Culture Based Triggers

There are many psychological predictive models that attempt to explain human health behavior. From the old school Health Belief model, through the theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior to the more recently revised PRECEDE-PROCEED and Transtheoretical (TTM) models, there are many theories behind what makes us get off the couch and do something about … Continue reading “Culture Based Triggers”

There are many psychological predictive models that attempt to explain human health behavior. From the old school Health Belief model, through the theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behavior to the more recently revised PRECEDE-PROCEED and Transtheoretical (TTM) models, there are many theories behind what makes us get off the couch and do something about our health.

Among these models, there are many catch phrases for what causes us to act: Cues to Action, the Action Stage, Behavioral Intentions, and Self-efficacy. Whatever label or model you prefer, the purpose is the same: to trigger an action. What makes a person go from wanting to make a health change to physically making that change?

This trigger can come in many forms: a billboard on the highway, walking past a blood donor van, or watching a relative die of cancer. External influences in the form of education, reminders, persuasive communication, or the relay of personal experience can promote a desired behavior.

Some forms can be more influential than others. A previous post, “Use Education, Not Emotion: Get People to Buy What You Are Selling”, discusses a recent study that indicates educational cues in surveys have a more desired action/outcome than commercial advertisements or government mandates.

An educational cue is a useful tool, but if it works in the US, will it also work in Saudi Arabia? As we have noted, in the field of global market research, culture plays an important role. Are action triggers immune to the effect of culture on human behavior?

The answer is no. For some, the effect of a mother dying of breast cancer will motivate getting a mammogram. For others, where the cultural view is more fatalistic, maybe not. If you believe fate was the root of your mother’s death, a typical educational cue will not trigger you to act. Que sera, n’est pas?

Market researchers need to take a step back and look at what motivates self care and preservation in their target audience. A white male in the US who is constantly exposed to ads featuring people that look like him dying of AIDS will be affected and will wear a condom. A Latino male’s viewpoint may differ: a “real man” would not wear a condom and AIDS is considered a gay man’s disease. A cue to action can be created for the Latino man, but it needs to be done in a different way.

Business Financial Planning

Businesses often find financial planning a hassle. At the same time, it is critical to plan your finances well through the entire business cycle, be it before commencing, or after folding up (if you decide to merge or sell etc.) In truth, creating a financial strategy isn’t as tough as it seems to be. There are some steps which need to be kept in mind while planning your finances. Some of these steps are as listed below:

Establishing and defining the financial planner – client relationship
Gathering client data, goal – setting and expectation – defining
Analysis and evaluation of the existing financial status
Development and presentation of recommendations / alternatives

It is important to note here that some of these steps will determine and influence the other ones. At the same time, some of these steps need to be carried out simultaneously. To understand these steps better let’s look into how each of these steps work.

Establishing and defining the financial planner – client relationship

In this step the financial planner, explains his / her services to the client. This means that they explain or document their responsibilities towards the project. Further in the same step he / she also chalks out the responsibilities of the client. The payment and terms and conditions are also negotiated in the same step and the time frames are negotiated as well. Decision making processes, SOPs, Specific Points of contact etc. are also decided at the same time.

Gathering client data, goal – setting and expectation – defining

In this stage the data related to the financial state of the client’s business is collected. The personal and financial goals are defined. A thorough SWOT analysis will also give an insight into the risk taking capacity and the estimated productivity of the business. This stage is actually where planner gathers all necessary information before advising the client anything.

Analysis and evaluation of the existing financial status

In this step, the client information is assessed and analyzed. This gives a clear idea about the current status and also helps in deciding what to do in order to achieve client’s business goals. Further, on the basis of the requested services, this stage may include the assessment of liabilities, assets, cash flow, tax strategy, investments, current insurance covers etc.

Welcome to Las Vegas

Las Vegas is a famous American city situated in the state of Nevada. It’s the largest city in the state and it’s widely known for its fine dining, shopping and gambling. Las Vegas was named the ‘World’s Entertainment Capital’ because of the numerous casino resorts. Other nicknames that this city got are the World’s Marriage Capital, the Second Chances Capital, Sin City and the World’s Gambling Capital.The fantasy-like atmosphere in Las Vegas is created by the giant and glamorous casino hotels. Their names evoke exotic destinations, mystery and romance.

Besides many casinos, Las Vegas also features numerous other attractions and sights. Go to the Fremont Street Experience. This is a pedestrian mall situated near the casinos. Every night you can see amazing multimedia shows on the canopy placed over the street. Another landmark is the Fountain Show from Bellagio. During the evenings, for 15 minutes, you can admire the ‘dance’ of these beautiful fountains. On Sunday and Saturday afternoons, the show lasts for an hour.

Las Vegas is known for their mega hotels…not just for casino play but also to stay and relax while you gamble and have fun! The question is not where do you stay but how do you get the best rates? Well, that is where HotelHut comes in. Booking online can be a tedious job because all those big popular online travel agencies are of no use. Their rates are basically the same and trying to find a discount can be a pain…unless you book thru HotelHut is a private membership hotel booking site offering their members deep discounted “unpublished” rates you’ll find nowhere else! Their Members can save up to 71% off retail!

Trolling Lake Michigan

There is no doubt that the Great Lakes are incredible fisheries. Thousands of people take to those lakes every year for a variety of fish. Lake Michigan is no different. There are many ways to catch fish on Lake Michigan. One of the best ways, though, is to always hire a guide.

There are many guides on the lake who specialise in different types of fishing. Look for a reputable guide who’s been working on the lake for a while and who can provide you with some references. Fishing Lake Michigan for the first time can be a daunting task. It can also be dangerous, if you have never fished big water before. Even the most seasoned of anglers pick up tips and trick from experienced guides. They understand which fishing lures are catching fish and where and how to use the most effectively.

Trolling is one way to catch fish on Lake Michigan. This requires knowing the depths at which the fish are holding and also the speed at which the fishing lures will work the best. The speed and depth of the fish will depend on the recent weather, the time of year, and the water temperature at various depths, among other factors. The fishing lures that worked on Lake Michigan in the spring may not be the same ones that will put fish in the boat in the fall.

Market Research: Benchmarking

Every few months it makes sense to do some benchmarking and find out how your services, marketing message buzz words and product or service delivery systems compare to those of competitors. Whether you are a start-up or a veteran entrepreneur, market research in its many forms is an important barometer of the environment in which your venture operates. Fail to keep your finger on the various pulse points of the marketplace and you can miss the boat on either a lucrative opportunity or a shift in customer priorities that will leave you out in the cold and scrambling to catch up.

It is useful to think about how you might refine your services offered, your choice of targeted clients, business model and delivery of services. The results of your benchmarking research can be used in the marketing or operations sections of a business plan, for example, or to measure the success of current plans. Start the process by following the advice of the late, great business strategy guru Peter Drucker, who famously noted that getting the right answers begins with asking the right questions. Some you might pose include:

What drives targeted clients to hire outside help (i.e., Solopreneurs) to perform the services your organization provides?
Who is providing the services for them now and what is the level of satisfaction with the deliverables?
What would clients like to see included in these services or in their delivery that is not now being provided?
Do clients anticipate changes in demand for these services?
What do clients feel is a fair price to pay for the services?

In market research, there are primary and secondary sources of information. Primary source information emanates directly from the client or competitor. Secondary sources are anything that has been published. Because Solopreneurs typically do not have market research budgets, a DIY low or no cost strategy will be preferred.

Primary information can be collected from current or prospective clients through survey questionnaires that either appear on your website or are emailed to your mailing list. You might provide an incentive to participate, such as a free half hour consultation. Also, clients, prospects and referral sources can receive from you an invitation to have coffee or lunch, so that questions about their organizations’ needs and priorities as relates to your services can be asked and answered.

Competitors are another source of primary information. If you attend a seminar outside of a competitor’s working geography, s/he will perhaps feel comfortable about sharing information. Over time, certain competitors that you encounter on a regular basis may drop their guard just a bit and share a couple of pearls with you. Establishing good relationships with competitors is usually a smart idea. What they share will be limited, but it could be beneficial.

Free and potentially useful secondary information is available on competitors’ websites and you might visit the sites of four or five close competitors, Solopreneurs who offer similar services to clients that could be yours. It’s a good idea to monitor the sites over the course of months or even years and make note of any additions or deletions of services.

Changes in the services of more than one competitor could indicate a change in client priorities and should prompt you to diplomatically question your clients. Periodic explorations of clients’ websites is another good idea. There could be a change that opens up a new revenue stream for you.

Continue your secondary research with an internet search of clients and competitors. You could find notices of speaking engagements or press releases that give you the heads-up. Periodic checks of competitors’ LinkedIn profiles is also a great idea, if shared connections exist. The connection grants you access to a competitor’s page without making that person a primary connection. Juicy details about the competitor’s activities may await you.

Give your business an important reality check with some good market research. Obtain information that helps your business identify niche markets or glean more billable hours from current clients. Use slow business periods to conduct your investigations and make plans that will set you up for a successful year.

Thanks for reading,

Business Financial Analysis

Planning and Control are the two most important ingredients to a Successful Business. A Business Plan takes most of the guess work out of Business Strategy and Control through solid Financial analysis. Financial Data provides a way to gauge where you are in your Strategic Plan, telling you where changes in your Plan are necessary. Because of this, Financial Data Analysis and Management are vitally important to running a successful business.

It is extremely important to have a suitable Accounting System installed throughout your business so data acquisition is easy. You cannot manage your Business for Profitability without a good Accounting System. My CPA has a bookkeeper who comes out to the business to help install the Accounting System and show us how to work it. All of this is done with the guidance of the CPA but at a fraction of the cost. A good Bookkeeper is invaluable in helping capture Financial Data. Having an established working Accounting System in place will minimize the fees a CPA charges to analyze your tax liability and prepare your tax returns.

An Accounting System is typically built around the following key Financial Management tools:

– Income Statement (Profit & Loss Statement)
– Cash Flow Statement
– Balance Sheet
– Budget
– Breakeven Analysis

By having a Financial Management system in place, you can easily identify early warning signs or spot particularly profitable areas. Not having a system in place to analyze and organize Financial Data makes it impossible to effectively manage, grow and control a business. It makes it impossible to gauge the success (or lack there-of) of your Planning and Strategy. Moreover, used incorrectly, inaccurate Financial Data can be disastrous for a company’s livelihood.

An Accounting and Financial Management System is only as useful as it is used systematically throughout an entire business. It is extremely important to implement the system into the very fabric of the business and be used systematically. The Accounting System is a reflection of the health, or lack thereof, of a business and from which business decisions are made. Make sure to set it up right, train your people on it and most importantly, use it!

Two principal objectives of any business are to be Profitable and have Cash Flow to pay obligations. The Income Statement and Cash Flow Statement figure prominently in this area. The Income Statement represents how well a Company is operating, and the Cash Flow Statement shows how well a business is managing its Cash. Profit or Loss on one side and Liquidity on the other.

Brand Journalism: Video Pre-Interviews

Several years ago I was in charge of advisor conference communications for a large financial services company. One of the most important elements-which had to be done on a very tight timeline-was a video highlighting the top-performing managing general agents and financial advisors who would be recognized at the spring recognition conference. There were nine interviews across the country that had to be taped in a matter of about three-and-a-half weeks.

At the time I was new in the communications role and had never worked with the in-house video team before. I was aghast to learn that in years past, they’d simply showed up at an advisor’s office with camera and lights. They didn’t know what they were going to ask, and neither did the advisor. This is a situation that can make both parties uncomfortable, and which can yield a dud from what otherwise might have been a great interview.

Introducing the pre-interview

In broadcast current affairs, pre-interviews are standard practice. Having trained in broadcast journalism and once worked on a radio current affairs program, the only way I knew how to do it was with the pre-interview. It ensures your video crew-whether it’s one person or a three-person team (camera, lights and sound) will get the best sound bites, or clips, as they can. If you’re producing any kind of video that involves one-on-one interviews with clients, customers, executives or employees, pre-interviews are a must for telling your brand story properly.

The pre-interview is exactly that: essentially the same interview the video team will do on camera. Except it’s done on the phone, in advance of the scheduled taping. You need to make sure you have the resources on your communication team to do this right. Assign pre-interviews to a junior member of the team, for example. If you don’t have enough internal resources, you can hire an outsource for the project. It really does require someone with a journalism background who knows how to ask the right, and interesting questions.

If you have several interviews to do and you have a full in-house communications team, put one specialist in charge of the project. He or she can then work with colleagues. In my case, I did all the interviews myself the first time. I almost went bonkers in the short time frame. Lesson learned. The next time I managed a team of communication specialists. I took on three pre-interviews myself and assigned three each to other team members. It not only eased the work load, but also made things much more efficient in terms of getting all the pre-interviews done in the short time frame.

What pre-interviews do

The pre-interview accomplishes three things:

It prepares both the video producer (who is often the person doing the interviews to tape) and the interviewee for the interview. It creates a comfort level, because everybody knows the focus of the interview and what questions will be asked (more on this in a minute).

In situations where you have two or three possible interviewees for the subject at hand, it helps you determine whether the person you’re talking with is the best person for the video team to interview. If, when you’re talking to the person on the phone, he or she seems really uncomfortable, or you’re getting mostly one-word answers, that tells you to thank them for their time and move on to your next source.

It saves the video crew time. They’re in, they get set up, tape the interview and they’re out. Nobody’s time is wasted.

Developing the questions

The pre-interview helps you develop a focus statement and a q-line (series of questions) to pass on to the video producer. The first thing you have to do of course, is jot down all the questions you can think of for the person. The who, what, why, when, where and how are all essential. But listen to the person. Don’t get so focused on the questions you want to ask that you miss an interesting point. If they make an interesting point, follow-up on it with an unplanned question. You’d be surprised at the insights you can uncover. Sometimes all it takes is, “Could you give me an example of that?”, or “That’s really interesting. Could you tell me a bit more about that?”. Doing this can lead you off on whole new tangents-I once had a pre-interview go on for another interesting, insightful 45 minutes by asking that simple question.

Closing the pre-interview

Okay, let’s assume you’re wrapping up your pre-interview. First, of course, you thank the person for their time. Then it’s really important to explain that when the video crew arrives on the set day, they’re going to be asking pretty much exactly the same questions as you’ve just covered. (Remind the interviewee that the producer might have some additional questions of his or her own, but the pre-interview should mostly be a carbon copy of the telephone pre-interview.) This is very important especially if the person has never done a video interview before. Re-assuring them they’re going to be talking about the same things-just with a different person-makes your interviewee feel comfortable. And they more comfortable they are, the better the taped interview will be. You want them to enjoy the experience.

A word of caution here. Sometimes busy professionals would rather you email them the questions and let them respond. That’s not a good idea for a video pre-interview. Doing a telephone interview is vital. Why? Because it helps you get a sense of what the person’s like and how they’re likely to respond/act when the video crew shows up. Sometimes you gently have to explain that you really need to talk with them for the purpose at hand.

Writing it up for the video crew

Which brings me to the all-important next step: writing up the focus, q-line and background document for the video producer.

The focus statement is the most important part of this prep document for the video team. Here’s what I mean by “focus statement.” Let’s say the scenario is the one I mentioned off the top-interviewing top performers who are being recognized. The focus statement is easy: “John Doe is being recognized at the annual conference because he did $3 million in business last year.”

Questions then can cover the gamut from, “Why did you become an advisor?”; to “What qualities does a person have to have to be a financial advisor?”; to, “This is the fourth year in a row you’ve done this kind of thing and are being recognized for it-how does that make you feel?”. Or, “What’s your secret to doing these record volumes every year?”.

The first question in your prep document is the all-important one. Here’s an example of how to set up the interview doc for the video team:

FOCUS: John Doe is being recognized at the annual conference because he did $3 million in business last year.
Q. 1: This is the fourth year in a row you’ve done this-what’s your secret?

And so on.

You’ll want to have the video team do an interview that lasts about five to 10 minutes-so a list of 12-15 questions usually covers that.

The crucial backgrounder

Once you’ve written up the focus and list of questions, it’s time to do the “backgrounder” section. This is vital, because it helps the video producer know how to approach questions, and the person in general. Make your backgrounders thorough. The more thorough they are, the more prepared your video team will be. (The assumption here is that you took thorough notes when you were doing the pre-interview. If you taped the conversation, you’ll have to spend extra time transcribing.)

The backgrounder should include not only the basics about the person (how long they’ve been doing what they do, etc.), but also how they seemed on the phone (nervous, etc.), and how they reacted to certain questions. That’s why you really need to listen to the person when you’re doing the telephone pre-interview, so you can note your insights in the backgrounder document.

Getting great stuff on tape

Then you email the document to your video producer, and the team’s all set. If you’ve done your job right, they’ll get a great interview on tape. In my case, I kept getting glib emails from the producer after every interview: “I love you,”… “I love you even more,… ”

I simply did what I was trained to do. What they did was come away with much better advisor interviews on tape than they’d previously gotten by just showing up and firing from the hip. Do pre-interviews every time, and you’ll get great stuff on tape, too. They’ll help you tell a brand story that will resonate with, and engage, your audiences.

Business of Financial Planning

We have learned from the economic crisis of 2008, to take care of where we invest or what we do with our money. It also taught us that in times of doubt, consult your advisor. The economic downfall in 2008 also opened opportunities for expert financial planners and newbies who wants to help people and business maximize their resources.

If you are wondering why you or your business needs financial planning, we have enlisted the perks here.

Financial planning enables businesses or individuals to allocate the right amount to the right area that needs improvement or more investment in a timely manner. This minimizes risk-taking and bad investments. Efficient financial planning would then eventually lead to better revenue and effective cost management.

Financial planning presents the costs and gains of a company or individual in numbers, giving them a clearer view of what they will be investing in. This makes it easier for decision makers to go or stop a contract or project.

A financial plan is prepared annually. This financial forecast explains how much the business or individual should expect and when to expect it. This not only shows how long the wait is going to be, but also the quantity of its profitability. Every month, a financial plan is also done to compare the annual plan prepared earlier to see if the target is being met, exceeded or otherwise. This warns the business owner or individual of possibilities and posed threats in the investment, and if it’s time to give up or not yet. Although it is not always correct, as there are so many things that could affect the business’ financial status, financial planning and management makes it easier to see what is and what can be.

While some people or business owners would want or need a financial planner as they can do this on their own, there are some who would need a planner’s help to get the load off their backs. Either way, when looking for a financial planning company to handle this hefty job, here are the things you have to consider.

License – find a licensed or certified financial planner, which signifies their abilities and credibility. Do not just jump on the first firm that comes your way in a desperate move to find one.

Pay structure – there are two major pay structures your planner may be a part of: fee-based and commission-based. Nothing of the two is better than the other; it is really up to the company or person what he/she prefers. There are also planner who, like free-lancers, can be paid by the hour or when you only need them

Financial Health of Your Business

A business must enter all its financial transactions in its books of account. It helps the accountants in tracking the incoming and the outgoing flow of cash through the business. Nowadays, the cloud based accounting systems maintain and process the books of account.

The corporate environment of every country is bound by certain statutory obligations. ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) of Singapore governs the corporate sector in Singapore. This agency has the duty to ensure all industries, irrespective of their size or niche, comply with the amended set of statutory requirements. Updated books of account, filing of financial statements, and paying taxes in time are the essential factors of these obligations.

The act of recording each financial transaction of the business and then, periodically checking the books of account has a far-reaching meaning to the business owners. The accounting software reduces the amount of manual work involved in the task. Each time, it processes the business data accurately and unfailingly. The software takes only a few seconds to process the data. The results obtained denote the financial health of the business.

On-the-Go Access

A cloud based accounting system saves and processes the business’ financial data on the cloud servers. It transmits the results to the business owner’s device, which can be an internet capable mobile or tablet. The software can also transmit the reports to the laptops, net books, and desktop computer.

The accounting software systems generate financial documents like cash flow, balance sheets, and profit and loss accounts for the inspection of the owners. They get a detailed info about the working and the financial standing of their businesses. The software also updates them about the financial position of their businesses with respect to their suppliers, customers, and creditors of their businesses.

The accounting software allows the owners to know about the fluctuations in their bank balances. It allows the owners to keep a firm control on their credit and debit situation. It ensures that they do have a chance to take appropriate actions before the commencement of a financial disaster or a broken commitment.