Daily Archives: March 18, 2017

The Mysterious Half-Halt

Thanks to a request, I’m writing about the half-halt. Ever notice how every definition you read starts with the disclaimer that it’s the most misunderstood concept in riding? Not very encouraging. It goes on to say that it’s a cue that combines both whoa and go. How hard could that be? There’s squeezing and driving and pulling, but not too much. Eyebrow squint. WikiHow has an article about how to do the half-halt in twelve easy steps. Are you kidding me? 

Disclaimer: I love the discipline of dressage, but sometimes they make it sound a little harder than it is. (It’s okay, I’m sure they think I’m a little “simple” from time to time, too.) Dressage uses complex concepts, described with intellectual precision. I learned half-halts this way, but it’s enough to make a rider seize-up in the saddle with over-think-itis, a common dressage malady. Especially if you’re passionate about riding and try too hard, like I did.

The USDF definition: “The halfhalt is the hardly visible, almost simultaneous, coordinated action of the seat, the legs and the hand of the rider, with the object of increasing the attention and balance of the horse before the execution of several movements or transitions between gaits or paces.”

It’s an okay set of words. I just wish they hadn’t included hands. Riders tend to over-do with their hands, so why encourage it?

Not surprisingly, horses have a definition that’s a bit more intuitive. I’m bilingual; let me translate for you.

A half-halt is a re-balancing. Can we all agree that balance is way more crucial for horses than we give credit? We want the horse to balance a bit of his weight back, but I hate to say “back” aloud because, again, we tend to use our hands too much to start with. Hands are over-rated; trust your body instead.

The mental part of the half-halt isn’t always talked about but that’s the mysterious part; the part beyond the physical cues. A half-halt is a mental re-balance as well. It’s an instant that affirms the connection between horse and rider in that moment, but also in the near future. It’s a blink of acknowledgment that the two of you are together, as well as a hint that something’s coming …wait for it. The challenge is timing. By the time we remember to half-halt, it’s too late, and the horse can’t respond in time.

To further confuse the horse and rider, there is a long list of actions used to ask for a half-halt, some big and bold, some invisible. Riders tend to like a dramatic cue using several body parts, physical strength, and a few math skills, while horses like the soft, silent kind. They taught me to do it their way.

The first rule about half-halts is that you must do it in time… think of it as a discipline of preparation. You might half-halt to begin to prepare for a transition. One more half-halt to actually prepare, and then the transition. A half-halt asks for his attention but it should feel light and happy to him, like it will be fun. “Oh goody, a trot’s coming…”

The physical part for the rider can be as simple as a breath because a breath resets the body. The inhale realigns your spine, your shoulders slide back as if you have a hanger in your shirt, which in turn realigns your arms and wrists. Let your hands rest. If anything, your hands slow an instant to feel the contact an extra second. Your seat straightens in the saddle. You can think of each of these things separately, because it’s harder, or you can take a big inhale for an upward transition and your body will follow naturally.

An exhale softens your body, stills your seat, slightly deflates your horse’s movement, and like a plane, you glide in for a soft landing. Use an exhale for relaxation or a downward transition, and melt any stray resistance.

If there is no response at all, ask again and perhaps add a slight tightening (upward) of your seat muscles or a loosening (downward). Does your horse respond? Praise him for his attention. Then breathe and cue small again, always trying for less. Think invisible.

I find a light pulse with my thighs backs up my breath even better than seat muscles for most horses… so an inhale, and if needed, a thigh pulse for more energy, or an exhale and thigh pulse for steadiness or relaxation.

At first your horse may have no idea what you are asking for. His response to you might feel like a dubious, “Huh?” Cheer his effort! This is about subtlety; a tiny half-cue that creates an energetic half-pause, lays the foundation for a relaxed transition. Give him time to figure that out.

Does your horse ever resist a cue from you because it seems abrupt to him? Perhaps he’s trotting in a relaxed rhythm, when suddenly, out of nowhere, there’s a canter cue –gasp, toss head, counter-bend, throw out a lead leg, and hope for the best. A well-timed half-halt is the antidote.

Then a few strides into the canter, he begins to speed up. Pull on his face if you want, but he’s probably tense in the poll already. Besides, you’re trying to have better hands. Think about a better rhythm in his canter. Breathe. Focus your body. Reset his speed and steady him as your body realigns. Yay, you did a half-halt.

If this seems entirely too easy and you need to make it harder, may I suggest taking up chess? It’s meant to be a war of the mind and there’s an opponent.

Regardless of the gait, and especially at the walk, if you half-halt kindly, with a generous reward when your horse responds, you might feel his back lift just a few millimeters. Reward him with a huge exhale and soft hands, because when he lifts his back a bit, your half-halt is on the way to becoming the cue to bring his head to the vertical without pulling. It’s this instant that makes you really… no, really… believe that a half-halt has mystical properties.

Half-halts aren’t trained in a day. Every horse is a slightly different individual. Every rider has a unique language. Rather than reading even more books about half-halts that eventually put both of you in a complete tense-halt about the topic, breathe and half-halt your own critical mind. Crank up the music, and while you and your horse are dancing, offer a half-halt. Ask your horse what he prefers, and then let yourself be trainable.

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

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Subterranean Termites

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Subterranean Termites, who have been in existence for millions of years, reside within colonies underground in moist secluded areas. Subterranean Termites have been known to build elaborate mud tubes to tunnel hundreds of feet to reach feeding sources. The tubes also protect them from exposure to light, dehydration and predators.

With that said, Subterranean Termites have been found living above ground, but they must have a source of moisture in an unexposed area. In addition to moisture, subterranean termites also need cellulose for survival. This is why they feed on wood, paper and other cellulose containing products.

Subterranean termites are by far the most destructive species. They can collapse a building entirely, meaning possible financial ruin for a homeowner. The hard, saw-toothed jaws of termites work like shears and are able to bite off extremely small fragments of wood, one piece at a time.

Subterranean Termites can be found entering structures around plumbing penetrations, cement expansion joints, cracks, and other areas that give them access to the structure. Any wood that is in direct contact with the soil is also a prime target for subterranean termites. Subterranean termites will build their mud shelter tubes as far and as long as necessary to get to their food sources.

Characteristics

  • Subterranean termites can be found in every state except Alaska.
  • Subterranean termite colonies can be small with only a few hundred, up to around 250,000 termites, or as is the case with Formosan termites (found in the southern and gulf coast states), up to 10 million.
  • There are (3) different forms of subterranean termites each with its own specific characteristics.
  • Workers – Cream-colored (white to off-white) workers will be smaller, wingless and there will be variations in size between species. Count and examine the six short and stubby legs. While they do resemble soldiers, their heads are shorter and their mandibles are not as pronounced. The worker termites build the mud tubes.
  • Soldiers – Solider termites, known as the “defenders of the colony”, have cream-colored bodies and brown heads. Soldiers are also wingless termites, just as workers. However, their heads are pale yellow to dark brown in color with bigger mandibles (jaws) than those of workers. There are some soldiers, depending on where they are located, that feature pear-shaped heads featuring a long front projection that traps enemies by exuding a sticky substance.
  • Reproductive (swarm in the spring) – Groups of reproductive termites go off to start new colonies. Reproductive subterranean termites, also known as “alates” are approximately one inch long, have (4) equally sized wings that are double of its body and may be brown to black in color.
  • Flying termites (known as swarmers) are often confused with flying ants, because both mate during the springtime. Flying ants do not shed their wings. Look for discarded wings around window sills.
  • Most worker and soldier termites are completely blind as they do not have a pair of eyes.

Reproduction

  • Once the colony has matured (usually two to four years), then swarming occurs.
  • The surviving males and females pair off and begin the nesting and mating process.
  • The mating process may continue for years, which explains why subterranean termite colonies can contain several thousand termites…or several million in the case of Formosan termites.
  • Termite eggs are small, white, translucent and ovoid in shape. Termite eggs increase in size near hatching.
  • A new queen’s first clutch will contain approximately two dozen eggs.
  • Eggs laid in cooler climates need more incubation time. Depending on the climate, termite eggs hatch within 26 to 30 days.

Prevention

  • Eliminate wood contact with the soil.
  • Avoid water accumulation near the home’s foundation.
  • Ensure proper ventilation in crawl spaces to reduce humidity.
  • Divert water away from home with downspouts, gutters and splash blocks.
  • Use plastic sheeting to cover soil in crawl space.
  • Wood siding, stucco and foam board should be at least six inches away from the ground. Seal all cracks and holes in your home’s foundation, which may provide a handy access point for termites.

Attempting to eliminate Termites effectively require the use of several insecticide products and baiting stations. To avoid improper application, call a local pest control expert.

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Why Your SaaS Sales Depend on Data More Than Ever

Every SaaS business is aiming for sales success.

However, earning more revenue isn’t always a direct path. It’s a winding road of trial and error with internal and external factors.

Data is one solution to your sales woes. It can help your team discover gaps in the customer experience and transform your overall strategy.

The SaaS industry is a highly competitive market. As more companies emerge to claim their stake, use data to nurture your audience.

Products Don’t Sell Themselves

Your team can build a revolutionary product, but if no one understands its value, your target market may decide not to purchase it.

SaaS companies must realize that products don’t sell themselves. And while there are some exceptions to that statement, it’s better to train your sales team to solve people’s problems, rather than hope your audience will figure it out on their own.

Equip your team with the data to make better decisions during the sales cycle. Knowing vital information, like a prospect’s budget, personality, and beliefs, can determine how a sales rep prepares for a follow-up call.

And it’s not enough to just to talk about value with your SaaS prospects. It’s about creating something greater than what they already expected. Mark Cranney, operating partner at Andreessen Horowitz, writes:

“Some people think the sales force’s job is to communicate value to customers. To these people, sales is about buying a bunch of search Adwords or mouthpiecing a company’s message. They’re wrong. The true purpose of sales is to create new value for customers.”

To develop new value, it starts with personalization. You want to help customers find the solution to their problem, not just any problem. And that means having an open dialogue with your audience.

Below is an example from Attach, a sales engagement platform. The company uses live demos to start customer conversations. You’ll notice how the free demo is customized to cover the needs of the potential user.

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How are you personalizing the experience? Give your product more worth by solving the customer’s unique issues.

Customer Experience Reigns Supreme

Your team’s mission is to dive into the product usage data to find glitches. By alleviating the everyday pains of the customer, they’ll have more time to reap your product’s benefits.

And that’s what you truly want. More value received means customer success and possibly a notable case study for your business.

Sales isn’t the sole responsibility of your sales team. Every team member is responsible for customer success, from lead to brand advocate. That’s why the overall customer experience matters throughout the entire journey.

Every customer interaction will determine whether a trial user becomes a customer or a recurring customer decides to continue with his service.

Communication is essential when making each customer experience worthwhile. If a lead has questions about a particular plan, are your sales reps readily available with answers?

If a customer wants to troubleshoot a quick problem, do you have an accessible knowledge base with detailed instructions?

“An enterprise software company that designs for IT and neglects to create a delightful user experience will lose when it comes to adoption. Emphasis on product usability and design will separate the winners from the losers in the world of SaaS,” states Jeetu Patel, vice president and general manager of EMC’s Syncplicity Business Unit.

Zoho Books updated its application to combat product workflow and visual design issues. With lots of experimentation, the team made the product better. Below is a side-by-side comparison from its old tabbed navigation to a new left-sided navigation.

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Selling SaaS platforms involves everyone on your team. It’s one of the few ways to guarantee a memorable customer experience.

Customer Support Matters

Speedy and polite customer support teams play an integral role in SaaS sales.

It’s not enough to get a visitor to click purchase. You need knowledgeable staff to help customers.

Repeatedly, companies fail to offer superior support that not only answers the customer’s questions, but also reassures the customer that the brand is a leader in the industry.

Think of the support team as the front line of your brand. They mold people’s perceptions.

And it’s not unheard of for customers to love a brand’s products, yet decide to buy from a competitor because they offer better customer support.

In a fast-paced society, consumers want immediate access to their questions. Social media has offered businesses the chance to meet customers on their playing field.

Companies are answering service questions on Twitter, while moving complex issues to direct messages. Teams are even using social media to create moments of delight—recognizing customers for their brand loyalty.

Moreover, customers want to talk to a real person who can empathize with their issues. Live chat eases consumer anxiety.

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Be mindful of how to use chat support to gain the most value. Respond in a timely manner and speak in a conversational tone—a few emojis can brighten up the mood. And add a photo to build a human connection with the customer.

Avoid neglecting customer support in the sales process. Set the baseline by giving customers your undivided attention.

Higher Retention Means Higher Expectations

With a host of competitors at their fingertips, customers desire SaaS companies to exceed their expectations. If not, they may decide to take their business elsewhere.

Research continues to prove that it’s more profitable to retain customers than acquire them. However, what’s rarely mentioned is how to retain customers.

Retention programs aren’t one size fits all across the SaaS industry. Every company possesses its own set of unique challenges to keep customers interested.

For instance, teams are quick to develop loyalty programs to engage their brand ambassadors. They start sending out email campaigns with discounts and inviting advocates to VIP events.

But that’s not always the best option for your customers. By asking for feedback and observing user behavior, you might discover that a Facebook group with exclusive content can achieve similar or better results.

Simply recognizing your customers can lead to retention, too. Are you highlighting your top customers on your site? RescueTime dedicates an entire page to showcase customer stories.

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Customer retention also extends to your internal operations. Your sales framework must encourage team members to address retention.

“Once HubSpot realized that their churn rate was a sales problem, they dug into the data once again to determine the catalyst. As it turned out, the sales compensation plan they had in place was practically encouraging reps to ignore the potential for churn,” writes Sonja Jacob, former director of content marketing at Mattermark.

Achieving higher retention rates requires doing things differently. Find out what works best for your company.

Data Leads The Way

Sales reps need accurate insight to close deals. With data, your team has the opportunity to uncover customer issues and address operational challenges.

More than ever, prepare your SaaS company to dominate the competition. Seek to deliver customer satisfaction along with higher ROI. Let data lead the way.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

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Beacon Roofing Supply to Participate in the Seaport Global Securities Transports & Industrials Conference

Beacon Roofing Supply to Participate in the Seaport Global Securities Transports & Industrials Conference

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NFL News: Oakland Raiders Seriously Convincing Marshawn Lynch To Unretire

The Oakland Raiders are seriously trying to acquire the services of retired running back Marshawn Lynch.

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