Friday, June 1, 2012

Break Time!

Kick out the troublemakers and things will quiet down;  you need a break from the bickering and griping!
                                          Proverbs 22:10 (The Message)

Every year on December 31st, my good friend, Ashley, takes inventory of the core relationships in her life. She creates three categories: friends, acquaintances and sphere of influence, dropping names under each title as she sits and reflects on the preceding twelve months. When analyzing the names, Ashley says, “My goal is to determine whether each one of these people are living up to my expectations for who gets to be in my life.” Notice she said “gets to be” in her life because she knows that her time, energy and presence is a gift to be cherished. Ashley reflects on whether they have been givers or takers in her life. She asks core questions, like whether she is energized or drained after each conversation. Are they depositing wisdom, sound advice, opportunities or encouragement into her life, or constantly making withdrawals? And, by the end of her exercise, Ashley has a better understanding of who gets to go into the New Year and who must be left behind.

Its important to remember that some people will only come into your life for a reason or a season. The idea of leaving someone behind does not mean that you never speak to them again, unless they are just truly toxic, but it means that you now define for yourself how you will allow them to utilize your time, energy and resources, if at all. As the Bible suggests, you may need to take a break!

I know that its not the end of the year, but we've hit the half way mark and believe it or not, I've already identified some folks and even situations that just don't get to stay. There's too much going to be bothered with nonsense. So, thanks to Ashley, I'm making my list and checking it twice! I'm also making sure that I AM the friend that does make deposits and not withdrawals, as well as offers sound wisdom and advice. How about you?

If your network determines your net worth, who are you allowing in your life? 

Seek Wisdom, Find Wealth & Be Blessed!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Why Your Personal Life Impacts Your Professional Brand

We can’t help it. Whether we hear Apple, BMW, Coca-Cola or Wal-Mart, we automatically create very specific images in our head about each one of those brands and what they represent to us.  Likewise, very specific images come up when we hear names like Beyonce or Cher or Michael Jackson. Brands don’t only pertain to businesses, but people, as well.  So, it’s important to understand that whether you are trying to or not, YOU represent a brand.  And whether you want to accept it or not, there is absolutely no way to separate your personal and professional brand.  Just think of the late Whitney Houston. What she may have considered “personal business” still managed to impede her professional brand when it was all said and done.
So, if we know this is true, let’s tackle 3 areas where your personal life DOES impact your professional brand.
1. Your Appearance and Attire. What does your appearance say about you? Remember, that getting up and getting dressed is not just reserved for the days you go into the office. In today’s society, anyplace you set foot in has the potential to produce an ideal client, business partnership or new contract. The question is, “Do you enter each day expecting opportunities to come your way?” If so, there’s no such thing as just “running out.” You never know who you might run into. Remember, you may not always physically see someone, but there’s always someone watching you who has the potential to bless you. I teach personal finance classes weekly and it’s impossible for me to remember every face in a room of eighty people. But, it never fails. In just the last week, I’ve run into former students at Target, a random nail salon and the Z-Gallerie and not one can say that I had to apologize or make an excuse for my appearance.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

5 Steps to Business Funding

As a small business owner you might agree that coming up with the idea for your business was a piece of cake. . .  Financing the business, however, is an entirely different story!  Sometimes you may only have very few opportunities to present your business for funding, so it's your job to make sure they count! 

Here are five strategic steps to help you fund your business and get to the next level BEFORE you start pitching to potential investors and lenders.
1. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – You have a great idea, product or service that everyone will love, huh? So how much of your personal funds have you invested in it?  Expecting a bank or investor to come in and save the day when you haven’t spent all that you can to make it happen is a bit na├»ve. If you haven’t bet the farm on your idea, then don’t anticipate anyone else to.
Last year I attended a White House forum on entrepreneurship where Tyler Perry gave the keynote address.  During the Q & A, participants lined up to ask about how to find investors or receive access to capital. Without a blink, Perry reminded the audience very firmly that he was his first investor.  The early part of Perry’s career was riddled with one failure after another. Luckily, however, he didn’t fail on anyone else’s dime. Imagine flopping in a business you truly believed in and then having someone else breathing down your neck and demanding their money back. Perry also brought up the point that putting up his own money allowed him to ensure that the business wasn’t so financed to death by outsiders that when his opportunity to get true buy-in came, he no longer controlled any of the rights. 
2. Understand Your Options – Bank loans and angel investors are not the only options for financing a business, but its hard to tell until you are first clear about a few things. Make sure you can answer questions like “For what specific purposes will any capital be used?,” or “What is the current economic state of your industry as a whole?” You can find a complete list of sample questions on the Small Business Association's site under "Determining Your Financing Needs." Without knowing fundamental questions such as these, you could be wasting time in all the wrong places. For example, you may find that you qualify for additional resources, such as grants. While grants are often seen as “free money,” many of them come at a price. You may be required to match the funds which you can hold as leverage with other investors or you may have to combine the funds with a business loan.  But that great possibility is worth the effort of truly knowing your business well enough for you to search for additional creative financing opportunities.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

5 Dumb Things Smart People (STILL) Do With Tax Refunds

Tax time: That interestingly peculiar time of year when ordinarily smart people begin to make really dumb financial decisions. Isn’t it amazing to watch what a little extra cash, okay well for some, maybe a lot of extra cash lining the pockets can do? The average tax refund for 2011 may be a little over $3000, but there has to be several thousand dumb things people are doing with the money at any given moment. I know your pockets are sizzling even as you read, so I’ll be brief and just give you 5 dumb things smart people do with tax refunds.

#1 – Act like its FREE money. The operative word in the term “tax refund” is REFUND! Common synonyms for refund are “repayment,” “reimbursement,” and just plain simply, “money back!” This means that tax refunds are not free money! The government is not giving you a bonus every year just to thank you for being an American. This is money that you’ve allowed them to “borrow” from you all year long. And now, unlike most of your friends or family members, they are actually paying you back. Never mind the fact that they are paying you back with NO interest even though you pay them back with interest on your student loans. . . . I mean, who’s keeping tabs, right?

While you were patriotically overpaying the government you could have been doing a dozen other things with the money YOU worked for, allowing your money to actually work for you. So, for heaven’s sake, please stop acting like April 15th (April 17th this year if you want to be technical) is a damn holiday. Let’s call it what it is: “Happy You Got Played By Overpaying the Government Day!”

#2 – Don’t budget it. The mindset that tax refunds are free money typically leads people who ordinarily utilize a budget, to leave refund money off the financial plan radar. Typically, by the time you think about budgeting it, it’s because you’re down to your last few hundred dollars and all of a sudden want to “be responsible” with it. The reality is tax money should be approached similarly to how you would approach your paychecks; after all, it’s nothing more than the money you really worked for all year long anyway. Even if you apply skewed percentages to determine how you disperse the money, just use some type of logical system! Just running through it and blowing it daily on insignificant and useless purchases is not the way to go. (Disclaimer: For those of you who never budget . . . consult someone who does. Your idea of logical may be a little questionable.) 

Related Post: 4 Things No One Has Told You About Budgeting 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

10 Lies That Keep You In Debt - Part 2

So, the list of the lies that keep you in debt continues. Whether you’re just beginning on your journey toward financial freedom or you’ve declared yourself a certified personal finance sage, I’d almost guarantee you’ve had to say at least one of these to yourself at some point. . . . Well, I know I have!

As a reminder, here is a review of Part 1:

1. I deserve it.
2. But, this is an emergency. . . isn’t it?
3. It was on sale.
4. A couple bucks won’t hurt.
5. If I made more money, this would be easier.

6. I’ll start next month.
I love when people tell me they are going to start paying down debt in the New Year or after this event or that time passes. Here’s the problem: Something important or necessary will always be going on! So, what are you really waiting for? It’s easy to talk about change, but when will you take action and just start already? If you don’t start today, years may go by and next month will never come.

7. I don’t make enough.
One of the lines I hear most often is, “I can’t afford to save, pay down debt, blah, blah, blah.” The line I typically offer back is, “You can’t afford NOT to save!” The very folks who believe they can’t save, somehow manage to give the bank $34 per overdraft fee each month or $29 for late credit card payments. I’d venture to say, if you can pay the bank money every month involuntarily, there should be a way to squeeze out a few bucks to give the bank voluntarily. I don’t care if you start putting an extra $10 towards paying off your debt, you have to start somewhere and you have to start TODAY!