Category Archives: wealth

Announcing Entrescape Online

There are a thousand good reasons to start your own business.  You may want more toys, need to build a college fund, or want to pay off debt.  You may just want to do it for the pure joy of accomplishment.  All are good reasons, but probably the best is to prepare for an uncertain future.  Rapidly changing technology can make your job obsolete almost overnight.  Companies gain and lose by the decisions of their leaders, which may not always be competent or have your best interests at heart. Last, the government has taken a radical lurch toward socialism.  Higher taxes for jobholders are a near-certainty.  Some predict consequences even more dire.

Some people I talk to think this is the time to hunker down.  I disagree.  Being frugal is fine, as far as it goes.  Investing your money is probably wiser than that jet ski right now, unless you make money riding a jet ski. Buying a used car makes sense, as does shopping around for the best deal on life’s other necessities.  None of these will save you, though, when income from your job stops coming in.

I think that this is the time to become an entrepreneur.  Forget the stereotype of the steely-jawed hero, silk scarf fluttering in the breeze or the socially-inept genius who invents the next Big Thing.  Think more in terms of the regular person, like you and me, who knows how to do some things better than other people do.  Ones who may want to hang on to that job while they build a side-stream of income.

Where to start?  Learning, that is where.  My dream is to help people who want to build a business learn how to do so easily and affordably.  Entrescape now offers a course in fundamentals for entrepreneurs.  More are being created and will be available over the coming months.  There is also a free guest login to the Entrescape community, where we will be providing a forum for questions and free limited access to course materials.  Visit us at entrescape.com and release your entrepreneurial spirit.

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The Greatest Risk of All

Risk is a funny thing.  We all seem to have a different idea of what things are risky.  When I took flying lessons, the Cessna 152 my instructor rented happened to be stressed for aerobatics.  I have never done anything quite as much fun as learning cloverleafs, barrel rolls, and loops.  Not once did I ever feel in danger.  Most people I talk to say they would have been petrified.

You know what scares me the most these days?  The idea that I might quit taking risks.  I have blown out a knee in a martial arts tournament at the age of 45, gone broke (twice), and gotten pounded in my first real estate deal.  I have accepted a job offer only to discover that the people who hired me were liars and thieves.  For heavens sake, Noel, would you just STOP IT?  Stay home for a while and make a cup of tea.  It’ll do you good.

No thanks.

My forays are nothing compared to many people.  Adventurers, great entrepreneurs, and free-spirited thinkers abound.  So do the timid–those whose idea of risk is renting a movie they may not like.  Staying huddled up in our jobs seems safe.  I have to admit that there have been times when I wanted to crawl under the bed, especially when that little voice said, “You idiot.  What on Earth made you think THAT was a good idea?”  It didn’t help that most of the people I knew agreed.

Ironically, being safe is the greatest risk of all.  Take some risks.  I don’t mean foolish risks–drunk driving is stupid no matter how you dress it up.  Car surfing, too.  (Watch Dr. G. Medical Examiner sometime on the Discovery Channel for a view into the aftermath of that kind of thing.)  Sinking all your money into an investment you do not understand also qualifies.

Flying upside down is dumb–unless you know what you are doing.  Then it is fun.  Know what else?  Flying upside down, stalling the plane out, and getting into a spin on purpose gets you ready for an emergency in which that happens for real.  Relying on a job as your sole means of income may seem safe, but that strategy may be the riskiest of all.  Get yourself in tight situations intentionally.  Make some mistakes “on purpose” and learn how to deal with them before you have to.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Terry would probably agree to go ahead and cross over J

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Double Your Money in Seven Days!

I have a challenge for you.

I want you to open a business.  Not a big one, just a little one.  In fact, I want you to invest no more than $100 in it.  Run it for seven days with the goal of doubling your money.  That’s right.  At the end, you should have $200 in your pocket.

No need to get fancy–just pick out something you like to do and figure out how to make money doing it.  You may perform a service (probably best if it is legal), make something to sell, or buy something and resell it.  Write down on a piece of paper each transaction–when you spend money and when you make money.

When you are done, and hopefully a tiny bit more wealthy, write your story in a comment.  I want readers to know that within each of us is an entrepreneur waiting to sprout.

_____________________

Terry

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Are You Using the Right Kind of Feedback?

In our local entrepreneurship Meetup group last week, we talked about goals.  This happens to be my area of research expertise, so I took the group through a goal-setting exercise.  We all left with solid goals for 2010.  There are several characteristics of good goals, but today I want to emphasize a particular one: feedback.

Feedback works to strengthen the effects of goal setting.  That is, goals without feedback do not have the same motivational power as those accompanied by regular, objective progress reports.  The mechanism responsible for the difference is goal setting itself.  When we receive feedback, positive or negative, we tend to set new goals that take our progress into account.  For example, if I want to make $20,000 more in income for 2010, and by the end of June I have already made an additional $15,000, I may want to adjust my goal upward.  Likewise, if I have only made an additional $5000, I may want to revise it downward.

It is easy in the comfort of your recliner or office chair writing out goals to think, “Well, yes.  That makes sense.  I’ll do it.”  Our subconscious minds sometimes have a different agenda, though.  Let me give you a personal example.

When my financial picture is rosy, I love to get feedback.  It is no problem for me to balance the checkbook, calculate my net worth, and make plans for increasing my wealth.  When my financial picture is thorny, I tend to put off record-keeping and planning.  The pain of acknowledging negative feedback keeps me bound up and inactive.  This is nearly always a mistake, and I would love to report that I have overcome this tendency.  I have not.  At least not completely.  Guess what happens when I let the fear of pain win?  Right.  My situation invariably gets worse.

Get used to giving yourself objective, non-judgmental progress reports.  They must be objective in the sense that they are based on facts, not guesses or fantasies.  For example, it is easy to say  you have been eating right in support of your weight-loss goal when in fact you have been a genuine threat to U.S. junk food stockpiles.  Conversely, you may think you have been pigging out when in fact you are doing fine.  Keeping records and reviewing them regularly is the only way to know for sure.

The non-judgmental part is trickier.  Sometimes we tend to draw harsh conclusions about ourselves rather than our behavior.  If I ate two pieces of cheesecake last night and had to be physically restrained from getting the third, that is not in keeping with my goal of a lean, fit body.  Saying, “That is not like me–oh well, back on course today!” is healthy.  Saying, “You worthless pig–why can’t you ever stick to your goals?” is likely to kill any motivation you had before that.  After all, a worthless pig doesn’t deserve a good life filled with meaningful achievement, right?

Building the habit of constructive feedback takes time.  When you get off course, use that information in a positive way.  Before you know it, what once was bad news will start to look like an opportunity to move closer to your goal.

____________________

Terry writes on topics of entrepreneurship and motivation.  He is also willing to be on the cover of GQ magazine if asked.

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Start a Business NOW

There is one book you must read if you worry even a little about today’s economy.  The title is Empty Nest Egg: Why You Must Start Your Own Business NOW.  Yes, it’s my book, but if it weren’t, I would still recommend it.  Here’s why.

First, having a business to supplement your income is just plain common sense.  We all know that “things” happen.  Loss of a job, relocation of a spouse, and the child that arrived off-schedule make life interesting and scary.  Extra money never hurts.

Second, we may not have jobs if things don’t turn around soon.  You would think mine–being a university professor–would be about as stable as you can get.  Not so.  The State of Illinois is furloughing employees on some campuses to make up a budget shortfall.  I read recently that we rank second only to California in terms of how badly we have screwed up our budget.  Yours Truly is busy hoping for the best and planning for the worst.  You should too.

Third, there will come a point at which we are either no longer able or no longer willing to work.  My grandmother is 99 years old.  She is truly astonishing, getting around better than many 60-year-olds.  I kind of doubt she could get a job, though.  I remember her when she was my age, and it is a little unnerving to think how fast the intervening time has passed.  Retirement will hit us before we know it.

In my view, a time of reckoning is upon us all.  As a nation, we have chosen to pretend that we can spend without restraint, make the rest of the world behave, and protect everyone from everything.  The bill is coming due and our collectively disastrous decisions will come back to haunt us.  For those who continue to think a J-O-B is their only means of income, life may take a nasty turn.  For those who see the coming disruptions as an opportunity to prosper by starting a business, life may get much better.

_________________

Terry practices what he preaches.  After he found out about the furloughs, he checked to see if Chippendales was hiring.  No such luck, so he writes books and teaches people how to start businesses in addition to being a professor.

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Build a Business Model That Works

If you know what unique value you bring to others, it is time to turn that into a business model.  A business model is to a business as a toy jet is to a real one. The toy does not fly or drop bombs, but given sufficient detail, it gives us a good idea of how the jet functions. Your business model needs to include a description of how raw materials (even intangible ones like ideas) are turned into value-added products. Sometimes, a graphic depiction is helpful. Keep it simple, along the lines of the following:

Stuff goes in > I make it more valuable > Stuff goes out (and customers pay me for it)

For example, I take flour, sugar, eggs, and other stuff, mix it together, shape it up, and out come wedding cakes.  Separately, those things are not worth anything like what the beautiful cake is worth.  Sound silly?  Well, I have worked with any number of people over the years who have not a clue what they are really doing.  Their business model is vague, too complicated, or simply won’t work.

Start with figuring out your “input.”  In the above example, this is the flour, etc.  Where do you get it?  The store?  Do you grow the wheat and sugar cane yourself?  Raise the hens?  Once you know that, you can figure out what those inputs cost you.

Next, make those inputs more valuable.  Remember that you are the magic ingredient.  If I were to take those inputs and attempt to make them more valuable, it would look like Armageddon in our kitchen and my wife would throw me out of the house.  Wait, she did that yesterday.  Well, you know what I mean.  If you are good at that kind of thing, the result would be a picture of beauty and good taste.

Last, figure out how to sell what you make.  You might cater cakes, sell them in a store, or bake them on site.  You might deliver them in a van.  No matter how you do it, remember the customer.  The way you “harvest” the value depends on what is convenient for the people who buy.

Drawing out your business model may seem unnecessary, but trust me, this is important stuff.  Many business owners try to do it all.  Let’s say that Wilma of Wilma’s Wedding Cakes grows her own wheat, raises her own chickens, and grinds her own sugar cane.  Not only that, she delivers each cake by hand and sets it up on site.  Now Wilma is great at baking, but only fair at farming and delivery service.  She is wasting her time and energy doing things that other people could do better.  To make it work, she would have to charge much more because it costs her more to, say, deliver a cake than a delivery service.

In other words, pick out what you do best and focus on it.  There are thousands of people out there ready to do everything else.  When your business model starts to look like a clean, sensible proposition, it is time to move on to more detailed planning.

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Terry takes specialization seriously.  He won’t change light bulbs in his own house because writing is what he does best.  That is why his wife threw him out yesterday.  Since he needs a new place to live, maybe you could sign up for a course at entrescape.com.  Thanks.  It’s cold outside.

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How Much Money Is Enough?

I used to think so. Personally, I do not crave a lot of conspicuous consumption. My pickup goes just as many places as a Silver Phantom Rolls Royce would, and my bird dogs won’t fit in a Lamborghini. I want for nothing extraordinary, having a comfortable home and everything that goes with that. My profession, being a college professor, is fabulous—perfect for me in every way. All in all, I am a lucky man.

Nonetheless, I find myself unable to do some things, at least for now, that I would like to do. Travel, getting my kids into the best college I can, and maybe purchasing some art seem like good things to want. I also dream of some philanthropy—more than my current income will allow.

In other words, I could always use more money for some noble purpose. How about you? Have you been convinced over the years that always wanting more is bad or that rich people are greedy? Examine that thought thoroughly. Money is not good or bad, any more than electricity is good or bad. An electric current can save a life or take it. Money can buy medicine or crack cocaine. The more you make, the more potential you have to do both good and bad. The choice is yours.

Most of the people who were influential in my life as a child were hopelessly bound up by two conflicting notions. On the one hand, they knew they needed money to live and that more money generally meant better living conditions for them and their families. On the other, they heard every Sunday about it being harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter heaven, which they apparently took to mean that poverty is a virtue. The result was paralysis on the subject of wealth.

I have come to the conclusion that, like health, there is no such thing as too much wealth. As I shift my mindset toward that way of thinking, I realize that our culture’s ambivalence toward money is counter-productive. Making money is good as long as it supports and sustains our other values. And what we don’t spend on ourselves, we can spend on others.

So how much is enough? Answer: There is never enough. Setting our minds to grow in our capacity to create wealth for ourselves and others is constructive and healthy. And don’t worry about your being corrupted by filthy lucre. I find that most people have precisely the amount of wealth that they have the wisdom to keep. They may temporarily get more, but soon they revert to bad habits and counter-productive thinking. Likewise, if you grow in wisdom, you will soon find that your wealth grows to match your character.

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Terry spends most of his time thinking about stuff.  He hopes some of his thoughts make sense to you and help you in some way.  If they don’t, he hopes it’s not his fault.

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Why Do We Procrastinate?

I have been meaning to write this blog entry for a while now, but kept putting it off.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?  We know we need to do something.  In fact, we often want to do it.  Yet, “things” just seem to get in the way.

My research in motivation over the years has taught me that the core principles are simple.  Here are some of them:

1) Develop a system of values that makes sense for you.  Yeah, I know–you already know what you stand for.  But do you really?  If I were to ask you to explain in thirty seconds your most fundamental value, could you do it?  I can.  I help others be all they can be.  More like three seconds, huh?

2) Examine and re-examine your values periodically.  There is nothing wrong with changing your value system when it makes sense.  Marriage, having a child, getting a divorce, becoming self-employed–all these kinds of life changes force us to re-evaluate ourselves.  Even outside of these changes, we all (hopefully) become wiser.  I used to have a dream of dating the Go-Gos and the Bangles–all at once.  A few days ago, I realized that maybe there are loftier goals for me to pursue.  Besides, they never returned my calls.

3) Choose your daily activities in accordance with your values.  If learning is high on your list, four hours of TV and playing Facebook games at night won’t cut it.  And don’t lie about it.  You know perfectly well that deep down you realize the incongruity.  Face up to it and make your choices necessary to bring your actions in line with your values.  You don’t have to give up Mafia Wars–just read for a while first.

4) For the most important things, set goals.  The right kind of goal increases performance, period.  If you are not making the progress you want, it is probably because you have not really decided what you want.

See?  Easy stuff.  So why do we tend to procrastinate?  It all comes down to one simple thing–the choice to be aware.  This one no one else can help you with.  It is the gradual, steady, disciplined process of opening your eyes.  It is the refusal to allow yourself to fall asleep at the wheel.  It is acknowledging that you are important enough to make each day an adventure instead of a drudge.

Now, go do something important.

–Terry is not all that spiritual, but he figures out something important now and then.  For a happy life, he recommends a high-fiber diet, regular consumption of his blog, and a visit to entrescape.com.

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Diversify Your Knowledge, Not Just Your Stocks

Unemployment is its highest in 25 years.  Some say the picture is much worse and is being masked by changes in the way unemployment is measured.  No matter where each of us is on the political spectrum, or whom we blame, we have to agree that times are tough and getting tougher.

Financial advisors almost universally recommend a “diversified” portfolio of paper investments: stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.  Before I go on, let me remind the reader that I am neither a certified financial advisor nor do I play one on TV.  I encourage people to learn more so they can make up their own minds.  This traditional advice may have had some merits at one time.  A few people probably made it just fine with such a plan.  Times are different now, and there are a number of reason to expand your thinking.

First, paper assets such as stocks can bonk.  “Bonk” is a technical term for what happened last fall.  Stocks fell as much as 40%  People who thought they were diversified got clobbered as their entire portfolios dwindled to a fraction of their former worth.

Second, the “value” of the stock market and other similar investments is partly an illusion.  When we put our money into such instruments, we are usually planning to use the money later.  If that money only buys a fraction of what it did before, the fact that the market is “up” is true, but useless.

Third, and this may be the clinker, the market depends on levels of buying and selling.  Since people who are retiring usually get their spending money out of the market by selling their stocks, the value of those stocks can be depressed when the number of sellers increases.  We are about to face a massive amount of selling for that very reason.  Baby Boomers will soon be retiring in droves.

This leaves us with a problem.  How can each of us build a more stable kind of wealth–the kind that at least buffers the vagaries of the stock market?

Knowledge.

library

Learn all you can now about building supplementary income.  You will find that true diversification involves non-paper assets like real estate and precious metals.  You will learn why having a side business can help you build real, lasting value.  And, you will see that with some discipline and desire, you can survive the coming storm.

— Terry writes this blog because he loves you.  Well, maybe “love” is too strong a word, but he’s pretty sure he likes you.  At least he likes you well enough to encourage you to learn more about your finances.  Terry has not been on Oprah yet, but if he were, he would tell you to visit entrescape.com to learn out how to start your own business.

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What Are You Worth?

Are you paid what you are worth?  Most of us think not.  We also tend to look at other people who make more money than us and wonder if they are “worth” it.  Who hasn’t seen the news of a sports celebrity signing a multi-million dollar contract and thought, even if only for a moment, “that’s not fair?”

The rock-bottom truth is that when other people pay voluntarily for our services, we are paid exactly what we are worth.  Yes, the government does distort the market, subsidizing some who probably could not earn as much in the private sector.  It also imposes additional costs on some people/businesses, causing them to earn less than they would in a truly free market.  On the whole, though, our pay reflects our true worth.

This is a disturbing thought.  Once we accept the premise that we mostly get what we deserve, getting less than we think we should is an indictment of our own will and ability.  “Why doesn’t my boss pay me more?” becomes our mantra and a question without a good answer.  Yeah, why doesn’t he/she?

Know why?  Because you will work for that much.  Why should you be paid more?  Because you need it?  That is charity–certainly a nice thing to benefit from when you need it, but not the basis for an employment contract.  It is also not very convincing.  Here is another approach.

Ask for more.  I learned the power of this simple strategy years ago.  One time, I was recruited by a university.  They made an offer that I was ready to accept.  As a professional courtesy, I showed the offer to my present employer, never dreaming in a million years that they would match it.  Match it, they did, though, and I received a substantial raise.  Never again was I bashful about asking for what I was worth.  I knew I was worth it because someone else was willing to pay it.

Alas, though, even a substantial raise has its limits.  There is an upper bound to what I can ask for in my job.  Imagine me marching into the University President’s office and suggesting I should get what Eli Manning gets.  If I ever try that, it will be on April Fool’s Day.  That way, I can tell him it was all a big joke just before he has security remove me.

One’s own business has no such limits.  You decide how much to grow.  You decide how much is enough.  You decide how much to pay yourself.  Of course, you have to become worth whatever it is you want to earn.  The big difference is that you don’t have to share it with anyone.  If you work for someone else, you essentially pay for the privilege of earning a paycheck.  Part of the value you create is skimmed off the top.

There is nothing wrong with this, morally or practically.  It would be kind of hard for an automobile assembly line worker to do what he/she does solo.  No one wants to pay for someone to screw on a lug nut–they want a car.  But for all its advantages, working for someone else limits our income.

Another disadvantage of working for someone else is the amount of taxes one pays.  Because it is easier for the government to collect from employees, those with jobs find a substantial portion of their income diverted to the government.  In fact, you never see that money–it is taken out of your paycheck.  The government knows that most people will not notice tax rates as much if they don’t have to write a check every month or every quarter.

Having one’s own business allows a significant proportion of expenses to be deducted.  The result is simple–you get to keep more of what you earn.  In a perverse way, government encourages us to have our own businesses, at least for now.

Growing a business can mean that you are no longer a prisoner of your “worth” as determined by your boss. Your worth is exactly what others are willing to pay for the value you provide.  It is something created by you and for you.  Enjoy making yourself worth your every dream.

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