Smart Ways to Save Money

Three Smart Ways to Save Money

“A penny saved is a penny earned,” reads the proverb most attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Ironically, the same gentleman on the $100 bill in the United States. Believe it or not, saving pennies me just be one of the smartest ways to save your money. While money may not grow on a tree as we would all like, it can certainly have growth like a tree growing strong and mighty. In the post, I have included a few ways for you to count your pennies and save your money more intelligently.

Digit – Automatic Savings

New start-up Digit takes the idea of saving a few pennies a day and puts that into action. Within just a few weeks, I had saved over $100 and didn’t even think twice about it, in fact I didn’t miss a single dollar. With advanced algorithms, Digit analyzes your spending and in turn withdraws a few cents or dollars that it knows you won’t miss from your checking account into a savings account! Before you know it, your money is savings are growing right before your eyes. The plus side is they are so confident in their calculations they provide overdraft protection if it is their fault. The downside is that the money they’re storing away for you doesn’t earn interest as of right now.

Motif Investing – Smart Way to Invest

Now that you’ve got your savings building up, you’re going to need to find a place to responsibly store your wads of cash–it’s time to invest. Mutual funds and ETFs are a great, fairly safe way to invest. Individual stocks are usually more lucrative but if you don’t fully have a pulse on the market or you’re hesitant to get your feet wet in investing, stocks can be daunting. Understanding the ins and outs of stocks and their potential returns versus their risk can be overwhelming. What is a stock’s beta, P/E ratio, cap and yield? Motif Investing removes barriers for beginner investors and essentially lets you create something similar to a mutual fund filled with 30 individual stocks for a flat rate of $9.95. This brilliant, social approach to investing allows investors seasoned and green alike to invest around ideas, social concepts or just personal curiosity. With an easy-to-use interface and great reporting, Motif Investing is a great, affordable way to begin investing for those who have saved up.

Future Advisor – Retire Smart

It is always a great idea to save money for a rainy day such as a savings account or an investment account. However, saving for retirement is also critical. Saving up for that day you decide you no longer need to do the 9-5 thing is smart. While there are countless ways, there have been a number of start-ups making a splash in “virtual wealth management.” These start-ups are helping reduce the cost of portfolio management allowing for optimized portfolios for the day you want to retire. Two I am currently investigating include WealthFront and Future Advisor!


To me happiness and success are not defined by a number in a bank account. That said, while we are here on this earth, we need to be good stewards of what we have whether that be time, money, possessions or anything in between. No matter where you are in life, it is time you start saving your pennies. While money doesn’t grow on trees, you can be smart with the ways you save and before you know it, your money will be growing faster than you know!


Creating an Innovative Culture

There is nothing worse than a work environment that is just plain stale. I mean, the trash lingering from last year’s state fair seems more pleasing than that old, routine, boring, mundane, stagnant atmosphere that you call “work.”

Be a change agent. Spur on change within your office. Try this: have your teammates and co-workers scour the web for the best of the best in your industry. Have them come up with three new innovative ways of doing the mundane instead of souring away doing the same-old, same-old. For instance, if you design billboards, go drive throughout the city and take pictures of the most creative billboards and then figure out why they are innovative. If you own a restaurant, go check out what is making people line up outside of the food truck down the street. These random exercises in innovation inspiration can liven up your workplace. More importantly, it can raise the bar to a whole new level.

Dealing with People Who Are Afraid to Change

Overcoming Change-Blockers

You’re innovating, moving 1000 mph. You try to get your plans into action and all of a sudden you run straight into a wall. Your idea has made it through several levels of refinements and climbed tiers of corporate politics only to get the “cease and desist” command from one of the high-ups that is afraid of change. You’ve hit a change-blocker. One of those people who no matter what you say or do is just going to say “no” to all new ideas. What do you do?

Humility is truly the best answer. Have an intentional conversation with your change-blocker. Sit down and respectfully ask why he/she is unwilling to authorize, accept or implement your new ideas and innovations. These moments of pure, honest conversation are some of the most educational lessons for all parties involved. Use the obstacle as a growing opportunity. Maybe for you, maybe for the change-blocker.

Tough Conversations

7 Tips on How to Have Tough Conversations

Sitting down with personnel and knowing how to have  tough conversations is never easy. In fact, it can be a manager’s most dreaded and difficult task. Before you are ever in a position where you need to let someone go or discuss with an employee their inappropriate behaviors or anything of the sort, take some time to yourself and make sure you are prepared. Here a few simple steps to make that painful conversation slightly less awful:

  • Know exactly how you will deliver the news: Whatever the feedback may be, make sure you deliver it very clearly and concisely. It’s like ripping off a bandaid, most times, people know some sort of unpleasant news is headed their way, so don’t try and build up to the moment, just as clearly and concisely explain the premise of the conversation.
  • Anticipate: Inevitably, there will be pushback. Sometimes this manifests itself in the way of questions, tears, denial or anger. Try to think of the individual you will be talking to and prepare for several different scenarios. Figure out before hand how you will address every alternative.
  • Have Closure: Often in a tough conversation, closure is hard to achieve, but to salvage any type of remaining relationship whether strictly business or otherwise, difficult talks need closure. This often will take the form of offering next steps. This could be offering solutions to avoid further confrontation. If you are letting the individual go, this could include compliments based on ways in which the employee had high performance or even recommendations for other opportunities outside your company.
  • Be Sincere: Everyone knows when you are just saying something to be nice. After you have broken hard news, nobody wants to hear manufactured compliments or words of encouragement. That’s worse than rubbing salt in a wound. Make sure anything that is said is sincere. Thumper from Bambi was right. If you truly have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
  • Be Quick: As soon as bad news is delivered, chances are the person will tune out. Make sure that anything important that is said after the news is delivered is very direct and clear. Don’t be wordy, don’t try to turn it into a full-fledged meeting. Just put the cards on the table, allow for questions and closure then be done.
  • Tell The Truth: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is fabricate a lie or story to help ease the tense situation. Don’t make an excuse in an effort to give a ray of hope or a logical explanation. Almost always, these lies are detected and make the situation far worse, not to mention the fact they can result in legal trouble.
  • Mum’s the Word: These tough conversations should be discussed with no one. They should be strictly “need-to-know.” Talking about these circumstances with other individuals is not only damaging to the recipient of the the tough conversation but also can be hurtful to your own reputation.

Learning the art of having tough conversations is crucial. Even though sticky discussions are usually under ten minutes, it is imperative you spend double that amount of time preparing exactly what you will say. Though you never get used to tough conversations, hopefully these seven steps will make delivering the news a more smooth, win-win process.

Questions to Ask During a Reference Check

The One Question to Ask When Checking References

Over the years, I have received countless reference check calls from the potential employer of a friend, previous employee or colleague. Out of all the calls I received, I will never forget one call. It went something like this (and I have changed the names):

“Hi Ryan! I am Sam from ABC Company calling behalf of Steve Smith who has recently applied and interviewed for the position of ‘Fancy Bogus Title.’ Do you have 3 minutes for some questions about Steve?”

“Absolutely,” I replied.

“Did you know that Steve put you down as a reference?” Sam asked.

“Well no, Sam, I didn’t.”

“So Steve did not ask your permission to put your name on his recommendation form?”

After a moment of thinking I replied, “Nope, I can’t say that he did. Haven’t talked to him in several months.”

“Mr. Vet, Thank you very much for your time. I don’t have any further questions about Steve. Have a wonderful day.”

I couldn’t believe it. Never in all my reference request calls had any “investigator” inquired as to whether or not the candidate asked permission to record me as a reference. The answer to the question, whether yes or no reveals a great deal about the job candidate and their consideration for others as well as their relationship with the reference. From that day on, thanks to “Sam,” the first question I always ask listed references when I am doing my own research on someone is whether or not they knew they were a listed reference. If that answer is “no,” it is easy to throw out all other questions I ask during a reference check, I have found my answer.

Benefits for Flat Organizations

3 Challenges of Horizontal Organization Structures

Companies are quickly gravitating towards the horizontal organizational model. They are trying to create these “flat” companies that foster an entrepreneurial spirit where the hourly intern can walk into the CEO’s office and just chat. While there are endless benefits to a horizontal organization, there are huge land mines that need to be flagged to avoid potential disaster.

Here are three common obstacles that occur with a horizontal leadership style. Acknowledging these potential roadblocks can help you reap all the benefits of your horizontal organization.

  1. The Fall Guy: At the end of the day, someone needs to be responsible for and own every project. A huge downfall of many flat companies is the fact that no one takes responsibility, so when something fails, there is no path to correct it and improve.
  2. Closed Door Policy: Many firms have started to have an “Open Door Policy” where individuals can just walk into any execs office and talk so long as their door is open. Though an open door policy is great for a healthy organization, it can also be catastrophic. It is important that execs close their doors during a set time everyday so they can accomplish what they need to accomplish. The possibility of countless interruptions in a given work day can derail anyone’s train of thought and be detrimental to the completion of every day tasks that get put on the back burner for the impromptu meetings resulting from open doors.
  3. A Definitive Leader: With everyone on the same playing field in a horizontal organization, there is the potential for a lot of stepping on toes. One person tries to launch an initiative and finds out someone started it two weeks ago. Both people get offended. Each project or initiative should have a clear leader and commander. This will help streamline meetings, increase accountability and make sure that tasks are accomplished in a uniform manner and are done only once instead of having multiple people working on the same thing trying to climb all over each other.

The benefits of a flat organization are great. With the right direction and a clear understanding of potential land mines, companies with a horizontal org chart will be extremely successful and foster countless innovative initiatives at all levels.


What Not to Wear to Work

Ladies and Gentlemen,

While culture assumes that bling is good, please keep your right wrist clear of obstructions. There is nothing more annoying that flowing sleeves, bracelets, loose watches, large rings, bengals, etc that interfere in the warm meeting of two palms during a handshake. As tempting as it is to make your right hand and wrist sparkle, make sure that whatever you adorn your body with is clear of obstruction during the pivotal handshake.

All The Best,

Annoyed Handshaker


In Your Customer’s Shoes

Every business deals with customer complaints. Many complaints stem from people who just are discontent with life in general and decide to view your corporation as their target. The question is, how many of their frustrations can be prevented? Take the time understand what your customer goes through on a daily basis. Each day, someone in your company should go through the checkout line, place an order on your site, complete a task within your software, use your product or receive a service.

Take the time to experience what your clientele experiences. You may find the smallest remedies that can radically enhance a customers experience and provide solutions and instant gratification to your customer-base.


The Watercooler

While there are countless stigmas surrounding conversations “around the water cooler,” one stereotype is consistent–the water cooler is a place where people talk.

Every office environment should have a “water cooler” of sorts. It should be a place where the team can get together, socialize and talk. It could be a break room or coffee or bar or cafeteria. Depending on the setting, a company can even strategically sculpt the environment to make the “water cooler” zone a place where innovation is born and inspiration is shared. The value of those hallways conversations and comments is wildly undervalued.

Experiential Marketing, Leadership, Entreprenuership