Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Celebrate Austin Entrepreneurship Project" - December 2008

Every December I dedicate the posts on this blog (or most of them) to praising those I admire.

In December 2006 I focused on authors and bloggers whom I admired. I called it the "Praise Others Project".

In December 2007 I focused on Passion. The "Celebrate Passion Project" highlighted those whom I have seen put passion out there for the world to see.

This year I am going to honor the Entrepreneurial Spirit that makes my hometown of Austin, Texas so spectacular. While I realize that people read this blog from all over the world, and that there are amazing entrepreneurs in every city... I only have a month. Thus I am going to write about some of the cool companies and their founders whom I have the honor of knowing here in my local community.

I hope you enjoy this series of blog posts.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Not Everyone Will Like You... And That's Okay (Part 2)

Sometimes things just don't work out. Relationships are hard. It's not you, it's them.

I am not talking about dating. I am talking about your professional business network.

I got a call from a person who had a falling out with a business friend. This person sort of "broke up" with him, yet their relationship was purely professional. She basically fired him as a friend. He was confused, and I think hurt, by the whole thing.

He wants an explanation. And while politely looking for some clarification might bring him some answers, in the end he really needs to stop dwelling on one person in his network who does not appreciate the mutually beneficial relationship he thought they had. I told him that if this is not a pattern with the people in your life (fleeing), then he should let it go and concentrate on the people who do matter.


In
May of 2007 I wrote a post titled "Not Everyone Will Like You.... It's Okay", which is one of the most popular blog posts I have ever written. (In fact, if you google search Not Everyone Will Like You it comes up number one.... and it seems a lot of people hunt for information on this topic!). Apparently people are often surprised by the fact that they do not click with everyone they meet, and they worry about it when they have one person whom simply does not connect with them.

You cannot force someone to be an active part of your world. If you find that a series of people avoid you (or worse, alienate you), then you should look inward about how you interact with people and if you are bringing value to them, or just seeking benefits for yourself. But if it is rare occasion that people reject you, do not take it personally. It really might be about them, not you!

I had a friend in college who was like my sister. We hung out all the time and helped each other in some rough times. I never assumed there would come a time in our lives when we would not be friends. However, she met a boyfriend who was none too happy with her best buddy being a guy (or something, as he made me persona non-grata very fast.... heck, maybe he just did not like ME). I had no desire to date her, but both she and her new beau were convinced that I was a threat to their relationship. She told me she had to make a choice (really? she did not), and it was NOT me. It was the only time in my life when someone who I considered a very close friend tossed me aside like trash. It hurt. I did not know how to handle the rejection. There was clearly a misunderstanding that I felt could be overcome. I tried to keep the friendship alive. It was a disaster.

While I have never seen this person again in 20 years (she did marry the guy and I hear they have had a good life...which makes me very happy!), I still regret that our friendship dissolved for what I still view as "no reason".

But it was from this experience that I learned that you cannot force someone to be your friend. Relationships of any type must be a "two way street" and mutually desired. I have many other friends whom I have remained in touch with for decades, so this is not a pattern. Everyone has their own stuff in their heads, and I will never know the real motivation for these events.

Regardless of her reasons for not wanting or needing me as her friend, it was her prerogative to not like me anymore. I am sure if she were to comment on this story that her point of view of the situation two decades ago would be different.

That is the important thing to remember. Everyone sees things from their own point of view. You can drive yourself nuts contemplating what you could do differently, but you can never control the thoughts and actions of other people.

The best advice is to move on when there is not a bond with someone in your network. Do not dwell on the single incident. Be sure that you are treating the other people in your life well and making a positive impact in their life. Let go of those who do not choose to understand the value that you bring to those in your network.

Make sure that you take the time to be sure you are making others a priority. It is easy to get full of yourself and only focused on your own needs. It happens to everyone, but this will turn off a lot of folks. If the pattern is people who you have formerly been friends with who now avoid you, then the issue might be you. People like those who are "givers", not those who are "takers". The trick is to find the right balance of give and take with those in your life.

My point in this is that you have to pay attention to how you treat others, but if you are making efforts to be a resource for those in your network, then most people will see the value that your bring to mutually beneficial relationships. Those who don't are not worth the time you spend dwelling on.

Okay folks, this post rambled on a bit... but I think it is an important topic. Your thoughts?

Have A Great Day.


thom

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Books Make Great Holiday Gifts

Add caption
Are you looking for a great holiday gift idea for a co-worker, client, friend or family member?

Give them a book!!!

If considering a book as a gift, please consider giving one of my books:

"Some Assembly Requied: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships"

"The ABC's of Networking"

or

"Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women"

Please visit Amazon.com

Also, personally signed bulk orders are available by sending an email to publisher(at)newyearpublishing.com.

Have A Great Day

thom

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving Week

As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, I love the concept of Thanksgiving. It is one of the best holidays.

Sure one reason is the great food (mmmm Pumpkin Pie and homemade cranberry sauce!), but the real reason is that it is important for each of us to step back for a moment and look at the things in our lives for which we are grateful. Nobody is an island, and we are interconnected to so many other people who help us achieve that it is important to recognize and acknowledge others.

The work week of Thanksgiving is always short, as most of us in the United States are given both Thursday and Friday as a day off. The school kids get even more (when I was a kid we just got Thursday and Friday off, but my kids get Wednesday, and some districts and private schools just close for the whole week!), which takes parents off focus at work as they figure out childcare issues. Thus this is a great time to reach out to people, as you should have some free time, since many others you normally interact with are gone. Do not fall into to common trap of not reaching out to people this week by assuming they are all out of the office. You will be surprised how many are at their desk with some time to take your call!

Think about the five people who have had the strongest impact on you in 2008. Clients, co-workers, friends, family-members, neighbors, the barista at Starbucks who always smiles in the morning -- whoever has made your world brighter. Now find a way to say "Thank You" to them. Don't be shy, as this is Thanksgiving Week. You can cloud it in your personal ongoing tradition of always thanking the five whom impact your life (even if this is the first year of your tradition!). They will be thrilled by your gesture.

Here five groups of people who most impacted my life this year who I would like to thank (the list is longer, but we will stick with five for the purpose of this blog post):

My wife and daughters. I am thankful that we have had a healthy and productive year. I appreciate their support of my busy career schedule coupled with my author / speaker business. While our schedule is crazy and hectic.... they are the purpose behind all my goals and ambitions. I congratulate them all for their personal achievements this year.

My father-in-law and his wife. This summer they took our family for a two week vacation in Italy. A week in Venice and a week on Lake Como will forever be remembered as a wonderful opportunity to escape the regular routine of life and share unique experiences with my wife, kids and my in-laws. There generous gesture of the trip was the highlight of the year.

My business partners at New Year Publishing. Over the past three years my life has forever been changed for the better because Dave and Leslie Morris and New Year Publishing. Our joint venture of New Year Publishing continues to grow and open new doors for all of us. The experience continues to bring me new learning opportunities and allows me to live my dream as a professional speaker. I would also like to honor my first co-author, Marny Lifshen. We completed "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women" this year, and working with her on this project has been a very positive experience. The book is selling well and we are getting great reviews.

Everyone at vcfo. I enjoy working at this growing and dynamic company. I have enjoyed the past year as much as any year in my career. The people are professional and have challenged me to stretch myself. I am confident I have made an impact on the company, and look forward to continuing to do so in the new year.

My dad and brothers. This was a unique year for the Singer family. Dad sold his home and moved into a retirement facility (at age 94). Thus my brothers and I had to sort through six decades of my parent's lives. We had our annual family reunion at Dad's house as we boxed up countless memories. I will never forget the last evening sitting on the diving board drinking wine with my brothers (out of mom's Waterford Crystal Goblets) as we toasted the good memories that we had shared in the house. Very emotional for me, as I grew up in that house, knowing I would never be there again. But home is not a building, it is the relationships we share with those we call family. It was a sad time in some ways, but also a testament to my parents life. I was reminded that I am a very fortunate guy.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Healthy

Healthy beats sick.

After 48 hours I now am starting to feel normal again. I slept most of today and watched hours of cable news and I Love Lucy reruns.

On the one hand, an entire weekend wasted.

On the other hand, I had lots of time to be humbled and ponder my recent dedication to wellness. I had not been really sick in over two years. I have worked hard to get enough rest and eat well to avoid having just the sort of episode that took me down this weekend.

Alas, I am reminded that without our health we are damaged goods. Yet I think I (and others) often take our health for granted. It takes a big cold to remind us of just how much we need our bodies to be fit and going strong if we want to accomplish all that we can. I do a lot of things and often walk a tight rope of getting it all done. Fortunately there were no major plans this weekend.

With all the holiday parties and other get togethers around the corner we all need to be careful not to get a cold or the flu. I had a flu shot earlier in the fall, but that did not good with a big ol' cold.

And those of us who live in Austin, Texas have the delightful "Cedar Fever" season coming up from December - February. What is "Cedar Fever" asks the uninitiated? It is hell on earth.

We have these trees here in Central Texas that spray pollen into the air once the cold weather arrives. It took me years to develop the cedar allergy, and I spent that time thinking people were exaggerating the symptoms.... until I fell victim.

Cedar Fever is like having the flu for a whole month. And worse, the congestion often leads to sinus infections and other things. Without my allergy medicine I would lose the yearly battle. This little cold episode has reminded me I need my health to survive January.

PS - thanks to all the people who left comments on my "Sick" post or emailed me with remedies (or good wishes).

Have A Great Day

thom

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sick

I hate being sick. HATE IT.

I usually have several things going on at one time, and I try to keep all the balls in the air. Being sick takes away my ability to control my schedule.

Friday morning I felt a cold coming. By bedtime I was clearly ill. Today I am resting, but that means I am not doing all the things that I need to do.

It is humbling to have a bad cold. It takes over. The medicine makes me feel loopy and thus while I feel better I am hardly myself.

I have not been really sick in almost three years. At least it is a Saturday when we had no bigger plans. Still a bummer. Yet it will make me appreciate feeling good again in a day or two.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Memory

I enjoy Thanksgiving. I remember being just a lad and my mother would host some extended family for turkey and all the trimmings.

My dad was in charge of carving the bird. I did not inherit his skill, as I tend to mutilate the poor turkey each time I carve.

My grandmother would come. For grace we would all stand and take turns saying something we were thankful for in the past year. The rule was that you could be simple, detailed or even funny, but you had to have something serious for which you would share your thanks. You could not pass or make a joke for the sake of being a cut up.

Grandma, who died in the spring of my first grade year, would always go last (respect to the elder matriarch). She would list her ten children, twenty-six grandchildren (not one-by-one!) and then wrap up the circle of thanks by adding that she was thankful she was the last person in the line....as the food was getting cold!

Every year it made me laugh. Still does for some silly reason.

As we close in on this holiday of the grateful, I hope that everyone can take a moment to look to discover what has made their year just a little brighter. Even in the tough economic climate there are the things that can make our hearts smile.

I could list my things here, but it would fill the page. I am very fortunate and I know it. Thanks to everyone who has touched my life in the past, present and future.

**************************

I also have been investing a lot of thought into my annual "Praise Others Project". Each December I dedicate this blog to praising those I admire. Authors, blogger, speakers, entrepreneurs, friends, etc....

This year I am going to praise the entrepreneurial spirit that is so visible in Austin, Texas. Each day I will write about a person, company, organization or movement that has that spark that creates business. I hope it will be a fun exercise and that you will come and read the daily entries and share them with others.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Startup Staffing is now vrecruiting

As you may know, Startup Staffing was acquired last December by vcfo. Over this past year this highly respected recruiting firm has refined and broadened their recruiting services and would now like to announce the launch of their new name, vrecruiting - recruiting solutions from vcfo.

In addition to the same high quality services they have provided since 1999, they now provide an expanded suite of recruiting services including:

Managed Recruiting Solutions

  • Customized Recruiting Projects and Programs
  • RPO (Recruitment Process Outsourcing)
  • Consulting – Recruiting Optimization

Professional Search (Contingent and Retained)

  • Accounting and Finance
  • HR/Recruiting
  • Technology
  • Oil and Gas

Contract Staffing (Contractors/Temp/Temp-to-Perm)

  • Accounting and Finance
  • HR/Recruiting
  • Technology

The acquisition by vcfo also provided a national platform enabling vrecruiting to expand geographically. They now have recruiting operations in Austin, Dallas, Denver and Seattle. If vrecruiting can be of assistance to you, or to anyone in your network, please don’t hesitate to contact Greg Garrison (President, vrecruiting) at 512-345-9441.

Additional vcfo solutions:

vcfo - Finance and Accounting Solutions vcfo provides strategic expertise, technical accounting experience, and flawless execution. Working closely with the CEO, the board, and senior management, vcfo provides insight and strategic direction appropriate for the stage and growth plans of your company.

vhr – HR Solutions Working with our highly skilled team of human resources experts, you will quickly have visibility into any human resource risk issues facing the company. You will have a road map to assist the company with implementing the right set of policies and procedures to guide employees on a daily basis.

I Cannot Make This Stuff Up - No BULL !!!!

I enjoy talking with people that I meet in airports and on airplanes. I never know when I will meet a potential client (The Miracle of the Middle Seat), find someone who has read my book (yes, yesterday a complete stranger told me his firm has a dozen copies of "Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women" as part of his firm's women's initiative), learn about a niche business, or just hear a work related story that makes me laugh in the core of my soul.

Yesterday I flew to Dallas to give a speech. On the flight home to Austin I had a delightful conversation with the two people sitting next to me.

Amanda was an attractive young "twenty-something". If I had not spoken with her I might have assumed she was still a college student. Alas, that judgement could not be farther from the truth.
Amanda has a bachelors degree in Animal Sciences from Texas Tech and a masters degree in Cattle Breeding from the same university.

Having attended San Diego State University, where "Surfing" is an elective course, the fact that these livestock related majors even exist made me laugh. I am a city boy. Animal husbandry is not a profession that I ever would have considered, as there is not much livestock in my native Los Angeles. But my fellow traveler grew up just south of Amarillo, Texas, where such things are the norm. Yes, she had been a 4-H Club member as a kid.

Today Amanda is a sales rep for a company that manufactures nutritional supplements and vitamins for the dairy industry (think Flinstones chewables for cows!). This young professional was on her way to a presentation at Texas A&M University where she and her co-workers were hosting a seminar on bovine nutrition. Cattle feed seminars are not unusual at a school whose nickname is "The Aggies" (Gig Em!). I don't get asked to speak at cattle related conferences, but they do exist!

But this was not her first job out of college. Fresh out of Texas Tech she spent a year selling Bull Semen. Yes, I said it. She sold Bull Sperm. I did not begin my day expecting to meet a former bull semen vendor. See, you never know who you will meet on an airplane. I could not make this up!

She continues to artificially inseminate cows as a side business, as she is licenced to do this (who knew one had to have state approval to do such things... I only have drivers licence!).

Since Marny Lifshen and I wrote the networking book for women I have talked with many women who work in male dominated industries. I think that Amanda wins the prize for the most unique jobs I have ever encountered for a young woman working in a profession that is mostly men. She is easily one or two decades younger than her co-workers in both the dairy feed and bull semen industries, but is very successful in her unique role. She could probably write a book about her experiences. Certainly she could do stand-up using her personal stories, as she had me and the other person in row 23 of the Southwest Airlines flight from Dallas to Austin laughing hysterically.

It was great talking with Amanda. She is another example of Generation Y / Millenials who are taking their career future by the horns (sorry, I could not resist the bull analogy). I was reminded not to assume anything about people whom you encounter. You never know the back story about the people around you. That is why you need to be friendly and ask questions. Listening to others share their life stories can expand your perspective on many aspects of the world.

And that's no BULL!!

Have A Great Day.

thom

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stop Getting Annoyed So Easily

Busy. Yep, people are all busy. Each day we all see people in a hurry who have important things to do and important places to be. We can all easily get caught up in our own stuff and totally lose sight everything else around us.

Today I went through security at the Austin airport at 5:30 AM. The line was surprisingly long for the early hour, and everyone was dutifully lined up to complete the travelers barefoot ritual.

The young couple in front of me were traveling with their four month old daughter. They were clearly not seasoned travelers, and the entire process of getting through the screening check point seemed to unravel before them. It is hard enough to know that your laptop must be alone in a gray bin (nothing else can ride through x-ray with the laptop!!!), but add all the baby strollers, diaper bags, bottles, and the rest into the mix....and these people brought the whole line to a complete halt.

I found it interesting how visibly annoyed some of my fellow travels were. The loud sighs and eye rolling were rapid. People were pissed that these people were having difficulites in getting the baby out of the stroller and putting all their parts into the screening machines. I felt bad for them, as they were in over their head, and were not experienced in airport proceedures.

I chose, instead of becoming annoyed, to smile at the young child who was about as cute as a baby can be as her parents unpacked and repacked her baby things. She had eyes as bright as the morning sun that was just peaking out over the horizon. This happy child was in no hurry, and was not concerned in the least about how quickly she would reach her departure gate.

The impatient traveler who sighed the loudest was on my flight. She arrived at the gate with 45 minutes until the plane departed. She sat with her arms crossed and fumed until boarding began. What was the rush?

I felt sorry for this woman who was so easily annoyed for no cause. But she is not alone. We all fall into the trap of feeling busy and overwhelmed. We forget that life is about more than our race to get on a plane or other trivial matter. Stress can engulf us and we forget to enjoy all that is good in our world.

Take a break today from your nutty life and just breath. Look around at the people you see on the street and smile at them. Admire the beauty that exists in the world. Share a positive thought with someone you encounter. Contribute to help someone in need. Rediscover joy.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Monday, November 17, 2008

Training Presentation On The Power Of Business Relationships

Expanding your network and developing deeper business relationships in 2009 should be a major part of your corporate and personal marketing and PR plan during the current recession.

All opportunities come from people. When times are tough, people matter most. Some tend to get lost in the good times and forget the importance of their network. Many believe their own press and think they are the reason for their own success.

Many companies and organizations are currently looking to encourage and educate their employees on ways to expand the value of their relationships. Cultivating true mutually beneficial partnerships do not happen by accident. To ignore the people who can assist with your success is an invitation to your competition's path to victory.

If your company is planning a 2009 meeting to engage your team in their efforts to expand your business, "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" can be an excellent presentation in the practical power of business relationships.

For more information on my books or speeches, please visit www.thomsinger.com.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Thursday, November 13, 2008

They Laughed At The Younger Generation - Until It Was Their Turn To Rule The World

The November Leadership Austin Engage Breakfast tackled the topic of the "Changing of the Guard – Leadership Turnover in Central Texas". The event was held at Chez Zee Restaurant (a great place to meet and eat!) on Tuesday, November 11, 2008 and was sponsored by Aetna and Lee Hecht Harrison. Nearly 100 people were in attendance.

"Change" is in the air everywhere following on the heels of our historic presidential election. But successful change does not just happen by accident. The panel discussion focused deep on what the Austin area faces in the coming years as many of the top jobs across the city are already beginning to have new faces moving into the corner offices - and more seasoned leaders are scheduled to retire in the near future. Change is looming on the horizon, and it will forever impact our fine city.

The panel, which consisted of entrepreneurial legend, Kerry Tate (TateAustinHahn) and the uber-smart Matt Kouri (Greenlights for Non-Profit Sucess) kicked off with the statement of "SHIFT HAPPENS!". Clearly things are shifting in Austin as many of the areas top business, government and non-profit leaders are moving onto retirement or other assignments, and that is creating both challenges and opportunities throughout our community.

Each individual Austinite views their nostalgic picture of the "perfect Austin" as the day they arrived in town. For some that is the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s or just a few weeks ago. For generations Central Texas has experienced fast growth and change, but the speed at which our key leadership roles are turning over in the current environment is unprecedented.

Ms. Tate, the youngest member of Austin's old guard, read a long list of well known pillars of the community who have or are soon to vacate their roles. Mr. Kouri added his view point of the state of the over 5000 non-profit organizations that make Austin one of the highest per capita cities in the country for active charitable organizations. These groups are also are facing a high churn in their executive director positions. Are our elders moving aside to make room for the next phase of leaders, or are they just leaving?

The answer goes beyond our Hill Country vantage point. Austin is reflective of the changes that are happening all over the United States. While Austin prides itself in bucking trends, in the case of the generational leadership changing of the guard, we are the perfect example of what is soon to be happening everywhere.

Our workforce across the globe is having never before seen changes as Generation Y and the Millennials move into the workforce. Human Resource consultants and others are perplexed with how the aging baby-boomers and their younger collages are handling the perfect storm of generational differences converging in the marketplace. The younger workers have different views of leadership, work, social life, family, politics, and of the world at large.

Change is constant, but at this rapid pace, what does Austin need to do to avoid just riding the wave of change?

There is risk, but this transition is exciting. Paying attention to the change and managing it is the key. Leadership is not a straight line, but instead it is an imperfect circle. A circle made up of dots and dashes that allow new players to enter when these "holes" appear. Thus when experienced leaders move on, there is an opportunity for someone new to come into the circle and make an impact on the individual organizations (businesses, non-profit, or government agency) and the entire community.

How can younger folks get involved?

Show up and show you care! Austinites have an un-natural love affair with Austin. You do not see the levels of civic pride and sacrifice to make a city great in other municipalities. This is what makes Austin so wonderful. Individuals must get past any selfish motivations when it comes to leadership and care for the good of the whole community. With the mentality of service there is always room for anyone to take a seat at the leadership table.

If organizations are still looking at old business models, they are being passed over. Austin is at the cutting edge of the technology shifts that are impacting all areas. Where national thought leaders are talking about the internet and social media changing the way companies and other organizations hire and communicate - we are already seeing Austin companies and indidviuals coming together, finding jobs and advancing their organizations through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twiter and a variety of other online facilities. The message to all types of organizations is to embrace the change.

Gen Y and the Millennials have a different mindset, and their presence is changing the face of how work gets done. They grew up with text messaging and email, but also were raised to feel special and want to be part of the process in the organizations where they work and volunteer. Their need to feel connected is not necessarily good or bad, it is just a different point of view. Savvy organizations realize this and are tapping into the talent and creativity that they bring to the table. They do not need to bring turmoil into the workforce, but instead have a lot to teach their more seasoned co-workers who are newcomers to much of the new technologies.

Local leaders of past generations had lives that more focused on our small geography. They understood the common heart and soul of each other's civic dedication. They personally knew and liked one another (even if they disagreed on specific issues). Many of the new leaders live and work in global companies and are connected to a variety of communities around the world. This allows them less time to be engaged in Austin specific issues, which means that many of our younger leaders may not have established histories of knowing other local leaders. When conflict occurs they cannot draw on a lifetime of mutual understanding. Instead this leaves them on opposite sides of what can appear to be a great divide. Knowing each other is important.

The antidote for this disconnect of those who will lead Austin into the next several decades are organizations like Leadership Austin, who can work to introduce, educate and inspire the new generation of leaders. With mutually beneficial goals, outcome based objectives and established friendships that foster understanding, tomorrow can be navigated with success and expertise that will continue to set Austin and Central Texas apart for other cities around the world.

This is an example the reality of the importance of your network. Leaders need to invest the time up front to establish and cultivate relationships with others who will look to serve our community as we continue to expand. Hiding behind the excuse of "being busy" is not acceptable. "Busy" has been embraced by our culture and is not going away. Everyone is busy, but leaders must make the time to connect with other leaders.

The real message of the morning was "Do not just observe the change - embrace it and help shape the future". For those who are called to lead, the opportunity is right now. Austin has room at the top for those who can (and will) create and manage our tomorrow.

Have A Great Day

thom

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jealousy Is For Losers

I heard two women talking at a nearby table in Starbucks. One was clearly having personal issues with her younger sister's career success. She felt bad about hating her sister for her victories, but none the less she was green with envy and she was lamenting about all of the short coming from her sister's lifetime.

After about five minutes her friend stopped her verbal rant by stating sternly: "Jealousy Is For Losers! You are not a loser, so stop this crap!". She went on to coach her friend to take pride in her sibling for all that she has accomplished and stop looking at the financial rewards as some kind of cosmic scorecard. She counseled that she should learn from her sister, not be-little her.

I know it is bad to eavesdrop, but this was interesting!

I smiled as I listened to them both discuss jealousy and how to never let it enter your soul. It was great advice from one friend to another. We all have people in our lives whom we can look to and wish for a piece of their success. The problem comes when it goes beyond admiration and becomes envy, coupled with mental anguish and disdain.

I try hard not to fall into the trap of that "green eyed monster". I think we should all enjoy seeing other people succeed and try to learn from them rather than internally undermining their achievements.

I love the reminder that "Jealousy is for Losers!!". Words to live by.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Alternative Finance for Companies in the Tough Economy


This guest blog post originally appeared on The Austin Startup Blog on November 11th. Corey Blahuta works with me at vcfo.

Today’s guest blogger is Corey Blahuta, the Austin Managing Director for vcfo, Inc. He can be reached at cblahuta@vcfo.com or (512)345-9441. For more information see: www.vcfo.com.

My company, vcfo, hosted a great event last Thursday where a panel of experts discussed a variety of alternative financing strategies. It struck me as funny to call these “alternative strategies” as they are neither risqué nor new, they are just a bit different than the traditional path of an entrepreneur or CFO working exclusively with a commercial bank and setting up a line of credit. The panel represented a good cross section of the alternative or “transitional capital” landscape. The panel consisted of Meg Roberson from Gulf Coast Business Credit, Bryan Ballowe of King Trade Capital, Jim Rebello of Growth Capital Partners, LP, and Lou Manitzas of One Source Financial Corp, and the event was moderated by David Orlandella of Enhanced Capital Partners.

The alternative financing strategies represented by the panel included factoring; asset backed lending (leasing, etc); mezzanine financing; and purchase order financing. Each has its own merits and challenges. Some can be quite expensive relative to a traditional commercial bank line but they all represent themselves to be cheaper than equity and certainly more favorable than missing a key revenue opportunity. In a very simplistic model; you look to purchase order financing when you have a firm contract or order but need working capital to deliver on it; factoring can be key when you have delivered the goods and have quality receivables but the cash conversion cycle is long; asset backed lending is essential if your business requires heavy capital equipment investment; and mezzanine financing can be useful if you have a business that is cash flow positive but needs additional capital to fund your business plan or complete a buy-out.

In addition to discussing their respective businesses each panelist was asked to provide some perspectives on what they are seeing in the market. What follows is some of the highlights of that discussion.

Meg Roberson noted that she has seen companies with banking relationships that go back ten or more years not getting facilities renewed in the current environment.

Jim Rebello, advised that business owners and CFO’s should “mange to the covenants” present in existing lines as they don’t want to give their banks a reason to possibly rethink a facility.

Bryan Ballowe believes we are moving from a “crisis of confidence to a crisis of realization” as Wall Street pain has moved into the broader economy and he expects that trend to continue in 2009.

Lou Manitzas cautioned that even though the alternatives discussed were certainly more reasonable in the current environment than lending from traditional commercial banks, underwriting for all forms of capital are tightening, including those being discussed by the panelists.

Finally, all panelists noted that the demand for their products and services has increased dramatically in recent months and they expect that trend to continue into at least the early part of 2009.

If your company is concerned about your financing options, I suggest you begin now to research your alternatives. The experts mentioned here, as well as others, will gladly help educate your business on the different vehicles available to you in any economic climate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Unique Client Event Continues To Deliver

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I believe deeply in the power of experiential marketing. When you bring people together to share in an event, your efforts have more power than if you just tell them something.

This is the third year in a row that my family has been invited to a fun gathering hosted by the Austin Office of the Akin Gump law firm. Each year they rent out a large movie theater (Cinemark is client of the firm) and hold a private showing of the latest holiday release of a family-friendly movie.

This year: Madagascar 2.

My kids look forward to this event because in addition to the family trip to the movies, the firm provides each child (and parent) with a wrist band that allows them to order all the popcorn, soda and candy that they want. They only have to show the person behind the counter that they are VIP guest of Akin Gump and the world is their oyster. (on regular trips to see a flick, dad is too cheap to let them do more than share on popcorn and a Coke!). Both my daughters love this and talk about the Akin Gump "free movie" all year long.

Years ago when I was the Texas marketing director for Brobeck, Phleger, and Harrison I worked with many of the Akin Gump lawyers (following Brobeck's collapse the Austin litigation team moved to Akin Gump). I have always enjoyed the friendship of these fine attorneys and appreciate being included in their annual movie event. I praise their firm for their dedication to this unique client party, as it really is a great idea!!

What does your company do for your clients? If all you do is deliver products and services and then send them a bill, you might be missing opportunities to develop real relationships with your customers. It is easy to fire a vendor, it is hard to fire a friend. Thus you must work to cultivate friendships with your customers or you are more vulnerable in this economic climate.

Look for creative ways to stand out from your competition. If you don't, please be aware that your competition IS looking for ways to pass you by.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Little Pride (and Bragging) On My Hometown


BusinessWeek released a state-by-state survey of the best cities in the United States for raising children.

While my beloved Austin, Texas (adopted Hometown) did not make the list (which proves that the mainstream media is flooded with people who are out of touch!), the city where I was born, Arcadia, and raised did rank NUMBER ONE in California.

That was kinda random...and very cool.

I am a graduate of Arcadia High School in Arcadia, California --- and until three months ago my dad still lived there in the house where I was raised. It was a good place to grow up (way back then!) and I still have great friendships with many of my childhood classmates, some I have known since Kindergarten.

The comment in the BusinessWeek article about peacocks roaming free around the neighborhoods made me laugh. They have had free run there for longer than I have been alive. Yes, they can fly (short distances) as we often would have flocks of them on our roof! I learned to drive a car with the special skill of "peacock avoidance". Not something that everyone learns at sixteen years old!

Congrats to Arcadia for this honor. I still pick Austin as the place to raise my kids, but I can still have pride in the city of my youth!!!

Have A Great Day.

thom

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Employee Team Building is a ZIP!!


On Saturday vcfo took employees and their families out for a little fun in place of our November staff meeting. We all spent the day at Cypress Valley Canopy Tours in Spicewood, Texas. It sounded like it would be a fun event, but it turned out to be an AMAZING afternoon for my co-workers and our kids.

My eleven-year-old joined me for the day of zipping though the trees. I thought she might be scared, but instead with each leg of the two hour tree-top tour she would scream "That was AWESOME!" The other kids (and the grown ups) all had the same response.

I am a big fan of unique events. Human beings are experiential creatures who are forever influenced by the activities they share with others. Find an occasional way to shake up the routine with something different (and fun) and you will reap the rewards. The replacement of a staff meeting with a happy hour, bowling, movie day, go cart racing or a zip line tour through the trees in the Texas Hill Country is something that has more impact on your team than you can imagine. Even in a tight economy, you still need to think of your people!

We were broken up into groups of seven and two guides made it fun and kept a keen eye that we were safe as we zipped along from tree to tree.

Our group was great for me because my daughter and I were in a group some co-workers whom work in the field (thus I do not see them around the office on a regular basis), so it was fun to hang out with those whom I did not know as well. One of them had a ten year old daughter, so the kids had a great time together, too!

Have A Great Day.

thom

See the 30 second video of our team zipping along:


video

Friday, November 07, 2008

Compliment Those Who Do Good Work

Everyone likes to get a compliment when they do good work.

We all get caught up in the high paced corporate work world. When those around us do their job especially well it is rare for others to take a moment and reward them with some upbeat and supportive words. Yet it only takes a few seconds to say "thank you" and it has such power!

Make it a habit to tell co-workers, vendors, bosses, friends, employees or others "Thank you for doing such a great job on this task". Such simple words will brighten the day of all who hear the praise (not just the person who receives the compliment).

An email was received today at vcfo from a long-time friend of the company and relatively new client. Her short blurb made every one's day a little brighter:

"Thank you for sending Gwen and Kimberly to review our accounting/Quickbooks process. Kimberly was able to significantly clean up our Quickbooks and make life easier for me!

I just finished our November billing and it was much quicker than last time. I even have an understanding of our security deposits that I don’t think anyone else has had here before."


These four short sentences were not only sent to Gwen and Kimberly (who always do great work!!!), but the message was sent to the CEO, Managing Director of our Austin office, and several others (including her own boss where she works). When sending praise, always make sure that you copy as many people as you can!

This person was very thoughtful to send such an email. It showed a level of class and grace that is often overlooked in a client / vendor relationship. Too many of us ignore the good work that we encounter everyday.

Praising others is an important skill in cultivating your professional network. I know first hand that a hectic schedule can make someone get too focused on themselves, and thus we can forget to say "thanks". But none of us succeed in our lives without the help of many many other souls. Take the time to recognize people for their contribution in making your world just a little bit better.

Say thank you for the big things in life, as well as the minor things -- and everything in between.

Not every customer thanks a vendor for helping them with Quickbooks. Seems like a normal enough task. After all, that is what we were hired to do! But this client's short email made an impact on everyone who was cc'd.

How about you? Whom can you praise right now?

Have A Great Day.

thom

Open 4 Business Conference - NEXT WEEK!

Tuesday is the Open 4 Business Conference in Austin, Texas. This will be a great resource for small and medium-sized businesses owners and their management teams and as well as entrepreneurs or individuals wanting to gain useful and tangible information on a multitude of 'meaty' topics. The event also promises to be fabulous opportunity to network!

HERE'S WHY YOU DON'T WANT TO MISS OUT:

An opportunity to work with investors.

Increase the level of talent into your organization.

Discover Resources you didn't know were available.

Network with other business owners.

Get free advice on a range of topics to help you grow your business in 2009 and beyond.

AND MUCH MORE!!!

After party hosted by Door 64 at Sherlocks!

The event opens with a keynote address from Gary Farmer, President of Opportunity Austin 2.0. Paul Carrozza, owner of RunTex will speak about lowering health insurance claims through employee exercise programs.

There are lots of great speakers and panelists throughout the day who will impart their knowledge to help you and your company navigate the path toward success.

vcfo is a sponsor, so you can use the following discount code when you register: VCFO6140

I hope to see you at the Norris Conference center on Tuesday, November 11th.

Have A Great Day.

thom

Thursday, November 06, 2008

True Relationships Make The Difference For Your Business

A friend I respect was recently saying that "loyalty is dead" in the business world. He lamented about how the rough economic times were creating situations where all bets are off in regards to relationships. Selfishness and short-sightedness were what he thought had taken over. He was clearly disappointed in the actions of a price sensitive customer who jumped ship on a long standing professional relationship and hired his competitor who had lower fees.


I disagree. Loyalty is NOT dead. It is alive and well everywhere that real relationships exist. The problem is that in our society we have let the importance of true friendships be replaced by superficial links masquerading as deep connections.


These days everyone is crazy busy. We are bombarded with information, options and noise. This can create frustration, confusion and doubt. Those who get lost in this whirlwind can easily get distracted from the importance and power of business relationships. When both vendors and customers lose sight of this, alas the image appears to some that loyalty is six feet under.

Now more than ever you need to focus on your business relationships. The economic downturn and uncertainty have created instability for everyone in their professional and personal lives. I have spoken with several people who are scared of being laid off - even when their companies are doing well and they have no reason to harbor such fears. When these types of emotions take hold of people, they have a tendency to go heads down. The retreat from their networking.


NO, NO, NO.


These are the times to put your head up and reach out to clients, prospects, vendors, employees, employers, friends, past customers, neighbors, and anyone with a pulse. We need each other to succeed. If we hide from the world and hope for the best we are destined to be past over and forgotten.


True relationships make the difference for your business. A "true relationships" means that all parties are committed to being of assistance to others. The bad news is that in rough times some people get very concerned about their own needs. This means they look at their contacts as if they have pork chops around their necks...and they themselves are hungry wolves. They desire to devour the other person to get, get, get, take, take, take. They do not first think about what they can give. When everyone is a hungry wolf, you end up with a bunch of growling.


Bad times in the economy come and go.... do not let this bump in the road cause you to ignore, or worse, damage your relationships. Pay attention to the other people in your circle of influence and see how you can be the catalyst that helps them achieve their goals. Take a minute to look up from your own concerns and look for how to boost others up a notch. You will be plesantly surprised at how fast someone will do the same for you.


If you get too concerned about only your issues, you will disappear from their radar. Then you will be alone. And that is when your real problems will begin.


Have A Great Day


thom

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congratulations Barak Obama


This is a historic day. The American people have elected a new president. Our democracy works. This has been a long campaign, but in the end we have completed our charge spelled out by the Constitution. It feels good.

Godspeed, President Barak Obama. Make us proud.

God Bless America.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Help Others Succeed Whenever You Can

If you want people in your network to assist you on your path toward success, find ways to help others.

Simple? Yep.

Zig Ziglar says; "
You can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."

So why are people so cautious to do favors for others?

One person told me he was jaded. He had helped others but they never returned the favor. I can see how that happens, but it is not the right answer. It is not always the same person who helps you. It could be someone else who just knows that you are a helpful person who tosses you an opportunity. If you get jaded and stop being generous, the "right" people may not have found you yet - and when they do they do not like what they see.

Another person told me he was too busy to think about others. His own job and other responsibilities were daunting and he could not keep up. The stress was too much, and he did not have the time to think about how to serve others. This is not the right answer either. There is always time, it is just how you prioritize. Also, doing good for another person feels good. Take pride in making a difference for someone and you will find your stress will be less.

Finally, I was told "I would love to help, but don't know what I can do". Ask. If you ask enough people about their needs, challenges and goals you will find that some of them will answer you with situations where you can be of great assistance. If you are serious about helping others and cannot find any opportunities within your network of contacts, volunteer for a charity. No matter what city you live in there are great causes who need volunteers, board members and evangelists. Get involved.

(Side note - If you live in Austin, Texas and are looking for ways to get involved, I recommend you attend the 2008 Fall Board Summit on Wednesday night, November 5th. Sponsored by Greenlights for NonProfit Success, this gathering brings together many local charities who are in search of board members and volunteers. This event will be held from 5:45 -8:00 at the offices of Vinson & Elkins. You will have the opportunity to network with over 150 business professionals and hear community leaders talk about nonprofit board service. The best part is you'll have a the chance to learn about over 20 diverse local organizations who are actively looking for people to help them achieve their goals!).

Become a connector. Link people to each other and to opportunities that match their goals. Make it a goal to help someone when you see the chance. To do this you must think about other people and understand what success looks like for them. We all get myopic about our own desires and we forget that different folks have different ideas about what it is to succeed.

Ask everyone you talk with today "What is your biggest challenge between now and the end of the year?". Then look for ways, when appropriate, to help that person overcome their obstacles.

Let me know when you are able to make a difference. It will feel good and you might be afraid that talking about it will be bragging...so email me and brag all day long!!!

Have A Great Day.

thom


Monday, November 03, 2008

The End Comes To The Long Campaign

For what seems like an eternity in the United States we have been focused on the 2008 Presidential Election.

Tomorrow it all comes to an end.

Yesterday I drafted a long post for my blog about what I learned from being an "undecided voter" for the first time in my life. The experience forever changed how I view politics and my own beliefs. It also changed how I see others who passionately support their cause.

I admire people who are inspired in their soul. We all long to feel so deeply.

However, I am disgusted on many levels in regards to how partisanship trumps citizenship in our culture. The post was long, sad, and probably "holier-than-though" with my extreme centrist ideas. It would have offended people I love and admire who are on both sides of this passsionately charged political isle. I deleted the post, as I never mean to offend anyone with my thoughts on this blog.

I had wanted this campaign to be different. I expected something amazing an unique from Barak Obama and John McCain - two men who I believe both have honor and character. In the end, the campaign was not as much about issues and ideologies as it was about the same old stuff that makes politics yucky to many people. Presidential politics is not about the candidates in as much as it is about the "party machines". The power runs much deeper.

I voted for one of them (Texas has early voting, so I cast my ballot last week). I think they both had different strengths that could be applied to our country at this critical time. They also both had weaknesses and baggage. Alas, they are both human beings, who while flawed, want to lead our country to a better tomorrow. Neither man is the devil, and we can rest assured that we will have a strong system designed over 200 years ago that will continue to serve us well.

I am excited about the predictions for the extremely high voter turn out. I have always been upset with our country's low participation in things this important. I hope that the numbers are even bigger than are being suggested. Come on people....VOTE.

Whomever wins, I hope we all wake up on Wednesday and support our new President-Elect! No nasty divisive words after the votes are cast. Instead we must find unity!

Have A Great Day.

thom

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Clarify and Share Your Goals With Your Network

I think most people like the idea of a network of contacts that go out of their way to help them succeed. This is evident by the sheer amount of people who write books, blogs and articles on the subject. Additionally there many, many professional business speakers (myself included) whose presentations cover sales, marketing, business development, self-improvement, and a variety of other corporate functions that also cover the importance of networking.

A strong network is an invaluable tool for individuals and companies who strive to uncover more opportunities (hello, this should be everyone!).

Solid business relationships do not happen by accident. An effort must be made to cultivate the connection and develop a mutually beneficial friendship. But it does not end there. The people in your network, even when they love and respect you, cannot assist your success unless they know what it is you want.

People, do not be shy. Tell others about your goals for the future. If they know what you want to accomplish they will have a better chance to send you opportunities. If you assume they know what you want, they might be off base in their assumptions or think you do not need their help.

The problem is that most of us want lots of things that are not clearly defined. When we try to express these desires they come off as squishy pipe dreams or loose ideas. Find the clarity of just a few goals and tell everyone the same story.

I suggest you define three goals in each of the following areas of your life: professional goals, personal goals, and soul goals.

While you might have more than three things that you want to achieve in each area, if your list is too long, the power will be lost. People are going to focus on helping you if the project is too large. Make it manageable for them and they will surprise you with their efforts to make a difference in your life. Most other people want to help others, they just don't know how.

Tell the people in your network how they can assist you!

Make sure that each goal is definable. In my role at vcfo if said I want to get us "more" appointments with "good" companies.... that would mean nothing to someone who might otherwise want to help me.

However if I said: "I want three new meetings each week in the month of November with CEOs or CFOs of businesses from any industry that have not ever used a part-time outsourced resource for operational accounting / finance, HR or recruiting. The reason for this is that many business leaders do not understand the benefits of our services, and meeting with these people can create win-win solutions that can help their business be more productive in this crazy economy. vcfo provides a team of dedicated and experienced professionals to ensure businesses perform optimally. As an essential member of the team, vcfo's highly skilled staff of virtual CFOs, Controllers, Staff Accountants, HR professionals and recruiters allow a company to achieve more of their goals" it would be more understandable. This is clear and it makes it easy for someone to identify whom they could introduce to me and for what purpose. It allows them to understand what assisting me can do for the person they connect with me.

A mistake that is made regularly is that people only consider goals around the new year. They tie them to making new year's resolutions (or they avoid such things). But you should always be fine tuning your goals and sharing them with others. Your goals will morph and change with time and as you achieve them. And you need not wait until the first of the year.

Create some goals now and tell others. Here I will do it:

Professional Goals

1. (see above)

2. As I strive to expand my professional speaking career I am always looking for opportunities to speak at company meetings and conferences. My most popular presentation "Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships" goes beyond just networking and encourages and inspires people to embrace the power of business relationships. I would welcome introductions to sales managers, CEOs and law firm managers who want to make sure that their team has the right plan for getting involved in their business community.

I am currently booking presentations for the first quarter of 2009, and need to be introduced to meeting planners and others who hire speakers for corporate events. I speak regularly across the United States, but my goal for 2009 is to have the chance to speak internationally, specifically in Ireland.

People interested in finding our more about my speaking can contact me directly or talk with my agent. Word of mouth is the most important marketing tool for a speaker, so I appreciate the positive words of those who know me and whom have seen me speak. I would like to schedule six presentations in the first quarter of 2009, so now is the time to begin the discussions.

I gave over 30 professional presentations in 2008 and would like to grow that number to 50 in 2009.

3. One of my professional goals is always to find ways to assist others to achieve their goals. I want to connect people in my network when it is appropriate for both parties. Please tell me what you are trying to accomplish so that I can see if I can be that catalyst that creates an opportunity for others. Sometimes I can help, sometimes I cannot, but if you do not tell me what you want to achieve, I will have no idea where to begin. For me to succeed, I need to find ways to make others succeed. I know that not everyone who helps me with my goals will have a need where I hold the answer. Thus it is "karma" or "Pay It Forward". If we all reach out to make a difference for someone else, then what goes around comes around. I love to connect people and enjoy when I make a difference. Tell me about your biggest challenge that you face and what you need to beat that challenge.

I also have personal goals and soul goals, but those are not for blog publication. However, I will gladly share them with those who are interested.

Take the time to leave your goals on the comments section. One never know when someone might be able to help you. Share them somewhere!!!

Have A Great Day.

thom