Run a successful business

Let’s say your company is doing poorly.  Let’s pretend your business has $1 million in debt and your sales are decreasing year over year.  Your leadership may also be lacking and your turnover rates are increasing each year.  How do you turn your company around?  There is no simple answer to this simple question, but there are a few areas you can focus to start building momentum.

For starters, you will need to focus on getting your sales up and this is usually no easy task.  Conscious efforts need to be put into building a sales strategy and getting your sales to a point that is acceptable.  Strategy can vary from business to business.  For the most part, you are going to want to call up customers and build relationships.  Understand their needs and not just want you want to sell them.  When you understand your customers’ needs, this is usually a huge break-through and helps you generate more sales.  It also shows your customer that you are on their side and listening to their asks.

Cost savings where applicable can also help you sustain business for an extended period of time.  This should be a daily focus anyways, but let’s not get too crazy and cut costs where it just does not make sense.  At the end of the day, we need to make sure our sales are high enough to keep the business running.  If the sales are not there, no amount of cost cuts will keep your business running.

Lack of leadership simply falls on owners and managers of the company.  Great leadership must start at the top and trickle down.  Losing respect of your workers will not give you quality workmanship.  Gaining and holding the respect of your workers will go along way.  I can speak more to this point later on in another blog.

Lastly, debt does commonly occur in most businesses and in our personal lives.  It almost seems unavoidable, although I do encourage you to avoid it where possible.  For example, if you can pay cash for equipment, then I’d advise you to do so.  If you are $1 million in debt, understand how long it will take you to pay off.  Understand the amount of interest you are paying each year.  Understand how you got into this situation.  Understand if you can get out.  Understand all your options, create a plan to reduce, and take action.

I feel each of these items need to be looked at for a successful business.  These items can be challenging, which is why I find it fun to run a business.  If it were easy to run a business, everyone would do it and be successful.  So many are trying to run businesses and not succeeding.  Let’s try to run the business and succeed.

Getting into the details of your financials

Since 2009 when I started my career as a chemist, I began tracking my financials in great detail.  The way I track my money today is very different from when I first started tracking in 2009, but the purpose is still the same.  If we take a step back and look at the overall picture, I am basically using income and expenses as my key performance indicators.  Being successful in tracking your financials is not always as easy as just that because there are so many moving parts in our world.  Some financial impacts can be predicted and others simply cannot be predicted.  We can always plan for the predictable impacts, but when it comes to the unpredictable impacts, we really just need to prepare ourselves for the worst [and hope for the best].

So, getting into the details of your financials…  We cannot be lazy and need to put effort into tracking our financials month over month, year over year.  We need to build a database to help us make the best decisions possible with the information available to us.  As I have always mentioned, gather information/data to better prepare ourselves for the future.  Imagine taking organic chemistry without taking any of the prerequisites that you need to get into organic chemistry.  Unless you are a super-genius, you are probably going to do horrible in organic chemistry.  It is not simply because you do not want to do well, but because you do not have the tools or background information to do well.  The same goes for when you are organizing your financials and trying to make decisions.

There are also a group of people who do not want to dig into their financials because they are aware they are not living their life appropriately when it comes to the financial world.  For someone who makes $20,000 per year and purchases a $50,000 car, you need to realize that this is the smartest thing to do.  For one, you are going to go into extreme debt and will most likely not be able to dig yourself out.  Additionally, purchasing an expensive car is not always the greatest investment for your money.  All your money will go into interest and eventually fixing that car when it gets old.  I shall get back to the main topic, as I am now just ranting.

The purpose of this blog is to talk about digging into the details of your financials to better understand your current situation, your goals, and how you are going to achieve your goals.  As I always mention, understand your goals and build a plan to reach them in a timely manner.  Make them reasonable and attainable, so you can achieve them within your lifetime.  Having a database with your past financial history can really help you determine where you can go and if it makes sense.  Using bank statements, credit card statements, mortgage history, and so forth, can really help you out here as well.  Especially, during the first year or so when you do not have any history tracked in your own notes.  I use excel spreadsheets because it is what I know and I feel most comfortable with it.  You can use any tool which you feel most comfortable with.  Give it a try and let us know what you think.

Good Luck!

Religion… through good or bad

At 32 years old, working a full-time job plus running my own business to more quickly payoff my mortgage can be stressful at times.  In addition to this, I am responsible for the welfare of my 5 month old son, cat, dog, and wife.  In order to keep going each day, I take the time to spend 60-75 minutes at the gym 5-days a week.  I do my best to eat healthier foods, so my body continues to run smoothly. I continue to educate myself whenever I have downtime on various topics to keep my brain working.  I continuously look for new opportunities to better my life and the life of my family.  I can look at my life and say, I am tired… but I enjoy it too much.  I love the challenges and want to keep advancing to that next level.

There is one area I often find myself lacking and that is religion.  When things are going well, people are less likely to ask for God’s guidance.  I believe we should always keep God in our lives even if we do not feel we need him.  In reality, we always need God no matter how good or bad our lives get.  I often focus on financial successes, which is important on earth, but much less important after we leave earth.  If I am really going to take a step back and look at the whole picture, I need to make sure I realize that!  While I am on earth, I need to make sure I am enjoying the company of my family and friends.  I can still strive for success, but need to have a nice balance between it all.

The old saying goes, when you leave or die you cannot take it with you.  They are talking about your material possessions or worldly possessions.  This is true, but I also want to challenge myself to make the best out of this one and only life I am getting.  This is why I have been pushing myself so hard to get the things I want.  In reality, I want to run my business full-time but need to make sure I am financially stable first.  I often say YOLO, which helps me remind me that ‘you only live once’.  We need to make sure we are doing what we want to do while we are here because our time is so short.  It actually makes me scared to think about that, so I do not often think about it.  Live!

Contingency plan for your career

It can be natural to focus solely on our current careers and not think of alternative paths we may be forced to take if something happens to our current roles.  In today’s environment, in the corporate world, you may really want to think of a backup plan even if you feel you are safe because in reality nobody is 100% guaranteed not to be effected by a reorganization or layoff.  There are multiple things you should be doing to better prepare yourself for an unexpected event in your career.

Network…network…network…

As the famous saying goes, it’s not what you know, but who you know.  I do not completely agree with this statement all the time, but it does hold true in many scenarios.  Building relationships with a wide range of professionals in your career will provide you some advantages later on in life when you really need to leverage these people.  You can leverage them for technical expertise, their networks of people, or when you need a job.  At the same time, they will most likely want to leverage you one day.

Become more qualified

Through extensive training, schooling, and building your experience on the job, you will want to become more qualified.  As a more qualified individual, you will qualify for more job opportunities.  An obvious one is to go back to school and get another degree.  On the job trainings or belonging to various affiliations can also help you out.  More projects you participate in can bring you greater experience and help you become more qualified in that way.  You are more likely to land another job if you have more experience and education.

Keep your eyes open

Although you have a job that you like, it does not mean you shouldn’t be keeping an eye open for other jobs.  There may be greater opportunities for you in those jobs.  Some say, you should interview at least twice per year to stay fresh and on your feet.  This can help you keep your interviewing skills up.

The important piece of it all, is make sure you have a backup plan for your current role because you never know what will happen.  Networking, being qualified, and keeping your eyes open can help you stay ahead of the game.

Worldly Haircuts in the United States

Recently, I have had my hair cut at some unique barber shops in my area, which could be described as somewhat sketchy.  In telling a co-worker of my colorful experiences in these barber shops, she told me I should start a blog called “Worldly Haircuts in the United States”.  Prior to going to the two interesting barber shops, I went to a commercial chain hair cut shop, which was pretty boring.  The hair cuts were average at best and the hair cutters were not too experienced.  About two months ago, my wife convinced me to live a little and try a new place.  We ended up going to a small barber shop in my town.  Immediately, I felt welcomed by one of the barbers named Micky who was a mix of Italian and Puerto Rican.  He was very loud and passionate about cutting hair.  He ended up doing a phenomenal job, which is why I ended up going back to him.

The second time I went back to Micky, I realized the shop had customers walking into the back room every 15 minutes or so.  There was a guy who stood outside that would escort these people in and out.  I am assuming they were selling illegal substances in the back room.  The third time I went back, I found out Micky no longer worked there and allegedly moved back to California.  I ended up leaving and finding a new place to cut my hair.  Across the street was a Mexican barber shop, which was very busy.  I ended up giving them a shot because it seemed pretty good.

In the Mexican barber shop, I found myself getting my haircut by a drunk lady that was stumbling around.  She was drinking Pina Coladas while cutting my hair.  I was very scared, but with all things considered, she did not do that bad of a job.  My wife ended up fixing my hair when I got home with the help of youtube.  This was also quite the experience and I would not go back to that barber.  My co-worker who said I should start a blog called Worldly Haircuts in the United States recommended me to go to a Vietnamese barber that gives you a haircut and massage for $20 or so.

You could really go around to different hair cutteries or barber shops and experience so much if you really wanted to.  I am not going to continue taking changes because I really do need to look good to succeed in my career.  It is different being in high school or college, where people expect you to sometimes do crazy things.  I need to make sure I am looking professional at all times because you never know when the next big opportunity will come your way.  I do welcome others to take on the Worldly Haircuts in the United States challenge.  Try out some new hair cut shops or barber shops with different ethnicities, people, styles, and so on.  Meet some new people and get to know their cultures.  It has really opened my eyes to some new things.

For now, I will continue writing about success and how we can get there.  I will not be writing anymore about Worldly Haircuts in the United States (or Canada).

Setting expectations

Today, I feel like talking about setting expectations and the way we should be thinking about how we set expectations.  For starters, there are various types of people with different styles when it comes to setting expectations.  There are people who set expectations super high and never expect to meet their goals.  There are people who set their expectations super low and always expect to meet their goals.  There are people who set their expectations in the middle and may or may not reach their goals.  I target to set expectations slightly on the higher side where I am pushing myself outside of my comfort zone slightly, but not too much where I never meet my goals.  Some call this stretch goals.  We want to go in and out of our comfort zone, but never live 100% outside of our comfort zone.  This can lead us to burnout, which I’ve blogged about previously in Burnout is real.

Reaching success requires perseverance, consistency, motivation, passion, and so many other things.  We need to really want to reach out goals and not just say we want to reach them.  Some times it sounds cool to say, I am going to do something.  You may not really be committed to doing that certain something.  If you have no commitment to the goal you are setting out to achieve, then your chance of reaching that goal is slim.  We want to increase our successes by increasing our commitment and making ourselves accountable.  We can do this by selecting goals that actually mean something to us.

For example, I want to pay off my mortgage by 2023.  This is a meaningful goal to me, which is challenging, yet very possible.  It requires me to continually grow in my career earning more money each year and constantly reduce my cost of living where applicable.  Once achieving this goal, I will be able to utilize the money that was once going towards my mortgage on other investments.  This will help me gain financial stability much quicker and hopefully get me to retirement by 50.  I would most likely not fully retire at 50, but just having the option is what I am aiming for.  Paying off my mortgage by 2023, is a very meaningful goal to me and my family.  Due to the level of meaningfulness, I am much more likely to achieve it.

Another goal I had previously was to complete my masters degree.  I did complete this goal because it was meaningful to me.  I knew achieving a masters degree would provide me with new opportunities inside and outside of my current role in my career.  I was also able to be sponsored by my employer, which allowed me not to have to pay for it.  Additionally, earning my masters degree helped me build more knowledge and develop greater effectiveness tools that I did not have before.  Again, this was another goal close to me which I ended up achieving because I made it personal.

So, it is very important to set your expectations and make sure you are setting them based on criteria that makes sense.  Make sure your goals are personal and meaningful to you.  You want to make sure you will commit yourself to these goals and hold yourself responsible for completing them.  Make sure your goals make sense in your life and where you want to be in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, and so on.  Expect to succeed and expect to do work to get you there.

Money flow and loss

Previously, I have written many times about the flow of money and money loss due to unnecessary fees and interest.  To successfully manage personal finances, we need to understand money flow and where there are potential vulnerabilities for money loss.  I run my personal finances similar to the way a business should be run.  My goal is to run my personal finances as lean as I possibly can without sacrificing quality of living.  There are simply things I do not need.  By removing these things from the equation, I am able to run my life more profitably and further guarantee success.

From month to month, it can be difficult to estimate expenditures with great accuracy and precision because they can often fluctuate each month.  Similarly, if you do not have a steady salary and your income varies each month, this can also be difficult to estimate with great accuracy and precision.  The key is to spend less than you make [obviously].  By reducing your expenditures, you are freeing up more money for greater uses such as investment and/or paying off debts faster.  Over an extended period of time, this adds up.  Unfortunately, many do not benefit from this because they never put effort into building their financial portfolio.

Through many years of tracking my personal finances, I did find my income to debt reduction is not a 1:1 ratio.  I’ve asked myself, why not?  As I get closer to paying off my debts, the ratio does become closer to a 1:1 ratio, but still does not get there.  So why is my income to debt reduction not a 1:1?  Our income does not only go to paying off debts and is also used to purchase food, fees, interest, utility bills, and so on.  This is another reason why reducing expenditures is very important.  As we reduce expenditures and increase income, we are able to produce a much better income to debt reduction ratio.  I cannot emphasize enough that paying off more debt faster will create a better money flow for you down the road with fewer losses or financial vulnerabilities.

Last comments I will make on today’s blog are, writing a journal often and accurately will help you track your successes.  I have been keeping my journal since June 15, 2005 consistently to track my successes and failures.  This journal is one of the best tools I’ve invested my time into and I am constantly improving it as I go along.  My journal keeps my focused on my goals and constantly thinking about achieving my set goals.  Give it a try!

Do All The Things

This picture is of a STARBUCKS cup I received from my wife’s cousin in Buffalo, New York.  My wife, son, and I were driving back from Canada and we stopped at my wife’s cousin’s house in Buffalo.  It was getting late and we had a long drive back to New Jersey, so my wife’s cousin made me some coffee and provided me the coffee in this nice cup.  Skipping ahead several months, I still do use this cup daily and do not have plans of returning it to my wife’s cousin unless she asks for it.

IMG_9070

So what is the point of this?  I use this cup almost every single day and admire the statement on the side, which reads DO ALL THE THINGS.  You may have a different perspective, but here is mine.  To me, DO ALL THE THINGS means that I need to live my life one day at a time and live life to the fullest.  Although I do plan ahead quite often, I must remember to live in the present moment too.  I know I often speak of paying off my home and saving up for retirement.  I do still believe these accomplishments will be crucial to my success.  I also know I must enjoy the ‘now’ because the ‘now’ will never come back.  Each moment as I wrote this, seconds are ticking and I must realize I am not getting those seconds back.  I cannot stop time and I do not think anyone else can, unless there is someone magical out there.  I do know I can enjoy each moment and take it for what it is.  I’ll continue striving to be successful, but I am going to try to have more positive moments than negative moments.

Facing challenges

Just a few weeks ago, I was faced with a few regulatory challenges in my business.  There is no shortage of regulations in the USA when it comes to commercial business.  Due to the abundance of regulation, it can be difficult to operate at reasonable costs.  At the same time, when we look at places like China, I would not want our country becoming over polluted due to lack of regulation.  This blog is not supposed to be focused on regulations, but the feeling of overwhelmingness when we are faced with stiff challenges.

Upon receiving information of specific challenges I would need to overcome if I were to continue purchasing property and building a commercial building, I became very stressed.  It was now brought to my attention that I would need to spend a significant amount of money, which I did not plan on spending to get the property to where it needs to be for a commercial building.  Due to the property being commercial-highway and in the pine lands territory, there are extra steps necessary to make sure we are approved to develop the land.

Instead of putting my tail between my legs and walking away, I decided I would continue to pursue my dreams.  I made a few phone calls and got a few leads.  After making a few calls and receiving more clarity on the situation, I now know my goals are possible.  It will still be more expensive than I first budgeted for, but do still think it is a great investment.  Fortunately, I did negotiate the property for 1/3 its worth and that gives me a little room to play financially when it comes to developing the land.

Facing challenges can be super difficult and stressful.  We want to lay out all the possible risks, but also weigh in on the rewards too.  Work is always required when new challenges present themselves and that is normal.  We cannot be lazy and need to get our hands dirty from time to time.  A more challenging project is typically more rewarding than a less challenging project.  This is because we know how much work was required and we can be proud of ourselves at the end of the day.  If you are facing challenges, no matter what challenges, try and really push yourself to overcome them.  We only get one life and need to make the most of it.

Lack of direction and what it means

My last post was titled, Lead by example and today’s post is titled Lack of direction and what it means.  As just a FYI, I do not plan the sequence of my blogs or even put much thought into what my next blog will be.  It just so happens I decided to write about similar subjects on back-to-back days.

Currently, I am in a corporation where there is lack of direction because leadership is dealing with their own problems.  While the members of the C Suite are searching for purpose and new strategy, their direct-reports and their reports, and their reports, and so on are lingering.  It is too easy to sit back and wait for direction, but is that the best approach?  I personally say, NO.  Understand your personal objectives and determine how you can still make contributions.  It does not pay to be lazy.

An approach that makes sense (at least to me) is to create your own direction.  Make sure you are finishing up your work and producing results.  I am hoping leadership at my corporation do present their new strategy and I hope it is a strategy I agree with.  In my personal business, I try my best to constantly build strategy and make sure everyone knows their place.  Lack of direction by leadership is never a good thing.  It typically means, your leaders are not ready to lead or having difficulties finding the right strategies that work for their business.

Lead by example

Previously, I have been in a situation where members from my team were not actively participating in a project.  Once my team members became complacent not contributing, motivating them was a near impossible task.  I was hesitant to pick up their workload because it was only showing them, they really did not need to partake in the group activities.  After several days of no participation, I decided it was time for me to lead by example.  I started to pick up tasks that should have been done by my team members and pushed myself to really excel.  I would update the team on my progress daily.  Eventually, the lazy team members decided to take more interest and began participating in the group activities.  Of course, this helped the project move more quickly and allowed me to utilize my time more wisely on my own portion of the project.

It is really upsetting when team members of your group are not partaking in the group activities to help push a project forward.  It is very disappointing when these team members sit around and just watch everyone else working.  Why the hell are we paying these lazy people?  How do we get rid of these people?  These are the type of questions we ask ourselves.  Since it is not always easy to get rid of poor employees, it is sometimes better to try and make them better.  A word of caution is do not become so heavily involved in helping another poor performing employee if they are not willing to help themselves.  They need to show a little interest before you start providing guidance and spending your efforts on them.

As a leader, we cannot just direct our team and will need to participate in some of the activities in the weeds.  This shows your willingness to participate and be one with the team.  Additionally, this helps motivate your team to work hard and try to please you.  As a leader, you will want to make sure your team can trust you and rely on you in case they are short handed or need help somewhere.  In my personal experience, I am more likely to respect a leader when I see their willingness to help me out.  There should not be a barrier where the leader feels he/she is too good to work on certain things.  In my opinion, leading by example is a very important trait and tool to motivate your team to drive themselves to get the work done.

Judging others

Although Civil Accomplishment is focused on the topic of success through sharing useful information, gathering information, understanding our goals, and so forth, I also feel it is important to discuss the topic of judging others.  I cannot speak for everyone, but I do feel many of us have judged others before really getting to know them.  It is often easier to push negative feelings towards someone different from you that you do not really know than welcome them and get to know them better.  A lot of these negative feelings are due to fear, which many of us are not willing to admit.

Someone once told me, “flaws are not chosen by us, but given to us, so why hold it against someone”.  For example, if someone is slightly different because of a disability or flaw, then why do you hold it against them or make fun of them.  This can only make it more difficult for that person to achieve their goals because they feel people are opposing them.  Everyone has flaws.  Some are just more visible than others.

The point of this blog is to bring attention to our unconscious efforts to put others down due to personal low self-esteem or fears.  I am not saying everyone does this, but there are many that do.  If you are someone that does this, try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes less fortunate than yourself.  Instead of putting others down, try to support them and give them a reason to succeed.  This can help them through a tough time and provide satisfaction to you.  It can also help you gain an interesting friend with a different perspective on things.  Today I will make sure I emphasis this and really respect the power of different.  Different people really make our world more interesting and a better place to live.