Stress And Responsibility – Your Competitive Advantages?

Many moons ago I went on a trip to Cuba with my wife to “find my life’s purpose.”

I was in a bad place.

Waking up every morning wondering if my life was really reduced to the 9-5 grind.

I had gone to school, earned a University Degree and I had incorrectly believed that everything else was going to be pretty easy.

How wrong I was.

I got a job in the IT industry programming mainframe computers.

Now let me explain something.

After learning about the latest programming methods and the hottest Internet-based web development programs in a post-degree grad program … programming mainframes every day was like hammering rock with a sledgehammer.

I felt like Fred Flintstone.

I began having nightmares about my life and my future.  Waking up sweating in panic.  Seriously.

5 Renegade Strategies for Building The Business of Your Dreams

Well, it’s a crazy world.

Sheesh.

It’s tough to figure out what’s going on.  Although you can’t control the massive global political forces you can control the way you make money.

You can buy some property, work hard to pay off the debt on it, live off the cash flow.

You can build a business, and work hard to make it pay dividends to you.

We like that type of stuff, a lot.

We actually enjoy living in our own little reality where we block out the media, negativity, the accepted “norms” and just live as we please … in our own reality if you will.

And if you’re anything like us you’re probably interested in controlling your own finances as well.  So today we’re going to share 5 Renegade Strategies for Building The Business of Your Dreams.

5 Renegade Strategies for Building The Business of Your Dreams

These points were recently shared by a personal business mentor of ours, Bill Glazer, in a talk he gave in Arizona.  We’re going to share our notes…

Renegade Strategy #1: Turn your “ordinary” business into an “extraordinary” business.

Think Starbucks.  They changed how much people will pay for coffee by changing the delivery.  Starbucks created a “coffee experience” like no other.  How else can you explain paying $4 for some water, coffee beans and a paper cup with a bit of foam on top?  Hats off to them.

Think Dominos Pizza.  They revolutionized the world with their unique message of, “Fresh, Hot Pizza at Your Door in 30 Minutes or its FREE”.  That caused many car accidents but also built a franchise empire.

And don’t think that your small business can’t do this.  We know Bill Glazer’s own menswear stores used to sell 67% of its clothing via personal appointments.  Now, when is the last time you’ve heard of making personal appointments to visit a retailer?

We also know of a pizza store in Winnipeg that sells “memberships” to clients who get a monthly allotment of Award-Winning, Gourmet Pizza.  When’s the last time your pizza store asked you to sign up for a membership?

There’s a painter in the U.S. who turned around every objection customers had about hiring painters into positive points in his marketing: no late arrivals for painting or the job is free, no paint in your toilets or on your floors at the end of the day, no loud music playing in your house unless you’re playing it and you’ll never see a painter’s butt crack.  LOL, seriously.  His business?  On fire.

Renegade Strategy #2:  Defy Industry Norms & Positioning for Power

Productivity Tools That We Love

As the years pass it’s becoming increasingly obvious to us that our time is the most precious and treasured resource that we have.  We’re both getting harsher with how we spend it and we both get very cranky if we waste it.  Actually, right now the thing that may upset us more than anything else is an inefficient use of our own time.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve had several people ask us how we manage our time.  Instead of going through some of our decision-making processes, today we thought we’d share a few of the tools that help us get things done.

Here is a list of tools that we use to manage our time:


1. Gmail.
If you aren’t using Gmail from Google for your email yet it’s time to switch.  Gmail uses a “conversation” style of email threading that is difficult to get used to for the first few weeks but once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll never go back.

And more importantly, Gmail has the best search functionality that we’ve ever seen for email.  Think of having “Google Search” working for you on your email.  We rarely “save” emails any more in “folders”.  For years we’ve just been using Gmail’s “Archiving” functionality to hide read emails from our inbox but we have access to years worth of data by just searching our Gmail accounts.

The “Advanced Search” even allows you to search within specific “time frames” when you’re looking for something but just not exactly sure when it was you were dealing with it.

We also “forward” ourselves any important emails and include keywords in the email.  We then Archive the messages.  But now those emails have keywords that we can easily search using Gmail’s search functionality.  Some keyword examples “main street offer” or “joint venture agreement” or “sample rental ads”.

AND!

You don’t have to use Gmail for personal accounts.  Using Google Apps you can hook up any domain name (e.g. our is “@rockstarbrokerage.com) to use Gmail for that domain’s email.  And it’s free.  What more could you ask for?

Google Gmail = 2 thumbs way up.

2. Paper Based Weekly Calendars. We use paper-based daily calendars – every day.  We both have software and IT backgrounds and have both played with Palm Pilot’s, Blackberry’s and iPhone’s for years but nothing beats the paper-based daily calendar.  We use the “weekly view” formats so we can see the entire week at a time and prefer that the calendars have a monthly view for each month as well.

For managing some virtual projects Google Calendar is our choice if we have to share dates across virtual teams but we use paper-based calendars to manage our own daily activities.

Sounds barbaric, doesn’t it?  Yeah, we know … we’re old school. 😉

Here’s the model we use, it’s At-A-Glance Weekly/Monthly Calendar.  You can lay out the week, but it also has a monthly view and a monthly “to-do” list down the side of the calendar that stays visible throughout each week of the month … priceless.

Silver Fever! How To Buy The Shiny Stuff

Real estate investors are a passionate bunch.  And if you’re interested in cash flow and property it also means you have a general interest in wealth and the protection of it.

Gold and silver play a role in our own personal portfolios and lately, we’re getting asked about the shiny metals almost daily … that’s what a ten-year bull run does we assume 😉

Our interest in gold and silver changed in 2008 during the financial mess.

It went from, “Uh, why would anyone in the world care up those funny rocks.” to “Wait a second, we better figure out their role in history … and let’s make this quick.”

Nothing like a financial collapse to shake things up.

Now, first thing’s first.  We’re not here to tell you that you MUST buy gold and silver.  Getting into that debate does not interest us.  Too many debates on the topic end up like messy mud wrestling matches … they start out great but get ugly – fast.  Make up your own mind.

We believe in creating cash flow and preserving our wealth and have decided for ourselves that gold and silver will play a role for us … for now.

We feel that today’s monetary system almost guarantees that gold and silver will end in a bubble just like other asset classes have – so if you dare go down this path educate yourself.  This is not like investing for cash flow … this is for the big boys and girls.

For starters, if you haven’t already, we highly recommend Mike Maloney’s book, “The Guide to Buying Gold & Silver” as mandatory reading before you make your first move.  It’s a quick read and 100% worth it.  After that, you can dig up great books on the Wiemar Republic, the events in Yugoslavia in the early 1990’s, and you can even Google George Washington and the saying around his time, “not worth a continental”, to get a taste of the history of money.

And for a great funny modern-day comedic overview of today’s financial policy, you won’t want to miss this video “the Ben Bernank” … it’s hilarious.

Back to reality…

If you want some current information from a decent source you’ll want to click here and read this.  The source of the article is known to have a bias against the U.S. Federal Reserve but he’s not a tin foil hat wearing gold bug either.

How Do You Buy Silver?

So, if you make the decision that you’d like to acquire some gold and silver for yourself how exactly do you buy the stuff?

I mean, it’s a physical rock after all right?

For today’s discussion, we’re going to stick with Silver but the same process applies to gold almost exactly.

The options are endless, from junk silver to your Grandma’s old silver serving trays, to certificates and collectables.  You can find silver everywhere.  I’m pretty sure my Aunt in Europe still has a silver tooth.  Nah, it must be something else.  Regardless, how funny is that?

Anyway, back on topic…

90 Minutes To Complete Domination

In last week’s post, we discussed the importance of having BIG and FAT reasons to achieve any lasting change.

We chatted about comfort being the enemy.  You can’t just “want” to achieve “financial freedom” or “the perfect family/kids” or “physical fitness”.  And you definitely won’t last if you just “want” to “start or your business” or “invest for cash flow”.

You need deep pain and frustration.  Sounds horrible, we know.

Your “want to have” must be turned into a “gotta have” or you stand very little chance of breaking out of whatever rut you’re in.

This conclusion is coming from our own self-observation and tracking.  So we can tell you with certainty that it’s important – at least, to us.

If you’re able to get emotional enough, for long enough, to take action, then the next part of the achievement equation is creating environments that force our new behaviours.

Let’s break this out into two sections.

The first, actually measuring what’s important.

And the second, structuring your day so that you don’t lose your mind.

Tracking Your Way To Anything You Want

Some people do an excellent job of getting really upset and deciding to make a change but then lose that emotional super-charge because they haven’t built-in mechanisms to remind them of their progress.  To keep them on track after the emotional charge of adrenaline wears off.

In the previous article, I mentioned that my son was taking some snowboard lessons over the holidays.  He was able to track his progress by counting how many times he fell on the bunny hill.

Next, when he mastered that he went over to the “big chairlift” and tested himself on a real beginner hill, “The Big Easy”.   And he desperately wanted to master this hill so that he could go hang out with his nieces on the Intermediate runs marked by big “blue squares” on the ski hill map.

After tackling “The Big Easy” for an entire day he was able to make it down without turning himself into a human snowball.  He went from falling every ten feet to being able to control his descent and was averaging only about one or two fairly small little falls per run.  That was enough to secure the all-important parental permission required for him to go down an intermediate run.

His speed of descent, his control and most importantly, the number of falls were his tracking tools.

He was able to clearly count his progress.

Let’s take two more examples of measuring your progress:

1. Real Estate Investing.

If you’ve been searching for a good cash flow property for any length of time and not getting anywhere you’ll quickly lose the motivation to continue.  When Nick and I began looking for good homes we turned it into a game.

a) How many properties did we have to go through in order to find a good one?  It ended up being 10 properties required to find an acceptable property.  Knowing this kept us motivated.  If we had looked at 15 properties with no luck over two days we knew that in the next five properties we were likely to find two gems … and that kept us going.  That knowledge gave us the motivation to look at over 50 properties each … a week, for months.

b) If we had a vacant rental property we turned to measuring leads, carefully.  We asked ourselves, how many phone calls from our advertising did we need to get six people to view the property?  It turned out we need about 12 leads.  After that, we figured out that to get a tenant we needed at a bare minimum, three good applications.  We then started measuring how many leads turned into appointments and how many of those turned into applications.  Knowing the numbers took the mystery out of the process and kept us focused on constantly improving our advertising and application conversion … instead of just throwing up a lawn sign and praying.  Tracking, measuring, reminding ourselves of the key numbers made us much more effective.

2. Small Business

Over the years we’ve realized that tracking tenant leads to a property is exactly the same as tracking potential customer leads into a business.

a) How many visitors does your website require to get your “desired response”.  Your website has a purpose right?  Well, measure the response.  Once you know that you need 40 visitors to get three sales or two contact forms filled out or five free quotes then you can focus your energy on increasing your lead flow.

b) How many “free quotes” or “browsing Sally’s” do you need in your business to secure a sale?   Is it five?  Three?  Fourteen?  Once you track that you can to predict how much business you’ll be able to generate from the leads you’ve been working so hard to secure.  And if you know how much that customer is worth to you then you’ll be able to measure exactly how much you can spend to acquire that customer?  It’s beautiful.

How many small businesses track leads, prospects and customers?  How many know the average value of each customer?  Worse, how many know the lifetime value of each customer … the value of the same person over three or four years?

Tracking and measuring this stuff keeps you motivated and better yet, creates a massive competitive advantage.

How?

If you know it takes one hundred visitors to your website to get three sales for a profit of $3,000 … then all your focus can be applied to generating those one hundred visitors.  You don’t waste time with frivolous details like beautiful logos and vanity phone numbers.

If you know it takes twelve tenant leads to get one solid tenant worth $30,000 in gross revenues to you … how much would you be willing to pay to generate those leads?

Measuring and tracking are what separates the boys from the men, the girls from the women.

“Whatever the majority of people is doing, under any given circumstances, if you do the exact opposite, you will probably never make another mistake as long as you live.”
– Earl Nightingale

90 Minutes A Day To Complete Domination

Let me ask you something…

What one single thing could you do, every day, that will guarantee 2011 would be drastically different than 2010?

To get different results you must have different behaviours.  To have different behaviours consistently you want to turn important actions into habits.

I’ve found that to change my behaviour I need to do something every day, no matter what, for several weeks, without exception, until it turns into a new habit.

When I start working out every morning I made a commitment to do cardio every day.

I started with 2 minutes of it.

120 seconds.

Then, the next day, 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

Then, the next day, 3 minutes.

I laughed at myself.  Others laughed with me.  The process became fun.

I did it for 67 days straight.  No exceptions.  After late nights, after Michael Buble concerts, after Bon Jovi or U2 concerts, after late men’s league hockey games … every morning, no exceptions.  I didn’t make it a choice.  I wanted to create a new habit and it worked.

Now I do 30 minutes first thing every morning, 5 days a week.  No issues, no hassle, it’s part of my routine.

I started small because I absolutely hated it but had no excuse to avoid it.  How could I admit to myself that I couldn’t do 2 minutes of cardio?  I mean … it was 2 minutes.

Tracking and measuring my progress actually encouraged me instead of discouraging me.  I saw the number increasing every day until I hit my 30-minute goal.

Now for the fun part…