March 31, 2009

Lessons from "Networking with Millionaires" by Thomas J Stanley

You cannot sell life insurance or financial planning through group of dentists or doctors or anyone else unless they're making money.
---  Dr. Thomas J. Stanley

Have you read The Millionaire Next Door (1996) or The Millionaire Mind (2000)? Then you've heard of Dr. Thomas J. Stanley. Guess what the recording Networking with Millionaires (2001) is about? This title provides practical ideas you can use. Some suggestions feels dated. You won't find mentions of email, the Internet or today's greater privacy concerns. I'll add some updates

Zig Ziglar says "You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." 

What do your clients want?

What Clients Want
Revenue enhancement. That's #1 needs for small business owners (the bulk of the millionaires). 

Tom notes that the self-employed feel alone in a tumultuous world. Unlike you, they may not know how to market. Think of professionals like doctors, dentists, engineers, lawyers and accountants. Since you can sell, you help them sell. You benefit through reciprocity, the first universal principle of influence.

Helping Others
People see you at your best when you're helping charitable causes.
---  Dr. Thomas J. Stanley
When you do good for others, you look good too. Maybe you're great at negotiating and your client isn't. Can you negotiate a car purchase for them? You can be tougher when you're acting on someone else's behalf (but still letting every party win). 

Say your client wants to move a factory. You can search for movers. You build relationships with movers and enhance your relationship with your client. As you add more suppliers, you become more valuable --- especially if you specialize in an industry. You become the connector in an expanding, profitable universe. These days, you can use LinkedIn to organize and communicate with your network. 

Knowing Your Niche
You can learn more about your targeted niche by reading their trade journals. You can apply for an associate membership in their trade association. You can join committees. Their issues become your issues. 

You can write letters or start petitions when proposed government actions might harm your niche. How many other advisors would do this? These ongoing steps show your commitment to your niche and let you network with influential people.

What Price?
You don't charge for your non-core services. They are simply a bonus or reward for dealing with you. What Seth Godin calls a "free prize". Since you're going well beyond reasonable expectations, you become worth talking about. You become remarkable

You can now get referrals. Be sure your clients know you're looking for more clients. 


March 24, 2009

Tax Worries for Small Business Owners in Canada

You can see a lot by just looking.
--- Yogi Berra

Do you work with small business owners? 

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has oodles of information that you can access at as a nonmember. Knowing the timely concerns of their 105,000 members makes you more credible and your suggestions more relevant.

Statistics Canada reports that overall employment for the year ending in February 2009 fell 1.8%, a loss of 258,000 jobs. 

However, businesses with less than 100 employees grew modestly:
  • 1-19 employees: +0.6% (added 29,700 jobs)
  • 20-99 employees: +0.1% (added 4,700 jobs)
We'll now look at findings from two of the many CFIB surveys. Some questions allowed multiple answers. You'll find links to the reports at the end of this post.

Tax Competitiveness
This survey took place in June 2007 and 7,845 members responded. As you would expect, tax has a big impact.

Taxes Most Affecting Business Growth
The taxes that most affect business growth are
  1. payroll tax (e.g., employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan): 63%
  2. corporate income tax: 54%
  3. property/capital tax: 47%
  4. personal income tax: 43%
  5. sales tax (e.g., GST and provincial): 43%
Tax Reduction Priorities
Priorities for tax reductions are
  1. personal income tax: 67%
  2. fuel tax, other excise tax, duties and tariffs: 61%
  3. corporate income tax: 45%
Use Of Tax Savings
Savings from tax reductions would be used to
  1. invest in new equipment: 66%
  2. pay down debt: 53%
  3. increase employee wages: 53%
  4. hire additional employees: 39%
  5. invest in additional employee training: 32%
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)
This survey took place in April 2008 and 8,271 CFIB members replied.

Service from the CRA over the last three years stayed the same for 70% of respondents, improved for 11% and worsened for 19%. The biggest issues are
  • accessibility of staff
  • readability and simplicity of the information
  • promptness of written responses
Over the last three years, 24% of businesses were visited by a CRA auditor. Here's why
  1. GST: 52%
  2. Income tax (personal and/or corporate): 39%
  3. payroll deductions (e.g., employment insurance): 36%
  4. GST and income tax: 30%
The auditors were rated acceptable or better for overall professionalism, courtesy and knowledge by 82%-86% of respondents.

Over a three year period, businesses spent 69 hours meeting the auditor's requests. 

Cost of Complying
Businesses spend an average of $18,300 complying with tax obligations (federal, provincial and municipal). 

Worth Joining?
There's much more available from CFIB. I''m intrigued by reports on how businesses market and the thorny issue of succession planning. 

Are you a small business owner too? You may want to join. You'll give CFIB a bigger voice and get opportunities to network with other members. 


March 18, 2009

Nicholas Boothman: Creating Your 10 Second Commercial

What do you understand that others don't? What do deliver that others won't?

What's your competitive advantage? What's your unique selling proposition? What makes you remarkable? 

Tough --- but important --- questions. Once you discover the answers, how do you convey what you do to others? In an "elevator speech"? A soundbite? A tagline?  

In a scripted 10 second commercial. 

This is one of the many practical ideas from Nicholas Boothman in How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less. As a former photographer for fashion and advertising, Nicholas knows about clear, concise communication.  

Free Airtime
Aren't commercials expensive? Not this time. You're the creator. Airtime is free: you deliver your commercial live. To audiences as small as one person. You can certainly record your creation but that's not necessary.

The Components Of Your Commercial
Your 10 second commercial answers three questions:
  1. What do you do?
  2. Who do you serve?
  3. How does what you do make your clients' lives better? [benefits]
What difference do you make? What's important to your customers? What do they want? What do you do for them?

Crafting your commercial takes time to draft and revise. What you think you understand & deliver may differ from what your clients think you understand & deliver. For example, you may think you're selling a car when your customer thinks they're buying freedom or a Bluetooth phonebooth or a mobile concert hall.  

For months, I've been branding myself as a marketing actuary with a passion for simple. Although concise and challenging stereotypes, this phrase doesn't answer the three questions. In particular, it's not clear why this matters to clients. Here are newer, unpolished works-in-progress
  • I transform financial risk into peace of mind for wealthy Canadians
  • I help turn risk into opportunity for families and business owners
  • I help the wealthy see the rewards beyond risk using actuarial science and business savvy
Other Benefits
Do others have difficulty introducing you? Your short commercial can help your host say what you want to convey from memory. This gives your more control over your branding. Much better than being introduced merely by your corporate title. 

Commercials get repeated to get remembered. You can subtly include your commercial in your presentation several times to achieve a similar result. This also gives your audience an easy way to tell others about you. 

Some commercials make you feel like changing the station as fast as possible. That's why you want your creation to have a hook and a point but no pressure to buy. You'll know you've got a winner when your audience asks you to tell them more.


March 11, 2009

Why Twitter (Finally) Makes Sense For Building Your Business

People would rather follow your footsteps than your advice. 

But if they follow you, aren't they more open to your advice? Since you're an advisor, more followers, closer connections and ongoing contact means more revenue from what Seth Godin calls your tribe.

When we discussed how to create your web presence, I didn't mention Twitter because I didn't see the advantage. Until today.

What's Twitter?
Have you ever sent short text messages from your phone (SMS)? Twitter is similar. Messages can run 140 characters. That's plenty if you're concise. Instead of sending the message (called a "tweet"), you post it online from your phone or computer. Anyone interested can subscribe (unless you're paranoid and restrict access). These "followers" choose how to get informed. 

You can't force anyone to accept your tweets. All followers volunteer. They signup and can unsubscribe any time they want. They can reply too. Rather than an annoying pest, you become a welcome guest. All contact is 100% permission-based. 

Big Deal
What do you say? That was my dilemma. I joined Twitter a few weeks ago, but you won't find much on my channel,  (I couldn't pick my name because all variations were already gone. That's a reason to join sites without delay, even if you're not sure of their value.)

Who would want to receive tweets like these:
  • stopping to get gas
  • having tacos for dinner
  • just took a shower
Not many of you have raised your hands (even those with Twitter accounts). I didn't know what to tweet about. 

Twitter asks one basic question: what are you doing right now? That's the wrong question if you want to create a positive business image. I'm sitting in my jammies writing this post. So what? To get clients, prospects and centres of influence as followers, you need better questions. Like these:
  • what's important to you right now that would interest others?
  • what's got your attention right now that would interest others?
  • what's on your mind right now that would interest others?
I got these ideas today from Twitter: How to Get Started Guide for Business People. Well worth reading. You'll get a thorough overview of Twitter and see how to join. 

Why Use Twitter?
Hit 'em where they ain't. --- Willie Keeler
Do you know (m)any advisors who use Twitter? Me neither. That's a great reason to get started. As you find your voice, tell others and give them the opportunity to subscribe. Be patient and see what grows from the tweets you sow.


March 3, 2009

Create Your Web Presence: Three Easy Steps For Advisors

I still haven't found what I'm looking for --- U2

Where's the first place you look for people, companies, and just about anything? Online. So do your clients and prospects. Can they find you?

You need an online presence to become more successful.

Yet very few advisors have one. Why? Too much work? Too expensive? Too much maintenance? Too many excuses. The process is mostly free and easy enough that you don't need a webmaster or web designer. You won't have prospects buying online but you'll certainly build your credibility.

The Three Steps
Here's what you do
  1. Get on LinkedIn (you can stop here)
  2. Register a web address
  3. Create a website or blog or both

LinkedIn (free)
LinkedIn is a business networking site that grows in value as you complete your profile and add quality contacts. See Get Foundin Linkedin To Keep Growin.

You can set a meaningful web address, such as (you pick the part after the final "/"). You can then publicize this link.

This is an ideal place to show recommendations because visitors can quickly gauge the credibility of the person who vouches for you. There's a whole process for requesting recommendations too.

As a bare minimum, get on LinkedIn. If you know me, we can connect.

Register A Web Address
Register your own name as a web address (domain name) --- if still available. A .COM still has the most cachet. You can stop here and redirect this website address to your LinkedIn address. Better still, you can create your own personal website (like

You can also register other names. Here are some I tried (in order)
  1. poor --- not found when searching for "Spark Insight" ... the words are too common
  2. good --- ranking has increased over time ... thanks to you readers
  3. excellent --- unique ... but can people remember it?
If you don't know where to register a domain name, see what I did in the "Your Personal Website" section.

Create A Website or Blog or Both
Websites are easy to create and edit online if you use a wiki and select pre-defined templates. All changes get tracked and you can undo them. The Wikipedia online encyclopedia is an example. My sites use You can keep your site private until you're ready to show the world. Don't wait for perfection. When you have something reasonable, launch. Make enhancements in small steps as your time allows.

Instead of sending general emails, switch to a blog (or multiple blogs). Emails get lost. Blog posts get archived online and can be found again and again with web searches. People can find you when you're sleeping or on vacation. How great is that? I use Google Blogger. You can keep your blog private while you experiment. You'll quickly see that writing a blog post is much like writing an email. You can send links to your posts by email or you can have articles sent to subscribers automatically using Google Feedburner.

Going Further: Add Tracking
What matters gets measured. What's measured gets better. Except for LinkedIn, you can easily track your visitors in detail using Google Analytics. Here is an example from Riscario Insider. With tracking, you can't fool yourself. You instantly know what works without guessing.

Why Use Google?
Since Google is the leading search engine, using their services probably makes you easier to find. Besides, the services are free, easy to use (a single sign-in), and continuously improved. And ad-free too (though you can easily add ads).

The Real Work
Your real work takes the form of creating content for LinkedIn or your personal website. This is something a web designer can't do as well as you. If you're not comfortable with your writing, at least prepare a draft. Then get a writer you like to edit.

If you start blogging by using content you would normally email, you've got little extra work. You can even create posts by reusing your old emails. For new content with little effort, you can use Google Alerts as your secretary. You can create posts from the interesting links found.

Let clients and prospects find you online. Then encourage them to stay in touch by subscribing to your content. Familiarity breeds business. An online presence breeds credibility.