April is National Home Inventory Month: Find out more
30 Nov 2018

Website Accessibility: The Plaintiff and the PDF

Mary GillenWe asked Mary Gillen, Associate Member and web developer for clients throughout the United States, to provide information for you, our readers, of the importance of having an ADA Accessible website. Her valuable information follows:

A few months ago, one of my clients called me…in a panic.

“We received an accessibility demand letter about our website. I know you have been warning us that we should make our website accessible for quite some time, but we didn’t listen. Please tell me what we have to do! The letter says we only have 10 days to comply before we are sued.”

Yep. It’s happening…more and more. The attack of the serial plaintiff.

REALITY: There are serial plaintiffs out there.

Businesses are being sued in alarming numbers! People who have disabilities are alleging that the websites they are visiting and/or mobile applications they are using are not accessible to them.

In 2017, more than 800 federal lawsuits were filled in response to web inaccessibility. And, there were more federal lawsuits filed in the first six months of 2018 (over 1000) than in all of 2017.

Your business could be at risk.

If you have a public-facing website (meaning if anyone on the planet can access your site), your online content needs to be accessible to folks who are blind, have low vision, are deaf or have hearing loss, have learning disabilities, experience cognitive limitations, have limited movement and speech disabilities, or photosensitivity.

And do you know what is causing one of the biggest problems with website content accessibility? PDF files!

REALITY: PDF content needs to be accessible, too.

Non-compliant PDFs is one of the most common accessibility complaints that plaintiffs have when filing suit.

REAL WORLD EXAMPLES

Example One: One restaurant client had his menus in PDF format, and received a demand letter that complained that the plaintiff could not access the menu choices via an accessibility reader.

Example Two: Another client offered discount coupons in PDF format that were not accessible. Winn Dixie and Dunkin Donuts were also sued for not providing accessible discount coupons.

Example Three: A software company received a demand letter because they did not provide product information as accessible PDFs.

WHAT TO DO

Have your website content tested now for accessibility. Having a fully-documented test can help you prove that you are working towards ADA compliance should you receive a demand letter.

DOES YOUR WEBSITE NEED AN ACCESSIBILITY TEST? 

Find out by visiting this website to learn about Mary Gillen’s accessible website services. Then either call 508-768-8418 or email her to discuss how you, too, can have an accessible website.

15 Nov 2018

Code of Ethics: Confidentiality

ethicsWe periodically review the National Inventory Certification Association Code of Ethics. It’s good to always remember what standards have been set for our industry, and what you have agreed to abide by when you became a member of NICA.

One of the points under the category Confidentiality is a key item to remember when sharing your testimonials – “Publish customer testimonials only with their written consent.”

We all can agree that placing testimonials on your website is one of the best ways to let prospective clients learn about you. Often people are happy to give you a written recommendation, but most don’t take the time to do it. A quick request to your clients will result in a few very kind responses that highlight your professionalism, your work ethic, the quality of your finished product, etc.

The best way to receive testimonials is to ask. You can always ask them face-to-face or on the telephone, but it’s best to send an email or a letter with a form included requesting this information. Either of these 2 methods will give you the information in writing, which will serve as proof of their consent to use their remarks publicly. Be sure to let them know whether you’ll be using their full name or just their initials, or you can ask how they prefer to be listed.

If there is a need to edit the comments in any way, be sure to send it back to them for their approval.

Click here to review the National Inventory Certification Association Code of Ethics.

01 Nov 2018

Loss Inventory Course Now Available

personal developmentThe most requested course in our December 2017 survey has now been developed and recently made available. All NICA members and also any other professional seeking this valuable information can now log in and take this online, self-directed course.  Members will receive 3 CEUs toward their certification renewal.

When someone faces a loss due to fire or natural disaster, they are overwhelmed with emotion. There are insurance standards that state what a policyholder is required to do after a loss. Add that to the many emotions one deals with and the time required to complete the recovery process, and most have a need for professional assistance.

Documenting their losses, one piece of personal property at a time, is a time-consuming and difficult process. For the home inventory professional, having the knowledge and a plan to document the contents of a client’s home or business is essential to assist them in achieving an equitable settlement. When conducting a loss inventory, it is important to know what is salvageable vs. unsalvageable. Sorting items that can be considered for “allowances” and also those that might need appraisals is a large responsibility that many homeowners and business owners don’t know how to do or have the desire to tackle this difficult task.

There are challenges an inventory professional will likely face during a loss inventory that aren’t encountered in other types of inventory services. These challenges can include standing water, no power or lights, contaminants, and personal safety issues. Information is provided regarding how to deal with these hazards.

Additionally, this course includes information about marketing loss inventory services, the importance of developing business affiliations, and options regarding how to price this extremely important service.

Module 1 – Introduction to Loss Inventory Services

  • What is a Loss Inventory?
  • Insurance
  • Your Role as an Inventory Professional
  • Challenges You Might Face

Module 2 – Preparing for and Completing the Inventory

  • Preparations Prior to the Visit
  • The Inventory Process
  • Inventory Equipment
  • Personal Protective Equipment

Module 3 – Marketing Your Loss Inventory Services

  • Marketing Your Service
  • Business Affiliations
  • Pricing Options
17 Oct 2018

Looking for Marketing Ideas?

Mary GillenIn her book titled “367 Marketing Ideas & Tactics for Your Business”, Associate Member Mary Gillen provides a plethora of guidance on how to market a business. Though these ideas aren’t specific to the home inventory industry, they can certainly be applied to your business and most likely will spur on some ideas of your own.

Twitter – How to Use Twitter to Find Prospects Near You

Using the Twitter Search Function, you can find new prospects to follow by entering a keyword phrase, location, and even a radius of miles.

Example: If you are looking to follow/connect with Insurance Agencies all within 25 miles of Boston MA, enter the following information into the Twitter Search box: insurance agency near:Boston, MA” within:25mi  then press the search icon.

On the search results page, click the People button in the navigation bar to view the list of prospects you can follow.

Linkedin – Offer to Introduce Two of Your Connections

You have many mutual connections on LinkedIn. Once a week, offer to introduce two of your connections to one another via written email notes. They may be able to do some business together. And they will probably remember the favor by offering you a new introduction in the future.

Include Short “How I Helped This Company or Client” Descriptions in the Experience Section of Your Profile and short “How I Helped This Company or Client” descriptions that explain how you have recently assisted your clients. Keep this section up-to-date with your success stories.

Email Marketing – The 52-week Autoresponder Training Course

Looking to build your email mailing list, but are worried about how often you should reach out to prospects without email overload? Create a weekly autoresponder sequence of messages and promote it as a free 52-week training course on a subject that will interest your prospects. Those who subscribe to this email course know up front that they will receive an email from you once a week. This way you can instruct and promote simultaneously. Give it a try. This “educational series” can help get around the “frequency” problem.

Sunday evening is the best time to send Email blasts to business folks because they are online, getting ready for the work week

Prospecting – The Sunday Drive Can Pay Off

Go the distance with your prospecting by taking an hour each Sunday to drive around at least one office park in your local area. Note the names of businesses and their addresses. There are probably many that are not in your prospecting database.

Cold Call  – Voice Mail Messages

VOICEMAIL … the cold-caller’s nightmare! Not necessarily. When you leave a message, state three terrific ways this person can benefit by meeting with you. Also leave a specific time and date that you’ll stop by to see them.

COLD CALLS … make 6 cold calls by 10 a.m. every business day. Build your cold call confidence and sales by using the 6-by-10 calling program.

Unique Marketing Ideas

Step Out of “Character” – A CPA we know always makes it a point to send his clients birthday cards. Yet he takes it one step further. He calls each client and actually SINGS the traditional HAPPY BIRTHDAY song to them on their special day. And who cares if the only singer in his family is the sewing machine? His clients love him, and he has more business than he can handle.

The Doggie “Yappy Hour” – The Jackson 20 Restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia hosts a Doggie Yappy Hour every Tuesday evening (April – early September) from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. Locals and visitors alike bring their furry friends for an enjoyable time featuring pup-tinis and delicious doggie treats for the pups, plus complimentary hors-d’oeuvres and happy hour specials for dog owners, who get the chance to network with folks who could be prospects.

03 Oct 2018

Collections Inventory Course

CurriculumOne of our most popular courses is Collections Inventory, The reason for its popularity is that it offers detailed information to help you prepare and perform an inventory of collectibles. Many choose this course as the elective to achieve the Appraisal Examiner Certification because often collectibles are items that people request to be appraised. The course summary follows:

Everybody collects something. Common collectible items are photographs, event ticket stubs, trip souvenirs, athletes’ trophies … the list goes on and on. The reasons people collect are plentiful as well – for personal enjoyment by seeing their items displayed, creating a history to pass down to their heirs, for investment, competition with other collectors, social interaction by attending swap meets and exchanging information, to name a few.

Keeping these collectibles properly documented is important. For the home inventory professional, knowing the process of documenting a group of items in a specific category of diverse types and values is a benefit to their current service offerings.

Collections are not limited to individuals but also held by businesses and specific market sectors. As such, the collection should be documented in a logically organized repository consisting of photographs, bills of sale, and reference materials that allows for updates of additional information at any time – providing peace of mind for the owner.

In addition to learning processes and procedures to thoroughly document these special items, this course also includes information regarding how insurance plays a role in collecting valuables, how to market a collectibles inventory service, creating additional business through “upselling” this service, and how to price your service properly.

The three modules of this course are:

  • Introduction to Collections Inventory Services
  • Process Strategies
  • Monitoring and Identifying Success

If you are still needing CEUs to retain your CIS certification, this would be a great course to add to your library.

06 Sep 2018

Indiana Home Inventory Professional Achieves Certified Appraisal Examiner Designation

Congratulations to member Brian Sackowski of Key Inventory for achieving his CAE designation.

Brian SackowskiThe National Inventory Certification Association (NICA) is pleased to announce that Brian Sackowski, owner of Key Inventory in Indianapolis, Indiana, recently earned the designation of Certified Appraisal Examiner (CAE).

Growth of the personal property inventory industry has created an opportunity for contents inventory professionals to serve as Appraisal Examiners. This certification provides the education and the credentials they need to properly assist appraisers. By collecting the required information, the appraisers are able to create an accurate Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) compliant certified report.

The purpose of a CAE designation is to establish recognition for this specialized service. This enables appraisal firms to locate certified, qualified examiners and helps certified NICA members grow their businesses through additional revenue opportunities.

When completing an inventory service for residential and commercial clients, the inventory professional is often asked if they know the value of items, or if they can refer an appraiser. The CAE designation signifies that these contents inventory professionals have the knowledge required to collect and then submit the necessary information for an appraiser to assign value. This allows for a two-way referral opportunity between these two industries.

To help ensure that the inventory service provider is prepared to serve the appraisal industry, the NICA Education Committee, consisting of NICA members, an established property appraiser, and the Association Directors, determined the requirements to achieve an Appraiser Examiner Certification.

Only those who have earned their Certified Inventory Expert (CIE) or Certified Inventory Specialist (CIS) designation can apply for this additional level. The inventory professional is also required to successfully complete the Customer Service and Appraisal Examiner courses, plus an elective, chosen from the NICA curriculum. The Appraisal Examiner course was co-written by a property appraiser to ensure integrity and provide hands-on processes for accurate collection of information.

Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, Key Inventory offers residential and business asset inventory and appraisal services throughout the United States. 

15 Aug 2018

North Carolina Inventory Professionals Achieve Industry Designation

NICA congratulates members Stephanie and Rich Marulli for achieving Certified Inventory Specialist designation.

The National Inventory Certification Association (NICA) is pleased to announce that Stephanie & Rich Marulli, owners of Home Sweet Home Inventory Specialists, LLC, have recently earned the designation of Certified Inventory Specialists (CIS). Achieving this designation confirms they have gained knowledge to provide professional residential and small business contents inventory services.

To earn the CIS designation, the Marullis successfully completed the required courses developed by NICA, agreed to conduct business according to the asset industry Code of Ethics, and accumulated a minimum number of Continuing Education Units. They then passed the Certification Exam, which is the final step in achieving this designation.

Having an industry certification is not required for the contents inventory industry. However, choosing to invest in continuing education shows a desire to learn and excel as a personal property inventory professional. Earning these credentials informs clients that they have gone the extra mile to ensure they provide quality inventory services for homeowners, renters, and business owners.

There is an increasing awareness of the necessity and benefits of having a prepared photographic and written record of one’s personal property. This knowledge and the ever-increasing busy lifestyles of homeowners and business owners alike create a growing demand for a professional inventory service provider.

Stephanie Marulli stated, “We owned Rich’s orthodontic practice for many years, and with my background as a teacher, we both see the value and importance of continuing education and achieving certification. We believe these credentials are essential to show our clients our level of professionalism.”

Based in Leland, North Carolina, Home Sweet Home Inventory Professionals offers residential and business asset inventory services for Eastern North Carolina. 

30 Jul 2018

Virginia Inventory Professional Achieves Home Inventory Industry Certification

Congratulations to member Julie Ulrich for achieving the designation of Certified Appraisal Examiner.

Julie UlrichThe National Inventory Certification Association (NICA) is pleased to announce that Julie Ulrich, owner of TimeWise Inventory Services, has recently earned the designation of Certified Appraisal Examiner (CAE).

Growth of the personal property inventory industry has created an opportunity for contents inventory professionals to serve as Appraisal Examiners. The purpose of a CAE designation is to establish recognition for this specialized service. This certification provides the education and the credentials needed to properly assist appraisers.

This enables appraisal firms to locate and subcontract certified, qualified examiners to assist with the collection of descriptions and photos of items to be appraised. The appraisers are then able to create an accurate Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP) compliant certified report from this information provided by the inventory professional. Additionally, this additional service provides the home inventory professional with additional revenue opportunities.

When completing an inventory service for residential and commercial clients, the inventory professional is often asked if they know the value of items, or if they can refer an appraiser. The CAE designation signifies that these contents inventory professionals have the knowledge required to collect and then submit the necessary information for an appraiser to assign value. This allows for a two-way referral opportunity between these two industries.

To help ensure that the inventory service provider is prepared to serve the appraisal industry, the NICA Education Committee, consisting of NICA members, an established property appraiser, and the Association Directors, determined the requirements to achieve the Appraiser Examiner designation.

Only those who have earned their Certified Inventory Expert (CIE) or Certified Inventory Specialist (CIS) designation are eligible to apply for this additional level. The inventory professional is also required to successfully complete the Customer Service and Appraisal Examiner courses, plus an elective chosen from the NICA curriculum. The Appraisal Examiner course was co-written by a property appraiser to ensure integrity and proven hands-on processes for accurate collection of information.

Based in Chesapeake, Virginia, TimeWise Inventory Services offers residential and business asset inventory services to in the state of Virginia and the Northeast area of North Carolina.

12 Jul 2018

Announcing Launch of New Course: Giving Effective Presentations

booksAdding to the NICA curriculum, we are pleased to announce that the course, Giving Effective Presentations, is available. The top request on our most recent survey, this course covers how to prepare and deliver a professional talk, as well as tips on how to find and grow your speaking adventure.

Always aim to give a clear, well-structured delivery; know exactly what you want to say and the order in which you want to say it. Think “outline.” Clarity of ideas, good organization, and engaging your audience will help result in a lively, logical, and compelling message delivered confidently and professionally.

Having a well-thought-out and planned structure will help alleviate any nervousness you may be feeling in the build-up to your talk.

Module 1 – Planning For Your Presentation

This module introduces the five types of presentations and the key components required for an effective presentation that will meet your objective. Knowing your subject, having the right content, and proper verbal and non-verbal elements in your delivery are essential to establish professionalism. You will also learn tips on how to find speaking engagement opportunities and how to identify and interact with your audience.

  • What Is A Presentation?
  • Audience
  • Purpose
  • Objective

Module 2 – Preparing Your Content

This module helps guide you through deciding on the topic, creating the content, and planning your script. Your presentation tools and methods you’ll use will assist with the often difficult process of writing the content and presenting it properly.

  • Topic Development
  • Planning
  • Presentation Methods
  • Writing Your Presentation

 Module 3 – Practice and Delivery

This third module covers the importance of preparation and practice to ensure a quality delivery of your information. Other essential information includes your appearance, body language, and the quality of your handouts.

  • Preparation/Practice
  • Presenting/Delivery
  • Closing
  • Post Presentation

This course is assigned 2 CEUs, which can be earned to achieve or retain the Certified Inventory Specialist (CIS) designation. As all other NICA courses, Giving Effective Presentations is provided in an online, self-directed format to fit in with today’s busy lifestyle.

13 Jun 2018

Upgrade Your Website to HTTPS NOW

Mary GillenHyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the procedure that delivers data between your browser and the website that you are viewing.

The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’, which means all communication between your browser and an HTTPS website is encrypted. This is especially important when protecting transactions like online banking and shopping order forms.

The most popular Web browsers (Edge, Firefox, and Chrome) display a padlock icon in the address bar as a visual clue that a HTTPS connection is in effect.

HTTPS

Changes are on the way
Google Chrome is the most popular web browser in use today.

Beginning July 2018, the Chrome browser will mark all HTTP websites as ‘not secure’.

This means that if a prospect uses Google Chrome to browse your HTTP website, he/she will notice a red message in the address bar:

Not Secure Notice

This red message sends a clear signal to the user: leave now or you could be exposing your personal data.

Once someone sees this message, there is a good chance visitors and prospects will hit the browser’s Back button fast…never to return. This can affect your business’ reputation…and your bottom line.

Other Reasons to Migrate to HTTPS
According to Search Engine Watch, there are other important reasons why you should update your current website to HTTPS:

HTTPS benefits user trust. When adapting to modern security requirements, you demonstrate that you are trustworthy, and you work on your reputation. Your users feel safer visiting your website, which works in your favor.

  1. Security and privacy. When your site is secure, there is less chance that your users will lose their data.
  2. SEO ranking boost. This makes webmasters happy and can bring you more traffic.
  3. More detailed stats. You will be able to see actual referral traffic stats in Google Analytics. If your website runs on HTTP, all your referral traffic simply appears as “direct”.

Upgrade to HTTPS NOW
Contact your webmaster. Ask him/her to geta SSL security certificate and install it on the server.
Your webmaster will know the details, depending on your hosting and server setup.
NICA is using Let’s Encrypt, a great free, open SSL certificate authority.

REALITY: The secure web is now a best practice when promoting your business online. If you don’t upgrade, you will be competing with secure websites that have the additional advantage of using HTTPS.
Associate Member Mary Gillen is an Associate Member of the National Inventory Certification Association.  She uses her 23 years of Web development experience to build responsive, accessible websites for tech companies, associations, non-profits and small businesses, blending professional design with measurable business results. She is also an experienced Website Accessibility Compliance Auditor, providing website testing & remediation for compliance with ADA, Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 A, AA & AAA Guidelines.