Why Home Improvement Loans Suck

Imagine the scenario: you’re ready to buy your first house. But you don’t have the cash lying around to buy your dream house, so you decide to settle on a fixer-upper that you’ll spend your free time turning into the perfect home. If you’ve been through the home buying process this already, then you probably remember this quite well. In fact, buying a fixer upper in need of major TLC is a rite of passage for many homeowners. Tons of first homes need work done like re-painting, deck repair, all new floors and wallpaper or an extra bathroom.

Of course the problem is that most first time home buyers simply don’t have the funds to pay for these home improvements after closing on their mortgage. So they go into a do-it-yourself mode. Sometimes they use home improvement loans to help pay for the work. Other times they do all the work on nights and weekends. Maybe the financing comes from credit cards. Sometimes, it’s all one terrible experience. This begs the question: Why do home improvement loans suck?

They take too much time. From the bidding process for the work, to the actual upgrades and construction to moving day, it can be very time-consuming. Many borrowers say closing a home improvement loan takes more than 3 months, and might never even close. An efficient lender who understands the home improvement loan process should be able to get your loan closed in a little more than a month. Sometimes even less time than that.

Renovation mortgages are too much work. Yes this option will take more paperwork. After all, the bid process alone can add a lot of extra work to the process. However, working with an experienced mortgage consultant will help you avoid the extra work, requiring mostly just extra signatures.

No one understands programs like FHA 203k or HomePath Renovation. It’s true that many real estate agents haven’t heard about some of the options for financing upgrades. Many deals die because the buyer sees a house they like but there may be a few things they’d like to change. The challenge to home improvement loans lies with the effort to help educate real estate professionals and buyers alike.

Do it yourself work is a real pain. Putting in a new kitchen takes time and skill, and doing all on your own isn’t likely something you want to do. Same with a bathroom, wider hallways for wheelchair access or painting the entire house. Again, it’s not something you may want to do, and that’s okay. Home improvement loans are generally for paying a professional to do the work. They’re not really for the DIY crowd.

Buying a new home is easier than buying a fixer-upper. This is certainly true in many cases, but it’s not always feasible. And with so many homes on the market today under the foreclosure cloud, you can actually find a great deal on a fixer-upper and roll the cost of the repairs right into the monthly payment! Plus, older houses have more character than subdivision cookie-cutters.

They are expensive. Home improvement loans generally come with a little higher interest rate, it’s true. Interest rates are based in part on risk. Paying for home improvements can be risky, as the after-improved value is used to predict the future worth of the house. But the difference between a home improvement loan and a regular mortgage is pretty low. It’s definitely lower than the cost of financing the work and materials on a credit card!

Store credit is so much easier to get. Again, this may be true, but you’ll pay a much higher rate than a home improvement loan and you’ll have to do the work yourself. If that’s your goal, then a home improvement loan isn’t for you.
Home improvement loans are definitely not for everyone. There’s no doubt that they take a little extra time and work. Sometimes you can find a newer home that needs less work for a good price. And that’s okay. Go for it. But if you find a home that’s average and needs your personal touch with a few upgrades and renovations, then a home improvement loan just may be your next step. Good luck in the house hunting, and let us know if there’s some way we can help!

Defect Management – Three Components of Effective Defect Management Systems

Software development teams and software testing teams have numerous choices of defect management tools to help support their software defect efforts. Selecting and utilizing an effective tool is really only part of an overall defect management system.From a high-level view, defect management systems are made up of a combination of some defect management tools or tool and a defect management process. These two primary components work together to support each other. Ignore either one, and sub-optimal results can be expected. Below I will provide an overview of a typical defect management process. I will also list the key features to look for in an effective defect management tool. All of this information will be useful for you to review. But I would be remiss if I left out one of the most overlooked aspects of software defect management that goes beyond tools and processes, which I will also disclose later in this article.Defect Management ProcessHigh Level Steps in a typical defect management process:The typical defect management process includes the following high-level process steps. When implemented inside of a specific organization, each of these high-level steps would have more detailed standard operating procedures along with policies to carry out the details of the process.
Identification – This step involves the discovery of a defect. Hopefully, the person discovering the defect is someone on the testing team. In the real world, it can be anyone including the other individuals on the project team, or on rare occasions even the end-customer.
Categorization – When a defect is reported, it is typically assigned to a designated team member to confirm that the defect is actually a defect as opposed to an enhancement, or other appropriate category as defined by the organization. Once categorized, the defect moves on in the process to the next step which is prioritization.
Prioritization – Prioritization is typically based on a combination of the severity of impact on the user, relative effort to fix, along with a comparison against other open defects. Depending on the size and structure of the organization, the prioritization is often handled by a formal change control board. The priority should be determined with representation from management, the customer, and the project team.
Assignment – Once a defect has been prioritized, it is then assigned to a developer or other technician to fix.
Resolution – The developer fixes (resolves) the defect and follows the organization’s process to move the fix to the environment where the defect was originally identified.
Verification – Depending on the environment where the defect was found and the fix was applied, the software testing team or customer typically verifies that the fix actually resolved the defect.
Closure – Once a defect has been resolved and verified, the defect is marked as closed.
Management Reporting – Management reports are provided to appropriate individuals at regular intervals as defined reporting requirements. In addition, on-demand reports are provided on an as-needed basis.
Defect Management ToolsFeatures of a defect management tool:Following are the core features of a defect management tool:
Provides a centralized repository for tracking defects across projects.
Provides automated notifications of resource assignments.
Ability to define defect resolution status in order to map back to your defect management process.
Ability to provide management reporting, like the number of open defects grouped by various criteria such as open defects by project, severity, and priority.
Following are a few optional features worth mentioning when selecting a defect management tool:
Ability to capture other items in addition to defects, such as customer suggestions and project-related issues. Items such as customer complaints or enhancement suggestions are often lost if not logged in a centralized system. If other tools are not already available, a defect management tool can be used to track these types of items as long as they can easily be filtered out or logically separated from defects.
Ability to support internal and external teams. This feature provides the opportunity to involve external teams and in some situations, customers if appropriate.
Another consideration when selecting a defect management tool includes ease-of-use. Comparing a list of features is useful, but seeing how intuitive a system is to the people who have to use it provides a more concrete sense of how much training might be needed along with how well the system will be received.The Missing Component of Software Defect ManagementMost discussions on the topic of software defect management focus on defect management processes or defect management tools. That is where most stop. There is an additional and often overlooked aspect which is more important than the specific defect management tools or defect management process being used. I consider it the important critical success factor in software defect management. I call it “Organizational Culture,” which is comprised of the shared values, beliefs, and accepted norms of the people in an organization. But wait. Before you succumb to your sudden urge to tune out because this article just seemed to take a sharp turn towards some soft and fuzzy, executive management-level, buzzword-compliant rhetoric, please read on a bit more because there is a practical side of this that you may want to know. Getting even a crude understanding of how organizational culture affects software defect management could make the difference between success or failure on a high-profile project you are involved with.From my experience, in many organizations, defects are considered something negative, for which blame should be assigned as a way of preventing similar defects in the future. This sounds perfectly reasonable, right? The problem is that just because something seems to make sense on paper doesn’t mean it directly translates to the real world.Here are a couple of questions to consider. If team members feel like any mistakes they make may be used against them in a performance review which could affect their compensation or job stability, are they less likely to make mistakes which would decrease the number of defects? Possibly. But I would ascertain that the side effects are much more negative than having lots of defects. You want to know what defects you have and you want to know about them as soon as possible.As is commonly understood, the later in the process defects are identified, the most costly they are to fix. If defects are treated as negative things to be avoided, people will become less likely to disclose them, and may spend too much time on certain tasks in an attempt to avoid mistakes and subsequently defects. A hyper-focus on avoiding defects may be appropriate for certain situations, but for most business settings, an unrealistic focus on perfection can be a fatal flaw that leads to suboptimal performance, which can lead to outcomes which are far more negative than the defects some strive to avoid.”Field experience and data from leading research in organizational culture shows that a large majority of organizational cultures are defensive in nature, where people are punished rather than coached on correct procedures when they make mistakes,” said Buz McOmber, President of Constructive Cultures, an Atlanta-based organizational performance consultancy. “Fearing negative consequences, people learn quickly to cover their own mistakes, blame them on others, or push the correction off as ‘not my job’. These behaviors push defect identification to later in the development process or, worse, to the production environment, significantly raising costs to the business and harming both operational effectiveness and customer satisfaction. Fear of negative consequences is intensified in tough economic times, increasing the need to identify these defensive behaviors before they make a difficult situation worse. For the Project Manager, it can be very difficult to regain the trust that’s lost when their team fears retribution for mistakes.” McOmber said.If you are serious about having an effective defect management system, at a minimum you need to have a defined process, effective tools, and a culture that understands that defects are a simple by-product of getting work done in the real world. They are not mistakes that need to be avoided or covered up at all costs.ConclusionA defect management system is made up of a combination of defect management tools or tool and a defect management process.In addition, the effectiveness of a defect management system is influenced by the organizational culture it operates within. For most environments, it makes sense to utilize tools and processes that focus on the speed of identifying, tracking, and resolving defects. This provides the basis for understanding root cases and making appropriate process improvements. If the culture of the team or organization considers defects as negative, people spend more time trying to avoid defects and also are less likely to report a defect when encountered. This can lead to some defects being identified later in the process, when they are harder and more costly to fix.Based on my experience, organizations which consider defects as part of the process seem to be able to deliver high quality software faster than organizations which consider defects negative events for which blame should be assigned.

How to Segment Your Target Market

Market segmentation can simply be defined as the marketing strategy that involves dividing a broad market into different subset groups of consumers who have common needs as well as priorities and then designing and implementing strategies in order to target their needs and also desires through media channels and other touch points that allow easier access to them. Market segmentation is of great importance for the companies serving larger markets. Consumer segmentation similarly is the process of classifying people into groups that do have some set of similar characteristics thus resulting in the ability to be targeted and studied.Categories of segmentationGeographicThis involves dividing up geographic markets by using the existing boundaries, population boundaries and natural climatic zones. It enables us to segment a market that is spread over a very large geographic area into sub-markets that cover smaller geographic areas. In geographical segmentation the market is divided into different geographical units such as; regions (by country, state, nation, neighborhood), Population density (urban, suburban, rural), climate (size of an area, population size and growth rate) and climate where regions have climate patterns that are similar.A company that is either serving a few or generally all the geographic segments, requires to put more attention on variability of geographic needs and wants. Immediately segmentation of consumer market on geographic bases is done, companies localize their marketing efforts such as production, promotion, advertising and sales efforts.DemographicThis segmentation occurs when one or more demographic traits are employed in order to divide the market. Demographics are quantitative characteristics of a particular group of people. These characteristics include age, gender, income, education, occupation, social class, family size, generation, family life cycle, religion, home ownership, ethnic group and nationality. Most businesses that segment their market in terms of demographics area attempting to lay their target o specific segments of the market that are most likely to be interested in what they have to offer.Demographic segmentation is the most popular form of segmentation for three reasons;First consumer needs, wants as well usage patterns often reflect closely in demographic profiles. This means that people with different demographic traits often will have different needs and wants with respect to products. An example is where preference for music and other forms of entertainment are often tied to differences in age, occupation and also educational backgrounds.Second, demographic data is very simple to obtain therefore there is a very huge amount of published demographic information that is available from a wide range of sources. Most of this information is available on the internet where you can easily get information such as census data by accessing the Census Bureau’s homepage.Finally demographic segmentation is the most common employed market segment because even if we use an alternative segmentation base such as benefits or consumption rates, we will still use demographics in order to profile the segments that are being created. For this reason, most firms prefer to use demographics to simultaneously create as well as profile the market segment.PsychographicsThis segmentation divides market based on differences in lifecycles, social class or differences in personality traits. Psychographics are attributes of a market that are qualitative and refer to the way people think and also what they like to do. Psychographic variables include interests, personality, opinions, self image, values, activities and attitudes. Market segments based on lifestyle entails creating segments based on differences in how people choose to live their lives. Lifestyle is highly predictive of many behavior purchase therefore marketers attempt to characterize lifestyle patterns of consumers by asking them questions about their activities, interests as well as opinions. The items of AIO can be used to segment markets by looking for the response patterns that are common to such types of questions on surveys.Consumption Behaviors SegmentationThis segment includes product consumption or rates of usage. Some other segmentation present in this category are product usage occasion, product user status and also loyalties tom some specific brands.When creating market segments that are based on use of product occasion, emphasis is put on identifying different occasions or circumstances under which the product is used. This product may be used on by different people on different occasions or circumstances. Example most airlines have segmented markets into occasion segments that comprise of people flying for purposes of business i.e. business flyers, vacation flyers and those people flying for family reasons. Each and every segment represents a different usage occasion and is each segment is targeted with a different strategy for pricing and promotion.Marketers who employ product user status segmentation attempt to identify differences between non-users, regular users, potential users, ex-users and also first time users of the product. Most of the large firms in the market do target non-users or potential users in an attempt to stimulate the product’s primary demand. The smaller firms on the other hand target regular users in an attempt to encourage switching of the brand. Most marketers put an effort in trying to differentiate between users and non-users of product categories when the characteristics of a consumer are tie d to the need of the product itself instead of use of different brands.Firms can learn and gain a lot by analyzing customer loyalty patterns in the market. They can do this by finding the characteristics of those customers who are loyal and non loyal for their brand and those of their major competitors then find ways to keep their customers loyal and attract the non loyal ones from their competitors. Brand loyalty is defined based on the consumer’s pattern of how repeatedly the customer makes a purchase.Consumer Predispositions segmentationThis entails creating segments based on the differences in the needs, wants and attitudes of the consumers. Markets can be segmented based on the level of peoples’ knowledge on a particular product category. This can be done by having in place different programs for promoting the products in order to communicate with those consumers who know little about the product and those who don’t know about the product.Segmenting the market based on media viewing habits of consumers, may reveal consistent differences in what type of media the consumers prefer may it be television shows, magazines, radio stations and newspapers and how these differences vary with the demographic and psychographic traits of the customer. Such information can be used to target advertising as well as other communication to groups of customers.ConclusionThe more the segments marketers are able to identify and also combine to target individual groups that are most interested in what they have to offer, the more effective their marketing efforts can be. Businesses puts much effort to learning as much as they can about their customers including where they live, their income levels, age, what they like purchasing and what they like and dislike. Using this information can be used to reach non customers

Strategic Customer Attraction Marketing Blueprint

With the ever changing face of the economy based on varying factors [such as government protectionism, automation of industries, downsizing of companies] the trend to more and more people choosing to start their own business for various reasons continue to rise. With that said – along with this trend there is an increasing need for structured marketing process and client acquisition processes and methodologies to be utilised within these businesses in order to transform a startup into a fully functional revenue generating entity.It is often the case that many smaller businesses are product rather than market focussed. In many cases we find that there is no actual marketing department so to speak of and as a consequence the function of marketing within the company ends up being fulfilled ‘as and when’.We can contrast this to what we find in any larger organisation or corporate; we find an actual marketing department, with qualified marketing professionals who are analysing the market, target customers and competition, they continually look for trends and movements in their chosen space in order to refine the marketing message and continually push the communication through the channels. This is to include the distribution channel [where appropriate], print media, radio, catalogues etc, etc and of course the use of digital marketing channels [social media, email marketing, video marketing, micro blogging and more].The above is what leads to the typical ongoing market penetration that we see within these organisations leading to new products and services development a steady stream of new clients and the nurturing of existing clientele.It is with the smaller organisation in mind, the solopreneur or work from home business owner that any strategic business attraction marketing blueprint is targeted towards. This is one or two steps down from making use of an in person consultant that will look to understand the business operations and put specific structures in place that when followed; will first provide a deeper understanding of the market place and target market clients but will also provide the foundation for providing the products and services that the intelligence directs the company towards producing.It is recommended that organisations looking to add structure and processes to the marketing and client acquisition aspect of their businesses direct their energies to these main fundamentals.

Client Strategy & Preparation

Setting Up Key Business Processes & Systems

Getting Clients While You Sleep

Follow Up & Retention

1) Gaining a deeper understanding of the needs, desires and behaviour of the clients no matter what the industry will drive the decisions that are made in relation to the products and services that are developed and presented to the market space.2) Key systems and processes such as continuous market intelligence related to pricing and customer behaviour can help to take the organisation to the next level and gain a significant competitive advantage over other companies supplying related or similar products and services.3) The marketing process for bringing new prospects into the marketing funnel must be an ongoing activity; whilst focusing on servicing existing clients it is imperative that someone is taking care of make new clients aware of the needs that your organisation can fill.4) Too often it is the failure to followup and keeping in touch that leads to the loss of valuable customers; depending on the business tools such as email marketing, videos, membership sites and print media may be used in order to stay at the top of the mind of the target customer.Once the process has been developed it will then be a matter of refining it [say once a quarter] whilst some is taking care of the execution which will lead to new customers, sales and products and services leading to increased revenue generation.

Older posts »