Focus On Focus

Focus On - Waiting At SamsI am having one of those days.  One where I have tons of work to do but cannot seem to focus on it.  Why do we have such a problem getting the things done we know need to be done?  How can we avoid being scattered to the wind and regain our focus?  This article will explore focus and give suggestions on regaining focus for what you need to focus on.

Need To Change Your Prescription?

Sometimes when we think focus we think about our eyes.  How when our eyeglasses or contacts start to age how we can see things fuzzy.  Then it is time to visit the eye doctor to update our eye glass prescription so that things appear to be in focus.

Similarly, our mind can blur and think about a hundred things at once.  We can try to start on one think only to be distracted by another, often finishing neither.  Somehow we need to find a way to tackle a task, preferably our most important one, before we move on to the next.

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How To Make Money From Home

How To Make Money From Home - Desk in empty houseI have been working from home recently, trading my consulting time for money. These days because of technology, you can be employed full time and work from home. You can have a business that you run from home. You can sell products, sell your time, fix things, create new music, write a book, have an online business, and so many more possibilities. In this blog post, I am going to try to stir your imagination on how to make money from home.

Trading Time For Money

Probably one of the easier things you can do from home is sell your time.  You could be employed by a company or running your own business.  You could be hourly, on salary, or on contract.

For some ideas on the kind of work you could do: You could be a customer service representative, you could work for a call center, you could do data entry, you could do information technology work, you could design web sites, you could do financial analysis, or you could help someone market their product.  There are probably 100 more types of jobs that can be done exclusively from home.

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Contingency Fund Example

contingency fund example - change in a jarA contingency fund is cash set aside by a company or an individual to be used in the event of unforeseen need.  Unfortunately, unforeseen needs happen all the time, from the bill that was not expected to the loss of a major client.  A contingency fund example is a savings account with up to six months worth of revenue.

Liquid Money

Set up your contingency fund with liquid, spendable, money.  Cash under a mattress would be a good contingency fund example where the cash is easily spendable.  However, cash under a mattress would be susceptible to theft, fire, or flood; or some other sort of loss.  Cash in an FDIC insured account would be a better idea, as long as the amount of money is below the maximum insurable FDIC amount.

Gold, stocks, bonds, or other investment vehicle would not be liquid money as they must be converted to cash in order to be spendable.  The time involved for conversion may be a factor as the emergency event may be time critical.

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Federal Tax Return: The Dread Of Filing My 1120

federal tax return - form 1120If you did not know by now, your United States C corporation 1120 federal tax return is due in April this year (2017) rather than March, assuming your business runs January through December.  Note that I am not a CPA so I am not an expert on all things taxes, I just know that Illinois and the Federal Government made this deadline change in 2017.  This does not mean that I am ready to file or pay, though I always have good intentions.

My main complaint with filing my 1120 is that it is busy work.  While it might be my only federal tax return that I file for the corporation, it is certainly not the only filing I make during the year, or the only paperwork that needs to be done.  I know, I know, the tax man needs his money, but it comes at the expense not only of cash, but of my time to do more financially productive things.  Here is an idea of all the busy work you must do with a corporation:

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Ideas For Success In A Network Marketing Business

ideas for success - Big Texan

The Big Texan

I was thinking of making the title “How To Succeed In Business” because perhaps these tips could be applied to any business and not just in network marketing (or MLM).  Business is business right?  The following are my ideas for success in a network marketing business, that probably could be applied to any business.

Have Your Own Brand

The first step to succeeding in business is to have your own brand.  If you are Joe, the XYZ distributor, you are promoting the XYZ company.  Create your own brand… perhaps Joe Smith, Network Marketing Coach, or Joe Smith Company; something to differentiate yourself from all the other distributors in your company.

Add Value

If you are just “You can buy from me too”, you are adding no value.  You must add some sort of value.  For instance, a while back we made great looking baskets and sold them as a product.  By reorganizing the product the way we did, we added value to the product.

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How To Keep Up While On The Road

Glendale CALast week I drove out to see my son in Glendale, California. We were giving him our old Acura with 180,000 miles on it as he has been driving a 1991 Toyota Corolla. The Acura should be a more reliable car, and it is definitely cooler, so he was really excited to be getting it. I made sure my client was ok with my working remotely for the week, as I planned to drive the car out one weekend, stay for the week, attend my cousin’s wedding in Arizona, and fly home the following weekend. A very busy schedule, and one where I really needed to keep up with my workload and business activities.

I think the only difficult think I could imagine was: What if I got something in the mail that needed to be handled urgently? Well, Chris was still home and getting the mail, and she would let me know if anything came in the had to be dealt with. Otherwise, we use Quickbooks Online for our accounting, Intuit for payroll, and most of the client work can be done with Remote Desktop through a VPN. I use my Apple Macbook Pro to run everything, including a copy of Vista, so no problems there.

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When A Company Should (And Should Not) Invest In Technology

Investing in technology for your small business may seem like a good idea.  Many small business owners have laptops, smart phones, color laser all-in-one printers, digital cameras, or any number of other hardware devices.  Their business may also have specialized software and hardware to control inventory in their warehouse, or to share data among their employees.  There are all kinds of uses for technology and it may seem natural to use technology for any business process that can be done with technology, but that may not always be the wisest choice.  This article discusses when a company should invest, and when it should not to invest, in technology.

Justifications for a technology purchase

When starting new technology projects or purchasing new technology, business managers often use the following justifications:

Competitive advantage – Competitive advantage is when one company has an advantage over another.  As an example, company XYZ has competitor ABC, which has a CRM system.  Company XYZ buys a CRM to eliminate company XYZ’s competitive advantage over it.   Competitive advantage would also apply if company XYZ buys new technology company ABC does not yet have; company XYZ would then have competitive advantage (in theory).

Support a strategy – A company CEO may have a vision for the company’s future.  He or she creates a mission statement to detail the vision, and strategies to realize the mission statement.  The company then buys technology to support one or more of the strategies.

Create a product – Many companies in recent years have used technology to create a product: from web sites such as Facebook.com to companies like Oracle that develop software solutions.  Other companies like Cisco, IBM, and HP develop hardware products that they sell.

Be able to share information internally and externally – A company may invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) product or exchange data with a business partner via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

Manage and control the organization better – Companies will buy financial packages such as Quickbooks or software solutions as elaborate as Microsoft Dynamics Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) package to share and control information within a company.

Market products and share information with customers on the internet – A company may develop a website to share information with their customers about a new product offering or information about contacting the company.  These days the internet has become a self-service marketplace, allowing customers to research, buy, and get service after the sale.

When to invest in technology

The following are situations when companies should seriously consider investing in technology:

When there is a need – The technology is a requirement of doing business.  For instance, a customer begins requiring data transmissions about the status of shipments.  Not implementing the technology means losing the customer’s business.

When there is a significant savings to be had – Implementing the technology means not hiring 5 people, saving the company $250,000 in salaries, taxes, and benefits.

When there are significant revenue gains to be had – A new customer will only do business with your company if you accept their orders electronically, and will sign a contingency contract to that effect.  The value of the business is $2 million per year.

A reasonable return on investment is needed to justify the above arguments.  If it costs $50 million to get $2 million more in business yearly, the 4% return may not be worth the investment.  In addition, many companies underestimate the costs of technology investments, often leading to a smaller return on investment than expected.  It is important to make realistic estimates.

While operating on the “bleeding edge” of technology may seem to be a risky endeavor, the competitive advantage it provides may produce an exceptional return on investment.  Again, it is important to make good estimates for cost and analyze the expected return on investment to see if it makes sense to proceed with the new technology.

When not to invest in technology

Here are some situations when a company should not invest in technology:

To get the cool new thing – Investing in cool new toys may not be the best use of company resources.

To keep up with the Jones – While competitive advantage is important, it is also important to make sure that keeping up makes financial sense.  Perhaps the Jones’ new technology purchase was not such a good idea for them.

To sell new, unconfirmed business – One logistics company implemented warehouse automation they did not need, believing they would be able to make new sales because of it.  The company is no longer in business because the new sales did not materialize.

To get technology for technology’s sake – A company wisely declined to invest $500,000 for a machine that would have eliminated one $20,000 per year job.  The machine would have also required regular maintenance and repair.

To develop a new product without marketing research – New technology can be expensive.  Make sure there is a market for your technology idea before you invest a fortune.

Technology can be a wonderful investment with a magnificent return for your company, but you must make sure your investment will produce a good return.  Jumping in is almost never a good idea.  Make sure to do your research to keep your eyes wide open for the best possible result.

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

How Tornados Are Good, And Bad, For Business

fairdale-300x200Before I get started, I want to say that I feel for people who lose homes, or loved ones, during a tornado.  Tornados are not a laughing matter in real life, they cause real damage.  And what do you do when your home is damaged?  You make an insurance claim, get a check, and fix the damage.

Then how are tornados good for business?  People hire companies and buy supplies to fix or rebuild their homes.  Companies benefit from the spending.

How are tornados bad for business?  For insurance companies who have to pay for damages, they are not so good.  Although rates may go up so they may benefit somewhat from future rate increases.

You can make these kinds of speculations with all kinds of things.  For instance, the population is aging.  What companies does that benefit?  What companies will suffer?

While these kinds of speculations benefit stock traders, they can also help business people.  How?  Say you are Walgreens.  What strategy can you take to serve older baby boomers?

What strategies have you taken in your business to anticipate change?

Stories Only Business People Would Understand

10004245_855682801114846_1636169639_n-300x300You have challenges that most people do not understand. You make an amount of money (revenue) that most people do not understand. They think you must be rich. But when it comes to spendable money, you have less than they do.

In fact, I feel a little poor right now.  I had three months without a project last winter.  I am behind on several things still.  But luckily my revenue, and profit after expenses, are decent enough to catch up at a pretty good clip.  Still, by the time I am done catching up, I may be between projects again.  I may be short on money to pay some bill, credit card, expense, in a manner that the creditor would approve of.

My best advice when it comes to finance is to make sure your margin is something you can live with through the good and the bad.  Your margin is your profit beyond expenses.  Or better put, profit divided by revenue.  Often we underestimate what our expenses are or do not include all expenses in our calculation.  Perhaps you do not include time off.  Or you do not include management expenses but only project expenses.  Best to calculate a margin you can live with and update it often when things become more tight than you expected.

What else?  I talked with my brother-in-law about paying myself once a year via payroll, but found the taxes withheld to be a bit high.  Who gets one paycheck a year?  Sometimes the guy at the top does.  The reason you might want to do this is to conserve cash until the end of the year when you really know what you can get away with paying yourself.

I also have a new appreciation for taxes.  For instance, the more you spend, the more you pay in taxes.  And I am talking about personal income taxes.  The more I spend personally, the more I am taxed.  It is better if my spending can be expensed to the business.  Or if I can save the money in a tax deferred account rather than spend it.  For those of you who receive a regular paycheck, this may be completely foreign to you… but when you have the option to pay yourself less, you really think about the money you spend.  You think that latte at Starbucks costs you $4.75?  Nope.  More like $7.50.  Think your car cost you $20,000?  If you paid in cash it is more like $28,000.  Every thing you spend that is not tax deductible has income taxes (as well as sales taxes) attached.

People sometimes think I am a little crazy to track my expenses like I do.  I am constantly trying to beat what I spent the previous week on travel.  Less on lodging, food, gas, everything.  I tried slowing down one week to improve my gas mileage.  I am usually buying food at the grocery, staying at the cheapest possible place… well I am paying all of my own travel expenses right now.  If I can save $50 a week even, this is a pretty good amount of money.  Think about it… that is $2,400 per year.  Good  business people watch their expenses like a hawk and make sure they keep improving the bottom line.  Why?  Because it is a very short distance between a good year and a bad one.

If you think all of this is mean to scare you non-business people, you would be wrong.  Being in business for yourself is very liberating.  You are the only one you have to answer to.

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