Working hard, Staying Busy

These days its all about the hustle

Working hard and staying busy,

today the only way to be,

for to be employed today,

is to be lucky indeed.

Investing in property, the time is now!

Why there might never be a better time to buy

Property

One of the biggest investments of most people lives.

It’s also a long term investment opportunity. I don’t know if prices have ever recovered from the 2008 crash.

What I do know is that prices are heading downwards and fast right now. People are looking to turn assets into cash.

Their second properties are hitting the market and they are cheap.

As entrepreneurs and investors, this is an opportunity. Partly because the buy-in is cheap. But also because the rental market is as busy as ever.

I got out of the property market a few years ago. In my area prices were at all-time highs and it felt like time to cash out.

Since then I have always kept an eye on the market wherever I am. Over the last few months, in many areas, it has imploded.

Properties are up with 30% plus discounts.

It seems like an opportunity t get back in. One of the reasons is the low buy-in.

A 2-bed property that’s $50k only needs a $5k buy-in and low fees. The mortgage rate even over 3 years is less than $1000 on a fixed rate.

Rental around $800 per month is a decent rate of return. Take a 6 or 7-year mortgage and it’s paying the bill for the property every month plus $3k or so in pre-tax profit each year.

I like a shorter mortgage so that I own the property quicker. But that’s a personal choice, not sound financial advice.

Those opportunities are out there if you have the cash to make the down payments. Plus the steady income to cover the mortgage payment in months with no rent. Then it looks like a property is a valid investment once again.

Like any investment decision. You should seek some independent financial advice before you commit. The information here is my point of view and opinion on the subject.

That said there are some other pointers you should look at such as:

Are there taxes or fees to due on top of the property price? What will those be and do you have the cash to cover them. What do they do to the payback time.

What’s the area like? What do rental incomes look like there?

What is the tax rate you will pay on rental income and what can you write off each year?

What will this investment do for you? Its recurring income so it’s always good to have an idea of what the plan will be for that. Before you commit to spending cash and taking on debt. Which is what a mortgage is. Albeit we are betting that the value of the property is always more than the debt.

If you have been looking at property as a potential investment. Now is a good time to take a closer look.

The trifecta of low prices, low-interest rates, and a strong rental market. Could make property investment more affordable than ever before.

As an income stream in a portfolio of investments and businesses. Property can be hard to beat.

Strategies to make the most of the business books you read

The power of a good business book, lies in how you put its lessons into action!

Business books. Powerful tools if used to their full potential.

They can help us level up in life. But, they need to treated as educational books.

Read not only for pleasure but also with a strategy used to get the most out of them. I learn best by reading and doing, so this set of steps is key for me.

Here are 5 steps that I have learned from senior business leaders. These make sure you get the most out of the books you read.

  1. Read the book more than once

In the same way, you would read a textbook. If you only ever read a business book once. You would miss a lot of detail. Which is where the deep lessons come from.

Me, I’ll read a book 2–3 times before I’m happy that I got the context from it.

The first read will be like any other book, I’m reading for enjoyment. I may add stick note markers in this first read.

In the second and third passes of the book, they are essentials tools for me.

Which brings us onto.

2. Note mark the book

I use the sticky thin colored marks but use whatever you have or whatever works best for you. At this stage, I’m marking out pages or lines that interest me. Those that I have more to learn from.

Those sections of the book ill go into much deeper detail later on.

Which brings us onto.

3. Take detailed notes

Each of those things I bookmarked?

As I go through my second and third passes of the book. I’ll be taking detailed notes on each of those sections and how they apply to me or my situation.

I’m looking at:

How does this lesson apply to me or my situation

What action can I take away from this

How do I take that action and take it into my day to day business

I will often fill a notebook during this process. That notebook stays with the book afterward.

Yes, most of my reading and evaluation is done while traveling. My laptop is huge so I don’t get much done in coach. I work on this instead.

4. A 90-day action plan

The actions I noted down in my notebook earlier?

Well, I have to hold myself accountable to put them in place. That means an action plan.

I give myself no more than 90 days to put them in action and review them.

For example, I give is standing meetings — this idea I was able to put in place the next day.

Others like something that affects culture or how we do business?

Well those take longer to put in place and review, so they take the 90 days.

Regardless of the timeline, because I have a plan and a set of actionable steps. I have something to hold me accountable to myself.

Action plans really do work, on so many levels.

5. I review the top 3 books in my collection often

The top 3 changes. They make the list based on how impactful they have been for me.

Those books, I revisit once a year. More if needed. Often if I have a problem I can refer to those books for some insight.

Learning by reading works for me. This is why having a strategy around my reading is key.

Final Thoughts

These books as I said can help us level up. They are also great for helping us to work problems through.

The best way to learn from the material and the insights is to have a strategy. That and actions you can be accountable for.

This is what works for me and others. I hope it is also helpful for you as well.

Top 3 business books you need to read

These books will help you level up in your journey to business world domination

I don’t know about you? But I’m a huge fan of reading to learn.

Its how my brain works I guess.

As I have progressed in my career in business. It’s often books I have gone back to when I need to level up or learn a new skill.

Here are the 3 books that I have learned from the most, and why I recommend them:

Broken Windows — Broken Business by Michael Levine
ISBN -10–0446–69848–2

This is the first business-oriented book I ever read. My CEO at the time carried copies of this with him. When he met an employee for the first time, we got a copy.

The message was simple. It was a book he had come across that was impactful for him, in a previous role. We were asked to read it and give feedback on our business afterward.

The book itself is a short read at 163 pages. But it is packed with real-life examples.

The basic premise of the book is that to be successful in business you need to be on top of the small stuff. The small cracks, the faded paintwork, the allegorical broken window?

They are all signs that your business has bigger issues, that need to be addressed.

The book offers theory and guidance on this way of thinking. Along with real-life examples of it being applied.

This book for me got me looking at business differently. It has led me to greater success for sure along the way. Just because I look at things differently.

It’s a book I revisit every year or so.

Execution — The discipline of getting things done by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan with Charles Burck.
ISBN 978–1 -847–94068–1

This is a book recommended by another CEO. I figured I had nothing to lose by reading it. Like the others in this list, it changed how I looked at my business.

A longer read at some 269 pages. But well worth it. One of those books you will jump about in. It’s not a front to back read.

The premise is that getting things done or “executing” on what it is your business does. Is the most important trait in business.

The book is all about are real-life examples and contrasts. Between those who execute and those who don’t.

The examples are often focused on interviews with the authors.

So you get both a first and third-hand perspective of the issues.

Again another book that for me. Refocused my outlook and priorities as a business leader.

Like all the meaningful books in my life, I do revisit this every year or so.

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
ISBN 978–1- 78504–127–3

Ok, so this is a monster read at 674 pages. As I remember I was at the airport with a long week of flights ahead of me. Looking for a long read to keep me occupied this seemed perfect.

This is a series of interviews with top performers in their chosen fields. It’s not only limited to business.

Tim asks them through their conversation what makes them different and successful basically.

What comes out of that is a range of facts, routines, habits, etc. That these people use to stay ahead of the game.

What it gives us the reader is a toolbox of things we can play around with and try. Along with some insights and actions to take away and apply to our own lives.

It’s not self-help as such. But it is full of tips and tricks to help you level up. In whatever it is you do best.

Not quite as impactful as the other 2 books covered here. It has been very useful.

Again its not a book you’re going to read cover to cover. It’s one that’s best read in sections going back and forth. In what interests you at the time.

My copy is heavily bookmarked with pages or whole conversations I go back to time and again.

Final thoughts

These are 3 books that have helped me in my career. In times of trouble or at times when I needed or wanted to level up. I have found tools in these books to inspire me to do what needs to be done.

After all the constant is business is change. So its best to consume as much knowledge as you can. Then be prepared for the change to come suddenly and often.

For me, these books are tools that help me with that. I hope they can help and inspire you in the same way that they have helped and inspire me through the years.

Project Management made easy

How to simplify the black art of project management

Project management

A simple concept. Which over time has been made to look far harder than it is.

Over time that has made project management a real black art. One which most people have grown to hate.

Here’s the thing though, project management is:

A set of processes which let us break up a complex task into many small and simple parts

For example, if you want to build a house. Chances are if you guestimate what you need. It will be a mess and you will spend much more than you thought.

Project managing the planning and building of the same house. Let’s it get done the right way first time and on budget. At least that’s what we hope.

That’s what project management boils down to. A set of tools and processes to help us plan, de-risk, and complete complex tasks.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Here are some tips I can pass on, to help you navigate the often complex waters of project management in action:

  • Join the Project management institute (PMI). You can join as an affiliate member for free. There you get to see their resources. You also get a feel for the project management professional or PMP qualification. And the theory behind it. Plus some links to free resources etc. There are also the prince and ISO project management systems, but they all do the same thing. They also all started from PMI so stick with that.
  • You don’t need to use all the tools you’re given. Just as you wouldn’t use all the tools in a 500 piece tool kit to change a wheel. You don’t need to use all the project management tools all the time. Tools like pert estimation, for example, have their place. But if your project doesn’t need them, don’t use them.
  • Project management should support the process. Not consume time and resources. As above, if you’re having to spend time, money, and resources. Managing the project management process, then it’s not working for you. Revise accordingly.
  • KISS: A project that’s getting 4 people from the USA to India is not the same as building a rocket to the moon. You don’t need to use all the project tools for that, and you don’t need to make it complicated.

In this case, for example, your project charter can be 4 lines in an email. Giving the project manager authority, describing the scope, the timeline, and the budget.

The rocket’s project charter will be a multi-page detailed document with many sign-offs. Breakdown of the project teams and reporting lines, steering committee, sponsors, etc.

Keep it simple stupid as they say. And appropriate to the complexity of the project.

  • Tone down the language. Most projects have many documents for you to read. Starting with the project charter, then the management plan, execution plan, etc..

The list goes on. Making those documents easy to read is a win-win. They are easier for us to write, and if they are an easy read. You have a better chance of people reading them.

The project management plan that’s a 500-page masterpiece written like a Shakespeare play?

Most of the time it’s going in the trash. People don’t have the time to digest the language.

Also bear in mind not everyone will be native English readers. A good tool like Hemmingway can help you with the writing. It coaches you to write short lines with simple words.

The simpler it is, the more people will absorb it. The more they do that, the higher the chances of project success.

That’s it when you strip it back to the essentials. Project management is a tool. One that should make life easier. All too often though that’s not the case.

My advice always, and I have been running projects for several years. Is treat the project outcome as the deliverable. The management tools you use to meet that?

Keep them simple, easily explainable, highly readable, and only use what you need.

That’s the secret. It’s not a black art or a complicated science. It should be making your life easier.

If the project management approach used isn’t doing that. Ask yourself why and then act accordingly.

Money Really Doe’s Grow On Tree’s

Opportunities are everywhere, as entrepreneurs we just have to look.

Ever heard someone say money doesn’t grow on trees?

Turns out they are wrong.

If you look for an opportunity you find them everywhere. Even in the garden.

As entrepreneurs, we rarely have all our eggs in one basket. Diversified income streams are what make us successful. We have to be open to opportunities all the time.

This year, looking for ways to pass the time. The garden went from somewhere to BBQ and sunbathe, to an acre of fruits and vegetables.

To start with, this was just a new hobby to pass all the time being spent at home.

3 months on and about 6 weeks into harvesting the food we have grown. Well, it’s another income stream.

While it’s not the kind of income stream that’s going to make us rich. It is worth a few hundred bucks. That’s after we have eaten all that we can first.

It’s also the type of business opportunity that I like. Low investment and low running costs. Sure there is time to be accounted for, but right now what else are we going to be doing?

Now we did have some help, we already had 5 cherry trees, 3 apricot trees, an apple tree, and some neglected grapevines. So it’s not like we have started from scratch.

But we did have to get them all back into a condition where they would grow viable food.

That had an upfront cost in chemicals and feeds. Then we had seeds for the various other things we are growing, basic tools, and good compost.

That upfront investment (Not sure I would call it a capital investment) was around $80.

Monthly operating expenses for feeding and weeding the land is around $3 and water around $5.

The rest of the expenses are our time. Which as I said, since we started this as a hobby and have very little else to do while locked down. Suits us just fine.

That time commitment is around 90 minutes per day during the week and 2 or 3 hours per day at the weekend. Not huge.

At the other end of the process, we have costs and time to process what we have grown.

The time spent in the garden each day includes harvesting whatever is ready. The rest of the time, around an hour per day, is processing that food and/or making something else with it.

The veg is easy, it needs to be cleaned and stored correctly. Its the fruit that takes time, especially if you need to prepare it to make a jam or juice.

At the end of all this, I have more produce than I can consume. Some of it is traded or passed around friends and family. But the rest well its sold.

Money is growing on our trees and in the ground around the property.

At the moment we have cherries, apricots, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, apples, peppers, tomatoes, and pumpkins.

Each of those has enough planted to produce 100–300 kgs of produce.

We will be lucky to get through 200kgs of it ourselves.

This then is where the opportunity lies. People go crazy about organic produce. I can advertise on social media, and have people pre-order and stop by.

At around $1 for a kilo of produce, we are set to make over $1000 in profit off of our hobby this year.

Not a huge amount, but not bad at all for a hobby we didn’t even think about monetizing, to begin with. It’s another source of income that mixes with the others. They all build up to make a difference.

Next year with a little brand established and some more work, that can double or triple. We can also sell products such as juices, jams, etc which will add to the available income from the crop.

Again all this comes at very little investment in time, effort, or money.

As entrepreneurs, if we keep our minds open and receptive to new opportunities. We often find them in the unlikeliest of places.

Next time someone tells you that money doesn’t grow on trees. You have the answer to prove them wrong!

Starting out in Business

A poem about entrepreneurship

Starting out in business,

first steps so hard to take,

but if you want to be your own boss,

their steps you have to make.

So many think about it,

but never get the chance,

entrepreneurship is a brave choice,

success not guaranteed.

Money’s not the only thing,

that these brave people chase,

its the feeling of their freedom,

that the entrepreneur’s chase.

Using your Hobbies to become an Entrepreneur

Start out in business with what you already know

Taking the first step in business is tough.

Starting a business is a brave move. But it can be hard to know where to start.

Here is the thing though, starting with small steps is no bad thing.

One of the best places to start is with something you know and enjoy, like a hobby.

Chances are there is something that you enjoy that you know a lot about.

That thing whatever it is will be a business opportunity.

My thing is motorbikes. Because I’m passionate and I know the market, I’m able to make them into a business for me.

The same bizarrely can be said for fountain pens.

Anyway back to the topic. Making money out of what you know is a great place to start.

While it might not make you a millionaire overnight, it will let you learn while also enjoying yourself.

Once you learn the basics and get comfortable then, you can build out from there.

This is some of the best advice business advice I ever received. It’s also the most common advice that I share with others.

Whether you want to run a business part-time or work for yourself full time. We all need to start somewhere, those first steps on the path to entrepreneurship can be tough.

Starting with something familiar and taking small steps towards the bigger goal is a sensible place to start.

It’s also great fun and lets you learn while indulging in your hobby.

Overall it’s a win/win and you can’t get better than that!

The Stigma of Starting a Business

Why is there so much negativity around self employment?

Why the negativity???

It seems that those starting out with a full time business or a side hustle meet lots of negativity.

It could be jealousy, or the fact that its a dream for other’s that they can’t commit to?

It could even be that others around us don’t see the value in going out on a limb.

Not when we there is a monthly pay check sitting waiting for us in the comfort of steady employment?

The feedback for anyone thinking of making a start on their own business is one of negativity?

Its a big step, one not everyone understands

This is the real issue around the stigma or lack of support that people feel.

Starting a business for ourselves is a huge step.

Its not a path that we are conditioned by modern society to follow.

Like anything else in life, when people don’t understand they are suspicious of and negative.

Most who do go on to start a business understand this.

What doe’s interest me though is how many people want to make a start on their own but this puts them off?

What can we do to improve the situation?

The good news is that there are things we can do to help those making the move.

That’s important in 2020 as traditional employment options become harder to come by.

  • Throw a business shower — help them get off the ground with the basics they need to start working from home
  • Promote businesses on social media, help get the word out there
  • If you like the product or service offered then use it

3 simple things that can move the needle on societies view of the self employed.

Success stories encourage others to follow the lead.

Job markets where they are, many more are going to have to take the plunge into working for themselves.

In the end

Times are changing, whether its full time or part time most of us are taking that brave plunge into the unknown.

What’s needed to make that work is for us to come together and be positive about the experiance.

The viewpoint society has today has to change.

If we are going to give people the confidence to make that lifestyle work for them…

Game Changing Communication

How BP’s CEO just raised the bar for how business should treat employees.

A good news headline for BP is unusual these days, im going to be open here and say I have no stake in BP at all or connection to them.

I did however come across this story on linked in yesterday and found it fascinating and refreshing in equal measure.

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/reinventing-bp-next-steps-bernard-looney

A lesson in real leadership???

This for me is a game changer for a number of reasons and a lesson in what real business leadership should be in the 21st century.

  • Open and honest communication
  • Sharing the true detail of the situation
  • Giving bad news early
  • Transparancy on job losses
  • Tools for those leaving the company

All of these details were provided in this simple communication to the workforce.

Is their new CEO raising the bar in terms of how leaders treat their employees?

Too often we are kept in the dark, change comes fast and it’s often unexpected.

In this case, a whole bunch of changes, some positive, a lot more negative are going to hit BP employee’s.

The difference here is they know about them and can prepare.

That’s leadership and guidance in action.


We are all in this together….

Like all industries the energy industry is being hammered right now and BP are no different to any other company in this sector.

The difference here is that their leader, is making very clear in a simple and concise way the situation, the costs and what is going to be done.

Change is coming but its coming to us all and here is the timeframe for that change.

I can’t help but find this such a refreshing and different communication style that I really want to engage with it and share it.


Financial Direction

The energy industry typically pays bonuses and shares as part of the full financial package they offer to employees.

Being humans, most who receive the bonus spend it long before its in their pocket.

At the end of the year when despite making the targets those perks don’t come, the disappointment and sometimes the personal implications of that are very real.

Again the message was simple and concise, the bonus wont be paid so don’t figure it into your financial plans.

The disappointment may be real now, but there is time for employee’s to prepare themselves emotionally and in the real world for the fact its not coming.

That honesty to me is refreshing and powerful.


Not everyone will be sticking around

This wont be news to any of the employees in BP, they will know that job losses have to happen in order for that business to start making money again.

Too often though there is very little communication on these type of changes.

Here the organization has been told, what’s happening and why, the numbers affected and the timeline.

The news also extends to the help that those affected will get directly from the company as they make the transition into what will be an uncertain future.

Again very clear and concisely shared information with everyone.


The hardship will end…

Annual pay rise, promotions, flexibility these all will come back and more this year.

Timelines are shared, giving those that remain the comfort that while things are tough now, that will end and things will get better.


Takeaways?

This for me is a big change in how information is shared openly and honestly from the top down.

Employees have of course always known that they could be trusted with this kind of information, it breeds loyalty to the company and a true sense that we are all in this mess together and will come out the other side all the stronger for the shared experiance.

The type of leadership emerging in 2020 feel different, more engaging and with an honestly and open ness that’s not been there before.

That’s true in business with this type of emerging leadership style and also in politics I think with Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand for example (Although please see free to correct me on that if im wrong).

This is more than leading by example, its leading with a transparent set of actions and priorities that the public as well as your employees can hold you accountable to.

Whether it lasts or grows in momentum who knows?

What I do know how ever is that this is something new, we haven’t seen before, im both impressed and ready to see where this goes.

Success or failure its very much management and leadership in the public eye.