Minimize potential video “noise” with clean foreground and background objects; striped shirts and busy wallpaper are definitely out. Remember that most digital video is shown at a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels, or at a quarter screen, so close-ups are definitely preferred.

Keep clips fairly short. Four 30-second clips tied together are infinitely more interesting than one two-minute clip. Watch the evening news and note how little time the anchor talks before there are changes in the camera angle or graphics, or before the shot is switched to a correspondent. This caters to our short attention span, and your video should do the same.

Finally, get help – and shoot the video right. PC Video Madness by Ron Wodaski (Sams Publishing provides a valuable primer on lighting and positioning for novice camera operators. Also consider Tay Vaughan’s Multimedia: Making It Work (Osborne)

Image grabbing.

The next step is the video capture, where the analog video is fed to the capture card for digitization, or conversion to digital format. To improve overall performance, defragment your disk with DOS 6.2 (type defrag from C:\command prompt) or with a program such as Norton Utilities before capturing video. This process, in essence, condenses all files on your hard disk into a more compact format and opens up large blocks of memory to store the incoming video and to minimize dropped frames.

Most analog video is created at 30 frames per second. However, most computers can, t play back more than 10 frames per second, so it’s more efficient to capture at the slower speed. If your target playback station is a 66MHz 486 computer or better, capture at 320 by 240 resolution. Otherwise, capture at 240 by 180, which will play back faster on lower-end computers.

Packaging it to play. Most presentation programs accept video files directly, so integrating video clips into your presentation is no more difficult than inserting a PCX or PICT file. The difference is that presentation programs place an icon or button on the screen, which you then click on to start playing the video on your monitor.

Like video capture, video playback requires its fair share of processor horsepower. You’ll probably be disappointed with anything less than a 33Mhz 486 or 68040-based Mac. Local bus video, whether desktop, VESA, or PCI, is also key. Slower computer will drop frames, which hurts synchronization and the overall appearance of the video. Remember that the larger the image onscreen, the more your system has to work. You’re typically better off working with smaller resolution videos that play back at a faster rate than trying to bluff your way through with an under-powered computer.

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A PC Without Sound? Don’t Do It!

apwsOne key medium to consider in any kind of multimedia marketing is audio. Sound provides smoother presentation transitions and allows you to step back from the podium while a prerecorded message gets your point across.

Start recording. Audio recording involves two pieces of equipment: a sound board installed in your computer and an external microphone. Sound boards are to audio what capture boards are to video: Sound boards capture the analog audio signal and convert it to digital format. Unlike video, however, which plays back on your graphics card without special hardware, audio playback requires a sound board as well as speakers or headphones.

If you already own a qualified multimedia PC, then you have a sound board. (All Macintosh computers have built-in sound.) For simple voice recording, most boards will suffice. If you’re dissatisfied with yours, however, or are upgrading a computer for multimedia capabilities, choosing and installing a sound board is relatively easy. Sound boards range in price from under $100 to over $500. Most important is a 16-bit audio chip set, which provides higher-quality sound than the older but cheaper 8-bit varieties. If you’re short on computer slots (and who isn’t?), look for a board that can also serve as the interface card for your CD-ROM. Finally, the card should include software to capture and edit the audio, which is absolutely essential for polished audio presentations.

If you’ll be recording your own voice, you’ll need a microphone. Any $20 to $50 model will do the job. Most important to audio quality is the capture environment. Professionals use soundproof rooms to screen out ambient noise. To simulate that situation, shut off all heating and air conditioning while recording and shield the computer from the microphone.

In addition, script the audio word for word, then read it out loud several times before recording, this will help you screen out difficult-to-pronounce words and phrases. Check each audio segment after recording to make sure you’ve made a usable cut.

Finally, keep it short. Whether limited by disk space or your prospect’s attention span, shorter is better.

At the low end of the sound card spectrum, consider Creative Labs ([408] 428-6600, [800] 998-5227) SoundBlaster 16 Value Edition ($149; $100 street), which offers above-average sound quality and a useful suite of software. The perennial high-end favorite is the Turtle Beach Systems MultiSound ($399; $345 street), which provides unparalleled audio quality and comprehensive software tools. Creative Labs SoundBlaster AWE32 ($399) gives you the complete package: high-quality record/playback and a microphone.

Once you’ve got audio in your computer, you’ll need speakers to play it back. Prices range from under $30 for two small, tinny speakers to well over $350 for high-end models.

Before buying, consider how you plan to use speakers. Scratch the $30 pair if you want to play audio to customers – the poor-quality sound will leave a low-tech impression.

If your primary use will be playing back recorded speech in a one-on-one setting, check out Advent’s ([708] 317-3700, [800] 477-3257) Powered Partner Model 22 ($100 street). If you plan to play back music, or will be making presentations for large groups or trade shows, you’ll need a higher-end system that can retain audio fidelity at high volume.

Popular in this role is Altec Lansing’s ([171] 296-4434) ACS300 sound system, with a street price of around $300. The system features Altec Lansing’s distinctive clamshell-design speakers with a separate subwoofer to handle lower frequency sounds. The combination produces crisp, clear sound across a range of volumes.

Audio on disc. Just as with artwork, you may not have the time or inclination to do your own recording. In that case, turn to CD-ROM-based clip audio for music and sound effects. Music is used as background for silent videos or to fill in transitions between visual media. Sound effects are used for emphasis in presentations. Most audio clip libraries provide one form or the other but not both.

Before looking at third-party programs, check to see if a CD-ROM was shipped with your presentation program. If so, it may contain a sampling of media supported by the presentation software, including audio. Be sure to review the software license agreement regarding the available uses of the sound clips, just as a precaution. In most instances, in-house use, or even noncommercial distribution in the form of disk-based marketing, is almost always acceptable.

The same concern holds true for commercial clip music: Royalty-free usage should be your first concern. The surprising second concern is how well the clips are cataloged, since a sample is worthless unless you can find it. Several vendors include a simple database program for selecting among various clips. Others force you to trudge through entire directories to find, say, the right scream in a subdirectory. It’s enough to make you … well, you know what we mean.

Format is another consideration. Music should be available in at least 22kHz, 16-bit stereo quality. You may choose lower qualities that take up less space, but you should have the choice. Another nice feature is clips in CD-audio format, so you can wander through the library on your stereo system.

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Information Brokering? Just What Do You Mean?

ibWith the proliferation of 24-hour television and radio news stations, industry-specific online news services, and speciality newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, you’d think that society’s need to know is being pretty well satisfied. Believe it or not, there are still plenty of specialized information voids that many large companies are either ill equipped or unable to fill. Here’s a look at how three enterprising information brokers collect top dollar for the data they disseminate.

Susan M. Detwiler, S.M. Detwiler & Associates Dewiler, 40, a health-care industry information broker, is in the right business at the right time. Health care is expected to be one of the hottest markets for entrepreneurial growth. The new regulations and pending policies are not only confusing to consumers but also to manufacturers, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies who are scrambling for the latest data regarding the future of our nation’s health-care system as well.

Dewiler worker for nine years as a market researcher in the medical equipment field before deciding to launch her business in 1985. “My department lacked funding so I had to become adept at finding existing information,” she recalls. “I enjoyed the hunt. But I left because I realized that what I really like to do wasn’t going to get me ahead in the company.”

To help convey a sense of professionalism, she initially rented office space in Warsaw, Indiana, but when her family relocated to Fort Wayne, Detwiler brought her business home. “My assistant works on administrative tasks in the downstairs office and I do most of the actual research upstairs,” she says.

Her clients range from health-care providers to manufacturers interested in acquisitions to attorneys involved in litigation and in need of information about specific equipment. “Our goal is to make health-care information accessible,” she says. Although all the data Detwilder uses is available to the public, some material may not be published. “The work is time consuming. That’s why people come to me. I know whom to call and what to ask for.”

Many of Detwiler’s contacts and resources go into her annual Detwiler Directory of Medical Market Sources, a compilation of government agencies, private firms, publishers, and associations that provides facts about the health-care field. “Instead of focusing on medical question, it addresses the industry of health care,” she says. “For example, it provides information on where to find manufacturers, research firms, providers, statistics, and forecasts.” Each entry includes the type of information and/or service that’s offered. The 1994 edition, her third directory, lists 1,250 sources and 3,500 publications and was named one of American Demographics magazine’s Best 100 Sources of Marketing Information. The book costs $200, and Detwiler says that purchasers include medical librarians, strategic planning and market research managers, and medical writers.

Detwiler’s 1993 revenues were in the range of $150,000 to $200,000. As more companies compete for better positioning in what seems t be a constantly changing industry, Dewiler forecasts more profit in the years to come.

Neal Workman, SeaFax In 1985 Workman, 39, started a collection agency for the local seafood market in his Portland, Maine, home. But soon after realizing the lack of available information on the financial standings of both local and national companies and a general uncertainty about what was happening in the seafood industry, he began to expand his services to include financial, communications, andmarketing information. “Seafood is very pricey and perishable. It’s important for my clients, people who sell mostly to large food-buying entities like grocery and restaurant chains, to have up-to-the-minute information about present and prospective buyers, competitors, and the market’s financial climate so they can stay ahead of the game,” he says.

By 1992 SeaFax had become the inside source for industry-specific information. “As we became more market dominant, our customers came to us for new products,” he says. It was this overwhelming client demand that prompted workman to again reevaluate and expand his business, this time concentrating on new markets, not additional services. “I learned that the same companies that buy large quantities of fish are also likely to buy beef and poultry–and I already had the marketing information,” he says. Workman took an eight-week sales trip to pitch his business to 52 poultry and beef companies throughout the country. Prospects were impressed by what he’d done for his seafood clients, but the tactic that actually reeled in new business was his “100 percent satisfaction guaranteed” claim. “We’re asking people to pay up front for a year’s worth of services,” he says. “If I’m not willing to stand behind what I sell, why should they be interested in buying it?”

And just what does SeaFax provide? The company offers individual seafood, poultry, and beef industry-specific versions fo Bloomberg Business News a news service, mixed with a workshop program. For example, the InSite online service gives subscribers 24-hour access to such data as SeaFax’s business reports and debt searches. The company’s five-page business reports track industry players, including management changes, buyouts, mergers, marketing strategies, and financial information. The customized marketing profiles provide company contact information, business descriptions, and marketing information, A customer query launched SeaFax’s most popular product, the NewsWire, a daily, one-page fax that highlights late-breaking industry news and trends. Workman estimates that nearly 800 clients receive this time-sensitive fact sheet. SeaFax also provides spring and fall workshops on marketing, credit management, and business-planning strategies.

Workman’s first-year revenues as a one-parson local collection agency were $50,000 in 1985. As a full-service information supplier, now employing 44 full-time credit reporters, analysts, data collectors, and salespeople, SeaFax closed 1993 with revenues of approximately $2.9 million and expects to top $3 million in 1994.

Seena Sharp, Sharp Information Research Sharp, left the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple and a high-paying position as a corporate market research manager to move to Hermosa Beach, California, where she began a home-based market research firm in 1979. “I wanted to spend more time with my children, who were then three and six years old. And Southern California seemed like a breeding ground for small and home-based businesses,” she says.

Her customers are predominately advertising agencies, Fortune 500 companies, marketing consultants, and an array of manufacturers. They come to Sharp for market studies, ranging from industry overviews to full-blown analyses, that help them anticipate trends, validate or contradict assumptions, and identify opportunities and threats. “People who come to me want more than the basic questions answered,” she says. “They want in-depth information. I look for implications: ‘What does this data mean?h The answer can uncover potential opportunities and problems.”

Sharp bills her approach to research as competitive intelligence–sleuthing focused on a company’s positon in relation to the marketplace, competitors, the economy, society, and the political scene.” For each project, she ferrets out direct and published sources, such as newspapers, trade periodicals, newsletters, surveys, association publications, government documents, reports, magazines, product announcements, and press releases. And if she’s not flipping through one of her 15 weekly required reading publications, she’s on the phone conducting interviews with industry experts and journalists.

Her clever and well-rounder approach to information gathering has earned her $96,000 in gross revenues for 1993 and a solid reputation among many big-name and deep-pocketed companies. Her client roster includes Blue Cross, GTE, Hilton Hotels, Nissan, and Rubbermaid. “Most of the information is free and out there,” says Sharp. “The trick is to know where and how to access it.”

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Cellular Service Wasn’t Always Easy

cswaFaith Echols no longer considers herself a tenderfoot when it comes to cellular phones, but she was not always so wise.

The ability to communicate plays a major role in her success as a real estate agent. “My cellular phone has helped me achieve and maintain my membership in the Million Dollar Club,” she says. Echols began her career more than seven years ago as a licensed real estate agent for her father’s agency. Today she works for Long and Foster, the biggest agency in the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., area.

When she decided to purchase her first cellular phone, a bewildering array of choices confronted her. “I spent more than two months in intense deliberation,” she admits. “I visited a dozen stores and agents, read magazine articles, studied the product literature, and compared the equipment and service as best I could.”

Echols soon discovered that she had three major choices to make: which cellular carrier she should use (the phone company that provides the cellular service); which specific model of cellular phone would best suit her needs; and from which dealer or agent she should purchase the phone and service. To her, the decisions were equally important.

Choosing a Carrier “When I looked at the newspaper ads and the yellow pages, I discovered several places where I could buy the phone, but I quickly learned I had only two carrier choices,” she explains. In most areas one of these carriers operaters under the name Cellular One, the other under MobiLink. But company names and affiliations vary from market to market. In Echols’s area those carriers are Cellular One and Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems (BAM). In San Francisco the two carriers are Cellular One and GTE Mobilnet (the MobiLink carrier). In Chicago they are Cellular One-Chicago and Ameritech Cellular Services (the MobiLink carrier).

Echols chose Cellular One, basing her decision on the most common criteria for selecting a carrier.

Coverage area. Under the plan she chose, “Cellular One had a greater local calling are [more than 13,000 squre miles] than BAM [just under 12,000 square miles],” Echols explains. Local calling area refers to the size of the region in which you can make a local call without paying a long-distance charge, also known as a roaming fee (more on this to follow). Because Echols covers such a large territory in her real estate work, she felt that Cellular One’s larger local calling area would save her quite a bit. Far more important, though, was that the places whee Echols traveled were included in Cellular One’s coverage.

Monthly access fee or airtime charges. The Cellular One monthly service charge for Echols is $24 plus 39 cents per minute prime time (7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday) and 19 cents per minute off peak. BAM charges just $1 more for monthly access and the same per-minute charges for a slightly smaller local calling area. Although the difference in charges was slight, Echols felt it would add up over time. Both carriers also add a small fee for each local call made to landline (regular wired) phone, but this is minimal–10 cents per call.

Roaming fees. These vary considerably from carrier to carrier and market to market, and they may include both a daily charge ($2 to $3) plus a perminute usage charge (50 cents to $1 or more). When Echols signed up, the difference in cost for cities she visited frequently was 50 cents per minute with Cellular One versus 99 cents per minute with BAM. “We go to Philadelphia and Atlantic City quite often her both business of pleasure,” she says, and she uses her phone frequently when in those cities.

With today’s cellular systems, roaming is simple. Whne you travel to a city away from your local area, you just pick up your phone and dial. The roaming charges appear automatically on your next cellular bill. Receiving calls is almost as easy. Most of the major markets today offer automatic roaming; when someone dials your cellular number, the call is forwarded automatically to you in the city you are visiting.

Finding a Phone Echols’s next decision was choosing a cellular phone. But each of the more than two dozen manufacturers–including AT&T, Nokia, and OKI–offers several differnt models, with varying features and at a wide range of prices–from $50 to $800.

“I decided to stick with the tried-and-true celular manufacturer, Motorola, one of the oldest in the business,” she explains. “Motorola phones are supposed to be quite durbale. You can basically drop one four feet onto concrete without hurting it.” Because Echols is a realtor and spends a lot of time at commercial and construction sites, building lots, and farms, durability was high on her list.

Next came the decision on types of phone (see “Selecting Your Phone”). If Echols were getting one for security or peace of mind, a lower-priced unit ($50 or so) would have filled the bill. “But for business, you need to go for the more advanced model with all the features,” she says, “such as the data link that connects the phone to your laptop computer.”

Her decision was easy. Because the spends a lot of time working from her car, she settled on a portable: one of Motorola’s popular flip phones, the MicroTAC Ultra Lite, which weights less than a half pound and slips easily into her pocket or purse. She paid $750. “It certainly wasn’t the cheapest one avilable,” Echols says, but she especially likes the phone’s VibraCall option. “If I’m in an important meeting, I set the phone on the vibrator ring. When I get a call, it vibrates silently and does not disturb the meeting.”

She also selected a vehicle adapter kit, which added another of $150 to the price of her phone. When she gets into the car, she slides the phone into the special cradle so that it works like a standard car phone. A hands-free adapter kit lets her keep both hands on the wheel while talking on the phone. “It’s a safety feature, and it’s more convenient,” she says.

The Dealer Decision Her final choice was to select her cellular dealer, or who would sell her the phone and activate the service. Because she had already selected Cellular One, she sought a dealer who was a Cellular One agent. “I didn’t like how pushy so many of the dealers were,” she exclaims.

Echols decided on Mid-Atlantic Cellular, a local Cellular One dealer near her real estate office. She found term courteous, knowledgeable, and professional. “They don’t try to hard sell you,” she says. Mid-Atlantic Cellular was also willing to match any deal offered by any other cellular company in town, she notes. But price was a less-important factor in her decision. She was impresed that their service included delivery and a free loaner phone if something went wrong with her phone unit.

Has Echols picked up any other tips that she would like to share with first-time buyers?

“Dont’s be fooled by advertisement for free or almost free cellular phones,” she says. “Be sure you understand what else is required on your part.” Frequently, you need to sign a service agreement for a certain period of time, perhaps a year or so, and you could get hit with a large penalty if you disconnect early. “Also look for hidden charges. Sometimes the free phone requires you to pay a programmind or processing fee, special charges, activation fees, and so on,” Echolas says.

“You usually get what you pay for,” she concludes, “but with cellular, you get more than what you pay for. Cellular gives your something that money can’t buy–extra time. A cellular phone lets me turn downtime into selling time.”

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