Year end in review — goals, challenges, accomplishments

In most companies upper management have an annual review of their performance.
This is a good tool we can all use. When setting goals it’s important to schedule periodic reviews.
It’s great for tracking progress.

Take time and go over what you accomplished this past year.
Make a list. What you accomplished at work. And on the personal front: family, friends, and community.
Analyze what went right. Knowing that it will boost your success rate for future goals.

What were your challenges?
To name just a few: lack of skills, procrastination, and lack of patience.
(Many of us are way too familiar with the last one.)
Do remember: most of our challenges are related to our behaviors and state-of-mind.
As in, “If you think you can do it, chances are you CAN DO IT.”

Knowing your challenges gives you an opportunity to work on and improve in this coming year.
And help your personal growth.

Don’t do as I do, do as I say
My goal? To start exercising. (I know — soo original ; )
Several years ago, some well-intentioned friends dragged me to a gym. And didn’t leave my side till I signed the membership.
That was in Sep. I dragged myself there, dutifully, 3-4 times a week. By January I’ve had enough and stopped going.
That was my January resolution : )

This is a case of “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” Exercise is good for you.
That’s why it’s on my list for this coming year: start an exercise regimen.

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The much promised tax reform

Is touted as the most comprehensive tax reform since the 80s.
Leading the proposed changes is a 15 percent reduction in corporate income tax.

As for the individual tax — the front runners here are:

  • eliminating inheritance tax and
  • eliminating the deduction for state and local taxes.

But the much promised tax overhaul is being marred by feuds.

The proposed tax reform plan has attracted some high profile critics, such as Warren Buffett.
Buffett thinks that a lower corporate tax would not help our deficit.

In Congress, divisions among the legislators do not mark this as an auspicious beginning for the tax reform.
There is a lot of talk about Adult care center, Liddle  Bob. And more of the same.

Amidst these and other similar Washington “grown-up” talk the tax reform is slowly moving.
If moving at all.

Let’s hope it doesn’t take the same “route” as the Affordable Care Program.

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On the road for two weeks. And bad habits one can start at 3:45AM

Two weeks of conferences, long hours and different hotel rooms across several states.
First week out of state.
Second week within my own state.

One of the best things I did was to go over my contact list and sent out emails to people I knew in the cities I was scheduled to visit.
Some I didn’t get to see.
The ones I did see I so enjoyed spending time with them.

Traveling with a group (even though it was a different group each time) is having the best of both worlds when you travel.
You get to make new friends in the place you are visiting.
And still have familiar faces around you from the group you came with.

Smart-alecky remarks
The familiarity does come with Smart-alecky remarks.
Like the time when I talked about a family I wanted to visit with. (They lived in the city we were in.)
To which a friend promptly scolded me, “They moved here in 2015 and you haven’t seen them?
When it’s less than an hour drive away from you?!”
Me, laughing, “Less than an hour drive?!  Remind me NOT to get in the car with you !”

Mojito but not Macchiato?!
That evening I’ve re-visited one of my favorite places to shop in the city.
And got me a bunch of chocolate. Then went to dinner. Great food.
Then one of my friends suggested I try a Mojito.
Feeling adventurous I tried it. I liked it.

We left the restaurant and went to a coffee shop — for coffee and dessert.
I usually like my coffee black; so that’s what I wanted to order.
But my friend wanted me to try a Macchiato.

I gave a really suspicious look to that coffee with a “makeup” on.
Which caused my friend to burst out laughing,
“You trusted me with the Mojito, but don’t trust me with the Macchiato?!”

…sow your seed for $58 — at 3:45AM
Aah … the “glamorous” life of a traveler.
Watching the clock and not being able to go to sleep.
It’s 3:45AM.  Might as well turn the TV on.

Flipping through the channels I stopped at the “… sow your seed for $58.”
Venture to guess what’s that all about?
A religious infomercial!

I watched it for about 40 minutes.
The guy gave a lesson in persuasion.
He knew his demographics.
And knew how to make it “easy” and “relatable.”
Quite a learning experience.
Hmm! Maybe I should turn this into a habit — start watching infomercials.

Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep.
Few hours later, now daylight, I enthusiastically shared my TV watching habits from the previous night.
Among bouts of laughter, the Chairwoman, usually a serious lady, turned to another from the group and said,
“Someone better see her checkbook. And make sure there is no $58 check written out.”

Just show up
The good part about traveling this time was that I didn’t have to worry about logistics — reservations, etc.
It was all done and taken care of by some very nice, friendly, and competent people.
All I had to do is show up.

Before heading home I had dinner with a close friend of mine.
And her two sons. Good food, fun conversation.
Wonderful family!

Perfect ending for my two weeks on the road.

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Hemlines, Super Bowls, and Hot Waitresses

“How do hemlines affect the economy?”
(No, this is not a fashion review article.)

In one of my workshops someone asked for a book recommendation on investing.
So I mentioned Stock Market 101.
The author, Michele Cagan, gives you the basics of stock market investing.
And keeps you entertained with tidbits like the following:

“When hemlines go up and skirts get shorter the economy and the stock market tend to be on the rise as well.
Longer skirts coincide with declining stock markets.”

Another indicator, according to Cagan, is the Super Bowl indicator:

“… when teams from NFL and the AFL first battled it out on the field.
According to legend, the market soars when an original NFL-based team wins,
and it tanks when an AFL team takes the game.
This indicator has proven to be 80% accurate since the 1960s.”

And then there is this highly “scientific” index (saving the best for last ; )

“The Hot Waitress Index, which gauges the strength of the economy based on the attractiveness of food servers.
When there are more good-looking waiters and waitresses, according to this indicator, the economy is struggling.”

(Stocks, dividends, trading on the primary or secondary market:
Reading about this and other investing information can be fun.
Who knew!)

Wishing you success in all you do.

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Jobs and tax incentives

13,000 jobs in exchange for $3 billion in state subsidies.

The company: Foxconn. The state: Wisconsin.

Few facts about Foxconn:

  • The largest electronics manufacturer in the world.
  • With international operations in China, India, Japan, Mexico, and other countries, Foxconn is a major employer.
  • In 2015 the company struck an iPhone manufacturing deal in India: to open twelve factories. In China is the largest (private) employer.
  • Its customers are well-known names such as Apple, Intel, Nokia, Sony, Google, Amazon, and other major players.

The multinational company, headquartered in Taiwan, employs more than a million people.
(Foxconn is also marred by allegations of poor working conditions.)

Will Foxconn deliver on its promise and create 13,000 jobs?
What about the $3 billion in subsidies?
Do the taxpayers of Wisconsin think that’s a fair price to pay?
Their elected politicians, as well as the higher echelon in Washington, tell them it is.

Let’s hope it is — and not only because it carries a high-price tag

For people looking for work, what matters the most is jobs.
Over the last 40 years more than $100 billion in tax subsidies have been given to various companies.
Often these companies have failed to deliver on their promises.

Opinions are divided on this.
Some are 100 percent for job creation. While others look at the cost and want to back out of it.
Whichever side you may be on it’s good to at least make an effort and try to listen to the main points of the other guy.
If only because it may help you understand WHY they think the way they do.

Democracy is a two-way street.

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All business is local

Walmart and Amazon.
Two highly successful businesses.

What you may be surprised to know: the strategies they used to achieve a high degree of success at home — those very strategies did not work so well in the international arena.

Its success formula included building stores in rural areas; and high investments in IT. The latter connected them seamlessly with its many vendors; that enabled them to keep product inventory at a minimal level.

What contributed to Walmart’s success in the domestic market — infrastructure, tax compliance, labor laws — turned out to be the very challenges they faced outside of U.S.

Rural areas often lack good roads. And small vendors were distrusting of the big guys; they wouldn’t share their data (because they suspected the information would be reported to the tax authorities.)

Walmart’s success formula didn’t work so well internationally.

Part of Amazon’s success strategy was to build distribution/fulfillment centers all across U.S.
And, just as Walmart did, Amazon heavily invested in IT.

The transition to the international market didn’t go as smoothly as they would have liked it.

The local customers were reluctant to place orders because they feared the product wouldn’t be delivered; or it wouldn’t be the quality they were promised

All business is local
Obviously many of the issues we talked about are connected to the culture of each country they are operating in. But even here in the U.S. these retail giants had to adjust for the regional market they operate in.

Walmart, for example, will sell hunting gear only in states where there is a demand for it. But it won’t carry these types of products in states where it won’t sell. (Or, worst, will create a havoc.)

Most of us will have far fewer challenges than these retail giants do.
Still, as an entrepreneur, you’ll do well to face this reality: business is local.
And adjust your operating strategy accordingly.

Wishing you much success in all you do.

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Mark Cuban: It’s not about money or connections

I was watching clips of an interview Mark Cuban gave a while back.
He was talking about the investments he made over the years.

How some of the companies he put money in are doing great.
Some are out of business.
And some, “… are too stupid to know they are out of business.”

He doesn’t mince words — my kind of guy!
I’ve always liked people who tell it like it is.
(That’s what I do. Except that my big mouth invariably gets me in trouble.)

Then again, Mark Cuban can say anything because he says it with a charming smile.
Maybe he can give me some charm lessons : )
(Incidentally I found out we have another thing in common: his maternal grandparents were born in Romania.
That may explain the outspoken trait ; )

In business, as in life, Cuban looks reality in the face.
But also stays positive.
He says to always wake up with a smile and believe in yourself.

Asked about what it takes to succeed in business, the billionaire said this:

“It’s not about money or connections.
It’s the willingness to
outwork and outlearn everyone
when it comes to your business.
And if it fails,
you learn from what happened and
do a better job next time.”

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Charity or profitable marketing?

Charities helping lower-income patients pay for expensive drugs.
Worthy and noble, right?
That’s exactly what attorneys for Good Days, a patient-assistance charity, will try to prove in courts.

Good Days (formerly Chronic Disease Fund) receives donations from large drug makers such as
Bayer, Johnson and Johnson, Novartis, and others.

Good Days and its attorneys will try to prove that the charity is independent of its donors.
That no drug-maker donor can influence what medicine is covered under its co-pay assistance programs.

The attorneys won’t have an easy job.
According to an IRS’ analysis of the charity’s records:
90 percent to a full 100 percent of its co-payments support went to patients taking drugs made by the very company that donated the money.

Charity or profitable marketing?
When the court day arrives, attorneys from each side will try to make their case:
One side will say how much the patients benefited by being helped to pay for medicine they couldn’t otherwise afford.

The other side will say that, by helping patients pay for expensive medicine, the drug-maker donors help themselves
to collect millions of dollars from Medicare.
And that this in fact is a profitable marketing strategy for the donors.

Charity or profitable marketing — what do you think?

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Are you waiting for things to be “just right”?

You’ve probably heard that saying,
“Procrastinate now, don’t put it off.”

Yes, it’s funny.
But it has been said it’s also one of the main reasons things don’t get done.

Or is it?

What often passes as procrastination is actually self-doubt.
And a misguided belief that we have to wait until things are, “just right.”

Some want to learn a new skill. And get that dream job.
But they are waiting:

  • For the kids to grow up.
  • To have more money.
  • A myriad of other reasons.

Years go by. And they are still waiting…

Others want to embark on a new adventure. Start a new project.
But feel they need to wait for a, b, c… x, y, and z.

So many are waiting for that “perfect” opportunity.
(Waiting for the stars to be aligned in the proper order!)

Stop waiting.
And start working on creating your own opportunities.

“Don’t wait until everything is just right.
It will never be perfect.

There will always be challenges, obstacles,
and less than perfect conditions.
So what?

Get started now.

With each step you take,
you will grow stronger and stronger,
more and more skilled,

more and more self-confident,
and more and more successful.”
Mark Victor Hansen

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Going too fast from point A to point B?

Living life in the fast lane?
Or do you take your time?
Making frequent stops and sometime forgetting where you were heading to begin with?

We all know people from both camps.

Some are go-getters; hard workers. So much so that sometime their personal life suffers.
Others are the opposite.
Work? Yes, as soon as they are done playing one more computer game.
After all they are almost at level 30.

The first group — those who travel through life in the fast lane:

They do know the best is to be somewhere in the middle.
But when they hear about living a balanced life, they’ll counteract with,
“Is that even possible in today’s world?”
These are the same people who keep saying “yes” and add more commitments to their over-booked schedule.

Living a balanced life is not always possible, of course.

There will be times when you don’t have much of a choice. You have to work long hours.
And get that project finished.
But as soon as it’s done take time to recharge. IT’S IMPORTANT.

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air.
You name them — work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air.
You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.
If you drop it, it will bounce back.
But the other four balls — family, health, friends, and spirit — are made of glass.
If you drop one of these,
they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged, or even shattered.
They will never be the same.
You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.”
Brian Dyson, former vice chairman and COO of Coca-Cola

We’ll talk next week about the second group — those who travel life leisurely.
Is it because of hardly any planning and goal-setting?
Or is it because they like it that way?
Or another reason altogether?

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