Monthly Archives: December 2011

Keep more of your $$$

With the holidays in full force, as we spend hundreds (and maybe thousands!) on gifts for those we love, the topic of money invariably crosses our minds.

Transitioning from college (where we are all basically broke, depending on allowances from our parents or working our way though school) to the work world is a great step when it comes to money.  We finally have some!  Yet after a while (or a short time for some of us) whatever that salary is get filled up, assigned to cars or hobbies or vacations.

Money management becomes an area of interest.  While I will leave the discussions on developing credit and getting out of debt to the plethora of bloggers who focus solely on the subject like Money Under 30, I will offer a few simple tips on how to keep more of the money you are earning.  With modern medicine we are a whole lot more likely to live a VERY long time an planning accordingly should be done sooner rather than later.

Here are Mr. Business’ Ideas on Saving $:

  1. What to have for lunch– The cost of lunch during the month can really add up (especially if you live in a big city).  One idea is to bring your lunch to work every once in a while. Whether you go out and take home a doggie bag or make a little extra food when you cook to have leftovers (many people say they hate cooking for one, why not cook for two- one for your dinner and one for your lunch).  I am not saying to go as far as starving yourself or eating unhealthy (I remember hearing a story about a software engineer who saved money during the first dotcom boom by eating nothing but Taco Bell), but there are ways to find economical eating options (there is always cheap sandwiches at Subway, “eat fresh!”)
  2. More food tips– I save at least $50 per month by not ordering soda when I have lunch.  Soda tastes good, yes but it is also the highest margin product at restaurants and in comparison, overpriced.  Save money by staying away from the higher margin items.  One more idea is to snack.  If you are snacking throughout the day (you pick what kind of snack you fancy), odds are you won’t eat as big of a lunch (saving you money and helping you avoid FOOD COMA that always seems to hit me after I eat a huge burrito for lunch).
  3. A secret to get more money from your company– While not applicable for everyone, many jobs require employees to drive beyond the normal commute that we take each day.  By law, employers must reimburse employees for any and all mileage above and beyond your regular commute, at $.55 per mile.  While we have to pay for the gas these extra miles take, this $.55 per mile more than covers the gas of even the worst gas guzzlers. Most people I know leave this money on the table and never fill out the forms to get paid back.  Don’t be one of these people.  I generally make a extra couple hundred dollars a month on the extra mileage I have to drive.
  4. Write-offs!– I don’t want to offer any official financial advice (as I am NOT a professional in this area. I will leave that to your accountant and financial planner), I do know that there are numerous things related to your job that you can write-off each year to lower your tax liability and get a bigger refund (or have to pay Uncle Sam less).  For many, our “education” does not end when we leave college.  There are many things that fall under the realm of professional development that can be written off.  If you are part of a professional organization, if you purchase any books related to your field or career development, if you attend any conferences or seminars- all expenses related to this can be deducted from your taxes. This includes all expenses. So for example, if you take a trip from LA to NYC for a short seminar but end up staying a few more days to chill with friends and relax, you can write off most of the trip expenses.  I would also recommend having a side business entity (sole proprietorship or corporation, that actually makes a little bit of money doing something. You can make scrapbooks or wash windows, whatever) that you create. This will allow you to tie certain expenses you have to your business. For example, if you have a side business that people call you for, you can write-off your $100+ cell phone bill, among other things.
  5. Pay your most important bill first, SAVINGS– This tip makes almost ever experts list but nonetheless is really important.  If you don’t set aside money for your savings first there is often a (VERY HIGH) likelihood you will find a way to spend it. My advice is to set up a monthly EFT from your checking account to your savings account with a set amount of money. You can always transfer the money back if there is an emergency, but setting this money aside will really help later.  Also, take advantage of any 401k plans that your employer contributes to.  For example, my company matches 80% of up to 6% of my salary in a 401k plan. Think of it this way, if I set aside this 6% I am automatically getting an 80% return on my investment on day 1!

Money is always an important topic and should not be avoided or ran from (although don’t go too far on the spectrum and let it run your life).  Keep these 5 simple tips in mind.  There are many FREE tools like Mint that can help you budget and keep more of your money.

This is my last blog entry for the year (we all need a little break to refresh and plan for the year ahead).  I wish all of you and your families a happy and healthy holidays.  Live it up on New Years and I will be back in a couple weeks ready to make sure we all have a FREAKIN’ FANTASTIC 2012.

BE AWESOME! 

-MR. BIZ

 

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Getting your Boss to Say Yes- selling ideas internally

Sales is an important skill to master, even when you aren’t in a sales position.

In non-sales roles, the “product” you are most commonly selling when looking for support within your company is an idea. This generally takes shape from something you are passionate about or that solves an issue you see that keeps you or your organization from reaching peak performance.

It is great to have an idea, but it means almost nothing unless the idea leads to action.

The question beckons, HOW do you go about selling an idea within your company?  The following 6 strategies outline the most important things to keep in mind to ensure your ideas are agreed with, but also more importantly,  supported and acted on. For illustrations sake, let’s assume that you want to create an internal web tool that helps you improve your ability to manage projects.

  1. Who is who? Figure it out– The initial step in the process of selling an idea internally is to determine the right stakeholders that need to approve a decision.  This could be a simple as getting agreement from your boss or it could be as complex has needing to get your VP and the VP from 2 or 3 other business units to sign off on it. If you miss this step, you may get lost in an ocean of red tape that could prolong or even kill your idea. But if you get an understanding of the path to take at the start, then you can streamline the process.  For the internal web tool example, you would need to coordinate with not only the end users and your boss but with IT (who will develop the tool) and the internal communications team and training organization (who will help everyone become aware of the tool and teach them how to use it).
  2. Have Jerry Maguire’s Attitude, “Help Me, Help you“- An equally important part of selling your idea after determining who would be involved in agreeing to your idea, is to take this insight and tailor how you socialize the idea.  In the project management tool example, if you need to get the product team to agree to your idea then you would talk about all the efficiencies the tool will create, but if you are talking to the IT team that would build the tool, you want to focus in on how easy the tool would be to create and how you could use existing systems to build this new one. You always want to keep a “service mindset” where you are making the goal more about how the idea helps them as opposed to being self-centered. Talk in WIIFM language while recognition and satisfaction await you when you get agreement on your strategy,  it is important to focus your internal selling on What’s In It For ME (from their point of view).  Someone will care more and is more likely to support you if they can clearly see their benefit. Help facilitate this by clearly stating how they will benefit.
  3. Chip away at it, there are multiple steps– When putting together a plan to sell your idea, realize there are multiple steps. As any good marketer knows, a “customer” needs to encounter a message multiple times for it to sync in.  Often times it is important to present each step in a different way.  For example, I have been working on a strategy idea for an emerging market for my company.  In my “internal sales” plan I wrote a whitepaper, formally made a pitch deck for executives and brought in industry experts to expose internal decision makers to industry trends. I even started sporadically sending out applicable articles written by industry journalists that supported my idea to key internal people.
  4. Be prepared to run with it- One of the coolest parts of sharing your ideas and working to get them implemented is that you can have some control over the finished product.  Sometimes, though, this comes at a price, as your boss may pass an assignment right back at you when you present a good idea.  Be ready (and eager) to run with the tasks necessary to get everyone to agree on your idea. It shows initiative, which will be rewarded.
  5. Things change- With more “cooks in the kitchen,” realize that your idea may not be accepted by everyone in its original form as you tell more people about it. With regards to the project management tool example, IT may say implementing a certain feature is not possible, so you may need to adapt.  This is okay.  Stick to your principles with the core part of your idea and accept changes as long as they do not conflict with the main goal your idea is seeking to accomplish.
  6. Rome wasn’t built in a single day, but it burned in one– Patience is a virtue, but especially for young professionals can be hard to develop.  It is natural to want quick results.  Some ideas will be quick and easy, but many will take time (especially if it involves multiple departments). If you are not patient you may give up on your idea too soon and if you mismanage how you sell it internally then one key person who doesn’t like it may shut it down.

Whether big or small your areas are your differentiating factor. They are what makes you unique.  They are actually one of the primary reasons that you were hired into your job.  Don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard.  Remember that hall of fame baseball players only get a hit 3 out of every 10 at-bats. Not every one of your ideas will be brilliant, and even the brilliant ones will not all be implemented. Keep the ideas coming.  Your great ideas and more importantly, your keen ability to sell these ideas to your boss and others will be one of the main driving forces behind big promotions and bigger raises.

 

BE AWESOME! 

-MR. BIZ

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How do you unlock the front door?

I have a riddle for you…

What one thing can mean the difference between being in the career and job you have always dreamed of or not, but is often confusing, kinda scary and at times just plain hard to get right?

One hint… it is often the key to the front door for any company you want to work for.

That’s right, it’s your RESUME.

Yes, the first thought that came into your head is right! There are blogs, books and experts that talk (AD NAUSEUM) about resumes. How to write them, what to include, what not to include, “tips” and “tricks.”

Instead of going down that path, I figured I would take a step back and look at the basics.  One of the most famous coaches in the history of sports is UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.  It was well known that Wooden would start from the very beginning with all of his players to build them to be the best from the ground up.  Yet he didn’t start with how they shot or passed the ball, he started with how they tied their shoes and tucked in their jerseys when getting dressed.  That may seem crazy, but it is also a very sound strategy. Think about this: if you have blisters on your feet because you didn’t tie your shoes properly, do you think you could play your best?

In that spirit let me hit you with my resume basics:

  1. Your resume is a reflection of you.  People will judge a book by its cover.  While it is so hard to fit yourself onto a piece of paper, there are still ways to show your true self.  Check out these: http://www.businessinsider.com/insanely-creative-resumes-2011-6 … You will find some of them are strange but some are really cool and unique. I am not saying we should all go out and turn our resume into an origami swan, but think of ways to spice it up so that you stick out in the pile.  This “reflection” of you starts with your name. How you write your name says a lot about your personality and level of self confidence.  That doesn’t mean you should write your name is 75pt font, but the type of font you choose and the layout of your header is the very first thing people see
  2. Write about what YOU did for each position you had. One of the basic mistakes people make is that they make each entry about their job more of a job description, basically copying what would be listed under the job if it were posted on an online job-board. While having a couple sentences or a bullet point related to an overview of the job itself is important to provide context, you want to focus more directly on what YOU specifically did in the job.  Talk about how you increased productivity for the group by implementing a new process and how you opened up the organization to a new market.  Plus USE NUMBERS. As has been said, numbers are a universal language.  Don’t just say you planned and coordinated an industry event, say you “planned and coordinated an industry event for 2000 people, increasing attendance by 35% and improving attendee satisfaction scores by 21%.”
  3. Don’t lie, but use “Spin” to your advantage.  Now I don’t want to get close to any gray area on these basics, so I am in NO WAY saying that you should stretch the truth in any job. Lying on your resume is a BIG no-no. Just don’t do it, I have heard countless stories of how doing this has been lethal.  On the other hand, you should describe what you have done in the best light possible.  I had an internship at a potsticker company (they make the Ling Ling eggrolls and potstickers with the panda on them, super delicious), and on my resume I put that I “managed product sample distribution to market research firms & retail chain regional buyers.”  While this does sound pretty cool what it really meant was that I would call up the local gas station and see if they had an dry ice, go get the dry ice, go to the back of the factory and get some product samples from the freezer, put them in boxes with the dry ice, call Fedex to come pick up the package and then follow-up the next day to ensure the package was delivered to the right person.  As you can see, I didn’t lie or embellish what I did in any way, I just described it in the best light possible.
  4. Interests. Most people overlook this part of their resume. Yet this is a big mistake.  First off, your resume screener will look here for things to speak with you about during the interview (to see if you have anything in common), but  more importantly they will look at it to determine if you are a fit with the company 0r group’s culture.  Many will write about themselves in a generic manner: Enjoys cooking, jogging and reading.  Instead you should step out there and show how you are unique, but be specific and mention something that will allow you to tell a story about yourself.  For example, in my resume I don’t just say I “enjoy traveling,” I say that I am an “avid international traveler (33+ countries visited).”  I also mention that I am “UC Berkeley’s Mr. Business” which ALWAYS gets referenced by anyone who reads it. Plus it allows me to share a funny (and memorable) story allowing me to stick out from others at the very lease as “that Mr. Business-guy.”

My list could continue, but I will leave at those four core things.

Let me end, though, with showing a resume that truly fits the character it describes…

BE AWESOME! 

-MR. BIZ

If you found this article useful, then please retweet and share on Facebook by clicking Like.

Follow my blog by clicking the link at the bottom right of your screen.  I’d really appreciate it!

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