You’re doing it wrong!


Living Life and Growing Your Business on Your Terms

Have you ever received unsolicited advice?

You know the kind I’m talking about. One of your “friends” takes it upon themselves to tell you how you’re screwing up your life. And if you would just make one or two “minor” changes you would be so much better off.

This advice is usually sincere. Your friends are probably genuinely worried about you. When they look at your life they likely see the struggles you go through, how hard you work for seemingly little return, the heartache, the sleepless nights, you name it. Your friends see all the stress and they are genuinely worried about you.

If you’d just give up on your dream and take a job with a steady paycheque. Or maybe just slow it down a bit and relegate your business aspirations to weekends and evenings, maybe you’d be better off. You’d have more money, less stress and live longer.

Or so they think.

But make no mistake it’s never really about you.

It’s about how they feel when they are around you. Maybe they feel sorry for you – but that’s not about you, it’s about them. Maybe they feel guilty for their own success in the face of your seeming failure – but that’s not about you either, it’s still all about them. And maybe they feel envy and jealousy because they see the huge potential for your success and wish they had what it takes to be an entrepreneur. But you guessed it, that’s not about you either.

The fact is, no one can give you advice on what you need to do to be successful. Sure there are some general principles but they are ultimately the same whether you work for a boss or not. At the end of the day nobody knows better than you what it will take for you to be successful. Nobody knows your business better than you. Nobody works harder than you. Nobody cares more than you.

So stop listening to everyone else. That’s what you’re doing wrong.

Entrepreneurship is lonely. And for the most part the pay sucks. Work your ass off for 5, maybe 10 years or even more and maybe, just maybe you’ll become so successful you’ll forget about the years of struggle that led up it.

Maybe not.

You have to be prepared to live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.

That’s my best unsolicited advice.  Take it or leave it.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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3 Lessons From the Hallway – Advisor Summit 2015


hallwaycrowdI just spent the last 3 days at a conference for Financial Advisors from all across the country. The content taught from the dais during various sessions was great but it paled in comparison to the wisdom gleaned just by rubbing shoulders with men and women who have been in the business for decades. I’m a relative newbie to the whole world of financial planning, just 4 years in but as one fellow newbie put it, “this room is full of legends”. After the first day I decided that attending conference sessions was merely a secondary distraction, something to do between the all important networking that happened in the halls outside.

So I started to approach these legends, introduce myself and ask them one question. “When I get back to the office on Monday morning, what do I need to start doing immediately that will ensure that I am back here not only next year but in 20, 30 or even 50 years from now?”

The following are 3 of my favourite responses.

1 – Know your purpose and demonstrate your value, from 33 years in the business.  

This came from a regional manager who has not only developed a loyal client base but has been involved in training and developing financial advisors for most of his career. I’m a big believer in the importance of mission statements and that closely mirrors the idea of knowing your purpose. But demonstrating value is a bit harder. What that comes down to, according to this legend isn’t about you, it’s about showing your client what you can do for them. Rick Warren, in the first line of the Purpose Driven Life said it best; “It’s not about you.” It’s about what you can do for others.

2 – Ask good questions and let the answers lead you where the client needs to go, from 53 years in the business.

The man who told me this started in the financial services business at 34 and is still working today at the age of 87! Oh how I would love to be as vibrant, healthy and engaging as he is at that age. His response came after he asked me a series of increasingly personal questions. How old are you? Are you married? Do you have kids? What did you do before you started in this business? Are your parents still living? What did your Dad do? Finally leading me to a discussion of what kind of insurance I currently hold and why I bought it. He then got a sly smile on his face and asked me why I had answered all of those personal questions that under normal circumstances would seem a bit off putting?  I laughed and said I see what you’re doing, you seem genuinely interested and sincere, and he was, oh that’s GOLD!

3 – Do What’s Right for the Client, from 31 years in the business.

After making one of his first sales over 30 years ago this person’s manager noticed that as he drove away from the client’s home he was very quiet and appeared to be working something out in his mind. The Manager looked at him as said, “stop doing that.” Doing what? “You’re mentally calculating how much commission you just made aren’t you?” This goes back to the first one, it’s not about you.  If you concentrate on doing the things that are solely in the best interest of the client the commission will take care of itself, even if you don’t say anything, clients can tell when your in it for yourself and no them.  Stay focused on the client and you will develop loyalty for life.

After 23 years in business myself, the last 4 in this capacity, I know all of these lessons to be true. I’ve seen them play out time and time again across all lines of business.  It’s about humility, respect and genuine honesty. Those are the traits that make great salespeople and business leaders. You don’t have to be an extrovert or an introvert you just have to be true to your purpose, ask great questions and do what’s right.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and our mission (purpose) to help people manage money better write to: themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Stop Sharing My Videos! – No really stop it…


My second video in the series running up to the release of the rebooted 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program is out.

 

I’m following Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula whereby marketers are told to release a series of “teasers” ahead of the official launch of a new product. So far I’ve released two videos in as many weeks. Each time I’ve sent announcements to an email list of about 140 subscribers, posted on twitter to my 3000 plus followers, linked to them on facebook, linkedin and pinterest for about 500 more people and of course blogged about them here.

As a result, according to YouTube I have received a grand total of 0 – count them ZERO views!

(If you go now and look at them the count is actually about 20 views between the two of them but all of those are just me going there to grab the link so that I can tweet it, post it or embed it in emails.)

What gives?

I can understand if you don’t like my videos, or they don’t resonate with where you’re at right now but to have no views at all, after posting to almost 4000 followers across all of my social media accounts? That makes no sense to me.

I’m following all the rules about Social Media Marketing.

  • I’m posting regularly
  • I’m using hashtags
  • And I’m following up on all my retweets and favorites

Actually that last one is the most mind-boggling of all. So far I’ve received about 20 favorites and retweets from people who haven’t even watched the videos themselves! What’s up with that? I even had one guy forward it to a friend with a comment “you should watch this”, how could he know?

There is something very wrong with the way we engage with new products on-line.

Social Media is a relatively new phenomenon when it comes to product marketing. We’ve been taught that the key to a good marketing campaign is the social share, the more people share what you are posting the better. I’m getting shares but the sad fact is sharing is not engagement. In order to sell a product you need people to engage with it, not just say, “hey this looks cool, check it out.”

What’s worse in my case at least, people are saying “check this out” without having checked it out for themselves! How can you endorse something if you haven’t used it? Not only is it killing your credibility it’s damaging my brand in the process!

So, I never thought I’d have to say this but: please stop sharing my videos, unless you’ve actually watched them.

The third and final video in the series will be posted next week. You can watch both of the current ones here – https://youtu.be/olaDR2KhPOE and here – https://youtu.be/FJ8rWYxLTGw

Please watch, then comment, then share if you are so inclined.

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and our newly re-launched 6 Steps to Financial Freedom Coaching Program write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com

Honest Emotions, 3 Keys to Building Deeper Connections


Really making emotional contact with people, inviting an emotional closeness either in a casual situation or a long-term relationship, requires that we open ourselves to them. It requires that we not put up defensive walls and that we accept others for who they are. – Stuart Brown; Play, How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul

honestemotions

I love my work. In fact most of the time it doesn’t even really feel like work at all.

Don’t get me wrong. There are aspects of my job that I would rather not do, like the reams and reams of seemingly unnecessary and redundant paperwork. But I have created a great system and daily routine that I follow in order to get that stuff done so that I can focus on the fun part, the people part.

Now I have made it no secret that according to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment I tend toward introversion rather than extroversion so it may surprise some of you that I like the people aspects of my work more than the technical but it’s true. The fact is everyone falls on a sliding scale between introversion and extroversion and recently psychologists have come up with a new term to describe people who skew closer to the center of the spectrum. They call them Omniverts. Maybe that’s what I should really call myself.

True, I still lean introverted but I can be comfortable in a social setting when called for without having to retreat into a corner most of the time and I honestly do love people, especially in small groups and one on one settings.

According to sociologist Stuart Brown, making emotional connections with people is the key to long term relationships. Here are a few ways I’ve learned over the years to make a lasting connection with clients that remains true to my personal leanings and respects their own boundaries.

1 – Let them lead.

There is nothing more off putting than someone who won’t follow you where you want to go. In conversation with clients small talk often leads to some very interesting and potentially lucrative destinations. Following the kernels dropped my your prospect during small talk can tell your more about that person in a few seconds that hours of well planned “fact finding” ever could. It’s spontaneous, honest and it shows you what your prospect is thinking about right now.

2 – Be honest.

If your client wants to talk about football and you don’t know the difference between a running back and wide receiver (I don’t) tell him that. Don’t try to be interested in something you’re not. Either the prospect will change the subject or he’ll try and educate you. Either way you’ve made a connection and have a basis for further discussion. On an emotional level honesty about the things that excite you and make you happy and the things that frustrate you or make you miserable leads to deeper discussion about the things that matter. Misery Loves Company as they say, and while that can be destructive shared frustration can lead to some great innovations and forward movement. By being honest about where you stand on things you’re opening yourself up to finding common ground and opportunities to work together on things that resonate beyond just the cash register.

3 – Respect the boundaries.

When you follow people’s lead and are honest about how you feel about things people will generally let you into their lives in a deeper and more meaningful way than they otherwise would. But there will always be places that you are never invited to go. Don’t push it. Doing business with friends is always a touchy area, trying to make intimate friendships with people who are business associates first is even harder. Few things can derail a promising business relationship faster than crossing a personal line uninvited.

Everyone has boundaries don’t be afraid to enforce your own as well. Making friends with your client’s is not the problem, so long as everyone is in agreement about the facts of your relationship and no one feels like things have gone too far.

Human beings are emotional creatures. Effective relationships, even business relationships are fraught with emotion. Being in tune with and respectful of emotions, both ours and other peoples is key in building long lasting relationships, both personally and in the business world.

What other things have you learned about emotions in relationships?  Tell me your stories…

Investment Fees Are Not a 4 Letter Word


fees piggy

There has been a lot of talk lately in the Canadian Financial Service sector about the hidden fees some companies charge for investing and saving money for the future. Quest Trade, an on-line investment broker, recently began running ads on national television in which an un-named financial advisor is handed a cheque, he glances at it, shoves it in his pocket and says; “this will cover my fee, now what did you want to invest?”.

The message this ad sends is clear, Financial Advisors are crooks who will pocket most of your hard earned money for themselves and leave you with very little. What the ad doesn’t say is that most Financial Advisors, myself included, actually charge no fee at all directly to their clients but instead make a commission off of the growth in your investment. In other words if the investment they recommend doesn’t perform, the Financial Advisor doesn’t get paid.

Let me go on the record right now and say that I’m a big fan of transparency and that hidden fees are bad. The reason Quest Trade and others have started running these ads is that as of January 1 all Mutual Fund investment statements produced in Canada are required to disclose all fees clearly and if available, show rates of return for the last 6 months, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years. Now that consumers are able to see clearly, right up front, the fees they are paying for various forms of investment management people have rightly begun asking what exactly they are paying for. And I think that’s a good thing and I welcome the conversation.

I’m speaking specifically about the Management Expense Ratio or MER of your investments. This is the percentage of your investment growth that the company keeps in order to cover their expenses, pay your advisor and make a profit. Think of it as the mark-up, or in this case the mark-down of the actual value of your investments that you pay for the convenience of having someone else manage your money.

The MER is not a new fee, it’s always been there fully disclosed in the investment prospectus your investment advisor is required to give you by law whenever you open an account. There has never really been anything “hidden” about it, it’s just that most people are just too busy to care and lazy investment advisors have tended not to talk about it much. Just like your car salesmen never told you what that shiny new minivan in your driveway really costs to build, investment advisors haven’t been telling you what your money has really returned before expenses.

When most investment advisors talk about returns and show you charts they are talking about them “net of fees”. There has never been anything untrue about the projections they make they just tend to leave out the details of how they are getting paid, and how the companies they work for are covering their expenses. And again, there is nothing “hidden” or shady about doing business that way the information has always been available for the asking, which is more than I can say for your average used car salesman.

So now that the law has changed and the MER is being displayed plainly on your investment statement what does it mean for you as an investing consumer?

Really, it shouldn’t mean a thing. If you have had an honest advisor, who has helped you make decisions in your best interest, given you realistic expectations and guided you through the process with a teacher’s heart, the fact that they have made a commission and the investment company they represent has made a little too shouldn’t concern you at all. Businesses exist to make money and businesses that exist to help people achieve their goals are no different. People are funny that way. We tend to forget that our bankers and investment advisors aren’t altruists, everyone has to eat, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t be informed of the amount of money you are paying these people and why.

Recent studies have shown that people who use a Financial Advisor to help them invest on average see 2.5 to 3 times the growth in assets as unadvised investors over a 10-15 year time period. Why is that? The reason is that individual investors tend to be too emotional with the process. The market goes up and down, if you’re managing your own investments you are more likely to get nervous and sell at the wrong time. As I tell my clients almost every day, “the only people who get hurt on a roller coaster are the ones who jump off”.

Here are the facts; the stock market, where most mutual funds are invested, has risen at an average of 8% per year since pretty much the dawn of time. The average advised investor has achieved a similar return, net of fees, while the average investor who tries to go it alone without professional advice has achieved about 2% over the same time period, (for the answer to why that is, see the roller-coaster analogy above).  What that means is that the value of advice well out paces even the overall market.

So before you believe the hype about MERs or direct investing think about what you are really paying for and why. You don’t necessary have to pay a high MER, there are ways to reduce it if you ask, but advice is valuable, and advisors have to make an honest living just like you.

 

 

Are You a Leader Sheep?


sheep

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:5-8]

One of my future books is going to be on leadership. I’ve already started to write it. It’s tentatively titled; “Leader Sheep; Leading From a Posture of Submission in Ministry, Business and Life”. Last night I began meditating on this passage from Philippians and what it means from the perspective of leadership the way Jesus modeled.

Over the years I’ve read a lot of books on leadership. What I have found is that while many of them will pay lip service to things like generosity, grace and humility, at the end of the day the overwhelming majority give the impression that leadership is the domain of the macho-man (almost all of the authors are men) who takes no prisoners and unapologetically grabs leadership opportunities by the horns.

As a Christ Follower I find this approach to be unacceptable, unspiritual and downright unbiblical. Time and time again throughout scripture we find examples of “natural leaders” being shunned by God in favor of misfits, outsiders and even a few outlaws. God tends to use some of the most unworthy and incapable people as leaders.

Why?

Because leadership is never really about the leaders. It’s about the goal that has been set before them. It’s about the outcome, the people, the process and most of all from a Christ following perspective it’s about God.

That passage from Philippians shows us that the way Jesus led his people was through service, even if anyone had the right to lead with bravado and power it was him. Earlier the Apostle Paul tells his readers to live a life that is worthy of the sacrifice Jesus made even when faced with persecution.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.  For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,.. [Philippians 1:27-29].

So how do we live our lives and lead in our ministries and businesses in a manner “worthy of the gospel”?

We serve. But we more than just serve in the way you would expect. Secular service is done with the expectation of a reward. Service sector businesses expect to be paid for their services and ultimately make a profit. Jesus taught us to serve with no such expectation. In fact he expected and ultimately received death in response to his service.

I am not suggesting that Christians in leadership should expect to die or that Christians in business shouldn’t expect to make money. But we need to change our understanding of what it means to lead in submission to God. We may never receive any recognition for our service and that’s okay. It’s not about us any way. All the leadership books and popular psychology on the subject of success miss that one key element. As Rick Warren so famously put it in the opening phrase of his book The Purpose Driven Life – “It’s not about you!”

Even Jesus had to learn to be submissive and give up on a traditional notion of success in order to be effective. Are you worthy of that kind of responsibility? Can you lead without expectation of any reward ? Are you a servant leader? Are you a Leader Sheep?

Work of Art


So my annual Christmas vacation is coming to an end.

Every year I tend to loosely follow the School year calendar when it comes to Christmas vacation. We’ve been programmed to do this since childhood and unless you work in retail it’s really a great time to slow down, spend time with family and get a few things done around the house. This year, because my wife is working in the school system I decided to follow it exactly, I left my office on Friday December 19 not to return until this coming Monday.  It’s the first full two week vacation I’ve taken in about 8 years!

But I’m an entrepreneur at heart. So regardless of whether or not I’m physically in the office, my work is never very far from my mind. Over the break I have continued to maintain my social media presence, as evidenced by this blog post, did a slight redesign of this web site, (ain’t it pretty?) and read 3 and half books.

I left the office two Friday’s ago with an empty inbox and a clean desk but I will return with a to-do list the length of my arm and a renewed sense of purpose and vigor that I haven’t felt in years! In short, I can’t wait to get back to work!

Why?

Because I’m an artist and the work I do is the canvas I paint on.

is it art

One of the books I read over the break was “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber. For lack of a better term, Gerber is a business coach, his organization, E-Myth Worldwide, is dedicated to helping small business owners develop businesses that work even when they don’t want to.

The E-Myth, according to Gerber is that small business owners are entrepreneurs with big visions about what I means to run their own show when in fact most are merely technicians who got sick of working for someone else and figure that because they can do the work they could run their own shop.

But running your own shop requires a skill set that most technicians don’t have, it requires the ability to step outside of yourself and view the business as an entity in and of itself. Running your own shop is more about developing and over seeing a system and a set of tasks than it is about doing those tasks. Once you reduce your business to a system that anybody can run you are free to step away and work on other things, expand into to new markets and new product lines or retire while the business continues to churn away and make you a whole bunch of money.

If your business depends on you, you don’t own a business – you have a job. And it’s the worst job in the world because you’re working for a lunatic! – Michael E. Gerber; The E-Myth Revisited

As I read through this book I started to notice that I’ve been doing this kind of thing all my life. I have always been a systems oriented kind of guy. Just about every task I have in my business has been reduced to a set of check lists in my mind.  Here is what the first hour or so of my day generally looks like;

  • Read Social Media Feeds – Check

  • Write blog post – Check

  • Get Dressed – Check

  • Go to Office – Check

  • Listen to Voicemail, Read E-Mail, Review Calendar for the day – Check

And that little list only takes me to about 9:15 am on most days. To get me through the rest of the day I’ve written a series of daily tasks down on a set of yellow post-it notes that are stuck on the edge of my desk.  When in doubt, I return to the list.

I’m a systems guy because I’ve found that if I don’t follow a system I tend to get bogged down in the mundane busy work that is required of me and I never get a chance to develop or produce anything of lasting value.

The most menial work can be a piece of art when done by an artist. So the job here is not outside of ourselves, but inside of ourselves. How we do our work becomes a mirror of how we are inside. – Michael E. Gerber; The E-Myth Revisited

I love my systems. They keep me focused and they allow my creative mind to wander. I’ve even built time into my system to experiment with the things my creative mind comes up with while I’m physically going through the list of tasks that the system dictates. One day, when the business has grown large enough to support more staff I’ll be able hand off a portion of the system to someone else with little or no training because the system itself is what drives the business not me.  This will then free me up to develop more systems and do even more interesting and creative things.

I can hardly wait. Running a business is like creating a work of art. Like all art forms the value and the beauty is in the appreciation it receives from others. If people appreciate the business I have built it will be profitable and it will also be copy able, I’ll be able to do it over and over again, because of the system.

Is your business a work of art?

For more information on The Meekonomics Project and the art we help create for our clients write to themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com