Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Looking for Penny Stocks! Look no further!

That's right! Look NO further!  If you are like most people checking your email has turned into a steady stream of adverts that try to distract you from your original intent. In our current economic climate companies are creating fancy ads that make you want to click them. They add a few testimonials that make you wonder if it's to good to be true.  When I thought about writing this article I had a specific ad in mind. Unfortunately, I can't find it anymore.  This banner ad was for potential Forex traders. ForEx is, " is a worldwide decentralized over-the-counter financial market for the trading of currencies." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_exchange_market) If you scrolled over the faces in the ad, a full body shot would pop-up with a brief testimonial from what appears to be a satisfied customer.  These "new traders" were making a killing selling penny stocks over the internet. Without any prior experience, knowledge or understanding, you can work retail in the morning and trade on your lunch break! These types of schemes are all over the internet and people are still losing their house and home.

If you want to really learn how to trade do more than just read a wikipedia article. Don't just click on the link and follow the cracked yellow brick road! Take the time to do your homework! Here are a few places to start looking:

1) Join an investment club!
2) Set a goal for your investing. How much are you willing to lose to learn?
3) Gauge your ability to handle risk. If you don't have much to eat for dinner tonight, losing $10 worth of pennies might not be a good idea.
4) Learn how to read charts and graphs. Practice following a few stocks that you are interested in before you plunk your money down.
5) Read! It's just that simple! Read from the ones that succeeded and from the ones that failed, then succeeded!

Don't underestimate the value of a penny! That copper coin can cause some serious damage if you aren't prepared!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Are you getting your personal financial advice from Yahoo?

Some may scoff at this, but my homepage is not set to Google. It is set to Yahoo. I like all the interesting news bits that they post on the page. I like the little part about "Trending Now". I welcome the outside information. However, I have to wonder, "Who is writing their personal finance section?"

Now, don't get me wrong, all of it is not bad. I like the series they have showing how people have paid down enormous amounts of debt. What I don't like is that these people usually have gone to extremes to do so. I don't know if you have to eat "old canned food" to pay off a $1,000 credit card, but if that's what you want to do, then go for it. I mean read this quote from, Debt Busters:

I can't buy clothes, no coffee out, no eating out. To save money, I've done the normal budgeting things like buying generic brands of groceries. But I've also started wearing all black and dyeing my clothes to extend the color. I've been re-gifting, growing my hair long to avoid haircuts, stuffing two loads of laundry into one and eating a lot of old canned food I've found in my cupboard.

This woman is beyond extreme.  She's wearing all black? Has she gone emo? I guess cutting out all of life's little enjoyments would depress me as well. I really want to know what is this "old canned food" that she's talking about. Was it expired and she took a chance? Was this her way of paying penance or saying, "Hey world, I lived life in the fast lane and now I'm taking a vow of poverty." I mean, what's up with that?

This woman's actions are so harsh, I wonder what she's going to do when she allows herself to start spending again. It's kind of like the Atkins diet. Don't eat any carbs! Don't even smell them! Then that one day you decide to take one bite of Aunt Betsy's birthday cake, you think, it won't kill you.  And the next thing you know you-are-in-the-late-night-take-out line-at-Dunkin' Donuts' scarfing down Munchkins and toasted coconut doughnuts.

If you want to read the rest of that article, you will see that they are taking paying off your debt to a new level. I'm just concerned that it's really not helping people. Wearing all black and reaching for the generic bin isn't going to help you survive.  Yes, you can strip away every bit of vanity or like the other family, you can start shaking down your couch for change, but will that really give you enough to make it when you retire?

When I first started reading about personal finance, I thought this was the way to go. Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Sacrifice! But you know what, I was wrong. Yes, you should make sound decisions when it comes to spending money, but you need to find a way to make the right type of investments in your future.  Hoarding change and selling your car may sound like a great idea. But what other ways can you make more money?  How can you increase your cash flow and your net worth?

One thing these articles never suggest are real ways to invest. They list stocks, bonds, and other forms of paper investments. The site even has a calculator on it to help you.  But I don't think they are really trying to help you. They have questionnaires that are supposed to help you assess your current situation, but they all seemed geared towards purchasing mutual funds, stocks, bonds, etc. I think these articles are bad examples for people who really want to increase their net worth not just pay off some bills.  

Here are some suggestions to getting out of debt without eating expired canned food and wearing all black:
1) Track your spending on an automated site. In a  previous post I mentioned that writing what you spend on paper is useless. You will either lose the paper or forget what you spent your money on.  If you automate it you can see a budget breakdown. Some programs can show you in graph form or in percentages exactly where your money is going.  You can use an iPhone ap that has been lauded as an easy to use system.  Or if you are like me and you don't own an iPhone you can try www.outright.com. They ask you for a credit card, but you don't have to actually tell them your credit card or banking information. Just bypass that part and use the system. 

2) Once you know where your money is going, decide what is really important to you.  Why do you want to get rid of this debt? What do you plan to do after you get rid of your debt?  It's one thing to have a plan to be debt free, it's another to have a plan to be financially free. Those are two different things. I think many of us focus on the first one and then we don't have a plan for the second part.

3) Be reasonable! A vow of poverty will not get you closer to your goal.  Focus on where you want to be 6 months, 1 year, 5 years and 10 years from now.

4) As you are paying down your debt, pay yourself first! I can't tell you how this idea has helped me.  I can quickly see my money grow and I feel good knowing that I knocked away at my debt and I have something to show for it.  The first time I paid off all of my credit cards, I had nothing to really show for it. I gave everything to the invisible credit card gods.  I was relieved, but then I was like, what's next? Put something aside for yourself. You'll feel a lot better!

5) Leave some room to play! Now, if you lost your job, I wouldn't suggest spending $50 on dinner.  But I will say you need some time to enjoy life.  Eating cat food or recycling leftovers to the point that you are taking chances with your health aren't really good for you.  You want to look at this time of purging consumer debt as a growing opportunity. If you don't find ways to release your past negative habits they will appear again.

6) Learn about investing! There are all types of investments you can make. There are so many that you probably don't have time to learn them all in one year.  I believe that if you spend your time paying off your debt and learning more about money and how it works, when you are debt free you will find out how to become financially free.

Know!
Empower Yourself

Saturday, October 9, 2010

You're Only 13 Years Old!

The other day I had a great conversation with my niece. I was telling her about the recent developments in my business. I also told her to think about becoming a millionaire. She gave me the usual arguments,
"I don't want to be rich, I just want to be comfortable."

"I think it's better to give, than to receive."

"Business hurts people."

The sad thing about her comments is that she's only 13.

At 13 years old she has already internalized a lot of negative thoughts about money. I know from talking to her mom that my niece is really good at saving money. She can save half a penny if you let her. I was talking to her about how she saves her allowance and if she can do that, then she could do a lot more. She briefly interrupted me to tell me that she doesn't get an allowance.

STOP!!! Wait a minute, this young lady doesn't receive an allowance? I'm not judging, that's not a bad thing, but how is she saving money?

She just saves money from her birthday and whatever change her mom allows her to keep if she runs errands for her.  Now, I was a bit shocked that my niece has the ability to save money for over a year.  She has managed to parlay the bits and pieces that she gets from her mom and turn it into a savings account. 

Then I told her, "It sounds like you are waiting on a paycheck! You are dependent on someone else to decide when to give you some money.  Do you really need to depend on your mom in order for you to make some money?"  My niece tried to hem and haw about the fact that she has money, but at the end of the day, she doesn't really have anything. She's learning to wait. She's learning dependence on the kindness of others to give her some money. 

My niece is bright. She's won writing competitions, swim meets, cheerleading competitions, and she's even assisted in summer youth programs.  I asked her what kind of skills could she use to make some money of her own.  See, she was getting on my case because I don't watch a lot of television. I really don't have time. I told her if she stopped watching television and tutored someone for $15-$20/hour look how much more she would have within a month. Now let's say my niece watches 40 hours of television a month.  If she took 4 of those hours she could make $80 a month then she would be a lot richer and she wouldn't be waiting on her mom.  Then I told her to take half of that money and spend it like crazy.  I told her to take the other half and put it aside to place in her 401k when she turns 16! Just imagine if my niece spent the next 3 years saving a minimum of $40/month.  By the time she is 16, she would have $1,440 to deposit into her 401K!!!! Hmmm....sounds good to me! That's a great start!

If making a little change on the side is great for Malia and Sasha Obama, then I think my niece can jump right on in! Check this out Sasha and Malia Learning about Finance!

Note: I copied and pasted these images from the internet. They are not mine.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Help my business sucks!!!! Great webTV!

This is the BESTEST TV show I have seen on the web!!!!!  I can't begin to say enough about Andrew Lock.  I found his show completely by accident. I went onto iTunes and I typed in m"marketing tips". Quite a few names came up, universities, the usual fanfare.  However, the catchy looking logo that said, "Help My Business Sucks!" screamed out to me. How could I not click on that catchy icon? 

That one click has changed my life.  Andrew Lock offers one tip after another that just blows my mind.  He has links, free information and more.  Andrew started this webcast in 2008, so I'm a few years behind.  Fortunately, he hasn't deleted his earlier episodes. I have started watching from episode 1.  I keep a notebook next to me and while I learn, I jot down notes and ideas. 

One of his ideas that has me dizzy with possibilities, is his episode about business cards. In Japan, a business card is your lifeline.  Everywhere you go, people carry a "meishi".  There are books written on the right way to exchange "meishi" with others.  There is a lot of bowing and so on, but what I started to realize was that I had a stack of cards that I haven't really used. I have sent people follow-up emails, notes, etc. But what can you really say to someone that you just gave a card to, chatted with for a minute and then went on your way?

Well, Andrew offers a great idea, instead of giving out your business card, why not give the person a copy of your book, a recent article you wrote for a magazine, a CD/DVD, or anything that provides them with information.  I love this idea!!!! I thought I was doing something by adding my picture to my business cards. Once again, that's really nothing new.  When I was selling for a home parties business, they often told us to give women a pendant that said, "Happy Mothers's Day" or "Breast Cancer Awareness Month" along with your business card. The women may wear the pendant or at least remember that you were kind enough to give them something that supports a cause.  All of these different types of information allows people to remember you more for what information you have to offer, than what you are selling. 

Andrew provides links to free online image sites like http://www.sxc.hu/, offers tips on how to draw traffic to your website, and even how to get speaking gigs. The best thing about it is that most of his content is user generated.  We can ask him questions and get top notch tips for free!!!

Andrew often says that his show is better than an MBA, I agree. His tips are real and can easily be put to use. 

I wanted to add the clips to this entry, but I was unable to.  Instead look at one of the episodes underneath this blog. 

Supersized Postcards, How to Approach JV Partners, Web Graphics, A StarTrek Themed Dentist, and a BIG Marketing Lesson from The Hard Rock Cafe

Episode #19 – Supersized Postcards, How to Approach JV Partners, Web Graphics, A StarTrek Themed Dentist, and a BIG Marketing Lesson from The Hard Rock Cafe

Sunday, September 26, 2010

If the credit cards aren't the problem, then who or what is?

A recent article from Creditcards.com features Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, a money coach who was in debt to the tune of $100,000!  Khalfani-Cox metioned that she already had a will, 401(k) and other forms of security firmly in place.  However, the one thing she couldn't reign in was her spending.  She had never heard of the term delayed gratification.  Khalfani-Cox stated that one of the ways that she was able to get out of debt was by learning how to control her spending. 

She was able to get out of debt quickly by reducing some costly expenditures. She removed her children from a private school that charged $20,000 a year to a more reasonable school that was a fourth of the cost.  She was also able to use the sale land that she owned and took the $30,000 profit and put it towards her debt.  She also took any "extra" money that she received and used it to pay down her debt.

I have a few problems with this article.  One, it's coming from creditcards.com. When you go to the site, you can find out that they are designed to offer you help in choosing the best credit cards.  This would probably explain why Khalfani-Cox kept saying, "The credit cards aren't the problem. We're the problem."  That's akin to the NRA saying, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."  Khalfani-Cox may have written 7 books about personal finance, but I think she needs to think about who she offers interviews to. 

The message that Khalfani-Cox is spreading is to teach people how to balance their credit, but I think creditcards.com wants people to feel comfortable with getting more credit. I am sure with this current financial crisis many citizens are giving credit card companies the evil eye. Who wants to pay higher fees on things they purchased four years ago?  Who wants creditors calling their house and job looking for their minimum payment? No one.  Khalfani-Cox laid out some basic advice in getting out of debt quickly.  She also defended her role as an advisor:

I was doing a lot of things right. Sometimes when people know about my story, they think, "Oh my God, you were a financial professional giving people advice?" That is true, but I certainly don't want to give the impression that I was a complete basket case. I had a very healthy six-figure 401(k) because I had been saving and investing. I had created a will. I had disability protection. I had life insurance. So I had some level of cushion that I think a lot of people don't traditionally build up when they're struggling financially。(http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/110746/qa-with-lynnette-khalfani-cox


Khalfani-Cox had the basics in place. It's good to know that she had the first steps to building a solid retirement plan in place.  I think it's important to note that many people don't have these things in place. One thing that she mentioned was how she put all available funds towards her outstanding debt. I'm going to tell you two things she did wrong!

First, she put all available funds toward her outstanding debt!  I think Khalfani-Cox should have taken 30% of her profit from the sale of her land and put it towards buying another property.  She was already in debt and paying it off in three years may have been her own personal challenge.  Taking 30% off the top may not seem like a lot, but why do you want to give all of your money back to the credit card company. Pay yourself first!  She could have taken 10% and put it towards charity, 10% towards emergencies, and the remaining 10% towards investments.  She still would have paid off her debt and it may take a bit longer, but I think it's important to save something for yourself.

The second mistake was putting all "extra" money towards her debt.  She needs to follow the same principle.  By giving all of your money to the creditors you aren't taking care of yourself.  You may want to argue that she already had a 6 figure retirement plan and a 401(k) why does she need to set more aside, I'll tell you why.  Khalfani-Cox has allowed money to slip through her fingers, part of this could be due to the fact that everything happened via credit.  I think if she needs to reprogram herself and change her spending habits. In a lot of ways she went from one extreme to another. 

If you are trying to get out of debt, do it! You will feel happier, but don't forget to pay yourself first!!! You are more important than that credit card!

Know!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Give me one sec...I just have to write down my...

Goals.  Have you ever said that? I have a list of things to do, I need to write my goals. My goal is to write my goals by next week. One afternoon I was having lunch with a friend and I asked, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" My friend is about 3 years older than me, so I expected a litany of things that he may have wanted to accomplish. I know I was nearing 30 and had a list that I was constantly checking off. When he told me, "I've done everything I've always wanted to do. I was on television, I had a play produced, etc." At the time, even though my mouth wasn't on the floor, my brain was.  If you don't have goals, then you might as well die. What are you living for?  If you don't have a plan or a clear outline for what you want to accomplish in life, then just perish.  There really isn't a need for you to continue living. 

Well, I have goals. Before I turned 30 I created a list of things that I needed to accomplish and I did all of them. I am now in the process of creating my new list of things to do before I turn 35.  The list has changed somewhat but it has been a great barometer in making decisions and helping me decide my path in life. 

If you haven't written your goals, then how are you going to plan your financial freedom?  Dan Kennedy, author of No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs, states,"...the disciplined act of focusing on questions such as What do I really want?  What do I want my business to be like in three years? and writing down answers is very productive in and of itself." If you don't know where you're going, then how do you know where you're at?  Now, maybe you aren't trying to start a business, but this life that we live is akin to a business. It's my personal business. How I plan and outline my next steps can help dictate the direction of my life.

Writing down your goals paints a visual image in your brain and in your subconscious that you are working towards something.  You may think this is strange, but I have a list of goals taped up in my bathroom.  While I'm brushing my teeth I can read them and then afterwards I say them out loud. No one is there to hear me but my mind, body, and spirit.

If you want to be financially free, how are you going to get there? What steps are you taking to ensure success and a financially free retirement? 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Minding Your Business

"Many people confuse their profession with their business,” says Robert Kiyosaki. “To become financially secure people need to mind their own business.” (Kiyosaki)

When we were kids we used to always say, "mind your business" or "This is an A and B conversation, you need to 'C' your way out!" All of those phrases were clever ways of telling people to leave.  I re-read the Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki this past week.  Towards the end of the book he retells the story of why he needed to mind his own business. He wrote about a conflict that he had at work with his supervisor.  He continued to have conflict with his superior because he felt that his superior wasn't doing what he should do to advance the company.  Kiyosaki looked at himself and realized he was projecting onto his boss what he was afraid to do on his own. 

This chapter hit me with a strong blow. I immediately related his tale of woe to my own day job.  I have a deep conflict with my superiors inability to move forward on a more aggressive marketing campaign. We just returned from a long holiday and I tried to promise myself not to get emotionally involved in the operations of my E Quadrant position.  (E Quadrant= Employee Position) However, I couldn't help it. I can see the potential and it disturbs me that as a company my E Quadrant hasn't moved forward. At the end of the day, I sat down on the train and read, "mind your business".  "To become financially secure people need to mind their own business." (Kiyosaki)


What does minding your business look like?

If you are minding your business then you are actively looking for ways to expand your net worth.  You are checking your house and making sure you plug up the leaky roof. Here are some baby steps you can take towards your goal:
1. Complete your own Financial Statement
2. Set your Financial Goals
3. Set your Personal Goals
4. Create your 5 Year Plan

What does minding your business sound like?

1. How can I pay down my outstanding debt and become financially free?
2. How can I create an additional $150-$200 a month to invest or pay down outstanding debt?
3. I will delay gratification on things that I don't need and learn to plan for those that I do.
4. I am building towards becoming financially free.

What does minding your business feel like?

1. I feel confident in knowing where I am and where I am going.
2. I am financially intelligent.
3. I am focused and assured that I will reach and surpass my goals.
4. I am at peace knowing that I am not hiding from the truth, but I am embracing it and moving forward.

I have a new mantra and it's taken on a new meaning, "Mind my business." If you see me muttering, don't worry, I'm just minding my business.

Now, here are some words from a familiar face

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Are you still taking notes on the back of an envelope?

Just like most of you, I'm looking for ways to increase my net worth and decrease expenses.  I'm always scanning for ideas online. At one point in my life, I thought these gurus of ideas were onto something.  One article suggested cutting out cable, I don't have cable. Another suggested, skipping the gym. I need the gym.  I don't want to increase my health expenses because I'm crippled with disease.  This other idea really made me laugh, 'wash with cold water'. Now really, do you think your water bill is the main thing that's keeping you from financial freedom.  Some of the lists are downright extreme !  Don't give cards or gifts for birthdays?  That would be a great idea, I guess, but its 2010. When was the last time you sent a card? 

The one tip that so many "advisors" encourage us to do is to keep track of our budget. Where are we putting our money? I guess they want to tell you to cut out that morning cup of delicious fancy hot chocolate, the one with the extra sprinkles.  The question is, where is your money really going?

We are fortunate enough to have a technology as a guide to helping us find the answer. There are loads of new apps and gadgets to track your expenses. I used to carry a notebook around with me documenting every water bottle I bought or every time I bought a bag of potato chips. Those things seemed great at the time, but at the end of the month all those little scribbles in my notebook meant nothing.  I never did anything with those numbers except look at them. 

I did a search online and found some great FREE budgeting software. Some may say, get an iPod and you can do it automatically.  In the spirit of keeping costs down, I don't have an iPod.  So now, at the end of the day when I get home I gather all of my receipts and I turn on my old laptop and document my expenditures.  I can actually see where my money is going in percentages.  I can see if I'm spending more on going to the grocery store or eating out.  I can see percentages for entertainment vs building my business.  Now, instead of writing on the back of an envelope or squeezing things in a notebook, I am able to get a visual on how much I'm spending and where my money is going. 

Throw out those napkins and tiny notebooks! Do something that's environmentally conscious and convenient!
Check out these websites on how to get started:

I started with this family budget guide. If you want something that is relatively simple to use, but basic you can try this one:
Family Budget Planning Guide

I really like Outright!  It's graphic and convenient. I documented the cashflow from my business and it immediately showed me in graphic form the profit and expenditures. This program is great! You can even add your own bookkeeper as an administrator. I believe this will take the hassle out of filing taxes to some degree. 

I'm sure there are more ways to keep track of expenses, if you have any ideas please add them in the comments!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Isolation and balance- How do you manage both?


 Mitchum has launched a new marketing scheme focusing on real Americans. This series of videos captures the real-life motivations of people who are doing what they love.  The star of this video, Micki Krimmel was insightful! There were two take-aways from this video, isolation and balance. How do you manage both? 
As entrepreneurs we are constantly trying to push our ideas and our vision.  We are trying to find ways to live on our own terms while providing a service to the public.  This focus driven desire creates a form of isolation. Many of the people you talk to or encounter may not understand your drive. They may even deter you with "helpful" comments like: 
You should just work and do this part-time.  
You need more money!  
Are you qualified enough to do this? 
You really should go to business school? 
Why don't you just apply for a job with the government?

Or you get companies that prey on your desire to succeed. My inbox is filled with messages like:
M, Why The Secret doesn't work!
M, Make $30,000 a day! I'll tell you how!
Network Marketing, it's good enough for Robert Kiyosaki
Are you allowing procrastination to stop you?

The comments from well-intended friends and serious direct marketing campaigns can add a lot of doubt, but working towards your goal has to go beyond this. They always say, look at the five people you talk to the most. What are they doing? If they aren't doing anything, neither will you. To end this isolation start seeking like-minded individuals. I know for a fact that members from my Mastermind Group, Sequoia Entrepreneurs Group, and  organizers for The Tofu Chitlin' Circuit are instrumental in abating my feelings of isolation. We are all focused on our dream!

The second key message was balance. I like how Micki Krimmel has two things in her life, roller derby and  Neighbor Goods.    This made me think, what two things am I focused on? Time to re-evaluate. I think I'm going to start taking note of what I'm doing and if my actions are geared towards my end goal. What's most important to me? 

Why don't you tell me how you maintain balance and stave off feelings of isolation?


 

Monday, April 26, 2010

3 on 3





What were you doing right before you watched this clip?  Were you creating a newsletter? Organizing your business contacts?  Were you reading up on the latest strategies in management?  You weren't? Then what were you doing?

One thing that is important about building a business is action! What actions are you taking to move forward? Are you planning on organizing an event or is it planned? Are you thinking about meeting someone or is it scheduled? What actions have you taken today to move forward?

James Ray talks about action and being driven! Drive yourself towards success! Push yourself even when you're tired. It's one thing to think about doing something and it's another to do it.

Sometimes it seems like, I'm not moving forward, but it's simple things that keep me in perspective. For example, yesterday I played Cashflow and I was able to meet some interesting people. They have a knowledge base that I don't. They understand the system behind bringing new businesses in Japan. I learned a lot yesterday.  I didn't create a newsletter or write a proposal, but my mind was moving forward.This new knowledge has guided me into thinking about my business plan in a different way. I can tweak some things to add longevity. Their input framed some key ideas that  I was thinking about. Now, I can do them!

Let's move!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Quitters win more often!

Go ahead! Do something! Quit! You can do it! Just imagine a group of people chanting your name and telling you to quit! Quit! Quit! Quit! Quit! It's like a never ending chant. It's just this time, when you quit, you aren't jumping to your imminent demise, you are jumping toward freedom!

Are you surprised by that? Don't be! I was thinking about quitters the other day. I'll tell you a story. My sister is not a quitter. She learned how to play the flute well enough to play all the way through college.  She probably could have played longer if she had listened to more Bobbie Humphrey http://www.bobbihumphrey.net/home.html! However, her older sister, that's me, quit everything. I played piano for a few years, then I quit. Then I went towards the clarinet and I quit. Then I learned to play the trumpet and I quit. I also picked up the viola, which I stuck with for a while, but when it became difficult, I quit. Hmm...my college life pretty much mirrored this same pattern. I had about 5 or 6 different majors before I was cleverly guided into a program that I had enough credits for. So, I'm a quitter, but not a good one.
I quit things just because I couldn't withstand the dip. The dip is what Seth Godin refers to as "the common sinkhole that trips up so many people" (The Dip, 4). If I get to the point where it's a little like work, then I'll quit.

Starting my own business has really tested the quitter in me. Can I withstand this constant battle with web developers, sales, event marketing, etc.?  Godin has a pretty good answer for this, "The dip is where success happens"(23). If I can withstand the dip, then I'm on my way to success. Growth doesn't happen overnight, but when the going gets rough lean into the patch. If the outcome of your success is worth more than this feeling of quitting, then keep working at it. So me, the big sister, is going to listen to my younger sister and keep at it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Entrepreneurship - Manila Style

One can't help but wonder how do the people in Manila survive?

The local currency compared to the dollar is miniscule.  For example a cab ride is 50 pesos, that's about $1 US! Can you believe that? In Manila, they don't have the dollar menu, they have the 50 cents menu!!! That's wild! For 25 pesos you can get a hamburger, sundae and some other stuff. I didn't go inside, I just looked at the ad. How are they surviving? Well, in Manila the people are hungry! Literally on some levels, but I really mean this figruatively.

The people in the U.S. and Japan have grown soft. We have food on the table, we can pay our bills, late, but we can pay them.  We have allowed places like the government to take care of so many of our needs that we have forgotten what it means to fly by the seat of your pants.

I'm from Gary, Indiana. The land of U.S.X. Steel! The home of the Jackson's! When the Jackson's started, they were hungry! Joe had them singing at every talent show, festival, stoop, titty bar between Gary and California.  Well, I can see that same hunger on the streets of Manila. People have set up shops selling nuts, meat on a stick, and tons of other things. In the states, especially if you lived on the Southside of Chicago or frequented 25th Ave in Gary, you are pretty used to seeing guys sell socks, belts and incense. But have you ever seen anyone sell steering wheel covers? Nope, didn't think so! These are examples of street hustling businesses. We all may know someone who does that, but when you are here, you'll meet at least a third of the population that's doing it.

Another example of entrepreneurship is something that must happen in a lot of developing countries. You don't see it too often in the states unless you live in Brooklyn, NY.  That's the dollar van. When I lived in New York, you could catch a dollar van instead of the city bus. The van would ride by with a driver and a handler. The handler would flag you down and help you hop on board the van. I was surprised to see that type of thing going on when I lived in NY. However, it's alive and well out here in Manila. For less than 10 cents you can hop on a jeepney and go from one part of the city to another. A jeepney is a cross between an elongated jeep and a taxi. You don't have to wait for long because the vans fill up rather quickly. 

These jeepney's got me to thinking. What's stopping people from Gary or Chicago from starting their own renegade bus service?  We all know that the services is unreliable and inconsistent.  Especially in Gary, if you need to catch the city bus you can forget it. It takes about 1-2 hours for one to come by and when it does, it doesn't even try to stop.  The busses have low ridership because they aren't convenient. However, if you had a dollar van  riding through the city taking passengers to Southlake Mall, WalMart, and other parts of Munster you could be in business.

I think we have forgotten what it means to be really hungry. How do we grab even the smallest opportunity?

In order to be an entreprenuer you have to have hunger! You have to keep smelling that cooked dinner in order to survive. You have to keep thinking of ways to make a difference. More importantly, sometimes you have to leave your comfort zone to figure things out!

Let's eat!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Twiddling Your Thumbs!

Twiddle dee dee! Twiddle dee dum! Twiddling my thumbs until they're numb!

There is a trap that's blocking you from success! Just look down at those darn thumbs! It's so easy to allow  outside forces to stop you from moving forward. The other evening I had a quick catch up with a fellow entrepreneur. We spoke about our current projects and how we would like to work on integrating our ideas in the future. While I was reviewing some of the projects that I have been working on, I noticed that I hadn't completed a few items that I thought I had addressed. What have I been doing with my thumbs?

As entrepreneurs it's easy to imagine that we are working on a project, but in actuality we are fooling ourselves. It's imperative that we stomp our foot through the floor and feel every splinter, because it's time for a wake up call!

Let's look at what we are twiddling our thumbs over!

Networking Events

Are you a networking junkie? Do you  have more cards in your Rolodex than customers? Or since we are in Tokyo are you carrying a Poken and hoping to share news of your latest business venture to someone who is trying to sell to you?  If so, these are some things you need to think about:

  1. What's the purpose of this networking event?
  2. Why are you going?
  3. Will you know 50%-70% of the people there?
  4. What's your sales pitch?
  5. How many new people do you plan to meet?
  6. Set a time limit. "I will stay for two hours and leave promptly at 10PM."
Examine your intentions and make a plan before attending a "networking event," Then you will be able to ascertain whether or not you should stay. Remember, every minute that you spend chatting with other people in the same position as you, prohibits you from meeting potential customers.

Business Meetings
Having a meeting is the supreme smoke screen. You think you are doing something because you had a meeting, but what did you really do?
Every time someone asks you to join a meeting, think about a few things:

  1. What's the agenda?  
  2. What's your purpose?  
  3. What new things will you learn? 
  4. What are the next steps?
    If you attend a meeting and those questions can't be answered, feign illness, begin to cough uncontrollably, create a fake asthma attack, whatever you do, GET OUT!
    There's no sense in wasting time meeting with people who will drain your energy.


    Reading
    You read correctly, reading can be a serious time waster. If you are reading for pleasure that's fine. We all need to relax and have a laugh or two. If you are reading a book about business, then make sure it's worth it. Here are few guiding questions before you hit the library!

    1. Is the writer someone who is respected in your field?
    2. Is this book relevant to your current progress or will you need to address these concerns in the near future?
    3. Has it been said before? How many other writer's have said the same thing and used the exact same quotes?
    4. What new information did you learn after you read the first chapter?
    Don't be afraid to put a book down if it bores you or you don't see the point in continuing to read it. Don't worry if this person is supposed to be the best in the world, if you are tired of hearing the author's voice put the book down. Completing a book about business does not offer a direct correlation to future success.  Knowing when to put it down and to work on your business will!!!

    Networking, meetings, and reading can stop you from your end goal! Get focused and put those thumbs to work!

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Fluctuating!

    The other day I had a small panic attack. I felt a bit overwhelmed by trying to start a business. I still feel a scared and confused, but I met some great people the other night who are on the same path as me. I believe we can do this. I saw this video on youtube and thought I would share it with you all.



    Miss LaBelle's message goes for anyone. If you listen to her last few statements, you can hear her champion anyone to pursue their dreams. It doesn't have to be in music, technology or even in business. It can be anything. Just go after it!

    Let's do this!

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    Kiyosaki called everybody out!

    I guess Kiyosaki is tired of saying the same thing over and over again. In this video he just puts it out there! Basically, if you don't pursue your dreams, then you are a what? Hear it from Kiyosaki himself!

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Proving Due Diligence: Steps for Gaining a Patent

    You have a wonderful idea; you know it could make you millions, do you:
    1. Take out an ad in the New York Times broadcasting your new discovery.
    2. Write up a research paper and present it at the next tradeshow, university staff meeting, or Toastmasters event.
    3. Talk about it to a few friends, but never act on it.
    4. Keep your mouth shut, start researching, and keep meticulous records.
    I think the choice is obvious, but just in case you didn’t get the point. The answer is 4.  If you have a new invention and you are dying to share it to the world, don’t. You need to start working towards your invention, proving due diligence by consistently  working on your invention is what it takes to make your invention a profitable means of income for you and your family.
    Hopefully, these steps will assist you in your goal. It is imperative that you are organized and consistent.  You have two years to prove that you are moving towards your invention. That’s really not a long time when you have a myriad of outside obligations that try and stop you from attaining your goal.
    Step 1: The Journal
    Get a bound notebook. Use it as place to store all information, research, drawings and diagrams that you create of your project.  Write the date on every page of your journal. Keep track of everything you do towards the project. Are you reading books? Take notes and date it. Are you going to a fabric store? Take notes and date it. Did you go to a trade show, convention, or sales meeting? Take notes and date it. Any type of research! Take notes and date it.  Did you call someone and talk about your business? Take notes and date it.  This shows that you are consistently working on your invention daily!
    The journal is so important!!! You must do something EVERYDAY towards your project.  The only excuse that you can use for missing dates is vacation or illness. I strongly suggest saving plane tickets, toll receipts, hotel receipts, whatever you used for vacation. I’m not a tax attorney, but if you decide to take a break on vacation, think about how you can combine your vacation and your business together. If you are deathly ill and can’t continue working on your project, keep track of hospital visits. You don’t want a hanging chad on your patent application. Don’t leave any room for questions!
    Step 2: Drawings and sketches
    In order to prove that you created this design, find someone who will act as a witness to your work. The witness will not receive credit for invention. Your witness is an outside observer. This person is just a sounding board. They are a witness to your actions and your work on your project. I also suggest going to a notary, this adds more legitimacy to your claim.
    Step 3: Explain your invention
    The purpose of the patent system is to educate the public and foster innovation. Your role as the inventor is to educate. You need to write a document that fully explains how your invention works. You need to describe the design, structure and possible uses of your invention. After you write this document, get it signed and dated by a witness. The witness will not be considered an inventor.  It’s possible that you may make changes to your invention. If so, re-write your document and repeat the process. Save all papers and dates. This shows your work.
    Step 4: Find a reputable patent attorney
    While you are working on your invention, start scouting attorneys. Find someone who is compatible. Check their track record. A simple word search in your area may bring up a variety of names and organizations that can help you get a patent. Talk to someone who has experience in your area. Many of them will provide you with a free consultation. Ask as many questions as possible.
    It’s a myth!
    You may have heard about a cheaper way to get a paten is to mail it to yourself. Well, it’s a myth. If you can steam open an envelope and reseal it, then this form of “patent” becomes invalid.
    Don’t waste your time!
    You may have heard about provisional patents, something to do in a rush. Well, they are invalid once you start filing the real paperwork. Don’t waste your time!
    I am not a paten attorney. I am not an inventor. I am just interested in protecting my ideas. Please seek out your own counsel. The background research for this article was from, Protecting your #1 Asset by Michael A. Lechter, Esq. He’s an intellectual property attorney residing in Arizona. He’s also a Rich Dad Advisor from Robert Kiyosaki’s advisor series.

    Control, Control, Control

    George Cloutier, author of “Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing” (HarperBusiness, 2009) would have us believe that a swift kick in the pants is what most employees need and deserve! After two divorces he's working on his third marriage and he's put his wife on notice....the business comes first.  He's currently writing a series of turn-around stories for Business Weekly on-line. Check them out! Nothing can beat free information!

    Cloutier falls into the category of command and control! He believes micromanaging is the only way to survive! The key is not to get caught up in the language, but let's look behind the facade. Cloutiers micromanagement plan highligts a key point, "You have got to have a system in place to check on how they’re doing. If someone says, “I’m going to deliver $2 million in sales in the first six months,” you have to follow that every day. Like Ronald Reagan said, trust but verify. We actually have a button that’s says. “I’m a control freak and proud of it.” That's right folks, the system is key. Cloutier may appear to be heavy handed, and he probably is, but what he's really relying on is a system of check, check, check and check again! That's the key to his success.

    Any small business owner has to learn how to manage themselves first. They have to figure out what they need to do in order to be successful.  If you can't manage yourself, then don't even think about managing a company of any size. All profitable companies have a system. They have a method in place to maintain their quality in goods and services. 

    Cloutier's blowhard interview has revealed that in order to be a tyrant in business he's created a successful system that allows him to manage his staff and stay in control. 

    Listen to a few of Cloutier's tips!

    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    "Culture and values count too much." - Jack Welch



    Why did Jack Welch, a man who was once called, "Neutron Jack," worry about the culture and values of GE? Why did he spend the entire first half of, Jack: Straight from the Gut, discussing how he had to create a philosophy of excellence based on transparency and by asking challenging questions?  It's simple, the culture of your organization reflects your beliefs. If you believe in challenging people and encouraging them to be their best, you company will reflect that.  If you believe in command-and-control, bullying people into submission, your company will reflect that as well. So the question is, How do you change you in order to manage your business? 

    Welch outlined key ideas that  he implemented at GE in order to make it a success during is 20+ year reign as CEO. A few of the key components included, quality training at all levels of the company, encouraging open dialogue between labor and management and constantly questioning and improving upon their core values. 

    The first time a new employee learns about your company is at the interview.  The interview has to allow the potential employee to get a long-term view of the company and their role within it.  The interview has to relay the goals and core values of the company.  After the contracts are signed, the company has an obligation to nurture their new hires and indoctrinate them with your organizations core values and beliefs.

    Think about it, What catch phrases? Tracking sheets? Routines and procedures have you implemented to ensure that every employee is invested in the success of the community?  Welch did this by creating evaluation systems that reinforced their common goals.  For example, when the company embraced globalization as a mission and some members of the GE team were resistant, regardless as to their performance on the balancesheet, they were fired due to their inability to find ways to think globally. This sounds harsh, but when you turn a blind eye to a key component of your mission, the others will see it and then standards begin to slide. 

    A similar thing happened to Nick Sarillo, owner of Nick's Pizza & Pub.  In Inc. Magazines, February 1st issue, Bo Burlingham makes a slight incision into the core values of Nick's Pizza & Pub.  Sarillo hired a General Manager that was a friend, but bullied the staff and didn't follow the systems that were already in place.  He started to notice that the numbers didn't gel, the staff was unhappy, and the core values that he espoused weren't being honored. Sarillo's decision wasn't easy, but it had to be done. He had to remove the bad tomato.  In order to reinforce his core values, he had to hold steady to his standards.

    Maintaining a culture of trust, hard-work mixed with high standards is an ongoing process. There has to be buy-in on all levels.  Learning how to express your vision and maintain a company culture begins with you.

    Friday, January 22, 2010

    Gurus and mentors aren't hiding under a bush!

    Meeting someone who knows what steps to take in starting a business may be a bit tricky to navigate.  Fortunately, there is help! Meet Terrie Lloyd, creator of over 14 businesses, owner of Metropolis, Japan's No 1 English Magazine, and guru. Terrie's goal is to  change Japan from the outside in. He believes that the value of the foreign perspective can change Japan for the better.  This isn't a plan of world domination, Terrie's sees the possibilities of developing a successful business in Japan.  He understands that some Japanese companies can't accept change unless it comes from outside the box. By virtue of the fact that you are a foreigner you are outside that box.

    In October 2009, a friend and I went to Terrie Lloyd's seminar, Building a Business in Japan.  I went to the meeting with a vague plan, some ideas, and a strong desire to make a change.  To be honest, when it comes right down to it, I was a blank slate. My friend on the other hand had already tasted success during the dotcom years and was looking for a way to get back into the game, this time in a different time zone.  He's already making moves at his own business www.taputaputech.com! Check it out!  Anyway, back to Terrie!

    Building a Business in Japan was for the beginner and the intermediate. This seminar was full of valuable tips on perspective, organization and motivation.  For the more advanced players in this field, Terrie could probably field questions on a variety of hurdles that may stand in your way. His talk was fueled with anecdotes from other entrepreneurs in Japan. He interlaced their tales of success and failures with his own making this more of a firsthand account of where to start in business.  Terrie was straightforward and direct about his views on working with Japanese companies, people, and media. 

    If you have checked out the recent editions of Metropolis you may have noticed and ad for his upcoming seminar, Entrepreneur's Handbook SeminarTerrie isn't offering me any kickbacks in mentioning this, but I thought I'd do what I've been telling a few friends to do, GO! But first a disclaimer, Terrie may not be the person who is your mentor, but he's a good start. As someone who has sent him a few emails about my own beginnings, and they may be mundane, he has always responded respectfully.

    The Proof is in the Pudding:
    Terrie's longevity in Japan has been revealed to me in ways that I never expected. Remember my friend with the technology company?  Well, after going to the seminar he met a friend who contacted Terrie about a job. Terrie didn't know this guy, he was living in Yamaguchi and had never been to Tokyo, but was looking to make a change. Do you know Terrie helped him?  He didn't get him a job, but he gave him valuable information and steps to take.

    Chance Encounter:
    I know an Indian family who has been here for over 15 years.  They invited me to dinner over the holidays. While we were talking I mentioned Terrie's name, do you know the husband was interviewed by Terrie? He  said, Terrie helped him move to Japan when the internet was young, over 15 years ago. Now this man didn't know why I went to a Terrie Lloyd seminar, he had nothing to gain from making that connection, but he did have positive things to say.  Random conversations and the invaluable information that I learned at his seminar are keeping me stay on the grind. Success is possible, just take a step!

    Register now for your ticket at Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar!

    Know!

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    What's in your wallet?

    First, do you have a wallet?  A friend told me that in Japan there's a tradition of buying a new wallet at the beginning of the year. At first I laughed at this notion and thought, "Marketing!"  After careful reflection I started to see how this makes sense. Many people are making promises to themselves to get out of debt for a variety of reasons. Some want to have a zero balance on their credit card, others want to go on vacation, some just want to be able to afford something nice without buyer's remorse.  Whatever the reason, starting with a brand new wallet can be the beginning of a wonderful relationship.  Yes, I'm encouraging financial planning with buying a new wallet.

    So back to the beginning, do you have a wallet?  If so, open it. What do you see? Crumpled receipts? A folded bill? Dust mites?You may wonder what does your wallet have to do with your finances.  It's simple, if it's disorganized, then maybe your financial house might be disorganized as well. Your wallet may be your first indication that there is a problem.  Before you start a business, you have to get your financial house in order:


    1. Look for a wallet that helps you hold all your business cards, credit cards and point cards (for my Japan people) in separate compartments.

    Once you organize your cards you can start to decide what should you keep? You'll be able to see where you shop? And you'll know often you use certain cards. For instance, I went through my wallet and noticed I was a point card junkie. I had point cards for everywhere! The thing is, I actually don't shop that often at the same places.  The one store I love shopping at doesn't offer a point card and when I shop it's because everything is 3 for sen yen/ten dollars.  So, out with all the extra point cards. I only need the important ones Tower Records, because I like magazines and occasionally I'll buy one. Vie de France because I think that bakery has the best raspberry, cheese strudel. Blue Parrot and Book Off, two places where the points come in handy!  One thing about the Book Off card, it can cover more than one place. You can use it at coffee shops, convenience stores and other places. Consolidate!  Now my wallet is trimmed!

    2. Take out your credit cards!
    In step one I told you to look for a wallet that can hold your credit cards. That doesn't mean you have to carry them.  Take out your credit cards and leave them at home. You'll be thankful for it later. A lot of times if you are going out to dinner and you have a card, it could be used as a backup or a get out of jail free card. However, that $50 dinner will cost you so much more with 6-13% interest tagged on it six months later.  If you leave your card at home, the initial rush to purchase may fade. Now, if you are still pacing in your apartment 2 months later bemoaning the fact that you didn't buy that washing machine/dryer combo, then maybe you actually needed it

    3. Look at your bills and change.
    Are your bills crumpled and folded up? Are they all facing the same direction? Do you know which part of your wallet has the bills in it? In Young, Fabulous & Broke, Suze Orman talks about respecting money.  If you don't respect it, it won't respect you.



    4. Keep your receipts!!!!
    If you are trying to maintain an organized wallet, why would you keep your receipts?  Because when you go home you're going to write down what you did and what you spent. It may take a while, but you'll start to notice how much you spent on bills, entertainment, and extras.  Extras can be anything from a candy bar to a t-shirt that you really didn't need.


    Organize your wallet so it matches your financial intelligence!

    Know!

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Creating Company Culture First

    I just completed The EMyth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber. He outlines the reasons why businesses don't succeed and tells you how to change that for your small business.  The main downfall of most small business is that the owner manages it alone.  The owner never learns how to create a system so they don't have to be at the business the entire time.  The section on creating a process is entitled, Prototyping the Position: Replacing Yourself with a System.(p.179)  This is the key to any successful business. Who wants to wake up one morning and realize that you can't take a vacation because if you do, the entire business will collapse?
    I sure don't!

    My whole goal in creating my business is to replace myself as soon as possible. This is a huge battle because it involves trust. We have to trust our system and relinquish our egos. I think many of us are tied to the idea of, "If I want it done right, I have to do it myself."  Well, that statement is laden with work, stress and no vacations!  In creating a business we have to latch on to humility and trust. Humility will allow us to listen to ourselves, clients and employees. Trust will allow you to build on those relationships and develop a system that will enable you to know that the work will be done with or without you.  Preferably without you!

    In a recent interview Tony Hsieh of Zappos.inc talked about creating a culture of trust at Zappos. How does he do this? Well, he wants to know, "How weird are you?"  This offbeat question actually gets to the heart of Zappos. They want innovative thinkers! They want risk takers! Read more at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/business/10corner.html

    Stay in the Know!