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    What's Your Unfair Advantage?

    January 6, 2020 3031 Views No comments

    Want to pay less? Sometimes you don’t even have to ask. Sales Force Magazine claims 75% of sales people offer a lower price before it’s ever asked for.

    “Most of us,” says Florida consultant Jaynie Smith, “will buy value if we know what it is.” Value is defined in a company’s competitive advantage, its positioning; how the company values its difference with the competition. This is their “unfair advantage.”

    Smith is one of Vistage International’s top speakers. Smith asks the CEOs who come to hear her to identify their competitive advantage(s). Most suggest items such as “outstanding customer service,” “our people,” or “our quality.”

    Her response? “Blah, blah, blah.” Not quantifiable.

    The question she urges be answered is “why us?” And she suggests that answer be crisp and quantifiable.A magazine ad for Zurich insurance contends their programs are as efficient as a well-run factory, citing “have achieved, on average, a 13% reduction in claims frequency and reduced costs by more than an average of 25%." Perhaps that explains why more than 60% of the manufacturers on the Fortune 1000 list are Zurich customers. Zurich has made clear what its competitive advantages are by quantifying them for the marketplace.

    Smith suggests companies should look for “only statements” about their company –‘only,’ she contends, “provides a competitive advantage.” Examples she offers include, “we are the only company offering xxxx.” Or, “we increased xxxx by xx%” - whatever the Xs are.

    “Ninety-five percent of employees lack agreement as to their company’s competitive edge,” she contends. Not sure? Then try this exercise: Identify what you perceive your competitive advantage to be, and then ask your employees what they see it to be. Are they aligned? Not likely. “There is a sharp disparity,” Smith says, “between what management and their subordinates believe is important to their customers.” Take the exercise a step further and get the viewpoint of your customers.

    Complicating matters, Smith contends, “prospects don’t value the same things as customers” and urges using double blind research studies to find out from your customers and from those you would like to be your customers what they value. CEOs often resist spending. However, Smith suggests it’s all in the math and asks, “Would you spend 10 to 40 thousand dollars to get the information necessary to help you close 10% more business?” If so, it’s an investment, not a cost.

    “Most businesses today,” Jaynie Smith claims, “are playing chicken in the price game,” leaving money on the table before the potential customer ever comes into the room. How about you? What’s your competitive, unfair advantage?

    -Bud Carter, author of Great Quotes for Great Businesses and Vistage International chairman

    Want more business insights? Check out Great Quotes for Great Businesses>>

    3 Tips to Finally Start Saving

    December 31, 2019 6790 Views No comments

    The most common complaint I hear about money is “I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle. I don’t go on shopping sprees or luxurious vacations. Where is my money going!? There’s never any money left over to save.”

    Most of us didn’t learn about personal finance in school, and that puts us at a major disadvantage. Even after we learn what we should do and want to be doing with our money, we often don’t do it. It’s much more tied to our emotions and habits than we give it credit for - just like with food.

    The math around food and money is similar and actually quite simple. Dollars in minus dollars out equal saving, losing money, or staying the same. Calories in minus calories out equals weight loss, weight gain, or staying the same.

    If it were actually that simple, there wouldn’t be a billion dollar dieting industry - and we’d be a lot less stressed about money!

    One of the reasons it’s difficult to save is that we think about saving money all wrong. Most of us earn money, use that money to pay our bills and live our lives, and then wait to see what’s leftover at the end of the paycheck or month. The bad news is, there’s usually no money left over to save.

    We think the answer is to earn more money. I’ve thought this many times. Then I got a raise and expected there to be money left to save but there wasn’t. The irony is that I couldn’t point to big meaningful changes in my lifestyle, but the money just got taken up with more of the same.

    One of the reasons this happens is Parkinson's Law. It’s the idea that things take up as much space we give them. It’s why our junk drawer always fills up, meetings take exactly as long as is allotted in the calendar (even if there is only one agenda item!), and you guessed it - our expenses always fill what’s in our bank account.

    Most of us will have to make some shifts in order to start meaningfully saving. The good news is that they aren’t hard, it just takes thinking about saving in a different way and setting up a system.

    Here are three tips to finally start saving that no one tells us.

    1. Get it out of sight, out of mind.
    The first thing you want to do is create a separate space for our savings. You want it out of sight and out of mind. When we have a checking account linked to our savings account within the same bank, it’s all too easy to transfer the money over on a whim.

    We also can’t help but notice it when we login to check our checking account balance. The money is available and for most of us, and that means it won’t stay in savings for long. There are a few unicorns who are able to keep their savings in the same bank connected with their checking, but for most of us, it just doesn't work.

    I’m a big fan of online savings accounts for this reason. The money is available to us (transfers typically take 2-5 days) but it’s not top of mind. They also earn a much better interest rate than our accounts with brick and mortar banks. This means our savings will be growing! And they’re free.

    So the first thing you can do to finally start saving is to open an online savings account.

    2. Set it up to be automatic.
    The next important piece of this is that you want to pay yourself first. What doesn’t work about how we typically save is that we pay everyone else first. We pay our bills, pay for our food and other lifestyle expenses, and even get other people gifts. By the time we’re ready to pay ourselves, there’s nothing left.

    You can shift this paradigm by paying yourself first. You do this by setting up an automatic transfer to your online savings account each week, month, or paycheck. When something transfers out of your account automatically, you’re treating it like any other recurring expense or bill. You’re treating it like a top priority expense, which it should be!

    We work for the money we earn, we deserve to get paid! It’s ironic that we always pay ourselves last.

    3. Don’t be afraid to start small.
    It’s really exciting and empowering to decide to pay ourselves first but next we have to figure out how. When we’re paying ourselves last, most of us aren’t saving. We’re living paycheck to paycheck or even if we’re not, we’re not putting aside money into savings.

    Deciding to pay yourself first is like taking on another bill. It’s as if your taxes went up or you added a recurring subscription to your expenses. Those things tend to figure themselves out or you adjust for them in your spending elsewhere.

    If you’re unsure of whether or not you’ll be able to save anything, don’t be afraid to start small. Set up an automatic transfer for five dollars per week or per paycheck. Then set a reminder to check in with the account after a few cycles. If you didn’t miss it, you can up the ante and increase your automatic transfer.

    One of the most exciting parts of this process, no matter how small the amount, is the mindset shift that you are a saver. Once you have this transfer set up, you are someone who saves.

    Sometimes we don’t start saving because we think the contributions we can make are too small to make a difference. But our progress isn’t linear. Small steps build momentum and exponential results. Don’t be afraid to start small and build from there.

    In Conclusion.
    How we traditionally try to save money isn’t working for the majority of us. We want to shift the paradigm and start paying ourselves first. You can do this by creating a space outside of your checking accounts in an online savings account, and setting up an automatic transfer each week, month, or paycheck. As this is a new habit and way of thinking for many of us, you'll want to start with something that feels very manageable and build from there.

    For more, here’s a free guide on how to save $1,000 this month.

    -Ashley Feinstein Gerstley

    For more tips on budgeting your money, check out The 30-Day Money Cleanse>>

    The 3 Secrets to Tackling Your Credit Card Debt

    December 27, 2019 9009 Views No comments

    Managing and getting out of credit card debt is a topic that’s weighing on many of our minds. The average U.S. household has $6,829 in credit card debt - and that means we are paying $1,141 each year in interest charges.

    Most of us aren’t getting the education we need and deserve to set us up for success with credit cards, and that’s a big problem. But even once we know what we want to and should be doing in order to pay them down and stay out of debt, we’re still not making the progress we want.

    What I’ve found from my own experience and helping hundreds of people pay down their credit card debt is that we have to understand three secrets in order to make real, lasting progress. Once we understand these three things, we can get started tackling our debt for good.

    We have so much working against us.

    I got my first credit card when I graduated college and didn’t understand how they worked or all the ways they could get me in trouble. Way too many interest charges and fees later, I struggled to make on-time payments and ended up damaging my credit.

    I studied finance in college and worked in finance and still didn’t really understand how credit cards worked or all the ways credit card companies make money.

    We have so much working against us when it comes to money because it’s not something most of us learn about, yet we have to deal with it every single day. We also can’t really talk about it - even with our closest friends and family - because it’s still a really taboo subject.

    Not to mention, companies prey on our lack of knowledge to separate us with our money. And they’re really, really good at it. Billion dollar marketing budgets tell us that if we just buy this one thing we’ll finally feel like we’re enough - beautiful enough, smart enough, belonging enough.

    Women, and even more so women of color, have it worse. Not only do women have more debt than men (one of the many financial gaps they face), women are charged higher interest rates on credit cards and mortgages (even though they default on loans less frequently than men).

    All this to say, it’s no wonder we’ve accumulated credit card debt! We have so much working against us. The point of sharing this laundry list of upsetting reasons we’re not flourishing in our financial lives isn’t to upset us (although it should!), it’s to help us muster up some compassion for ourselves for where we are in our financial lives.

    It’s time we truly forgive ourselves for whatever mistakes we believe we made. Anyone with our experience and in our situation would have made the same financial choices we made. And only once we truly forgive ourselves and stop punishing ourselves for where we are, are we able to move forward.

    SECRET #1: Let go of the shame and guilt surrounding your debt.

    Debt, especially credit card debt, can come with so much shame and guilt. Society, including many financial experts, perpetuates that shame by judging our purchases and behaviors. We decide we’re just terrible with money or believe we have no self-control.

    Take a step back and consider: what is debt, really?

    Debt is just something we bought that we haven’t fully paid for yet. That’s it.

    It doesn’t mean we’re bad. Or we will never pay for things. Or that we stole them. Or that we’re a failure. Credit card rates have gotten so absurd and astronomical that it should really be the credit card companies feeling all the shame and guilt.

    Debt was a financial tool created to help us pay for things we don’t have enough money to buy yet.

    That doesn’t mean we want it. But that’s really all it is.

    It’s time we let go of the shame and guilt surrounding our debt.

    SECRET #2: Find your motivation to pay down your debt and remind yourself of it often.

    For many of us, paying down debt isn’t fun. It can feel like our money is going to a black hole that doesn’t seem to be going away. In many cases, we got the benefits of the things we bought in the past so they feel like they’re limiting our lives in the present.

    You may feel angry when you see those hefty interest charges or even swindled if you didn't understand how credit cards worked, like me.

    No wonder we don’t want to pay down our debt. And when we don’t want to do something, it makes it really hard to do it.

    But when we take a step back, we can see that paying down debt creates more room for our lives in the present: for things we want to have, experience, and save for! Our goals.

    Every little bit counts. Every time you pay off a credit card, that monthly payment is now yours to do something else with. If you add up each of your credit cards’ monthly payments and then multiply that by twelve months, that’s how much you could be putting towards other things each year.

    Think about what you would do with that amount of money each year. How would that feel?

    That’s our motivation. We all lose it time and time again (that’s normal!), but as long as we come back to it, we can get motivated and excited to pay down our debt. It’s a gift to ourselves.

    To keep your motivation top of mind, you can carry a picture in your wallet or make an image the background of your phone. We want to remind ourselves of it often.

    SECRET #3: Take inventory of your debt

    Once we’ve forgiven ourselves, let go of the shame and guilt, and are feeling motivated, we are ready to move forward and do something about our debt.

    The first and most important step to tackling our debt is to take inventory. Taking inventory means listing out each piece of debt and helpful accompanying details.

    For many of us, this is a daunting step because it feels like it’s less stressful to be in the dark about our debt. We’re afraid of what we might find.

    In my experience in my own life and with many people in my community, it’s actually a hugely liberating exercise because it’s most likely not as bad as we think. More importantly, we need to have a clear picture of our situation before we can do anything about it.

    You’ll want to gather the current balance, interest rate, payment date, and minimum payment of each credit card.

    If this feels too daunting, start by listing out the names of each cards. Don’t be afraid to break things down into small steps. Small steps lead to big results.

    In Conclusion

    Once we forgive ourselves, let go of the shame and guilt around our debt, and find our motivation, we are ready to tackle our debt. The first most important step is taking inventory. You can take inventory and track your progress with our Debt Inventory Tracker.

    -Ashley Feinstein Gerstley

    For more tips on budgeting your money, check out The 30-Day Money Cleanse>>

    Managing Holiday Chaos

    December 20, 2019 2389 Views No comments

    Make the holidays less stressful by managing your energy! Author Molly Fletcher talks about ways to stay energized and in-the-moment during the holidays.

    Learn more about sustaining your energy with The Energy Clock>>

    Live a Life Full of Energy with This Helpful Tool

    December 16, 2019 4221 Views No comments

    We live in a relentless, 24/7 world. We try to manage every minute of the day, but instead we wind up feeling burnt out and exhausted. Remember that time you followed a schedule crammed with tasks and activities, but the effort didn’t seem to get you much closer to your goal? That’s because when you don’t manage your energy, you fall short of getting the most out of your time.

    Too often we assume that spending an hour on an important task is going to produce measurable results. But it’s not the hour that matters; it’s harnessing your energy. If we don’t bring energy to what we’re doing, the time spent really doesn’t matter.

    Isn't there a better way?

    Time management is important but the real key is managing your energy. You can’t create more hours in the day, but you can control who and what you give your energy to. Too many people fail to realize who and what they give their energy to and why. As a result, they end up drained and unfulfilled, with no energy for what matters most.

    What if you could stop micromanaging your time, and instead focus on directing your energy toward what’s most important?

    In my new book, The Energy Clock, I share a tool called the Energy Audit that helps you recognize where you are spending your energy so that you can create change. When you begin to see your time as serving the ebb and flow of your energy, you can make better choices of how to spend both.

    Performing an Energy Audit

    When your home or office’s heating and cooling system isn’t working efficiently, it’s time for an energy audit. There is a balance for both functions to create efficiency. The same principle applies to our own lives.

    You might think of heat as the energy you need to get things done, and cooling as the energy replacement time (down time) needed in between those bursts of energy. Both are important, especially in avoiding burnout.

    An energy audit simply means looking holistically at all of your energy outputs and determining where you are gaining energy and where you are losing it. Start with these three questions:

    This awareness is the first step in creating change. It’s about knowing where you are and how to shift your energy towards those things that give you energy.

    From there, you can take action on how to maximize your energizers, eliminate or better manage your drainers, and be more efficient with everything in between.

    Setting Your Energy Clock

    The “Energy Clock” is a way of re-imagining your time to bring energy to the most important priorities. In the book, I dig into how you can use the clarity gained from the energy audit to take charge of your energy.

    Here’s the deal. You control your energy—how you spend it, where it goes and how you can allocate it better. Awareness of your energy will change how you manage your time, and change it for the better.

    -Molly Fletcher, author of The Energy Clock

    For more on creating a life full of energy, check out The Energy Clock>>

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