The new workforce – take advantage

The workforce is very different today than it was ever before from start to finish.  The way people are recruited, hired, interact, and so on has all changed with new advances in technology allowing for us to be faster, smarter, and more efficient.  For some larger slower moving companies, they have not fully taken advantage of these advancements and could partially explain why some of the smaller companies are growing faster than larger companies.  It is much more difficult to push changes in an organization of 5,000+ employees than push changes in a small organization of less than 500.  At the same time, there is no excuses for slowness in the business world, and your numbers will reflect your lack of agility if you are large and slow.

Additionally, the landscape for working today has changed dramatically because of the advancements in technology.  There is a lot more instant messaging, e-mailing, and text messaging than there ever was before.  Fewer people are willing to make a quick phone call to resolve an issue and will rather send a message via e-mail or instant message instead.  I still believe it is very important to have face-to-face relationships with your co-workers and business partners.  I still believe it is important to be able to communicate using your voice and make sure your voice is heard.  Writing an e-mail does not help you build your brand as fast as letting your business partners getting to know you face-to-face.  It is not always possible to call or talk face-to-face with your business partners, so e-mails will have to be acceptable.  Try and reaching out via phone or face-to-face a little bit more and see if this helps improve your relationships.

The last piece I would like to touch on is the new mindset of workers today.  It almost feels as if nobody wants to get their hands dirty and a lot of people are just punting to someone else.  “This is not my role”- they may say or “this belongs with XYZ team.”  What ever happened to wearing multiple hats? I guess that does not pay in today’s landscape or with today’s workforce.  It is a snowballing effect where people are less and less likely to handle work outside of their focus objectives.  I think we can improve a little bit here.  This is especially evident with larger companies where there are tons of people to do specific functions.  At smaller companies such as my first job at a startup, I quickly found myself doing multiple tasks even if it was not really my primary job.  I think it is nice to get your hands dirty now and then to get something done.  It really shows that you can work hard and work as a team to achieve something.  What are your thoughts?

Everyones accountable

Many years ago, I had a different mindset on accountability.  In fact, I did not think much about accountability often, especially when something did not go my way.  For example, if I did poorly on an exam, I might have blamed the teacher’s ineffective teaching methods.  If I ended up showing up late to work, I may have blamed the person driving ahead of me being too slow.  If I did not completely my homework assignment, I may have said the teacher’s directions were not super clear.  Excuses can make us feel better about our failures, but are a horrible thing in terms of producing results.

Later on in life, I realized I needed to start being more responsible and taking accountability for my own actions.  If I did poorly on an exam, I could not blame the teacher because it was my own poor studying habits or lack of ability to capture the materials in my brain.  If I showed up late to work and someone really was driving slow, it was still up to me to take into account the possibility of this happening.  If I did not completely my homework due to lack of clarity from the teacher, it was up to me to gain more clarity from the teacher.  Everyones accountable no matter if we like it or not.  The sooner we all realize it, the better!

There are certain ways to hold ourselves accountable, which should be reviewed.  Often, if we set a goal, we may end up forgetting what the goal was in 1 year or so.  Writing down your goal and reviewing it every quarter or so will help us stay focused and hold ourselves accountable to that goal.  If the goal is not reached in the timeframe you set for yourselves, you will need to take corrective actions.  This does not mean punish yourself, but spend time understanding why you did not hit your goal.  Extend the timeframe to a point where you believe you can reach the goal.  It is important you do not just keep extending timing on goals you are not reaching and not do anything to reach the goal.  This will only hurt you in the long run.

As mentioned above, you are going to want to write your goals down somewhere and review them.  The reviewing part is very important because you are checking in on where you are and if you are on track to meet your goal.  If you are not on track, then you are going to have to course correct.  The reviewing process is very important because it will keep you focused on your goals.  You can also include others in your review, which may also help you feel more accountable to reach your goals because now you have more eyes focused on the review.  You will most likely not want to look dumb by not hitting your goals from a lack of effort.  Truly be honest with yourself and do not just say you are trying.  Too many do this and at the end of the day, they are not really trying.  This actually makes me angry because I feel these people are just lazy.  Get out there and do something about it.  Be accountable and hold yourself responsible for your actions or lack of actions.

Mitigating risk

Everyday we go out there trying to generate more value for ourselves than we expend, we are taking risks.  Risk is defined as a situation involving exposure to danger [reference google.com].  Furthermore, we can calculate the risk by assessing two factors:

  • Likeliness event will occur, 1-3 risk rating
  • Severity of event if it does occur, 1-3 risk rating

By rating each of these 1-3 and multiplying the two factors together, you are able to come up with a risk factor between 1-9.  The closer to 9, the more likely the event will happen and the more severe the event will be.  It might help if I provide a few examples:

  • Losing your job as high performer – (1) likeliness x (3) severity = 3 risk factor
    This means the event will most likely not happen, but if it does happen the result will severely impact you.
  • Being late to a show – (2) likeliness x (1) severity = 2 risk factor
    This means the event might happen and if it does happen the result will most likely not severely impact you.
  • Business failing in unfavorable conditions – (3) likeliness x (3) severity = 9 risk factor

These are general examples, so in real life things would not be this simple.  Using this risk factor tool can be helpful in helping you better understand risk.  It is important to identify the risk(s) first and then rate them using this method.  If you do not identify all risks, then you may not fully understand the entire situation.

Life is super risky and not always fair, so I try to understand the risks before I start a new project, embark on a new adventure, or just step outside to get my mail.  We need to keep thinking about risks, but not let them make us so fearful we do not allow ourselves to accept new opportunities.  I believe there is a fine line between understanding risks and just being afraid to do stuff.  What are your thoughts?

Real version versus presented version

I do not believe anyone sane and self-aware truly provides a real version of themselves everywhere we go because we are aware it may not be acceptable in every situation.  This does not mean your real version of yourself is bad, but may not be appropriate everywhere you go.  You may have a presented version that is much more polished and appropriate for select situations.  The reason I speak on this topic is because I feel it is very common for people today to present different versions of themselves, especially on social media.  Everyone wants to present their best version to the world without flaws, but in reality this simply cannot be true.  We all have flaws and at times, I believe we should be proud of that because it makes us unique.

So how does this relate to civil accomplishment topics?

We are presenting a different version of ourselves to the business world, much more different than what we present to our family and friends for the most part.  There is nothing wrong with this, but it makes me think we have to put out extra effort to make sure we keep the two worlds separate.  It can also become much more complicated when you are changing or have variations of your self within the two worlds.  It can all be so polarizing at times.

With all this being said, I too am an offender of changing myself in speaking to different people.  Even in this blog, I also monitor some things whereas in my personal journal I monitor nothing.  Everything I feel will be written without restriction or limits, which is great because I can vent.  I believe I am most true when writing in my journals, which is why I am a very big believer in everyone keeping a journal.  Of course, you may not want to lose custody of that journal because people can feel some of your writings are distasteful.  My journal is for my eyes only.  These are just my thoughts on self-awareness and different versions of people.

Controlling our lives… independency

Working in a corporate office among corporate people can be interesting.  I am not sure if there is a better word than interesting that describes the corporate environment.  There can be a lot of red tape, politics, push back, cloudy decisions, and so on.  In larger corporations, you will find much diversity in levels of talent where some workers are great and others are not.  In large organizations, it may be easier for poor performers to slip through the cracks and get by doing the bare minimum.  I have always put my best efforts into my work to contribute as much as I can to the employer who is paying me.  I am loyal to my employer and would expect them to be loyal to me, which is not always the case.  Through lack of transparency and questionable personnel decisions, I realize it is not always a two-way streak.  So what can we do about it?

I do not wish to always be in the corporate world working for a large company.  I feel I am somewhat powerless and do not have full control over my life.  So much of our day-to-day decision making is dependent on our jobs.  For example, the most obvious dependency we have is on our salary.  There is also dependency on our medical and financial benefits provided to us by our employers.  We also depend on our careers to provide good experiences, so we do not go home upset and bent out of shape.  All of this goes back to our job, which is why I am pushing to run my own business full-time.

Running a full-time business is not an easy task and I understand that.  I have been running a business with my father part-time for over 10-years.  We have had many struggles and had many tough calls to make.  Fortunately, we both have had careers during this time, so we were not fully dependent on our business.  If anything does happen to my job, I will need to make some difficult decisions.  For starters, I will need to determine if I should devote all my time to working on our business and help it grow.  There could be opportunity to do so in the near future, which I am not hoping for.

In the next couple of weeks, I will find out some news from my employer.  It could be good.  It could be bad.  Either way, it has awaken me and made me further realize I want control of my life.  I do not want to depend on a large corporation to pay me every week. I am confident I can run my own business full-time and grow it to a place where I can solely depend on it for salary.  More to come on this down the road.

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!