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7 Tips For Getting Your House Winter Weather Ready

Winter Weather Home Tips

Parts of the U.S. are already seeing snow in their forecast, making it imperative that you get your house winter ready. Winter weather causes a lot of wear and tear on a home, most of which can be prevented with a few quick tweaks and fixes while the leaves are still falling from the trees:

Start by Sealing any Leaks

Winter heating costs will skyrocket quickly if your home is prone to letting in the cold air. Use a candle and hold it to the frames of your windows and outside doors to check for any drafts blowing in. Electrical outlets and holes for plumbing entry are also common culprits of a leaky home. Replace worn weather stripping and door stops, fill leaks with caulking and extra insulation where necessary to make sure that you are getting the most benefit from your home's heating system, without having to remortgage your home to fund it.

Schedule Maintenance On Your Home's Heating System

You should schedule a maintenance visit with your local HVAC company. They'll change out the filters, clean the components and make sure that everything is running the way it should. This alone will save you hundreds of dollars over the course of a cold winter, especially if your home is being heated by an older system.

Protect Your Plumbing

Check to make sure that your outside faucets are completely drained, and that all hoses are free of water and rolled up for storage. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, it should be blown out by professionals to remove all traces of water left over during the summer. Do an inspection of the exposed plumbing in your home, and make any repairs now before the temperatures start to reach freezing.

Schedule a Chimney Sweep

If you rely on a fireplace to warm parts of your home in the winter, get it prepared by having it cleaned before you light the first fire. Not only will this make it more efficient, it will protect your home from a fire caused by build-up inside of the chimney.

Have Your Gutters Cleaned Out

Clogged gutters will cause a big mess, and possibly roof damage, if they are not clear when the temperatures start to freeze. This is a DIY job, but take care if you do it yourself to not fall off of your ladder. If clogged gutters are a persistent problem consider installing gutter guards on your home.

Stock Up on Your Winter Weather Supplies

After a blizzard is not the time to realize that you have no gas in the snow blower. Make sure that you have a snow shovel that is in good shape, sidewalk salt or litter, and of course enough fuel for your snow blower before you need it. Stocking up on bottled water and non-perishable food is also a good idea if you live in an area where heavy snowfall is a common event.

Change Out Your Bedding

Now is the time to switch from your summer bedclothes to that warm down comforter. By changing to heavier blankets in the winter, you can turn down the thermostat at night, saving you money on your home heating bills.

There is a lot to do before winter steps in, and you should give yourself some time to get these things done. Make a schedule that spans out over the next few weekends, and your home will be nice and toasty inside when the temperature starts to drop outside.



Third Annual Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest Winners

2015 Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest Winners

Our third annual "Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest" ended last Friday and we have finally selected the winners. Four students will be receiving a $250 check to put towards their college education. Two of the winners were selected by receiving the most votes for their scholarship entry - the other two winners were picked by the DialMyCalls staff.

This year the contest asked students to, in 140 characters or less, explain the benefits of online courses and degrees vs. traditional schooling. Over 12,000 students submitted an entry into this year's contest so it was extremely hard to pick only two winners.

Below you will find all four winners and their Tweet For Success Scholarship Contest entries - each winner will be receiving $250:

Top 2 Entries With Most Votes -

1) Jazzlynsworld - 641 Votes - "Online Degree= Flexibility. Diversity Broadens perspective, Communication enhanced, Innovation through Virtual teamwork, Saves time & money!"

2) Jasmine L. - 264 Votes - "Some students have to work to survive. Online coursing allows them to work while receiving proper education to improve their futures."

Staff Picks -

3) Connor - "One of the top benefits of online courses is the ability for disabled college students, unable to come to class, a chance for an education."

4) Heather - "Online courses allow students to become a sort of superman. They can work hard, play hard; all while completing an education online."

Thank you for everyone that entered this year - keep an eye out for a chance to win next year!



New Widget Offers Recording Playback On Your Own Website

You now have the ability to add your latest DialMyCalls recording directly into your website with our brand new embeddable widget. Once you have sent out a broadcast through your account, visitors of your website are able to play back that message right from the embedded audio payer on a designated page of your choice.

 
DialMyCalls Recording Widget
 

Who Can Use The Latest Recording Widget?

Anyone with a DialMyCalls account has access to our brand new recording widget. Embedding the widget does require your own website - the widget is not able to be embedded into an email.

 

How Do I Use The Latest Recording Widget?

Once you have established an account with DialMyCalls you are going to want to decide where you will place the embeddable player at on your website. After selecting a location you will now need to copy/paste the embed code into your site. Log into DialMyCalls and then click on "My Account" -> "Integrations" -> "Embeddable Widgets" -> "Shows My Latest Recording".

 
Embeddable Recording Widget
*Click Photo To Enlarge*
 

A sample player will be displayed along with the code for the player - copy/paste the embeddable code into your website and you are ready to go. Upon sending out a voice broadcast from your account the audio player will update and that recording will be available to play for all of the visitors of your website.

 
Embeddable Recording Widget Sample
*Click Photo To Enlarge*
 

Why Should I Use The Latest Recording Widget?

The brand new embeddable recording widget gives you one more format in which folks can hear your important messages. In addition to sending out your recording via phone call and email you can direct visitors to your website for a daily, weekly or monthly update using the embeddable audio player. Make sure that no message goes unheard by utilizing our brand new widget on your website today! Check out our sample below to see how the widget looks when embedded into a website.

 

Latest Recording Widget Example - Sports Team Website:

A sports team can utilize the embeddable recording widget to keep coaches, players, and parents on the same page regarding upcoming games, cancellations, league registration, or other special events. Once a broadcast is sent out our widget can be placed on the team's website. From that point on the recording will automatically update whenever a new broadcast is sent out through DialMyCalls. This allows the coach to direct all of the coaches, players and parents to that particular page to check for weekly updates.

 
Sports Website Latest Recording Widget
*Click Photo To Enlarge*
 

For more information regarding our brand new latest recording widget, please visit the official Embeddable Widgets page. If you have any additional questions, you can contact us 7 days a week!

*The recording only updates once a broadcast is sent out through DialMyCalls - creating a new recording in your account does not update the embeddable widget, it has to be created and sent as a broadcast.



Six Helpful Tips To Make Your Summer Camp Memorable

Summer Camp Tips

If you have taken on the responsibility of running a summer camp program, you are to be commended. Summer camps impart skills and values onto children that are not always emphasized at school. This is a special time for kids that will be remembered for their lifetime. Follow these tips to ensure that you create experiences that are looked back on fondly:

Choose Your Staff Wisely

Staffing your summer camp should not be taken lightly. When working with children, it is of utmost importance that you check the background of all potential staff members before offering them a position. As you screen applicants, look for attributes that will enhance the camping experience for kids, such as artistic or sports backgrounds. During interviews watch for signs of high energy, enthusiasm and a love for being around children. Summer camp is about having fun, and the kids won't have any if their counselor is not excited every day to be there.

Have Support Staff

Summer camp is not a controlled environment the way school is, and counselors need extra sets of hands and eyes to keep everyone safe and having a good time. Consider instilling a program where older campers are assigned to help with the younger groups, or if money allows hire a junior staff.

Keep Your Groups Small

Enough kids to make a soccer team is about the right size for summer camp groups. When hiring counselors make sure that you are taking enrollment into consideration and have enough staff members to cover all of your groups. With activities like swimming, hiking and sports, you can't afford the liability of allowing one counselor to be responsible for a large group of children.

Have Effective Means of Communication

In reality, your summer camp is double, if not triple, the enrollment size that you think it is. For every camper comes at least one parent who is anxious to know how their kid is faring. To make sure your parents are also having a memorable summer, update them regularly on your own time. Sign up for a mass notification service, such as DialMyCalls.com, that allows you to send voice broadcasts and SMS text messages to all the parents at once. You only need to upload their phone numbers into your web-based account, organize them into the same groups as the children, and then every couple of days send out a message that lets the parents know what their kids are up to.

Choose Stimulating Programs

Give careful consideration to the types of programs you will have in your summer camp, and ensure that they are individualized to be age specific. Your arts and crafts program for example should not have the 7-year-old campers making the same complicated birdhouses that the 13-year-olds are constructing. Try thinking outside of the box and come up with different programs as well, such as scavenger hunts. You can instruct the kids to find a certain number of different plants and then follow up with a quick lesson about how they grow. Camp can still fun, even when there is a little bit of learning thrown in.

Plan on Rain

Unless your summer camp is in the middle of the desert, plan on hosting some rainy days. Be prepared for this with a large seating area and movie projector, a variety of board games for different age groups, and impromptu arts and crafts. If you approach grey skies with a positive attitude and a plan in place, not even torrential rains will ruin your camper's good time.

Summer camp is an experience that kids will never forget. If you follow these tips, you are ensuring that the memories made at your camp are always going to be good ones.



Uploading Contacts Just Got A Whole Lot Easier!

Contact Management Queue

We have added a queue system to our "Upload Contacts" option that helps you manage your phone numbers more efficiently.

Customers that are using version 2.0 of DialMyCalls no longer have to worry about being timed out when uploading large contact lists. Our development team implemented a new feature that will now utilize an upload queue when adding contacts to your account. 

A pop-up window will be displayed as soon as you begin to upload a contact list into your account. You will see the name of the file that is being uploaded as well as a real-time status bar that will let you know when your entire list has been successfully added to your account.

The main benefit of our brand new uploading queue system is that you no longer have to remain logged into your account, waiting for the list to upload. Customers with large lists can now add the list to the queue, log out and come back a little later to check on the progress of that list - the days of being timed out in the middle of a huge upload are over!

*Only files uploaded in the past 24 hours are displayed in the queue window.

For a complete overview regarding how to upload contacts into your account, please click here.



How Pivoting Took Our Company From 4 Figures To 7 Figures A Year

Everywhere you turn these days in the startup / business community you hear about pivoting your business, it has become one of the most overused buzz words of the past couple years. However as overused as it is, it can play a pretty important part of your companies toolkit. Pivoting is what eventually brought DialMyCalls to fruition after years of running a wake up call service I had started back in the year 2000 which was aptly named WakeUpLand. Here's a quick story about how our little pivot was an entire game changer.

AND SO IT BEGINS

It all started when I created WakeUpLand out of my dorm room as a side project to better my web design skills. At the time there were no other wake up call services online, so it seemed like an interesting niche to target. After a couple weeks of getting the site up and launching it an order actually came in, at the time that $0.99 order blew my mind. Orders came in every couple days and I had many tired zombie-like days after waking up at 4am to make sure everyone received their wake up calls - I had not thought about the fact that I would be the one making all of these calls.

After a couple weeks of running on little to no sleep I ended up reaching out to a company that did wake up calls via toll-free number. We were able to negotiate a small deal and for the next few years I was able to load up my wake up calls into their system and they would automatically send them out. It was a great little side business netting anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand bucks a month, and basically ran on auto-pilot - not a bad deal for a few weeks worth of work!

THE RISE OF VOICE OVER IP

A few years later VOIP was becoming much more popular and I started looking at the possibility of sending our own calls rather than going through the wake up provider I had partnered with. The provider was taking 50% of my sales and if I switched to VOIP I'd be looking at a fraction of the cost, meaning a way better profit margin. I reached out to a developer who was a friend of a friend and pitched him the idea of sending the calls using VOIP. After a few months we were actually able to send out our own calls through our own platform, it was amazing, and instantly increased the bottom line of the company. WakeUpLand was rocking and rolling, but this is when a little epiphany hit me smack in the face...

THE LIGHTBULB MOMENT

A customer emailed in asking if we could send a call out to his church about an upcoming event. I politely answered "no", but then a couple days later, after thinking about it, I asked myself, "why can't we?" We had just created our own calling platform capable of sending calls at reasonable rates, the game had completely changed right in front of our eyes. I reached out to Chris the developer and the wheels starting turning. We were dead set on creating the best voice broadcasting platform we could come up with.

I finally met up with Chris, the programmer, at a hotel in Orlando, Florida - the room we rented for a weekend became our base of operation. Countless hours were spent sketching up ideas and storyboarding the entire website, trying to figure out how to make a somewhat complicated process as user friendly and easy as possible. Picture easels, poster boards, papers, empty cans of Redbull, and stuff taped everywhere - I wish I had taken a picture of the creative madness that took place that weekend.

I went to work creating the front end of the site and the user interface, he worked on the backend and phone dialer - it was a good 5-6 months before we had anything useable. It took a lot of back and forth with consultants and experts to fine tune everything to work how we wanted. We spent a ridiculous amount of time working on the Answering Machine Detection in order to have the most accurate AMD out there. After we were happy with the results we slowly launched with the name DialMyCalls.com in early 2008, the rest you can say is history. To this day we still have some of our customers who signed up that first week using the system, I love logging into the admin and seeing our old double and triple digit account numbers sending out broadcasts.

EMBRACE YOUR PIVOTAL MOMENT

Since its initial inception as a wake up call service website that was created in my college dorm room, DialMyCalls has become one of the leading voice and text message broadcasting providers available. We have had over 50,000 users sign up, including churches, universities, fortune 100 companies, and everything in between, to send their alerts through us. We have an amazing team of ten people who kick butt every day, two offices, and 7 figures in revenue. I'd say as overused as the word pivot is these days, it's something to definitely keep in your back pocket. Don't be afraid to try new things with your company whether it's brand new and you're throwing ideas around or a 5 year old side business just making a few extra bucks.

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