Employee Spotlight : Caitlin Tuohy

Get To Know Our Project Manager & Senior Graphic Designer, Caitlin!

Caitlin’s favorite thing to do when she’s not working is junkin’. She gets super excited to go and dig through someone else’s junk and loves finding new “old” stuff to add to her collection.

Most of our team are pretty big animal lovers and Caitlin is no exception! Before her younger sister came along she made do with her family cat.

Caitlin defines herself as imaginative, passionate/driven, and empathetic. We agree! Whether it’s remodeling her home, helping at her family’s daycare, designing, or pulling together RSVP mailings in a timely fashion she always gives 200%.

She is a fantastic project manager and designer but if she wasn’t doing this she could see herself being a teacher. She had planned on being a teacher and even had her college picked out accordingly but at the last minute changed her mind and decided to go to The School of Advertising Art, which is how she ended up doing the amazing work she does today!

All images are Caitlin Tuohy’s own & may not be republished without express written permission.

Working Millennials

This map and comment posted by Strati Georgopoulos recently showed up in my LinkedIn feed and got me all fired up.

“Millennials came of age during a tough economic time: Student debt has reached an all-time high, and the job market is more competitive than ever. As a result, young people today aren’t earning as much money as their parents did when they were young. The median annual income for employed millennials was taken from Minnesota Population Center’s 2014 American Community Survey and Pew Research Center’s definition of millennials: Americans born between 1981-1997. The medians ranged from a low of $18,000 per year in Montana to a high of $43,000 in the District of Columbia.”

I commented “This is really very sad. Often people refer to “Millennials” and you might automatically envision a recent college graduate. Someone born in 1981 is now 34+ years old. 34–in their prime earning years! This chart really shows median incomes for AMERICANS not just stereotypical millennials. That’s a problem. College may not be the best choice for our high school kids. The biggest complaint I hear from business owners “lack of skilled labor”. Welders earn $55k, carpenters $42K, construction manager $71k. Consider what path you’d recommend to your student. What advice would you give?”

Later, I got to thinking more about it. Folks $20,000/year in Ohio is $384/week! If they’re working 40/hours, that’s under $10/hour. No wonder they live at home with parents. Can you blame them?

Who can forget “Living in a Van Down by the River!”

The fact is that better-paying jobs are available they just may not be pretty. One of our favorite family shows is “Dirty Jobs” on the Discovery Channel. (I may even have a big time crush on Mike Rowe…) Mike points out “Back in 2009, 12 million people were out of work. Most Americans assumed that could be fixed with 12 million new jobs. Thus, “job creation” became headline news. But then, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics quietly announced that companies were struggling to fill 2.1 million skilled positions…. Now, eight years later, unemployment is down, interest rates are under control, and inflation is in check. But the overall labor participation rate is very low, and the skills gap is wider than ever. In fact, the latest numbers are out, and they are astonishing. According to the Department of Labor, America now has 5.6 million job openings.” http://mikerowe.com/2016/02/stopignoringskillsgap/

Here are some of the median salaries examples in some of the most needed roles. Of course, with experience and management skills, employees can earn much more. Become the boss and own your own company, the income is limitless.

Concrete finisher $40k | Painters and Drywall hangers $46k | Mason $39k | Electrician $58k | General Contractor $94k | US Bureau of labor and statistics

Builders Association of Greater Indianapolis (BAGI) is tired of waiting for that skills gap to close. The need is so big, they’re taking their message directly to high school kids. Volunteers comprised of industry professionals (builders, remodelers, plumbers, technicians) head out to local school career fairs and set up tables to talk to students about jobs needed right now in the field and income potential. Watch their news coverage http://www.theindychannel.com/news/call-6-investigators/building-industry-launches-program-to-address-labor-shortage

And that’s just in the remodeling world, how about other skilled trades? 10 Best-Paid skilled labor jobs https://www.aol.com/article/2011/10/05/best-paid-skilled-labor-jobs/20046785/

As Mike Rowe pointed out, “Don’t let anyone tell you opportunity is dead in America”

Contributed by Heather Craaybeek Kuth.

Median Income Map source: https://image-store.slidesharecdn.com/8a52dd8b-85dd-40ef-8535-5c136c4bc0b0-original.png

Chris Farley Image source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2383580/Millennial-moochers-Record-21-6million-young-adults-living-mom-dad.html

Living at Home Chart source: http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1629733/images/o-CHRIS-FARLEY-facebook.jpg

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Home Show Season

In most cities from the first half of January through the end of March is home show season. It’s that time of year when home improvement companies, home service companies, and other assorted businesses promote their products and services to an audience that, at that time of year, would have the time and opportunity to spend a few hours walking the aisles of a home show. After all, the weather is cold and dreary outside and it won’t be long before everyone walks outside and makes note of what needs to be fixed or replaced on their homes.

As part of my profession, it’s important to keep up with what’s going on in the home show realm, so I visit them each time they come around. I’ve been doing that for twenty years now and feel like I’ve seen a lot of really good techniques for selling and a lot of really bad ones too. In talking with business owners after a home show wrapped up I could typically tell based upon their response whether sales were good or not and know how they approached the attendees. It was good, bad, or ugly.

Let’s start with the good. Some businesses get it; they really know how to promote their business to a variety of attendees in which some attendees may have a strong interest and some that may have no interest at all. They know when to approach attendees and know when to pull back the reigns.

Salespeople who show confidence but not arrogance usually have more success in engaging show attendees. By just saying something as simple as “Hi” as attendees walk by and having eye contact can start them off in a positive direction. There’s no need to sell as soon as they open their mouth. If the attendee acknowledges the greeting with a response and eye contact, that’s usually a signal that they are open to a conversation, or willing to listen. If the attendee doesn’t respond and looks away or down at the ground the sales person typically takes that as a cue to move along to the next person. It’s simply reading body language and respecting the signals.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad home show salespersons out there. It ranges from the virtually non-existent to the overly eager salesperson. You’ve seen the non-existent salesperson. They are busy reading a book or staring at their phone trying not to do anything to “bother” anyone unless they are specifically asked by an attendee. The first impression that they give of their business is that they wish they were anywhere else but here. Even worse than the non-existent salesperson is the empty booth. Even after all these years, I’m still amazed at how many booths are unattended during show hours. Why did the business spend all that time, effort, and money to have a booth if there’s no one in it? No staffing equals no sales.

The overly eager salesperson is exactly what you would think. Pushy, loud, and aggressive. I’m sure that their personality isn’t really like that outside of the show, but they feel like they have to make sales and have this strange sense that the home show is akin to a carnival. They completely ignore body language of attendees who are signaling “leave me alone”. Typically it’s a real turn-off to attendees and gives a bad impression of the business. Just think of when that business advertises outside of the show. It’s likely to trigger memories of their pushy and obnoxious home show salespeople. Good luck overcoming that.

And then there’s the ugly. For the most part, these are the booths that are placed on the outer edge of the show. There’s a reason why- the products and services associated with these booths are the “infomercial” types. P.T. Barnum would be proud of these salespeople. They’re the ones with the headset microphones doing a scripted show, or they stand in the aisle and try to get you to hold their product or ask you ridiculous questions such as “What’s your favorite color. We have thousands of colors!” Why would color matter if no one knows what you are offering in the first place? I’ve even heard a makeup booth salesperson ask every female who passed by “Would you like to look pretty?” Ouch! Why didn’t she just say “Hey! You’re ugly! We can fix you!”.

Take note if you place your business in a home show or public event to offer your products and services. It matters whom you staff your booth with and how they interact with the attendees. Treat attendees with respect and friendliness and you’ll get more positive reactions that will lead you to more customers.



Contributed by Jeff Vice.

Get Yourself MOTIVATED

A key factor to staying motivated and keeping a positive attitude is finding something you love to do. Having a job that you love can definitely make this easier, but not everyone ends up with their “dream job.” Fortunately, I think this runs deeper than just having a job you enjoy. I believe that people need to find something they love to do outside of work. This could be as simple as reading books, playing a sport, or working out. A hobby that you are passionate about can play a huge role in someone’s attitude and motivation. For instance, I am passionate about the outdoors. I love to hunt, fish, camp, you name it! I try to spend as much of my free time doing these hobbies with other people who have similar interests. When I participate in these types of activities, I am always in a good mood and don’t have an ounce of negativity in me. This motivation is also reflected in my day-to-day activities as well. When you have a hobby that you are passionate about, it gives you something that you can always look forward to, especially when you have multiple hobbies you can do year-round. This positive attitude and motivation can be carried into your work life as well.

Clearly there are SEVERAL other factors that can impact motivation/attitude but, in my opinion, another big one would be to surround yourself with the right people. Surround yourself with people who find a positive outlook even in a negative situation. This positive attitude and behavior can rub off on you which will ultimately create a more positive environment with more motivated people. For example, at one of my prior jobs, we went through 2 different managers. Everyone that I worked with through the first manager didn’t really like their job or want to be there. I know it’s not because of the actual work they were doing, it was because of the environment and attitude that the manager was displaying. I found this to be true because after that manager quit, the second manager was the complete opposite, and the environment and motivation level literally flipped from negative to positive in the matter of 1 week which made work life much more enjoyable.

It is crazy what an impact someone with a positive attitude can make. Sometimes I catch myself making cold calls and thinking to myself: “I will never use their service” or on the flipside: “I will most likely be using their service when I find a need for it, or at least recommending it to someone.” This decision can be made from just talking to the secretary or business owner for a minute! Sometimes I am just so surprised at how nice and friendly some people can be on the phone and it draws me in and makes me think a lot of their business. From a business owner’s standpoint, I think it would be detrimental to hire a secretary who lacks a positive attitude, because even if the work you do is out of this world, the perception of your service is going to be mediocre if you have someone answering phones with a negative attitude. Although there are many factors that go into being motivated and having a positive attitude, a great start would be to find a hobby that you love, surround yourself with the right people, and try to find the positive aspect of every situation!




















Contributed by Travis Haren.

All images are the author’s own & may not be republished without express written permission.

Holiday Shopping is Coming!


Black Friday? That sounds scary. Millions brave the crowds the Friday after Thanksgiving to start their Christmas shopping looking for big savings. It turns out it isn’t an official US holiday but if you’re not in retail you probably have the day off. If you are in retail I wish you all the serenity and coffee you need. I had wondered where such a dark name came from, it sounds so ominous to me! But in reality it just comes from accounting, losses were recorded in red ink while black ink represented a profit. Electronics, toys, clothing, home furnishing, just about anything you can think of will have big discounts on Black Friday.

More recently the day after Black Friday is getting some hype, Small Business Saturday! Starting in 2010 this day promotes supporting small and local businesses. Just a year later the day became official in 2011. By 2014 American Express had become a huge supporter of this day and do free ads for local businesses. Local businesses today are being very supported on this day and it looks like that support will only continue to grow!

With such a crazy shopping weekend after Thanksgiving my personal favorite is Cyber Monday.  That is where you’ll find me! Starting back in 2005 this seems like a great way to avoid the traffic, crowds, cold, and all the hassle for items that may be out of stock by the time you get to them, eek. A lot of Cyber Monday shopping can actually begin on Sunday so you don’t even have to miss a beat if you’re going to be shopping all three of these events next weekend!


Shopping Image Source: http://www.swire-mt.com/

Submitted by Syd Miles


Sitting in the Lap of Luxury

The lap of luxury as defined by The Free Dictionary is “a freedom from financial difficulty that promotes a comfortable state.”  Some of us are able to live in the lap of luxury and others are only able to have a few moments there.

Regardless, where is your lap of luxury?  Is it cooking or baking in your state of the art kitchen?  Is it sitting in your own backyard paradise?  Or maybe for you it is sitting in a massage chair having a pedicure while listening to your favorite music or visiting with your friends.

As an office we have been reading Luxury World:  The Past, Present and Future of Luxury Brands by  Mark Tungate.  A couple of things struck me as they discussed luxury and its forms.  First, a representative from Bentley Motors defined luxury as not something one can necessarily afford but as something one feels they deserve.  I think we can all relate to that idea.  After a long hard week of work or reaching a goal that we have strived for most of us will do something to treat ourselves that may not necessarily be in the budget.

The other point that struck me that I believe most of us can relate to is that in this busy world time has become a luxury.    How I crave to sit on the couch and read a book without falling asleep.  However, my daughters, their activities, my commitments, and housework begging to be done after a day of work deny me this luxury.  Or how about quality time with friends and family simply enjoying each other’s company?  I’m not sure if my daughters enjoy it more or if I do, but the simple joy of them crawling into my lap is a luxury I will too soon miss.

image-4 gak2vso3rpgpz1xhsiv48gfile-3 aleks-cooking



























Contributed by Amber Fasig. All images are the author’s own & may not be republished without express written permission.





5 Steps to Up Your Road Warrior Game

According to the Washington Post the average commute for most employees has sharply risen over the last couple years to an average of 27 minutes in 2015.


I for one can attest that I spend hours a week behind the wheel driving to and from appointments.

Back in college, I was spending several hours a day using Chicago’s public transportation.  I took advantage of the metro in the morning, plus the El train, and bus in the evening.  Between two part-time jobs, that commuting time was the only study time I could carve out.  I can only imagine if I had the technology available today back then.  How much more could I have accomplished? Or how much more would I have been distracted?  Maybe I would have said “I’ll just check my Facebook real quick”

If you’re lucky enough to have public transportation, surf away.

No public transportation, maybe find a trustworthy a carpool buddy.carpooling-done-wrong

For the rest of us suburbanites burning up the highways and by-ways, here are five ways to make the most of your drive time:

#1.  Dashboard education.   With nearly an hour in the car every day what could you learn?  A foreign language? The history of the world?  And in just 90 days you could finish the entire Bible.  Audible app offers a monthly subscription service to download the latest in audio books.  There are abundant free resources from your local library including overdrive and hoopla apps.  Listen to a podcast or a Ted talk to develop your skills or learn something new.

#2.  Rekindle relationships.  Take this time to personally phone someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Don’t just check in on their Facebook page and assume you know what’s going on in their life. Plug in the Bluetooth and give them a call.

#3. Write a book. Well, not literally.  I don’t advocate writing while driving! But in all my hours spent on the road I’ll attest I’ve seen it! I’ve even seen people reading a novel while driving.   Please don’t–for our safety!  But seriously there are apps for translating talk to text.  Check out the free app Dragon dictation.  Each day dictate a short story by the end of the year you may have enough to build your own novel or biography.

#4.  Clear the clutter.  So you finished your long commute  just to encounter a completely full email inbox.   Not the most motivating and invigorating way to start the day.   Take advantage of apps that will read your emails out loud and prompt with delete, save, spam, etc.   Ah, done!

#5.  Meditation.  Turn off the radio.  Tune in to the moment.  Eyes open and on the road, folks. Think about your accomplishments for the week.  Give yourself a pat on the back.  Set goals.  Focus your priorities.  Is what I’ve done today getting me closet or further from my life goals.  Take in a glorious sunrise for a moment.  Appreciate the change of season.  I’ve talked to many a business professional who enjoy their 30 minute commute home to decompress from a stressful day.   No need to bring home work stuff.   Work through relationship challenges in your mind and decide how you’ll positively address them in the coming day.

May I add things not to do: apply makeup, text , eat a meal.  (we’re all guilty at some point–but let’s stop!)

Somebody wise once said “life’s not about the journey but the destination”. I say, “yeah but at least we can make the most of it!”



American Commute source: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/25/how-much-of-your-life-youre-wasting-on-your-commute/?client=safari

Carpooling source: http://www.shearcomfort.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Carpooling-done-wrong.jpg.

Contributed by Heather Craaybeek





My Home Before & After

One year ago this week I closed on my first home.  Here is a little of what I’ve accomplished so far:

KITCHEN – Probably the most dramatic, I basically started with a blank slate. Added a fridge, stove, wall mount microwave and dishwasher. Installed new cabinets on the left side and painted the existing cabinets so that they all matched. With the help of my uncles installed a new counter top, sink, faucet and garbage disposal. I added subway tile back splash and bought a kitchen island for more counter top space.




DOWNSTAIRS BATHROOM – I didn’t have to do as much to update the downstairs bathroom. I gave it a fresh coat of paint, replaced the hardware on the vanity and added a tile back splash.




DINING ROOM – I am still on the hunt for the perfect junk to decorate with.



SUN-ROOM – I painted the walls and added wooden blinds. I also restored the stain glass light.



OFFICE – The smallest room that had the most work put into it. The original wooden floor had carpet on it. I decided that I wanted to have all wooden floors on the main floor. So I got rid of the carpet and started the process of restoring the floor. The finished product was worth it.



LIVING ROOM – This room is mostly complete. I painted the walls, put up blinds, and enjoyed finding places for all of my antiques and furniture. It came together pretty quickly and I am pleased with the finished product.



There are plenty of project that still need to be done. I am excited to continue making this home into the perfect space for me!



Contributed by Contributed by Caitlin Tuohy.

All images are the author’s own & may not be republished without express written permission.