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Monthly Archive for June, 2011

America needs a turnaround plan - now!

When a company is in danger of failing, a turnaround specialist is often engaged to create drastic changes to help the business turn itself around before a default happens. After a failure, the same people - now called work-out specialists - try to salvage what they can from the catastrophe.

If your small business were in the same condition the U.S. government is in today, it would definitely be in immediate need of a turn-around pro now, or a workout specialist later.

Perhaps you’ve heard experts say America is bankrupt. However, the classic definition of bankruptcy is when financial obligations exceed the value of assets. By some estimates, the U.S. has over $50 trillion in sovereign assets, which is more than three times the current national debt.

We’re not bankrupt - yet. But the government does have an unsustainable business model. Remember, you will be out of business long before bankruptcy if your business model consistently fails to generate positive cash flow. And in such an operating condition, no creditor will make even an asset-collateralized loan to merely extend the inevitable collapse of a defective business model.

The recent steep rise in our national debt is caused by the government’s deficit spending, which results from a combination of current operating cash requirements, including servicing the debt. If your small businesses were in this condition, it would be said to have unsustainable negative cash flow and, therefore, not creditworthy. Plus, the national debt is now on par with GDP (about $14 TRILLION). The creditworthiness of any business with this debt-to-revenue ratio would diminish rapidly.

Government entitlements are almost 60% of the federal budget and growing because they were committed without actuarial basis to allow for sustained funding. Consequently, more than anything else, America’s business model is unsustainable due to generous 20th century expectations being redeemed in an austere 21st century reality.

Against the laws of economics, the only advantage a government has over a business is that it can print money. But that advantage only provides time, not solutions. We can’t kick this can down the street any longer. America has to have a national gut-check about how we will self-impose a drastic financial turnaround plan before our creditors demand an ugly and likely catastrophic workout.

As in your small business, only leadership can solve our national financial problems.

On my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked more about what we need to do to take America back from the political class and work out of this economic slump. Take a few minutes to listen to click on the links below and listen to what I have to say. As always, please let me know your thoughts on the economy and what needs to be done.

America needs a turnaround plan

Americans run America, not politicians

Small businesses must be lean, mean fighting machines

How are moms finding your business?

How are moms finding your small business? Stacy DeBroff joins Jim Blasingame to talk about why more moms are looking for your business in the online communities they hang out in, not necessarily your website.

Stacy DeBroff is founder and CEO of Mom Central Consulting.

Listen to or download the interview here

Small Business Advocate Homepage

A father’s tough love is the harder job

As the father of an adult daughter and son, plus the grandfather of four knucklehead boys, I’ve learned some things about love.

All the hours logged as Dad and Poppy have often caused me to contemplate how different are the roles of mother and father, especially in the overt demonstration of parental love. It’s fascinating how the manifestation of this love differs between mother and father - biologically, emotionally and experientially.

A mother’s love, at once sweet and fierce, is observed in almost all animals, not just humans. No doubt you’ve heard this metaphor: “… as sweet as a mother’s love,” and this warning: “Don’t get between a momma bear and her cub.”

I have been the recipient of this kind of love and have witnessed it, and there truly is no other force in nature like it. But it has troubled me that there are no corresponding references for a father’s love. Could this be why Father’s Day is not quite as big a deal as Mother’s Day? I’m just saying …

A human father’s love is more often associated with words that are unfortunate, like “tough” and “discipline.” As a teenager, my own father sometimes apologized to me when he thought his demonstration of love might seem “hard-boiled.”

Mothers occupy the pinnacle of parental love - with justification. And not to take anything away from them, but a mother’s sweet love is as primal as the miracle of life; they don’t have to work too hard to deliver it. But there’s a uniqueness about a father’s love that deserves a better rap. Here are two reasons:

  • Unlike a mother’s sweet love, a father’s tough love, as we know it, does not exist outside of humans.
  • When a father’s parental toughness is required, especially when applied to an indignant recipient (read: teenager), it requires a love that has found the courage to endure a negative response and a willingness to defer gratification - sometimes for years.

No one is more keenly aware of the distinction between these two demonstrations of love than a single parent, where both kinds are required of the same person, perhaps within minutes.

So, mothers, forgive any paternal bias you may detect, but here is my conclusion about parental love: The only force in the universe that comes close to a mother’s sweet love is a father’s tough love. But the latter is the harder job, and the return-on-investment almost always takes longer.

I talked more about fatherhood recently on The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to click on the link below, listen, and leave your thoughts on the toughest job you’ll ever love.

A father’s love is like no other with Jim Blasingame

Vacation? What’s that?

A small business weaves a fine seam between itself and the life of its owner. In the beginning, it’s because of all the work it takes to get the business out of the ground. Later, as the business matures, the owner often becomes the brand customers identify with, which means consistent sales performance seems to depend upon the owner’s omnipresence.  At least that’s the way it seems.

Between the business consistently getting in the cash line ahead of a vacation budget and the owner being afraid to leave - like a new mother leaving her baby with a babysitter for the first time - it can be tough for a small business owner to take a real vacation?

We wanted to know how the whole vacation thing was looking for small business owners these days, so we asked this question: As summer approaches, will you be able to leave your business long enough to take a vacation where you’re away from work for a week? Here’s what we learned.

A little more than 40% of our respondents said they were definitely taking a real vacation this summer. Goodonya, guys!  This means several things:  You have a successful, mature organization; you have your priorities straight; your family gave you an ultimatum, or some combination.

About 1 in 5 of our sample was undecided. If half of these actually take a vacation, that would be over half of our sample getting away from it all this summer.

But 37% said there would be no vacation this year.You’ll get no judgment from me - been there, done that. No one doesn’t like a vacation - you gotta do what you gotta do.

One of the best ways for a small business owner to grow into taking a full vacation is by taking time off over long weekends.I’ve been doing this for years - give it a try.

I talked more about taking time off from the business on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Click here to listen and let us know what your vacation plans are for this summer.

Don’t give in to call reluctance

So, you’re sitting outside of a prospect’s office in your car (or staring at the phone number), knowing you need to make a sale. What’s holding you back?

Well, there are lots of excuses – here are four likely ones:

1. “The economy is bad - everybody knows that.”
2. “Everyone’s holding on to their cash; they’re not going to buy anything from me.”
3. “I heard they just laid off some people. They’re probably just holding on.”
4. “The last prospect didn’t buy anything, why would this one be any different?”

Actually, these aren’t excuses or reasons, they’re lies you tell yourself. Even though the information may be correct, what’s that got to do with the prospect you’re looking at through your windshield?

Why do we tell ourselves these lies and, worse, believe them enough that we fail to make the call? The answer is Call Reluctance.

Call reluctance is a destructive state of mind virtually every salesperson gets into from time to time. The simplest explanation for the call reluctance emotion is that you presume too much. For example:

You presume that you will be rejected.
Actually, the prospect might reject your offer, but not you. Since everyone knows an offer doesn’t have feelings, separate yourself from your offer, and at least go make a new friend.

You presume that they will kick you out of the office.
In truth, they might tell you they don’t have time to talk, so the worst that could happen is you find yourself outside of their office. Since that’s exactly where you are right now, you will be no worse off. What part of “I can’t lose” is difficult?

You presume that they don’t need what you sell.
Here’s a flash: That decision is above your pay-grade. Who do you think you are, answering for them? Get over yourself and allow prospects to decide for themselves. You might be right, but until you know for sure, you’re just betting against yourself, which doesn’t sound like a very intelligent career strategy, does it?

The slayer of sales is not a recession. The killer of commissions is not budget cuts. The most potent prospecting poison is not 9% unemployment. The greatest impediment to sales success is found in the wisdom of that great philosopher, Pogo the Possum, who so famously said, “We have seen the enemy, and he is us.”

You can prove Pogo wrong by overcoming call reluctance. Somebody is buying something you sell right now! It might as well be you.

I’ve talked with Robert Levin, publisher and editor-in-chief of The New York Enterprise Report, about  how selling is different in the 21st century. Take a few minutes to listen to our conversations and leave your thoughts on what you’re finding in the “new normal” that is different than in the past.

Is selling different in the 21st century?

The 21st century sales process is different

Drill, baby, drill?

For the second time in three years, American consumers and businesses have been subjected to crude oil prices at record or near-record levels and gasoline prices at over $4 per gallon. Since petroleum in general, and gasoline in particular, are both so connected to everyday American life, economists consider this kind of relatively sudden inflation in the price of a universally used commodity to be tantamount to the government imposing an abrupt and unbudgeted tax.

Since this price increase is indeed imposed on all of us, we wanted to know what you thought, so we asked this question in our recent poll on our website and Newsletter: Who is responsible for the near-record $4 a gallon price for gas? Here is what you told us.

The small respondent groups laid it off on OPEC and “C’est la vie.” Only 7% said, “OPEC - they’re gouging us,” but just 2% said, “No one is to blame - these things just happen.” Wall Street and Washington didn’t fare so well. “Greedy Wall Street speculators” were blamed for high gas prices by almost one-third of our sample, while almost six-of-ten pointed the finger at, “The Federal government - we should be drilling for more of our own oil.”

Two points in support of the 60% majority in our poll: 1) There is plenty of expert evidence that America has plenty of petroleum resources that could be tapped if allowed to do so by the federal government; 2) The last time oil - and gas - went this high, the one thing that brought the price down was the Administration (Bush) merely announcing that it planned to expand new oil exploration. Within a few months, crude oil was down by more than 50% and gasoline was in the $2.50 range.

America can control neither OPEC nor the commodities market. But it can influence the harvesting of our own natural resources. I’m with the majority on this one. What about you?