Sunday, December 27, 2009

Matching Careers With Personalities ... Or Not

Why is it that I'm always an easy target for the countless career and personality tests floating around the universe? Truthfully I'm not convinced that they are reliable, but they always seem to be more accurate than not with my results. Case in point, MY RESULTS ...

Personality type: "Determined Realist"
Practical, traditional and organized. Likely to be athletic. Not interested in theory or abstraction unless they see the practical application. Have clear visions of the way things should be. Loyal and hard-working. Like to be in charge. Exceptionally capable in organizing and running activities. 'Good citizens' who value security and peaceful living.

Careers that could fit you include:
Military, business administrators, managers, police/detective work, judges, financial officers, teachers, sales representatives, government workers, insurance agents, underwriters, nursing administrators, trade and technical teachers.

If you are interested in taking a career/personality test, click here; it's quick and easy. Don't forget to let us know how accurate - or not - the test results are for you.

BTW .... Merry Christmas and Happy early New Year;-).

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Dear Romeo


I miss you already buddy. You were the sweetest, smartest dog ever. Although I only knew you for a short time, you carved out an eternal impression in my heart. It's so amazing how you managed to steal my affection and cause some folks to refer to me as "delusional" because I'd go around calling you "my dog." (inside joke, i needed that laugh). You were my dog. You were everything I ever wanted in a dog. Your communication skills were grade A, your friendship was unconditional and your personality was almost human-like. I'm gonna miss sending you care packages filled with your favorite treats, peanut butter snacks, doggie biscuits, and of course, all things chicken. I really wished you would have hung on a few more days so that I could see you once more. Well, maybe it was best that I wasn't there when you decided to go to doggie heaven. Unashamedly I gotta tell you, I have a lump in throat that won't clear, and yes, I've shed a few tears too.

Bye bye my doggie brother. There's not another jack russell terrier, or any other dog that can replace you.

Small Business Pitfalls

We've all heard the scary statistics about how many small businesses fail in their infancy. Part of what I do is provide consulting work for small businesses so I see first hand what some of the biggest culprits are.

1. Too Much Borrowed Money
I'm not sure if this will continue to be as big of an issue because the banks have all but put a freeze on small business lending. If you're one of those unlucky/lucky ones who can get a lot of leveraged funding, borrower beware! I highly suggest starting a business with your own money or with investors. If you do have to borrow money, try not to be more than 50% leveraged. You may not have an employer but if you are borrowed up to your hairline, you are working for the banks, and that's not what you got into business to do. Here's a statistic for you ... 100% of the businesses that filed for bankruptcy were over leveraged. I don't need a source for that one, it's pretty self explanatory.

2. Wrong Motives
If your primary motive for starting your own business is based one of these statements, "I want to be my own boss," or "I don't want to work for anyone else," then you may be one of those small business casualties. Owning your own business is as glamours as it is messy. If you lack passion and discipline you won't have the necessary ingredients to push past the pain and pursue the full potential of the business. You need something more than a disdain for working for someone else.

3. Lack of Planning
Planning is very important and covers everything from finances to marketing. For brevity, let's stick to the financial part of planning. Remember that employer who kindly withheld all of your taxes, and paid them on time to the federal and state governments? Well you kicked them to the curb so it's all on you. You can't just collect the income and forget to pay your real employer (i.e., the gov't) their cut. I've seen several small businesses get into this rut and for those who survived, they came out with very little skin left in tact. You do not, and I repeat, do not, want to get into a situation where you're behind on self-employment and employer taxes. You'd be left wondering if you owe the gov't or a loan shark. Can you say compounded interest DAILY!

4. No Marketing
So what if you have the best product or offer the most fabulous service, if no one knows you exist what good is that doing you? Marketing doesn't have to be very expensive. At a minimum you should have a website and some business cards. Depending on where you shop around, this could be a $200 or less initial investment. Perhaps I'm a website snob, but you'd be hard pressed to get me to do business with an establishment that does not have a website. That's the first thing I ask for when I call or if I'm speaking to someone about their business.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Overcoming Challenges

A few weeks ago I shared 5 challenges with being a new entrepreneur (or solopreneur as it's sometimes called). Learning to overcome challenges head on is a skill set that I'm guessing most successful business owners possess. Here are some things that I've done, currently doing, or in the process of doing, to overcome the challenges I've identified thus far:

Challenge #1 - It's all you boo!

Yes, it's still all me but hopefully that will end soon. To help reduce costs, I share an office space with another business - that just so happens to offer a service that marries well with what I'm doing. The owner and I have discussed bringing in an administrative person to help both of us, which would be a great cost savings. Another option is to bring on independent contractors as the need arises. By using contractors, my expenses will be more directly aligned with revenues. Eventually it is my goal to have full time employees; I look forward to the day when I can help nurture other people's careers and goals.

Challenge #2 - Social Isolation!

This is probably the easiest challenge to overcome. For starters, don't isolate yourself from your friends (duh, right). I hung out with one of my buds last night and we had a blast. Yes I miss seeing her everyday, but not seeing her everyday made yesterday even more special and fun. Secondly, there is the local chamber of commerce, which I plan to join soon and hopefully build new relationships with other small business owners. Lastly, I get to play on facebook more now that I'm not behind the corporate firewalls. It's amazing how much social media helps us to stay connected with people.

Challenge #3 - Income!

We all know that word of mouth is often the best form of marketing. Super serving my clients is my #1 goal. The majority of my projects have come through referrals so I haven't had to market much. It is my plan to do more marketing in the very near future. Another aspect to protecting and managing my income is to invoice timely and appropriately. Depending on the scope of the project, I may request a retainer or progress billing if it's expected to go beyond 30 days.

Challenge #4 - Stagnation!

Again, this one is easy. I continue to subscribe to newsletters and other periodicals that keep me updated. I also attend conferences and business/professional development seminars. Lastly, I have joined 2 organizations specifically geared toward my service and business.

Challenge #5 - No PTO!

Who cares?! If I overcome challenges 1, 3 & 4, I can have as much or as little PTO as I like. I'm taking off 2 weeks for Christmas, and in case you haven't heard, I'm headed to St. Lucia in a few months;-).

To conclude, I think the benefits far outweigh the costs. I'm doing something that I love to do, I'm helping and serving everyday folks (not just corporate shareholders) and I'm learning so much on a daily basis. Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone, but it's definitely not as scary as some of us have convinced ourselves to believe. In my experience, the hardest part so far was making the decision.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Whoo Hoo!

Whoo hoo, listen carefully ... can you hear that? It's the sound of waves crashing. Stand still ... do you feel that? It's the coolness of the tropical breeze. Mmm, mm ... can you taste that? It's the sweet taste of mimosas every morning. Oooh, look over there ... do you see that? It's the breathtaking view of pristine beaches and tropical rainforests. Where are you? You're on the beautiful island of St. Lucia. Uhm hmm, yeah baby (in my austin powers voice), someone is going on a vacation in less than 6 months!

Let's take a stroll down memory lane to January when I solicited vacation suggestions here. Finally, I am going to take an adult vacation. No 2 and 3 night quickies, a full 7 night stay in a villa on the beautiful island of St. Lucia! Yippee!!!

Wanna go? You're more than welcome. Hey, the more the merrier;-).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Retirement Planning

Blogpal 444express had a few interesting posts on her personal stock transactions that got me to thinking. Personally I don't invest in individual stocks for several reasons, but the main reason is because I'm just too lazy to do so. Unlike 444express, I am not a very diligent person when it comes to watching and studying stocks and their movements daily, weekly, or heck, even annually. I'm a mutual fund kind of girl ... give me a little of everything in one swoop.

My laziness doesn't just stop with individual stocks, I don't even watch my mutual funds ... at all, if ever, well maybe annually when I'm calculating my net worth for the year. The only retirement account that I review quarterly is my ROTH, and that's because the contributions are mine at any time, without any penalty or taxes - so in essence, I kind of see my ROTH as a glorified savings account, that I can't touch unless the world has turned upside down. As for the 401K accounts that were rolled over into a traditional IRA, I don't take one measly look at them. Hmm, that doesn't sound too responsible, huh?

Quite frankly I'm not too concerned about how they perform. I have yet to get it into my head that my "retirement" should be based on the amount of money I saved through retirement vehicles invested in paper assets. I'm more concerned with paying off my mortgage and being completely debt free. I know medical costs can be a beast on one's retirement savings so that's one reason why I was making maximum contributions to my HSA account every year. With socialized medicine on the horizon, who knows what we will need to do to address medical care in those golden years. I'll continue to maximize my HSA and adjust as necessary.

As for retirement planning, here are my initiatives (in order of priority):
  • Continue building and growing current business
  • Continue to build HSA account (as long as it makes sense to do so)
  • Continue investing in ROTH IRA
  • Payoff mortgage (never have another one again)
  • Invest in other businesses (currently developing the framework)
  • Invest in real estate
  • Invest in paper assets (i.e., stocks and bonds)
Now that's diversification;-). How are you planning for "retirement?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Product Review - OMG Goodness!!!

My beloved Trader Joes has done it again. I splurged on a box of organic Chai Tea ($3.29 for 20 bags) and let me tell you - I'll do it again and again and again. The "recipe" suggested that you bring 8 ounces of water to a boil, steep the tea bag for 4 - 5 minutes and if you desire, add a splash of milk for richness. I chose to boil some almond milk instead of water and then steeped the tea bag for several minutes. OMG!!! It was so delicious. I added absolutely no sweetener at all (one could argue that this is not a true statement since I used the vanilla flavored almond milk:-).

If you like chai tea, I highly recommend giving this product a try. Although I kept it basic, there are many options to jazz up your cup of goodness. A friend has decided to add some Bailey's Irish Cream to their cup ... hmm ... I'll pass, it's wonderful as is to me. Simple and plain, that's how I'll drink this beauty. Now that I think about it this wasn't a splurge because I can enjoy a cup of chai tea for about 17 cents. That's much cheaper than the occasional Caribou Coffee or Starbucks splurge. SCORE!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

If ... Then

Today has been one of those days where I find myself having random thoughts, about nothing in particular. Here's a sneak peak of my randomness:

IF soap is supposed to be a cleaning agent, THEN why is the residue (i.e., soap scum) hard to clean?

IF the "red" onion is really purple, THEN why is it called a red onion?

IF Washington is so great at fiscal policy, THEN why can't they balance their books?

IF Christmas is December 25 every year, THEN why the mad rush in December as if it's a surprise ... and why the crazy charging as if it's an emergency?

IF I can get shrimp & fish from the coast of Savannah and the Gulf Coast, THEN why is it cheaper to purchase shrimp & fish that are shipped over from China, Thailand and Vietnam.

See random. Do you have any IF ... Then's that you'd like to share?