Category: Business

We are now experiencing the fifth most powerful bull market in stocks since 1900. The Federal Reserve, through its quantitative easing program, has lowered interest rates to near zero, thereby forcing investors to search for income in nontraditional places. In response, dividend yielding stocks and high yield “junk” bonds have soared in price. If you review the trajectory of the S&P 500 over the past year, it appears that the market is advancing without any significant corrections.

The market continues to shrug off risks. Despite poor economic data, decelerating growth in China, still unresolved European debt woes, and increasing tensions between Russia and her neighbors, the market continues on its march upward. The only data the market seems to respond to are signals from the Federal Reserve that they may increase interest rates. For now, the stock market assumes that new Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell “has its back.” The dovish Powell appears to be an advocate of an accommodative policy through 2018.

Investors can become complacent believing that this pattern will last indefinitely. To wit, the flow of money into stock funds reached an all-time high in 2013-2017 as memories of the crisis of 2008 faded. The belief that market gains can be achieved consistently with no apparent risk of correction is not only naive, but dangerous. Investors in Bernie Madoff’s fund were likewise transfixed by the steady, impressive returns that seemed to move with no correlation to the financial markets. Sometime when things seem to be too good to be true…..
We only need to look back to the more recent examples of complacency and calls of “this time it’s different,” to remind ourselves of the dangers that can result from this mentality.

In the 2000 tech implosion, the market finally came to the reality that stocks with non-existent earnings and lofty prices were not necessarily a good buy. We were told that “earnings did not matter” and that this was “the new paradigm.”

In 2007, when everyone was buying second homes, flipping “spec” homes, and loading up on a McMansions they could not afford, the party line was that, “housing is an investment that never goes down in value.”  The financial crisis was created in part due to this mentality, and we are still feeling the painful repercussions.  In this article , Peter Schiff discusses the implications of the massive debt the US has incurred post 2008.  He states,

America is trying to borrow its way out of recession. We are creating debt now in order to push up prices and create the illusion of prosperity.

He opines further that:

 “The red flags contained in the national and global headlines that have come out thus far in 2014 should have spooked investors and economic forecasters. Instead the markets have barely noticed. It seems that the majority opinion on Wall Street and Washington is that we have entered an era of good fortune made possible by the benevolent hand of the Federal Reserve. Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen have apparently removed all the economic rough edges that would normally draw blood. As a result of this monetary “baby-proofing,” a strong economy is no longer considered necessary for rising stock and real estate prices.”

It is important for investors to remind themselves of the following:

Markets are cyclical

Corrections are normal consequence of business cycles:  We can’t predict when they will occur, but we should prepare mentally for their eventuality.

Market timing is extremely difficult.

Who would have predicted that in 2013 the S&P 500 would increase over 30%?  This occurred despite the debt ceiling and budget showdowns, sluggish economic growth, and other geopolitical events.  Few if any analysts, predicted this incredible performance, giving further credence to the notion that the so called “experts” are not particularly prescient.

Chasing performance can lead to pain

Investors have a tendency to pile into segments of the market that have recently performed well , buying more of the recent winners and eschewing the “dogs” that underperformed.  But short term performance is not indicative of longer term returns.  Overexposure to one asset class, say large-cap US stocks, will reduce your portfolios diversification, thereby increasing the overall volatility of your investment mix. Discipline in the form of rebalancing would be a better tactic. In this related article, Craig Israelsen discusses this behavioral tendency and how it can be avoided through proper diversification.

Looking at traditional measures of valuation, the current stock market is overvalued.  According to John Hussman, current valuations suggest that equities are poised to deliver paltry returns of roughly 2.3% before inflation over the next 10 years.  Even the Fed’s own Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, recently said he was concerned about “eye-popping levels” of some stock market metrics warning that the Fed must monitor the signs carefully to ensure bubbles were not forming.

In irrational times like this, it is important to maintain perspective; we don’t know exactly what the stock market will do in the short run.  We can’t control inflation, taxes, political turmoil, the weather, our health or major geopolitical events.  We must instead focus on the things we can control like the following:

Our emotions– It is essential that we have a portfolio of investments that we can stick with through thick and thin.

Review your investment policy statement that was prepared as part of you plan; and specifically; revisit the potential decline for your investments based on your target allocation to the stock market to see if it is still palatable

Rebalancing –After a large market advance, it is important to prune our winners and reinvest proceeds in losing asset classes.

Most recently, that would mean selling stocks and buying bonds. While this is counter to our  behavioral instincts, it is a powerful way to maximize long-range investment returns.

Costs–Given that future stock market returns are likely to be lower, costs becomes especially important.

Employing no-load, passive, low-cost funds and ETF’s will help maximize your gains.  The money you save due to low fees will compound for you over time.  This has an exponential effect on the growth of your portfolio.  Costs are reflected in your funds’  expense ratios.  Low cost investment advice helps to further reduce the overall cost of your investment management.

Diversification–resist the urge to follow performance and load up on yesterday’s star asset classes

Just because US stocks have been stellar performers doesn’t mean that this will continue. We never know in advance which portion of the portfolio will be the star performer. As this periodic table of asset class performance indicates, the stars of one year can easily turn to dogs the next. It is also important to remember that cash, CDs, and high-quality bonds, while they possess frustratingly low yields, are still an essential component of your portfolio, as they act as shock absorbers in periods of market turmoil.

Risk– if you’re planning to retire in the next five years or recent retiree, you may want to adjust your portfolio to position yourself more conservatively.

Recent studies suggest that minimizing your exposure to stocks, five years before and five years after retirement  and then increasing your stocks allocation slowly over time, may be a prudent way to maximize spending in retirement as well as avoid outliving your funds.

In summary, the market over the past few years may convince you that risk will be rewarded with little chance of loss. But remember, what goes up must go down, and invariably, a tipping point emerges that changes the course of the market.  History does repeat itself.  Be realistic and stick to a prudent plan so you are well equipped to weather any market storm.

Read Full Article

Is your business vision the same as your business plan? Most certainly not. Your vision is the dream, the prize, and the ideal scene. Your business plan is the steps you will be taking to make those dreams into reality.

Today, I was reading the advice given by one of the top Internet Marketing Gurus. He asked his followers to write their vision for their business. Most of them did pretty good! But most of the complicated it by adding the steps to getting it done. They added too much thought.

You might say “Why would this matter?” I will tell you.

How would you tell if your actions are keeping you from your dream if you don’t have a clear picture of the dream?

Last summer I watched the Boston Celtics win the National Basket Ball Championship. They had a dream. As individuals and as a team they had the dream to win the Championship. They had the vision. Then they coordinated the actions of each player’s actions both on and off of the court to make that dream come true.

How could you make decisions that would bring the ideal scene if you don’t know what that scene is?

Let’s say your ideal scene is: You own your very own restaurant. Long lines of customers stand to wait to be seated because your food and service are excellent. You have the top chefs wanting to work for you. Your wife is able to stay home with the children, and you are putting money away for their education.

Now you are doing well, you have fulfilled most of your dream. You have long lines, the best chef in town is working for you. You have rave reviews in the local news about your excellent food and service. You are almost to the point that your wife can stay at home with the kids when someone comes up and wants to invest in an expansion of your restaurant by adding a bar. I know your ideal scene you can easily put the figures together to see if this new plan fits. Will it be best for the customers you have? Will the expansion make it possible for your wife to stay home? Will you be able to put money aside?

How would you know if you picked the right project if you don’t know what your goal is?

A very successful Real Estate Lawyer told me recently that after 30 years he had finally attained his goal of owning a flourishing law practice. He had set his goal in high school. He worked hard to get his law degree. The only problem was, it took him way too long to be successful, and he blamed it on the fact that he let other projects get in the way of his goals.

How would you know what and to whom you are marketing?

Your vision is who you are. It is your identity. It is what you are selling. You are not the money. You are not the advertising campaign. Know your vision, and the advertising campaign becomes easy. Know your vision and the tools to make money will be easy to find.

Your visions statement might go something like this:

I have an a very successful on e-commerce blog. I am considered the “go to” man by other bloggers when it comes to how to run an e-commerce site. I have followed what I have learned and have two flourishing e-commerce sites. I am able to share my good fortune with my employees. My employees are stable and able to handle my business when I am away working on fundraising for Micro-banking. I am also able to set up a fund that allows my grandchildren to get through college.

Here are a few tips on writing your vision.

Have fun! Create! come up with new ideas. Reach down deep to your heart’s desire.

Yes, you may be in a serious financial situation and need to get moving fast….but this is the fun part of the whole game. What are your going to win? What will you do with the income you will be making? What will you do with the time you will create? Whose life can you change for the better?

Dream Big! It’s OK! The movers and shakers of this world are those who dream big. Witness the man-made islands of Dubai, the Hover Damn or the computer you are working on right now. They all started with a vision. You too can move and shake your part of the world.

“Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you are riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief, and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!” – Bob Marley-

Write your vision down and share it with like-minded people. Want to be healthy, wealthy and wise? Then get advise from the healthy, wealthy, and wise. Those who are taking action to make their vision in to reality have a different mindset than those who are OK with plodding along in life.

Your business plan is a step by step guide for getting things done. Your vision IS YOU. Your vision IS YOUR BUSINESS.

Read Full Article

As marketers, there are a few seemingly basic questions that are at the core of our entire marketing strategies.

Who is our customer? How does our customer think and make decisions?

We research the demographic data, whitepapers about trends, Google Analytics, and any other data source we can think of. But many times we fail to look at our own consumer behavior – as well as that of our families, our friends, and our colleagues – to determine trends, when in fact our own behavior is probably a good indication of “the norm”.

So after thinking about my own brand-seeking habits, I realized that I either get a direct recommendation from a friend or colleague, or I consume other people’s online reviews related to the brand.

1. I find restaurants on Yelp, and sort my results by “highest rated.”

2. I run a Google search on every product, model number, and service to see their reviews.

3. I listen intently to my fellow entrepreneurs and their experiences with certain tools.

4. I listen to new artists and songs that my friends tell me about.

5. I legitimize brands by their website’s display of significant press coverage

Brand Trust Low, People Trust High

According to a 2015 Nielsen report, a majority of worldwide consumers behave in a similar fashion. In fact, the report states that 92% of worldwide consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while 70% trust consumer opinions posted online.

A 2012 Accenture survey had similar findings – 79% of consumers received their brand information via Word-of-Mouth, while 63% uses review & news sites. The survey even shows that 47% of consumers used social media and online forums to discover brand information.


Clearly, people trust the experiences and comments of other people over any direct brand advertising. These types of people experiences end up in some sort of free, customer-driven impressions called “Earned Media.”

What Is Earned Media?

According to Michael Brito of Edelman, Earned Media is…

“…the natural result of public/media relation’s efforts, ad campaigns, events and the content that you create within your owned media channels. …[It] has expanded to influencers who have popular blogs as well. When someone not associated with your brand mentions you on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media channel, it’s earned media. Other types of earned media include consumers’ social media posts, tweets, product reviews, videos, photos, and open dialogue within online communities.”

With that definition, it is clear that in order to “earn media,” a company must encourage and enable its customers and online communities to advocate for its brand in every way possible. When encouraged and enabled, customers can very easily act on their positive brand experience and create activity on social media (impressions, shares, comments), online communities (reviews & recommendations, forums, “upvotes”), and email (referrals).

Making Customers Into Evangelists

Gather Their Feedback.

There’s nothing like getting the word straight from your customers. The more you solicit their opinions, the more emotionally invested they will feel about your product. Regularly run short-but-effective surveys, using tools like SurveyMonkey, Wufoo, or Formstack. Install feedback boxes on your product, such as Qualaroo Insights or GetSatisfaction, to constantly encourage your users to tell you what’s on their mind. Then display the (positive) feedback proudly on your website using a Testimonials widget.

Impress Them With Customer Service.

When a customer reaches out with an issue, the customer’s ensuing experience with the brand goes a long way to determining the future of that relationship. Brands that are responsive, helpful, and generally awesome to their customers will have a greater chance of keeping those customers for a long time (for life??). Companies like JetBlue, Nike, Seamless, and Comcast have nailed Twitter customer service, but if you can’t have dedicated manpower on your Twitter handle you can still respond to your customer service requests within 6 hours, like the big boys do!

Make It Easy For Them To Evangelize.

Take “Word-of-mouth”, make it digital, and what do you get? Virality. If your product does not prioritize virality, you are doing yourself a disservice because you are limiting customers who want to help your mission! For starters, provide your users with tools that make it simple to email contacts and post on social media. Match those tools with a simple-yet-effective incentive for spreading your brand’s message, and watch those referrals multiply!

Just Ask.

Sometimes being direct with your customers is most effective. When customers are already excited and passionate about a brand or product, they want to contribute to that brand’s success and public perception. Lucky for you, within your customer base you have social media influencers, members of the media, people who are active on review sites, heavy networkers, and click-happy referral inviters. Find them, and ask them for online reviews, press coverage, website linkbacks, Tweets, and “Likes”. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results!

Read Full Article

CNN recently published an article calling Kids Wish Network the “worst charity in America.” When trust is your stock in trade, you cannot afford to be tarred with the Scarlet Letter of the Internet. And, if you are attempting to operate as a charity, bad publicity of this sort can be a death sentence … if not managed properly.

That sort of extreme crisis PR is better managed on a one-to-one basis. Not something that can really be covered in a general blog, but what we can talk about it how to avoid that path that leads you there. And, believe me, it is a path. Very few except the truly evil wake up one day and decide to defraud children of health and happiness. However, some initially well-meaning folks end up doing some desperate or ignorant or just plain stupid things in an effort to salvage what they can from an ever-increasing mess of their own making.

There are several ways to avoid either falling into this trap or being compromised from guilt by association.

First, always consider the reality of The Percentage. Most reasonable people understand that a charity will have overhead. No matter what the figure is in your case, it should fall roughly within the perimeters of known and accepted organizations similar to yours. Too far below the line and expect to receive criticism, if not outright denigration online. In the case of Kids Wish Network, CNN said the organization “less than 3 cents on the dollar” actually helping kids. The balance goes to either the charity directors or the companies they use to compel donations. That totaled more than 100 million in the past decade, a “success” on paper that might have worked before, but cannot survive the digital age.

Pick your own name. Some shady charities choose names that sound close – very close – to those of reputable charities. While this might be tempting to avoid the long, slow slog of generating name recognition, it will eventually come back to bite you. Yes, it could work short-term, but eventually, you will learn the hard way that dynamic branding works best when people are not confused by who you are and what you are doing.

Do actual work. Yes, you need to do more than survive to do your best work, but you also have to do more than promise to make a difference if you want to survive for any length of time. You must channel funds – even if they are relatively meager – into doing some sort of good work that can be used to prove your right to exist and worthiness of continued support.

Read Full Article

Bankruptcy. Debt collections. Foreclosures. These things can do serious damage to a person’s credit score. The damage can be long-lasting. But it’s not always permanent.

There are certain things you can do to repair the damage caused by a negative event, such as bankruptcy. In this article, you’ll learn the best ways to improve a credit score quickly.

7 Things That Can Ruin Your Credit

Before we go any further, we need to discuss the reasons your score might have dropped in the first place. Here’s a quick rundown of the most harmful items:

Filing for personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 or 13)
Having your home foreclosed upon
Missing payments, or making late payments, on a credit card or loan
Having an account “charged off” by a creditor or lender
Defaulting on a loan
Having a debt sent to a collection agency
Maxing out your credit card limits

Below, you’ll learn the best ways to improve a credit score after any of these negative events. The damage done by these things will vary, depending on several factors. For example, a single late payment on a credit account could lower your FICO score anywhere from 50 to 100 points. So it’s hard to assign exact numbers to these events. Just know that the steps outlined below have the potential to restore your credit quickly.

The Best Ways to Improve Your Score

No matter how bad your credit is right now, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t say exactly how long it will take you to rebuild your credit rating — nobody can. There are too many variables for such a prediction. But I can tell you the even that most significant damage can be ameliorated over time. I have personally seen someone go from a 550 FICO score to a 720 in just over a year’s time. Below, we will discuss some of the steps she took to improve her credit rating so quickly.

Let’s take a look at the five primary factors that influence your FICO score. We also need to talk about the relative strength they have, in terms of helping or harming your credit.

This chart shows five categories of information that can affect your FICO credit score. But I want to direct your attention to two of the categories in particular. You’ll notice that the dark-blue and red slices of the pie, when combined, account for 65% of your score. You’ll also notice that the next-largest slice (yellow) is determined by the length of your credit history, which is something you can’t really control.

What does all of this mean? It means that if you want to see quick results, you should focus your energy on the blue and red sections. Those are the best ways to improve your credit score quickly. So let’s talk more about those two areas:

1. Bill Payments — Steady as She Goes!

Your payment history can make or break your score, all on its own. Earlier I mentioned that a single late payment of 90 days could lower your FICO rating by more than 100 points. That’s a significant amount of damage for a single negative event. That’s why it’s critical that you make all of your payments on time.

In this context, I am primarily referring to the types of accounts that show up on your credit reports. These include retail charge cards, car loans, credit cards and the like. If you haven’t done so already, you should get copies of your reports. is the official website for this purpose.

2. Amounts Owed — Pay Down Those Balances!

I know, it’s often easier said than done. But if you can pay down your credit card balances (or any other form of revolving debt that you have), you’ll be able to improve your score more quickly. It’s okay to have balances on one or more cards. In fact, this can help you improve your score over time. But the key is to maintain low balances, relative to the card’s limit.

This is referred to as your utilization ratio. A higher ratio will result in a lower FICO score. Create a payment plan that allows you to reduce your balances over time. It’s one of the best ways to improve your credit score quickly.

These are certainly not the only things that affect your rating. But they are two of the most important factors. You can clearly see this when you look at the pie chart presented above. Remember, this strategy is intended to help you rebuild your score as fast as possible.

If you want to see some significant changes in months, as opposed to years, you need to start with the “Big 2″ items described above. There is no getting around this. Stay on top of your bills — don’t let a single bill become delinquent. And do whatever you can to reduce the balances on your existing credit accounts.

I’d like to move on to talk about another strategy you can use to boost your credit rating. It actually piggybacks on the “payment history” concept mentioned earlier.
How Long Does it Take?

No one can tell you how long it will take to improve your credit score. If somebody claims to know this information, they are probably trying to sell you something. Even the people who developed the FICO scoring model admit that it’s impossible to make such predictions. Earlier, I said I knew someone who boosted her score from 550 to 720 in just over a year. This is true. But her situation may be much different from yours.

Here’s one thing we know: It generally takes longer to recover from a history of negative events, as opposed to an isolated event. If I have a bankruptcy filing on my credit record, but it’s the only negative entry on my reports, I’ll probably recover much faster than somebody with a dozen negative entries.

The speed with which you implement these strategies will also play a role. For instance, consider the reduction of credit card balances we talked about earlier. You’ll probably be able to rebuild your credit rating faster if you reduce your balances quickly, as opposed to “chipping away” at them over a period of months. In the latter scenario, you are improving your credit-utilization ratio much more slowly. So the results will also be more gradual in nature.

When you consider how long things can stay on your credit reports, you might be discouraged:

“Why should I even try to rebuild my credit history, if a single late payment can stay on my report for up to seven years? What’s the point? Can I make any improvements in the meantime?”

Yes, a negative entry can stay on your report for a long time. But you can actually boost your FICO score even while those negative items remain. They tend to have less impact over time. So it’s certainly worth the effort. Start with the strategies listed above — it’s the best way to improve your credit quickly.

In all honesty, it might take several years to fully recover from a catastrophic event such as bankruptcy. But you can still benefit from the incremental improvements you’ll make along the way. For instance, if you can boost your score by 50 points or so in the short term, you’ll qualify for better interest rates on loans, credit cards, etc. And the sooner you start your campaign to rebuild your credit, the sooner you’ll reach the finish line — regardless of how far away it might seem.

Important Notes: Every financial situation is different. The tips offered in this article applies to most credit situations. But there are exceptions to every rule. This information has been provided for educational purposes and should not be viewed as financial advice. I strongly encourage you to continue your research beyond this article.

Read Full Article

In the John Cusack movie “High Fidelity,” a business owner works through some angst about where he is in life. At one point in the movie he realizes one of his key problems is Bad Decisions. He can’t seem to stop doing stupid things. In one epic line, he turns to the camera and talks to the audience. He says:

“Well, I’ve been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I’ve come to the conclusion that my guts have s##t for brains.”

The quote, which originally comes from the book by Nick Hornby on which the movie is based, accurately describes epiphany moments. Far too many managers experience this well after they can stop the runaway train of chaos their “intuition” created. I’m not saying going by your instincts is always bad. But, statistically speaking, John and Nick are correct—trusting your gut can be a very bad business strategy.

You have an idea. Well, not really an idea, precisely, but the seed of an idea that gets you all excited. Okay so far, but circumstances can go bad quickly.

Many times the excitement generated by that “great idea” tempts you to just jump out and get started with no real plan, no budget and no concrete idea where you are really headed. It might sound romantic or adventurous, but, in business, there is no greater prescription for failure.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “I’ll just get it going and deal with any issues as they come up.”

Yeah, that’s a terrible idea. First, you have no idea what problems may actually “come up.” Second, you don’t know which problems you will create yourself or bring with you, simply because you have no real idea what you are doing or what you will need to do next. That’s like planning a scuba diving trip and packing your mask and fins … but not bothering to decide where you are going. You can’t just get out in the boat and then decide how deep you want to dive or, worse, just jump in the water without any idea what might be down there.

Ever hear this one: “forget the obstacles, full speed ahead.” As far as business acumen goes, that ranks right up there with “hey, y’all, hold my beer and watch this!” Nothing good comes of a “ramming speed” approach to business management. If you haven’t considered how your idea will impact your other projects or the work of those you depend on in your business, then you are forging ahead with a serious handicap. And it will come back to bite you.

Finally … for those who choose to ignore this advice … when you find yourself in a mess of your own making, it can be tempting to “turtle up”, to hide or try to find someone else to blame. That’s stupid … and cowardly. It does nothing to help the problem and burns bridges to people and resources you probably need to extricate your idiot self. You can’t escape from quicksand by shooting the guy holding the rope.

Read Full Article

I’m So Zen About Zen To Done

I think I’ve tried all the productivity systems out there, including 7 Habits and Getting Things Done. I’ve used all the planner systems there are (and shudder at the money that I’ve spent on them!). Oh, it all worked for awhile. The funny thing about a alot of these systems is, you end up spending too much time working your time management “system” and not enough time getting anything done. Or, the organizational planner is so complicated, you spend too much time trying to find anything and/or it’s HUGE (too thick).

Leo Babauta, with his Zen To Done productivity system, brought real order to my chaos management system. LOL Now, I can find things, on my desk, in my files and in my planner, which is also my Household Notebook, or Control Journal.

Discipline? Motivation? You still have to supply that yourself. Not to worry. Leo also writes about motivation, simplicity, goal setting and more at his blog, Zen Habits

Let me tell you more about this book!

The best line ever:

This book was written for those who want to get their lives organized and actually execute the things on their to-do list.

What Is Zen To Done & Why Do I Need It?

If you find yourself constantly missing appointments, your email box stuffed, working too many projects with not enough time to enjoy life ~ it may be worth your while to take a look at what this book has to offer.

It’s more than just a productivity system, in my opinion. It makes you stop and look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

From email to goals to projects to setting time aside for yourself, ZTD (Zen To Done) focuses on simplifying what you’re going to do – down to the essentials.

With that comes the best part, the ten habits that are the core of ZTD. These habits are presented one at a time and explained in detail with plenty of suggestions.

Is it required that you do all ten? No, just recommended.

Do you have to implement them all at once? No, just the opposite, actually! It takes time to form a habit and that’s the most important piece to the success in using ZTD. Establish One Habit At A Time. Cool…

Zen To Done: The 10 Habits

Here are the ZTD 10 habits intended to help you get organized, simplify your life, get things under control and actually get things done. You’re supposed to learn and practice each habit one at a time or 2-3 at a time at the most for your own best results. You don’t even have to learn/do them in order either, but Leo explains all that in the book. There’s also a GREAT chapter on Forming/Changing Habits.

If you think this list is all you need to accomplish Zen To Done, then you’re going to miss the whole point. The information in the book is priceless to getting everything together under this system. There is a whole chapter devoted to each of these habits.

  1. Collect. Get it out of your head and onto paper, so you don’t forget it.
  2. Process. Make quick decisions on things in your inbox, do not put them off.
  3. Plan. Set Most Important Tasks for the week & for the day.
  4. Do. Do one task at a time, without distractions.
  5. Simple, Trusted System. Keep Simple Lists & Check Them Daily.
  6. Organize. A Place For Everything.
  7. Review. Review Your System & Goals Weekly.
  8. Simplify. Reduce your goals and tasks to essentials.
  9. Routine. Set Up And Keep Routines.
  10. Find Your Passion. Seek Work For Which You’re Passionate.

Why Buy Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System

Of course, the Zen To Done series is still available for free on his blog, so that option is still available. So why would you buy the book? A number of reasons:

  1. It’s handy. All the articles are gathered in one easy-to-read book, making it easy to take it along with you. Much more convenient than a bunch of scattered blog posts.
  2. There’s more material. Leo says the series of Zen To Done posts was incomplete because he didn’t have the time to write all the posts he had planned. So when he set out to write his book, he decided that he wanted to include everything that he had planned and more, from the 10th step (not available as a post on his blog) to an FAQ to a practical application of ZTD in his everyday life to resources to forms and more.
  3. Forms. There are some samples of how you could set up ZTD with some simple forms. Of course, ZTD is flexible and you don’t have to use these forms.
  4. Resources. Links to articles and tools are available in the book.
  5. FAQ. A number of readers had questions/comments about ZTD that are answered in the book.
  6. Snazzy new look. The book is much nicer looking than the blog and is easier on the eyes. It was designed by James Wondrack.
Read Full Article

Every investor will want to know how you, as an entrepreneur, plan to turn their investments into a profit. This makes writing the financial sections of your business plan absolutely critical.

As a new entrepreneur, if you are courting investors you will soon find that they all want to see details about how you are going to keep your numbers in the black. Even if you are not looking for investors, you need a clear blueprint for your business. The financial section of your business plan is not strictly an accounting report; a lot of it has to do with projections and estimates based on your research. Six key elements should be part of your business plan’s financial section.

Projected Sales

Create a spreadsheet that breaks your estimated sales on a monthly basis for at least the first year. You also should do projections for your second and third years in business as well to show that your business has growth potential. For projections after the first year, you can break the total sales down into monthly or quarterly figures. It may seem impossible to project your businesses’ sales, but that is where the research comes in. Research past results for other businesses like yours and make your best educated estimations.

Expenses and Budgeting

Tally up how much it is going to cost to meet your projected sales quota. Include fixed costs such as lease space and payroll as well as variable costs such as supplies, i.e. the more you sell, the more supplies you will need. Not all of this information will be set in stone, but the rise of sales and supplies should work out in proportion to each other. You will have to estimate certain things like taxes and interest. Your key objective is to present a workable financial plan for sustaining your business’s growth.

Cash Flow

The tricky part of determining cash flow is that you also have to figure in accounts payable and receivable. For example, if you invoice customers, you cannot always assume that you will collect 100% of those invoices within 30 days. Use business planning software or pick reasonable percentage of the number you think will collect on time. You also have to account for invoices that you have to pay to vendors, so you will have to factor those in based on the vendor’s payment terms. Match this up with your projected sales and budgeted expenses to be certain that you have a positive cash flow every month.

Income Projections

This is a basic profit and loss statement projected over a three-year period. This is where you bring all the previous figures together to show how much money you expect to make. A very simple formula is to take your gross profits, subtract your expenses including projected variables like interest and taxes and come up with your net profit. You need to show monthly figures for at least the first year, and ideally for the second and third years, but you can also do quarterly projections for years two and three.

The Balance Sheet

There is where you deal with things like assets and liabilities. Assets are inventory that is paid for, equipment and property. Liabilities are things that you own money on, such as a lease, past due bills or loans. Another important thing to add in to your balance sheet is depreciation. Computers and equipment lose value over time and become less of an asset. Speak with your accountant to figure out what items you have will depreciate over time and he or she will be able to give you a good estimate of how to factor that into your balance sheet.

The Break-Even Point / Exit Strategy

Assuming that things do not go as planned, you need to go back to your income projections and figure out much you need to make in gross profit to pay your expenses. While the goal is obviously to stay profitable, investors will want to know that you will recognize when the business is no longer viable. Knowing at what point you are just barely getting by, will help you plan an exit strategy. Investors will want reassurance that if sales do not go as forecasted, you will be able to close down the business without incurring major losses.

While this may seem like a lot of work for just one part of your multi-part business plan, it is the most important part of your business plan. Investors like to see realistic numbers, and preferably graphics like charts and spreadsheets. Later on, as your business matures, you can also use this information as a benchmark for how well you are doing. The business plan is not just your starting point; it is also a reference point for how you measure your business’s success.

Read Full Article

When it is time for you to choose one of the many corporate speakers your speakers’ agency presents to you, there is one simple question you should ask. How will the corporate speaker change the thinking of the people in the audience?

Remember that the audience can consist of a variety of groups. It could be the employees in a company, it could be an association with members working in a particular industry, or it could be simply the members of a particular department within your corporation or company. But the key is finding a speaker who will know exactly to whom they are speaking. The presentation depends a great deal on who is listening. So when you choose a speaker, having someone from outside the group is usually the best one to convey your message. Of course knowing what your message is can seriously improve your chances of finding the right speaker.

Just what is it you want to achieve?

Once you know the answer to that first question you’re well on the way to selecting the ideal corporate speaker. Knowing the message you want to get across, you then need to think what medium you will choose to do that. It could be using social media or it could be in a booklet or brochure which you produce. Or, as is the case in this situation about corporate speakers, it could be as a result of a meeting at which a prominent and well selected speaker puts across your message.

Lets face it; one of the best ways of inspiring and educating humans is by another human. When a group of people are looking at a film or reading a document, they don’t get the same message, they don’t have the same form of inspiration which comes from a fellow human being. That’s where the choice of a speaker is so important.

The speaker leaves but the message lingers

He or she will almost invariably be a guest at your function. They will arrive on the day of the event, deliver their presentation and then leave. But the best corporate speakers are the ones who leave behind those intangible yet highly valuable benefits.

The best way to get people to take action, to react to something is to have them be part of an activity where a speaker delivers an inspirational address. This is where your choice of speaker is so important. Of course they need to know the message you want to convey and the type of people who make up the audience, but they also need to inspire the listening audience. Work with a professional speakers’ agency and use their expertise to solve your problem.

Read Full Article

Most people do not plan to fail, they just fail to plan. Written goals will give you a blueprint or a road map of where you are to where you want to go.

Several years ago a  class at the Harvard Business school was surveyed at the time of graduation. The survey indicated that only ten percent of the class had written goals. Ten years later another survey was conducted from the same class and the results were amazing.

The ten percent that had written goals outearned the other 90 percent. You can get to any destination as long as you have a roadmap of how to get there. You would not go on a trip in your car to someplace new without a roadmap or a GPS for today’s version of road maps.

Proper training of the products and services that you will be offering will also be critical to your success as well. It may be that you will need to work on yourself and change some of your self-talk. Most people do not even realize they have self-talk, much less do anything about it.

The subject was two words that will ensure your success. Once you set your goals, develop yourself, become educated on your products and services and become a product of the product all is left is Don’t quit.

Most people will quit just at the time when they are going to have success. You must remember that in business, you will have more failures than successes. Or to put in terms of winning and losing, you will have a losing record.

I have listened to a lot of business people who have been very successful at what they do. Most everyone has mentioned that they have not really done anything different or special, they have just failed more times than anyone else.

Most professional athletes have failed more times than they have succeeded. A baseball player will strike out more times than they will hit a home run. A golfer will lose more golf tournaments than they win.

Do they quit?  No they do not. Why do people start a business and quit. They are not prepared for the rejection and in some cases they quit because of the fear of rejection. I would recommend that you put all fears aside and simply put yourself into your business and do not look back.

If all of the famous inventors had quit after a few tries, our life today would not be as enjoyable. Thomas Edison failed almost 1,000 times. Henry Ford was made fun of for inventing the automobile.  These guys turned out fine didn’t they?

If anyone is making fun of you or ridiculing you, do you really need the advice of those people? Would you want to get financial advice from someone who is homeless. Would you seek medical help from a lawyer? No you would not, so surround yourself with like minded people.

There is a lot of information available to you. I would find someone that you can relate to. Possibly you have some similar circumstances as some of the great teachers of today have had. Most came from very humble beginnings and some were even at the point of being broke. So nothing is impossible to overcome as long as you don’t quit.

You can achieve anything you desire, so keep pushing yourself each and every day and Don’t Quit.

Read Full Article