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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fw: Speak up!

Sent: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 4:30 PM
To: Ellen
Subject: Speak up!
Make your voice count when you say it like you mean it!
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Elwell Money Minder
October 2012
Elwell & Associates
14643 Dallas Pkwy
Suite 325
Dallas, TX 75254
(214) 739-7100
Web Site

Your Voice Counts!
By John Elwell
Every day, I listen to my clients talk about the state of the economy and the adverse effect it's having on their business, personal income and overall spending. The recession has grown long for most of us, and I share your concerns. And, to a certain extent, I can help you financially by identifying tax savings and helping you build your tax-free retirement account.
The best place to use your voice to make a difference, however, is the voting booth. I realize it's difficult to believe that our votes actually count. But one thing I know for sure: voting is our only option for speaking up and playing a role in creating our own destiny. As Americans, we can say what we mean in confidentiality, without penalty.
Selecting a President is just one of your votes. Many State and local candidates – ones whose views can affect our daily lives as much as a President can – are also up for your selection and election. Our new Texas Senator, city council representatives, judges and many other officials will help shape our future.
Many of you know that I come from the "apple pie" part of the U.S. – Ohio and Michigan. Ellen is from Indiana. In those states, Election Day is almost as big a day of celebration as the State Fair (the major annual event in the land of farms).
So with this mindset, I sincerely hope that each of you decides to experience the excitement of voting for "your" candidates. And whether they win or lose, you are an important part of this great process. Your vote is just as important as Donald Trump's or Warren Buffet's! Every vote is equal.
Below are some good online resources – with links - for finding out where to vote, studying up on the candidates for every office, and getting answers to any election-related questions you may have.
Best regards,

*Copyright © Elwell Associates, Inc. 2012 USA //14643 Dallas Pkwy * Suite 325 // Dallas, TX 75254 // (214) 739-7100 // // Our Website * Our Blog *
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Live high, save lots!

Lots of people really enjoy shopping in malls and retail stores
I’m not one of them! Especially when I’m looking for something in particular and end up going from store to store to find it (or not). I love being able to locate things quickly, compare prices, find discounts and generally be in control of the shopping experience.

If you don’t relish the thought of spending hours at Galleria, Northpark or the outlet malls, here are some of the sites regularly use to save time and money.

Promotion Codes for Online Stores
Never check out your shopping basket without searching for a “promotion” code for that store. If you remember to do this consistently, you can save hundreds of dollars each year in discounts and shipping fees. Here are some great sites for promotion codes:

“Flash” Sites
If you don’t know about free flash sites, you’re in for a treat! They have extensive daily listings for major brands - up to 80% off! If you like designer labels for clothes, kitchen appliances, towels, pillows, shoes jeans, jewelry and more, sign up for daily email at any (or all!) of these flash sites:
  • – the “granddaddy” of flash sites, Groupon’s daily offers often seem to be too good to be true! This is my favorite flash site by far. And I’ve been 100% happy with every one of my purchases.
  • – their offerings are often spectacular and always top quality. For example, a beautiful $150 Brooks Brothers shirt was selling for $39 on the daily “Today’s Fix”… and I bought it. If you buy one item and pay shipping, you can ship all other purchases free - for the entire month.
  • – this top-quality site has wonderful daily offerings. However, it’s almost impossible to get free shipping.
  • – for authentic and valuable jewelry, this auction site is a real discovery. Don’t buy anything until you visit a few times and see how the “game” goes. Wedding or anniversary ring? You can get whatever you want for ¼ the original price or less! 
I am a relentless shopper for 4-star hotels at 1-star prices! Last year, I persevered until I got the Wynn in Las Vegas for an unbelievable $80/night. Two weeks ago, for a last-minute business trip to New York, I booked the new mid-town Hyatt for an average $140/night (all fees included!). To save so much money, I combine a lot of different techniques and website searches.

General Tips
Book plane tickets as far in advance as possible for the best selection and rates.
  • Start shopping for a hotel just 2-3 weeks ahead so that you’ll get the benefit of “last minute” cancellations, “leftovers.” and other unexpected hotel situations. Hotels would rather book their last empty rooms at very low fees vs. take an “empty bed” loss.
  • Visit my favorite “Bargain Travel Websites” below to enter your travel information.
  • Sign up for ongoing updates – this is the secret to success!! Soon, you’ll get a fabulous variety of offers which match your specifications.
  • Visit a hotel’s website and check its reviews before you book . for extensive reviews of any hotel worldwide, visit

Bargain Travel Websites
  • is my #1 all-time favorite. You won’t see the name of your hotel until you book and pay. No worries. Of the 10+ times we’ve used, I’ve never been disappointed. And I am ultra-particular about hotel rooms.
  • (airfare)
  • (air, hotel, car rental)
  • (flash site for hotel)
  • (trip auctions)
For more money-saving sites . . .
If you like this type of article, please send me an email and let me know. Our blog is for you and comments are always appreciated!

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Copyright (C) *|Elwell & Associates
Visit us at our website
14643 Dallas Parkway/Suite 325
Dallas, Texas 75254
(214) 739-7100


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mean Women in Business

Mean Women in Business
by Ellen Elwell

As a lifelong marketing professional who has worked for or with  Fortune 1000 businesses and brands, I have met so many people all over the U.S. Most are terrific. A few are horrible. And the horrible ones always get to me - especially the women.

I started working for IBM as soon as I finished my grad work. I was 23, married and soon to be a mom. They sent me to their training schools on and off for a year...and this education has been a blessing through my life. They taught me how to develop presentations and give to demonstrate their equipment to advantage. . . and how to help customers appreciate and use it. They taught me their motto: "Respect for the individual."

Every week we were rated in 26 training areas - 1 being the top and 5 the bottom. We even got ratings in "groom" ( how you put yourself together for business). To get promoted (down the road), I needed a 2 overall average. The scores go with you - everywhere.

I was always afraid of doing things wrong and getting fired. The ratings became my obsession. And whenever I got criticism, I literally trembled. Luckily, things turned out fine. And I owe my many years of "1" ratings to women who took me under their wing at training...and also the women with whom I worked every day. We were like a family even though we were in different cities. And we networked and helped one another a lot.

When I started my own marketing agency, I hired mostly women - about 95%. I trained my key women managers...and they trained the people they managed. Again, I enjoyed the aura of the sisterhood. Until I got a big portfolio of clients - big companies and brands like Frito-Lay, Ralston, Beech-nut Baby Food, Clorox, Anheuser-Busch, American Express and many more. So the entire picture gradually changed.

In the agency business, account people take constant verbal whippings from clients - especially the agency head (me!). It's just the way it is and you get used to it. The client pays a lot of money for a non-tangible, intellectual and creative property; and many resent it. I call it "kicking the cat." They're frustrated with other things in life and they transfer the feelings to people who can't fight back. Unfortunately, the cat becomes wary and careful to keep a distance.

My mother and father had their own business - restaurants. I started working in them when I was 12. My parents taught me to smile at customers all the time. My mom used to say, "Smile until your face cracks." If you've ever been a waitress, you know that smiling can sometimes be difficult. But you do it!

In my own business, it hurts me most when the mean-spirited person is a woman.
The pattern is pretty consistent: she barely acknowledges people and looks down at her iPad, makes notes and ignores the people around her. When she speaks, she's short and direct and doesn't mind being insulting. She has "attitude" because she's certain she's smarter than anyone else in the room. And maybe she is. But being smart and powerful isn't everything.

Why do I expect more of women than men? Maybe it's because I have enjoyed so many relationships with great women who help one another. I will do almost anything for the "GOG" (Good Old Girl) network and vice versa. So don't mean women "get" it? What do they gain by being mean. You never know...the cat may be in a position to bite back one day!

Comments are so welcome. Have you had this experience? Let's talk!

Friday, August 24, 2012

iPhone: Friend or Foe?

by Ellen Elwell
Readers of this blog know that I’m a major proponent of new technology and social media – with the exception of Facebook, of course. (See archived articles.) But when it comes to actual equipment purchases, I tend to be very thrifty. And when I do invest, I expect to get a lot - for a long time.

My reasons for not getting an iPhone (the “cons”).
I never considered anything other than an iPhone as my “smart” phone choice. However, I had lots of reasons for stalling – for years!

  • It’s expensive. No matter how you look at it, any smart phone is a very costly front-end and long-term investment! So my question was: Is there a significant Return on Investment (ROI)?
  • I’m not a “phone” person. I don’t make or get lots of calls, so why spend so much on a phone?
  • It’s difficult and time-consuming to learn. If a whole shelf at Barnes & Noble is dedicated to “how to” iPhone books, it’s pretty obvious that learning how to use it will take some time, right?
Why I finally did get an iPhone.
Ultimately, I decided to take the plunge – mostly because I’m in marketing and “mobile marketing” is growing in importance. Also, I lost my “regular” cell phone and the timing was theoretically right. And finally, I felt pressured to do it since just about everyone I know has one (the “what am I missing” principle). I promised myself, though, that if I only used the phone – not the other features and functions – I’d cancel the monthly charges and take a penalty.

After nearly a year. . .
Looking at the "cons" above, they remain the same for me. First, there's no doubt about it: the iPhone is costly. Second, I don't use it much as a phone. However, I now consider the “phone” part a very minor part of the iPhone’s value. Instead, I love its photo capabilities, twitter and email convenience, being able to save music and audio books in the “cloud” – and then access them from the many other “synced” iDevices in our household. (I’ll do another blog on the free “family sharing” capabilities iPhone offers.)

Finally, because I’m very slow, learning has been a nightmare – even worse than I expected. There is nothing “intuitive” about the device beyond placing phone calls and texting. Until I finally figured out how to connect and manipulate the iPhone through my computer and iTunes, my frustration level was indescribable. Tip: Never ever forget your iTunes password or type it in wrong because recovery is so painful!

. . . I love it!
Despite the pain, I’m happy I got and have my iPhone! Every single day, I gain more respect and passion for this powerful little engine. It provides so many unexpected, life-enhancing features (especially apps) that I’ll do a follow-up blog(s) about them. They fall into several categories: convenience, money-saving, entertainment and safety.

Summary: Investment vs. Value
I do believe that the iPhone can be worth the cost. But to be so, it cannot be viewed simply as a phone or a game/toy. Uncovering its real “assets” takes time (and more time) – which can be an even bigger investment than money. Further, learning is never-ending because software upgrades add more function (almost daily!).

As for actual “return on investment,” I’m uncertain. I’m still looking for ways that iPhone usage can actually generate business referrals or sales dollars. Now that I know how to use it, however, I’ll continue to puzzle this important piece of the equation!

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Learning Apple is like having a baby!

Okay. So I'm a late adaptor of iPhone.

But it's only because I had to be "ready" to commit time to do it right. By myself. Without anyone standing over me and making me nervous. Sad to say, I am a s-l-o-w learner.

My history with technology is a sad story.
You'd never know that IBM recruited me when I finished school. I'm a great marketeer in my genetics, like my father. I write and I sell. Everything else is frills.

IBM almost didn't hire me because they tested my "machine logic" at "ZERO." That's the exact word they used. Who knew about this machine skill? But they were pretty matter-of-fact when they told me about it.

So we're looking at a machine company deciding whether to hire a hopeless non-techie to sell and market their products (me). Luckily, IBM took the plunge and we made great music for 10 years - until I started my own agency. In fact, they were my first client. Gotta love that company!

And it never got better.
Sadly, however, their "machine logic" test proved to be true. Whenever it's time for me to learn new software, equipment or even an app, I'm in misery. Without machine logic, I have to try and try and learn a little bit at a time. I make 8 mistakes to reach every small success. I quit a learning session when I get a headache and my neck says to leave it alone.

Especially in the world of "i."
The biggest challenge has been getting my iPhone, iPad and computer "synced" in the iCloud and iTunes and getting all the stuff working together. And, if you can believe it, I actually bought a scary-small iPod nano last week (don't ask!). So now I have three iDevices - plus a Kindle and Kindle Fire. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm Alice in Wonderland falling down an endless rabbit hole into a land of strangeness.

The biggest joy was when I taught myself to transfer iPhone pics to my computer, then send "good" pics to Dropbox and Photobucket and then to Shutterfly for prints which I got back in the mail. I know I'd better practice that because I'm already wondering how I even did it. Maybe it was an accidental alignment of the stars like the Big Bang!

Laughs and tears aside, I am really proud of myself. And getting onboard with the world of "i" is like having a baby: the pain is awesome...but the results are worth it! 

Did I mention that I LOVE Apple?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Family Photo Project (Unending!)

About 5 years ago, I was the beneficiary of lots of boxes of family pictures. When I added my own photos, the result was - literally - thousands of photos spanning 6 generations. And thus began my obsession: I would make a true "family story" and keep it under 150 pictures. Looking back, I would take back that decision - in a flash.

Step #1 - Sitting at the kitchen with boxes
Visualize a rainy Spring afternoon  in my kitchen, by the window, rain outside, with mountains of mixed up photos (some strangers!) around me. My husband, J. is in Tax and lives at the office from February through April. Our daughter, M, is away at school. So it's my pup, Harry, and me. As usual.

Step #2 - Fast forward two years
The pictures have been separated into Trash and Keepers. When I look at the hundreds of photos remaining, I decide to hide them in a dark closet again. It's overwhelming.

Step #3 - End of year three
My husband, J, found the boxes and offered to help. We spent a whole day sorting them by person. I bought a few cute storage boxes at TJ Maxx and put them on my home office book shelves. It beats the dark closet but they are daily reminders of my dithering and procrastination. Sigh.

Step #4 - Envelopes!
So now I have about 400 pics as "finalists" in labeled envelopes. Wow! I fool myself into thinking that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. But the idea of finding a logical sequence is overwhelming. Once again, the boxes go back on the bookshelf (now in the envelopes).

Step #5 - Help from Groupon!
One day, I see an offer from They'll make a great CD (digital) "book" from the pictures I send them. I sign up and pay for their service - so the project is finally "real." Only one problem: my arm won't reach out for the boxes of envelopes. Did I mention that I have come to hate this project?

Step #6 - End of May, 2012
I've sequenced and numbered all the pics I've chosen (about 150) and made divider pages to identify the separation of Generations. Can it be true that I'm ready?

I pack the pics very carefully and seal the container. Hubby takes it to UPS and it's gone. Gone. I'm panic-stricken as I see my little babies go out the door (some are 100 years old and can't be replaced).

Step #7 - Mid-June, 2012
The CD (with 12 copies for various family) and original pictures are back from BritePix. They've been very sweet and checked on lots of little things. But I'm afraid to open the box. No kidding. What it if's in the sequence? What if I've made mistakes? So I let it sit.

Step #7 - July 7, 2012
Happy Birthday to me! I finally open the box and slip the disc in the computer. It's a slide show. It's magnificent. Thank you so much BritePix. I show the CD to J and M - they love it. I send it to the relatives.

Step #8 - Now.
My aunt and uncle don't know how to open the CD and they live far away (Chicago and Florida).I am holding a knife to my throat, thinking about slitting it. Getting nearly 150 pics on a DVD made into an album is super-difficult and expensive. . It's not easy. In fact, I'm stuck again!!  

This is my Unending project. And my nightmare. Ideas anyone? I can't stand another year of it. I wish I could pay someone to figure it all out.

So the moral of the story is: run away from photo projects. All of them. What good can come of them?  

For now,

Friday, June 8, 2012

Who would want to read my posts?

There are literally millions of blogs. And there are so many good ones - especially written by Moms. So what are unique things that I could offer readers? Other moms are "supermoms" who can juggle anything and everything. Many have mega-patience - especially homeschoolers!( I can't even imagine that level of dedication and smarts.) I pale in comparison.

My claim to fame (so to speak) is that I started a marketing/promotion business from a card table at home...then grew it into a business having major name-brand clients on all four coasts. I increased my billings from $30,000/year to $9 million/year (and had the overhead to show it with offices in 3 cities). Note: "billings" are a long way from "profit" - gross or otherwise. Still, it was formidable.

And then I sold it for a lot less than I could have if I'd waited. But I was seriously depressed (the super-sick kind) and finally, miserable. "Success" does not help most things. But I never worked for success - just income. Luckily, I had my wonderful husband and daughter for moral and mental support and survived with the help of a great psychiatrist.

Today I feel great. I kept a very few clients for myself and love them (and their work). I get to do all the things I wanted to do when I started the business - with no employees (vs. 25). But that's another subject.

As many as my talents may be or have been, I still have no unique things to say. The millions of bloggers ahead of me have said it all.

So that's why I call this my own little "cyberspace." It's not even a pinprick in the tapestry of blogs out there. But it's mine, right? Gotta love it! In the end, it doesn't matter whether people read my posts or not since I want no ads, rewards or admiration.

And that's as good as it gets.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Soaking in the true joy of Summer!

Are you a "Summer" or "Winter" person?

This is kind of a frivolous topic for a blog, I know. But I can't help but wallow in the joy that summer gives me. Even though I'm fully aware that (misguided) others prefer cold weather.

I grew up where it was very cold (Indiana) with most of my family nearby in Chicago. In both places, it got cold. Very cold. And stayed cold. A long time. Until the lilacs, dogwoods, peonies and greens of Spring finally came along to give me hope. For summer. No more boots, heavy coats, heavy pants, scarves, caps and sweaters. It was like losing 10 pounds overnight!

Of course, I always hoped that Autumn or "Fall" would never come. It always did. Leaves, pumpkins and cider are great in Indiana. But the dread (winter!) was too heavy to enjoy them.

So where did I go away to school? Michigan. Ann Arbor to be specific. Can you even believe it?My father was a big Big 10 person and that was that. So try to find a warm-weather school in the Big 10. How about Minnesota?

 I met my husband, John, at Michigan (which I did and do adore - Go Blue!). I call him my Knight in Shining Armor since he took me away to Dallas. Here, it's about 8 months of Summer.

And right now, as I look out through the green trees and landscape of my back yard, I feel nothing but gratitude. It's time to go out and water, trim and weed. It's a tiny price to pay for Paradise, right?

Happy weekend, everyone!


p.s., Watch for my Crabtree & Evelyn Gardening Treats giveaway on Monday. It'll be right here!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Social Media Stress - Anyone?
I'm trying to remember a time before social media usurped all of our "extra" time and energy...and then some.\
Too many "big" things to learn!
The choices! What's most important to learn: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, mobile apps - or Tumblr, Instagram,, blogging and on and on. Are we caught up on all the latest items trending on YouTube? Is today the day to work on getting more Followers and Likes?

Holy cow! Do we really have enough "brain power" to learn all this stuff? Plus keep up home, family and jobs? I'm beginning to wonder.

As soon as we learn one thing...we're behind on a dozen more!
True. Just when you think you have the basics conquered, there's something new and great that's all the buzz. It can be an app (or a dozen!) or a gadget, it matters now. We add it to the mental list of "Gottas."

The time for all of this has to come from...?
Remember when kids looked up homework in libraries and encyclopedias? Or we found out new news in - yes! - a newspaper. Or we looked at pretty pictures and styles in magazines and enjoyed them?

Today, we and our kids just cruise around in cyberspace. A quick look-up of Topic A takes us into the black linkhole of Topics B, C, D and maybe all the way to Z. Maybe we didn't quite find the original topic, but we sure did "learn a lot." Right? Or not. And we must find the pretty pictures (fast!) because we have to get more Followers on Pinterest (really? more Followers?)

So we drag out the frozen dinners...or another round of mac 'n cheese. Instead of reading stories or walking, we catch up on twitter and facebook...and start another round of pinning. And so the time goes until we drag ourselves to bed at a later-than-wanted hour.

Turn up the speed on the virtual treadmill!
I never feel like I'm on top of anything these days. I'm weak on Pinterest...and hopeless on Instagram. I'm getting better on iPhone apps, but compared to what? There are a million apps (or something like that). I have a new Kindle Fire from Valentine's Day (TY dear hubby:-)...but no time to learn how to use it.

And I'm feeling guilty because I feel completely unproductive as in "Jack of all trades but master of none!"

What's the answer?
I don't know. Do you? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why I'm glad I opted out of @Klout

The Story: "The Emperor Wore No Clothes"
Does anyone remember this childhood story by Hans Christian Andersen? ( Story ) After spending a ton of money for real gold fabric and months of labor, the Emperor was sure he had the finest outfit ever made. He strutted down the street wearing it, and everyone said how fine he looked. But his subjects secretly snickered because he was wearing nothing at all! Over the months, they had all pretended that he was getting real fabric and thread and labor. 

What does @Klout "wear"?
I read (at least a year ago) that if you don't have a @Klout score of over 60, you'll be treated badly at the big hotels and restaurants in New York and Las Vegas. So I decided to get my score to 62 before my next trips to those cities. 

With great anticipation, I waited for the desk people at The Carlyle to mention - or ask for - my 62 score. They didn't. Further, when I asked if they wanted it, they looked at me like I had two heads! The next try at The Wynn (what a completely fabulous hotel, by the way) produced the same (non-) results!

Deciding that the @Klout was new, I gave it another year. But the effort to stay at 62 became increasingly difficult since I only have about 30 minutes/day for social media. Sadly, I have to work at my day job, too. I began to feel like a hamster on the proverbial treadmill!

Then it got even worse this past Fall. @Klout "demoted" me because they started using a new, "better"  "algorhythm." I fell to a 47!! Back to the drawing board: I began to "work" like crazy to get up to...a 52? Holy cow! So I became an addict...tweeting more and more and then checking my daily "score" to see if it had gone higher. It reminds me of when I used to go on diets: I'd get on the scale morning, noon and night hoping that the needle had moved in the right direction. It rarely did!

So gradually I had to stop and ask myself the question: "If I can get a better @Klout rating, what will I get?" Will it help me make more money? More friends? Or help me become happier or smarter?

No, no and no. @Klout may be important for the movie stars. But I'm no movie star. And in the great scheme of things, I am just a 37 in life (or lower because Hillary Clinton is a 37 and she's actually world-class fabulous!).

So I opted out last week and threw away the treadmill. I don't do anything social media-wise any differently...just less of it. And I love the freedom, the lack of (perceived) @klout criticism and implied "Do better!" admonishment. 

I'd love to know how others feel about this subject! Please share!


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