Tag Archive | "success"

AE Launches New Blog by Rick McCormick

TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. — Agent Entrepreneur announced the launch of “F&I Success,” a new blog authored by Rick McCormick, national account development manager for Reahard & Associates. The twice-monthly blog will focus on F&I training and best practices for independent general agents.

“Agents are asking for more advice on building and maintaining productive F&I development programs, and we are all too happy to oblige,” said Kate Spatafora, associate publisher of AE and P&A magazines. “Rick brings countless hours of F&I training and consulting and a genuine passion for helping customers to his writing, and we are proud to have him on board.”

A nationally recognized F&I trainer and ordained minister, McCormick has made numerous appearances at Agent Summit and Industry Summit and contributed articles to Agent Entrepreneur, F&I and Showroom and Auto Dealer Today, among other industry publications.

“There has never been a time when the relationship between the agent and the dealer has been more critical,” McCormick said. “Agents are uniquely positioned to provide training options for their dealers that will lead to higher profits and customer satisfaction levels simultaneously. I count this as a privilege to speak directly to the agent community to help them help their dealers!”

The first entry in the “F&I Success” blog will appear Monday, Nov. 7, at ae-emagazine.com. To catch all the latest news and features for independent general agents, including “F&I Success,” click here to get your free qualified subscription to Agent Entrepreneur magazine and monthly enewsletter.

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12 Ways To Improve Work Life Balance Beginning Today

Last week I talked about entrepreneurs and addiction to work. I concluded that while clinical addictions to work can be real, they are relatively rare, reports Forbes. Furthermore, the negative label of addiction is sometimes misapplied to the commitment and energy that is very typically one of an entrepreneur’s greatest traits. If you missed that post, you can find the column and link to the work addiction self-test survey here.

Clearly, however, the concept of work/life balance has struck a sensitive nerve. While clinical work addictions may be rare, lack of work/life balance is a pervasive issue that to some degree perhaps applies to us all. As someone who has been an entrepreneur through multiple companies and for nearly all of my life, I can see room for improvement on most every point. So with an eye towards improving the balance of work, rest and play for all of us, I have compiled the following 12 strategies entrepreneurs at every level can use to increase their strengths on this front.

First, let’s consider some recommendations from WebMD:

1. Build downtime into your schedule. Because hard-charging entrepreneurs are proficient at filling their schedules with goal activities, we can make great progress by using our planning strengths to our advantage. Make downtime a specific goal and schedule in the time and the steps you will take to achieve it. Exercise and reading are activities you can schedule in to achieve. The same applies to date night or to planned activities for physical relaxation and play. Perhaps you can set a goal of achieving 3-5 relaxation activities a week and build them into your calendar. If circumstances require you to miss a scheduled downtime event, you can discipline yourself to replace it with another, thus maintaining an increasingly better balance of work time and play.

2. Drop the activities that sap your time or energy. Have you noticed that some activities take more time than they should, or are physically and mentally draining beyond the time they require? Maybe you have a friend or a set of friends who tend to bond over too much drinking or gossip. Yes, you appreciate their friendship, but you leave these situations feeling dragged down instead of enriched. Or you are clinging to maintenance activities you could delegate or hire someone else to take care of and add a welcome lift to your day.

3. Make time for exercise. This is a big theme for me as I have loved exercise and athletic challenges for nearly all of my life. As you consider your health and well-being, determine the kinds of exercise that will accomplish your goals. Schedule your workout activities for realistic times that you can achieve such as noon hour walks or runs, early morning workouts, or forms of exercise that can help you unwind after work. Keep your plans flexible as well for the kinds of fitness you want to achieve, to strike a healthy balance between cardio workouts, weights, and activities that emphasize stretching, strength and agility. We all know entrepreneurs and others who actually lose health and risk injuries by adopting one favorite exercise activity and neglecting all else.

4. Remember that a little relaxation can go a long way. If you allow time for 10-15 minute visits with a friend or loved one, to read an enjoyable article, or to take a quick walk around the block, these short activities can go a long ways towards increasing your emotional well-being and health. Stop to enjoy the “small things” perhaps once an hour or several times every day to keep your spirit fed and your motivation and commitment running high.

Here are a few additional “life hack” ideas I’ve gathered as well:

5. Enjoy your weekends and vacation. If weekends and workdays blur together, your body and mind are never able to rest. While it may not be possible to avoid all work-related activities, be sure your weekends and vacations are times that you allow yourself to relax and enjoy. Concerts, family and sporting activities are important times to disconnect and be thoroughly present for those you are with. During vacations perhaps you can limit email checking and computer time to once an hour or to once at the start or end of each day.

6. Make a time for chores, and get your chores done. Yet again, entrepreneurs’ fire to “get hard things done” can work to our advantage when it comes to accomplishing unwelcome chores. Schedule them in to avoid letting them turn into emergencies. Yes, there may be days you face a flat tire or you may come down with the flu. But if you schedule time for health checkups, car maintenance and general cleaning you will face fewer health or maintenance emergencies and those you confront will likely be smaller in scope and easier to work through or to bear.

7. Minimize the time you spend on things you must do, or find ways to make them enjoyable. Perhaps cooking is something you enjoy if you do it with a loved one, or you could use a meal delivery service, or choose recipes that reduce your cooking time from 40 minutes to 25. You could run or bike or walk to the dry cleaner and to other nearby errands to get enjoyable exercise and fresh air instead of driving the car. If you have a lengthy commute, perhaps you can work from home 1-2 days of the week, or find inspirational books on audio or music you love to fill the available time.

Finally, here is a set of big picture strategies from Fast Company to help you emulate the habits of those who achieve work/life balance best. Heed them well.

8. Set aside time for family. While Fast Company put this reminder well down on its list, your family is the priority you should always put first. Entrepreneurship is a hard challenge for many families. It is extremely hard to make family the highest priority on the late nights when a CEO’s work and decisions will affect perhaps hundreds or even thousands of other families and jobs. Yet making sufficient time for family will be a continual area for the hardest and most important work/balance decisions an entrepreneur or executive makes.

9. Make deliberate choices about what you want from your life. There was a particular quote that wheelchair athlete Curt Brinkman used to love: There are people who watch things happen, people who make things happen, and people who stand there and say, ‘What happened?’” Which of these would best describe you? Yes, it’s a humorous concept—but those whose lives are balanced the best have accomplished that goal, like any other high achievement, by conscious and deliberate choice. Are your decisions and your actions aligned? If not, you know what to do.

10. Communicate clearly about what’s working and what isn’t. This is not complaining; it’s communication. Acknowledge and cherish the things that go well. Work to minimize or eliminate what’s not working. This is an assessment that is continual and is important to everyone, rather than making excuses or just “making do.”

11. Turn off distractions. Distractions can take the form of television, too much music, background conversation, or, increasingly, the iPhone or device that constantly pulls on your focus. Perhaps there are times you need to turn off the device or leave it in another room. Whatever the distractions are that prevent you from giving your whole focus to your work (or from being fully present for those you are with when not working), you should make a concerted effort to set the distractions aside.

12. Have a strong support network. Every great entrepreneur is influenced by the people within his or her circle of closest associates and friends. In fact, business expert Jim Rohn has famously noted, “You are the average of the five people you are with most of the time.” Who are the people you trust and who do you turn to for advice, for insight, or simply to lend a listening ear? Knowing the full importance of a strong support network, perhaps you should choose these key players with additional care. And perhaps you could be a better resource than you currently are for those who are relying on you.

This is a fairly comprehensive list of work/life strategies that should provide at least a few new ideas for all. As an entrepreneur who must continually address these challenges myself, I welcome your additional ideas as well.

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5 Smart and Easy Ways to Motivate Millennial Employees

Bashing Millennials has become quite a sport in recent years, reports Inc. But as a father to two of them, and employer of nearly 500 people–many of whom younger than 35–Christopher Cabrera says it’s not fair to make nasty generalizations about the age group. In fact, the founder and CEO of Silicon Valley-based Xactly, a SaaS company which offers tools for sales performance management and employee engagement, says his company has flourished by embracing the characteristics that make Millennials unique. Here’s his advice on how you can do the same.

1. Give them the recognition they crave.

Yes, it’s true these younger workers grew up receiving awards, trophies and certificates for every little thing. Now that they’re grown, there’s no getting around the fact that Millennials expect to be recognized for their achievements. Instead of bucking this reality, Xactly changed the structure of its sales organization to allow employees to get promoted or make more money every six months, depending on their performance. “That worked out tremendously,” he says.

2. Don’t worry about them checking their phones.

Millennials have had devices in their hands since they were little kids, and there’s an upside to this reality. They’re really good with technology, are bosses at social media and capable of paying attention to multiple things at once. Exploit this fact and cut them loose to become brand ambassadors, assuming they like and respect your company enough to say good things on whatever platforms they frequent.

3. Let them work from home.

The fact that Millennials constantly have a phone in hand means they’re on-call after hours and on weekends to respond to calls, emails and texts. Reward them for this dedication by being a flexible employer which recognizes people for achieving goals, not clocking time. “If companies aren’t embracing the new ways of working including working from home and having flexible time then Millennials are going to be miserable and won’t stick around,” he says. “You will miss out on these very bright young people.”

4. Give them the opportunity to do good.

Millennials want to do work that matters and make a difference in the world. Tap into this desire by providing opportunities to volunteer on the company’s dime. Xactly’s foundation does this by encouraging employees to work on Habitat for Humanity projects or participate in races which raise money for good causes. “They’re very moldable and I think with the right role models these people can be great leaders who embrace more than just working like a slave to your company,” he says.

5. Give them credit for being different in good ways.

Cabrera says it can’t be denied that Millennials are collaborative and creative, due in large part to growing up with social media. Instead of bashing the age group, he’d like to see more people celebrating their strengths. “I’m so tired of hearing ‘When I was in little league only the first place team got an award,'” he says. “That’s missing the point of what these folks are all about.”

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5 Smart Habits of People Who Make Things Happen

Bridging the gap between generating ideas and implementing them isn’t intuitive for everybody, and one quality that separates successful entrepreneurs from the not-so-successful is their ability and willingness to get “stuff” done, reports Entrepreneur. It’s not a single habit that separates the winners from the losers but rather a multitude of behaviors executed consistently that support a larger goal. Consistency is the keyword here. Just as you don’t become stronger or faster with infrequent trips to the gym, developing soft skills works the same way. They require the same cultivation and dedication as anything else you want to become better at.

While everybody has their own behaviors and habits that work for them, here are five that I’ve found to yield positive results:

1. Make self-deposits.

When you make a promise to other people, chances are you uphold it because your personal reputation and the quality of the relationship are on the line. But what about making promises to yourself? It’s easier to break promises made to ourselves than it is to another, yet keeping our self-promises builds the self-efficacy and self-confidence upon which character is based. If you want to feel unstoppable, start by keeping the promises you make to yourself when nobody’s looking.

2. Capture your ideas immediately.

Good ideas tend to pass right through me like an oversized bowl of fiber (feel free to tweet that), and there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to recall a great idea that has since vanished from the mental repository known as “memory.” When a hint of inspiration strikes you, write it down immediately. Make a voice note, send yourself an email, write whatever keywords you have to that will spark your memory when you return to it later.

3. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Yes, there’s the old adage, “if I don’t take myself seriously then nobody else will.” However, people are more prone to flock to others who show a little personality than others who put them to asleep. Just look at the humor used by Dollar Shave Club in their marketing videos. While the thought of buying a razor isn’t exactly inspiring, nor does it incite a deep personal connection with people, the personality shown in their YouTube videos certainly does. Of course, there’s a time and place to be funny. Know your audience and the climate of the room. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself saying something that sounded funny in your head right before you lose all your friends.

4. Build yourself daily.

I’m a big believer in setting personal challenges to build resiliency. The choices you make shape who you are today and who you will be tomorrow. Staying fit doesn’t stop at the treadmill or after you squeeze into a Speedo. There is mental, emotional and spiritual fitness that balance each other out and make for a well-rounded individual. We all know people with brilliant minds who have the social skills of a nat. Build your skills daily every opportunity you have.

5. Be candid.

If there’s one thing that everybody needs more of, and I could insert a lot of jokes right here, it’s time. If you want to reward people, be candid. Tell them straight up, in a not-so-rude sort of way, and don’t waste their time. People appreciate honesty and resent deceit. They will actually seek your counsel in the future because they know what you stand for.

These are just a few of the habits that I’ve found to yield positive results for myself and for others. What are yours?

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7 Face-To-Face Networking Mistakes That Could Kill Your Professional Image

Despite all the online ways to link up with potential clients, I still believe making in-person connections needs to be a part of every business owner’s networking regimen. When you’re face-to-face with people, you can form bonds more easily because they get a more complete picture of who you are through your voice, body language, and appearance, reports Forbes.

That’s powerful and wonderful … unless you get careless.

While face-to-face networking can result in prospects gravitating to you, it also holds the potential to drive them in the opposite direction. Could your networking habits be turning off other professionals and causing you to lose out on business opportunities?

Avoid these networking no-nos:

1. Interrupting conversations. “How rude!” That’s what I think when someone walks up without apology and interrupts a conversation I’m having with another person.  Although discussions won’t typically be too in-depth at networking events, it’s still in bad taste to cut off conversations between others.

2. Practicing the “hard sell.” Want a surefire way to make connections eager to avoid you? Then push your products and services right from the start when meeting them. Doing so makes you appear aggressive as well as desperate—definitely not the impression you want to make!

3. Complaining. Remember, you’re there to connect with other professionals. While commenting on the venue location, décor, hors d’oeuvres, or other amenities can help ease you into a dialogue with someone, it can have a negative impact if your words are uncomplimentary. Others might perceive you as snide and ungracious.

4. Being all “me, me, me” and not taking an interest in others. Sure, you’re doing great things and everyone should know more about that. But you’ll do yourself a greater service if you forgo making yourself the center of attention and instead listen to what others have to share about their businesses. By asking open-ended questions and turning a keen ear to their needs, you can assess whether or not they may be a viable prospect. And then later you can follow up to share more about what you can offer them.

5. Having a few too many cocktails. Woot! Yes, networking functions often come in the form of mixers with a bit of a party atmosphere. But I’ve seen otherwise polished professionals turn into hot messes because they didn’t control their alcohol consumption at events.

6. Speaking ill of someone else in the room or about your clients. No, no, no. Don’t EVER do this. You never know who knows whom. Need I say more?

7. Dressing like you don’t care. Although many networking events are relatively casual, take care not to go too far with the informality. If you’re not sure what the dress code is, I recommend erring on the side of slightly overdressed. Worst-case scenario will be that you look a tad more professional than everyone else. No one will think less of you for that.

Done with attention to making a first-rate first impression, face-to-face networking can open doors to lasting professional relationships. Put your best, most engaging you out there every time—and take care to avoid networking missteps that could turn off prospective customers.

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In Uncertain Business Environment, Millennials Want More Risk

According to a new survey, Millennials may not be as short-sighted as older generations would have you believe—especially when it comes to owning or starting a business, reports Fox Business.

The Wells Fargo Millennial Small Business Owner (SBO) Study found that a strong majority (80%) of Millennial Entrepreneurs, born between 1982 and 1997, say they plan to grow their business over many years, and eventually pass them down to children–even though 59% reported not having kids yet.

According to the research, these small business owners, ages 19 to 35, see their ventures as long term investments—and they’re more willing than the older generation to take financial risks to grow.

“We found that Millennial small business owners have a much longer-term horizon for their businesses than many may perceive them to have,” said Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo’s head of Small Business. “They recognize an investment in their business is an investment in their future.”

Market research firm GfK interviewed 1,005 entrepreneurs who’d been in operation for at least six months, full or part-time. Those interviewed were also required to be the primary or shared financial decision maker, own at least 50% of their business, and report annual business revenue of up to $5 million.

Millennials surveyed differed most from older small business owners in their willingness to take on business debt, even though both generations reported being equally wary of owing money.

Two-thirds of Millennial small business owners said they believe it’s important to take on some amount of debt for growth–even if it means opening, carrying a balance on, or maxing out personal credit cards–while just half of older SBO’s agreed. Further, 21% of Millennial small business owners said they expect to take on some form of debt next year.

Small Business Segment Manager for Wells Fargo Doug Case called these findings an important revelation.

“I’m surprised that this generation, having such an affiliation with the Great Recession, has that enthusiasm around growth and are big dreamers and planners,” Case said. “I thought it was great to see that, even with the financial environment they’ve seen, and also the fact that a lot of Millennial business owners carry debt from school. It’s encouraging that those realities have not dampened their spirit.”

Members of both generations said they started their businesses to gain control of their futures, become their own bosses, and have more flexibility in where, when, and how they work. But Millennials are more likely than their older counterparts to begin a business venture because they’re passionate about it.

“They live and thrive off of the future and the next plan,” Case said of Millennial small business owners. “It’s driving more of an immediacy and technology-driven business operations. It’s requiring [businesses] to become tech savvy.”

Despite economic headwinds and heightened volatility on Wall Street, three-fourths of Millennials said they are optimistic about business growth in the coming year. That’s compared to just half of owners 36-years old and up.

But could that optimism be resting primarily on a lack of world experience?

According to Case, an alarming number of Millennials don’t have business plans, though he said their strong sense of entrepreneurship and dedication to survive and thrive is a good place to start.

“The challenge for all Millennial small business owners will be around creating sustainable business models,” Case said.

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