Archive for the 'Grow' Category

My philosophy on selling

Regardless of our respective occupations, we all sell something. It may simply be ourselves, our ideas, or our opinion on where to have dinner.

Selling is a fundamental part of life. Most people hate that idea.

Dating back to my first job at a fireworks stand, I have been selling.

“Might I interest you in these Morning Glory sparklers? They are ideal for small children because they have easy-to-light tissue paper wicks and longer handles to prevent burns. Plus, they change colors as they burn down!

“We buy them for half a cent each. I’ll part ways with this bundle of six for only $8.99.”

Okay, that last part wasn’t in the pitch, but the margins certainly were.

Through years of studying and practicing the art of selling, I have assembled the following philosophy on the topic.

Without energy, work ethic and determination, you’re dead on arrival. Energy isn’t everything, but it’s the impetus that gets everything else going. If you’re selling for a living, it helps to be heavily motivated by financial reward.

Sales is a numbers game. Play the percentages. The more at bats you get, the more hits (and home runs) will come, assuming your fundamentals are sound.

Organization is key. Work hard and smart. Daily routines are critical. “I only make cold calls when I feel like it, and I make sure I feel like it every morning at 9 am.” There’s no substitute for discipline.

Identify decision-makers. Qualify well. Probe. Ask the tough questions to figure out who can actually buy from you in a volume that makes your time worthwhile.

Persuade the supporting cast. Be diplomatic. Treat the receptionist like the CEO. Think politically. Smart decision-makers want buy-in from their key staff members.

Get to the root of the pain. Ask questions; listen well; understand process. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Be interested before you try to be interesting.

Think relationship, not transaction. Figure out what’s important to your clients in business and in life. Add value in those areas through thoughtful conversations, business referrals and resources (articles, books, etc.). It will set you apart from other chatterboxes.

Keep your client’s best interest at heart. Argue against yourself if it’s what’s best for your customer. It will pay off… in the long run.

Trust takes time. Don’t give up. The first time you call on a prospect, you’re a stranger. The second time you’re an acquaintance. The third time you’re a friend. The fourth time you’re a friend he wants to do business with.

Prioritize benefits before features. People naturally think “WIIFM” … What’s in it for me? How will this make my life easier and more productive?

As successful politicians say, “Ask for the vote.” Ask for the sale directly. Press for a decision. Your prospect won’t be offended if you do. She’ll be offended if you don’t. She’ll think you think she’s not worth doing business with.

If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, move on to something you do. It’s impossible to fake it long enough to be successful.

At the end of the day, you’re not really selling. You’re helping. And everyone loves to be helped, especially with their sparkler selections.

 

Write to Kevin Thompson at kevin@kwt.info.

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Fed brings economic insights to Boerne

Investors in the Boerne Kendall County Economic Development Corporation convened for a semi-annual meeting two weeks ago. On the heels of the Federal Reserve’s third short-term rate hike in less than a year, the event’s guest speaker was timely.

Blake Hastings, de facto leader of the San Antonio branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, addressed the meeting of about a hundred Boerne, Texas, business leaders.

Hastings started with macroeconomic data about the national economy. He specifically addressed the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet which ballooned from less than a trillion dollars in assets before the financial crisis to more than $4 trillion afterward.

Of course, Fed leaders didn’t call its balance sheet ballooning “money printing.” They called it “quantitative easing,” which sounds more like a gastroenterological process than an economic term.

During multiple rounds of “QE,” the Fed bought trillions of dollars of bonds (Treasurys and mortgage-backs). As Mr. Hastings admitted, it was an experiment of historic proportions.

Early on (ca. 2011), the Wall Street banks that sold bonds to the Fed took most of the cash proceeds and deposited them back at the Fed itself. There was simply not enough loan demand at the time to lend the money out in the marketplace. Plus, the Fed paid a quarter of a point on the deposits!

Since then, the economy has improved and the big banks are making more loans. The Fed’s balance sheet shows bank deposits have decreased by $500 billion in the last five years. Conversely, currency in circulation has increased by $500 billion.

It appears we have two problems on our hands: (1) an increasing number of dollars floating in the economy brings inflation risk; and (2) the Fed still has more than $4 trillion in bonds on its balance sheet.

A friend smarter than I summarized three possible solutions to the latter problem, a quandary  inexorably linked to our $19 trillion federal government debt. You can either grow your way out, inflate your way out, or default your way out.

Mr. Hastings and his Fed colleagues are clearly hoping for years of steady economic prosperity in order to grow our way out. This proposition seems too good to come true.

What’s not too good to be true is San Antonio’s recent economic performance. Hastings rattled off a number of encouraging performance indicators for our area.

San Antonio’s four per cent unemployment rate is below that of Texas and the nation. Military City’s job growth increased by three per cent in 2016 despite a lackluster oil price. We have seen similar employment gains thus far in 2017.

Stock prices of San Antonio-based companies trend above the S&P 500, though the margin is narrowing. Overall, San Antonio’s economy continues to track above its long-term growth average and has since 2011.

Hastings noted that Austin’s job growth has stalled for want of skilled labor. He issued a word to the wise: educated human capital is the single best predictor of an area’s economic prospects. He encouraged listeners to prioritize workforce training.

A diversified employment base saved Texas and San Antonio when oil dropped seventy per cent three years ago. Will it be there to save us at the next bust, oil or otherwise?

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at www.kwt.info.

 

How Economic Development Happens

Last week, the Boerne / Kendall County Economic Development Corporation (BKCEDC) announced a major hotel project to be constructed on South Main Street across from Wal-Mart.

The probable Hilton/Doubletree property will cost $25 million to build and will feature 130 rooms, 7,500 square feet of conference space and resort-style amenities. In exchange for its investment, the developer will receive significant hotel tax rebates from local taxing authorities.

BKCEDC also announced that the Boerne City Council approved a medical office building project in the same South Boerne (“SoBo”) area. The $13 million project will likely include physician offices, an imaging center and an ambulatory surgical center.

Together with the Buc-ee’s travel store announcement late last year, BKCEDC has scored a string of economic investment to our area, along with no shortage of opinions.

While many definitions of positive economic development exist, most parties agree on the need for balanced growth. Kendall County is the 5th fastest-growing county in Texas and the 12th fastest-growing county in the nation, according to BKCEDC.

While there are many goals of economic development – jobs, utility customers, tax base expansion – no one wants it without a continuation of quality of life.

Most local government and business leaders don’t want to cut off Boerne’s nose to spite its face. They realize the features that drew people here must be preserved if the area is to maintain vibrancy. But it’s a fine line to walk.

On one hand, some want to freeze frame Kendall County. “Boerne, Texas, Gone Forever,” they might say.

On the other hand, desirability involves progress and growth. People want a quaint place to live, but not at the expense of modern goods and services. Hence, the need for economic development.

Economic development is a highly competitive process. Boerne no longer only competes regionally or even domestically for projects and opportunities. It competes internationally.

Economic development takes time. The average project takes two years to materialize. Site selectors examine mounds of financial and demographic data before making decisions. Even then, economic events can skew long-laid plans.

Population density is key. Investors want a certain critical mass of consumers and workers. While Kendall County is growing by leaps and bounds percentage-wise, raw household numbers don’t yet support what some businesses require.

But with more than five thousand new residential lots in some stage of development in the City of Boerne, the landscape is changing quickly. BKCEDC, founded in 2006 by local chamber of commerce leaders and funded by a consortium of city, county and private dollars, is shaping the process.

“As the chief marketing office of Boerne and Kendall County, we position our area as an ideal site for corporate investment,” President Misty Mayo explains. Mayo was second in command at the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation before joining BKCEDC in 2015.

Mayo has three priorities for the non-profit corporation: 1) Retain and expand existing businesses; 2) Relocate San Antonio-area companies to Kendall County; and 3) Recruit and attract regional and national entities to the area.

“In economic development, it’s not the big who beat the small,” Mayo insists. “It’s the fast who beat the slow.”

 

Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

12 Productivity Tips for the New Year

The title of the bookette caught my eye: “Shave 10 Hours Off Your Workweek.” The recommendation wasn’t to leave at three. [Insert banker joke here.]

Author Michael Hyatt is the former CEO of a large book publisher. Since retiring a few years back, he has been “virtually mentoring” people, helping them become more productive.

Hyatt would readily admit that productivity starts with the heart. He would likely point to one of his former authors, John Eldredge, whose writing on desire helps people recover what really motivates them.

But many of us need help with the practical. How do I turn goals into action? How do I keep from getting distracted by a world gone mad? How do I create the space necessary to accomplish what is really important to me?

Here are some effectiveness-enhancing ideas from Hyatt’s writings:

  1. Eliminate the word “try” from your vocabulary. Either decide to do something or don’t do it. “Try” is a cop-out word that makes you feel like you’re doing something when you’re really not.

  2. Don’t complain about others. The people who hear you won’t think less of them; they’ll think less of you.

  3. The secret to achieving more is not managing your time. It’s managing yourself and your energy. Time can’t be expanded. Energy can.

  4. Take naps. DaVinci, Einstein, Edison, Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, JFK and Reagan all did. Less than thirty minutes in the early afternoon will focus you for the balance. Pick a place that works for you: an empty office, your car, a janitor’s closet. Hyatt gives plenty of research to support the practice.

  5. Remember the Big Three: diet, sleep, exercise. These are often the first to go when we get overwhelmed. Reality is: if you snooze, you don’t lose. Along with sound nutrition and mind-clearing exercise, rest resets you physically and emotionally.

  6. Become a morning person. Slay the three-headed dragon Lethargy. Attack its spiritual head (Pneuma) with Scripture reading, its physical head (Soma) with exercise and its intellectual head (Nous) with thought-provoking audio books.

  7. Guard your time. Hyatt quotes first century philosopher Seneca. “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”

  8. Constantly move to-do list items to your calendar.

  9. Make appointments with yourself. Then, when someone asks to encroach on your time, you can honestly say you are committed – to the things that are most important.

  10. Disconnect from the web. Respond to emails and phone calls 2 or 3 times a day, not constantly all day long, so you can focus large blocks of time on your core work.

  11. Triage your activity. In emergency medicine, there are three possibilities for every case (hence, the tri- in triage) :

(A) survival without medical attention;

(B) death even with attention; and

(C) survival with proper attention.

Medical professionals focus on Category C. It’s the same with our priorities. Some will save themselves and some aren’t worth saving. So, elevate those that will make a significant difference if given proper focus.

  1. Say no more. Discover the positive impact of a negative word. Saying “no” is really about saying “yes” to what matters most.

Kevin Thompson writes for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Reading the Economic Trump Cards

If the unemployment rate really was 4.9%, Donald Trump would never have been elected, says economist Gary Shilling. He puts the actual unemployment rate at 13% considering disenfranchised workers who have dropped out of the workforce.

Trump rode to an unlikely victory largely on the backs of middle-aged midwesterners whose earning and purchasing powers have eroded in an age of globalization and automation.

The economy drove the election, not racism or misogyny as some Democrat post-mortems claim. After years of tepid growth under heavy Obama regulation, voters had simply had enough.

As markets, businesses and taxpayers now look to see what Trump campaign bluster passes governing muster, four categories are worth watching:

1. Spending – Twenty trillion dollars in existing federal debt haven’t stopped Trump from calling for sizeable infrastructure spending. Why would it? The man has spent a career building huge projects with other people’s money.

Markets have responded to Trump’s trillion dollar infrastructure plan. The prospect of stimulus spending on border walls, roads, bridges and the military has pushed up construction-related and other stocks.

Despite the wishes of fiscal conservatives who supported him, President Trump will not likely shrink the federal government or its massive debt.  He may push through fiscal stimulus with Democrat support and tax cuts with Republican support.

2. Taxes – Trump’s tax plan calls for slashing personal tax rates from 40% to 33% and corporate rates from 35% to 15%. Changes to deduction rules will accompany the cuts. According to Trump’s pick for Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, only middle class taxpayers will benefit. Upper income earners will see a wash.

This view seems to acknowledge there won’t be enough savings from closing deduction loopholes – or enough expansion of the tax base through economic growth – to keep from deepening the deficit. According to Tax Policy Center, the top 1% of taxpayers account for almost 30% of tax revenues. That’s a big nut to crack.

3. Trade – Trump’s fightin’ words on trade will likely turn out to be more tweet than bite. He has backed away from tariffs on Mexican and Asian goods. Instead, he may use the promise of future tax cuts and the threat of lost government contracts to retain industrial jobs, as he did with Carrier air conditioners in December. That negotiation saved about 1,000 jobs.

By contrast, goods exported to Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement help support 1,000,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Economist Ray Perryman estimates the four U.S. states that border Mexico and the six Mexican states that border the U.S. equal the world’s fifth largest economy. NAFTA is critical to our region.

Trump still wants to forego the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pending Asian free trade agreement. But his protectionist rhetoric will likely subside as the benefits of globalization and technology outweigh their collateral damage.

4. Regulations – Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation and environmental orders have stifled business expansion and job growth.

For example, some companies, dubbed “Forty-niners,” have purposely stayed below fifty employees to avoid additional requirements of Obamacare. Local banks are subject to the same labor intensive portfolio stress testing as their too-big-to-fail counterparts. Between Trump executive orders and swift actions by a Republican congress, regulatory burdens should ease.

***

As for other macroeconomic signals, banking consultant Ed Krei predicts rates will remain low for an extended time despite likely Federal Reserve short-term rate increases in 2017. He believes we will face a mild recession in 2018 as China and Europe drag down growth.

By then, we would be almost ten years into the present recovery, long after pent-up consumer demand for big ticket items has run its course. On the other hand, Krei notes that housing starts, which have flattened this year in Kendall County, are only half their national high water mark from 2006.

Dr. Perryman believes we will likely see market volatility. He notes the swings after the populist-driven Brexit vote last summer and expects wider swings here since our economy is eight times the size of Britain’s.

Given the volatile nature of the man in the White House, Perryman is probably onto something. If so, hang on for the ride.

Dickens on Gain

Charles Dickens knew need. His father could hold down a job in 1820s Victorian England, but he couldn’t hold onto money.

After selling family possessions to pay debts, the elder Dickens sent twelve-year-old Charles to work in a shoe polish factory. The adolescent labored twelve hour days, six days a week.

The entire Dickens family landed in debtors’ prison, a peak of humiliation for the future literary giant. Eventually, an inheritance from a passed grandmother returned Charles to formal schooling.

But, as biographer Henry Vittum observes, “the experience left a mark on Dickens which a life of immense popularity and great wealth could not erase…His writings bear witness to his interest in the economic and social factors which made such childhood agony possible.”

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a staple of seasonal community theater. It has something for everyone with eyes to see and ears to hear: greed, conflict, horror, reflection, sympathy, redemption, blessing.

As we all recall, the antagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, “was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone…A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching covetous old sinner!”

He was “hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire… solitary as an oyster.”

When Scrooge’s nephew attempts to redirect his humbug attitude, Scrooge asks, “What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

The nephew responds in kind: “Come, then. What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.”

“What else can I be?” retorts Scrooge. “What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, and not an hour richer.”

Christmas time, says the nephew, is “when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

His words fall on long, deaf ears.

And so appears a series of apparitions. First, the ghost of Scrooge’s deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, arrives in chains.

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” explains Marley. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”

Scrooge defends Marley: “You were a good man of business.”

Marley clarifies with remorse, “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business.

“Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”

When the ghost of Christmas past arrives, we see a crack in Scrooge’s shell. The ghost takes Scrooge back in time, to his hometown and to a school yard where a boy sits all alone, neglected.

We are not told explicitly who the boy is, but “Scrooge said he knew it,” Dickens writes. “And he sobbed.”

And that was the turning point.

 

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

The Fasting Paradox

Nothing says gorge like a modern American Thanksgiving. Which makes it a good time to state the not so obvious: Less is more.

Taking a break from something can bring better results than doubling down one’s practice of it. This fact doesn’t sit well with my Protestant work ethic, but I have found it to be true nevertheless.

If it’s true for many of life’s activities, it is certainly true for eating.

Like other spiritual disciplines, fasting is a challenge for contemporary Americans. Among vending machines, convenience stores and “quick service” restaurants, money is the only obstacle between me and a bite when the first growl hits.

And with big food companies’ driving down the cost of high fat, high carb, high calorie consumables, money is less of an obstacle than ever.

To quote the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippian church, my god is often in my stomach. As long as it’s full, I don’t have to confront the underlying pain and unrest of my own soul.

Hence, the invitation to fast. Author Richard Foster notes that in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus didn’t say “if” but “when” you fast.

Saying no to constant physical comfort means saying yes to much more. When we fast, longings surface, misplaced priorities get exposed and self-control builds.

“Human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting helps keep them in their proper channels,” Foster wrote in Celebration of Discipline.

When one fasts, he depends on a higher source for a livelihood he can’t deliver with his own grasping hands.

In fasting, there is release. We release control of the things that are actually controlling us. We find real freedom that’s different from the first world freedom to snack at a moment’s notice.

The Apostle Peter helps us navigate the bounty around us: “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.”

For the spiritual, Foster says fasting is not just abstaining; it’s actually feasting on the word of God.

For the secular, a periodic break for a hard working digestive system certainly benefits the human body. Nutrition supplement stores offer various cleansing aids to maximize the gastrointestinal advantages of a fast.

Of course, fasting from food is one of many potential fasts. We should probably fast from anything we believe, deep down, we can’t live without. Taking breaks from media, telephones, advertising, our consumer culture – all these would do our souls well.

Saying “no” to Sunday Night Football or Monday Night Football or Thursday Night Football might lead to saying yes to a more fulfilling pastime, or at least some stronger relationships. Likewise, foregoing a “can’t miss” sale may spark a more special homespun gift idea.

Please hear me: Thanksgiving Day is not the time to fast from food or football. But it is a good time to contemplate a long lost practice.

Though esoteric today, fasting was not always so uncommon. In fact, it was once prominent enough to name one of our three daily meals for it: break-fast.

Perhaps it’s time to give fasting a seat at the table again. Happy Thanksgiving.


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