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Transformation

I was slow for most of the 15 years I spent as a triathlete. Not until 2014 did I become fast. People who knew me when it took 12-14 hours to finish an Ironman have asked, “How is it possible that you went from finishing in 12-14 hours to 9 1/2 hours?”

Determining how to transform begins by asking specific questions, and these questions can be applied to any endeavor. I wanted to transform from slow to fast, but these questions cross over to other things, like going from fat to fit, lazy to motivated, bad to good, poor to rich.

Step One. Ask yourself:  Do I look like __________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

The first thing I did was take a hard look at the “fast guys.” Did I look like them? The answer was “no.”

This compelled me to action.

I lost 20 pounds. Losing 20 pounds was simple, but not easy. I had to stop drinking. (Alcohol was not keeping me heavy. However, the nutritional choices I made after a few pints of Guinness certainly kept me more plump than necessary. I’m referring specifically to how good a can of Pringles—the whole can—tastes while enjoying a good beer buzz, or how great a few hotdogs taste at a ballgame. I didn’t make these poor nutritional choices when I was sober. But give me a few drinks, and pow! I’d eat everything.)

I also shaved my head. And I shaved my legs. (Body hair has been proven to slow people down in the water and on the bike.)

So in looking at what you want to become, one question is very simple: Do you look like “them?” (What actions can you take to close the gap?)

Unfortunately, after losing weight, I still did not look like them. Physically, I was getting close. But then I looked at their equipment. They had aero wheels, aero helmets, and carbon fiber time-trial bikes. I did not.

Step Two to the transformation:  Do I work like __________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

Asking myself this question led to a realization: many of the fast guys I met were training 20-25 hours per week. I was training 10-15 hours per week.

Step Three to the transformation: Do I think like _________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

I thought it looked cool to look like you’re suffering. And sure, maybe that’s cool. But what’s cooler? The way these guys make it look so easy. (I thought going sub-11 hours in an Ironman was fast. My friend Keish, who’s always been a fast guy, is disappointed if he doesn’t go sub-10. For him, sub-10 is not a PR. It’s simply an expectation.)

Step Four to the transformation: Do I execute like ___________? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person who is currently where you want to be.)

For me, the question was simple: Do I race like them? In simply comparing my transition times to the fast guys, there were enormous differences. They transitioned with urgency. I would dilly dally. (In life it’s encouraged to stop and smell the roses. In triathlon, not so much).

The answers to these four questions—and the subsequent changes I made—are the “magic formula” to the transformation I enjoyed.

Of course, my contention is that these sorts of questions are applicable to any endeavor. If you want to improve at something, simply have a look at those who are succeeding. What are they doing differently? And why? Answer these questions, see how the answers relate to you, and then adapt accordingly.

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Core Values

With exception to sashimi, the one time I’ve eaten part of an animal in its most unadulterated post-mortem state was when I ate a goat’s heart in Rajasthan, India.

I was in the desert, confronted by miles of yellow sand and an occasional weed jutting up from the ground like two outstretched arms after a long slumber. It was dusk.

A goat had just been killed by two of the Bedouins with whom I’d been traveling. One held the goat down while the other cut its throat. They proceeded to dismantle the animal. This was all done on a small blanket, on the sun-colored sand, wind blowing just enough to remind you it’s there.

The strips of meat that were pulled from the body would soon see a flame and then become the main ingredient in a stew. But the heart, which had been beating 30 minutes ago, was special. It was a prize. And as their guest, it was offered to me.

I held it in my right hand. It was warm. Uncooked. Its viscous blood coating the sides of my fingers. I didn’t want to eat it. Oh how I wish it could’ve sat in coconut milk and spices, like the cow brain I tried in Jakarta . . . or have been deep fried like the water snake I ate in Shanghai.

Instead, there it was. Undressed. In my hand. I gripped it like I was trying to assess its weight, almost like a pitcher holding a rosin bag as he stands on the mound, trying to figure out what to throw next.

I was not steady. Thick blood rivulets plopped from the heart and onto the sand canvas beneath me, looking like a yellow and crimson Jackson Pollock.

I held it up to my mouth. At that angle, the blood began to creep past the meaty part of my palm and onto my wrist. As it greeted my forearm, it was time to make a decision. Go big or go home. I opened my mouth and thrust the heart deep into me, like I would a jelly donut. My jaws clenched. The thick warm blood—the taste of mercury—shot through my mouth and coated my throat. Then my teeth, instinctively, sawed back and forth through the ventricles. I didn’t know the inside of a heart was so tough, so I cut with my teeth and pulled with my hand until the heart broke free. With a full-body Popeye-esque thrust, I tipped my head back to jerk the heart down my throat and into a place I could soon forget.

Then, with blood smeared about my face, I offered the heart, now an oblong crescent shape, to my Bedouin hosts.

They accepted, greedily devouring what remained.


When I consider why I took a bite of the goat heart (as opposed to handing it back to my hosts), the answer is clear: respect. I’d rather endure gag-reflexes and gastronomic fears than be disrespectful to people who’d been good to me, for respect is one of my core values. Make sure that your company’s core values are consistent with your own. If accountability is one of your company’s core values, then you’d do well to hold yourself accountable not only at work but also at home. Leadership is not a part-time job.

0 comments on “Financial Checkup Checklist”

Financial Checkup Checklist

Summer is here, which is the perfect time do a Financial Checkup for your business.  This article suggests tackling the “6 P’s” of a financial checkup.  In the Spring you have tax season and fiscal year-end reporting, so who has time?  In the Fall companies are making a push to finish strong to meet year-end quotas before new business shuts down for the holidays.  Winter is too late to effect change for the year, and it is hard to advance work when so many people are out on vacation (or sick!).  This makes the Summer a great time for a financial checkup.

What is a financial checkup exactly?  It could be a lot of things, but here are six ideas.  Pick three of them (one per category) to accomplish.  Show that you are committed to the financial health of your business, and your business will definitely thank you in return.

Business Model Review (do at least one)

  1. Plan – re-visit your business plan. The prior year financials (the key benchmark) should be final, so use it as the foundation for a refresh of your business plan.  Do it for current year and next year.  Add another year, and you have the coveted 3-year financial plan.

A Plan is great for:

  • businesses involved in a significant financial transaction.
  • businesses that consider great planning a key to their success.
  1. Projections – prepare quarterly forecasts to see what you think the business will look like in terms of revenue growth, operating profits (EBIDTA), working capital, and the capacity to service debt and distribute capital. These are all critical financial measures regarding the health of your business.

Projections are great for:

  • giving to banks and lenders so they become more comfortable and confident in your business.
  • owners and stakeholders, so they can see how today’s business will look tomorrow.
  • leaders and managers, who can use projections to set goals and measure results.

Profits and Cash Flow Review (do at least one)

  1. Performance Reports – this could include monthly or quarterly income statements or Profit & Loss (P&L) reports. Sales trends can be analyzed to see if new business is healthy or anemic.  P&Ls can calculate profit margins and expense ratios, to show how effective you are in managing costs relative to sales generated.  Many business leaders have little time to study detailed reports, so create one-sheet scorecards with infographs and bullet point summaries. Reports are of no use if they are not read.  Create a monthly production report package, to keep an ongoing pulse on the state of your business.

Performance Reports are great for:

  • managers and leaders that want accountability for business results.
  • sharing with stakeholders, banks, and lenders, to prove that you can articulate your business from a financial perspective.
  1. Profit Conversions – profits stuck in receivables are bad for cash flow and bad for your bank account. The longer the receivable is outstanding the less likely you will be able to collect.

Summer is great for getting your cash receipts in order.  Get backlogged invoices sent out promptly.  Review credit terms for down payment and installment billings, and revisit your financing and late fee policies.  Collect all open receivables.

Reviewing cash payments is equally important.  Set up a sensible weekly check run process.  Review credit terms of key suppliers, and negotiate them.  Examine vendor due dates to see who might accept a more favorable payment schedule.

You can never have too much cash on hand, and here you can boost cash without having to sell more or spend less.  You are simply managing your cash better.

Profit conversions are great for:

  • companies running a thin line with cash and working capital.
  • companies that are interested in building that emergency “cushion” for the unexpected.
  • companies that want to go from good to great in their cash management practices.

Resource Assessment

  1. People – you count on people to make your company perform. Is everyone on the team signed up for at least one educational or development class?  Are people allowed to work on a pet project that supports the company?  People are what make the difference, and investing in people is great for:
  • building morale and team spirit.
  • developing talent and skills inside the business, so you can outperform the competition.
  1. Platforms – along with people, your company systems make up the key resources to run your business. Use the Summer to identify all key systems the business relies on to operate.  It can vary by industry, but computer and data networks, accounting and payroll systems, customer and CRM systems, and online systems and tools are universally important to businesses large and small.  Are you able to make a case that all your systems are working seamlessly and smoothly?  Can your systems today support your future growth?  If you can’t answer confidently to these questions, a system review may be your key Summer project.

Platform reviews are great for:

  • companies wanting to run leaner to increase profits and optimize enterprise value.
  • companies managing change.
  • companies that plan to grow significantly.

  360 degrees of Small Business Solutions

Arima Business Solutions (ABS) is a business management consulting firm located in the heart of the San Fernando Valley.  We specialize in solving the most top-of-mind problems for small business owners.  We offer a deep skill set and know how on running the finances, operations, and marketing areas of a small business.  This makes ABS uniquely equipped to provide 360-degrees of client service.  Finance consultants often do strictly finance while marketing firms focus mainly on sales and branding.  The best solutions are balanced solutions, that examine not just one, but all of the key areas that are important to your business.

0 comments on “You and Your Banker”

You and Your Banker

Bankers are great. They tell it like it is. But in good times and in a good economy, it is easy for small businesses to take them for granted. If you have loans out there, it is easy to forget—or worse—ignore a banker’s request.

Meeting loan covenants and requests for information during good times and bad is critically important. Make sure you can answer these questions:

  1. Are you filing your quarterly loan covenant requirements consistently and on a timely basis?
  2. Is everything organized, complete, documented, and supported to ensure a high-quality submission?
  3. Are any questions that are asked, for whatever reason, responded to timely, completely, and accurately?

Loans will mature and the economy will tighten. It is too late to undo past bank compliance infractions, as the notes on late, incomplete, slow responses are already noted. But building a good track record going forward can make a positive difference. Good bank relations habits include:

  1. Meeting all loan covenant requirements completely and on a timely basis.
  2. Being very responsive, consistently, on any bank requests or questions.
  3. Meeting all interest and principal payments like clockwork.

All crucial banking activities, new loans, credit line increases, renewal of matured loans, forbearances, loan extensions, or re-structures must be underwritten anew with credit committee approval. To ensure you remain in good standing with your banker, understand the terms of your loan documents and loan covenants. They spell out the rules, and understanding them well can prevent being in default with your loan.

Having a CFO or financial leader focused on banking for your small business is a luxury. Who wouldn’t want to have that go-to person on staff to oversee and negotiate small business bank and lender relations? Unfortunately, many small businesses are not budgeted to have a full time CFO with banking credentials. But there are alternatives, such as management and financial consultants who can step in to affordably clean up and monitor the banking needs of your business.

This is the story of you and your banker. Let’s all be proactive to secure a “happily ever after.”

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Heroes

I like to romanticize the hero. He dons a cape. She flies an invisible jet. It is not a flea but The Tick!

The truth, though, with due deference to Comic-Con fans, is that the real heroes are first-responders, fire fighters, police officers, and members of the armed forces. They are people who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, to assist us, or to save us.

But there are other heroes. Few organizations classify their strongest assets as heroes, but we should aspire to be the workplace hero.

“Calculation never made a hero.” —John Henry Newman

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”     —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Workplace heroes share common characteristics.

Ownership

Heroes of the office ooze ownership, also known as accountability. They don’t pass the buck. They consider excuses an abomination. And they are most empowered when something goes wrong and they take responsibility for it.

Commitment

Workplace heroes do not simply start something, only to let others finish it. If it means staying later, listening longer, or starting over again, they do what must be done. They know the difference between delegation and fulfillment.

Heart

Heroes execute from the head, as well as their heart. They bring passion into the workplace. This is consistent with the Dicky Fox message in Jerry Maguire: “If this is empty (he points to his heart), this doesn’t matter (he whacks himself on the head).”

Consider ownership, commitment, and heart. How might these characteristics compel you to become the workplace hero?