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‘Responsibility’

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Look In The Mirror

Amid the growing world financial and credit crisis, the one thing we don’t seem to have a shortage of is finger-pointing. However, with so much blame to go around, nobody (especially politicians) ever seems to point the finger at themselves.

This point was emphasized quite clearly in a September 19th, 2008 Wall Street Journal article.

The article was about the surge in the number of foreclosures of million dollar plus homes. The beginning of the article talked about a man named Robert Provost, who in 2003 purchased a $2.5 million villa with its own boat dock in Sarasota, Fla.

Mr. Provost earned more than $250,000 a year working for an auto-sales chain and had an impeccable credit history.

Then he lost his job and missed one $10,500 mortgage payment, then another. This month, he put his house on the market for $3.4 million, but the listing has attracted very little interest. Mr. Provost expects to receive a notice of default- the first step to foreclosure in the next month or two.

I kept reading the article, looking for some reaction to this, and waiting to see if someone, anyone, was thinking the same thing I was. However, the only two quotes I saw from people trying to explain this phenomenon of million dollar plus foreclosures were an economist from Wellesley College, Karl Case, who said, “If you’ve got a lender who pushed them to the limit and you have some change in supply or demand, you’ll have foreclosures.”

Hmmm, “the lender pushed them to the limit.” Sounds a little like Flip Wilson’s old routine, “The devil made me do it.”

Next we had Tom Lawler, a housing economist in Leesburg, Va. who said, “Loans were unbelievably risky in every category. We’re seeing the results of that lending in the high end.”

Are you seeing where I’m heading with this? No one asked the simple question: What the hell is an employee (not a business owner) who is making $250,000 a year doing buying a $2.5 million house? Plus, the fact that Mr. Provost stopped making mortgage payments right after he lost his job tells me he went into this with no cushion. Whose fault is that?

Oh, and if you’re thinking that some unscrupulous lender talked him into this let me give you one more piece of info that I withheld till now: Mr. Provost’s job with the auto-sales chain was that of finance chief! No wonder he’s out of work.

Let me tell you what happened to too many people. They saw friends, neighbors and people on TV making what looked like “easy money,” just buying, selling and flipping houses. You didn’t need any money or income, because the prices would just keep going up (where, in fantasy land) and all you need to do is sell and use that money for the next purchase, or maybe even buy two. Why work for a living, when there’s such a sure thing staring you in the face?

As you know the bubble burst and many of these people want to be bailed out. What about the vast majority of people who paid and continue to pay their mortgages on time? Nobody was asking for a bailout when they were making money and they certainly weren’t going to share it with the homeowners who weren’t speculating.

Investing is a risk, whether it’s real estate or the stock market (I own 1,000 shares of AIG and you know what? This won’t be the first time I take a beating, nor will it be the last. I bought it. I knew the risk. Hell, life is a risk. If you want to be successful you have to take chances. Success is as much about failing as it is about succeeding. But when those chances blow up in your face (and sometimes they will), stop looking for scapegoats (that’s the job of gutless politicians), just look in the mirror and move on.

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A Swift Kick In The Rear

There’s an old saying, it goes like this: “Just because you keep on doing what you’ve always done, don’t expect to keep on getting what you’ve always received.” Unfortunately, a lot of business owners and salespeople haven’t figured this one out yet.

In the last few weeks I’ve spoken to three different clients whose business is suffering. Right away you’re probably saying to yourself, “It’s the economy,” and to a certain degree you may be correct.

However, after speaking with these clients and really understanding their sales process, I realized that the economy was only part of their problem; and not necessarily the biggest part.

The real problem is that their salespeople or dealers have been using the same sales process during tough times that worked for them during boom times. They refuse to change; mostly because they either don’t know how or they’re afraid.

Let’s face it; we’ve had it pretty good for the last 26 years. Since 1982 the economy has been in a recession for a grand total of 16 months! At this point, any kind of downturn brings panic because there are literally millions of people out there who have no idea what a real downturn looks like. These same people have mostly sold during good times. They don’t know any other way.

During boom times, many of these salespeople and dealers didn’t sell; they didn’t have to. They just waited for the door to open or the phone to ring and the orders would just pour in. They never had to leave the office and actually drum up business.

Guess what? The phone’s not ringing and the door’s not opening and that’s not good. But what’s worse is that there are too many salespeople, dealers and business owners who are still sitting there waiting for that phone to ring or door to open.

It’s time for a strategic attitude change. If the business is not going to come to you, you have to go to the business. I’m not saying you’ll necessarily do as much business as you did during boom times, but you’ll do a lot more business than you would sitting there waiting for the phone to ring and sucking on the gas pipe.

And I don’t care that you don’t know how to do it because you’ve never done it before: Learn! You have no choice. What’s the alternative? Besides, that’s just your “fear” speaking. Everyone is afraid of doing things they’ve never done before. Also, don’t give me the tired excuse, “That’s not the way things are done in our industry.” Baloney! Times have changed, so that means the rules have changed too. If you don’t change with them, you will be left behind.

Talk to people. Go back to all of your past clients and ask for referrals. Will you hear a lot of NO? Sure you will. But I can tell you from experience, “No,” from a real live person is a much nicer sound than a dead phone.

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Starting Your Own Business: What to Expect Part II

In the second of this two part series based on Discover Card’s “Small Business Watch,” we’re looking at information derived from small business owners that will better prepare you to take that next step into entrepreneurship. Here are some things you might not know but better be prepared for:

  • Nearly one of three business owners, 31 percent, indicated they work at least 10 hours or more per day on average. Only out of five non-business owners, 19 percent, worked the same each day.
  • 15 percent of small business owners work every day of the week, more than twice as many, 6 percent, as the general population. Similarly, 28 percent of small business owners work six days a week, compared to 15 percent of the general population.
  • Nearly half of small business owners, 47 percent, said that they always or mostly work on official holidays.

So if you’re used to a 9 to 5 life, think twice before starting a business.

  • More than half of the business owners, 52 percent, took seven days or less off work last year, compared to 36 percent of the general population.
  • 59 percent of small business owners define a “day off” as being available for calls and emails, working some time or even working all day at a remote location. Only 32 percent of the general population does the same.
  • More than half of small business owners, 55 percent, said their spouses approve of them checking email when they are off from work, compared to 37 percent of the general population.
  • “Small business owners are really focused on serving their customers every day. Our survey found that 40 percent of them carry wireless devices to keep in touch with their customers and clients when off work." “Being a small business owner often means that you are always open for business.”

When you’re a small business owner, your life is your business and your business is your life. It’s not even a matter of overlapping; they are totally intertwined.

Also, if you already own a small business or you’re thinking about starting one, then check out our new small business consulting service and give us a call for a free initial consultation.

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A Culture of Quick Fixes

The other night I was watching TV and saw a commercial for Immodium AD, an over the counter medication that has been used for years to treat diarrhea.

What got me was: the voice on the commercial was recommending Immodium AD for people with persistent, constant or chronic diarrhea. This stuff is not a cure; it’s a quick fix, till the next time it happens.

If this is a constant problem how about looking at your lifestyle and changing some of the things you eat. Most likely all it would take would be a small long-term sacrifice; a small change in your eating habits and this problem would go away.

The only thing that I’ve ever consumed in my life that gave me heartburn was coffee. So guess what I did? Right, over 20 years ago I cut it out and I stopped getting heartburn. Did I like coffee? Yes I did; but I hated heartburn a heck of a lot more than I liked coffee.

The point is, it just seems much easier and hassle free to do the old quick-fix and pop a pill, so to speak. No sacrifice involved on your part. But the problem is, for the things we really want in life, you will have to make some kind of long term sacrifice to achieve them.

It’s hard to almost impossible to lose weight, and keep it off, without changing your eating habits along with a consistent exercise program. It’s extremely difficult to achieve financial independence without some short term sacrifices (eating out, expensive vacations, fancy cars, etc.), that will allow you to invest more in your long term future. And don’t even think about going into your own business unless you’re willing to lay it all on the line and sacrifice everything you have in order to achieve long-term, long-lasting success.

But if you just want to “Pop a pill,” live for today and worry about tomorrow at some other time, that’s fine too. It’s your choice. Just don’t complain when the bill comes due and you’re running to the bathroom with pains in your stomach.

What are you willing to give up to get what you really want?

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Getting the Paperwork Done

In early June, I posted an entry titled Winning Referrals. I wrote it because of a number of questions I received on the subject from Ira, a property and casualty insurance agent.

Ira emailed me again to say that he’s getting more referrals and business is up but now, as a result of this new business and increased activity he has another problem: organization. But I’ll let Ira explain it himself in his email and after that I’ll give you my solution to the problem.

Warren,

I am getting a lot more referrals these days and have done a much better job at staying in front of my clients. I am actually now running into another problem…. Organization! (or lack of….) I have to do all my own quoting and paperwork, and I am finding that I am spending a ton of time in "non-sales" activities, and less time selling….. I am still about a year away from hiring someone to do much of the administrative "stuff" for me, but I could certainly shorten that window and make a ton more sales if I wasn’t so bogged down with all the paperwork……

Love to hear your thoughts on this one……

Regards,

Ira

This is one of the most common problems salespeople face and it’s also one of their favorite excuses. “I’d love to sell more, but I have so much paperwork, I have no time to sell."

No problem. Simple solution: Stop selling; you’ll have no more paperwork. Of course, you’ll have no more clients either.

That said try this: don’t do paperwork during selling time. Remember paperwork time is infinite. You could do paperwork at 2AM or on the weekends. Selling time however is finite. You can only be selling when the customers are around. So don’t ever let me catch you doing paperwork when you could be either talking to or in front of a prospect or client.

Yes, this will require you working longer hours in the short term, but in the long term, your sales will increase dramatically enabling you to hire administrative help.