Do you have inspiration?

Isn’t the real answer to that question “Yes, sometimes.” That’s because the source of inspiration mostly is unknown. That is why it can hit you at times that seem unlikely, such as the middle of the night or when you are in the shower.

It is not conscious and sneaks up on you instead. That is why you have to be open to it and embrace it when it comes. If you don’t, it is at your own risk of missing inspiration or letting it slide out of your mind. It reminds me of a line in the Bob Marley song Trenchtown Rock: “When it hits you, you feel no pain.” In the song he is speaking of music, but it works for inspiration too. It is the idea that it can come to you at any time.

So embrace inspiration whenever it is there. This may mean having paper and a pen on your night stand or walking out of a shower dripping wet to write an idea down. The idea is to be open to and accept inspiration when it is there so you remember and can act on your thoughts and ideas.

And then see where it can take you.

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The 2016 version of why it is time for an annual “checkup” for you and your company

Over the past few years many of you probably read my blog regarding having a checkup for you and your business. This does not involve the doctor, but it does involve all the other professionals in your personal and business life. Since that time, I decided to make this topic an annual tradition. This is based in part on the range of feedback I receive every year.

Some of you said “What a great idea. I am definitely going to do that.” Other said “Sounds like a good idea, maybe I will look into that.” Most of you were busy with the holidays and all that it entails, and probably ignored my advice. To be honest, any of these responses is okay and ignoring my advice may not have had detrimental effects to you or your business.

The point of the advice is that you only know what you know. If you do not check in with your professionals and, for example, make sure contracts or your estate plan remain enforceable and up-to-date, that is where the risk comes in. For example, I always check in with my accountant at the end of the year to ensure that all is right with taxes, i.e. to find out whether my wife and I need to send the IRS a check before the end of the year.

This year I had a reminder related to a different item you should check in on annually, auto insurance. My wife and I added a teenager to our auto insurance. Yes, yes, I knew it was going to have a significant impact on our premiums. And it did. Luckily, before I could call to ask my insurance person to shop the policy around on rates for policies with similar coverage, he did so and we already have switched insurers.

With the time constraints of life, it is sometimes hard for me to move beyond the higher-level checkup, but when I do I usually end up with some benefit. Unfortunately, in our time-crunched world, the question of who to check in with at year end is expansive, from your estate planning attorney, to your investment person, to your insurance person, to vendors you may use such as a yard or pool maintenance company, or your cell phone carrier or your Internet provider. You may be surprised what a company will do in lowering monthly costs to satisfy a current or longtime customer. Try it and see what happens.

I know, I know, who has the time? None of us do, which is why the choices yours. Are your contracts up to date? Did you pay enough estimated taxes or withholding? Are you paying the cleaning service at your office or your lawn service for your home too much? The choice of what professionals to consult, what costs to check or compare and what services to put out to bid is yours. Choose wisely!

And for those of you seeking a reminder or who did not see it in years past, here is my original blog post on getting an annual checkup:

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of where you are personally and professionally. This can be checking in with your personal accountant to make sure you have withheld/paid enough taxes during the year or planning for deductions to planning for large corporate expenditures on things such as upcoming projects, planned corporate initiatives or planned equipment purchases. But the one thing that is a constant is that we all should be doing this.

In the past I have mentioned why it is good to sit down with various professionals you or your company work with just to check-in, be they attorneys, accountants, insurance professionals, financial planners, investment professionals, etc. The list depends on you and your business.

This does not have to be a formal appointment unless you think that is appropriate depending on the nature of the planned conversation. Instead, it can be you offering to buy them lunch or a drink. The point is the better the professionals you work with know you, the more they are able to make recommendations aimed to benefit you or your company.

So don’t wait, start making plans today to meet with these people this year, or at least first thing next year. We all are busy this time of year, but if you take these actions it will help you now and in the future.

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You are known by the company you keep

The people you associate with help determine your future. They matter when people think of you. We all know people who have a business partner or spouse most people don’t like or merely tolerate. If that is you are you self-aware enough to know, to admit it to yourself? If so, what keeps you with that person that regularly turns off others? And, yes, I understand emotional, mental or financial pain may be the reason.

That is why the choice on the front end is so important. Choosing who to work with or start a business with is as important as picking a spouse or partner, and vice-versa. Don’t be blinded by flash; substance matters in the long run. These types of choices are the biggest in life because they affect so much in your world. That is why choosing who is in your orbit should matter so much to you. If it doesn’t, it will show to others, color how they think of you and likely negatively affect your opportunities.

And I know people can change, but, think about it, changing into the person others do not want to be around doesn’t happen overnight. You are much better off choosing wisely at the beginning. If you do, the greater chance you have to avoid a painful split in the future, let alone the effect that person can have on your reputation. And business divorce is as painful and messy as a divorce from a spouse.

So keep good company and choose those who will matter and figure prominently in your professional and personal life carefully.

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Seek out and heed advice

You can go it alone, but why? We all need help and guidance. You need to have people to go to with questions, to bounce ideas off of and to sound out ideas. It may be a mentor, a friend, a co-worker, well you get the idea. The key is to have one or more people who you trust to advise you and who you will listen to and consider what they say.

You are thinking that is obvious. But is it? Think about who this may be in your life. Do they advise you and take positions that don’t always agree with you? Because that is who you want. You want someone who is honest with you and tells you what they really think.

And while I indicate to heed that advice, maybe the better instruction is to listen well, consider the advice and then decide how to proceed. That is why you need to seek out advice from people you trust, will listen to, respect. Sometimes this means speaking with more than one person to obtain different perspectives on the same idea or issue.

If you do not have these people in your life, start by finding one. Look to your friends and acquaintances, competitors, professionals. Who you should be seeking out depends on you and your needs. But if you find one or more of these people it will help you work through thoughts, ideas, issues, etc. better.

Give it a try and you will see!

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Be Yourself

If we all were the same, the world would be a boring place. This is a favorite saying of mine. And it’s true. There always are “in” jobs and professions. I am sure most of us think of the tech space as in and seem impressed when someone has a job or internship with a Google, an Apple or similar tech related businesses.

For instance, you hear terms such as entrepreneur or startup all the time. Sometimes you hear them along with “incubator” or “co-working space”, which are in vogue at the moment.

Even if those terms describe you, your business or where you work, it is your individuality that makes you stand out to others. It also is your creativity and the ability to think outside of the box. Can you do that? It is hard to do something new or different. The ideas that seem so obvious weren’t to most of us. If you are an entrepreneur or in a startup, what makes you and your business stand out?

As part of the curriculum, colleges should teach creativity along with entrepreneurship, business, etc. It is good to be unique. It is good to think differently than others in your space.

Doing what others have done is safe and we need people to do many jobs that are decidedly not hip or “in”. Being safe or working one of the unhip jobs may make you a success. Being creative, unique and different has the possibility to make you a trailblazer, a visionary.

So are okay with the status quo or do you want to blaze your own trail??

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Two people. One conversation. Did you make sure you both left with the same understanding?

We hear and read a lot about listening fully, i.e. listen to what is being said instead of thinking of what to say next or in response; pay attention. This is easier said than done, which results in many people having a conversation and unknowingly walking away with differing understandings of what was spoken about or agreed to. This can lead to many issues, wasted time and work, and erode trust between the people who were part of the conversation.

This goes for conversations in person or by telephone. The other person on a call may be driving, surfing the Internet or otherwise not fully listening. Of course the result is the same that differing understandings may result, which then takes time (and money, because time is money, even if it is your personal time) to resolve the resulting issues and (hopefully) to get on the same page.

To avoid the issues, let alone the time it takes to resolve the issues, you need to trust the other person in the conversation understood what you intended, but verify. That’s right, it is the old cliché “trust, but verify.” The best way to do this is to ask the person you are speaking with to repeat back to you their understanding of what you just said. This will allow you to know they understood you, didn’t understand you or were not listening to you. Hopefully the result is the opportunity to leave the conversation on the same page with no misunderstandings.

If they cannot tell you what you just said because they weren’t listening to you, well, that is a subject for another day…

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Don’t forget to give back

Life moves fast. We all have so many commitments in business and personally it can be hard to find time to sit back and relax. Despite this, it is important to commit to give back to your community and those in need. We all know this intuitively, but following through and committing our own time can be difficult.

But not only is your time and assistance needed by numerous non-profits and those they benefit, you feel good when you do it. This was brought home when my family all volunteered recently related to a sixth grade project my daughter is working on, which required volunteer hours. Doing so together was a great experience. The same is true regarding the numerous volunteer opportunities my firm provides to do good on our community.

And you don’t have to join a working or fundraising board, committing many, many hours per month and year. You can volunteer to walk a dog, paint a home, serve meals, etc., which are one-off volunteer opportunities likely taking a few hours of your time.

Even when you plan in advance the time likely won’t be convenient when you get there. But the time and service you provide is priceless to those you and your actions assist (the non-profit and its employees/lead volunteers) or benefit (children, the homeless, animals, etc.).

So plan a volunteer activity today. It is easy to finds non-profits and contact them to find out about volunteering. Do it now because it is easy to forget how lucky we are to be in the position to be the volunteers instead of one of those in need of assistance.

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Culture Matters in the Workplace

Does your business have a specific culture? Of course the answer is that it does whether it is conscious or not. For instance, at my firm we have the JW Way (http://www.jaburgwilk.com/mission-statement). It is a mission statement consisting of twenty one fundamentals. We believe that since making these fundamentals of our firm’s culture a conscious part of our firm it has improved what already was a good place to work and guided us to better hiring decisions, all of which has had a positive impact on our bottom line.

This should not be a shock, though if you ask most business owners about the culture of their company it is not so easy to put into words. Sometimes putting it into words honestly may lead to the realization changes are needed. Change is hard, but if you invest in doing so the results will reflect the time and effort.

For instance, I read last year about Incheon Airport in Seoul, Korea. It is ranked No. 1 by passengers every year. When one employee was asked “What is it? What’s so magical?”, he responded as follows: “It’s because everyone – airport and airline personnel, security, concessionaires – we all share the same vision and we all deliver the same level of customer service.” They have a culture at that airport that allows that to happen. They all are pulling the rope in the same direction.

When that happens it is no surprise that success follows. When there is culture like that it tends to weed out those who don’t or refuse to follow the culture. That is what you want because it allows you to bring on people who appear better suited to be part of the culture and thereby help improve your business.

On a side note, a number of years ago my wife and I had a pretty long layover at Incheon Airport. Still to this day it is the best (and cleanest) airport we ever have been in, which sure made that long layover easy to make it through.

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Seize the Moment!

If you have my attention, blow my mind. Impress me and make me want to know more or invest in you or spread what you have shared. Opportunities are everywhere, but you need to treat them like they can be life altering.

This can be something general like just being nice to everyone. Was that millennial dressed more casual than you think she should be and seemingly on her phone too much a slacker or a tech innovator with a company more valuable than you can imagine. It is impossible to know and judging people on dress and looks will hurt you in today’s world. Talk to someone and see what happens. Worst case you cut the conversation short. Best case is the sky is the limits.

This can be something more specific like getting an audience with someone you really want to meet. Do you mumble and stutter trying to get your thoughts out or did you plan for the presentation or conversation? Practice a presentation, many times. Plan the conversation and possible questions in your head. Maybe practice this too so you can work out answers and what you want to say. This can help you hone your answers and not talk too much. Delivery counts.

Sometimes a certain opportunity only comes along once. Will you be ready??

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Challenge yourself!

Not sure what I mean by this? I will explain. I mean set goals, both short term and long term. And once you set the “goal,” which you should do in writing, write the action steps to get there. If you have no roadmap how can you expect to ever find that goal, let alone reach it. One roadmap you can follow is turning your goals into SMART goals:

  • Specific – target a specific  goal or area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify what you will do.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

This works both personally and professionally. Want to learn to play an instrument? Find an instructor good with beginners and take weekly lessons. And then practice, practice, practice. Even if it is fifteen or twenty minutes a day, make sure you carve out time in your schedule to do so. Putting that time on your calendar is even better because it is much more likely to happen.

Want to write a blog? I set out time to write these posts and to post and distribute them. Sometimes I block out time to write one post. Sometimes I write number at one time because I know upcoming weeks are really busy. Next, I block out time to send and post them. It helps that I enjoy doing this, but if I didn’t take the steps I do, I likely would have stopped years ago after a few posts.

So what is your goal? Once you know, determine the steps to reach it. If you are not sure, talk with a mentor or someone you think can help you formulate goals. It also helps to receive feedback from others on goals and action plans.

If you don’t set goals everything will stay the same. That may be fine with you, but if you think so, you should be asking yourself why. It equates to being a lifetime learner and continually trying to improve personally and professionally. Try it and see what happens.

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