April is National Home Inventory Month: Find out more
14 Oct 2015

Networking For Business Course Now Available

ContinuingEdIn our continued effort to grow the course options, we are pleased to add the course Networking for Business to the Continuing Professional Education Program. Written with the home inventory service professional in mind, it is also general enough that all business owners and company representatives will benefit from this information.

Networking is not about selling, but about building relationships. These relationships, then, will in time result in sales or referrals for sales. All too often people enter a networking meeting, hand out business cards to as many people as they can, grab some food, and then leave. These are also the people who are saying that networking doesn’t work, they never get a sale at a networking event, and that it is a waste of time.

In actuality, people do business with people they know and trust. Trust takes time.  Approach networking events without expectations of walking away with a new client. Instead, attend these meetings with the goal of reconnecting with those you already know, and meeting a few people you don’t know.

With social media so popular today, many believe they can do all of their networking online. No matter how many friends and followers you have on your various social media sites, it is still essential to participate and contribute to face-to-face networking. Nothing can replace a live, in-person conversation. It is impossible to stay in your office, spending hours on social media, and expect to develop solid business relationships.

The most successful networking approach is a combination of social media and in-person events. Your plan should include a balance of your time for both online and offline networking.

Though many groan about the need to attend live events, this course will give you the guidance and knowledge necessary to network with purpose. Topics covered are the three phases of networking: preparing prior to attending the event, tips to achieve the most benefit while in attendance at an event, and what steps to take afterward to help ensure your time was not wasted.

Module 1: Prepare for Networking Success

  • Face-to-face networking
  • How to choose the right events
  • Prepare for the event

Module 2: Attending Networking Events

  • Have a plan
  • Techniques to work the room
  • Be a conversationalist

Module 3: After the Event

  • Review your results
  • Follow up
  • Building the relationships
  • Evaluate

This online, self-directed course provides 2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to be applied toward certification or annual CIS designation renewal.

19 Aug 2015

Simplifying Certification Renewal

TimetoRenewIn our continued effort to improve the certification program, we found that there were a couple areas where our members were confused regarding renewal requirements. Many were unsure of the term that their CIS designation was up to date. Some were asking how many years their designation was current and on what date it was based. The questions was, is it based on the date when the designation was earned or on their membership date. Not being clear about this left them unsure when they needed to renew and by what date they needed to complete the required continuing education to maintain their designation with the National Inventory Certification Association.

In addition, the required 12 CEUs every 2 years to retain designation as a CIS was also reviewed. Our research and discussions with our members and members of other associations have encouraged the following improvements:

  • The 12 CEUs every 2 years easily translates to 6 per year. This number has been changed to a requirement of only 5 per year.
  • The renewal of designation will now be annually instead of every 2 years, making it easier for everyone to remember and document their CEUs.
  • Renewal CEUs will be based on the calendar year beginning the year after certification is achieved. Again, simplicity was the driving force on this decision. Therefore, if you achieved your certification in 2014, you have until the end of 2015 to renew. If you achieved your certification in 2015, then you will have the entire calendar year of 2016 to acquire the 5 CEUs to retain your designation.

There is no exam or cost associated with recording the renewal of your certification. The purpose of recording the renewal is to verify your participation in the continuing education program which helps you gain knowledge in the industry specifically, or business in general.

This process is simple! We will verify the CEUs you achieved through the NICA courses by reviewing your membership file, as this information is retained in your membership file. No effort on your part is required! If you achieved CEUs through the Inventory Institute or other accepted resources, an email confirming your 5 hours is all we need. Again – we chose a process that will be easy to manage for our office, and even easier for you! CEU opportunities that are available to renew your certification are listed on the NICA website.

These improvements take effect immediately, and everyone will be grandfathered into the new process. If you have any questions regarding your certification, or if this causes a hardship on you, please contact the NICA office to discuss your situation. We initiated these improvements in an effort to serve you better and we will work with you individually during this transition.

22 Jul 2015

Benefits of Certification

CertifiedThere are many industries that offer certification today, and the list keeps growing. The Inventory Industry’s certification is just a couple years old, so we are one of the “newer” ones. Some are in the mindset that if they’ve been in business for a year or so that they don’t need to be certified. And this is true to a point. Actually, achieving certification is not required by any government organization. There is no local, state, or federal regulation that mandates it. However, those who are serious about their business see the value.

One benefit of achieving certification is to be recognized as a professional in your industry. The initials after your name indicate expertise. This expertise tells prospective clients that you are credible and trustworthy. Having the designation as a CIS is a confidence-builder.  When side-by-side with another inventory service provider, the person with the certification will stand out.

Being certified is important for any service professional, as it provides you with that extra edge within the industry. Those who understand certification realize that you invested time and money to achieve this distinction.

Benefits of certification

Our website shows the key benefits an inventory professional will realize by achieving designation are:

  • Leadership – designation indicates that you have chosen to be at the top of the asset inventory industry, distinguishing your professional services from others who have not taken this initiative.
  • Credibility – certification validates your knowledge of the industry, commitment to high business standards, and a continued focus on personal and business development.
  • Professionalism – displays your dedication to perform your service according the Code of Ethics and best business practices.
  • Personal satisfaction – shows your self-confidence and commitment to your chosen profession.
  • Recognition – achieving and maintaining your designation brings recognition from your peers, clients, the media, and other industry professionals.

As the industry grows, and more inventory professionals enter the arena, being a Certified Inventory Specialist will distinguish you as a serious business owner who values continuing education. And continuing education keeps you up to date in the industry as well as helping to hone your skills on industry and business topics.

17 Jun 2015

Gaining New Knowledge – It Should Never End

professional devI recently read an article on PickTheBrain.com that talked about the importance of life-long learning. Being out of school, whether that be after high school graduation or upon completion of your post-graduate degree(s), there is a necessity to continue to learn. Think about what you know now, after years of employment or owning your own business (or both), and compare your current knowledge to when you “finished” school. Whether you gain new information through reading, attending seminars and webinars, taking courses at your local university, or enjoying the convenience of online courses, continuing to expand your knowledge is essential to your continued growth as an individual and as a professional.

The various opportunities to gain new knowledge offered through the National Inventory Certification Association (NICA) is focused on this exact premise – the need to continue to expand your knowledge not only of the asset inventory industry, but also areas of that benefit all small business owners.

Read a book

When I was a young girl, my summers were filled with weekly visits to the library. I checked out as many books that I was allowed to have at one time and devoured them. One of the fond memories of my childhood are those of sitting under a tree in the back yard reading about anything and everything I was interested in. Now we don’t need to even leave the house to read a book. Ebooks are available everywhere!

The NICA bookstore provides a variety of business topics, and not just for inventory professionals. Specific to the industry, there are ebooks for the do-it-yourselfer to learn how to complete home, business, and RV inventories. For the business professional, downloadable products include networking, goal-setting, and achieving success. And anyone who owns a computer knows the importance of keeping your computer running well and clear of malware. We even have a book for that!

Take a course

There are a plethora options to enrich your knowledge on just about any subject of interest. Local universities and community colleges are a great source, and you don’t have to be earning a degree to attend. Many schools also offer online courses if you prefer the convenience of learning from home.

The courses developed for NICA are downloadable for immediate access. These Continuing Professional Education courses are self-paced, so you can fit them into your schedule no matter how busy you are. We provide courses written to meet the needs of the asset inventory professional. However, our association acknowledges that there is more to being a professional than just having industry knowledge. Therefore, our current list of business courses includes the topics of time management, customer service, and social media.

Achieve certification

Some choose to pick and choose their topics. For example, you might want to take a cooking class, one on photography, or learn more about a hobby in which you have just developed an interest. If you just started your business, an accounting course might be in your best interest.

Some, however, do seek their first college degree. There are a variety of reasons for this. Many see it as a need to enhance their resume to find a better job or to get a promotion. Others – many entrepreneurs and business owners – find this formal education as a way to achieve growth to help them gain an all-around business knowledge. Earning a degree isn’t reserved just for the young. As an adult student, I am proud to have achieved my bachelor’s degree when I was in my 40’s and my MBA in my early 50’s.

A college degree isn’t for everyone. Many prefer to focus on exhibiting their expertise in their professional field (accountants, insurance agents, realtors, etc.) by achieving certifications. This helps them stand out from the others in their industry and to show their clients and prospective clients that they value being one of the best. In our industry, NICA offers a program to earn a Certified Inventory Specialist (CIS) designation.

All forms of continuing education for self-improvement are excellent. The key is to keep learning, keep your skills sharp, and your areas of interest growing. This creates a well-rounded  individual – one who is knowledgeable, interesting – and just as important – interested in others.

03 Jun 2015

Customer Service Course Now Available

CustomerServiceWe are pleased to announce that the course Customer Service has recently been added to the curriculum. There have been many conversations with members requesting this topic because it is such a crucial part of being a responsible and respectable company.

Good customer service (or lack of it) is commonly a topic of discussion when an individual or company does not provide the type of service expected. It is the desire of the Inventory Industry organizations to ensure that this industry succeeds in the area of exceptional customer service. To ensure the successful outcome of client experiences, we provide standards through courses such as this Customer Service Course and also through the established Code of Ethics.

You will be introduced in this course to methodologies that should aid you and your business in the development of a Customer Service Plan & Strategy that will help you offer positive customer service experiences to everyone you work with. Though created with the inventory industry in mind, all service-based small business owners will benefit from this knowledge.

Set in three modules, this online, self-paced course was written by Johanna Curtiss, CEO of the Inventory Institute, for the National Inventory Certification Association’s Continuing Education Program. The content outline is as follows:

Module 1 – Customer Service 101

  • Definition of customer service
  • Customer service is critical to your business
  • Who is your customer and what do they want?
  • Industry standards for customer service

Module 2 – A Customer Service Focus

  • Communication
  • Determine the format your customer prefers
  • Documentation
  • Methods of communication by customer type
  • Skills and characteristics

Module 3 – Customer Service for the Inventory Industry

  • Market segments
  • Guaranteed satisfaction
  • Outstanding customer service

Three (3) CEUs are awarded upon successful completion of the Customer Service Course. These CEUs can be applied toward your certification or renewal of your designation. The cost is $90 for non members; NICA members receive a 50% discount when applying the member discount code.

21 May 2015

Webinars, Seminars, and CEU Credits

webinarIn our continued effort to offer a variety of options to achieve CEUs, we are developing a series of webinars and seminars to present on a continuing basis. The Inventory Institute recently presented a Facebook webinar that was approved by the National Inventory Certification Association (all knowledge-based presentations must be approved by NICA). Attendees received step-by-step guides to setting up Facebook personal and business pages. Also discussed were tips on how to cross-promote, how to find Facebook friends, and ways to keep your company pages fresh. It was a well-received webinar, based on feedback from members.

The next social media webinar, LinkedIn, is tentatively scheduled for June 25. It will be one hour, and has also been approved for  .1 CEU.

Additional CEU credits

Are there topics you would like to have presented in a one-hour (CEU-approved) seminar or webinar? Remember that we are here to serve you, our members, so please contact the NICA office with your suggestions or requests.

Another option to earn CEU credits is to share your expertise through a webinar that you create and present. Once you’ve chosen a topic, contact the NICA office to discuss requirements. We welcome member contridubion to the education effort. Many find that when they develop a seminar, their knowledge level increases as well.

22 Apr 2015

Inventory YOU

WonderingWhen is the last time YOU took inventory?

This is a question I am often asked, since one of my businesses, Hartman Inventory, is a personal property inventory service.  As an asset inventory professional, you probably immediately thought about your last job, too.

But this time, I’m not talking about home or company contents. What I’m wondering is, when is the last time you took inventory of yourself?

As business owners and entrepreneurs, we must always keep an accurate inventory of what we are doing. We must continually check our focus, goals, and achievements. Do we bring value to our industry, in general, and to our business(es), specifically?

Knowledge and Wisdom

A couple areas that might need to be updated are knowledge and wisdom. Taking time to evaluate ourselves is often something many just don’t do. Busy with the day-to-day busy-ness of life, this valuable process of pondering, dreaming, planning, etc., is often forgotten.

Stop right now and take an inventory. When is the last time you read a self-improvement book,  took an online continuing education course, attended a seminar or webinar, or participated in a networking event? Without regularly taking inventory of your progress, there is a high chance that you and your business will not grow.

Gaining new knowledge regarding our specific business is essential. Knowledge of our industry in general is also imperative to become or remain a leader.  Continued learning will result in greater wisdom. Wisdom, to me, is using the knowledge you have – and using it appropriately. We can use it to improve our business skills, industry expertise, and ourselves (the most important of the three).

When is the last time you took inventory of you?

25 Mar 2015

New Course – Social Media for Business

socialmediaSocial media has become ingrained in most everyone’s life. Grandparents stay in touch with their families who share photos and have conversations. Teens and tweens have accounts so they can share their photos with each other and make plans for the weekend. Business owners often find an integration of work and personal lives intertwined in their feeds.

There is no longer a question of whether social media is here to stay. For the business owner, the questions now are often how to use social media to market their business, what platform(s) would be best for their industry, what type of content to share, and where to find the content.

Knowing the format and purpose of each site is important so you know which ones are a good fit for your industry and will help you achieve your goals. Should you have a personal and business account, or just one account for each social networking site? Is it best and keep them totally separate, completely intertwined, or partially mixed?

You are most likely either already on social media sites or are planning to join in on the conversations soon. This brings another issue that is a big one – how much time will you need to spend to make it worth your while? After all, this is “Social Media for Business.” How do you know you’re spending your time wisely posting, tweeting, and sharing information?

This online, self-directed course introduces you to the most common business social media platforms and their cultures, how to market your business using social media, and how to integrate social media into your current marketing initiatives. Also included are tips on finding and creating content, along with time-saving tools to assist you in the process. This is not a how-to course on setting up your accounts. Since formats, pages, and settings change frequently, we leave that up to the individual companies to provide current information.

Topics included in this course are

  • Benefits and risks of using social media
  • Getting started with social media
  • Your social media strategy
  • Introduction to the platforms
  • Marketing your business with social media
  • Etiquette
  • Creating your accounts
  • Finding and creating content
  • Social media management services
  • Analyzing your results

This course was created for the National Inventory Certification Association‘s Continuing Education Program. Upon successful completion, you will earn three (3) CEUs that can be applied to certification or renewing your designation.

13 Jan 2015

New Year’s Resolutions

ResolutionWhat is your New Year’s Resolution? Do you have just one, or a long list of things you plan to change, improve, or stop doing? Maybe this list includes items such as lose weight, exercise regularly, read a book a month, start networking, get my national certification, join a professional organization, or stop smoking. The list is endless, isn’t it?

Someone asked me on New Year’s Day what mine is, and my reply is that I don’t make resolutions. Because of the look on her face, I felt I should explain.

For some reason, these promises always seem to be something people don’t take seriously. I’m guessing this year won’t be any different. Watch for articles and blog posts toward the end of the month or early February. You’ll start seeing articles about how many resolutions have been broken already or how many people don’t expect to be successful through the entire year. I have seen in years past that a number of people made so many they don’t even remember what they were. For this reason, I stopped making “new year’s resolutions” a long time ago.

This doesn’t mean that I stopped working on self-improvement. It just means that I approach it differently.

There is no set date for a resolution

I find it strange to wait for a specific date before starting to make improvements in my life. For example, I have created a daily gratitude routine, which started early December. I read about someone doing this specific process and chose to adopt it myself. If I was a New Year’s Resolution type, I would have waited until January 1, proclaimed that I will do this, and then begin. Instead, I just started doing it that very day. No waiting, no horns and confetti. Just me choosing to be a more appreciative person. Why put off the positive change because it isn’t the specific day to begin? With that line of thinking, there would be no positive change throughout the year. I find it easier to make adjustments, improvements, or whatever you want to call them, when it’s in my heart. If I went by the calendar, and learned of this process mid-January, would that mean I should wait until the following January 1 to adopt it?

Years ago when I had the calendar dictate my changes, it wasn’t a total commitment. I realized that I was doing something because I was expected to have a new resolution and the calendar stated when I would start. Therefore, my heart wasn’t in it, the commitment wasn’t there, and the end result was broken resolve.

Resolution or commitment

Dictionary.com says that the word commitment means “a pledge or promise; obligation” and that resolution is “the mental state or quality of being resolute; firmness of purpose.” Basically, they mean the same. So why are so many resolutions broken? Maybe because people aren’t mentally committed. Maybe because it’s something everyone else does, so they do it for that reason and not for their own purpose. 

We trust that  self-improvement, professional development, continuing education, and growth in your business are all part of your commitment as a professional. We at NICA are here to help you meet these needs.