Category Archives: blog

Reasonable People Still Doubting Science

In this day in age everything is based on or around science, yet there are still those people who doubt what has already been scientifically proven. Today, we live in an age where scientific knowledge is faced with furious opposition and controversy. Instead of accepting what has already been proven, people are creating their own conspiracies to explain scientific knowledge such as climate change, vaccinations and the alteration of a virus from person to person.

Why is scientific knowledge still being doubted?


Creating a Successful Brand

Over the years, branding has taken a turn and become more social media driven. Building a brand today isn’t about focusing on and around a companies products or services but more providing the target audience with content that they will connect with, that will ignite an emotion and that will push them to engage on their social media accounts. Kristy Ellington shares with readers the six things brands can learn about targeting their new demographic, the Millennial generation.

Embrace branding through social media


Creative Uses for Satellite Images Proliferate with Increased Access

The evolution of technology used for space is incredible and mindboggling all in the same breath. With access to space cheaper and easier than ever, entrepreneurs have created new applications for the flood of data that is now streaming to Earth.

The satellite industry is continuing to develop, rising swiftly past both U.S. and global economic performance. According to the most recent State of Satellite Industry Report, the Global Satellite Industry grew 3% in 2013, outpacing both worldwide economic growth of 2.4% and U.S. growth of 2.8%. The satellite industry revenue has more than doubled in the last decade, from $74.3 billion in 2004, to $195.2 billion in 2013.

Observation via satellite has been integrated into everyday life. We now have the ability to distribute and aggregate extensive bandwidth, monitor weather, enhance safety, and aid in surveillance. Satellite imagery does not have high enough resolution to depict and identify individual people on the ground nor, as conspiracies may suggest, “Read our newspapers.” But, satellites can tell tales on people’s vehicles, property, and routines. And some forward-thinkers are finding creative and tactical ways to use this immense amount of data to solve problems on the ground – and make a profit.

Agricultural fields near Perdizes, Minas Gerais, brazil

The All-Seeing Detectives

What do a space lawyer and a satellite imaging specialist have in common? They solve crimes – with a twist. Air & Space Evidence Ltd. is being billed as the “World’s First ‘Space Detective Agency.’” The enterprising duo provides satellite-derived evidence to support legal claims including insurance fraud and illegal plant clearing. Regulatory agencies were calling in with regards to acquiring imagery that could possibly be used as evidence in legal disputes. Although the agencies were aware what the Earth observation technologies had to offer, they had no clue how to incorporate the images in a legal context.

Recognizing a clear opening in the market, Air and Space Evidence mentions on their website that they, “Established to bridge the link between the imagery from these technologies and those working in a legal context; and provide assistance in sourcing and using Earth observation imagery as evidence.”

They’ve definitely established this bridge, and as co-founder Mr. Purdy indicates in an interview with News Corp., Air & Space Evidence has big plans for the future:

“As the resolution gets better we will be able to do things like search fields for graves (recently dug earth) in cases of abduction, or trace where certain pollutants came from before they entered water courses.” This prediction is certainly probable as starting in 2015; the WorldView-3 satellite will be selling imagery up to 25cm panchromatic and 1 meter multispectral. Currently the best imagery sold is roughly 40cm resolution. As Aviation Week describes the advancement, “The effect will be like the difference between high-definition and conventional television picture.”

Air & Space Evidence recently evaluated imagery from the Syrian civil war taken in early 2013. The obvious destruction appeared within six months of the first image in February of 2013, and shows visible damage of at least 640 buildings at the end of July 2013.

The international human rights community relies on the innovation of satellite accessibility to monitor areas that may otherwise be unobtainable. As of 2013, there are nearly 1,500 operating satellites, with orders for 23 commercial GEO’s recently announced. Because of the growth rate of high-resolution satellites provided with an almost constant stream of data, these groups have the capability to document the images and evaluate eyewitness reports, such as acts portrayed in the Syria. Entrepreneurs like those of Air & Space Evidence are establishing expansive uses for imagery data provided by the extensive satellite access.

Satellite view of India at night

Lawn Care from Space

It doesn’t get much more down to Earth than mowing the lawn, but an enterprising lawn care company saw a competitive advantage from using Google Earth to assess potential client’s yard work needs – and they took it.

The simplicity of downloading Google Earth, typing in an address, and measuring the area of lawn is what is now driving the lawn care industry. Think about it: instead of having to physically go and spend hours measuring the acreage of the land, you could easily estimate aspects of the property by previewing the land with geospatial technology. This development in the business permits landscapers to control a lean logistical process, save time, and optimize resources without even leaving their deck.

Now, the practice of using satellite imagery in the lawn care business is de rigueur, with its own Apps and YouTube training videos. Noon Turf Care, a lawn care business out of Massachusetts, grossed over $2 million in revenue last year by integrating Google Earth into their business strategy. The increase in using geospatial technology has both customers and developers reaping benefits. Businesses are not only incorporating free satellite applications, but are also willing to spend extra money on subscriptions for software programs like Go iLawn. Go iLawntypically captures images by plane. Because the plane is closer to the image than satellites, the imagery produced is of higher quality and resolution. Go iLawn has helped lawn care businesses like Rob Reindl’s gross over $1.2 million, and Swingle Lawn, Tree & Landscape Care gross over $14 million.

Many business owners are now trying to integrate the stream of available date into other aspects of their company, like measuring roofs for reshingling, snow removal, or seasonal lights.

Below, video from iLawn and iPave explaining the use of satellite imagery in their app

The Future of Space Data

The availability of frequent high resolution imagery can do more than clarify legal affairs and promote business development: it could also affect the way we view our news. The projection of implementing this software into social media provides real time awareness and a larger platform for virtual assets solving non-virtual problems. With real time access to imagery data, agencies and civilians might be able to prevent catastrophic harm during natural disasters and human rights crises. Reporters will have an increased virtual presence as they will too have the ability to monitor and research almost everything available.

Where will satellite data take us next? Space is already integrated into our every day lives but with movement towards smart grids and the internet of things, it is bound to become even more entwined in human activity. While satellites themselves have physical limitations when it comes to optical resolution, since the world’s highest resolution commercial satellite in orbit has a ground sample distance of 31cm, applications like Google Maps that combine space, aerial, and ground based observations are likely to erase the seams, creating an immense data-verse ready to be mined by anyone with a good idea.

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The best places in the world to launch a start-up

Paul Bradbury | Getty Images

As the world looks for innovative ways to jump-start economic growth through job creation, more attention is being focused on how entrepreneurship can ignite the process.

Taking that into account, the 2015 edition of the Global Entrepreneurship Index—which measures the quality and scale of small-business start-up activity—was released today, coinciding withGlobal Entrepreneurship Week, an international initiative among more than 150 countries that includes competitions and networking events held globally through Friday, Nov. 23. The end goal: to help aspiring entrepreneurs find mentors and access to capital and spur job and economic growth.

The Global Entrepreneurship Network and the GEDI Institute partnered on the research and development of the Global Entrepreneurship Index, which found that the U.S. leads the world in entrepreneurship, followed by Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom. It also revealed that despite political turmoil, the fastest growth in entrepreneurship is taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. And surprisingly, among individual countries, Iran, Latvia and Greece had the biggest one-year gains.

Read MoreAmerican-style start-ups take root in India

The index, rebranded this year under a new name and expanded, looks at 34 variables that affect the start-up ecosystems in 130 countries, such as entrepreneurial attitudes, the abilities of founders and the growth potential of start-ups.

“We hope the index will allow countries in a friendly way to compete with one another but also to learn from each other,” said Jonathan Ortmans, a senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, which promotes entrepreneurship. He is also president of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), a community that developed around Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Zoltan Acs, a professor at George Mason University and founder and president of GEDI, said one of the most remarkable findings of the index—given that entrepreneurship was once illegal in some formerly Communist countries—is that there are signs of it in all 130 nations this year. “I find it amazing,” he said.

Ortmans pointed to a powerful incentive that countries are relying on at the moment to promote entrepreneurship: the need to create jobs for the growing youth population in developing economies. “Nations are seeing entrepreneurship from a job creation perspective, to the extent that they’ve had even worse rates of youth unemployment,” said Ortmans.

For instance, in Iran, where interest in entrepreneurship is percolating, youth unemployment is 24 percent. In Latvia, another hotspot for new-business creation, the youth unemployment rate was nearly 22 percent in June 2014. In India it is 18 percent.

Read MoreVenture capitalists’ best ideas for 2014

As a result, more heads of states’ offices are driving efforts to promote new-business creation rather than delegating this to their commerce ministries, said Ortmans. Meanwhile, interest is percolating at the grassroots level. “The women’s entrepreneurship movement and younger generation are driving the movement globally,” he said.

Changing demographics

But even with this activity, the index found that the world is operating at 52 percent of its entrepreneurial capacity—meaning that this percentage of entrepreneurs is engaged in productive, nondestructive business activity. “Destructive” businesses would, for instance, be illegal ones.

One reason entrepreneurship hasn’t advanced further is a lack of strong institutions and capital markets necessary to fuel robust new-business creation, according to Acs. The index reflects this, with impoverished countries such as Malawi, Uganda and Bangladesh at the bottom of the list.

Meanwhile, in some economies, leaders are skeptical about the power of entrepreneurship to create jobs. Given this reality, more research is needed on what will fuel the growth of new companies, so countries know what really works, according to Ortmans.

Read MoreWhat’s fueling the explosion in start-up accelerators?

“As a collective global community, we have to be more disciplined about what data we collect in terms of what works and what doesn’t work,” said Ortmans. “We have seen an explosion of programs but a declining rate of new firm formation overall.”

Grassroots challenges

Many countries face challenges tied to their unique situation. Although entrepreneurship is taking off quickly in Iran, for instance, entrepreneurs are limited by trade sanctions against the country because of its nuclear program.

“Sanctions are really limiting the entrepreneurs here,” explained digital entrepreneur Mohsen Malayeri, co-founder of the Iran Entrepreneurship Association, which runs Global Entrepreneurship Week in Iran. He is also the co-founder and managing director of the Avatech accelerator at Tehran University. Avatech is working with 10 start-ups in its first group. “There’s always a cap where they can’t grow bigger because of the markets,” he said.

And despite widespread interest in entrepreneurship in Latvia, an Eastern European country between Estonia and Lithuania, lack of seed funding has slowed the growth of technology start-ups, explained Marija Odineca, an entrepreneur and journalist at ArcticStartup, a technology blog. Much of the available funding in the country, which was under Soviet occupation for decades, comes through the government.

“No one wants to invest at the very early stage,” she said.

Currently, funding for Latvian start-ups from nine active regional and local venture capital and private-equity funds adds up to 184.8 million euros, or $230 million, according to research by the Ministry of Economics of Latvia, Ministry of Finance of Latvia, Latvian Guarantee Agency & Deloitte. The first of these funds started up around 2007, said Krists Avots, head of operations at Garage48 foundation, an Estonia-based nonprofit that holds boot camps and hackathons for early-stage Web and mobile start-ups in Eastern Europe.

Read MoreArab Spring 2.0: The rise of women entrepreneurs

“The first-generation funds are now still in process of exiting,” said Avots. “They didn’t generate any returns they could be proud of. There’s no hard evidence this is a good investment, which obviously still scares off the private investors.”

Given limited funding, founders sometimes hunt outside of the country for capital, turning to sources in the U.S., the U.K., Scandinavia and Germany, said Avots.

“If you have a good idea and a good team, there are no big obstacles to raising funding in another EU country,” he added.

Perception is everything

But even for countries with more developed economies, there are challenges. In the Nordic countries, for instance, entrepreneurship declined in the past year, according to the index. In many countries, parents still think that getting a traditional job is a safer bet, which discourages young people from starting businesses, say experts.

“What mothers think is a good proxy for the culture,” Acs said.

Denmark is one country where entrepreneurship is catching on, but not as quickly as champions would like.

“In Denmark entrepreneurs are seen as idols, but very few people actually want to be entrepreneurs,” said Rasmus Wiinstedt Tscherning, managing director at the Center for Cultural and Experience Economy in Roskilde, Denmark.

One reason, he believes, is fear of losing benefits of the social welfare state. “If you get pregnant, you have one year of full maternity leave with full pay if you are employed by a company,” he said. “If you are an entrepreneur, you have to get that money yourself. You feel safer if you are employed.”

Creative tinkerers

As managing director of the International Creative Business Cup Finals, a high-profile world championship for creative entrepreneurs in Global Entrepreneurship Week taking place at the Confederation of Danish Industry, and Tivoli Hotel & Congress Center in Copenhagen from Nov. 17 to 19—he’s trying to ignite interest. The idea is to attract entrepreneurs from the creative class—areas such as architecture, fashion, publishing and toys and games.

“They’re not engineers or MBAs,” he said. “They still have great potential, like Donna Karan or Disney.” The event is picking up traction. Three years ago 17 countries participated. This year more than 50 are getting involved.

Read MoreCan entrepreneurship be taught? Silicon Valley for the rest of us

One of last year’s winners was Rokoko, founded in March by Jakob Balslev, 27, a film school graduate who previously worked at a big film production company in Denmark. The Copenhagen firm, which claimed third place in the contest, has grown to 10 people. It offers a live animation technology that the firm’s chief technology officer dreamed up.

“He’s the silent technical type—he doesn’t say anything unless you ask him,” Balslev said, talking from his mobile phone on the street in the rain as he headed to his office. “That idea was really good and turned out to be the basis for our whole company.”

Rokoko, which is self-funded, is now paying for its own growth by holding live animation shows for children around the country. Currently, University of Southern Denmark, a Danish university, is testing whether its technology can help children with autism. “We had a small boy a few weeks ago whose parents said he had never seen a theater show from start to finish,” he said. “His attention span was not that long. He had done that for the first time at one of our shows. He could speak to the animated characters. I am sure we are on to something.”

The trick for entrepreneurship advocates like Tscherning is to get more investors who come to Global Entrepreneurship Week interested in backing innovators like Balslev, whose niche is less familiar than areas like clean tech or IT. “It’s a bit unknown,” Tscherning said.

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How to upsell? Market well

 By Christopher Noon

chris_noonIt amazes me when fellow business owners get upset when one of their customers uses another company to perform a service they also offer.
For example, earlier this year the owner of a landscape firm expressed frustration to me when a lawn maintenance client hired a competitor to install a walkway. He also offers this service.

A few months ago I was guilty of the same thing. I had my house painted by a local painting company. I struggled to find a firm that was reliable and competitive. After weeks of collecting quotes, I selected someone I thought would do a quality job on time. About a week later I got a phone call from the handyman I use for most small projects and repairs around my house. He sounded a little annoyed, but he remained calm as he asked why I didn’t offer him the opportunity to quote the painting project. I was honest with him and told him I had no idea his company performed large exterior painting projects. Additionally, while he was at my home doing other repairs he never mentioned to me that he had concerns about the paint peeling off my home’s exterior.

In other words, he wasn’t proactive in providing me with a quote or asking if his company could have the opportunity to paint my house.

I’ve made this mistake many times with my own lawn care firm. I’ve seen my clients hire a competing company to treat trees or perform flea and tick spraying. But I was never frustrated with my client; I was frustrated with myself for not communicating with them enough to explain we offer these services.

Don’t assume

Over the years, I’ve owned and managed the sales for service companies, and I’ve stressed and reinforced to my sales team that the world doesn’t revolve around us. It’s our responsibility to market and educate our customers about our services and how they may meet their needs.
As business owners we often make the mistake of assuming our customers know all our services.

Selling supplemental services to your customer base is not only profitable, but it also creates more loyalty from clients who will continue to do business with you year after year.

At Noon Turf Care, we study the results of our marketing and sales campaigns each year. More than 30 percent of our annual revenue growth comes from add-ons sold to existing customers.

Let customers know the other services you provide when they first contract with you. If they don’t buy the extra  service right away, at least you planted the seed. Photo: ©

We all know how much easier it is to provide more services to an existing customer who trusts you than it is to get a new customer. So how do you sell extra services to your customer base? Start by making sure the supplemental services you sell are adding value and filling a need. You do this with education and reinforcement.

For example, if your lawn or landscape company has a client who only buys regular lawn maintenance and you also prune trees, let them know. Explain the benefits of regular tree and shrub pruning (for both aesthetics and health), and let them know that your company offers this solution. You can do this in person, over the phone or even by email. Your add-on services will sell themselves as long as you educate clients by diagnosing a problem and anticipating a need.

The other method to selling supplemental services is to always be marketing to customers by staying in front of them. It starts right at the point of sale with a new customer. Let them know the other services you provide when they first contract with you. If they don’t buy the extra service right away, at least you planted the seed.

As you onboard a new customer it’s also important to market to them consistently and make them aware of the other services you offer. Schedule these follow-up campaigns when your company typically performs the services. Some ideas are having the sales/production teams leave education tips on leaflets when they’re on-site, send postcards in the mail, do dedicated email campaigns or include up-sell services in a regular newsletter.

It’s our job as professionals to make sure the customer is aware of our services. That way when their property needs something, they buy from us and not our competitors.

Christopher Noon is CEO of Noon Turf Care in Marlborough, Mass., and owner of Green Light Consulting Services. Reach him at

Noon Turf Care restructures compensation model

To create happy, long-term clients, Noon Turf Care restructured its lawn tech compensation model. 

Chris Noon

Noon Turf Care’s lawn care technicians used to get paid by what Chris Noon calls the old-fashioned way: The more homes each tech treated in a day, the more money he or she made. Despite high production rates, client turnover was a problem for the $8 million company based in Marlborough, Mass., and Noon, the company’s president, thought maybe there was a better way. After a complete overhaul of Noon Turf Care’s employee payment and bonus structures, and with a new emphasis on customer interaction, the company’s client retention rate is up 7 percent since last year and workers are more focused on providing superior customer service than ever before.

“We are a small, regional business, so we would rather solve clients’ problems,” Noon says of his company’s new approach. “We don’t want to just keep turning people over.”

Noon Turf Care provides lawn care services to a 95-percent residential client base. The company began to address client retention issues about two years ago when it launched a new customer service strategy modeled after the pest control industry, which boasts an average client retention rate of about 90 percent. Noon believes part of the pest industry’s enviable retention rate is, unlike the lawn care industry, it often requires signed contracts. But he also credits much of it to the relationships developed between clients and technicians, a result of the mandatory face-to-face interaction that takes place when the tech enters a client’s home. 

“The pest industry has that emotional client/employee relationship—they have to coordinate, set a schedule and make the appointments happen,” Noon says. “Our customers don’t have to open the door, but, we said, ‘Let’s pretend they do.’”

Client-Retention-Program-Noon-Turf-Care-3So Noon Turf Care brought that same level of client interaction to its lawn care business. Each new customer is required to have an in-person consultation with a lawn care technician before the first service is performed. During this visit, the tech walks the yard with the client, discusses lawn issues and finds out what the customer didn’t like about his or her previous lawn care provider. But more than that, these visits help the clients associate Noon Turf Care with an individual who they can get to know and trust.

As a result of the new service approach, Noon Turf Care implemented a retention bonus about seven months ago. The incentive is determined through a formula the company calls the “N” Factor. Technicians are paid a base salary plus a bonus multiplier based on criteria such as prior years’ retention rate, education and years of experience. Retention is measured individually per tech and route, and the bonus is calculated weekly with the opportunity for employees to earn an annual bonus, as well. The better the client retention rate, the higher the multiplier, and, ultimately, the more money employees earn. Noon Turf Care technicians can earn up to six figures annually if they maintain the company’s standard level, Noon says.

Although this new approach takes more time and overall production has gone down, the 7-percent increase in customer retention and the 15-percent decrease in service calls since last
year is proof for Noon that his
approach is working.

“Our techs had to slow down a little bit; they had to take their time,” Noon says. “But a little extra time upfront making that human connection goes a long way. Our field techs know that this first point of contact is very important now.” 

Client-Retention-Program-Noon-Turf-Care-2Each Noon Turf Care technician is required to complete a week of classroom training that includes presentations and role-playing situations, plus a week of in-field training with a branch manager where they observe what appropriate client interaction should look like. After their training is complete, each technician is assigned a permanent route for the year. Technicians aren’t permitted to service any lawns that aren’t part of their routes, which not only holds all techs accountable for their workloads, but it ensures they develop and maintain relationships with their specific clients. 

“We are putting a definition to better service,” Noon says. “We are going to compensate our team members to offer better service and keep clients happy.”

The program is still in its early stages, and Noon Turf Care hasn’t yet done a formal survey to gauge how clients view the changes in the company’s practices. But with client retention up and the number of service calls down, Noon expects any future client feedback to be positive. He adds that by retaining their current clients though superior customer service, he expects word-of-mouth referrals will help them earn new clients in the future. 

“It’s sort of a game changer—I haven’t seen any other companies doing anything like this and being effective with it, and I haven’t heard of any other forms of employee compensation that have worked,” Noon says. “New clients don’t know anything about us, so we have to get off on the right foot. We’re treating that as a necessity and making it happen.”