Business Problems: Dealing With Serious Issues

business problems - waiting for the crashI had a rough winter.  One that was only two years after my last rough winter.  And it has not gotten much better since.  Sure, we are getting by, but do not have enough business to get ahead.  We are still much better off than others in our same situation.  I am speaking of my consulting business.  By March/April, I have always been very busy, not this year.  Should I lay down and die, just be depressed, or is there another option?  There must be good ways to deal with business problems.

It is easy to do.  Wallow in self pity.  Be depressed about your situation.  But it is certainly not constructive.  Spending your time worrying about what is going to happen will not do anybody any good.  Instead, problem solve your situation.

So how do you problem solve your situation?

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Could Global Climate Change Actually Be A Hoax?

Global Climate Change - The SunWe now live in a world of facts and alternative facts.  Just to make it clear, facts are true and non-facts are not true.  True and false.  Black and white.  Could facts turn out to be non-facts?  Sure, it is possible, but scientific truths, i.e. facts, are usually measured, tallied, counted, concrete, and iron.  They are the things we know, for a fact, are true.  Things like global climate change.

A hypothesis, on the other hand, is a strong theory based on the facts that is likely.  There may or may not be a way to prove it absolutely true, but the facts point to it being true.  A scientific hypothesis is often backed up by other scientists, published in a journal, argued, debated, and open for discussion.

Why would I write about global climate change, being a business writer?  Because as business people, we often have to make tough decisions based on the facts.  If there can be two sets of facts, well then, how do you make good decisions?

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Get What You Want By Altering Your Thoughts

Jeff in thought

It is an interesting twist on reality.  Some believe that you create your world with the things you think and believe.  That you can bring wealth by believing you are a wealthy person.  That you can get your dream house by believing you already possess it.  I am here to tell you that it is true.  But how is that possible?

Some would say that the universe bends to your thoughts.  I am a little more pragmatic than that.  I believe magic exists in reality.  Not that magic is real, but sometimes reality can look magical, and sometimes it can be interpreted as magic.  Or perhaps as the universe giving you what you really want.

I do not see this as religion.  I just believe that your thought life can have a real impact on your real life.  That the things you think show up on your face.  That the way you deal with problems is impacted by the negative outcomes you think about.  Having a positive attitude in your thoughts shows outwardly to other people, and makes you more attractive.  People help people they like more than people they do not.  It could just be little things like making an introduction, or it could be bigger things like offering you your dream job.

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Do You Think With Emotions Or Logic?

Sometimes I want to do what is best for the customer at all costs. That objective sometimes creates an emotional trap when considering price increases, service changes, or product discontinuations. Yes it is a good and noble objective, but you really can’t always do what’s best for the customer in all cases. I mean, you can’t sell your best product for nothing for instance. You may not be able to provide 24 hour customer service. You may not be able to be the best or fly across country at a moments notice. There is some limitation to what you can do for your customer.

The same could be said of any of the truths you hold to be self-evident. Are all men really created equal? Do we all have the same access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Is lying always wrong? Do we owe our shareholders more than our community, or vise versa? Must we lay off employees when times get tough, or not lay off employees at any cost?

Rather than answering these questions, I would like you to know that some choices are very tough and take careful consideration. Some choices that look easy may have unforeseen consequences. If possible, you really need to take a step back and consider all the ins and outs of a problem before you do something about it. And that means initially setting aside you long held beliefs and come from a position of logic rather than emotion.

Is this yet another long, boring discussion about ethics? Well, no. People are emotional about all sorts of things. It is usually because you paint yourself into a corner about something and have no options when you encounter a problem that doesn’t fit. Try this on for size: “I will never…” or “I will always…”; these can be problems because what if you must or must not? What kinds of things do you use these phrases with? “I will never leave the house without an umbrella.” What if you left your umbrella at work? Silly, eh? Well people paint themselves into corners with these kinds of things all the time.

While having absolutes makes things difficult, there is one absolute. You must always follow the law. Think you must break the law? Consult with an attorney. Don’t know the law? Learn it. It is said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. You can go to jail for decades for ignorance. Do you have a good excuse for breaking the law? Again, pass it by a knowledgeable attorney before you do anything. He is likely to tell you the consequences.

How about you? Do you recall having an emotional response about a question somebody asked you? Or a problem you were working on? Or just responding to something somebody else said?

Originally published 8/8/2011 on businessfizz

Do You Want To See The Stars?

800px-Elgin_Observatory-300x225The picture to the left is the Elgin National Watch Factory Observatory, a picture from 1994.  I remember going to the observatory while my kids were still small and seeing the stars from inside the building, projected on the ceiling.  It was like being in a cloudless, lightless evening staring at the sky.  It was a cool experience I wish I could share with you, although I believe you can visit the observatory yourself today.  It is at 312 Watch Street in Elgin, Illinois.

Now if seeing the stars within the Elgin Observatory is not good enough for you, there are many places throughout the country where you can look at the stars without having city lights dim them.  Or maybe your goal is to see the stars from outer space.  That dream is possible through much training and sacrifice, but is a much bigger dream.

I say all of this because I really want you to seriously consider going for your big dream.  Especially if you are in high school and dream of a college degree.  You can accomplish this goal, and you can accomplish this at the college of your choice.  Probably the bigger question is what do you want to do with your life?  I am sure that the college education is not your ultimate goal, but a stepping stone along the way.  Would you like to be a policeman or fireman?  Would you like to be an actor or musician?  Would you like to be a talk show host, news anchor, or sports announcer?  All of these dreams are very possible, you just have to pursue excellence in your chosen profession; you have to be the best at what you do.  And you can be… if you really want your dream to become reality, you will try your best to be the best.

Parents, please support your young dreamers with their dreams of choice.  The scary thing is that they just might make it.  They just might be excellent at what they do and raise the next generation to new heights.  It is worth the risk you have to take to get them there.

My dream is not nearly as glamorous as my childrens’ dreams.  I have three children and one is an excellent salesman, one is a promising actor, and one is a promising musician.  My son Jeffery graduates from AMDA in Hollywood next month and has already been an extra for Glee and CSI.  My daughter Chelsey heads to Belmont University this fall and is hoping to be a songwriter and musician.  Big tough dreams.  But I have to tell you that falling short of a big dream is much better than falling short of a small one.  Maybe they will or maybe they will not get their ultimate dream, or maybe it will be even better than they hoped.

I have always felt that I have exceeded my expectations for myself.  But what if I had gone for a larger dream?  Where would I be today?  I am not saying that I regret the path my life has taken, I do not.  But it is always curious to think about what might have been.

Originally posted 6/23/2011 on businessfizz.com

What My MBA Was Good For

1935861_106167854139_4614695_n-300x225Yes, I have my MBA.  I was awarded my Masters in Business Administration, Technology Management in 2009 from the University of Phoenix.  Yes, we have a big football stadium and are undefeated.

My MBA proves once and for all that I actually can get straight A’s.  I had 13 classes for my MBA, tested out of 2 others, and got all A’s for my MBA.  I proved that I could get my bachelors (2005) followed by my MBA… so that my children know that if their nutty dad can do it, they obviously can too.

My MBA game me a foundation for project management.  My MBA taught me the legal ins and outs of various business issues.  My MBA taught me about business ethics… which, by the way, can vary from culture to culture.  My MBA taught me how to research and apply critical thinking.

None of which moves me forward in my career all by itself.  It still takes applied experience before it is really useful.  A little luck, a little creativity.

However, my consulting business would not be where it is without my MBA.  My MBA also taught me to take on challenges, and I have.  Some people are afraid to take on something beyond themselves, beyond their current knowledge, but I have learned to always expand on my knowledge base.  Take on just a little more than I am comfortable with.

What has your MBA taught you?

Will The End Of The World Hurt Your Business?

I love bizarre headlines as you can see.  So many people are predicting the end of the world now, I thought I’d take a look at the impact to your business of reading these things, believing these things, and what this information means to you.  It is entertaining to consider the end of the world, so see if the information below makes sense:

Can The World Really End?

The answer is yes.  The world can really end.  The world really will end.  But when?  That is the real question.  The most likely possibility is that the world will not end any time soon.  Now I believe in the Bible and many people interpret the Bible as saying the world will end within the lifetimes of those who see Israel reformed, and it has reformed in our lifetime.  So could we see the rapture and torment on the Earth?  Sure, it’s possible.  If you need to get your house in order then do so, but you cannot depend on these events to happen this year, next, or next decade.  If you do, you will lose out, I guarantee it.

Things usually happen in God’s way and in God’s time.  I mean, who could have believed that the Middle East would become civil war with their people seeking Democracy?  This could really be a game changer for the world, for the positive.  This could seriously delay all of the bad things predicted…

Information On The Internet Is Crap

Being an internet junky myself, I have read about Planet X, the Mayan Prophesies, Pole Reversal, and many other doom and gloom scenarios.  It’s all crap people.  Bad information that people sell to you to make a buck, further their own interests, or simply because they are friggin nuts.  Anybody can write anything on the internet and people will read it, and some will believe it.  There is no proof of anything, proof is not required.  So this information is bad information and should not be trusted.

What Can You Do About It?

If the worst case scenario happened, whatever it is, what can you do about it?  If there is nothing productive that can be done, you have an obligation to go to work, build your business, volunteer, or whatever you do on a daily basis to be productive.  I am certainly not going to stock pile shotguns and canned goods when I can spend that money more productively in other ways.  If the worst case scenario happens, it won’t matter anyway, nothing will help.

Now for those things you can do that will help, I think that’s fine.  For instance, if a fire could destroy your computer you owe it to yourself to have off-site backups.  If you’re worried about water getting into your basement, have a good sump pump.  If you’re worried about bad storms, make sure to have insurance.  These kinds of things are only common sense.

People Have Set Dates For The Past Two Millenium

There have been many, many people who predicted the end of the world or Christ’s return for the past two thousand years, and guess what?  They’ve all been wrong.  Although still possible, the most likely scenario is that the people who are setting dates today are also wrong.  Regardless of what happens, it is still in your benefit to have a 5 year plan and work to make it a reality.  Many bad things have derailed people with 5 year plans, not just the end of the world, but people pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and try again.

I still do dangerous things.  I drive to work.  I fly from place to place.  I cross the street.  My world could end any moment from an accident or illness, but you have to live your life like it couldn’t happen.  That’s the only way to win.

How To Write An Original Blog Article

This article is about how to write for a blog without stepping on other people’s toes.  I generally use these guidelines when writing for this blog, and they are the guidelines I use when selecting from posts other people submit.  If you want to submit a post for consideration, please make sure you:

1. Write an original article – and it must remain exclusive to our blog
2. Provide a title for the article
3. Write at least 500 words
4. As the last paragraph, include a little about yourself and a link to your web site
5. If you provide a picture, you must provide a link to where you got the picture

Writing an original article

To be an original article, the article as a whole must not exist anywhere else.  That means you cannot submit to me an article that you used elsewhere.  It also means that you cannot submit an article that was written by somebody else, even if you change some of the wording or rearrange the text.  That is plagiarism and typically a copyright infringement.  If you write an original article off the top of your head, you will be copying nobody.  Usually articles you write are like fingerprints, your original writing will be different, so you will have nothing to worry about.  To plagiarize is to go out of your way to use somebody else’s original work.

Using facts, quotes, or pictures from other online articles

Any media, whether writing, videos, or pictures, is subject to implicit or explicit copyright protection.  It is implicit when there is no notice shown.  Implicit copyrights are still subject to copyright law because it is evident that the material existed on their site before yours.  So if you see no notice, you still have to be concerned with copyrights.  More importantly though, explicit copyrights sometimes contain instructions for proper use of the material.  For instance, it may say that material can be used with permission.  Or that it cannot be used.  I generally stay away from material with explicit copyrights with instructions.

If you are going to use material from another website, you must properly cite and reference the site where you retrieved your material from.  I generally put the website where I retrieved a picture under the picture, and the picture links to the actual location on the site.  For facts and quotes taken from another article, I tend to reference the article below mine.  If I use a quote, I may quote and cite the article within my blog post, but if common language is used, I just use the quote without quoting it.  For instance, if I said “The share price of United Airlines is $21.75”, I would only reference the article I took that quote from at the bottom of my article since I would have said the same words as if I had written them from out of my head.  I think either way would be ok with the original article writer.  I know it would be ok with me.

Please note that fair use of material that is copyrighted may not include using images from another web site regardless of how it is referenced. Please get permission from the web site owner prior to using an image.

Writing style

On my blog I single space and start a new paragraph at the first character on a line.  As far as I’m concerned, any writing style is ok for a blog.  Blogs are your personal journal where you can format as you like and say what you want, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others.  So go nuts.

Submitting to my blog

I would love to use your original blog article about small business here.  To have your article considered, submit a plain text or Microsoft Word document of your article to info@splashplan.com.  I will let you know if there are any problems to fix and or when your article will be posted to the blog.

References:

The Root Of All Evil

The love of money is the root of all evil.  I hope that doesn’t mean my coin collection.  I kinda like it.  As far as the saying goes, it feels like we are supposed to be poor.  Like we aren’t supposed to want things in our life.  Like going into business is the worst evil we can do.  I am here to tell you that wanting to be in business and make money is not evil.  Wanting to have things is not evil.  But to want at all costs probably is.  If you’re hurting people, your community, or the world to make money, then you are probably not doing the right things.

We go into business to make a profit.  If you’re not making a profit you are what we call a not-for-profit, as in a charity.  Businesses must make a profit otherwise they are losing money, which is not a good thing.  You can keep your profit low if you like, but then you’re not serving your shareholders’ best interests.  If you’re a one owner company and that owner is you, you can keep your profit to a minimum and not hurt anyone, sure.  But if you are creating value for your customers and are not scalping them, having a profit is just fine.

Going into business is a noble thing.  You are generally serving your customers, paying your employees a paycheck, and giving your shareholders dividends.  So you are helping many people, including yourself.  Having an abundance is ok.  It is also nice to turn around and help others with your abundance.  If your only aim in life, though, is money and the things it can buy then you may find yourself in bad situations.  And I think that is what the saying is referring to: That money is not evil, but some of the things that people do for money is evil.

Is greed really a good thing?  How would we define greed?  I would say that somebody is greedy if they are never thankful for what they have and they want more and more all the time.  Being an unhappy person no matter what you have is not a good thing.  Sometimes you have to stop and consider how fortunate you are.  There also has to be a point where enough is enough.  Nobody needs more than one or two places to live, more than one or two cars, a closet full of shoes, or multitudes of adult toys.  There has to be a point where what you have is enough.

Personally I am happy with what I have and I’m sure I’ll be just fine, but I like the independence that my own business gives me.  I want it to grow so I can take care of a few debts and leave something to my children.  But if I lived at the same lifestyle for the rest of my life I would be just fine with that.

Theoretical Implications Of The U.S. National Debt

As we begin flying missions with the UN in Libya this week, I am reminded of our national debt and how it isn’t getting any smaller with each bomb we drop.  And while this could be a very positive development for our security, I don’t see why our country has to bear the burden of policing Libya when we can’t afford it.  We are the spendthrift with the maxed out credit cards with one more emergency so we break open the new credit card.  And I can imagine that we are also going to provide financial help to Japan, and we should.  Yes I said it… we should help out Japan after this massive disaster that continues to unfold to historic proportions.  Well, I guess it was already historic, but this is truly unprecedented.  So we help out Japan and protect the people of Libya, then how about Iran and North Korea?  Where do we draw the line?

What is our national debt?

Let’s start with money.  The country prints a dollar bill, how does it get into circulation?  It either replaces a dollar bill or it is spent.

So let’s say we have a government of 10 people and we print $1000 each to pay them for gold that they dug out of the ground.  Now there are $10000 in IOU’s from the government and the government has $10,000 worth of gold.  The only reason the gold is worth $10,000 is because that is what we paid for it.  Because the government is holding gold to back the currency, we could be said to be on the gold standard or that the currency is backed with gold.  What if we took our printed money and bought food to give away to starving children in Africa (instead of gold)?  We then have currency outstanding with a face value of $10,000 and what is it backed with?  It’s backed with the holder’s confidence in the government.  You could probably understand what happens if the currency holders lose faith in the currency…

The other portion of our national debt is loans to the government, typically bonds and notes.  These are sold in return for currency and the government pays out interest payments to the holders of treasury bonds and notes.  Why does the government sell this debt really?  To take currency out of circulation so that it is worth more.  Government debt has an inherent value because of it’s interest payments, but is also somewhat backed by the holder’s faith in the U.S. government.  Government debt becomes worth much less if people become concerned that the government will default on its debt: when it is unable to pay its interest payments or unable to pay the face value of the debt when it becomes due.

In our example we have $10,000 worth of currency outstanding.  How can the government spend $10,000 more without increasing the amount of currency outstanding?  They issue $10,000 worth of treasury bonds, collecting the $10,000 outstanding, then spend $10,000 more.  They must now fork up $400 per year to their bond holders but there is still only $10,000 worth of currency outstanding.  They can collect taxes to pay the $400 per year to avoid adding currency into circulation.  What if there is a business person looking to borrow $10,000 to start a business?  Well, unless he can guarantee $400 in dividends, he is likely to lose out to the government that is guaranteeing $400 in interest.  That is one potential implication of national debt: that it takes away the incentive to invest in new businesses or in other more risky investments.

The effect on the individual

There are three ways for the government to fund it’s spending: Taxes, currency, and debt.  There may be more than this but for this discussion let’s just assume that these are the only ways.  So what happens when the government does not want to increase the amount of currency in circulation and nobody wants to buy its debt?  That’s right, taxes go up.  And as we know here in Illinois, taxes don’t go up just a bit when things are bad, they go up a lot.  Our state taxes went up by two thirds to cover the shortfall in the state’s budget as the state is trying to avoid new debt.  It hurts but not as much as it would hurt at the federal level.

Let’s say that your federal taxes went up by half.  That would be pretty big.  It would have a significant effect on your lifestyle.  Now extend that to the country.  People would spend much less than they do today, creating severe economic hardship within the economy.  I’m also thinking that would reduce income taxes the government takes in.  A vicious cycle begins.  But what does the government do instead of raising taxes this time?  Printing more money to improve the economy before it sinks into a depression.  This sounds familiar right?  The Federal Reserve buys government debt to put more cash into the system.  Then buys more and more to prevent the double-dip recession.  So life goes back to normal then what?  You have to take cash out of the system before it becomes inflation.

The China factor

China is a little wildcard that makes things interesting.  China holds a ton of our currency and debt.  Many Chinese businesses also hold our currency because the value is greater than their own currency.  That is on purpose.  The Chinese government depresses their own currency against the dollar by stockpiling dollars and U.S. debt.  As more dollars flow to China for the products they produce, the usual thing that should happen is that they should buy U.S. products.  Makes sense right?  You have U.S. dollars, you buy U.S. goods with them.  Or you trade them with other companies.  Or you sell them on the forex market for your own currency.  That would mean that somebody else wants to trade Chinese currency for U.S. currency.  That would be either the Chinese government or a foreign entity with Chinese currency because of something they sold to China.

What if you’re China and you want to grow your domestic businesses but want to keep foreign businesses out?  I know you’re thinking cheap labor, but eventually with enough wealth, local labor prices go up.  Another way to keep the goods flowing out and not flowing in is to keep your currency value low against foreign currencies.  You sell your currency for dollars, propping up the dollar because you are taking dollars out of circulation.  You can also use your dollars to buy U.S. government debt, transferring even more dollars overseas.  Eventually, though, China is going to want to do something with their dollars.  Buy the Euro?  Buy gold?  Spend money on social programs or military?  Regardless of the scenario, dollars come back into circulation.  Or U.S. government debt is sold, decreasing the value of the debt on the open market.  This would increase the interest rates of outstanding debt and of any new debt issued.  It would also rob from business investment because people could get a pretty good interest rate from U.S. Government debt.

I am not sure how much cash and how much debt China holds, but it’s a bunch.  It could easily depreciate our dollar creating inflation or increase interest rates dramatically.  The U.S. might be forced into cutting important programs and dramatically increasing taxes.

Hyperinflation

Hyperinflation is a situation where people lose confidence in the currency so they stop using it.  People with products to sell won’t trade for paper money, they require gold or another good to trade for.  Could hyperinflation happen in the United States?  While certainly possible, it is somewhat unlikely.  It is more likely to see double-digit inflation, but people will continue to have faith in the currency.  We have never experienced the fear and panic of hyperinflation, I am not sure people would really know what to do.  What do you do when money has no value?

What can be done?

With so much debt outstanding, the U.S. government is limiting it’s options.  It’s important for our national security to pay down our debts.  Just as important to our national security as a stable Libya.

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