Welcome April

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Happy April Fool’s Day!
Hopefully your co-workers haven’t taken advantage of your gullible side with too many practical jokes today. Beware of impromptu marriage proposals or outlandish news. And, if you’re made the fool, laugh it off. It’ll be April 2 before you know it.

Stylish in the Rain
With April comes those typical showers (more of the usual for those of us in Georgia). Keep dry and break out from the monotony of the standard black umbrella with a few of these rainy day looks for him and her.

Michael Kors Trench w/Detachable Hood, Nordstrom, $129.90
Chooka Classy Classic Rain Boot, DSW, $49.95
Felix Rey CityScape Bubble Umbrella, Bloomingdale’s, $65
Marmot Storm Shield Rain Jacket – Men’s, REI, $65.73
Sorel Cheyanne Lace Full Grain Boots – Men’s, REI, $28.93
Brooks Bros. Windowpane-Check Umbrella, Mr. Porter, $65

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Shape Up

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We were inspired by the Retail Contrarian, Doug Fleener’s, blog post early last month about spring training fundamentals as they relate to business. As he considered baseball’s annual spring training (where a heavy focused is placed on perfecting the fundamentals), Fleener begged the question, “how often are you and your team practicing the fundamentals?” It’s a good point, and one that should be considered. Fleener keeps his team in top condition by utilizing the following:

Adhering to his hiring acid test.
Since it’s likely you won’t hire grade-A employees every single time, Fleener likes to place a hiring rule on himself anytime he’s looking to bring on anyone new. He only hires a person if he is so genuinely excited about this person that he’ll want to call a friend or colleague and give them three reasons why he’s hiring this new employee.

Focusing on the sales experience.
Satisfied customers are what keep you in business. Don’t be pushy, but don’t relegate yourself to being a detached sales clerk either. Strive to be a sales person. Your goal is to add value and enjoyment into the customer’s shopping experience.

Fleener also encourages readers to revisit their daily sales strategies and to review the phone greeting customers receive when they call in (does it sound genuine or rushed?).

Read more of Fleener’s helpful tips or sign up for one of his coaching programs by clicking here.

What is your standard in-office spring training protocol? Share @cocardatlanta

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Next Big Thing?

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At this point, you’ve likely heard the buzz surrounding the social media app, WhatsApp, possibly the next big thing in social media interactions. Just purchased by the Facebook crew for a whopping $19 billion, it’s still largely under the radar in the U.S. But, if Mark Zuckerberg’s giddiness over the purchase can be any indicator, it may become as much a part of our social mediascape as Twitter.

So what is it, exactly? Essentially, smartphone users can download this app and access texting capabilities for free, sending voice, text and picture messages without the cost of a typical SMS—the app pulls into your pre-existing data plan instead.

The brilliant difference between this and already existing services is that it can be used across multiple user platforms—so for instance, an iPhone user could send a group chat to a Blackberry user and an Android user for free.

Though spending $19 billion for a service that users download for free raised a lot of eyebrows, this could potentially expand Facebook’s reach exponentially—the service currently has 470 million users.

Click here to read about WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum’s journey from food stamps to billionaire status.

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That’s Rich

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Drumroll, please. The 2014 Forbes Billionaires List is out, and it’s grown to a record 1,645 people, pulling in an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion. Bill Gates is at No. 1 again with his network of $76 billion; mining and telecom giant Carlo Slim comes in second with $72 billion; and Inditex’s Amancio Ortega ranks third with $64 billion. New to the list are a mixture of self-starters, like WhatsApp’s Jan Koum and Brian Acton, as well as 42 new female billionaires (bumping the global female billionaire pool to 172 billion). And, in terms of the globe’s wealthiest countries, the United States still pulls in at the top again (with 492 billionaires), trailed by China and Russia.

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Start-up Spotlight: Atlanta Tech Village

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Look out Silicon Valley. Big innovations have been taking place in plain sight at Atlanta’s newly constructed Atlanta Tech Village. This sprawling modern complex, located in the heart of Buckhead on Piedmont Road, is the brainchild of entrepreneurial whiz David Cummings and is home to 106 start-ups and growing.

By the time renovations are complete on the 103,000-square-foot building this June, a projected 150-to-175 start-ups (and about 600 people) will claim the building as their work address. Since opening in 2013, it has become one of the 10 largest entrepreneurial centers in America.

“The goal is to make Atlanta one of the top 10 most successful start-up centers in the country,” says Cummings. “In the next 10 years, we’d like to create 10,000 net jobs by way of the start-ups that come through our doors.” Serving as an incubator for good ideas, the open-floor office plan and daily meetings with company leaders lend to a sense of camaraderie among companies.

Click here to learn more about the Village, and the wide range of companies that make a home there—everything from a Nicaragua travel company to a video game creator.

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And the Oscar Goes to…

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

Movie buffs and fashion devotees, your event of the year has returned yet again with the 86th Academy Awards, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres. As you place your bets on the winners and get your house prepped for your famous Oscar-viewing party (impress your friends and whip up one of these tasty appetizers), take the opportunity to squeeze in a few last-minute trips to the movies to see the major contenders on the big screen.

Here, a run-down of the nominees for a few of the top categories:

Best Picture:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
Gravity
The Wolf of Wall Street
Her

Actor in a Leading Role:
Christian Bale, American Hustle
Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Bruce Dern, Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

Actress in a Leading Role:
Amy Adams, American Hustle
Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Judi Dench, Philomena
Meryl Streep, Osage County

Actor in a Supporting Role:
Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill, The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

Actress in a Supporting Role:
Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts, Osage County
June Squibb, Nebraska

Feeling inspired by the grandeur of the Oscars? Host an award ceremony of your own (albeit on a much smaller scale) for stand-out employees at your office. You can make it as fun or as genuine as you like. Tweet us your winners @cocardatl.

Share your predictions and must-see flicks of the year @cocardatl #oscarpicks. View Oscar-nominated and winning films from years long passed on TCM during its 31 Days of Oscar showcase (through March 3). The 86th Academy Awards will air March 2 at 7 p.m. EST on ABC. 

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Romantic Recipe

A dish doesn’t have to be complicated in order to be delicious. Nor do expensive ingredients equate deeper affection. It’s the thought that counts here. And, considering that most are scurrying off to high-end restaurants to celebrate the day, there’s something quite charming about suggesting a romantic dinner in. Rich, velvety and comforting, beef stroganoff makes for the perfect accompaniment to February’s chilly temperatures. It looks more difficult to make than it is and fills the home with heavenly smells. Here, a trusted dish from one of our own romantics and gourmet home cooks.

Jason’s Marry Me Beef Stroganoff
Serve with a side salad and toasted bread. Pair with a full-bodied pinot or a Châtteauneuf-du-Pape.

Ingredients:
1.5 lbs. ground beef
salt and pepper
4 T butter
4 T flour
1/2 qt. beef broth
4 tsp. dijon mustard
1 cup sour cream
olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms
1/2 cup of dill pickles, chopped
1 lb. egg noodles cooked (be careful not to over-cook)
chopped parsley to garnish

Directions:
1. Cook ground beef with onion. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. In a separate pan, melt butter and cook flour to make a roux.
3. Whisk in most of the broth to the roux. Bring to boil to thicken the sauce then add more broth as necessary. The sauce should be thick.
4. Stir in mustard and sour cream and cook two-to-three minutes.
5. Remove from heat and taste for seasoning.
6. Stir in the ground beef and add in pickles and egg noodles.
7. Garnish with parsley.

“Remember, no one’s more important than people! In other words, friendship is the most important thing–not career or housework, or one’s fatigue–and it needs to be tended and nurtured.” – Julia Child

A five-minute love story, for all ages.

A five-minute love story, for all ages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sh7kVYYBNyk

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Winter Olympics Prep

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2010’s biggies were the bandana-wearing speed skater Apolo Ohno, the enigmatic figure skater Johnny Weir, the flame-haired snowboarder Shaun White and the fearless alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn. As you start readying your TV for the Sochi 2014 Olympics in Sochi Russia Feb. 7-23, study up on these U.S. standouts. We suspect you’ll be hearing more from this crew—especially when they’re standing on the awards podium! Keep track of the newest inductees to Team USA as we come down the pipeline—and keep tabs on these hopefuls.

Petra Acker – Speedskating

As the only female to hold a Category 1 status in short and long-track speed-skating, we have a feeling she’ll blur past the competition come February. At age 20, she’s a newbie to the Olympic arena.

Mikaela Shiffrin – Alpine Skier

Besides her recent achievements—winner of the World Cup slalom season opener and reining World Cup and world champion  in slalom—she also offers incredible on-screen charisma. Perhaps she’ll be the darling of this Olympics?

Tim Burke – Biathlon

If you’re not apt to tune into the biathlon or have a clue what that is (this is the sport that pairs cross-country skiing with rifle shooting), it’s likely you may have missed Tim Burke in the past two Olympics (2006, 2010), but the multitalented athlete has only improved with age. At the recent World Championships, he won the silver medal in the 20km individual competition, and became the second American ever  to win a World Championship medal. Way to represent!

Also noteworthy: Be sure to check out men’s and women’s slope-style skiing and men and women’s snowboard slope-style (seven-time X Games phenom Jamie Anderson is the one to watch there). Both sports are new to this Olympics.

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Understanding Google’s Top Charts Function

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If you’re a regular devotee to Google Trends, you may have noticed that a “Top Charts” feature was recently unveiled.  If you put a large emphasis on your website, your blog and your web traffic, this new feature is certainly worth exploring. Top Charts allows you to assess where you stand as a business and how you compare with similar competitors in your industry by logging the subjects people are most interested in from a specific industry as determined by overall search habits (not by keywords). By discovering those trending subjects, you can obtain additional insight into your customers’ needs wants and interests and can tailor your business and/or website accordingly—directly improving your site’s traffic and potentially leading to an increase in sales.

What do you think about Top Charts? Tell us how it has helped your business @cocardatlanta.

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Get PCI DSS Compliant

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Though many of you are already aware of the importance and necessity of becoming Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DDS) compliant, CoCard wants to remind you that these industry regulations are absolutely required both for the security of your business and that of your customers. These standards protect you and your customers from credit card fraud and security vulnerabilities and are not to be taken lightly. If you are not yet compliant, you’re putting yourself at risk for incurring astronomical penalty fees and you may lose your ability to process bankcards.

PCI-DSS requirements are imposed by Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB International Co. and Discover to protect customers’ account data, and to protect merchants from serious security breaches and damages. These industry-wide requirements affect all merchant account providers and all merchants accepting credit cards.

Adherence to the PCI DSS is ongoing. To avoid monthly PCI non-compliance fees and the possibility of a costly security breach, please call our office at 1-800-317-1819, ext. 2 and ask for compliance assistance. We are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding PCI DDS compliance.

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