Monthly Archives: November 2015

What if you got your business advice from Yoda?

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In the world of startups, outsourcing and business, there seems to be a critical lack of common sense. People are in a huge hurry. Few invest in training their employees. In foreign countries they rarely even invest in a proper phone line where they will be able to hear their prospective clients. The business world is insane, greedy, and idiotic. So, what is the solution? After watching the Star Wars series multiple times, it seems clear that the only way to learn any good sense in business is to learn from a Jedi Master. Obi-Wan Kenobi would be a good choice, but Yoda has about nine-hundred years more wisdom than good old Obi-Wan. So, the choice is obvious.

What if you wanted to get an idea of what business to go into. What would Yoda say?

20 YEAR OLD: “Yoda, I want to start a business, but I need to know which one to start.”

YODA: “Search your inner feelings young one. The feeling that stays with you will be the one. Hmm.
Search you will, but find you will not. A work ethic you do not have. Success will not be possible. Perish you will — hmm! First you must learn to work you must. Do you know how to fix droids?”

I wonder what Yoda would say to BPO owners who refuse to train their workers.

BPO OWNER: “Yoda, what can I do better in my business?”

YODA: “Answering the phone correctly your workers do not. How can you possibly succeed in business if you can’t even answer the phone correctly? Hmm! Double checking your workers output you do not. Sloppy work they do. Attention is not there. You will never be able to use the force with this attitude. Hmm.”

But, what would Yoda say to the more disciplined business owners. Would he have a different point of view?

YODA: “Where do you see your business 200 years from now? Hmm?”

BUSINESS OWNER: “Hmm, I never thought about that. That is so far in the future.”

YODA: “Far in the future it is not. In a blink of an eye it could arrive. Think you are there, and it shall be done — hmm!”

BUSINESS OWNER: “Wow. I’ll have to meditate on that reality. First let me think five years into the future.”

YODA: “Seek you must, first five years, then ten, then twenty. Hmm. Keep seeing farther. Find the consciousness that keeps your business ahead — it is the superiority of the consciousness that makes you win. It is by using the force that your consciousness becomes supreme. But, without discipline — this is impossible. Discipline you have — cultivating it you will.”

BUSINESS OWNER: “So, what is the best technique to develop the force within me?”

YODA: “Forget about that MBA program you must. Time it will take, knowledge you will gain, consciousness of the force and real life experience it will not teach. Learn to meditate you will. The force will develop within you. Also, learn to play the ancient Chinese game of Go from planet Earth you must. Earth has many people of wisdom. Too bad they destroyed their planet in a nuclear holocaust seven hundred years ago. Earth was once a planet of great beauty, but the humans there did not treat their planet with love — hmmm. Lost it they did. Escape they could not. Die they did. But, some of their culture was preserved — learn you must, benefit you will — hmm.”

A startup that helps startups

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I heard of a startup that was created to help other startups. But, in reality, startups generally fail. When you do have a startup, you need the stability of a senior level person to make sure you do well. It is critical to have seasoned mentors guiding you and a way to get reliable staff. In real life, companies that do well have generally been around for a while and have a very stable following and a very reliable and stable staff. The only way a startup can do well is to break the mold and have a brand new way of offering a service that nobody else has thought of and also get their system to grow faster than the competition can catch up. I think that Uber is one of the best examples of this type of startup.

However, I feel that startups would do better if they had older and wiser people guiding them. And, it is a fact that entrepreneurs that do well are normally older and have decades of experience behind them. Entrepreneurs in their 20’s have a much lower chance of doing well than entrepreneurs in their 50’s. The key to success as an entrepreneur is not only having a new idea, but having tremendous drive, and very solid business skills as well as industry knowledge and experience. Someone in their 20’s by definition doesn’t have very much experience, and probably not very good judgment either.

So, what would startups need help with? They would need help finding help! HR would be the most critical task.

(1) H.R.
A startup that could help startups find reliable outsourcing companies and freelancers to help them do all types of tasks would be amazing. Tasks could range from call center, data entry, custom software, web design, social media and more. Not only would hiring be a task for the startup to do, but keeping track of whether the company was doing a good job, and if there were issues. The startup could also help replace bad freelancers and outsourcing companies.

(2) Market Research
It might be difficult for a new startup to be able to do market research. So, they would need a good mentor to help them research, or even do part of the research for them.

(3) Marketing
You can’t have a business without clients. But, what if a company out there would get clients for you and charge a commission after the fact? They would be your lifeline. In real life, there are many agents out there. But, how good are these agents, and how do you find them?

(4) Social Media
Social media is yet another aspect of marketing. But, if the startup could get you started on social media, that would be a tremendous service. However, social media work is expensive, and a startup working on a shoestring might be better off doing this type of work themselves.

(5) Strategy
People creating startups might have a lot of drive. Or, they might just want to escape the 9-5. It is also possible that nobody in their right mind will hire them creating the necessity for them to become an entrepreneur. Young people creating a startup might have a lot of drive, but might not have good judgment. Someone older and wiser with 30 years of business experience might be a God-send to keep them out of trouble in the strategic realm.

(6) Financing
Startups typically need cash from somewhere. I always started my businesses by bootstrapping. I never borrowed, and I build my businesses little by little. You can invest $100,000 in a business you know nothing about and you’ll lose your money fast. But, if you build little by little, you learn the business well by the time you have spent $100,000. You’ll also know if you have income by the time you are ready to invest any serious money.

(7) Finding Partners
As a general idea, partnerships are very risky as no two human beings are going to go the same direction their entire lives. However, if a startup specialized in finding you the right partner to cooperate with, that might really make a huge difference in your life.

That’s all for now. There are probably a lot of other tasks a startup helper could do. But, that is a good beginning!

Jamaica has more female bosses than anywhere else in the world

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This fact may surprise you, but 60% of Jamaica’s managers are women. Part of the reason for this phenomenon is that men become attracted to the musical culture and sometimes to crime, while more women are on the straight and narrow. Moreover, the lyrics of the music today in Jamaica celebrates criminal activity which further perpetuates the problem. Additionally, I might add that in the motherland of Africa, women tend to lead families and get things done while men fall into bad habits. On the other hand, in Islamic parts of Africa, the men have to do everything for the woman — according to a Muslim West African who I met at Beni Hana while enjoying the seafood special.

In the United States only 43% of managers are women and in Japan the number is a mere 11%. While the success of women in Jamaica is wonderful, is this a sign of achievement or an indication of an underlying problem? Men are not doing that well academically and have a much higher crime rate than women in Jamaica. This trend seems to mirror sociological trends in the black communities in the United States in many ways as well.

Jamaican and Caribbean culture is laid back as a rule. However, women have more motivation to earn. Perhaps it is instinctive so they can support their children or children which they will bear in the future. Or perhaps they are not attracted to the idea of smoking ganja for the rest of their lives. Other developing countries have similar behaviors in the slums. India for example has many men in slums who fall into alcohol dependency while the women tend to stay sober. Men in Indian slums will often beat up their wives to get money for alcohol or hooch which is India’s dangerous form of moonshine. While I was in India, an elderly lady went blind from ingesting tainted hooch. The mafia who brewed it put in too much battery acid which is how it gets its kick. I hope they remember to put just the right amount of battery acid in their next brew of pooch so that nobody else needs to be hospitalized.

My friend once told me about an organization that specializes in micro-loans. These loans are for people (mainly women) in the third world living in abject poverty to be able to afford small investments to get a tiny business going. Some needed some metal bowls to sell their goods in outdoor markets. Others needed to be able to buy some basic inventory. The needs were so simple, yet out of reach without wealthy people from the West giving them a chance. Most of the borrowers were women. Why were the men not interested in getting ahead? Had the men given up or had they given in to substance abuse?

Other Caribbean countries are also experience some similarities in these types of trends as 70% of the students in Universities across the West Indies are women.

I personally feel that there is a reason why religions like Judaism and Islam ban intoxicants or “sorcery” which could be interpreted to include drug production and use. Drugs not only ruin lives, but ruin entire societies. Worse yet, the effects of drugs on society empower women — and what could be worse than that?

How does outsourcing work?

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There are different models for outsourcing. Big companies dominate this arena and often open up their own overseas offices or partner with others who have a reputable office overseas. Other companies hire individual freelancers domestically or overseas. It is also common for American or British companies to hire BPO companies in India, The Philippines, Romania or Africa to do a variety of tasks. Many BPO companies specialize in one type of task such as call center work while others can do anything from telemarketing to payment processing, bookkeeping, ecommerce set up and PHP programming.

The way outsourcing typically works is that a company in an industrialized country will need help getting some repetetive work done. They will often source companies overseas who can do the work for a fraction of the price domestically. Sometimes a quote will be given for a particular job while other times a long term service contract will be set up. Call centers often want you to commit to use a single rep for a period of one year while others will lease you an employee on a day by day basis. Programming houses typically charge per hour, but they can also bid for finished projects. The problem is that the specifications need to be very clear if someone is bidding on a completed project, and what if there are bugs in the program or if something doesn’t function correctly?

As with any other business arrangement, it is much easier if you know the people you are working with. If you have gotten reliable results from them for a year and you know the staff members personally, you are much safer with them than with a stranger regardless of what the contract says. A contract is only a piece of cyber-paper and doesn’t specify how good the “quality” will be. And if your contract is violated, how can you possibly enforce it if the company you are using is in Mumbai?

Doing some Twitter analytics. Click rates per 100,000 impressions.

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In the old days, I would just tweet my blog posts. I would write multiple tweets for popular posts. But, I would retweet posts that got more attention on Twitter. This turned out to be a good idea and a bad idea. After inspecting my analytics, I learned that we weren’t getting many clicks from Twitter.

My recent experiment was to post all of my blog entries. There are about 800 of them, so I posted them one by one. The ones that got clicked on were ones that I did some testing on. I tested a few dozen posts to see how well they would do if I published them multiple times to attain 100,000 impressions. I have 9000 followers on one of my business Twitter accounts and 19000 on the marketing account. I posted tweets on the smaller one, and then retweeted them each five times on the larger account over the course of 30 hours. The total number of impressions would be slightly above 100,000. I learned that some of the posts I had been ignoring for years did very well on Twitter. A few posts got two or three clicks when published with 100,000 impressions while many only got one.

I also learned that the average click rate for blogs published once on Twitter (instead of five times in a day) was roughly 1 in 98,000 impressions which is an interesting stat to know. Now I know what to expect when my Twitter followers grow to a few hundred thousand hopefully in a few years.

Doing well on Twitter takes a lot of work and there are a lot of things to measure and a lot of ways to measure various analytics and metrics. So, try to think about ways you can measure what is going on with your Twitter account.

The angels decide your fate in business

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Many of us feel that our business success depends on us. Others leave it to luck or market conditions. When people do poorly, they often blame it on the economy. The truth is that our success depends on us, but also on consciousness, and even on the angels.

We are not alone in this world. There are spirits and angels all around us. You might not see them (and you might get locked up in an insane asylum if you do see them) but they were there. A lot of who we meet, what we do for a living, and what happens to us is decided above. It is a common expression that marriages are made in heaven. Even the unhappy marriages are often made in heaven as a way for us to work on our spiritual problems. Relationships force us to learn to deal with others better and to deal with ourselves better as well.

When I tythe by giving to charity, my sales go way up. This is because giving to the poor is a spiritually recognized activity prescribed by most religions. When you give, you open up channels that will send you more money and other valuable help from the universe. In a sense, by giving, you become a conduit, and you become more like God himself as God spends his entire existence doing work and creating for the benefit of others. My biggest mistake in business in the past was not giving enough. Additionally, I will say that God is very particular about which charity you give to. If you see huge rewards for giving to particular charities, then perhaps that is where God wants you to channel your finances. If you didn’t get much benefit in terms of good luck after giving to a particular charity, it might be corrupt in some way that is not visible from the surface.

Another huge issue with success in business is consciousness. When I hang out in wealthy places, that often helps my business make more money even though I am not doing business with those wealthy people at the wealthy places — I pick up their consciousness just by being there. When I do a little sales every day instead of leaving it all to my sales lady, our total sales go way up because my mind gets into the consciousness of sales. I have twenty tasks that I have to do daily including Twitter, Blogging, managing programmers, site admin, etc. But, if I include an hour of sales — miracles happen.

Basically, the point of this blog is to tell business owners to focus their mind on whatever the most beneficial things are for your business. Sometimes that might mean sales, or marketing, or site design. Other times it means hanging out in wealthy places. And give to charity. God rewards those who do his work. God’s work gets done through our hands, and he will be a lot nicer to you if you are one of his helpers.

You don’t get to the next level in business by being in a hurry

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Some people think you get ahead by being in a hurry. Others think they can slack off and still do okay. The truth is that you need to work very hard, but not be in a hurry. I remember reading how Warren Buffet observed that it takes nine months for a baby to be born. You can’t use nine women working as a team to get a baby in one month. Certain things in business just take time. This doesn’t mean you should slack off during this time. You should work hard and let nature take its course.

I remember when I was twenty I was in a huge rush to get ahead in my life. But, at that time in my life I was a complete failure. I was mediocre in everything that I did. Now, in my forties, I am still far from perfect, but I work hard and am always driving to get ahead. However, I realize that success and getting to that next level is not something I can control the timing of. There are some years that are good years and other years that are slow. I try to learn from what I did during those good years and learn from mistakes as well.

On a converse note, many successful managers do less. They find ways to supervise the right people for each task that they need to have done. If they are overworked, they won’t have time for critical things or for putting out fires. Whether you work hard or work smart, the point is to be on top of everything and make sure quality work gets done. After that — just let nature take its course.

Here is a remedy for sluggishness you’ve never heard before

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I feel sluggish all the time. But, I need to be an over-achiever to run my business. So, I find remedies for my sluggishness. I actually have many remedies.

I love a good hike. Of course, if you over do it, hiking can drain your qi energy and leave you feeling depleted. But, a good hike in a natural place can help your body absorb the good energies from nature which along with physical exertion can help you feel recharged. I try to hike once or twice a week. I often go into the desert to Joshua tree to hike even when it is 100 degrees!

Now, here’s one you’ve never heard of before unless you’re Chinese. Gua-Sha or suction cupping is a way to open up clogged blood vessels. If your blood circulation is not good, you will lack energy. I do cupping once a month or so, and often feel very recharged after doing it. It leaves bizarre looking purple looking marks on my skin which go away in a few days. If you are not stagnated, you probably don’t need cupping. As always, consult your medical professional before doing any cupping.

Fruits & Vegetables
Yes, having too much meats and breads leaves me feeling fatigued. But, having bananas, apples, dates, veggies, and freshly squeezed juices helps a lot.

Going to the Financial District
Why is this on the list? My surprise finding of the year is that going downtown for a few hours actually helps me get my energy up. I live in Los Angeles which is a big city. We have a financial district with a lot of really tall buildings. People in those buildings work and work and work. Most of their activiites are on repetitive tasks and there is not much creativity unless you go east to the artists district where there is a little too much creativity. I noticed that I feel recharged for about four days after visiting our financial district. I’m not sure that the same effect would be felt in other cities. But, it is worth trying it out. I am actively involved in feng-shui. Many people think that feng-shui is about arranging your furniture which is the tip of the iceberg. Feng-shui is about understanding qi energy and how it affects the people around. Downtown has some fast moving qi, and my sedentary lifestyle needs some fast qi to get me moving. Many people put up with long commutes and expensive parking just to have their office downtown. Perhaps they work more efficiently downtown, or just do it to fit in. Or maybe the feng-shui nourishes them in some way that allows them to stay in business while business that operate elsewhere are more likely to perish. Hmm. It’s the old chicken and the egg syndrome — did they move downtown to do well, or did they do well because they moved downtown?

Change your brain by the people you are with

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I remember a Rocky movie from long time back. Rocky astutely observed that if you want to be smart, hang around with smart people. If you want to be cool, hang around with cool people. Yogananda came up with the same observation except without that classic Phili Italian accent.

When I’m with my writer, I notice that my comedy skills get a little better over time. He noticed that my writing skills are slowly improving as well. He has known me for two years, and there has been a lot of improvement. God knows what I’ll be like in another two years. Then there are other people who just make me up set within minutes to the point where I can’t think at all. There are others who are very decisive. Hanging around with them can rub off on you.

I always wonder what the effect of hanging around lackidasical people is. Does it make me more lazy, or does it make me more impatient because I can’t stand their laziness? In the long run, if you get too used to dysfunction you will stop noticing it which is the beginning of your downfall. You need to be around people with high standards otherwise you won’t have decent standards.

If you want to raise the bar, picture yourself hanging around with the Queen of England. I’m sure she has the highest standards for class in the planet. Imagine having eat with her and talking about the people who work for you in your business. She’ll probably recommend you fire them all as none of them would be up to her standards. Sometimes royal standards don’t work in the real world, so don’t try to be too big for your britches, however, being exposed to the highest standards could do you a bit of good — and so would a few crumpets and Earl Gray Tea!

God and Retirement Income

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What do God and retirement income have in common? Not much — but, also more than you think. After you retire you’ll be seeing a lot more of God. On the other hand, God controls your income and money comes from God as do all other things. So, should you pray to God that your retirement will be affluent? No. However, what makes sense is to always be close to God, and also find ways of getting income.

Many retired people find that retirement is boring and is the one thing that will kill them. It seems a shame that young people are forced to work so hard that they lose their lifestyle while the elderly and handicapped are often prevented from working. My suggestion is to keep working — but, take lots of time off and don’t work more than 15-30 hours depending on how feeble you are getting. Work will make you feel good.

But, what kinds of income can a retired person get?

Investment Income: If you saved up during your younger years, you can make nice dividends on your investments. If you can make a few hundred or a thousand in dividends and pair it with some other income, you will be set.

Social Security: In America, Social Security will pay you something every month, but generally not enough to live affluently on. But, fi combined with other sources of income you might be okay.

Freelancing: You don’t have to be 20-something to freelance. You can be old just as long as you get the job done. Look on the bright side, how many of those 20 year olds have 40 years of experience (not including past lives?)

Start a Business: Nothing fancy, but a part-time business is a nice way for an elderly person to be their own boss. Your customers will know you and understand that you have your good days and your forgetful days.

Real Estate: If you manage properties that you own, or that family members own, you can make a lot of money. Younger people don’t have time to drive around to see if properties are properly maintained and give people key’s etc. An elderly person has one asset in their advantage — time. Most old people think that time is not on their side as they have few years to go. But, keep eating vegetables and understand that being retired makes you have all the time in the world. If you manage your time effectively, you might do well in Real Estate as it involves a lot of driving around, talking to people and checking up on negligent young whipper-snappers.

If you know what you’re looking for, that’s half the battle

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Many of us go through life without knowing what we’re looking for. We get into particular habits, and spend time with particular people. But, what do we really want. We spend half of our lives trying to attain particular goals. But, are the goals what we want?

For me, my lifestyle was always one of my goals. What good is money, if you are the slave of it? I want my freedom, and my current business allows a fair amount of is along with a lot of work.

Many others slave away so they can make money, but by the time they make it, their health is so bad they can’t enjoy it.

Another interesting point is that in my business, there are many directions for expansion. I am never sure which direction to take. I know I want to expand and make more money, but which direction do I expand? Should I spend more time on social media, Twitter, blogging, or other marketing channels? And which of my three businesses should I focus more on? It is all very confusing. Sometimes I think I need to spend more time having meetings with myself to figure this all out. The more you venture down a particular avenue, the more clearly you see it. As someone who does twenty things at once all day long, finding my balance and focus is another complication. I’m not sure what I’m looking for in my balance or focus. I hope I figure that out. But, I have decided to do more sales and a little less marketing. That is a big part of my new balance as it brings faster cash and money is one of my biggest goals.

Hiring Freelancers? How do you deal with fraudulent bills?

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I just hired a freelancer a month ago. This lady told me that she used to be an executive at Disney making six digits per year. I was impressed. She had good communication skills, and had good energy. She answered her phone and got back to me fast. However, as I gave her training and tested her on her basic abilities, I learned that she lacked basic grammatical and writing skills which is indicative of a faulty aptitude. On a brighter note, she had an impressive vocabulary — however, vocabulary alone will not get you anywhere (even though it’s really cool.)

Pay me first because I don’t trust you
In any case, I assigned her several tasks. She was to put in a few ads on an online portal. She was also supposed to interview her Disney colleagues to get some interesting and real content for my outsourcing blog. I prepaid her for the first ad, and she put the ad in. The problem happened with the next three ads. She told me she wouldn’t put in the first ad until I paid her. So, I had to wait a week to learn that she refused to do her job unless it was prepaid. She didn’t make this clear to me until after she kept me waiting. In any case, after I learned she wanted money, I paid her. Then, she put the ad in. She thought that I would rip her off if I didn’t prepay her. So, I figured that since I paid her lots of money, that she would trust me for the second time around. I asked her to put in three ads.

She never put in the ad
She put in the first ad, but did it with a free ad, not a $25 ad as discussed. The result was that I got one inquiry instead of twenty. I suspected that she did not put in the first ad. I got no inquiries from the other two ads I assigned to her. So, once again, she did not do what was assigned. Additionally, she wasted my time which I am deducting from her pay for the few minutes she did put in posting the advertisement that I paid her in advance for.

The interviews never happened
The next thing that went wrong is that her interviews never happened. She spend some time on the phone trying to reach key people at Disney who I thought she knew personally from her “executive” work there. It turned out that she was treated like a stranger by the staff at Disney and was not able to secure an interview with anyone. If she were a real executive she would at least have been able to talk to a real contact person who would give her a real reason for not giving her any information. After all, the information might be embarrassing for Disney if they were involved in outsourcing.

“I knew that you would rob me.”
So, she tried to bill me for five hours for the time that she allegedly spent talking to Disney. She furnished me with no dates and times of her calls. She omitted to tell me who she talked to and what she was told. There was no information other than the verbiage, “I knew that you would rob me!” She basically is trying to bill me for work that never happened and then blame me for robbing her. It is very clear that she is trying to scam me, but not doing a very good job. If you do want to scam someone who hires you as a freelancer, my suggestion is to do real work, and have real evidence of what you did, and then add some more well documented hours that never existed. You will still get karmically punished for this trick, but at least, the documentation will ensure that you probably get paid.

When I asked the lady for documentation for the money she spent on advertising and documentation for the calls she made for the interviews, instead of information, she wrote me back and said, “God bless you — that’s all I can say.” She proved that all her claims were false in one sentence.

If you hire freelancers
If you hire freelancers, make sure your tasks have time limits. If they don’t finish putting in an ad, or doing an interview, or writing tweets within a certain amount of days, they don’t get paid. Also, let them know a fixed maximum amount of time you will allow for particular tasks. Let them know they won’t get paid if they don’t get results. You don’t want to hire tricksters who will fake a bunch of hours. If they can’t get results, they should not be in business as a freelancer in any case! So, that is their problem, not yours. I get results for my work, and in the rare situation where I don’t, I take responsibility.