Taking Meaningful Action

Productivity. Priorities. Planning.

There are a lot of buzz words right now (and they all seem to start with the letter P!) that are intended to help us make the most of our time and efforts.

But in all the buzz about how to get more done, there is surprisingly little talk about what, exactly, we should be doing. Are all “to do” items created equal? Checking things off a list doesn’t guarantee that we are moving ourselves forward.

Growth Activities

Some things on our list need to get done, and you could argue that they are “important.” Many people fill their days doing client projects and customer service. After all, we have to deliver on our promises. But those are not growth activities.

Of course, we also fill a surprising amount of our time with “distractions.” Some are more obvious than others. Many of us lose hours in reading and responding to e-mails, which might feel like “work” but how productive are we really being?

How many of your activities are true “growth activities.” What things will grow your business? Expand your impact? Allow you to make a bigger difference? Really fulfill your purpose?

When you really look at it, those things happen primarily in two ways. When you create things. And when you connect with people.

Create

As a Content Creation Coach, these types of activities are dear to my heart. I see the power of creating new things. Of putting your ideas into tangible pieces. Whether you are writing a blog article or a book, creating a program, shooting a video, making a new presentation… creating things generates value.

You are increasing the assets of your business. You are putting valuable things into the marketplace (even if they don’t cost money). You are giving value that expands your worth and inevitably returns to you.

I often ask people, “What are you creating next to grow your business?”

The most powerful thing about creating content and other pieces in your business is that it gives you something new to share. Creating something new doesn’t mean anything if others don’t see it.

Which leads me to the second type of growth activity…

Connect

When you connect with other people, that is when all sorts of magical things happen. You might end up with a new client. You could find out about a fantastic opportunity. You could impact that person and create a ripple effect in their life and beyond.

The incredible web of possibilities that exists in a conversation with another person is huge. There is a real art to finding the places where your interests, needs, and capabilities intersect. That’s why it’s called “networking”!

Being able to impact someone else is at the core of our purpose. Each of us brings our own area of expertise and focus to each interaction, of course. But if we approach it openly, each conversation is an opportunity to live out our purpose.

That’s real growth.

And business growth follows real growth.

I’ve been spending a lot of my time recently connecting with others. And I often share things that I have created with the people I am connecting with. Sharing value and making a difference. Win win!

Looking at your task list, how many items involve creating something new or connecting with others?(And sitting at your computer writing e-mails doesn’t count!) Identify some real growth activities to put into your schedule.

Entrepreneurial Mind Frame

Entrepreneurs make up only about 15% of the working population in the US. Far fewer actually succeed than those who attempt to become self employed business people and venture out on their own. So what makes people decide to take the entrepreneurial path, when so few actually make it a reality?

Is the American dream a possibility for anyone, or, does it take more than most to become a successful entrepreneur?
The success of an entrepreneur does depend on their mindset. A large percentage of business owners will quit in their first five years in business. What is needed is the fortitude and belief that goes with attaining success.

Entrepreneurs are risk takers and dreamers. The difference between the dreamer and the entrepreneur though, is that the entrepreneur takes actions based on their dreams. They persist through the hardships and never give up! Many entrepreneurs start with an idea. Their success is determined by their belief that they can create something greater than simple monetary success. Often, it is about creating something which will benefit the world.

James Dyson, for example, came up with the idea of the bagless vacuum cleaner. Despite multiple set backs, over 5000 prototypes and not being able to get any manufacturers or distributors to accept his idea, he persevered. It was over a decade after his initial idea when his concept came to fruition. Even then, it was after a lot of difficulties and hardship due to the vacuum replacement bag industry, which was worth £100 million in the UK.

In Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With Why’, he suggests that the biggest companies in the world are so because of their “why?” – their reasons for building a business in the first place. In all cases, it wasn’t just to make money, or make technology better, or some whimsical ideology.

The Wright Brothers, for example, became known as the pioneers of the first manned flight. But their competition was much better funded and well connected – Samuel Pierpont Langley had worked at Harvard, had a number of powerful connections, including Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell. The War Department funded his project with a $50k grant, a seemingly massive advantage to the unconnected Wright Brothers who had no money or influence. However, their passion and devotion to change the world with this new technology drove them to attain the first flight in history in 1903.

Desire for material things and monetary wealth can only carry someone so far. Unless you have a goal or passion which is bigger than that, you may lose the momentum and fail to maintain your enthusiasm for any length of time.

The entrepreneurial mindset is one which taps into your purpose. Without a purpose driven goal or aim, it can’t take long before disillusionment kicks in. With a mindset which takes into account a larger purpose, entrepreneurs can build huge businesses because they ‘saw’ a vision of what they wanted to create. If the purpose is greater than the obstacles which lie in the path of attaining it, no amount of setbacks will stop you from achieving your goal.

On the other hand, if you set out to do something and something gets in the way and stops you, your initial reason, (your “why?”), may not have been strong enough to endure all the battles along the way.

Entrepreneurial mind frame (or mindset) therefore, must be aligned with both your vision, your values and your purpose. If your values are not in alignment with your purpose and vision, you’ll come up against road blocks which will stop you from achieving your goal.

How Prepared Is Your Board for Cyberspace?

While cyber security is an important issue for boards, it has not always been top of mind. Because a major corporation like Equifax had a breach in its IT system, many companies are rethinking how to secure cyber security.

Boards around the world are examining the Equifax case to determine how to best secure their organizations valuable information stored in their IT systems. So who is responsible? Since the CEO has stepped down, it is apparent he was being held accountable. However, where was the board of directors?

In today’s world of cyberspace, corporate boards have to think about more than governance, CEO compensation and strategy.

As it stands, it is in the board’s best interest to ensure the company is not exposed to debilitating risks. Companies have workplace safety standards and sexual harassment policies to mitigate lawsuits. They even have disaster recovery plans in the event of natural disasters or occurrences like the World Trade Center plane crash. These plans and policies are in place to keep business running smoothly and perpetually. It protects customers and employees.

However, with sophisticated computer hackers around the world, it is no news that computer systems and valuable information can be breached and stolen. There are hackers who breach computer systems as a business. They ask for ransom in the amount of tens of millions of dollars. If it is not paid, they threaten to release the companies secure information, which sometimes could contain private email communication from top executives.

While many enterprises as large as Equifax may have disaster recovery plans for their physical operation, they may not have the same plan for cyber breach. The disaster recovery policies would include immediate action steps based on size of the breach, who made the breach, what information was taken, were company smart phones breached, what to communicate to employees, the public and shareholders as well as other important factors.

In some cases, it may make sense to inform the FBI. In other cases, it may be better to pay the ransom. The challenge with calling the FBI is that the hackers could be in countries like Russia. In Russia, the FBI may not pursue them. Why? Because the Russian government is always looking for good hackers. If the FBI exposes the hackers in Russia, the government may hire them, which can present long-term problems for the US. When it comes to paying ransom, it’s tricky. If you pay, they may hack you again as though you are an ATM machine. If you don’t pay, they may expose confidential information. These are also the kinds of challenges that directly involve the board.

What’s most important is that the board is talking about cyber security before there is a problem. There should be constant audits of the cyber security system to mitigate any risks. In addition, as a board, they should hold the CEO accountable for that security. Furthermore, there should be clear policies to guide the board and the executive team on how to handle the various moving parts in a delicate situation. Boards with disaster recovery plans and high accountability with the CEO are more likely to be forward thinking about cyber vulnerabilities and proactive about updating the security system.

Steinbeck Hitchcock and Yes, Lifeboat

What on earth do Steinbeck and Hitchcock have in common? Well, nothing except that they made a film together called Lifeboat. They did not even share any common interests in terms of their work. John Steinbeck created novels such as Grapes of Wrath which is still considered as a literary masterpiece even by modern critics. The novel was highly controversial at the time it was first published in 1939 due to the anti-capitalist sentiments. But it also won the Pulitzer Prize. This and his work later were instrumental in getting John Steinbeck his maiden Nobel Prize for literature. Steinbeck also wrote some comedies such as Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat but thrillers, not any that I know of.

Alfred Hitchcock lived thrillers and absolutely thrillers. However, he did take some diversions into other genres such as comedies in Mr. and Mrs. Smith and also some nonfiction films just before the Second World War. After the war, he mostly stuck to what he knew best and that was making thriller movies. I don’t know what Steinbeck was thinking about while writing Lifeboat. Was he intentionally making a thriller or just an interracial film with a hypothetical situation about people from various communities of German and allied forces getting together and having to do battle together? I think it’s later and that’s where Steinbeck came into the picture.

Originally the screenplay of Lifeboat was credited to John Steinbeck. But after the film was released Steinbeck requested his name to be removed from the credits because he felt the film had unkind words against organized labor. However, the British and American press at the time thought the film glorified German characters and denigrating the US and British characters. Modern critics see things differently though. Hitchcock defended his characterization because he respected his movie villains. Characterization of a villain has been the hallmark of Hitchcock films over the years. The moral of the story in his opinion was to get the allies together to fight against Nazis.

Lifeboat was nominated for 3 Oscars but received none and it was not commercially very successful either due to the negative publicity and controversies surrounding the film. It was Hitchcock who came up with the idea for the film and considered several top writers at the time for the project including Ernest Hemingway and A J Cronin. Hitchcock didn’t use music in the film as he thought it was imprudent to do so. Where would music come from in the sea? He retorted when asked about it. He was countered with where would the cameras come from in the middle of the sea?

I am a diehard Hitch fan and have seen all his best work and more. I never felt him being racist or unkind to any community unless it is for the characterization. The very fact that he chose Steinbeck for this project confirms this fact for me. But it is a strange combination all the same. After so many years of Hitchcock, it is difficult to associate him with a writer who is not at all a thriller writer. It is a lonesome but great alliance all the same.

Estate Tax Planning & Family Limited Partnerships

The general partner(s) manage the assets contributed to the family limited partnership. Limited partners generally have no rights with respect to the assets held by the FLP. The lack of Marketability and the fractional ownership of the limited partnership interests held by the limited partners are two of the well-established reduction principles that diminish the value of the taxable estate. The discounts allowed by the restricted rights provides for the reduction in the value of the assets held by each limited partner, but also increases the amount of annual tax-free gifting that can be attained. The current high marginal estate tax rates allow for wise and prudent planning which is necessary to preserve the family’s wealth.

Centralized Management of Family Assets
When using a corporation as the general partner, the general partner controls all of the assets in the partnership. This corporation can also employ family members and others. It will call meeting, conduct training sessions and facilitate wealth management. With a corporate general partner, continuity must be ensured even in the event of the husband and wife.

Minimize Probate
By using an FLP, the time and expense of probating an estate can be greatly reduced. When a Living Trust is also used, then there is no probate. Living Wills are not public record and therefore no one but those involved in the family know of its contents.

Cure Title Defects
The procedure for transferring assets to an FLP can help with the discovery of title defects. This can be a significant issue for real estate assets if not discovered and corrected.