Diseases of the Workplace

What Kills a Business Culture?

Out of the top things that stress out people the most, work and finances are in the top three. The other is anxiety about the future, but I think most of that anxiety, if really investigated, could be traced back to unhappiness with work or finances. As a business owner and former employee of various industries, I have seen firsthand how stressful the workplace can be. In my experience, very few people are actually satisfied with their workplace and much of their dissatisfaction comes from the culture of the business itself. A business is really only made up of two things—people and a culture. Both affect each other. People create the culture, but the culture can change if people’s attitudes change or new people are brought into the culture. With that in mind, here are the biggest diseases that will destroy a business culture and lead to a decline in sales and happiness amongst staff.

Habituation—Do you remember what it was like to drive a car for the first time? Were you nervous? Did you check your mirrors multiple times and turn down the stereo so you could focus? When you first undertake something, a good amount of attention and action is required to perform the task. However, after we get used to doing an activity over and over, less effort is required. This is called habituation. Now, you may drive with one hand on the wheel, another on a cup of coffee while the stereo is blasting. What used to be hard and required intense focus is now somewhat easy and less focus is given. The problem is that over time, habituation can lead to a degradation of the quality of the business systems and culture.

Consider this—a new hire is likely to perform to his or her best ability and take an active interest in learning the job. After a while, however, as the employee becomes used to the job the attention to detail and willingness to learn and grow often decline. Whereas a new hire may go the extra mile to impress others, the employee who has been on the job a while will likely not be looking for an opportunity to go the extra mile. The new hire will pick up the dust ball in the corner because they see it does not belong. After time, the old employee will not even notice the dust ball. They have become habituated to the job.

“Not my job” disease—This may be the worst and most common of them all. I would venture to say every workplace I’ve ever been a part of has a fair share of employees who do not even try to help our their coworkers or employers because they consider a certain task to not be in their job description. Not only are these people not willing to go the extra mile to help out, they won’t even go the first mile. The person who only does the bare minimum to keep their job destroys the culture because the attitude is infectious. Soon, others will say the same thing. What these people do not realize is that a business is like a ship—if things are going well, the ship can hold extra personnel and cargo for a time. But, if things begin to turn downward, only the people who are absolutely necessary to the survival of the ship will be a part of the crew. Those who consistently refuse to go the extra mile to help out the crew will be among the first to be let go.

Staff doesn’t know the mission—Why does the business exist and what is the mission of the business? These two questions must be answered very clearly by the ownership and every single associate of the business must understand the answers so clearly that they can repeat the answers with confidence. If the staff does not understand why the business exists or what the mission is, they cannot be in alignment with it and that will lead to dysfunction in the systems and operations of the enterprise. You would be surprised how many employees do not know what their place of employment actually does or why it is important. Every single staff member must understand and believe in the mission of the company to create unity, harmony and a positive working culture. Without alignment on the mission, the business is doomed and the workplace culture will reflect that.

Lack of communication from all levels—Communication is key to any enterprise, relationship or any other undertaking. It’s vitally important that every person in an organization is able to properly communicate with other coworkers, management and ownership. So many organizations have staff that don’t speak to each other or even resent other individuals in the business. If there is a lack of communication in the workplace, basic functions of the organization will not be able to be carried out properly. Moreover, mistakes will not be caught or voiced to ensure that systems are put in place to keep the problems from occurring again.

Perhaps the most important reason for great communication is that people thrive when they feel they are a part of something special. They need to be reminded what the mission is, what needs to be done, how it should be done, who needs to do it and why it is important that tasks are accomplished. Much like a relationship, all parties need to feel like there is an open line of communication so that growth can occur, both for the individuals and the company as a while. Without it, employees will begin to resent the business and other staff and the business will suffer.

No focus on harmony—I’ve written previously about the importance of harmony in a relationship and a workplace. I’m a strong believer that harmony among all associates in a business is necessary for a happy workplace. If discord or animosity exists even among a few employees, it will quickly sweep through the entire organization like a virus. Soon, the happiest, most productive people will find themselves subject to the unhappy that comes with a lack of harmony. It should be that we all strive to work together with each other to achieve a common goal or mission. To do this, harmony is required. Watch out for people with negative mental attitudes. They will destroy a culture and kill a business. My advice would be to look closely at your own actions and beliefs to make sure that you are not the one guilty of a negative mental attitude. Hint: if you believe that everyone else at the job sucks except you, you’re probably the one guilty of spreading negativity and ruining the harmony in the workplace.

Not enough focus on growth—Nature requires growth from every living thing. If you are not growing, you are vulnerable. If a relationship is not growing, it’s declining. The same is true with business. If a business is not growing, it may as well be dying. Inflation and competition will eat away as a stagnant business until there is nothing left. Growth is required to thrive, and every associate in a business must understand this concept. Considerable attention must be given to acquiring new customers, not just keeping the ones you have. All growth comes from new customer acquisition and the future referrals from them. Growth focus looks like this: New Customer Acquisition—> Deliver Incredible Service—> Referrals. The cycle then repeats. If every associate is not focusing on this cycle there will be stagnation in the business and that will lead to dissatisfaction and disappointment in the workplace. People need to feel like the future is going to be better than the past. Progress equals happiness. Growth equals excitement and energy. Stagnation leads to boredom and a lack of care. The culture of a company must have a focus on growth in order to succeed.

“I’m the only good worker” disease—This belief is so common and so deadly in a workplace culture. In life, it’s easy to believe that we are all the stars of our own movie and every else in our life is just a supporting role. Although it may certainly feel like you are the “good guy” and everyone else isn’t the real star, this type of thinking can quickly lead to the belief that no one else cares, or that you are the only one who does a good job. If you think poorly of your co-workers, not only does this suggest a lack of harmony is present in your workplace, it also suggests that you have a negative attitude towards others. If you are truly the best worker in your business, your efforts should be to help everyone else where you are able, not speak poorly of them or their work ethic.   If you are a leader or an influencer in an organization, this is especially important. People should look to you for leadership and guidance on how to improve and be better. This will not happen, however, if you bash others as being inadequate or poor performers. Instead, they will come to resent you and that will lead to more discord in the workplace.

There you have it. There are, of course, other attitudes and behaviors that will destroy a workplace culture, but these are the most important to recognize and correct. At the end of the day, a workplace culture can be as great or as poor as the people who comprise it want it to be. If you want to be a part of an incredible workplace, make sure it does not suffer from the above listed problems. Moreover, make sure that you are not guilty of the attitudes listed.

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Communication 101

There’s a popular book by John C Maxwell named Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. After reading it, and from my experience in the marketplace, nearly 15 years, I’m convinced that most people are not communicating well, although they think they are. In fact, I would break down all communication into three categories, which I will explain below. I believe that most people never truly make it beyond the first category. My belief is easily supported by the lack of harmony in the workplace, governments, and even in partnerships and marriages. Perhaps the hardest thing in life is to effectively communicate so that others not only understand what you are saying, but can logically and maybe even emotionally connect with what is said and take action. Let’s explore what I believe are the three levels of communication:

SAYING SOMETHING. This is the most basic level of communication. We all say things through speaking, writing, signing or some other form of communication. Unfortunately, much of what we say is not necessarily heard, read, or seen, and much less is fully understood by our intended recipients. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve asked a manager about some unfinished task or some other issue and was met with the reply, “I told him or her to do it…”. Therein lies the problem—just because something was said, does not mean that the message was understood well and acted upon. I believe most communication falls within this first category—things are said, memos are written, laws are signed, but they are not effectively communicated so that the recipient truly understands the message.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION. This level of communication occurs when a message is properly understood by the intended recipients and can be repeated back essentially verbatim to the person who originated the message. I rarely see this in relationships or companies anymore. We are so distracted by smart devices and screens in our cars, kitchens and even bathrooms that it is difficult to understand what is being communicated to us and even more difficult to understand the messages being conveyed. Moreover, often the message being communicated doesn’t effectively state why the intended recipient should pay attention to the message. Too often we ask people to do things without explaining exactly why it is important that they do it. Without a sense of importance, no message will be effectively communicated.

CONNECTION. This is the ideal in regards to communication. Connection goes beyond just speaking and effectively communicating, it creates an emotional response in the recipient that causes him or her to reflect on what is being said and possibly take action. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Socrates, Winston Churchill, Ayn Rand, Ralph W. Emerson and even Karl Marx and Hitler went beyond speaking to and communicating with people, they all connected with and influenced people on a high level. The ultimate goal of any leader is to connect with people. I believe this is the reason leadership is so difficult. It’s very difficult to actually connect with people on a high level. It’s easy to “say something” or even have your message understood. Connection is hard.

When you are speaking, writing or engaging in any form of communication, it may be useful to ask yourself, “What level of communication am I engaging in?” It could very well be that you think you are connecting with an audience, when in reality you are merely speaking, and what is being said is just as easily being ignored. It’s difficult to connect, especially in our very distracted world but connection is the key to building real relationships and creating massive action. Connection is the ideal when communicating, although it is rarely achieved. My suggestion would be to work on effectively communicating so that your recipients actually understand what you are saying and why you are saying it. Too many words are wasted nowadays. Don’t let your words be wasted as well!

Being World-Class

What it Takes to be World-Class

Being a business owner for more than a decade, I have been forced to become a student of the marketplace. It’s my opinion that the only businesses that will continue to thrive in the coming years are those who are determined to be world-class. Not just good or even great, but only world-class organizations will be able to navigate the rapidly changing and volatile business climate. Unfortunately, good enough will not cut it the way it used to in generations past. Technology has vastly improved our lives, but it has also created increased competition in the work place and removed many of the boundaries and limitations businesses have, leading to more businesses being able to compete in a global marketplace. Businesses who compete in a crowded marketplace will all eventually reach the same fate unless they are able to break out and become world-class. What follows is what I believe makes a company (or an individual) world-class:

  1. Inspire a feeling in people–World-class companies inspire certain feelings in others. It’s as if there is something special the company does, and other people want to be a part of what is special. A world-class company has no problem finding great people to join the organization because great people want to be around other great people. Think about world-class companies–Apple, Disney, Lego, Rolex, Ferrari, for example–all of these can be associated with some special feeling. The best companies make people feel special about buying their product or being part of their team. They inspire a sense of pride.

 

  1. Obsess about being the best at only a few key things–World-class companies and individuals understand that in order to be the best in the game, their focus has to be on being the best and doing what it takes to achieve that distinction. World-class performers know that only the best get recognized and acknowledged long-term. For world-class companies, it’s about leaving a legacy and only being one of the best companies will ensure that. The key is to only focus on the things you can be world-class at and not be distracted by those you cannot.

 

  1. Work to be better all the time–The best understand they must constantly work to improve or they will not be the best for long. For people, progress equals happiness and the same goes for companies. For world-class companies, making progress is a necessity.

 

  1. Fixing and anticipating problems before they arise–Problems are a part of life and business. The longer you live or stay in business, new problems will arise that will force you to grow and adapt. World-class companies differ in that they are able to anticipate problems before they occur because they have fully thought through and tested their ideas. If problems do occur, world-class performers are quick to make it right for the client.

 

  1. Almost anyone would recognize its greatness–This almost goes without saying. World-class and greatness are almost synonymous. It’s worth repeating that the greatest companies and performers are recognized by others outside the industry as being world-class. The reputation of world-class companies is important to uphold.

 

  1. People talk about the high quality and refer others without hesitation–Great companies make it exceptionally easily for clients to refer them to others. World-class companies’ products are like a status symbol. Having the product or service means something, and stands for something.

 

  1. Paying attention to details–The gardeners at Disneyland are meticulous about exactly how they plant the flowers and which way the plants are facing. The janitors, also known as Cast Members, are careful to pick up trash and clean spills immediately. They take pride in making the clients experience a special one. This happens by paying attention to detail. The beautiful wrapping of an Apple product illicits a special feeling in the customer because they understand the company they are doing business with is paying attention to detail. When a car’s upholstery is hand stitched, the same attention to detail allows the business’ driver to take pride in doing business with them. Clients of world-class companies are happy to do business with them. This matters a great deal because the client knows if the company can pay attention to detail, they will pay attention to them as a person, even care about them! Focusing on details as well as the overall picture is what separates the merely good from the world-class.

 

I’ve struggled to move up from being good or great at certain things to world-class. Like many things in life, even if you have a roadmap on how to get somewhere, it can be exceptionally difficult to actually get there. In fact, most just look at the arduous journey and never take the first step. Still, others try for a while and then move on to something else or settle for “good enough.” My sincere desire is that everyone become world-class at one thing in their live; a world-class parent, athlete, student, philosopher, teacher, salesperson, employer, employee, CEO, speaker, actor–anything that helps other people. I think we should all strive to be world-class at whatever we do. After all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and world-class companies do it right more often than not.

In Heath,

Sean

Secrets…

Why Secrets Matter

“The best entrepreneurs know this; every great business is built around a secret that’s hidden from the outside. A great company is a conspiracy to change the world; when you share your secret, the recipient becomes a fellow conspirator.” – Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of PayPal)

The best business are based on secrets. In other words, they start out to work on problems that no one else is working on or talking about. Think about Google; they saw there was a lack of efficiency in searching the internet. Their “secret” was that internet searches could be extremely relevant, even to the point Google could predict what you were searching for. Google is now essentially a monopoly for internet search. With electricity it was Benjamin Franklin and then Edison and Tesla who sought to uncover the secret force of electricity. Ford’s secret was to make automobiles available and affordable for every family. Alexander Fleming’s secret was to uncover and defeat deadly bacteria that claimed so many lives. His discovery was Penicillin and many millions of lives have been saved through this and similar drugs.

The uncovering of these secrets led to giant industries that have transformed life as we know it today. The people behind these giant companies would not have succeeded if they had simply tried to do what others were already doing. Most people and companies set out to do something slightly better than those around them. This is essentially copying what others are doing with the intention of doing it just a little bit better or faster, or less expensive. The problem with competing like this is that it’s very hard to build a truly great and lasting business if so many others are able to do what you are doing. The opposite of this would be to set out building a monopoly company- one that is working on solving the problems that no one else is. The uncovering of secrets will lead to incredible value for mankind. Focussing on secrets will also lead to a lasting company because no one else is really working to uncover what you are.

Two Types of Secrets
In his book Zero to One, Peter Thiel suggests there are two types of secrets to uncover: those about people and those about nature. Many believe that most secrets in nature have been discovered, but that’s not true at all. For instance, why does all matter vibrate? Why do people develop auto-immune disease? Why do we our cells have to age and deteriorate? There are many secrets in nature that need to be uncovered. There are perhaps even more secrets about people that need to be examined. For example, why are some people prone to violence? Why do a majority of marriages end in divorce? Why do people get married in the first place? Why do we find it necessary to lie in order to avoid discomfort? Why do some people succeed in their goals while others give up and quit? I’m sure that you can come up with come secrets as well. The main takeaway here is that secrets matter a great deal because working on them will lead to new technologies and innovations that will improve life for all mankind.

A secret by definition is keeping something hidden or unexplained. We can find secrets by asking, “what is nature not telling us?” Or, “what are people not telling us?” So what secrets are you working to uncover? You may just change the world for the better by solving a major problem for humanity. There are secrets all around us and they are possible to solve, we just have to know where to look for them and truly believe they are possible to solve. Sometimes we assume that others must be working on a problem because it seems so obvious or important. To that I would say that if you don’t believe you will discover the answer to a secret in nature or in people, you won’t! You will fulfill your own prophecy that you can’t solve it, or you shouldn’t bother because someone else “must” be working on it already. Maybe someone else is working on the problem, but it could be that you have the very insight needed to solve the problem. Do you want to change the world? Look for secrets. They are everywhere.  If you are working on secrets you might just create something new for mankind to use.  If you are working on what everyone else is, you will end up competing for the same slice of the pie…
In health,
Sean

33 Lessons I’ve Learned

33 Lessons:

Tomorrow I turn 33 years old. So, here is a lesson for every year that I have learned and find valuable enough to share with all of you.

-Think about business from a customer centric angle to find insight.
-Save money. At least 20%. if you don’t, you’ll be at the mercy of those that did save.
-When you first date someone, you’d do anything for them including rubbing their feet and taking out the trash. Don’t lose that if you want a lasting relationship.
-Don’t always react immediately. Acting without thinking is usually worse than not acting.
– Don’t let fear drive you. Life is scary. If you want security, go to a mental ward. They’ll take care of you.
– All government is force. It is a monopoly on violence. Nothing more, nothing less.
– You and I owe to each other to look out for our common good. But I have no right to rob another because I believe I can use their property better than they can. (That’s called taxation)
– Read to your children and spend most of your days with them.
– Only you can teach yourself. Others can provide information, but you must do the learning.
-Read at least a book a month to ensure a better future.
– Work harder on yourself than you do on your job and you’ll get better at both.
– You are not poor because someone else is rich.
– Don’t wait to be wealthy;start helping others today.
– You don’t know everything. But God(the Universe if you prefer) does, so it might be wise to ask for guidance.
– Treat everything as if it was the last time you will see it. You quality of life will improve dramatically.
-Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. Mark 4:25. ( This is talking about gratitude)
– Crap attracts flies. Don’t have crappy thoughts.
-Music makes life fulfilled in every way. It makes your mind vibrate at higher frequencies and attracts love to you.
– Your success will always reflect the standards of your peer group.
– Start everyday by writing down ten things you’re grateful for.
– The quality of your life will be determined by how comfortable you are with uncertainty (risk).
– You are not a goose. You don’t have to fly south during winter. Choose your own direction.
-Carbohydrates make you fat because of insulin. Earn your carbs. Don’t just eat them without training to use them.
– You can change your attitude by changing your state. Do some push-ups or train to operate at a higher level.
-Most people believe they desire Liberty, but sell themselves into a slave- like existence for false security or because of a lack of creativity.
– Skip a meal once in a while, it can help you feel better and get in touch with yourself.
– Any disease can be defeated if the reasons behind beating it are strong enough and the mind believes it can be done.
– If you want a great life focus on appreciation instead of expectation.
– Use your money to buy assets that produce income and not liabilities.
– Energy is something you produce, not something you have.
– The quality of your life is determined by your philosophy towards life.
– Disciplines are the keys to success in any area. The first discipline to learn is controlling your thoughts.

-You become the story you tell yourself. To change your life, start telling yourself a different story that serves you.

In Health,

Sean

Business and Finance 101

Get Your Money Right!

I’ve had a large number of requests to write about business and personal finance. So many thousands of books and essays have been written on these subjects that I feel it will be difficult for me to add much more. However, I will cover a few crucial areas that I believe most businesses and households neglect when it comes to managing finances. The subject of money is often stressful, so I understand the temptation to avoid looking at your bank account and just praying that it will all be ok. Every time I get hit with a huge tax, fee, rent increase or my businesses have a lousy month for revenues I feel the stress as well. However, if it’s one thing I’ve learned, pretending it will all be okay without any strategy or action to back it up is useless. As Jim Rohn liked to say, “You can’t go in your garden and chant ‘there’s no weeds’!” The weeds will grow right up over your toes if you don’t recognize them and pull them out. So, here are the areas I think most households and businesses should pay attention to on a weekly basis:

1. Cashflows and income. It’s absolutely imperative that you track your income regularly. If you are in business, this will help you identify trends throughout the year and allow you to plan accordingly. If you get paid a paycheck once or twice a month, count that too. Make sure that you’re netting the correct amount. I can’t even tell you how many people I come across that don’t know how much was in their last paycheck. The same goes for business. Most small business people I know don’t know how much they made last month! They just keep grinding, spinning their wheels and getting nowhere! I’m asking you to keep track of the amount of money coming in on at least a weekly basis. If you only get one paycheck monthly, try to increase your streams of income so that you are getting paid multiple times a month from different sources.

2. Expenses. How much does it cost to run your business every month? How much does your family spend monthly? From my experience, the majority of people sorely underestimate their monthly expenses. Every business and individual should have a very detailed breakdown of every single category in which money was spent. Once you see how much you are actually spending, I guarantee it will be eye opening. When it’s all said and done, how much money did you have left over at the end of the month? Everything else was an expense that needs to be accounted for. If you had a little too much “month left at the end of the money” so to speak, it’s time to cut back your expenses and try to simultaneously to increase your income. If you can do both, you have discovered the fastest way to becoming financially free.

3. Know your numbers and what they mean. TRACK EVERYTHING!!!! This is the area that most businesses are neglecting. For example: what are your payroll hours as a percentage of revenues? What about rents as a percentage of revenues? What is the lifetime value of a new customer? How much new revenue does a new client produce in their first transaction? How much revenue does each billable payroll hour produce? What are the total costs per operating hour in your business? How much net revenues or expendable income are you left with at the end of the month? What is your best quarter for growth historically? How much are your COGS, or Costs of Goods Sold? You must know the answers to these questions and more if you want your business to succeed for longer than just a few years.

4. Work on your business and not in your business. If your business depends on your daily efforts to succeed, you are self-employed. You do not actually own a business. There’s nothing wrong with that either, just don’t be fooled into believing that you are an entrepreneur when you’re really working 80 hours a week and only making a few thousand a month. You may just be the lowest paid employee in your business. A true business owner spends most of his or her time reading market trends, strategizing, optimizing systems and making sure the business follows the regulatory and tax requirements. If the owner is not present, the business should still function well. The owner simply works to optimize the profits and expansion of the company and then decides how best to spend or reinvest the profits.

5. For households, follow the 70-10-10-10 RULE. When you determine your monthly profits or wages, never spend more than 70% of the money you earn. This includes all expenses like housing, cars, insurance, food and entertainment. 10% of your left over money should go to active capital, or starting your own business, which will produce additional monthly income. 10% of your income should go passive capital, or an investment run by others that will produce monthly passive income. The last 10% should go to charity or helping others that you care about. I strongly believe in this last one because the secret to living is truly giving. Helping others succeed will result in you doing even better. What goes around comes around and when you help others, you will reap the benefits. (If your monthly expenses are taking up more than 70% of your income currently, work immediately to reduce your expenses and increase your income. Eventually, as your income increases greatly, your expenses may only by 50%, leaving you with more to invest in businesses and spend more on helping others.

6. Know how much it costs to acquire a new customer. Track your marketing ROI, or Return on Investment. Many companies with advertising budgets are not properly tracking the lifetime value of a client, the efficacy of their marketing, or the total cost that goes into acquiring a new customer. I have made this mistake many times. I’ve spent hundreds of thousand on marketing without calculating my exact return from the ads. My new rule is that if I spend one dollar in advertising, it must produce more than a dollar in revenue in the first month. Other companies use a longer time frame as their metric depending on what they sell, but this rule has helping me control my marketing costs significantly. I also focus as much as possible on direct marketing so I can track who is engaging with an advertisement and then I can subsequently track what marketing pieces led to new clients. Another cost associated with new customer acquisition is the payroll hours it takes to call prospects and past clients, and the creation of media (such as signage inside and outside the business), etc. Just be sure to track all costs associated with new customer acquisition. As a general rule, the companies that can afford to spend the most to acquire a new customer and then have that customer produce higher than market average revenues for the business will win!

7. Love the business you are in, but fall in love with the customers more. Business is hard, so it helps greatly if you are passionate about the business you are in. I love health and fitness and bodybuilding, so this is easy for me. But I’ve learned that companies do best obsess over their customers, rather than the products or services they produce. Customers are the ones who pay all the bills at the end of the day. They are the real bosses. Every one needs to feel special or significant, so if a company can solve a problem with their products while making the customer feel special, they will do better than companies who do not.

8. Know the difference between good and bad debt. We live in a debtor nation. The country itself has a 20 trillion dollar federal debt and household debt is at record levels. Debt cycles are the reason for booms and busts in economies and a business or family that takes on too much debt will face significant financial hardships. However, there is a difference between consumer debt and business debt. The latter is a type of debt that produces income and is paid for by others. For instance, if I take out a mortgage to buy and apartment complex that produces cashflow, the tenants are paying for that debt. I am using the debt to create profit. This is called leverage and can be a good thing if used wisely. Consumer debt on the other hand is debt that is paid by the debtor. This includes home mortgages, student loans and auto loans as well as most credit card debt that we are familiar with. Do not let debt sink you or your business!!!! Go back to the 70-10-10-10 rule and see how much of your monthly expenses are debt service, or paying back money you’ve already spent.

There are so many more business lessons, but I think these eight rules are a great start for any business owner or head of the household. I’m hoping any of these tips will lead to financial abundance for you and your family for many years to come.

In health and riches,

Sean

A Warning

How the Economy Works

Americans are not taught enough at young age about how money and the economy works. It’s an uncomfortable subject and most believe it’s impolite to talk about money. So, we go on through life not fully understanding the subject of finance or how succeed in accumulating wealth. Most of what I know, I had to learn through trial and error as well as reading about how ultra wealthy people think and act. Unfortunately, despite volumes of literature having been written about the subject, most people consider economics a boring and complicated issue that should be left to the experts. I feel the need to dispel some myths about economics so a better understanding can be reached about where we stand economically today.

Myth 1. The economy is complicated. This is false. An economy is simply the sum total of all the transactions that take place in a given market. Everything can be boiled down the basics, the broad economy is nothing more than individuals trading goods and services for something they deem more valuable than what they are trading. If people are spending less, the economy slows. If people spend more, it expands.

Myth 2. Savings doesn’t matter. We are told to save money at a young age, but if you look at the pundits on television talk about the health of the economy, rarely do they refer to how much a family has stashed away for savings. Instead, they talk about consumer spending. Now, spending is an important indicator of economic health, but so is savings because savings is a measure or future investment and spending. If you are saving your money, it’s because you intend to spend it at a future date for something you need at that time. If you are not saving, you are limiting your ability to spend money in the future, instead opting to spend it now. Savings is one factor that leads to the creation of new capital investments and businesses. If the savings rate is low, this is an indicator the future business creation may slow.

Myth 3. All debt is bad. This is wrong and it keeps people from thinking and expanding in a big way. Most big companies use leverage, (debt) as a way to expand business and income. There are two types of debt, consumer and business. Consumer debt can be bad because generally we are using it to buy goods and services that do not produce future income. Business debt can be good if it is used to produce future income.

Myth 4. People spend based on how much money they have. This is wrong. The ability to spend and the total economy is based on two things; income and the credit (debt). You can buy things with cash, or with credit, which is a future promise that you will pay. The biggest indicator is how people will spend is based on their available credit. Unfortunately, people buy things based on what they believe their future income will be, not what they make now. So, they use credit to buy things that don’t produce income. Eventually when the bills come due, if their income has not gone up enough to cover the new debt plus interest, the person has to default on their credit payments. The company that holds the debt must now take a loss of income and subsequently reduce the amount of credit to consumers. If this happens on a large scale with many people, the reduction of credit will lead to less available purchasing power and less transactions in the economy. Less transactions leads to a slow down in the economy, job losses because companies are selling less and often a reduction in pricing of products.

Myth 5. Wealth is money. False. Wealth is an increase in production and output. If you have a farm and are able to collect twice as much crop as the year prior, you have increased your wealth. People think that the government can just print money to take care of all debt and economic problems. If this were true, we could just all quit our jobs and have the government give us money. Obviously, this cannot happen or basic services necessary to living would never get accomplished. Moreover, an increase in the money supply, if credit levels are still high, without a corresponding increase in the production of goods can lead to an inflation in pricing. In other words, the ability of your money to buy products and services is reduced as more money enters the economy.

Where We Stand Today

At the time of this writing, household debt and government debt has reached record levels. (1.06 trillion for consumer credit card debt, 1.5 trillion in student loans and a total of 18 trillion if we include personal mortgage debt). Government debt has also reached a record 20.6 trillion largely due to unfunded liabilities such as pensions, MediCare and Social Security. The average cash savings of the typical American family is less than $1000 dollar. Nearly 40 percent of families have no cash savings at all, meaning the ability for these families to make future purchases is significantly reduced unless their income expands greatly. Already, auto loan defaults, student loan defaults and credit card defaults are on the high and expected to reach higher levels. In my own businesses, I have seen more credit card declines every month. We have a serious debt problem happening right at the same time the stock market is at an all time high.

What It Means

The American consumer is tapped out as far as their available credit. This likely means that despite all time record level stock prices (which have very little to do with the real economy for most people) their ability to make future purchases will decline, leading to a slowing economy. Of course, no one can predict the future, but if the numbers are any indication, we are at the peak of the debt cycle and what follows will likely be more defaulting on debts and subsequently job loss and a retraction for many businesses. Be warned. Invest in yourself, your skills, your health and save the rest of your money so you can capitalize on lower prices during a downturn. Remember, people always sell things for less when they believe times are bad.

Sorry for the negative note. I’m just trying to be clear on what I see happening so I can help you and your family thrive! If you want a great YouTube video on some of these concepts, look up Ray Dalio’s video on “How The Economic Machine Works.” I promise you’ll learn something.