Know Before You Go

It’s a large part of your life. You use it every single day, without even thinking about it. But if it disappeared from our lives, I think we would all miss it. What is it?

Toilet paper, of course.

Toilet paper has become part of modern American life, but we know so little of this constant companion. Take a journey with me through the mysterious realm of toilet paper and we will all, hopefully, emerge as wiser and better people.

A Whale of a Tale

Finally, someone took it upon themselves to generate intelligent literature to ponder in the restroom. The problem?

The more you go, the less literature you have.

TP

In January 2012, Ebay user the_heppcat placed an online ad for his prized possession – toilet paper rolls on which he typed he entire novel of Moby Dick, using a typewriter.

“Considering what it’s been through, it’s in amazing condition,” he says. “I’ve kept this mod oddity in a box in a cool, dry place for the last 10 years and have only broken it out to prove to doubters that I actually did it.”

The novel is typed out on clean rolls of 2-ply Cottonelle, telling us that our writer has good taste in tissue as well as in literature. While one or two of the rolls have a slight tear at the beginning, the whole package appears to be in good condition. The collection has taken up four complete rolls, with the addition of one-fifth of a roll for the epilogue and one extra half-roll.

All four toilet paper scrolls were available on Ebay until January 28th, 2012 for the bargain price of $999.95, with free shipping thrown in as a bonus. No word on whether this masterpiece has sold since then.

BYOT(P)

All of us have, at one point or another, had cause to complain about our jobs. But I think we can all take a little time out of our days to empathize with the suffering Public Works employees of Windsor, MO, who were forced to bring their own toilet paper with them to work.

The small Missouri town, boasting a population of 3,000, has four female employees who work at City Hall and ten public works employees, all male, who work at the municipal barn.

The male employees were requested to tote their own TP because, allegedly, the male employees were using far more than the female employees.

The issue came to light at a City Hall meeting in March 2013, causing scandal throughout the small town.

Although the resolution of the issue was unclear, we can only hope that those poor Public Works employees were finally able to regain their toilet paper and their dignity.

TP-Time!

When the Spitsbergen Jurassic Research Group journeyed across the archipelago of Svalbard, they were on a mission to locate and excavate prehistoric marine animals from the Upper Jurassic period. They brought plenty of supplies along – and lots and lots of toilet paper.

“It is almost impossible to get the plastic-solution to soak all the way through. To keep the bones from breaking when turned, we use the same technique as in the field. We plaster it, strengthened with burlap and metal bars, but to cover and protect the bones from the plaster; lots and lots and even more toilet paper is needed.”

The team reserves the highest quality toilet paper for protecting precious bones, using cheaper brands for a less dignified, more normal purpose.

When team members find a specimen and need to make a jacket for it, they call for assistance of the toilet-paper variety. Shouting out “TP-time!” inevitably results in several team members running to your aid, rolling out toilet paper and wetting it down for use. The process is time-consuming, requiring up to five layers of dampened paper to preserve fossils.

Who knew the search for ancient monsters would require so much toilet paper?

Conclusions

First sold on a roll by the Scott brothers in 1890, toilet paper has gone from a luxury to a necessity, becoming an integral part of our lives. Now it comes in all sorts of varieties – everything from the simple single-ply to a super-fancy triple-ply. You can buy toilet paper monogrammed or patterned – printed with almost anything you can think of, including $100 bills, baby chicks, and Sudoku puzzles.

Monday Morning Motivation

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Your Attitude or Your Business

crying_babyAttitude can be the difference between success and failure. A poor attitude can be contagious, spreading out to affect you, your team and your entire company.

Often we do not realize how our own attitudes or the attitudes of others can affect the whole organization. One rotten tomato can ruin the whole bunch. Your attitude has the power to affect so much – not only your team, but also how you and your team are perceived by your customers. How does your attitude affect your business?

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” – Thomas Jefferson

Attitude may be infectious – but it is also controllable. The first step is to make a choice regarding how you will look at the world. We all need to be realistic and determine how we approach our opportunities and challenges, so we can lead by example.  So what are some ways you can maintain a positive work culture?

Maintain Honest Communications with your team and associates. Ensure that all of your team members are kept in the loop – keep communication clear and honest. Make sure your associates are involved and informed in the workplace.

Make sure everyone understands the mission and goals of the organization. All employees should understand the mission statement and goals of the company. Employees work harder when they know what they are working towards.

Remain positive. Maintaining your own personal positive outlook makes it easier for those around you to maintain theirs.

Maximize efficiencies through collaborative actions.  A team that plays together, stays together. Fostering a sense of comradery is a vital step in building a team that works together without friction.

Ensure Managers understand their roles and have the skill set to effectively lead their teams. Strong leadership can be key to building a solid team. Leaders who understand your key values bring a sense of direction to their teams.

Implement a performance management program to set expectations. Supporting your team and helping them develop necessary skills is as important as selecting the right people in the first place. Team support is an important tool in developing your desired workplace culture.

Provide regular ongoing feedback and recognize contributions. Everyone wants to know how they are doing. Keep feedback flowing. Try to encourage your employee’s strengths.

Take it Step-by-Step

Here are a few tips for maintaining a positive attitude:

Listen or read  inspirational books – Select some about your favorite athlete or a leader who inspires you. Let their thoughts be your guide.

Wake up early – Create a habit of rising early. This allows you to have some time for yourself before you have to face the day. Take time to relax and prepare yourself for the challenges ahead.

be_positiveExercise – Get your blood flowing! It’s amazing what those endorphins can do. And if you can get into the habit of exercising in the morning, it’s a great way to start your day.

Plan your week and your day – Having a clear plan of what your day and week will look like will relieve last-minute concerns and provide you a direction to help you achieve your goals. Completing your tasks step-by-step will also give you a sense of accomplishment

Understand that things don’t always go as planned- Surprises happen. Things don’t always go as planned. Be flexible and adaptable. Focus on the journey.

Surround yourself with positive people – The people you surround yourself with have an enormous impact on your life – helping you with your attitude or hindering you on your path. Choose wisely.

Be thankful – Take some time to be thankful.  Be thankful for who you are and the wonderful people you have in your life. Make this part of your routine. The very act of focusing on what you are thankful for will help maintain your positive attitude.

How do you maintain a positive attitude? Leave a comment, and share your secrets with us!

Are You Ready for CORE Live?

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As the Office Product and JanSan industries continue to evolve, independent resellers and distributors must be prepared to compete in a changing economy. Continuing their support of customers in their quest for success, United Stationers and Lagasse will welcome independent dealers and distributors from across the country at the industry-leading CORE Live event Feb. 16-19, 2015 in Nashville, Tenn.

The innovative CORE Live event marks the first time Office Products dealers and JanSan distributors gather with the broad supplier community and other industry experts at a common event. The landmark event is themed “Emerge 2015,” highlighting the opportunities available to resellers as the marketplace and buying behaviors continue to evolve. Insights on best practices and strategies for succeeding in this changing environment will be shared, ensuring attendees will leave equipped to win in their respective markets.

Through a range of interactive and engaging sessions, seminars and presentations, attendees will be provided with ready-to-use information and best practices on a variety of relevant topics.

In addition to United Stationers’ executives who will be speaking on the latest industry trends, keynote speakers include:

  • Jeremy Gutsche, described as “a new breed of trend spotter” by The Guardian and an “intellectual can of Red Bull” by Association Week, will deliver a keynote address on what the future holds for business leaders.
  • Chris Hodson, Associate and Partner at Cleveland Research Company, an independent equity research firm, will provide insights on the industry from an investor’s perspective.
  • James Sun, a proven entrepreneur who was a finalist on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” that aired on NBC will offer a keynote address on how small businesses can build loyalty and grow in an increasingly global market.

Make sure to follow United Stationers on Twitter (@USSCOspeaks) and track the latest announcements, insights and updates from CORE Live 2015 with #EMERGECORELIVE.

 

Seven of the Best Organization Products

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It’s time to get motivated to clean up and get organized. The problem is, once you purge everything, what are some of the products that will help you get things back in order and keep them that way?

Here’s a list of some of the top organizing products for every room in your life.

Garage Hooks.

The key to any organization is to use the vertical space; so as much as possible, get things up on the wall. This means buying the racks that are specially made to hold shovels, rakes and the like, as well as the gadgets found in a hardware or home center store that will hold bikes on the wall and a multitude of other paraphernalia all of us store in the garage or basement.

Box Bottom Hanging Files.

If your hanging folders are bulging with paper or you have many folders within a category in your hanging folder, consider using a box-bottom hanging folder. They have flat bottoms (cardboard at the bottom keeps them flat) and come in 1-inch, 2-inch and larger widths. Using these prevents folders and papers from spilling out of the top of their hanging folder.

Drawer Dividers.

Yes, we all need junk drawers, but they don’t have to look that way. Keep your junk drawer and any other drawer, including sock and underwear drawers and desk drawers, looking neat with drawer dividers. There are two different types of drawer dividers. One is an ‘Expand-a-Drawer’ which is a one-piece item that expands to fit most kitchen-sized drawers. The other type comes in individual pieces that usually come in combinations of three-inch sizes. Drawer organizers with compartments make it easy to stash paper clips, rubber bands and the like in a tidy, self-contained area.

Bins.

When you hear the word bin, you think of the large plastic tubs that can store seasonal decorations. And yes, those are great to keep the basement and closets organized. In fact, they can be purchased in colors specially geared to the season for easy identification. But don’t let your imagination stop there. There are leather-covered bins and linen-covered bins that come in a variety of colors and are ideal for keeping magazines tidy on a coffee table or even for storing folded shirts in a closet. Plastic bins are equally as good for storing potatoes and onions in the pantry as they are for storing CDs and DVDs in the office. When it comes to bins, they may be among the handiest organizational products out there.

Shredders.

If you’re in the middle of purging and are throwing out old tax returns or cancelled checks, consider using a shredder to protect your identity and minimize the paper that ends up in a landfill. If your needs are minimal, a small portable shredder may do the trick. If you need to shred volumes on a daily basis, go for the larger, high-capacity machines.

Calendar/PDA (Personal Digital Assistant).

To keep track of appointments, birthdays, and everyday tasks, a calendar or PDA is a must. Or, if you prefer to handwrite your reminders, purchase an appointment calendar that gives you the space you need. Choose from versions that show a day, week or month at a time. Many also come with address pages so that you can keep your contact information right with your calendar.

Label a bin and for some mystical reason it tends to be used for what it was intended for. Somehow a label makes everything official, from a new set of file folders to boxes storing old photographs. Make it a practice to label everything from the get-go. When you start a new file, put an official label on it instead of handwriting one. It will look neater and soon, you’ll want everything in your life to be labeled.

 

3 Of Our Favorite Email Best Practices

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Assuming your customer email lists are in order, we compiled our three favorite tips to strengthen your emails and encourage customers to click through to your website – they’re pretty easy to implement, but can have a significant impact on your open rates.

 

Create short and sweet subject lines.

Internet service providers have built-in character limits for viewing subject lines in an email program, so you can get cut off at any point. You want to focus on the initial 30 characters or so—including spaces—and never put your most important information at the end of your subject line. A study done by the email monitoring company Return Path showed that subject lines with 49 or fewer characters had 12.5 percent higher open rates than those with 50 or more characters. Click-through rates for subject lines with 49 or fewer characters were 75 percent higher than for those with 50 or more characters.

 

The subject line needs to convey a strong offer or other relevant message.

This can be communicated as urgency to open the email, like a limited time deal; an outstanding offer, as in free delivery; or perhaps an exciting offer that helps build relationships, such as a great contest. You open emails if they are relevant to you, so it helps to be specific. It’s important to note that the email itself must support your subject line, providing additional information about the offer, relevant message, or both. Remember, the subject line encourages the reader to open the email, but it’s the email message itself that prompts a click-through to your website.

 

Include ample links within the email, so clicking through to your website is easy.

No matter where your customer is as he scrolls through your email, there should always be a link to your website within easy view. That means hot-linking your logo, any featured products, “shop now” buttons, and strategically selected type. And, you want to be careful that links go to the right page. For example, if your email is announcing a limited-time deal on specific products, and there are clickable product photographs, make absolutely certain that the links go to the deal and don’t default to your home page. If a customer has to hunt for the deal, you risk losing him.

To insert additional links, add your website’s navigation bar to your email. Making that addition introduces a strong graphic element and creates an immediate visual connection between your email and your website. Because certain internet service providers have preview windows, allowing the recipient to peruse only a small portion of the email before officially opening it, place a link to your website in the email’s upper left quadrant. Your customers will see the link, whether or not they actually open the full window.

 

Toilet Seat Covers Provide an Extra Measure of Clean in School Restrooms

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When it comes to observing good hygiene, children aren’t always the cleanest, especially when it comes to restroom practices. The best of children can fall prey to laziness, and even with regular maintenance, school restrooms—particularly toilet seats—tend to get the worst of it. One very easy, effective and economical way to keep germs at bay and ensure a healthy restroom experience is to utilize toilet seat covers.

Toilet seat covers provide a safe, protective barrier between human contact and germs that can potentially live on surfaces for hours or even days. They are also an ally when it comes to infection control and keeping students healthy, which is of vital importance for schools.

Utilizing toilet seat covers in the restroom can offer schools many benefits:

  • Fewer children miss school days because of sicknesses acquired by germs in restrooms and on toilet seats
  • Fewer illnesses for children, especially diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory illness
  • Fewer outbreaks of infectious disease

Toilet seat covers are paper thin so they can be safely flushed, yet still be durable enough to protect users from any organisms or viruses present on the toilet seat. In addition, they offer peace of mind—students won’t have to worry about the last person. Toilet seat covers provide an important health benefit to both individuals and schools alike, however, they are not a replacement for regular cleaning—and typical cleaning and maintenance routines should still be adhered to.

 

The Flu: Separating Fact from Fiction

flu season ahead

Your head hurts, your body aches, you’re hot, cold and feeling miserable. Flu symptoms like these affect about 60 million Americans every year, but you don’t have to be one of them. Get the facts and stay healthy this flu season.

 

Every year over 35,000 people die from the flu.

FACT. The elderly, the very young, and those with certain chronic medical conditions are more susceptible to the virus. Every decade or so the virus mutates and can wreak havoc on other groups of people as seen in the pandemic of 1918 where it’s estimated that between 20 million to 100 million people died of influenza, many of them in their 20s, 30s and 40s.

 

You can get the flu from the flu vaccine.


FICTION.
The vaccine is created from an inactive virus. You may feel soreness at the injection site, and in some rare cases you might not feel completely up to par for a day or two, but the flu shot will not give you the flu. It takes a few weeks for it to take effect, so if you get exposed to the flu during that window, you may still get sick.

 

If someone coughs or sneezes on an object, like a pen or phone, you can catch it.


FACT.
It’s believed flu viruses can survive outside the body anywhere from a few seconds to a few days depending on the surface. They live longer on non-porous surfaces like plastic, metal and wood and less on porous surfaces like fabric or paper.

 

You can pass on the flu even if you currently have no symptoms.


FACT.
You can be contagious one day before or up to five days after your symptoms appear.

 

You can catch the flu by going outside in the winter with wet hair.


FICTION.
While having wet hair might make you shiver, it won’t cause the flu. The flu is more common in the winter months because we spend so much time indoors with others where germs can more easily spread.

 

Frequent hand washing can help keep you healthy.


FACT.
Washing frequently with hot water and lots of soap for at least 30 seconds – about as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice – is your best defense. Be sure to “save your work” by using a paper towel to shut off the faucet and open the bathroom door.

 

Once March hits, flu season is over.


FICTION.
The flu season lasts from October to early spring. Depending on where you live, spring may not arrive until April or May.

 

Sneeze into your hands.


FICTION.
Turn your head away from others or sneeze into your sleeve or tissue. Be sure to dispose of your tissue and wash your hands immediately to avoid spreading germs.

 

Using sanitizing and disinfecting wipes on your phone and desk area can help kill germs.


FACT.
Sanitizing and disinfecting wipes kill up to 99% of germs that can cause illness. Regularly wipe everything you frequently touch including your keyboard, mouse, pens and desktop.

 

Keeping your hands away from your nose, mouth and eyes can help keep you healthy.


FACT.
These are three prime spots where germs can enter. One study found that people touch their face an average of fifteen times an hour.

Armed with the facts, you can help dodge the flu bug and have a healthy year.

 

6 Simple Steps to Staying Safe and Secure Online

521435859You’d think twice before walking down a dark alley at 2AM. But when it comes to online safety, too many of us do just that. In haste, we don’t stop to think about the seemingly innocent download or double check URLs before making a purchase. Scammers wait for a weak moment when our guard is down. Every day hackers write new code and develop new schemes to steal your personal information and money. But with a little vigilance you can keep yourself and your computer safe and secure using the following tips.

1. Keep your antivirus software up-to-date.

Anti-virus software is your best protection against one of the worst kind of computer problems – viruses. While most viruses enter via email or downloads, some can spread through USB disk drives, leading some companies to disable the port. It’s important to keep your anti-virus software current or enable it to update automatically.

2. Beware of downloading.

The fastest, easiest way for hackers to get into your computer is to get you to install it yourself. It starts out innocent enough. You visit a site to download a useful new desktop enhancement you’ve heard about. After poking around, you determine the site looks legitimate and start your download. What you don’t know is the software you installed also includes a few extra programs that allow them access to your computer files and passwords or include programs that watch your activity online. Often hackers will use someone else’s software and add viruses to it, making it hard to tell which software is actually genuine. If in doubt, conduct more research or ask for professional help before downloading.

3. Don’t trust email.

Email is a way of life, and unfortunately a preferred choice for many increasingly clever scams. Gone are the days of grammatically incorrect emails from a Nigerian prince. Today’s scams are well-written and more sophisticated than ever – a friend stranded penniless in a foreign country, an email for a “missed” delivery, confirmation of a purchase never made, work-at-home scams, immediate cash advances. Use common sense. Don’t download attachments, click on links or enter passwords or personal information unless you feel 100 percent certain.

4. Back it up.

Think for a moment about the files you have on your computer: proposals, invoices, spreadsheets, photographs, and years of work. Now imagine it’s all wiped out. It would be impossible to recreate, yet too many of us do not regularly back up our data. Whether using external drives or an online cloud-based back up program, it’s easy. You may never have to use it, but if you do, you’ll be thankful you did!

5. Different sites, different passwords.

Hackers know most of us use the same username and password for various sites whether they’re important sites – like your bank – or less important – like registration to an online trade publication. After all, it’s a hassle to remember or create a log for all your passwords. Using the same password, however, significantly weakens your security. If you’re not going to create a different password for every site, at a minimum change it for each site that has access to your financial data. It can save you a lot of grief down the road.

6. Log out.

Again, it’s a hassle, but offers greater protection. When you’re done using a site, simply log out. Next time you log in, you will need to type in your password again, but that can be a good thing because hackers don’t know it. If certain web pages are open, there are specific types of attacks that can take over and transfer money or wreak havoc on your system. Fortunately, most browsers can now detect this type of threat, but every now and then they fail. Logging out gives you that extra layer of protection and peace of mind.

The internet has become a necessity for conducting business and everyday life. Unfortunately, the nature of computers and vulnerability of unsuspecting users make it a prime target for the unscrupulous.

How to Avoid “Vulture Neck” and Other Mobile Device Hazards

156930531For centuries people have worn out their bodies on equipment designed to make life easier or work more productive. Over the years the prolonged and repetitive motion of sewing machines, looms, typewriters, assembly lines and other “modern” devices have brought long-term circulation and back problems to millions.

Now that we’ve replaced mechanical equipment with electronic, we face similar health issues especially with our increasing use of mobile devices. Tablets and smart phones force us to unnaturally crane our neck to read tiny screens and tap on tiny keys. It’s no wonder many of us suffer from tired eyes, sore shoulders and aching backs. But there’s good news. You can avoid “vulture neck” and other hazards by adopting a few simple habits when using your mobile device.

 

Tablet Tips

Buy right.

Don’t buy a larger screen than you need if a smaller, lighter model will do. Be sure to test the brightness of the display, especially if you’ll be using indoors and out.

Straighten up.

The problem is how these devices are held. Your non-dominant hand holds the tablet, while the dominant finger touches the screen, clenching the other fingers so they don’t accidentally touch the screen. Although tablets are usually very light, even one weighing a few ounces can cause strain when used for long periods. Practice the same good posture you use for your computer: feet on the floor, shoulders and neck relaxed, arms to your side and back supported by a chair.

Adjust your seat.

Part of “vulture neck” comes from placing your tablet below your field of vision when seated. Adjust your seat so the screen is at or just below your field of vision when holding your head and neck comfortably.

Raise it.

Keep your tablet raised to eye level by placing it on a table instead of holding it in your lap. Keep it propped up with a stand that allows it to stay upright. If you must hold it in your lap, or are reading while lying down, use a pillow to raise it up and bring the screen closer.

Consider a keyboard.

Tablets are made for convenience and portability, not for creating big documents or inputting large amounts of data as they don’t promote good posture or comfort. For that type of work use a laptop or desktop. If a tablet is your only option, adding a keyboard and mouse will decrease strain.

Keep moving.

They call these mobile devices so you should move around, stretch, change positions and take frequent breaks to keep your muscles from cramping up and to keep your circulation flowing.

 

Smart Phone Tips

Smart phones are used more for texting, emailing and browsing than talking. The small keyboard and screen, the unnatural position of your arm, shoulder, back, hands and fingers encourage poor posture and can cause long-term muscle injury. Reduce the stress and strain by…

  • Holding your neck and back upright. Avoid lowering your head or rounding your shoulders.
  • Using the phone in its vertical position. This reduces the amount of space your thumbs and fingers will have to reach.
  • Keeping your wrist straight.
  • Creating shorter messages. Reduce the keystrokes, and you’ll reduce hand and thumb movements.
  • Using word or voice recognition. Although it can sometimes cause embarrassing communication gaffes, auto complete cuts down on keystrokes while voice recognition eliminates it.
  • Trying a stylus. Select one with a comfortable grip where you don’t need to hold it too tightly.