How Are You Celebrating Earth Day?

Earth Day is celebrated across the globe on April 22 of every year. It’s a simple reminder of how important it is to treat this planet that we all call home with respect. Take a minute of your time to read a few suggestions on actions you can take to make our world a better place. After all, if every person aimed to leave the world in a better state each day, we would be in great position to thrive!

Why Do We Celebrate Earth Day?

Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 in the midst of outcry for environmental reform. Most events happened on college campuses, with other schools also participating. Since then, it has become a global holiday, with many countries choosing to extend the holiday by recognizing an “Earth Week.” Participation has also expanded significantly, with companies also choosing to celebrate and become more environmentally conscious.

This Earth Day, how will you choose to do your part for the environment. Here are just a few suggestions on things that you can do!

Learn More About Helping the Planet

There are tons of resources available today to learn more about ways that the planet needs help. The city of Boston has a Greenovate initiative, where they are “working to get all Bostonians involved in reducing the pollution that causes global climate change.” That is a great place to start, where you can learn about the city’s Climate Action Plan and find sustainability events on their community calendar.

Plant Something

Expanding civilization unfortunately often means removing local plants. Make up for a little bit of what’s been lost by planting something new:

  • Trees will help to clean the air and will eventually provide lovely shady spots. Make sure that you plant it far enough away from structures so that the roots won’t eventually cause an issue.
  • Flowers will sometimes attract butterflies and provide pollen for bees. Depending on what you want, check to see what flowers are local to the area. There are plenty of benefits to having flowers in your home!
  • This time in April is the perfect time to plant a garden! Choose some easy-to-grow vegetables if it’s your first time planting, and you will soon be reaping the rewards with your own locally-grown produce.

Eat Earth-Friendly Food

Even if you don’t want to go to the effort of planting your own garden, you can still help the earth by eating locally grown food. This local food hasn’t travelled that far to get to you, so there is very little energy wasted in transportation.

Find some local fruits, vegetables, and more at the many farmers markets that are in this area during the Spring and Summer months or choose to patronize a local restaurant with a focus on farm to table cuisine.

Reduce Your Waste

In school, many of us were taught to “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” but do you still follow those practices? You could probably reduce the amount of waste you create with a few very simple actions, like using reusable grocery bags when you shop, or using a metal or glass bottle or a mug instead of plastic bottles or Styrofoam cups. For the waste that is inevitable, make sure that you recycle the things that are eligible through Boston’s recycling program. For other items, consider donation instead of throwing things away.

Save Water and Energy

Many places in the Greater Boston Area are very walkable and bike-able. Save a little bit of fuel and get some exercise on your next trip out instead of taking the car. You can also save energy by using less air conditioning, or by switching to energy-saving light bulbs in your home.

Water is also important to conserve. Do so by shortening your shower and turning off the tap when it’s not directly in use. You can also install a low-flow shower head and aerator in your bathroom to save water well into the future.

Extend the Celebrations

Taking one day to recognize our inherent commitment to the Earth is great, but what about the other 364 days of the year? Treat Earth Day like you would New Year’s Day – make a resolution to form or change a habit for the future! Even better, encourage others to do so as well. This could make a huge difference for the planet!

Don’t forget – many insurance providers will offer a discount for going paperless! This means you could help the environment by reducing waste and save yourself money at the same time! To see if you qualify for this discount, call your Massachusetts insurance agent at 617-298-0655.

We could use some suggestions for how we should celebrate at the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency office. If you have an idea for something we can do to make Massachusetts a more beautiful place, send us an email, or send us a message on Facebook.

Spring Has Sprung! Boston Events Calendar

It may not feel like it based on the weather we’ve been having recently, but tomorrow, March 20, is the first official day of Spring. That means the cold weather will soon be a thing of the past (the employees here at the Vargas and Vargas Insurance offices are thrilled about that, to be sure) and you can look forward to taking place in many springtime activities here in the Greater Boston Area.

Take the time to add a few events and holidays to your calendar now! Here are just a few of the ones happening around town. Click on the name of the event for more helpful information.

  • NCAA March Madness East Regional Games – TD Garden – March 23 and 25
    Love College Basketball? Don’t miss the opportunity to see your favorite teams play right here in Boston! The East region this year includes teams like (1) Villanova, (2) Purdue, (3) Texas Tech, and (4) Wichita State.
  • 8th Annual Easter EggStravaganza! – Riverside Press Park, Cambridge – March 31, 10 am
    In addition to an Easter Egg Hunt, activities include face painting, raffles, carnival games, and more! This event is sure to be fun for all ages.
  • Trailblazers: Women Who Challenged the Status Quo – Forest Hills Cemetery, Jamaica Plain – April 8, 2 pm
    Join local history enthusiasts to learn about the trailblazing women of the area. Guest lecturer is author and historian Dee Morris.
  • Taste of Dorchester – 25 Local Restaurants, Dorchester – April 26, 6 pm
    It’s the Taste of Dorchester 10th anniversary, and we’re in for a treat! Sponsored in part by Vargas and Vargas Insurance, this event will highlight dozens of our favorite local restaurants.
  • Neponset River Cleanup – Quincy, Milton & Dorchester – April 28, 9 am
    Keep our community beautiful with the Neponset River Watershed Association and the Department of Conservation and Recreation. There are many locations that need volunteers, so register today!
  • The Sound of Music – Wang Theater, Boston – May 1-13
    A classic musical that is suitable for all ages. Follow the von Trapp family as they thrill Boston audiences in the first two weeks of May.
  • Dorchester Day – Dorchester – June 3, 12 pm
    It’s almost here! Dorchester Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in June each year, and wouldn’t be complete without lots of festivities, including the famous Parade!
  • Take a Tour of the City – Several Locations – Offered Daily
    Often, it’s the residents of a city that have seen the fewest tourist attractions and hotspots. We live in a city with lots of history and culture, so be a tourist for a day! Explore on your own or book a guided tour. There are many tours available depending on your interests, including historical walking tours, movie tours, and even chocolate tours! If you’re a history buff, don’t miss the Freedom Trail – it’s a favorite among the Vargas Insurance staff.

So, which of these festivities will you and your family be taking part in? Wherever you go, keep an eye out for members of the Vargas and Vargas staff. We’re always out and about, and we would love to say hello!

Remember to be safe when you go out, even if it’s just for an afternoon. Make sure that someone knows where you are going, and has a way to contact you. You should make sure to have a fully charged cell phone, and a back-up ride home (even if it’s a ride from Lyft or Uber). If you plan to drink, make sure that you do so responsibly, and that you have a designated driver.

If you’re taking children out for a day trip, there are several safety tips you should know, including:

  • Make sure that your child knows their Name, Address, and an adult’s Phone Number. It is also important to make sure that they know who to share this information with (security guards, police officers, teachers, etc).
  • Children should know how important it is to stay within eyesight when out and about. They should never walk off on their own.
  • If a child does get lost, they should find an appropriate person nearby to help. They should never leave the area or the building.
  • Before eating anything, your child should get your permission. As soon as they are old enough, teach them not to accept food from strangers. Food is an especially significant problem for children with severe allergies, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Our friendly and knowledgeable insurance agents are also available to help with all of your insurance needs this Spring. If you need to clean up your insurance portfolio, make a call to Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. We are happy to help you check this ‘to-do’ off your list, and maybe even save you some money on your insurance policies in the process! Also stay tuned to our insurance blog this Spring for more helpful tips about insurance, safety tips, and much more.

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day

Every year on the first Friday in March, the US celebrates “Employee Appreciation Day.” It is an opportunity for businesses and business owners to acknowledge the hard work of their employees throughout the year.

The Origins of Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day isn’t a new holiday. In fact, it’s been around for more than twenty years! In 1995, a man named Bob Nelson created the holiday and celebrated it at his publishing company, Workman Publishing.

Mr. Nelson was also a founding board member of Recognition Professionals International, an organization that “brings awareness, credibility and accountability to employee recognition through best practices, tools, strategies, thought leadership, education and professional certification.”

Why You Should Celebrate

A business is only as good as its employees – and this goes for every type of business, from technology startups to restaurants to local stores and beyond.

It’s easy for a business to be so focused on increasing their bottom line that the people aspect of the business gets lost. Remember that your employees work hard and sacrifice a lot to do a great job for you and your business. For all of the nights that they stayed late or went above and beyond the call of duty while at work, a little appreciation goes a long way.

Treat your employees well, and they are more likely to look forward to coming in to work and put in that little bit of extra effort to make you proud. It’s also important to note that workplaces where employees feel appreciated have a lower turnover rate!

Ways to Show Your Appreciation

This day is all about recognition – your celebrations don’t have to be lavish in order to show your employees how much they mean to you and to your business. Here are just a few ideas that you can use in your Massachusetts small business:

  • Food is always a good place to start when it comes to showing appreciation. Bring in treats for your employees, whether it’s homemade confections, a spread from a local bakery, catered lunch (or a lunch outing), you will be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like free food!
  • A small gift is also a great way to show appreciation. Purchase something for each employee or get gift cards. You can also bring in a massage therapist and give the gift of an in-office massage.
  • Have you considered a company outing? Come up with a few ideas and have employees vote on the activity they want. Bowling, laser tag, karaoke, an escape room – all are great options!
  • A blanket ‘Thank You’ is nice, but you should try to go above and beyond – recognize each employee for their individual contributions to the business. Give a specific example of a time when they did great work. It’s up to you whether you want this to be in a written personal note or spoken during an Appreciation meeting.
  • You can also tell your employees that you appreciate their efforts is by giving them some unexpected time off. Even just shortening the workday by a couple of hours will make a big impact and will be well worth the small amount of productivity lost.

Don’t Stop There!

Celebrating Employee Appreciation Day in March is a great place to start in showing employees that you care and appreciate them. Just remember, though, that your employees are the backbone of your business. Is one day a year really enough to say a proper “Thank You?” Make employee appreciation a cornerstone of your business by including some of the following ideas into your routine:

  • Encourage a culture of appreciation. Hold a regular meeting (quarterly, monthly, or even weekly) where employees are encouraged to appreciate one another. This is a great opportunity to give out an “Employee of the ___” award.
  • Show that you care about your employees by celebrating the milestones in their lives. This could include birthdays, work anniversaries, weddings – the opportunities are endless!
  • Say “Thank You” often. There’s nothing as rewarding as hearing those two simple words, so speak them frequently and honestly.

When they occur often, small acts of kindness and appreciation will make your employees feel like the valuable parts of your business that they are.

Let us help you show your employees how much you care about your business with a five-star business insurance policy. One of our Massachusetts insurance experts can review your current policy to ensure that you don’t have any gaps in your coverage. We can also check to see if you could get better or less expensive coverage from another carrier. Just call 617-298-0655 for a free commercial insurance quote or review.

Remember, we are an independent insurance agency – that means we work for you, and we will ensure that your business will get the best available protection so that you can focus on helping your employees excel and increasing your bottom line.

It’s That Time of Year – Go Apple Picking!

One of the most popular activities in the Fall here in Massachusetts is picking produce. And there’s good news on that front – now is the perfect time for apple picking! Orchards have been open for a few weeks, but we’re hitting peak season to get ripe, perfect apples. So sometime between now and Veteran’s Day, pack up your family and hit your nearest apple orchard to see what fun you’ve been missing.

When you’re picking, make sure to look for apples that are firm and bruise-free. The color of your apple will change based on the variety of apple you’re picking, so you can’t depend on the color of your apple to tell you if it’s ready to pick. It’s also important to remember that apples ripen from the center of the tree outwards.

In addition, some farms will offer much more than just fruit harvesting. If you want a little more excitement, find a place that also has apple cider doughnuts (they’re a Fall favorite here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance), hayrides, or even a petting zoo.

Once you’ve got your apples in hand, you need to decide what to do with them. Sure, apples are great as a snack, but there’s nothing quite like a homemade apple pie that’s made with apples you picked off the tree with your own hands. If you want something a little healthier, try putting your apples in a smoothie or a salad. You can even use them to make apple chips! If you’re a fan of Fall spices, why not try making your own apple butter or an apple cider?

Make sure that you stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog for more ideas about seasonal activities here in Massachusetts. And remember to call 617-298-0655 with your insurance questions and quote needs!

Guide: Starting a Small Business in Massachusetts

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I should start a business!” Most people have, but very few actually take the required steps to establish a small business. If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur in the state of Massachusetts, here are a few of the first steps that you should take on your journey:

  1. Have a plan – You can’t jump into something like starting a business without a detailed plan. There are plenty of resources online that will help you create a business plan, whether you’re looking to do business online or start with a brick-and-mortar business.
  2. Get Assistance – If it’s your first time starting a business, the path ahead may seem muddled or confusing. Get help from someone that has done it before – they will help create a plan of action to get your business up and running.
  3. Register and Get a License – Depending on how you will be doing business, you will need the proper permits and licenses from the state of Massachusetts before you can open. This web page will help you understand what you will need, and how to obtain it. Some businesses will also be required to submit annual updates to the state.

If you’re looking for someone to help you on your journey, just let me know! I have aided many Massachusetts small business owners in their journey to success, and you may be able to benefit from my assistance. And also remember, Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is here to serve you in all of your commercial insurance needs.

Interview with Bobin Nicholson from Eye & Eye Optics

Hello, everyone! I would like to share with you a few snippets of an interview I recently did with my friend Bobin Nicholson over at Eye & Eye Optics. Bobin and his establishment are the best eyewear boutique in Dorchester – Eye & Eye Optics is the place to go if you need an eye exam or a new pair of glasses.

Carlos: Hello, Bobin! How are you doing on this lovely day?

Bobin: Hi, Carlos – I’m doing great. Loving the summer weather.

Carlos: It has been great, hasn’t it? So, let’s get right down to business… tell me a little bit about Eye & Eye Optics.

Bobin: Well, we’re an eyewear boutique on Dorchester Avenue. We sell glasses and contacts, and we can do eye exams. We’ve been around since 2010, and we’re looking forward to many more years here in this great neighborhood.

Carlos: This really is such a wonderful area, and we love that you’re a part of it! I talk a lot about how important it is to ‘buy local’ – why is supporting the local economy important to you?

Bobin: When someone buys their glasses from a local shop like Eye & Eye Optics, they are receiving the expertise and quality of service that isn’t found online or at a glasses chain store. Keeping dollars in the local economy is also an important part of helping Dorchester thrive.

Carlos: So, I know that you keep up with all of the current eyewear trends and styles. What is your favorite trend in glasses?

Bobin: Glasses used to be so boring – now you can find them in all shapes, styles, and colors! I like to mix up my glasses. Some days I wear more traditional frames. Other times I feel like something funky and fun. To me, it’s all about thinking of glasses as an accessory to your outfit.

Carlos: That’s a great point! I tend to be rather conservative with my glasses. If someone wanted to try something new, what would you suggest?

Bobin: I would probably start by playing with color. Branch out from the typical black and try blue or red, or something with a little sparkle. I have a pair of white glasses that I wear – you would be surprised at how many outfits they go with.

Carlos: Hmm, that’s all the questions I have. If someone wants to get a hold of you, how should they do that?

Bobin: Well, we’re open six days a week at 2271 Dorchester Avenue and they can always drop in during business hours to look at frames. If they have questions or want to schedule an appointment with our on-site opthamologist, they can call us at 617-296-0066.

Carlos: Thanks again for your time, Bobin. Have a great day!

So, if you’re in the market for a new pair of glasses, or if your eyes need their annual checkup, Bobin is your guy! Eye & Eye Optics is a premier eyewear boutique here in Dorchester, and they have glasses to suit every style.

No one saves us but ourselves.

“No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.”
-Buddha

Yesterday was an exciting day in our family. Our youngest son, Matthew married his best friend. We are all so very proud. Matthew and new bride, Cristiana have known each other since preschool. They attended school field trips together. They were friends long before they started dating, they hung around together with the same group of friends, and experienced all of the stuff that teenagers do when they are together in a group.

But in High school, they started dating, and slowly some of the teenagers in their group faded away, and their relationship developed. They went off to college and figured out how to get along on their own, get up for class, and stay away from trouble. Cristiana graduated with a teaching degree and is gainfully employed in her field.

Matthew, in his sophomore year of college, decided that he wanted to commute to school. Kathy and I thanked him for the consideration, but we had planned to pay for his 4 years of post education, tuition, boarding expenses, and all.  He said it was not about the money, the college scene was not what he wanted – there were too many parties, and too many raucous events (he inherited this part of his being from his mother). All in all, there were too many distractions. He wanted to start working in sales and needed to be closer to home. He had a plan.

He graduated the top of his class with a marketing and communication degree, and is now one of the managers at Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Logan Airport, overseeing 200 employees and 11K automobiles.

(I suggest Enterprise to every parent that I speak to that has a son or daughter that is looking to start in the working world. They hire the largest number of college graduates in the nation each year and have the best sales training program anywhere. They teach their employees all of the skills needed for a successful career in nearly any field of business.)

Matthew decided to take advanced classes, take extra classes, and commute – he had a plan and was going to work for it.

Why? I believe it’s because he was … DRIVEN. He had a goal, had a plan, and was taking action to reach that goal. I am SUPER proud of him and his new wife, Cristiana!

But, you think, I hear you ask, “Carlos, what does that have to do with real estate, mortgages, law, and business?”

Everything!

“There are plenty of difficult obstacles in your path.
Don’t allow yourself to become one of them.”
-Ralph Marston

My son was on one road, and chose to change road he was on half way through his college career. He chose to follow a different path, he tried to make the right choices.

I hope that you are on the right road, and that you are having your best year EVER!  But, if you are like some business people, you may be stumbling, wandering from day to day, you may think that you need some help following a different path, to achieve better results, or you need a different course of action. Maybe you need to put a new system in place to achieve better results.

It’s not too late to start! You still have time to change your plan to get better results.  It’s not enough to have a desire to win – you need a plan. Stop chasing the newest shiny gimmick that comes your way (for now) and focus on what brings success, connecting with the people who know, like (even LOVE) and trust us.

I hope you choose to use my son’s story to inspire you and to maybe make changes in the path that you are on to be more successful!

If you need some to listen to your plan, or someone to give you some advice, I have shared my success plan with hundreds of professionals and would love to also do so with you, leave a reply below and we can schedule a time to meet.

And, know that you are loved!

Carlos

“It was character that got us out of bed.”

Happy Monday, and I hope that you had a great Easter Holiday weekend with family and friends!

I like to start every week with some words of wisdom, and this weeks are:

“It was character that got us out of bed,

commitment that moved us into action

and discipline that enabled us to follow through.”

-Zig Ziglar

This is a followup on my “Change is Hard” message from a few weeks ago. (If you missed that email, reach out and let me know – I would be happy to send it to you!) In that email, I stated:

“Many professionals start their businesses filled with excitement and passion for their new venture, but quickly realize that building a brand is hard work! Once that realization sets in and business problems begin to surface, it is very easy to get disgruntled and lose your motivation for what you originally set out to accomplish.

In the beginning, your passion creates energy that keeps you moving forward, builds excitement for the next project, and helps overcome fears and obstacles. However, maintaining that passion can be difficult as time goes on, and you might find yourself in a “rut,” or longing to reconnect with the spark that once drove your business. Whether this longing resonates with you currently or you’re teetering back and forth on the fence of business growth, it’s imperative to implement 6 practices into your business to regain focus and reignite your flame!”

We covered the first 3 that week, and I promised to tie all 6 together in another email. Well, I’ve kept you waiting long enough! Here are the other three practices:

4. Join a Mastermind group AND participate – A mastermind group can offer new perspectives on old problems, and provide much-needed motivation and support to keep you going when you feel overwhelmed! If you’re receiving and reading this newsletter you’re probably thinking, “Well, I am a part of a mastermind group.” Yes, that’s the first step. But the next step (and the most important step) is to get involved, participate, and implement! To get more involved, start posting in our private Facebook group with questions, ideas, and concerns (this is a safe environment of like-minded professionals, so don’t worry about any negative or uncool comments). In addition, attend your company’s weekly class and ask questions, send out emails similar to this one to the people that know, like (or love) and trust you, and follow-up consistently and persistently every week with you Dunbar’s 150 (Need help getting started? I have a strategy for that!), and ask for help when you need it

5. Systematize, automate and outsource – What’s the most valuable use of your time? To find out, create a list of tasks that you perform each week and ask yourself, “Are there items on here that could be handled by someone else?” If that’s the case, hire a virtual assistant or a right-hand person who can take care of the tasks that suck up your time and keep you from being productive. Also, invest in a time-saving client follow-up system that automates some of your communications. With this technology, setting up follow-up campaigns for past clients take only seconds of your time, and continue for years without you ever touching it again!

6. Follow-through on new systems and ideas – One of the most important principles in success is follow-through. When you make a plan to implement a new idea or system into your business, the dedicated follow-through is what will make it a success or a failure. There will be obstacles to overcome with any new venture, but the key to a successful follow-through is staying the course through those frustrating and sometimes downright demanding moments of growing pains. It’s also important to compare the amount of change you’re implementing vs what you and your team can realistically handle. Think of it this way: Following-through on one new system or idea will be way more beneficial to your business than starting 10 new systems and ideas and not executing any of them!

And know that you are LOVED!

Now, go out and DOMINATE your week!

Carlos

Support Small Businesses This Holiday Season

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The end of the year is quickly approaching, and for many people that means it’s time to start shopping. Whether you need presents or hostess gifts, you’re going to have a lot of options of where to shop this holiday season. Instead of going to a big box store or ordering online, try shopping at local small businesses! There are many amazing small businesses in our area, and supporting local small businesses has lots of benefits:

  • Encourages local character by promoting individuality
  • Increases community involvement and well-being
  • Keeps wealth local and encourages local prosperity
  • Boosts the local economy with more jobs and better wages
  • Fuels entrepreneurship and innovation in the community
  • Helps sustain the environment and reduce pollution by reducing sprawl

In addition to helping the community, you may find that you benefit personally from doing your shopping at smaller establishments. You will find more unique items than at larger retailers, and you will often receive more personalized and more attentive customer service while at smaller businesses.

If you want to take your support of small businesses to the next level, shop locally for the ingredients to your holiday meals! You can find great local produce around the Greater Boston area, and it will be fresher than what you get at the grocery store.

And one more thing – if you need insurance, you can get the same benefits that are listed above by shopping locally. Ask us for more information about why getting insurance from a local independent insurance agency is the way to go.   We can help you with your Massachusetts automobile, homeowners, business and life insurance.