Unlike Last Season, Early Schedule Will Challenge Cubs In 2017

The celebration has ended, the 108 year drought is over, and baseball on Chicago’s North Side should return to normal. In other words, fans of the Cubs can go back to worrying.

Several big concerns face them as they look toward the 2017 season, in addition to the nearly impossible task of topping the World Series Championship they earned in October. No team has won the Fall Classic back to back in this century, although a much shorter span than the Cubs endured between titles.

That trip to the World Series was made easier by the early schedule, an arrangement the Cubs will not enjoy next April. Chicago did not play a winning team until April 18 against the Cardinals, which was their fifth series of the season. The Cubs did not play another winning team until May 2, when they played the Pirates. Spending the first month against the likes of Cincinnati, Arizona, Atlanta, and Milwaukee would provide nearly any team with the confidence needed to carry them through the most important stretch of the season. To emphasize just how important a hot start is, examine the National League from last season.

All four of the teams who reached the Division Series posted winning percentages over.700 during the first week of 2016, led by the Cubs and Nationals winning eight of their first nine games. The Giants were victorious in six of their first eight, and the Dodgers won seven of their first ten.

The advantage of opening against non-contenders will not be available to the Cubs in 2017, when the early part of their schedule features matchups against the only two teams that had winning records against Chicago last year. They open in St. Louis on April 2nd, a Sunday night game between the two rivals that will be broadcast on national television.

What could make that initial series even more troubling for the Cubs is the strong possibility that one of their most exciting players from last year will be playing for the opposing team. Center fielder Dexter Fowler, Chicago’s spark plug at the top of the batting order, is a free agent. Many baseball writers have projected St. Louis as the most likely team to sign Fowler. After the series in St. Louis, the Cubs must play the team that nearly eliminated them in the NLCS. The Dodgers, who won both of their regular season series against the Cubs in 2016, have the opportunity to avenge their playoff loss on the opening weekend in April.

The hot start Chicago used to build momentum for their World Series run last year is far less likely to befall them in 2017, simply because of the competition. Instead of opening against last place clubs like San Diego and Cincinnati, the Cubs will be tested right out of the chute by teams expecting to be contenders.

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Autodesk : Top 4 New Features

Autodesk introduced AutoCAD 2017 in March 2016 aiming to help its users stay at the forefront. This latest release lets you work quicker and smarter across connected desktop and mobile solutions, create personalized design experiences, easily team up with colleagues, and stay updated with the latest features and updates. AutoCAD 2017 also includes AutoCAD 360 Pro, a mobile app that allows users use AutoCAD on the go. The latest version addresses several user functionality requests and delivers features that enhance everything from workflows to graphics processing. According to Autodesk, several AutoCAD users globally will be benefitted by several enhancements that have been added in the latest version, such as enhanced 3D printing, new features such as ‘smart centrelines’, share design views on cloud and improvements to PDF handling features.

In the updated features of the 2017 version, PDFs have been added to the supported ‘import file’ formats. As a result, users can import geometry, True Type text and raster images from a PDF file or underlay into the current drawing as AutoCAD objects. Also, the centerlines and center marks get updated accordingly when users move associated objects. Learning content and product updates are seamlessly delivered to help users get the most out of new features with Autodesk Desktop app, an application that substitutes Autodesk Application Manager. Here, users also tend to get the latest security patches and updates for all 2015, 2016, and 2017 versions of Microsoft Windows based Autodesk products. Now, let’s discuss the top 4 new features that Autodesk has included in its AutoCAD 2017 release. Top 4 New Features in Autodesk AutoCAD 2017

Enhanced 3D printing

Utilising the new Autodesk print studio you can create a 3D print ready file and directly print it in nearly all types of 3D printers. This 3D printing tool is offered by spark technologies and is available for 64 bit machines only. To make full use of this tool, you need to go to AutoCAD 3D modelling workspace and select print studio tool from 3D print panel of output tab. If it’s the first time you are using this tool then a prompt will appear from where you can download this tool. After you’ve downloaded and installed, click on print studio again and click on watertight or closed mesh object from your drawing which you want to use for 3D printing.

Smart Centrelines and Centre marks

This new AutoCAD release lets you to easily add centre lines and centre marks to the geometry. Likewise, you need to type the command ‘Centremark’ and click on circular object to create the centre mark, you can use this command to make a centre mark on circle, arc and fillet. Share Design Views on Cloud

Now, you can directly share files with users who don’t even have AutoCAD using A360 cloud account and all they require is a web browser for accessing shared drawing. In order to share a drawing, ensure that you’re logged into your Autodesk 360 cloud and your drawing is saved.

Co-ordination Model

In AutoCAD 2017 coordination model functionality has been improved with support for object snaps. Attach a Navisworks or BIM 360 Glue model to your AutoCAD drawing so you can view it as an underlay. Then just use the standard AutoCAD endpoint and center object snaps to snap to exact locations as you create and edit your design based on the attached models.

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Are You at Risk of Being “Uberized”?

If you’re like many Business Owners and Leaders you probably feel pretty good about the position you hold in your market… so did the taxi cab companies and drivers before Uber became a reality. Now they are scrambling and trying to find a way to survive… even to the point of trying to get political help in different cities to stay afloat.

Disruption and Commoditization have impacted virtually every industry today. There probably isn’t a single industry that hasn’t been impacted by a disruptive organization entering their market and stealing some of their market share. Uber is an excellent example but there are many others that have been equally disruptive. Companies such as LegalZoom have taken billions of dollars away from attorneys over the past several years. They captured and disrupted a document and transaction-based business and turned it into a commodity by substantially lowering the pricing of document preparation… impacting attorneys all over the country.

Amazon was an early disruptor to the entire book business… taking significant market share away from Barnes and Noble and Borders who were recognized giants in the book industry. And we certainly can’t forget about Blockbuster’s demise when Netflix entered the market. They were the unquestioned dominant leader in video rental and were virtually replaced overnight by an unknown company with a new disruptive business model that matched the needs of customers at substantial savings.

Even though these examples are in completely different industries there is one common thread that runs through all of them… they didn’t believe anyone could disrupt their dominance in their market. While it’s awesome to believe in your product or service, it’s dangerous to think there isn’t someone waiting in the wings to take away your position. Unlike any other time in history, we are now seeing new companies coming into traditional industries from many unrelated areas and establishing a disruptive model and capturing significant market share. This trend is only going to continue now that it has shown massive success over the past few years. So what can you do, as the leader of your business, to either avoid or minimize the impact of this potential disruption?

While commoditization is difficult to combat with products and services over a long period of time, there is at least one alternative that appears to withstand the test of time and delivers differentiation in the market… your CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

It is difficult to continually come up with new products and services to satisfy the ravenous appetite customers have today. Just when you think you have the best and leading edge product or newest service, someone comes in and “one-ups” you and takes away the leading spot. While you might remain there for some period of time, it is difficult to remain at the top for extended periods of time. Apple is one of the few that has been successful at this… but it took them many years of living in the shadow of Microsoft and others before they became the dominant leader. Today, Microsoft is in this unenviable position and trying to fight their way back to the top… especially in the race for the Cloud.

But these are behemoth companies… not the SMB market. They can throw billions of dollars at innovation and products and hope they find a winner. The small and mid-sized business (SMB) can’t be this frivolous with their cash and making too many product/service mistakes can wipe out a business before anything comes to fruition. The proven alternative to this madness is to focus on the ONE THING that is completely in their control to design and deliver… their CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.

Customer Experience has both short and long term advantages. It is something that can be created and implemented within the year but last for many decades to come when implemented properly. And by properly I’m not talking about telling all your employees they need to be nicer to the customer… that never works for the long term… every company can be nice to their customers if they try. This isn’t the answer… this isn’t the differentiator… but it’s on the right track.

Creating a customized CUSTOMER JOURNEY that is built upon a very well defined Customer Experience Process (something we call Customer Experience Mapping) is what allows companies to reap these rewards for many years into the future. Think Disney… they created “the happiest place on earth” and continue to deliver this experience year after year after year. This didn’t happen by holding a meeting and telling all their employees and characters to be nicer to their guests… it happened because they have a very well defined Customer Journey that is built on a foundation of a well-designed and executed Customer Experience.

Nordstrom did the same thing many decades ago. They started selling shoes… then clothing… all at high prices. But they started with a very distinct process inside the organization for delivering an incredible customer experience day in and day out. Zappos followed this same model… sold shoes… one of the ultimate commodities in the clothing industry… and they dominate today. They don’t give discounts and silly things like “one day only” sales (every day)… they simply deliver a remarkable Customer Experience to every customer every day… and their customers love to buy from Zappos. And it has worked out pretty well when you consider they went from zero to over $1 Billion in revenues in less than 10 years and were sold to Amazon for more than a billion dollars. Not a bad model if you ask me.

One way to avoid being COMMODITIZED and losing customers is to design something even new entrants can’t copy… the experience you offer. If your Customer Experience is so incredibly amazing and remarkable… WOW… every single day with every interaction, this creates immediate differentiation and a long tail of success. It is the ultimate weapon against commoditization or even new entrants into a market. For a new disruptive entrant to take away market share they would need to be so much better and cheaper than anything you offered… which is difficult to do today. And for those of you that are saying to yourself right now, “Yea but we’re different, we do a good quality job and treat our customers well so we aren’t at risk,” I would offer you some instant advice… take the blinders off and get real with looking at your business. This is living in a fantasy world… this isn’t looking at your company from the eyes of your customer… they are seeing something very different. And if someone came into your market today and offered a completely different (and awesome) experience to your customers at or below your price they would be gone in a heartbeat.

Achieving long-term dominance doesn’t happen by “being nicer to your customers” and thinking you have created differentiation… you haven’t. Being CUSTOMER OBSESSED and creating a process based CUSTOMER JOURNEY that has a well laid out and documented CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE PROCESS at the heart of it is what will help you avoid being “Uberized.” This strategy gives you differentiation, uniqueness, and a special place in your customers heart and mind… it gives you the “long tail” of success.

I would strongly and passionately encourage you to learn more about why and how this is completely different than what you are probably doing today. If there was ONE THING TO FOCUS ON IN 2017 it would be to create a strategy based around a well-planned Customer Journey which incorporated an incredibly awesome Customer Experience by Mapping out all the experiences your customer will receive when they interact with your business (there are usually over 20 for most companies in the SMB market). If this is of interest and you want to learn more, let’s grab coffee and I can share how some of the best companies in the world have followed this path… for decades… and still dominate in their industries. I think you will find it a fascinating discussion…

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Economic Cycles, Stock Market Crashes and the Scary Scenarios

Here we are ready to inaugurate a new president in 2017 and our stock markets are at all-time highs after a huge ‘Trump Bounce’ after the election. Many that study stock market history admit that we are in a need for a pull back as the DOW is almost ready to break 20,000 pts. What does all this mean?

Well, many analysts are suggesting it is very possible we could get a market correction in mid to late 2017 and that it could be 10-20% by the time it is done, the longer this nonsense goes on, and the bigger the bubble builds then the bigger the drop, we are over bought, almost everywhere. Then all that money printed that ended up inflating emerging markets will look for safe haven, coming back here in the short term. As those go one-by-one, that money flies out, because the money is looking for the nicest looking house (for now) in a majorly bad neighborhood, look at the EU, Japan, Middle East, India, and who knows what the hell China’s real numbers are, they have one thing going for them, they own our debt – but that might not be worth much if things go on. All that money coming back to safe haven in the US will cause inflation here, but at what cost?

Cheap loans, another bubble burst and look at the Student Loan issues 35% in default (past 90-days) and cheap car loans is only producing higher repo rates which are hidden by increased sales figures. It’s all lipstick on a big pig, socialism doesn’t work and you can’t have utopia unless you build it, and that takes capitalism which we are crushing into next week for the falsehood of cronyism. But I digress.

If we don’t get a back pedal on the stock market soon, it will all come at once, and 2008 was 8-years ago remember? That wasn’t a recovery that I’d be bragging about – basically we’ve increased regulations, size of government, and cut our military – all very stupid things to do in the present period. We are digging a hole, and I assume when if it starts to fall apart the left will blame capitalism and get their people back into power – and they will just make things worse – this seems to be a repeating problem with humanity doesn’t it? That is what socialists always attempt to do, but it all collapses anyway – Venezuela, Argentina, Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Zimbabwe, hell, how about that Arab Spring a few years ago, still in shambles – Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, who’s next? Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia? Civil unrest, food shortages, people will demand what was promised and take down their governments to get what’s left. Beware the socialist mobs. But I keep digressing.

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4 Steps to Choosing the Best Promotional Products for Your Business

When investing your marketing dollars in custom branded promotional products, you want to ensure that you are getting your best return on investment. You want to look for products that serve more than one purpose and provide continued brand exposure.

1. Choose products that provide your company with good visibility.

The more your products are seen, the more promotional benefit your company receives. The best promotional products are prominently placed on everyday items, such as screen cleaners attached to mobile devices.

2. Give away products that will be used every day.

How many times have you received a piece of schwag that you threw in a drawer or even the trash? For your promotional products to be effective, you need to choose items that people will use over and over again. Products that are used often and in public places will gain your brand the most exposure for your investment. A great example would be screen cleaner stickers for phones and tablets, that are custom branded with your logo but people can use to clean their electronic devices. Another example are portable USB chargers, that have your logo on them but people can use in an emergency to charge their devices. These are useful products that people will carry with them, hence, increasing the amount of times your logo gets flashed around.

3. Reflect your business’s reputation with high quality products.

We’ve all received a branded pen or notepad that fell apart in our bag before we even left the exhibit hall. Handing out cheap promotional products gives the impression that your company is just as cheap. Make sure that the freebies you give away are representative of the high quality of the products and services you provide in your business.

The best way to test a product before you decide to pull the trigger and make an order for your event would be to get samples. Reputable promo product companies will provide free samples and stand behind their production. It should be crystal clear once you compare samples whether the promo product will be a hit or a miss.

4. Think versatility.

Choose promotional products that are versatile enough to fit every occasion you need. Whether you need giveaways for a trade show, gifts for your employees, or tokens of appreciation for customers who visit your office, having an appropriate product available for all occasions is key to getting the best results for your marketing dollars.

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