Posts Tagged ‘business’

Reduce taxes, Incorporate, Women's Council of Realtors


“This is too difficult for a mathematician. It takes a philosopher.”

That’s Albert Einstein talking about out tax code.

Formally, federal tax law is a particular chapter (Title 26) of the United States Code. The federal tax law contains 11 subtitles, which among them comprise 9,833 sections.

The number of words in the tax code? No one knows. Seriously, no one knows. The lower bound seems to be 16,000 pages, and even that’s not definite. A conservative 250 words per page, and that’s 4 million words. Even counting the number of sections is exhausting. They go from 1 to 9873, and counting, but plenty of numbers are missing.

Politicians may tout the virtues of our “progressive” tax system, but it doesn’t really favor the poor over the rich.
Nor does it favor the rich over the poor, not when 40% of federal tax receipts come from 1% of the population. Fairly or otherwise, the tax system favors the diligent over the unprepared. (As most things in life, so maybe the system is fair.)

Specifically, the system favors independent businesspeople over salaried workers.

You can do what almost everyone can but few bother to: play the IRS’ game. Only make sure you’re on the winning team.  Read my recent article in the Women’s Council of REALTORS e-newsletter.


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Where are you going?

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Lewis Carroll

Imagine you’re sitting in an airplane. The captain gets on the intercom and says: “Folks, we’re 2nd in line for takeoff. Where would you like to go?”

If your perfect life is the destination, don’t you want to get there as quickly, easily and cheaply as possible? Maybe you can do so without creating a business plan, but I can’t imagine how.  A plan will help you make better and faster decisions, decide how you spend your money or time and track your progress.

Start now.


“A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” General George S. Patton

Complete your annual plan by November so that you can relax and sit on your plan for a month or so before executing it.  Review (and revise if needed) your progress quarterly.  This is not a New Year’s resolution to be enacted in January and discarded by February.  This is an action plan that will get you to your biggest life goals.

It’s time to focus your energy onto your goals and dreams. Find a place with trees and fresh air where you can concentrate on your future.

There are myriad ways to create your plan and they all start with a vision.


“I love it when a plan comes together.” Hannibal Smith-The A-Team

What do you want to do, be or have in 2-5 years?

What motivates you to jump out of bed in the morning, or work late into the night?

Your vision must be:

Specific- What will it look like once you’ve reached your goal? Where will you live? What will you do each day? Who will your friends, neighbors or co-workers be?

Vivid- Realism is the key to visualization so use all of your senses when describing your goal.  The goal is to make your mind believe your future outcome is happening now.  With consistent visualization, your mind accepts the image of success and suddenly you’re seeing inspiration and opportunity everywhere.

Compelling-How will your life (or the lives of your family members) improve once you’ve achieved your goal?

Desirable-Is this your dream or only something you think you should want?  The more you want the outcome, the more likely it is you’ll achieve it. If your goal isn’t compelling, you’ll quit at the first sign of trouble.

Realistic-Do you have enough time, energy and support to reach your goal? Have others done it before? If it’s been done, there’s a proven strategy to do it, you just have to find it.

Focused- Instead of creating a to-do list, concentrate your energy on accomplishing up to 3 bigger goals.

Flexible-There are lots of ways to get to your outcome.  If your goal is to provide your son with an Ivy League education instead of concentrating on just one way to get there (saving lots of money), brainstorm all the ways you could make it happen (scholarships, part-time work, etc.)

Easy to communicate- Can you describe your end result concisely in terms anyone can understand?

Close your eyes and imagine your future.

Having trouble visualizing?

Look for someone who’s already achieved your goal.  What does that person’s life look like?  Draw, paint a picture, or write a story as if you’re reporting on your future self.  Then distill that scene, picture or story into your vision statement.

Once you’ve articulated your vision, make it real.

Step 1:  Writing your goal down makes it tangible and on those days when you’re frustrated or unfocused, you can look at what you’ve written and get back on track.

The more accountable you are, the more likely it is you’ll achieve your goal. Find an accountability partner who’s committed to her own goals. Better yet, find someone who already attained your goal.  Tell that person your goals and ask for help in keeping your commitments.

Step 2: Determine what it will take to get there. What skills, knowledge and resources will you need?

If you want to live in France, you’ll need to learn French (skill), find a place to live (knowledge) and save money (resources.)

Step 3: Break each task down into short-term goals you can accomplish in 1,2 or 3 months.


“Set your goals high and don't stop until you get there” Bo Jackson

Write down your top 5 values in order. If your goal conflicts with your values, you’ll never achieve it.

If you’re not sure what constitutes a value, this list can help. When you commit to your values and have written goals, choosing between competing demands gets easier. As does making decisions.

Sally’s top value is family, followed by financial independence.  A single mother with 2 kids, she’s been offered a job that doubles her salary but requires her to leave town every weekend. She has to either decline the job, or rerank her values.

Acknowledging your values, prioritize your short-term goals.  Your goals should have a deadline as well as a tangible, measurable end-result.  Set goals that are tough but realistic to achieve.

In On Writing, Stephen King compares writing to telepathy. Even though he writes every novel, short story, and magazine article in a certain place and at a certain time, you can be miles and decades away and still receive his communication clearly.

If writing is telepathy, planning and envisioning are clairvoyance. Planning your tomorrow today will bring your vision of the future to fruition.

What to learn more?

Join me on Wednesday, November 3rd at The New Orleans Marriott.

Get details and register here.

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“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.”

Baba Amte

Successful people have at least 3 common traits.  How you embody them will determine your fate in the coming year.

1) Be passionate.

Call it a mission, a goal or your “Big Why.”  It’s the reason you get up in the morning, work late at night or borrow money from your family to finance your start-up costs.  Without passion, you’ll quit at the first sign of trouble or when a better offer comes along. What’s your passion?

2) Solve problems.

If you solve people’s problems, they’ll throw money at you. Easy, right?

Find a job no one else wants and do it. Find the knowledge few know and learn it.

To sell yourself and your product or service, define what value you bring to the table.

Are you faster?



Any 2 of the 3 will do.  If you’re faster than your competition, you don’t have to be cheaper, but your quality has to be at least as good as theirs.  Your customer will pay a premium for speed, but won’t accept inferiority at any price.

3) Produce.

Do you have a business plan? Are you working it every day?  Do you account for your results?

Your plan should focus on what problem you’re solving and the unique value that you add to the transaction.

Who are your customers? How will you reach them?

Every sale results from you talking to your customers or would-be customers.  Do this everyday.

Don’t waste time with mediocre people, thoughts or actions. Just take daily steps toward your goal.

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Your customer doesn’t care what title is on your business card, what school you went to or what your grade point average was.  He wants one thing:

His problem solved.

It sounds so simple, yet most companies can’t do it.

So often, we tell customers what we think they should want instead of listening to them.

How to succeed in 3 easy steps:

1) Understand exactly what your customer’s problem is:

Mr. & Mrs. Smith want to buy a restored 1965 blue Mustang convertible for  $35,000.

2) Honestly assess if you can solve it:

Tom Dealer has connections with rare auto dealers across the nation and can find the best vintage cars at the lowest prices.

3) Determine if you’re willing to – and if you can do it quickly, cheaply, and/or with the best service:

The Smiths and Tom Dealer seem compatible. But if Tom doesn’t act, the Smiths will find someone who can.

This is a variation of finding the job no one wants and excelling at it.

Anyone can say she’s going to solve the problem.
Be different: actually do it.

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Avis and 7UP each parlayed their secondary status into successful advertising campaigns. Mine that Bird beat 50-1 odds to win the Kentucky Derby.

The story of the underdog is endemic to American culture, which probably stems from our national story. We started as a dependency of the world’s greatest power, only to eventually assume that mantle for ourselves. Tap into this mythos, and you can create tremendous opportunities for yourself and your company.

Here are the top 5 rules for underdogs:

The wheel is always turning.
If you’re already tops in your field, congratulations.  This post is not for you.

For whomever’s on top today, someone else wants to dethrone them. Historically unassailable IBM lost its prominence to Microsoft, a company founded by a college dropout tinkering in his garage.

If you’re the Bill Gates in that analogy, you’re not bogged down by bureaucracy and inertia. By being speedy and nimble, you can ultimately be unique and memorable.

A great story is worth more than a Super Bowl ad.
Susan Boyle became a sensation thanks to an unorthodox background coupled with a phenomenal voice.

What’s your story?  Find a compelling way to share it with your potential customers but:

*Keep it optimistic.  Victimhood is great for reality TV and Democratic conventions, but it weakens your brand.  Your customers need to know you can solve your problems before they’ll give you the chance to solve theirs.

*Stay grounded. Customers want to do business with people they like and who are like them. Get your customers to buy into your story and they’ll become your biggest fans.

*Be honest. Embellishment is one thing. Recreating a history is something else.  As your success grows, your competitors will work to discredit you.  Don’t give them ammunition.

Forge your own rules.
Malcolm Gladwell wrote in The New Yorker about how playing by conventional rules of warfare gives a huge advantage to the favorite.  He explains why the underdog should abandon conventional wisdom and instead play to its strengths.

For decades, every airline assigned you a seat and served you food. There were no law to that effect, that’s just how everyone did it. Until upstart Southwest Airlines realized they could just let people sit where they wanted and bring their own food.

By rejecting conventional wisdom, Southwest could prep its planes more quickly between flights.  Less downtime meant more flights and more revenue.

Where is the gap in the services your competition offers?  How can you fill it in a unique, profitable way?  Imagine that your industry doesn’t exist, and you’re about to become the first company to deliver your product/service.  What would you do differently?

Be passionate and inspire.
The Los Angeles Lakers might be a better team than the Orlando Magic, but I’d rather play for Magic coach Stan Van Gundy than the Lakers’ Phil Jackson. The latter is the embodiment of cool reservation, while Van Gundy is loud, enthusiastic and slightly erratic.  He’s the pugnacious underdog who refuses to let go.

Your employees and customers need you to sustain and to translate your vision to solve their problems.  To maintain your equilibrium, you need a clear written mission and vision statement.  Brainstorm with other entrepreneurs, mentors and your employees to stay connected and energized.

Never give up.
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
-Winston Churchill

Churchill maintained his optimism in the face of unspeakable evil.  After defeating that evil, the British people rewarded him by voting him out of office. If one of history’s strongest leaders can withstand that, you can persevere whatever it is you’re enduring.

Every time you try something new, assess its effectiveness.  Set a reasonable time and a realistic outcome, then act.  Review your progress.  If it’s negative, try something else.  Repeat until success.

The goal is not to be the biggest, but to maintain your vision while serving your customers and employees.  Make a life, not just a living.

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If you’re worried that you’re going to be just another victim of what’s looking more like a double-dip recession every day, act as if you’re starting all over again.

With credit tightening, previously unassailable banks losing solvency, and even government bonds becoming risky, it’s tempting to remain static. But opportunity always exists – only now the way to embrace it is by riding the wave of creative destruction.

The market continuously re-invents itself – that’s capitalism.  Old, complacent companies & technologies outlive their usefulness and give way to new, dynamic ones; ugly, unattractive K-Mart & Sears with their uninspiring product lines yield to the sleek suburban facades of Target & unmatchable high-volume prices of Wal-Mart. IBM’s stodgy mainframes are rendered obsolete by the personalized convenience of Microsoft and an operating system accessible to almost everyone.  Top-heavy, union-whipped, lugubrious GM loses market share and consumer confidence to the famed efficiency and more workable business model of Toyota.

Examine your business model, and determine which old ways you’re still hanging onto.  Even if you’re not Hindu, take a lesson from Shiva and clean house.

1) Cut expenses. Look at everything.  After you’ve made the first series of cuts, repeat – only this time, eliminate all the items you didn’t have the guts to cut the first time.

2) Rethink your message.  Today, customers care (or should care) a lot more about value than image.  Can you deliver more value with fewer resources? What incentives can you offer to loyal customers? Give your customers a compelling reason why they have to do business with you.  You’ll still have to compete on price, but that’s a lot easier of clients are already sold on you.

3) Recreate your business.  What one thing that no one else is doing should be done? Pretend you’re starting anew. Examine every aspect of your business model. Don’t think that just because no one’s ever done something, that something can’t work.

4) Get support.  Seek out similarly minded people to brainstorm with. Contact your role models and mentors, whom I know you have and speak to regularly.  You might even end up doing business with them.

5) Be fearless.  Turmoil and uncertainty hit everyone eventually.  The only way to grow and learn when they hit you is to face your fear and move beyond it.

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Have you ever looked at someone and thought: “I’m smarter than that guy; why is he more successful than me?”

Being smart is not the only factor for success, nor is it the primary one.

Desire is the path to success.

If that sentence has you stumped, it’s time to read (or re-read) Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Hill’s basic premise (passed on to him by Andrew Carnegie) is this: Focus on your outcome to the exclusion of everything else.  Be willing to do anything to achieve your goal.  Your craving for the result drives everything you do everyday.

A great example of this is demonstrated by the character of Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street*. The 1947 movie featured single career woman Doris Walker and her daughter Susan.  Despite Mom’s insistence on indoctrinating Susan into a life of working for the man and accepting her lot, Susan believes things can change-if she wants them to badly enough.  Susan prevails, with the help of Kris Kringle, when she draws a picture of herself, her mom and her future stepdad in their dream home a drawing that comes to life.

If your goal doesn’t make you yearn for it-you have the wrong goal.

Take a look at your overall success goal.  What is the object of your desire?

Write it down-say it out loud and write down your reaction.

Did you get excited or scared?

Did you smile when you said it or frown?

Did you say it out loud but heard a voice in your heard scoff at ever attaining it?

Did you hear someone else’s voice?

Each successful person has the following 3 characteristics (in descending order of importance):

*a crystal clear goal

* An overwhelming desire matched with a willingness to do anything to achieve that goal

* The talent/knowledge/skills to achieve the goal

Look for coincidence & inspiration. Your subconscious creates these events to keep you moving in the right direction. When you’re on the right path, working with your talents instead of against them, you know what to do.  Obstacles appear but you find solutions.

One way to speed up the process is to meditate.  Spending quiet, purposeful, contemplative time will let you hear all that you need to know.

Don’t wait any longer.  Start creating your perfect life today.

*I bet you thought I was going to use Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle from A Christmas Story or maybe Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything.

Movies make great examples because they’re written to follow a straight line from want to attain with some obstacles thrown in between for dramatic tension. It’s called escapism because the story rarely reflects reality. Forget the movies; make your own happy ending.

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