Take a Day to Organize Your Finances

If you’re like most people, you periodically set aside time to clean out your home, garage or closets. It’s equally as important to take time to organize your finances. The following checklist can help you get started:

· Cancel unused credit cards – If you’re paying an annual fee on a credit card or other account that you don’t use, you’re throwing money away. So, cash in any rewards points you have earned and then cancel the account. Of course, take into consideration whether canceling the card will negatively affect your credit rating.

· Cancel unused memberships – If a new at-home exercise routine has replaced your trips to the health club or gym, or if you’re no longer playing golf at a course you belong to, consider canceling your membership. Even if you have to pay a fee, you may quickly recoup your financial losses.

· Consolidate accounts – You don’t necessarily need multiple checking, savings, investment, retirement or credit card accounts, yet many people maintain them – often because it takes extra time up-front to consolidate. Maintaining numerous accounts can increase the amount of time you spend opening mail, reconciling statements, keeping records and paying bills. When it comes to credit, you may also earn more rewards if you stick to one or two cards.

· Negotiate better deals with your service providers – Whether it’s your cable, Internet or waste removal company, chances are you can negotiate a better rate. Simply take time to get quotes from competitors. If they are offering lower rates for the same services, go back to your service provider to see if they will price match to keep your business. If not, switch to someone new.

· Update your financial records – Make a list of your current financial accounts, contacts and passwords. Keep this information in a safe and secure place.

· Update your beneficiary designations – Your beneficiary designations override your will. So, if you’ve experienced a marriage, divorce, birth, adoption or death, make sure your beneficiary designations reflect your wishes.

· Review your home and auto insurance coverage – Make sure your coverage reflects your present needs. Also, price shop the same coverage with different providers. Whether you switch to a new provider or use this information to strike a deal with your current provider, you could save a significant amount.

· Simplify your investments – If tracking various investments is stressing you out, consider asset allocation or managed accounts. Attempting to manage and track too many investment accounts can require a great deal of time and, if you’re not on top of the details, can prevent you making the best investment choices for your portfolio. Consider working with a financial professional to help you organize your finances and help you determine what kinds of investments might work best for you.

Consult your financial advisor for more ideas and strategies on ways you can save.

Challenges Facing Tradespeople and Small Businesses

For some, being in the trades is just a job and a means to an end. For others, it’s a calling – a part of their very existence. Some tradespeople hold themselves to the highest of standards and hold true to the things they believe and care about. The challenge for any homeowner is to find a tradesperson who cares about and loves what they do – a tradesperson who is professional in appearance and in how he or she conducts business.

According to a recent survey, 58% of homeowners say they find it difficult to find a tradesperson they trust to help with either home repairs or improvements. Women are more likely to find it “very difficult” to find a tradesperson they trust to help with home repairs or improvements. In the United Kingdom alone, almost £2 billion a year is spent to repair botched jobs by tradespeople who were not qualified to do the work.

Although there are many trustworthy tradespeople throughout the world, why do so many homeowners experience difficulty finding an honest, reliable, professional tradesperson? The answer is not easy, but I will attempt to share my experience and opinion.

I have over 30 years experience as a tradesman, with experience in; building construction, plumbing, tiling, plastering and decorating. As a young man, I enjoyed going to school, but my focus was always on earning a living and raising a family. As a result, I decided to leave home during my late teenage years to attempt to make my mark on the world. Once out there, although I had good work-ethics, I found it difficult to land a good job because I did not possess the ‘qualifications’ required, nor did I have a University degree. Consequently, the only jobs available to me were labor jobs or working at a convenience store. Fortunately, I found a tradesman who hired me and jump-started my career by teaching me how to lay tile. From that point, I learned the building, plumbing, plastering and decorating trades.

Most Schools are under pressure to keep kids in the classroom until they graduate. Unfortunately, there are many youngsters who are either not academically inclined and have difficulty with studies, or for one reason or another have become a disruption to classmates. As a result, more Schools are forming a Department called, “Alternative Provision,” or “Alternative Learning.” This is where many non-academic and/or disruptive children are finding themselves.

Alternative Provisional children are exposed to alternative forms of learning such as, the Work-Study Program. Here is where youngsters can apply to a Trades School or College, and they can experience on-the-job training doing such things as; working in the trades, learning how to be a beautician, and other fields that may not require a University degree. Thus, we have an abundance of youngsters becoming tradespeople because they cannot find gainful, employment due to the lack of a University degree or another specialized training.

There are many people who are in the trades because ‘it’s the only thing they can do,’ or because it’s the only thing they are qualified to do. I believe most tradespeople want to do a good job and take pride in their work. The challenge is, many tradespeople do not possess the skills to set themselves apart from the rest. They are not good Business people. I have listed some ways tradespeople fall short of a professional, high quality standard that will deliver positive outcomes in their business:

• They write estimates on a napkin or piece of dirty paper

• They show up to appointments late and are not dressed in an appropriate manner

• They forget to send out invoices or forget to follow up on outstanding invoices

• They do not schedule their time efficiently and live a, ‘feast or famine’ existence

• They do not provide clean, professional customer estimates and invoices, nor do they have systems to track them

• They do not manage conversations with customers. A customer may say one thing today, and another thing tomorrow. If you do not have record of that conversation, the job will turn into confusion and become a ‘he said-she said’ challenge

• They do not carefully manage their time and miss or forget to respond to customer calls

• They do not have systems in place to maintain an accurate customer base

• They find themselves having to “chase customers” for payment

• They do not have a Professional Presence

The list can go on and on, but I think you get the picture…

Life is good when you’re working. However, there always comes the time when you are not as busy as you would like. This is the time when many tradespeople begin to ask friends for work or they look into joining some website that promises to ‘send them leads.’ I have found these sites to be misleading because they do not address the real issue – helping tradespeople to become more reliable and professional!

These sites charge high fees but do not produce the goods. Let’s be honest; how can anyone refer a “Trusted Trader?” The only referral anyone can give is; “He has done a fantastic job for me, or I would never use him again.”

Unfortunately, this tends to be much like Trip Advisor, where a Hotel may receive high rating by someone, but your experience might be totally opposite…

The one thing any qualified, tradesperson can do is; become more professional at what you do!

I will address ways to become a more professional tradesperson, in my next article.

How To Pick The Right Financial Advisors

What a difference a decade makes! Not long ago, everyone who invested in stocks seemed to win big. Investors watched their portfolios grow exponentially, and retirement seemed secure. The economy was so strong even the country’s best financial advisers were left wondering if they’d have a job.

But alas, the economy went into recession. Those early retirement dreams became a less realistic option. These days we need to know about yields, rates of return, and, dare we say, risk!

That leaves many people feeling pressured and over their heads. This is where businesses can step in to help their employees decide how and where to invest their money.

Where Do I Start?

That depends on what you want the financial advisers to do. Do you want help with estate planning, or is it your child’s college fund? What about advice on which stocks to pick or how to withdrawal cash from retirement funds without draining your account? Determining where to start depends on your desired outcome, and the good news is financial advisers come with many specialties.

Once you decide what you need, ask people that you trust for referrals. Seek out someone you don’t mind divulging personal financial information to.

Next, find out what your potential advisor did before becoming an advisor. Was he/she a math expert who majored in statistics at college? Do they have an advanced degree in accounting or business? The answer to these types of questions can tell you a lot about the Ivory Tower experience someone may have, and whether it’s relevant enough for your trust. You want someone with good character, much like you would in choosing a good doctor or lawyer.

How Do Financial Advisers Charge?

Many people are intimidated by costs but have no idea what they are. This is normal, and there are many ways in which an advisor might charge you.

Charging you a commission on products (or stocks) bought and sold is the most typical form of remuneration. Some, however, might charge a flat fee or yearly retainer, or a combination thereof. The best advice: do some comparison-shopping just as you would for a vehicle or any other significant purchase.

State Registered Advisors Must Be Licensed

Those who give advice on how someone should invest their money should be registered with the state in which they practice. For instance, in Washington State, all financial advisors must register with the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions in order to practice. Check with your state to see what the requirements are, and be sure to check for prerequisites pertaining to admission, such as testing and education.

You can also check the state records for complaints: legal judgments, bankruptcies, criminal charges, and government orders. All of this information is kept on file by the state and are available to the public.

Choosing from a pool of knowledgeable professionals can be a tricky business, but it can be simplified by following a few basic rules, and, more importantly, by using a little common sense.

5 Business Lessons From a 21 Year Old – Not Just Any 21 Year Old

This 21 year old is not just any 21 year old. I’m speaking of reigning 2015 Masters Champion Jordan Spieth. What can we learn from a professional golfer that applies to our business world? Read on.

5 Business Lessons From Jordan Spieth 2015 Masters Champion

1. Focus

As a 21 year old that’s at the top of his profession, how did he get there? He is extremely focused. Can you imagine being CEO of your company at the ripe age of 21?

On the 18th hole of Saturday’s round at Augusta National, Spieth hit his second shot in the gallery. His lead was slowly slipping away. Miracously he chipped on the green and made the sliding left to right 8 footer for par. This set the tone for the final round on Sunday.

What does this have to do with business you ask? Jordan was focused on the task at hand. Not worrying about tomorrow or the end of quarter P&L, he was focused and in the moment. Very impressive, especially for a 21 year old.

2. Tenacity

The competitive spirit of this kid is astounding. He competes and competes and competes. Do you have competitiors on your team? Competing is easy when things are going your way. It gets a lot tougher when things go astray.

Rewind to the tournament prior to Masters. Jordan was locked in a 3-way playoff for the title. On the very first playoff hole, a cameraman clicked a photo in Jordan’s backswing. The natural flinch from the camera noise caused Jordan’s shot to come off rather poorly. He was eliminated in the playoff.

Did he quit? The following week, the 2015 Masters, clearly answers that question.

3. Humility

The combination of a focused, talented, tenacious individual with a humbling spirit is beautiful to watch. With a special needs sister that keeps him grounded, Jordan is filled with humility. After all, life is a lot more than chasing a golf ball around for 18 holes.

4. Persistance

This may be a little surprising. How can a 21 year old prodigy on the top of his profession have persistancy? What most don’t know is that Jordan was eliminated from the second round of PGA Tour qualifying school a couple years prior. Relying on sponsor exemptions, he perservered. He earned his card, not from qualifying school like most golf pros, but from money winnings from tournaments invited via a sponsor exemption.

Let’s face it. This kid has got great talent. But, if you first don’t succeed, try, try, again.

5. Seek Guidance

Seeking the advice of others that have gone before you is priceless. After all, if a mentor is willing to share how they did it, isn’t it worth asking? Save yourself a lot of time, headache, and heartache. Seeking the advice of others. Find a MENTOR.

What was so impressive about Jordan was how he constantly sought out the advice of former Masters Champions. Such as 2 time Masters Champion Ben Crenshaw. Don’t forget his good friend, and 3 time Masters Champion, Phil Mickelson.

Does your team seek the advice of the top performers? If not, that sales training can have a major impact on the bottom line. I would incorporate that into my weekly agenda.