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From: Mike Jacobs []
Sent: Thursday, November 9, 2017
To: ‘All Clients’, ‘BIRC’
Subject: Newsletter 3: Ice, Ice, Baby…SSL…SSL

OK, so maybe that subject line could have used a little bit of work, but I can’t be creative all the time.  It will make more sense by the end of this newsletter.

Hope you are having a great start to the Fall, and getting that Thanksgiving menu prepared!  Fall in New England means colorful leaves, apple cider, and football, which is a decent trade-off for the cold weather and long, dark nights.

In this month’s newsletter, we’ll explore a very important security update that I made to your website, a tool that makes it easier to invoice and get paid, and some fascinating books that I recently read.  So let’s dig in…

Improvements to your website

Website technology is continually getting better, security is evolving, and Google occasionally lets us know tactics that will help our websites rank better.  As part of your monthly service, this most recent update to your website hit the trifecta of technology-security-Google.


If you have been to your website recently, you have probably noticed something a little different in the address bar.  To the left of your domain name is now a padlock, the word “Secure”, the letters “https”, or any combination of the three, depending on the website browser you use.  This denotes that your website is secure using an SSL certificate (SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer).

Boring, but important.

And although the process took some time to do, your website was only taken offline temporarily to complete the change.

There are several benefits to having an SSL certificate for your website, including:

  1. SSL makes the information that someone enters into a form on your website more secure as it travels through the internet.
  2. SSL visually shows your website visitors that your website is secure in the address bar, as I described above.
  3. Google has begun to use “https” as a ranking factor over websites still with “http”.

An SSL certificate is almost a necessity for every website today.  I anticipate that Google will eventually begin to penalize websites that don’t have SSL even more, but nobody really knows what Google will do because they rarely tell us.

Getting Paid (because who doesn’t like getting paid!)

Collecting payments from clients was a topic that had a lot of discussion during the October BIRC* meeting.  I was surprised to learn that collecting payment is a common problem, and a real pain point for many home stagers.

*BIRC is the Boston chapter of the home staging organization, IAHSP

Some home stagers didn’t like the responsibility of possessing their client’s credit card numbers.  Some don’t even take credit cards due to this responsibility, and some only accept checks.  And nobody likes having to follow up with clients who are behind on payments, which I can relate to.

This is the reason I want to tell you about the tool that I use for invoicing and accounting, which could be helpful for home stagers and other small businesses.

I create invoices for my clients with accounting software called FreshBooks.  It works like this –

  1. I enter billing information into FreshBooks, and FreshBooks automatically creates an invoice.
  2. My clients get their invoice in an email sent via FreshBooks.
  3. Clients can securely pay the invoice with a credit card or PayPal by using the link in the email.  I never have to see a credit card number, which takes a lot of responsibility off my shoulders, and gives my clients a sense of security (even though I’m really trustworthy!).
  4. If a client is late with a payment, FreshBooks automatically sends them an email reminder.
  5. All of the invoices and payments are recorded, and I can add in my expenses and other income into FreshBooks.
  6. At tax time, FreshBooks makes my life super easy because everything is already documented and organized.

FreshBooks has many other valuable features for small businesses, but it’s the invoicing and collecting payment that provides the most important solution to the challenges that were discussed at the BIRC meeting.

There are alternatives to FreshBooks, such as QuickBooks, Xero, and Wave.  If you think an accounting tool for invoicing would be helpful for your business, I highly suggest researching all options for functionality and price.  I have only used FreshBooks, and it has been so beneficial to me that I am an affiliate for the product.

If you want to see what FreshBooks looks like, you can test it out for free for 30 days using my affiliate link.  If you want more information first, you can read my complete review of all features and benefits of FreshBooks on my blog, or reply to this email and ask me any question you might have.

What I’m reading

I recently finished two fascinating books.  Both are about unique entrepreneurial journeys that started long before our times.

You can find complete reviews of these books and all of my past book reviews here.

The Frozen Water Trade

The Frozen Water Trade is based on an industry I had no idea even existed.  The story takes place in Cambridge, MA (aka: my backyard) during the 19th century, when the word “entrepreneur” was not yet in the dictionary.

Imagine a time before electricity and refrigeration, when people didn’t have access to ice, except when the weather was cold enough freeze water outside.  In many parts of the world, including the southern United States, people had never even seen or heard of ice.

Enter a visionary entrepreneur named Francis Tudor, who saw this situation as an opportunity.  The opportunity was to cut the ice from frozen lakes just outside Boston and ship to people living on islands in the Caribbean, southern US cities, and even as far away as England and India.

Really.  That happened.

Did people think you were crazy when you started your business?  Imagine what Tudor’s friends thought of his idea!

The book explains Tudor’s struggles getting the trade started, his many failures along the way, and his ultimate success.  It is a true entrepreneurial story, and a fascinating historical account of this truly unique industry.

Tudor’s story is a good lesson in never quitting when going after what you believe.  Not only in spite of the challenges, but because of the challenges.

You can read my complete review of The Frozen Water Trade.

We Are Market Basket

Market Basket, which is a local grocery chain in Massachusetts, recently had the most interesting boycott that I have ever witnessed, and We Are Market Basket tells that story.

Almost every employee (who are all non-union, by the way), a majority of customers, many suppliers, and entire communities essentially boycotted the supermarket chain in unison during the summer of 2014.  Why?  Because the board fired the long time CEO, Arthur T Demoulas, and replaced him with two outsider CEOs.

Every Market Basket grocery store was empty.  There were no perishable foods, shelves were mostly bare, few customers were shopping, and even fewer employees were working.  However, outside the stores were crowds protesting made up mostly of employees who were sacrificing their hourly earnings.  It was the Twilight Zone in real life.

We Are Market Basket almost reads like a novel about early 1900s entrepreneurship, corporate drama, family disagreements, and history of a company that employees and customers have utter loyalty for.  More than that, it is a story about how to lead a company with employee and customer interests prioritized over profit.  A strategy, ironically, that made Market Basket a financially successful company by every measure.

When, in the history of America, has a group of people, let alone entire staff, suppliers, and customer base, rallied around a CEO?  Not in my lifetime, which made this story so fascinating to me.

Arthur T Demoulas’ story is a good lesson in how to run a business that customers and employees are devoted to.

You can read my compete review of We Are Market Basket.

Here are links to the books on Amazon:

The Frozen Water Trade
We Are Market Basket

Final Thoughts

Are you ready to say it with me now?  “Ice, Ice, Baby…SSL…SSL”

Ok, so it still isn’t very catchy, but I’ll take website security and making Google happy over creativity.

The two books reviewed in this month’s newsletter are both fascinating and easy reads.  They aren’t tactical business books, like Worth Every Penny that I reviewed in last month’s newsletter, but they help to understand the traits that make these business people into great leaders.

Aside from collecting payments from clients, what other challenges does your business have?  Reply to this email and let me know.

I look forward to talking to you next month!

– Mike