Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy New Year from All of Us!

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Alan Weiss – GLAC Speech

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Resolutions for 2012

What are the resolutions for Alan this coming new year of 2012? Click the play button and find out.

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The Adventures of Koufax and Buddy Beagle

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It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault

It’s Not Your Mother’s Fault: Vol. 1 Issue 3

We get a truckload of Christmas cards, which is wonderful. Many are sent by people from early in our marriage who stay in touch via an exchange of cards. Some people have a tradition of inserting a “family letter” detailing the past year, as if we should be catching up on episodes we’ve missed of Breaking Bad or Dexter. (The last time I printed such a sentiment, some people were incensed that I wouldn’t appreciate these exegeses. I expect the same backlash now!)

I find these epistles to be interesting only to the sender and usually merely read the card, but my wife insists that these are effective missives to “catch up” with acquaintances, though I’ve seen her eyes glaze over in the middle or reading of a fourth cousin’s marriage to a deputy assistant librarian in Raleigh who once met the hairdresser for one of Rihanna’s backup singers.

However, I have noticed something of interest in these Pauline letters (“The second letter of St. Paul to the Weisses,” if you follow the Gospels): Most are filled with accomplishments and pride, and occasionally the unfortunate loss of loved ones, or the status of those in the military. But some are unremitting in their unrelenting expostulation of misfortune, calamity, and setback. They make Job seem well off by comparison (and, in fact, one writer this year, ignoring hubris, cited Job as having nothing on him).

A single letter writer (often electronically, sort of the antithesis of the personal holiday greeting) will go on about lost opportunities, illnesses, natural disaster—everything short of locusts, though I don’t read all the letters carefully, so who knows? I’m reminded of Al Capp’s famous “Li’l Abner” character, Joe Btfsplk, who had a perpetual black cloud over his head, carrying the world’s worst jinx.

Why are you sending others your litany of miseries? Surely all of us have our stories, our losses, our grievous wounds. Some have suffered deaths and horrible illnesses. Why are you so special as to have to broadcast your every bad hair day, hiccup, and unfair traffic ticket to the rest of us?

I know this sounds harsh, but share tragedy, much less minor misfortune, with your family and those who are close friends. Share with others some happiness, some optimism, some uplift. Your fourth cousin’s wedding is preferable to my learning that someone vandalized your car.

Some issues are meant to share, some you have to bear. Your mother probably told you to “grow up” and “stop crying” and “you’ll have to accept it.” She was right. What happens to you isn’t her fault, much less mine. We all have to deal with adversity.

But as my mother said: “Better to spread some joy. Would it kill you?”

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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2012 Financial Regimen

I never give financial advice and I don’t pretend to be a financial expert. But I have worked with thousands of solo practitioners and firm owners, and I have learned from my own mistakes. So here are some New Year’s suggestions for a healthy financial regimen.

1. Pay yourself first. Set up a new business account separate from your regular personal and professional accounts. Transfer 10% (choose your own percentage) of EVERY dollar you collect in 2012 into that account. If you close a $150,000 project, transfer $15,000. If you sell $200 worth of products, transfer $20. Try not to touch it except in emergencies (a new car is not an emergency).

2. Fund your retirement plans during the year to their maximums through installments. Figure out what you can contribute to SEP IRAs, IRAs, 401Ks, or whatever else you’re created, and contribute as you go through the year. (Example: If you are confident your personal income will be $160,000 or greater, you can contribute a maximum of 25%, $40,000, to a SEP IRA—and more if you’re over a certain age. That means you should start contributing about $3,000 a month, and try to pay it in the 2012 calendar year, even though you have until April of the following year.)

3. Make a plan to payoff credit card balances the same way. Every month, pay ALL the new charges and then pay at least one-twelfth of the remaining balance. This will decrease interest payments, improve your credit score, and free up credit if you need it in an emergency in the future.

4. Make plans to maximize your TOP LINE revenue. No one grows through cutting expenses. Doing your own monthly financials on software programs instead of hiring a bookkeeper for $250 a month is just ridiculous. Focus on truly growing your business and start thinking BIG.

5. Create “budgets” that you fund for key, planned expenditures: school costs, vacations, house improvements, and so on. Try to fund these monthly, as well. It actually helps to keep them in different accounts.

6. Monitor your spending. There are sites such as Mint.com and apps such as Pageonce Pro than can help if you’d like an automated system that notifies you of bills due, spending deviations, bank charges, and so forth. While I don’t believe in cutting to grow, I have found that some people don’t realize where and how their money is actually being spent.

7. Pay forward. By that I mean this: When you incur a major credit card debt (e.g., you’ve run a meeting, taken in all the revenue, but the hotel balance is $20,000) start writing checks immediately. If you wrote a $10,000 check at the time to, say, Amex, and then the balance when the actual bill arrived, it’s less of a bite and less chance that you’d spend that first $10,000 elsewhere. Better still: If you can, hold revenues from future events in an escrow account and pay the hotel bill at one time from there. (These are also very important if you are forced to cancel and repay all money already received.)

8. Delegate everything you can. Stop doing your own graphics design, slides, software fixes, bookkeeping, taxes, printing, travel reservations, product fulfillment, and so forth. Have others do it, because the money you spend is paid back one-hundred-fold in free time to devote to marketing and raising your top line. (Do you want YOUR clients doing things themselves that you should be hired to do and you can do faster and better than they?)

9. Don’t “play” the market. Put your long-term investments in the care of professionals. Ask for referrals and references from people who are successful to find the financial advisors who are best for your situation and philosophy. Never accept financial advice from anyone who is also selling a product (insurance, securities, and so on), because their product will always be the “answer.” Just pay for advice or the management fee. Remember that the idea in life is not to make money, but to create value and help people. As George Merck said, “Do good and good will follow.”

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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Rodin or Tebow?

The Thinker or The Prayer? Captured by Guido Quelle on the shores of an island in Lago Maggiore, Stresa, Italy.

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Alan’s Monday Morning Memo – 12/27/11

December 27, 2011—Issue #118

This week’s focus point: In the U.S., housing has bottomed out and shows small improvements. Retail sales are up four percent from last year’s holiday period, surpassing projections. The market is over 12,000 as I write this. Unemployment is marginally reduced. The Europeans seem to be figuring out how to shore up the euro and avoid national defaults. These events don’t represent radical improvement, perhaps, but they do represent progress. You’d never know from most media outlets. Beware of people paid to be cynics, promoted for skepticism, mavens of catastrophe. Unsurprisingly, they become quite good at it and incapable of seeing or reporting anything else.

Monday Morning Perspective: Justice, I think is the tolerable accommodation of the conflicting interests of society, and I don’t believe there is any royal road to attain such accommodations concretely. — Justice Learned Hand

Happy New Year!

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© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved

I remember a meeting with a boutique consulting firm that had fallen on hard times. The debate was whether or not to sell their magnificent conference table. “Where would clients sit?” asked one partner. “We have no clients,” stated the advocate of selling. You can’t cut your way to renewal or success. Top line growth is the key to bottom line achievement, for you and for your clients. Today is the time to invest in the future. Once you cut muscle, you’re powerless.
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Alan Weiss Delivers a Keynote Speech

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Dear Sir

Here’s a recent blog post, I’m told from the Harvard Business Review, sent to me by Alden Ulrich:

Skip the Mr. and Mrs.

“Forget what your parents taught you, it’s not always prudent to use a formal salutation, especially in today’s more informal business world. Addressing people by their first name is now the norm in corporate America. Use first names to address colleagues, clients, and bosses. If you are a junior employee, this will level the playing field so that you are perceived as more of an equal. Confidently addressing people by their first names establishes you as mature and self-assured. If you are a seasoned manager, it will convey accessibility. Today’s workers see hierarchies as stiff and outdated. Demanding that subordinates use a formal title comes off as pompous. Note that this informality is not the global norm—learn the local customs before you travel.”

Adapted from “What’s in a (First) Name” by Jodi Glickman.

If you’re what the writer calls a “junior employee” I’d be a tad careful before calling a senior vice president “Joe” or the general counsel “Katey.” It doesn’t level the playing field, especially in hierarchically staid organizations, but it can brand you as abrasive and pretentious rather quickly.

No one ever got in trouble by showing too much respect. Someone who’s clearly a peer can use your first name. Socially, who cares? (Although I still encounter pompous doctors being introduced at a fund raiser or dinner as “Dr. Johnson,” rather than “Mary Johnson.”) If you’re calling out of the blue and want a favor from me or, heaven forfend, cold calling, once you begin with, “Alan, how are you?” and I don’t know you, you’re pretty much finished.

This is especially true with senior people at clients. They’ll usually say, “Call me Harry,” but give them that option. The problem is, apparently, we’re all forgetting too much of what our parents told us and reading too much of the Harvard Business Review blog.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

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