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SBT Houston Staff MAY 2014


Chairman John Cruise President/Executive Publisher Steve Levine

From the Publisher

Associate Publisher/ Creative Director/Editor Barbara Davis-Levine

Steve Levine

Business Development/PR Bill Huff Aaron Kaplan Susan Repka Stephen Zappala Graphic Designer Lavinia Menchaca Photographers Gwen Juarez Contributing Writers Don Brown Pilar Ortiz Barbara Davis Mayor Annise Parker Mila Golovine Christi Ruiz Bruce Hurta Rita Santamaria Jeff Jones Chris Sloan Aaron Kaplan Holly Uverity Craig Klein Aimee Woodall Hank Moore Chief Advisor Hank Moore Publisher’s Advisory Board Shah Ardalan Wea Lee Roger Burks Hank Moore Helen Callier Lisa M. Morton Sonia Clayton Mike Muhney Donna Cole Leisa Holland Nelson John Cruise Mayor Annise Parker Dirk Cummins Page Parkes April Day Howard Partridge Dr. John Demartini Susan Repka Maya Durnovo Maria Rios Kathie Edwards Grant Sadler Leonard Faucher Rita Santamaria Mila Golovine Allen Shapiro David Holt William Sherrill Richard Huebner Pam Terry Jeffrey Jones Linda Toyota Darryl King Jack Warkenthien Craig Klein Aaron Young


How Do You Like Us Now?


he only thing permanent is change”, my mentor and friend, Marshall Haas, the founder of Haas Publishing Companies used to say…and sometimes change can be long past due. In the publishing world, it is not uncommon to put a publication through a redesign to give it a new look and feel. Most of the time, those changes are made to accommodate the ever-changing needs, preferences, and tastes of the reader. After two years and 24 issues of SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE, it was truly time for a change. With little or no fanfare, we went about quietly making changes to the magazine to accommodate the growing family of online readers and to give it a more professional and cleaner look and feel. Our subscribers (online and hard copy) wanted the cover story pages all up front and not started in the front and ending in the back of the magazine. They wanted an easier to read Table of Contents Page with the list of each Columnist’s Editorial Page. After all, the editorials are the “meat” of the magazine. In addition, we redesigned the pages and photos of each editorial page by removing the black/red header at the top of each page, making each photo background the same, and enlarging the title of the editorial with a more professional and sophisticated look. Please understand that I am a creature of habit. Change of any type does not come easy. For example, with all of the ways to keep your calendar online, I still use the same paper “Day Runner” that I have been using since April, 1984.Yes, 30 years later, you can ask me who I had an appointment with 25 years ago and I can put my hands on that very page in no time and give you the answer. But, I am happy with all of the changes in the magazine and want to express my appreciation to my wife Barbara (Creative Director/Associate Publisher) and our new design team of Lavinia Menchaca and Rafa Saavedra for the amazing job they did with the recreation of every page and helping us not skip a beat with the delivery of the April issue! “Kudos”, guys! In this, our May/W.B.E.A. (Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance) Issue, we honor Ms. Connie Rankin with ITRA Global/Customized Real Estate Services. Connie is a proud WBE and well-deserving of the cover honor. She is also someone who believes in changing things for the better.The success Connie has with her commercial real estate company is a testament to her skills in creatively dealing with the economic highs and lows and the multitude of changes that the real estate industry has been going through over the years.You will enjoy her story. Good Reading, Good Sales, and Great Success to You All!

Steve Levine

President/Executive Publisher, Small Business Today Magazine

[ MAY 2014 ] 3


Connie Rankin – Customized Real Estate Services (CRES) Determined & Focused – Leading Others on a Path to Success



Publisher’s Column


Connie Rankin – Customized Real Estate Services (CRES) Determined & Focused – Leading Others on a Path to Success


Plus One


Are Sales Leads Hungry for Your Email Marketing?


Expansion for Korean Air


Unexpected Differences with English-speaking Cultures


Visioning Scope


Why Organizational Culture Is Important


Getting Organized: Why Bother?


Inventory... Should it Be Included or Excluded When Buying or Selling a Business?


The SBA Loan Approval Process and Time Frames


Rewriting the Rebel’s Manifesto: 13 New Rules for Business


Too Much


3, 2, 1 - How to Be Your Best on Video!


Four Common and Avoidable Mistakes Small Businesses Make


Financial Astrology for May 2014







[ MAY 2014 ] 5

Connie Rankin Customized Real Estate Services (CRES)

Determined & Focused – Leading Others on a Path to Success


By Barbara R. Davis

onnie Rankin has never let the obstacles in her life deter her from anything she made her mind up to do. Her mother had grown up in a time when women were encouraged to stay at home and raise children. As the divorced mother of four girls, Connie’s mom knew all too much about hopes dashed and dreams broken and she wanted her children to keep their expectations low. She had a dark view of the possibilities for women. Whenever Connie expressed her lofty visions of what she wanted to do when she grew up, her protective mother would always discourage her from what she perceived as life’s harsh realities. Fortunately, Connie’s warrior spirit led her on a path to success as an entrepreneur, broker, and commercial real estate expert by goal setting, focused learning, determination, and hard work. In addition, Connie’s life’s desire is to lead others on a path to success in achieving their own dreams. The first step on Connie’s path into the real estate world was somewhat inauspicious. Having taught herself to type the


bare minimum of 40 words per minute, Connie landed a job at PRC Realty Systems with a manager who cherished his reputation as the grumpiest man in the company, if not the entire city of Houston. He later told her that he hired her because she didn’t break down in tears when he put her through her paces in the interview and the last person who had worked for him had quit because he made her cry all of the time! PRC printed the commercial and residential Multiple Listing Service (MLS) books and gave Connie her first peek into the real estate world. Through the conversations with the Realtors® coming in to pick up their MLS books, Connie found out that the residential Realtors® worked evenings and weekends but the commercial Realtors® did not.That is when she chose to focus on commercial real estate partly because she had a young child and couldn’t envision working every weekend away from him. In addition, it may have been just a little because it was such a male dominated field (and still is to some extent) and Connie always liked challenges.   During her four years at PRC, Connie took advantage of their employee back-tocollege program and then on to real estate

classes. Once she had her license she went to work in the accounting department for PM Realty Group (PMRG). At that time, all of their property managers were men. Her knowledge of accounting was slim but she knew once she got in she could eventually work her way into the position she really wanted. All the while she mastered accounting by asking questions, reading books, and teaching herself. Eleven months later, Connie got a call from a property manager at one of the buildings managed by PMRG asking her if she would take a secretarial position at his building. Connie rightly saw it as a step in the right direction even though she had to fight company policy against transfers. It was during the big recession in the 1980s and job security was at a premium. She finally got her transfer after threatening to quit and, once again, she was on her way up.   Within a relatively short period of time, Connie became the first female to be promoted to property manager with PM Realty Group. In a climate roiling with anti-discrimination class action lawsuits, Connie always felt she had been selected partly because she was the right woman in the right place at the right time. Because of that, she worked twice as hard as anyone else so they would never have reason to think they had made the wrong decision.   Connie laughs now when recalling her first few meetings as a property manager; “I was always the only woman in the room with 20 men, and being a woman raised in the South, I waited patiently for everyone to stop talking long enough for me to jump into the conversation. As you can imagine, that didn’t work out very well. After three meetings without finding an opportunity to say ONE WORD, I got so frustrated I just stood up! Everyone stopped talking then and just stared at me.The vice president asked, ‘What’s wrong?’ I

just said, ‘I figured that was the only way I would ever get your attention and be able to say what I wanted to say.’ From that moment, I didn’t have to stand up to get a voice at the meetings. It was kind of a running joke at every meeting, but my voice was heard.”   “I learned some important lessons in that first position in a male-dominated world. I started out thinking I was going to change the game but I learned that sometimes it’s better to play within their parameters and get really good at the game. It’s all about being a team player, but also being strong enough not to let anyone run you over.”   After working 20 years for PM Realty Group, in February of 2001, Connie was invited to attend a Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA) breakfast.When she arrived, Connie stood in awe of all of the women there who owned their own businesses. She was so inspired that she couldn’t stop thinking, “If they can do it, why can’t I?” Connie had always planned on staying with PM Realty until she retired but this event had turned her life upside down. Week after week, Connie couldn’t get it out of her head about running her own business. Now, the things that never bothered her before began bothering her. She knew it was time to leave the company and strike out on her own.  When Connie went to the CEO and resigned, he first thought that she was having a bad day and suggested that she just take a leave of absence. Connie reiterated that she was very certain about leaving. So on March 21, 2001, Connie started her commercial real estate firm, Customized Real Estate Services (CRES), and by that July she had become WBE

Certified. Connie truly believes that she is blessed to have “Heavenly” spiritual guidance on her path to success because right after she started her company she bumped into someone who had been a tenant of hers many years before. When Connie told them what she was doing, they suggested that she represent them in their office expansion. Little did Connie know that they were no longer in 6,000 square feet of office space but had grown to more than 36,000 square feet!!! What a great first client to have because Connie’s fee ended up being enough to establish her office and ultimately help her hire a secretary and leasing agents. Another situation that Connie recalls as an important lesson was learned from a young man in South Carolina. Connie had flown there on behalf of her client to get them the best possible deal.Time was limited for the negotiations and she felt the pressure of needing to make something happen fast. Connie had a nice conversation talking about her Southern roots with the young man that was driving her from the airport. When she arrived for her appointment, she explained to the older, Southern gentleman who she was negotiating with that she had a limited amount of time. To Connie’s dismay, he seemed totally unconcerned about her time constraints.   As hard as Connie tried to negotiate, the gentleman was not coming to terms and the tension started to build. Feeling she was about to lose her “cool”, Connie walked out of the room to take a breather. The young man who had driven Connie asked if he could

[ MAY 2014 ] 7

give her a little advice as he had been listening to the negotiations. He said, “If you want to do what’s best for your client then you need to remember your roots.” Connie really listened to him and said to herself, “It’s not about me; it’s all about my client and getting them the best deal.” Biting her tongue and determined to succeed in getting what was best for her client, Connie returned to the meeting with “honey just dripping out of her mouth” as she laid her Southern charm on as thick as possible! Fortunately, it worked. She got everything she had wanted for her client and made it back to the airport just in time for her flight. “I don’t know if you are born with determination or if you learn determination but I am probably the most determined person you will ever meet in your lifetime,” Connie reflected, “When I was four and a half, I had a severe accident and almost severed my leg. After being in the hospital for six weeks with a full leg cast, it took nearly a year for me to learn how to walk again. The lesson I learned was when you fall down you have to get up. The day that I finally was able to walk unassisted was the point in my life that I knew I could do anything that I set out to do.”

After the incident that almost caused Connie to lose her leg, her mother became fearful and overprotective.  As a result, she would try to stop Connie from doing anything that she thought might have the slightest chance of Connie being injured. So it wasn’t until Connie was 13 that she learned to ride a bike and swim and she somehow taught herself to do both! In addition, she taught herself how to drive a car when she was 21. Without determination, Connie never could have accomplished any of those things, especially with her mother strongly trying to dissuade her.   One of Connie’s childhood memories is that her mother was always good at putting things in perspective. When Connie and her sisters complained that they were poor and didn’t have anything, her mother took them to an area of town where people were truly destitute. Her mother stated, “This is poor. We’re not poor.” They learned not to complain as they knew they had a roof over their head and food in their bellies. Connie learned that no matter how bad off she thought she was there was always someone worse off.   Connie reflected, “My mother wasn’t perfect but she did the best she could with what she had. It took me being nearly 50

Ileana Leija is a bilingual leasing agent at CRES. She is also like Connie’s “Left & Right Hand”. They have been working together for over 10 years. 8 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MAY 2014 ]

for me to be able to appreciate what all she had gone through; trying to raise four children and only having a third grade education.” After getting a divorce, Connie knew that she needed to go back to school; so she attended community college at night while working a full time job. “My little boy was eight years old and would ask me, ‘Mommy, you leave me every night with the baby sitter; why are you leaving me?’ Even as I answered that I was doing it for our future, it broke my heart every time he asked that question,” recalled Connie. “When my son Shane was 40, he told me that he knew that the hard decisions I had made before when he was a little boy growing up really were for our future and I had done the right thing. Shane is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, outside of my husband Don. I wanted my child to have a better life. I didn’t want him to have to grow up like I did, struggling and going without things. Because of him, I pushed myself twice as hard to always excel so I could make more money. I don’t think I would have done that without him. I have to give him credit for 100 per cent of my success! My son has turned out to be such a wonderful man; I couldn’t be any prouder. I also have the most adorable grandson, Aidan, and another grandchild is on the way.”  Education has always been the utmost of importance to Connie. “I love to learn and am always reading books and taking online classes through Houston Community College,” stated Connie, “Much of my business knowledge has come from the many books I’ve read, the various college classes taken, and the lessons learned through my life’s journey. But the best thing I have ever done was join WBEA.” Connie added, “Because of the WBEA Scholarship Program, I have been able to take every seminar, every class, and learn everything I could possibly need to improve my business including being a graduate in 2003 of the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program. They have helped me so much. Anything that I saw that I was lacking in or weak in, I would take a class to improve.”

After working on getting a meeting with Shell Oil for four years, Connie finally got the opportunity. To her delight and also to her dismay, she was advised that they were expecting her to do a PowerPoint presentation for all of Shell’s people in their real estate department. Connie had never worked with PowerPoint and had no idea what it entailed! Fortunately, because she had a scholarship with WBEA, she was able to take a class on PowerPoint in time for her presentation that had been scheduled 30 days out. After giving the presentation, Connie asked if she could call in a week to get feedback on her presentation and how she could improve. The Real Estate Manager, John Greene, replied that she didn’t have to wait to find out.Thinking the worst, Connie’s mouth dropped open from the shock when he informed her that it was the best presentation that he had ever seen! By the time Connie returned to her office, she received a call from the Shell Supplier Diversity Manager who told her it

was going through Shell how well she had done. Then Connie was told that she got the contract. Since that milestone, Connie’s success has soared and she attributes that success in part to all of the help she has received from WBEA.   One very important class that Connie took with a WBEA scholarship was a weeklong seminar on negotiations and the differences in how women speak compared to men. Connie learned to stop always saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when she was negotiating. Connie elaborated, “You lose your negotiating power when you start saying things like, ‘Well, if you don’t mind, could you give this to me?’ When you are negotiating, you have to be on the same level.The hardest part for women is that they give away their power; it is not taken from them. They say things like, ‘When you have time, send me a proposal.’ They need to say, ‘Send me a proposal by this date.’ Sometimes women are way too polite in negotiations and, to be effective, you have to learn you are work-

ing on the same level as everyone else.You should never let anyone speak down to you. Business is business. I always try to be nice if I can; but it’s not always possible in negotiations. If you have something they want, you have the power; but I’ve found the best outcome is always a win-win scenario.” “When I do things, I don’t just do it to benefit me. I always do it with the thought of how I am going to make things better. That is also important if you want to be successful in business,” Connie expressed, “I get great pleasure from helping other women succeed. I feel blessed that I have helped others get in doors where they have previously failed. Somehow, I will meet someone who knows someone and suddenly the door is open. I think it’s because they know that I am genuine, I try to help others, and that it’s just not about me.” She added, “At CRES, we strive to be bigger than ourselves. Our mission is bigger than our bottom line.” Connie doesn’t just

Connie feels very blessed to work with so many great clients. Many of them have become dear friends and many friends have become her clients! She is pictured here with her clients from Swift World Wide Resources, Amber Polk and Jessica Delarosa.

[ MAY 2014 ] 9

talk the talk; she walks the walk in everything she does. In addition, everyone on her team “follows the leader”! In 2014, Connie was able to incorporate a giving back program as part of her company’s business model. “After every transaction, a donation is made to nonprofit organizations that helps educate and empower women and minorities and thereby increases their chances in achieving success,” said Connie. Connie loves being of assistance to her growing family of satisfied clients.

CRES has had ups and downs over the years but through Connie’s determination and undaunted spirit, her annual sales have gone from nothing to $5 million. Connie has won many awards including WBEA Advocate, the WBENC Star Award, the WBEA Supplier of the Year, and the Woman of Influence in Commercial Real Estate. Connie is quick to tell you, “The awards do not make me who I am but they do give the company its credibility. When companies see the awards, they are more likely to select the most successful company to work with.”

Connie’s Best Advice for Success

In summing everything up, Connie stated, “CRES demands the very highest level of performance from every team member on every project. We negotiate every lease as if it were our own. We seek out every property as if we would be spending our work lives there. We execute every transaction as if our moral standing was hanging in the balance; and we truly believe it does. We help our clients implement LEED principles as if our children’s lives depend on it – and they do! Above everything else, we believe in integrity, responsibility, and sustainability.” It is so obvious how much Connie loves real estate. As the tenant advocate, she is totally in her element as she helps people get the right office space at the right price so that they can grow their business and take it to that next level. Undaunted with what life has thrown at her and with sheer determination, Connie’s passion to share her knowledge is like of a torch light guiding others behind her through the darkness, leading them on a path to success in achieving their own dreams. 10 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MAY 2014 ]

1. You have to love what you do. 2.  Don’t think you know everything because you don’t. Be honest with yourself. 3. Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Some of my greatest successes have been the greatest risks. 4. When you fall down and you will, get up. 5. Pay yourself a salary. If you don’t value yourself, others won’t either. 6. Sometimes your darkest hours will result in your brightest light. 7.  Don’t ever give up on your dreams. Keep plugging on be- cause that big opportunity could be just around the corner. 8. Don’t take “no”. It may be “no” today but it could be “yes” tomorrow. 9. The key to success is being gently persistent without being a pest. 10. Be generous by giving more than you receive. 11. Don’t be in it just for yourself. If you are, it’s going to be a lonely world. 12.  Seek out mentors to guide you along your path.  13. Mentor others. Push past your fears and help others do the same. 14. Never stop learning. 15. If you can become a member of WBEA, utilize their schol- arship program. Sit down and make a list of what you think you need help in. Mine was in public speaking, negotiations, and PowerPoint programs. I applied for a scholarship in each area I thought I needed help with and was able to take free classes every year until I no longer needed any help. 16.   Anyone can be mediocre so keep striving to be the best that you can possibly be. 17.    Toot your own horn or it won’t get tooted.


Plus One By Rita Santamaria


f you work just for money, you’ll never get rich but if you love what you are doing and you are consistently looking for new business, while remembering the customer is always first, success and personal satisfaction will be yours. This phrase said in so many different ways is factual. The problem is we all need the money in order to pay our obligations and that brings on

the pressure which brings on stress. How you and I handle stress is the key to success and personal satisfaction.   Culture tells us about our success. The more you do the more you are worth. People who are more productive are worth more. Perhaps this is why teachers and maintenance persons are not paid more as they are perceived to be not as productive. How very incor-


rect this thinking is. We need our maintenance engineers to keep us healthy and safe and we are uneducated if we do not have our teachers or what I like to call “subject matter experts”. So culture must be wrong when identifying success. Success to most individuals is having a good business or job and enjoying good family relations. Being good in all areas

of our lives is learning to work with the stress that is converted to energy and productivity. Stress can be good if it allows us to set appropriate priorities. Priorities, aka goals, must be based on trustworthiness, honesty, and building a respectful reputation while laying the foundation for business and family success.

»Continued on Page 32


Are Sales Leads Hungry

for Your Email Marketing?                      By Craig Klein, CEO


common answers naming the location, service, prices, and even food, his answer was “No”...then he continued with this response, “To have a successful restaurant… you need a starving crowd.”

Despite your belief that the consumer is hurting themselves by using the web as a primary resource for information, the buyers continue to search for answers within the digital content they can find.Your email marketing campaigns can be tailored to fit what sales leads think they need.

Today’s consumers want you to “feed” them the information they crave. A consumer is put off by traditional advertising. They expect to receive valuable information from you without feeling any obligation to purchase from your company. If you begin a conversation with a sales pitch, they will turn off, click away, and find someone who can solve their problem without any evidence of self-interest in the sale.

e often talk about the new internet-empowered buyer and how they want to be in charge of the entire buying process.They scour the web researching every purchase before they make contact with a salesperson and their behavior has turned the world of sales upside down.

Hungry Consumers

All the evidence shows that today’s consumers are very hungry for information. They find it on websites, social media, conversations with friends, plus in the emails they choose to read. With the knowledge that your sales leads are hungry for information, how does that drive your email marketing strategy? The individuals and companies that have the most success take an approach that offers a high ratio of information with a sprinkling of promotional messages.  While everyone is seeking a discount, if you focus too much on the price/product message – it screams “Buy my stuff ”. Not a very friendly message to your hungry sales leads.

Shift in Perspective

In an article on “Copyblogger”, they retell a story used by master copywriter, Gary Halbert. He asks, “What does it take to have a successful restaurant?” Despite the

The individuals and companies that have the most success take an approach that offers a high ratio of information with a sprinkling of promotional messages. What Sales Leads Desire

In the same article, Sonia Simone talks about the fact that your sales leads want interesting information.They want content that will make them look smarter and they want their problems solved. She claims that when you shift your content (email marketing) to focus on the reader, these things will happen: • Your content will be easier to read • You quit trying to sound big and successful and begin sounding like a smart, helpful human being who can provide answers.

• While you may be bored by answering the basic questions your sales lead craves, it is not about you…it is about them. •The sales cycle will become more efficient and customers will become more loyal because they know, like, and trust you.

How You Can Serve Them

You can predict the cravings of your new sales leads by looking at your current ideal customers. Use your CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) to find insights. Ask staff what they have experienced. Learn what the salespeople know better than anyone.You might even pick up the phone and talk to a few of your currently great customers. The goal of this exercise is to develop a composite persona of your very best client. In the persona description, you outline their age, company size, type of industry, gender, hobbies, and anything else you can identify. Mash all of those descriptions into one composite “person” and focus all of your email marketing on that one person. Marketing automation does not mean impersonal marketing. In fact, done well, it is the exact opposite. Use what you know to determine what your sales lead is starving for. Let that knowledge guide everything you do in your email campaigns.

Craig Klein is the founder of which is a leading provider of CRM, email marketing, and lead generation solutions for business-2-business sales teams. [ MAY 2014 ] 13



of Korean Air                       By Mayor Annise D. Parker


he good news surrounding international air service in Houston continues as the leaders of Korean Air have made the decision to expand their route schedule at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) even before the arrival of their inaugural flight. The flight between Houston and Incheon International Airport (ICN) was originally slated to feature four flights per week but airline officials made an early determination that the Houston market can fully support daily service between the two destinations.  As a result, effective May 2, 2014, Houston passengers will have a choice of seven departures per week. We welcome this exciting news from our partners with Korean Air.  This early expansion is a clear indication that Houston’s vibrant and diverse economy is presenting some extraordinary business opportunities for international air carriers based in markets around the world.  Korean Air recognizes these opportunities and is fully vested in capitalizing on them.  We agree with their assessment and are excited about the new daily service.  Obviously, the city’s air passengers are feeling the same way. The news from Korean Air is the latest in a string of announcements that have come over the past year regarding expanded international air service for the six million residents living in the Houston region.  In less than a year’s time, Houston Airport System leaders have either marked or announced the arrival of three new international carriers and all three airlines have increased the number of flights available to passengers over their original operation: • Turkish Airlines:  The remarkable series of launches began in April 2013 when Turkish Airlines operated its first flight between Intercontinental Airport Houston (IAH) and Istanbul Ataturk International Airport (IST).  Originally featuring four flights per week, the 14 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MAY 2014 ]

service is now enhanced to offer seven departures per week. • Air China: In July 2013, more than 10 years of hard work has finally paid off with the arrival of Air China and its nonstop service to Beijing’s Capital International Airport (PEK).  Launched with five weekly flights, airline officials moved to daily service within eight months, the quickest expansion for a U.S. market served by Air China. • Korean Air:  The decision to expand Korean Air’s service in Houston arrived even before its first Boeing 777-200 aircraft.  Rather than begin Houston service with four flights operating each week, Korean Air will feature daily service. In addition to the activity coming from foreign-based air carriers, Houston is also reaping the benefits from expanded service involving U.S. airlines, especially the two dominant carriers operating in the Houston market.  In March 2014, United Airlines launched nonstop service to Munich International Airport (MUC) in Germany and also introduced a second daily frequency to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT).  In 2013 alone, Southwest Airlines added eight new destinations to its list of available nonstop flights at Hobby Airport.  Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines continues to add new destinations to its route map at William P. Hobby Airport as the Texas-based airline prepares for international air service in Houston that is set to begin in early 2016. 

Serving since January 2, 2010, Annise D. Parker has been elected as the Mayor of Houston three times. She is Houston’s 61st Mayor and one of only two women to hold the City’s highest elected office.  For contact information, go to:   www.houstontx. gov/mayor/


Unexpected Differences with

English-Speaking Cultures                       By Ludmila (Mila) Rusakova Golovine


ost of the time when Americans think of doing business abroad, the first obstacle that pops into their minds is the language barrier. They believe that this is their greatest obstacle to succeeding abroad.  Nevertheless, oddly enough, most American expatriate workers experience some of their most challenging assignments in English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and even Canada.  Quite simply, Americans do not expect to have any problems or culture shock when going to other English-speaking countries.  Thus, they are caught off guard by seemingly insignificant misunderstandings and subtle differences.

has subtle differences among the two cultures. In American usage, a “moot point” is one where the issue is decided and no longer worthy of discussion.  In the British context, it means that the point is open for discussion.  It is apparent how these subtle differences can lead to drastic misunderstandings between the two parties. 

Misunderstandings also occur between Australian English and the other English-speaking regions. In this case, different words are employed.  “Mate” is used more often for “friend” and “Sheila” is used for “woman.”  The equivalent American English words are still used in Australia but it is a matter of frequency that is different and The most common misunderstanding leads to misunderstanding or uneasiness between English-speakers is, in fact, lin- on the part of the American interlocutor guistic.  Since American, British, Canadian, if he/she is not accustomed to this manner and Australian cultures evolved separately of speech.   from each other, they can be radically difWith Canadians, it is more of a differferent.  Thus, many cultural idioms entered into usage are meaningless outside of their ence in pronunciation than word choice.  country of origin.  Most of these idioms The most recognizable difference would are derived from sports.  For example, be in words that have “ou” in them.  This Americans will say “I dropped the ball” or is why “about” is pronounced “aboot” by “I fumbled” when they make a mistake.  most Canadians.  Also, occasionally CaThese terms come from American foot- nadians pronounce “t” as “d.”  Thus “Otball, so they are absolutely meaningless to tawa” sounds like “Oddawa.”  These are, non-American English-speakers and they of course, little things but since they are render difficult the concepts they are try- unexpected, they sometimes give the interlocutor a sense of uneasiness and aping to convey. prehension. For British English-speakers dealing with While linguistic differences are the most Americans, there are also many words used that have subtle differences.  The simple ad- obvious variation to point out, it is not as jective “quite” is very different between the important as the mentality differences.  As two versions of English.  In the American previously stated, all of these cultures deversion, it means “a lot” but in the British veloped separately or in the case of the version, it means “sort of.”  Consequent- United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, ly, if the American says that something is only connected politically with great geo“quite good” then it means “very good” graphic separation.  Thus, their mentalities but the British person will understand this and world views were shaped by differas only “so-so.”  Similarly, the word “moot” ent historical experiences.   The United 16 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MAY 2014 ]

the coastal areas. Due to the need to cooperate for survival, relationships became very important to Australians.  Whenever venturing into the Outback or interior of the country, it was necessary to have a partner.  Therefore, having a “mate” became extremely important and this mentality has continued to this day.  This Canada formed out of a different ex- contrasts greatly with the American focus perience.  Since much of northern Can- on independence and the do-it-yourself ada is tundra, it could not be settled easily.  philosophy. Therefore, boundaries came to be acceptThe United Kingdom’s development ed and viewed as unconquerable.  Due to this experience, Canadians now value the was somewhat different as well.  Since it is good of the collective because they had the mother country of the English-speakto work together to survive the elements.  ing world, it has had no frontier expeThis focus of the group over the individ- rience.  Its main boundaries are social in ual sometimes causes intercultural break- nature.  Since the UK kept its aristocracy down with Americans despite the fact that and legislated its way to a republican system, the old divisions of class structure still they live in such proximity. remain.  Put simply, the level of formality in Australia developed somewhat similarly British English is much higher and one must to Canada although for different reasons.  pay proper attention that the appropriate In this case, it was the inhospitable interior amount of respect is given depending on of the country that confined Australians to the social status of the interlocutor.  ConStates was formed by violently separating itself from England and then pursuing an aggressive policy of westward expansion known as Manifest Destiny.  Consequently, the American mentality is an individualist one and views frontiers and boundaries as something to be overcome. 

sequently, communication, especially in the business world, can seem somewhat rigid in comparison to other English-speaking countries, which are more laid back due to their aforementioned development. With all of these subtle differences, it is not surprising that Americans sometimes feel overwhelmed abroad even while speaking their own language. Nevertheless, with an open mind and a degree of patience, the American speaker can actually come to enjoy the variety and appreciate the richness of the English language. As a graduate of the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston, Ludmila (Mila) Rusakova Golovine, Founder, CEO, and President of MasterWord Services, Inc., started her company with a vision of seamlessly connecting people across any language, any time, and any culture.  She understands the complexities of the global marketplace and excels at providing language solutions based on creative thinking and strategic planning.  Mila can be reached by email at, by phone at 281-5890810, or visit her website at


Visioning Scope-

Applying Vision toward Your Organization’s Progress By Hank Moore, Corporate Strategist™


ision is a realistic picture of what is possible. Visioning is the process where good ideas become something more. It is a catalyst toward long-term evaluation, planning, and implementation. It is a vantage point by which forward-thinking organizations ask: “What will we look like in the future?” “What do we want to become?” “How will we evolve?”

7 Steps toward Strategic Vision:

1. Analyze the company’s environment, resources, and capabilities. Determine where the Big Picture existed before, if it did at all. Crystallize the core business in terms of viabilities to move successfully forward to some discernible point. 2. Clarify management values. Usually, management has not yet articulated its own individual values, let alone those of the organization.This process helps to define and develop value systems to create success. 3. Develop a Mission Statement. It is the last thing that you write and not an end in itself. In reality, the Mission Statement is rewritten several times as the planning process ensues. The last draft of the statement will be an executive summary of collective ideas and works of the Visioning Team. 4. Identify strategic objectives and goals. I ask clients to do so without using the words: “technology,” “sales,” and “solutions.” Businesses fail to grow because they get stuck in buzz words and trite phrases that they hear from others. Technology is a tool which feeds into tactics.  Sales is one of dozens of tactics which an organization must pursue. Tactics feed into objectives which feed into goals which feed into strategy which feed into vision.

5. Generate select strategic options. There are many ways to succeed and your game plan should have at least five viable options. When the Visioning Program matures and gets to its second generation, you’ll find that winning formulas stem from a hybrid of the original strategic options. Creative thinking moves the company into the future. It never rehashes its earliest ideas. 6. Develop the vision statement. It will be action-oriented and speak from the facts as well as from the passion of company leaders. It will include a series of convictions why your organization will work smarter, be its best, stand for important things, and be accountable. 7. Measure and review the progress. By benchmarking activities and accomplishments against planned objectives, then the company has a barometer of its previous phase and an indicator of its next phase.  

7 Biggest Visioning Challenges:

1. Settle the organization’s short-term problems. Otherwise, they will fester and grow. Many organizations fail because they deny the existence of problems, proceed to place blame elsewhere or hope against hope that things will miraculously get better. Unsolved problems turn into larger roadblocks to growth. 2. Never let the vision lapse. Keep the vision grounded in reality through benchmarked measurements. Keep the communication open and the people will keep the enthusiasm alive. Renew the vision every five years with a formal process and include newer employees. Stay on top of the latest in business strategies. Therefore, you will


have the advantage over emerging competitors. 3. Effective visions are lived in details, not in broad strokes. If the mission evolves from the process, then so do the goals and objectives reformulate by changing tactics. The smallest tactics and creative new ways of performing them tend to blossom into grand new visions. 4. Be sure that all sectors of the organization participate.The Big Picture cannot be from the top down nor can the embracing of corporate culture be only from the bottom up. The Visioning Committee should represent all strata of the firm. 5. Periodically, test and review the process. Understanding why the organization ticks rather than just what it produces makes the really big gains possible. Success is a track record of periodic reflections. 6. Never stop planning for the next phase. The review and benchmarking phases of one process constitute the pre-work and research for the next. From careful study (not whims or gut instincts) stem true, strategic planning. 7. Change is inevitable and 90% positive. Individuals and organizations change at the rate of 71% per year.The secret is in benefiting from change rather than becoming a victim of it.  Your company’s future relies on your people sharing this vision. Determine if your team understands your vision, if they can see the possibilities, if they know how they fit into the picture, and if they are motivated toward action. Hank Moore has advised over 5,000 client organizations including public sector agencies, small businesses, non-profit organizations, and 100 of the Fortune 500.  Contact Hank by phone at 713-668-0664, by email at, or visit his website at  


Why Organizational

Culture Is Important By Aaron Kaplan


here is a great deal of talk about organizational culture these days in both academic and popular literature. However, the concept of organizational culture is fairly recent.  Culture became a significant concern in the U.S during the 1980s due to an interest in learning why U.S. companies were not performing as well as Japanese companies.  It was thought that organizational as well as national cultures could explain those differences.   Culture can be defined as the set of key values, assumptions, beliefs, understandings, and norms that are shared by members of an organization and taught to new members as correct.  At its most basic, culture is a pattern of shared assumptions about how things are done in the organization.  On the surface, an organization’s culture can be thought of in terms of manner of dress, patterns of behavior, physical symbols, organizational ceremonies, and office layout.  These include all the things a person can see, hear, and observe by watching members of the organization.  On a deeper level, culture is expressed values and beliefs, which are not observable, but can be discerned from how people explain and justify what they do.  These are values that members of the organization hold at a conscious level.  Some values become so deeply embedded in a culture that organizational members may no longer be consciously aware of them.   Cultures develop among any group of people who interact with one another over a long period of time.  When people are successful at what they undertake, the ideas and values that led to success become institutionalized as part of the organization’s culture.  Though ideas and

values that become part of the culture can come from anywhere within the organization, a founder or early leader typically has a significant impact on the organization’s early culture. A founder may articulate and implement particular ideas and beliefs as a vision, philosophy, or business strategy.  When these ideas and beliefs lead to success, an organizational culture begins to develop what reflects the vision of the founder or early leader.  Culture gives employees a sense of organizational identity and generates a commitment to particular values and ways of doing things.  Organizational cultures serve two important functions which are integrating members so that they know how to relate to one another and helping the organization adapt to the external environment.   Culture helps members develop a collective identity and learn how to work to-

gether effectively. It is culture that guides day-to-day working relationships and determines how people communicate in the organization what behavior is acceptable or not acceptable and how power and status are allocated.  Culture can imprint a set of unwritten rules inside employees’ minds that can be very powerful in determining behavior, thus affecting organizational performance.  Comparative studies of traditional American management practices and Japanese management methods suggest that relative success of Japanese firms in the 1980s can be partly explained by their strong corporate cultures that emphasize internal integration based on employee participation, open communication, security, and equity.  

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[ MAY 2014 ] 19


Getting Organized:

Why Bother? By Holly Uverity CPO®, Office Organizers


etting more organized is not for everyone and contrary to what you may have read, seen, or heard, there are no “organizing police” out to fine you for having a less than perfectly clean and clear workspace. Organizing your work area is a very personal undertaking.  Since each person thinks about things and processes information differently, the “Hows” of getting organized are often much different for each person.  A system that works well for one person may be completely incomprehensible and unworkable for another person.  Inasmuch as the “Hows” of getting organized can vary, so can the “Whys”.   Clients often tell me they have feelings of shame and guilt over not being able to control their disorganized tendencies.  They believe this is something they should be able to control and master and if they can’t, they feel as if they’ve failed somehow.  For those people, being disorganized can affect their work (they may turn in late or sloppy work), their work habits (they may be constantly working in reactive mode instead of proactive mode), their mental health (they may be worrying about what they haven’t done yet or constantly thinking about how far behind they are), their physical health (they may develop sleeping and eating disorders), and their family life (they may have less quality time to spend with their families and friends).   On the opposite end of the spectrum (and organizing is a spectrum) are people for whom having clear spaces can cause mild anxiety attacks.  They actually thrive in chaos and rely on their stacks of stuff to keep them motivated and inspired.  Their creative juices dry up when faced with empty spaces and organized lists of things to do.

So the question is, “Which type of person are you?  Do you know?  And if you are one of the latter types of people, why bother to get organized?  If you’re perfectly comfortable with your level of clutter and disorganization, why should you take the time and energy to become better organized?”  The answer is a conditional, “You shouldn’t.”

A system that works well for one person may be completely incomprehensible and unworkable for another person. Inasmuch as the “Hows” of getting organized can vary, so can the “Whys”.  Nothing is free; everything that you do has a cost.  So, you simply have to determine what it is costing you in being disorganized.  If you can live with the answer then you don’t need to change a thing.  It’s only when your disorganization is adversely affecting your life or the lives of those people you interact with that you need to start making some changes.    There are two costs to being disorganized – tangible and intangible.  

Tangible costs are easy to identify such as:

• Late fees because you’ve missed payment deadlines. • Costs associated with replacing or recreating documents you cannot find. • Money lost due to not invoicing your clients on a timely basis.


• Storage fees for ‘stuff’ you don’t need or use • Costs for buying duplicate items because you don’t know what you have.

Intangible costs of disorganization are also easily identified but may be a little bit harder to quantify – or admit to:  

•     Missed business opportunities because you were unable to respond to a request for more information in a timely manner.  How much money have you already lost? •    Not planning your work can cause you to waste time on projects that don’t pay off.  How much do you make per hour x the number of hours you spend on unimportant projects?  Now multiply that by the number of employees you have who also don’t plan. • Time spent looking for information can cause work slowdowns, stoppages, and bottlenecks.  How many people have to stop what they’re doing to find what you need?  How much do they make?  How much further behind are you putting them? •   Stressful working conditions for employees can lead to illness, a decrease in productivity, poor morale, and ultimately, more turnovers.  How many employees can you afford to lose, train, and lose again? •   Consistently working in reactive mode (putting out fires and responding to what’s happening right now) can cause you to lose your competitive edge. Do you want your customers to do business with you or your more organized competitors? 

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Inventory... Should it Be Included or Excluded

When Buying or Selling a Business? By Jeffrey D. Jones, ASA, CBA, CBI


nventory is a tangible operating asset of a business just like the other operating assets needed to generate revenues and earnings. Some businesses are equipment heavy and others are people heavy.  In valuing a business, we don’t determine their value without the equipment or without the people and then somehow add the value of these items to the price of the business.  Yet, some business owners expect a buyer to pay a value for their business without the inventory and then add whatever inventory is on hand at closing as an additional cost.   The fair market value of any businesses is based on the concept of providing the owner with economic benefits.  First, there should be sufficient earnings to pay the owner a reasonable salary.  Next, the earnings should be sufficient to provide a reasonable return on all the tangible assets (including inventory) necessary to operate the business.  Any remaining earnings are a result of the intangible assets such as goodwill. It is impossible to accurately determine the value of a business without knowing the full extent of the required investment needed to produce the expected level of earnings.   Use of the “add on” inventory method is justified by business owners and some business brokers based on the

Average Daily Inventory - This

Many businesses with inventory do not experience great variations in the amount on hand throughout the year. concept that inventory will often fluctuate throughout the year.  So, rather than try to determine the amount of inventory needed to support the reported revenue and earnings, they add it based on whatever it is at the time of closing.  This method greatly increases the risk that for any given business the inventory at closing may not be the normalized amount needed to support the revenue and earnings thus requiring the buyer to pony up additional funds within a few days or months to adequately support the business.  At best, blindly adding inventory to some predetermined price increases the risk that buyers will not get their expected rate of return on their investment.  At worst, this method may well lead to business failure due to being undercapitalized and unable to obtain additional funds needed to acquire the proper amount of inventory.    The “add on” inventory mentality would have us believe that two businesses, each with discretionary earnings of $100,000 should be priced the same except that businesses with inventory should be

worth more due to the inventory. This is simply not correct and does not make economic sense.  Why would someone pay more for the same level of earnings?  Prudent buyers want all of the assets needed to generate the expected level of earnings included in the price.   Many businesses with inventory do not experience great variations in the amount on hand throughout the year.  Those businesses that do experience significant swings in inventory levels tend to do so only during a few months of the year such as holiday seasons.  It is not that difficult to properly determine the amount of inventory that is needed to support the annual gross revenue and earnings.  Then at closing, the sales price can be adjusted up or down from the normalized inventory level based on the amount of inventory then on hand.    There are several methods business brokers and appraisers use to analyze inventory and estimate the normalized value of inventory to be included in the price of the business.  These methods include: 

method divides Cost of Sales for the year by 360 days which represents the average daily inventory amount that is sold. Then, an estimated inventory needed on hand can be determined by multiplying the average daily inventory by the average number of days needed to secure inventory.     

Average of Beginning and Ending Inventory - Add the inventory

on hand at the beginning of the year to the ending inventory at the end of the year and then divide by two. These amounts will be shown on the balance sheets of the company’s tax returns and financial statements.  This method works well if there are no major swings in inventory levels throughout the year and the inventory can be purchased with a minimum lead time.   

Average 12 Month Ending Inventory - Another method of de-

termining normalized levels of inventory is to review the 12 months of financial statements for a representative year and then add the ending inventory from each statement and divide by 12. This method works best when the company does an actual monthly inventory or has a perpetual inventory system and inventory can be purchased with a minimum lead time.

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[ MAY 2014 ] 21


The SBA Loan Approval

Process and Time Frames                       By Bruce Hurta

It’s not your parents’ SBA!” The U.S. Small Business Administration has been supporting small business owners in the United States since its inception in 1953.  Its lead program, the SBA 7(a) government-guaranteed loan program, is one that has evolved into a very efficient and consistent process for loan approvals among participating SBA lenders.  The most important factor to understand is that the SBA loan approval process is now a very refined template for underwriting the loan risk and loan approval decision.  That means the SBA 7(a) loan approval process and time frames can now be the same (if not more efficient than) as conventional bank or non-bank small business financing.                                                  

What is the SBA Loan Program?

There are some popular stories about the inefficiency of federal government but the time-tested SBA government-guaranteed small business loan program is not one of them. Instead, this program has generated measurable economic stimulus objectives, including favorable job growth, since its inception.  The loan program has evolved into an indirect loan program whereby the small business loan recipient receives loan funds from participating banks, credit unions, and licensed SBA non-bank lenders instead of receiving loan funds directly from the government.  The U.S. Government typically guarantees 75% of that loan against loss for the participating lender in good standing with the SBA.  Experienced SBA lenders earn the PLP or “Preferred Lender” designation from the SBA and they are able to approve SBA loan applications on behalf of the SBA without government intervention in the credit approval process.  The program works well and fills a necessary gap in credit availability for small businesses in the United States. 22 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MAY 2014 ]

First Steps

The first step in the loan approval process involves meeting your SBA lender and giving them enough information to evaluate your loan request for a pre-approval letter. The small business owner wants to know the loan terms he can qualify for before accepting an offer by the SBA lender.  The SBA lender wants to know that the small business will accept and benefit from these loan terms before conducting the complete underwriting process and preparing the SBA loan application package for the borrower.  Usually the borrower’s acceptance of the terms includes paying a deposit to the lender sufficient to cover the cost of underwriting if the applicant does not go through with the transaction after the lender has completed all the work and is ready to close the loan.  In most SBA lending shops which have the SBA Preferred Lender designation an applicant can expect pre-approval and a loan proposal letter within a week or two of submitting all the information required by the lender including but not limited to:   • Personal and business financial statements. • Last three years personal and business tax returns. • Completed loan application describing the loan request and itemizing the use of loan proceeds. • Signed authorization for credit and background investigation. • Management résumés from owners and primary managers.  

What Next?

The borrower should allow approximately two weeks for the next step in the process which is the formal underwriting procedure by the lender. The formal underwriting procedures involve assembling data from the

borrower to prepare write-ups and analyses for the following five categories: • Repayment ability – analysis of business and personal cash flow streams. • Management experience – evaluation of the owner’s expertise, experience, and education sufficient for being successful with the business. • Equity – determination that the borrower’s level of personal cash investment is reasonably balanced against the debt provided by the lender and other small business creditors. • Credit – determination that the borrowing company and its owners have been reasonably responsible paying other creditors. • Collateral – determining that the level of collateral provided by the borrower is sufficient for SBA guidelines and the lender’s appetite for risk.   After formal underwriting is completed, a firm commitment letter will be offered by the lender for acceptance by the fu-

ture borrower. Upon acceptance, the loan closing process begins.  

The Loan Closing Process

The loan closing process is the preparation done for the day when the borrower signs loan documents and the lender funds the loan for the borrower. Every small business and SBA loan application will have a long list of closing and funding requirements for the borrower and lender including but not limited to the following:   • A “note” or “promise to pay” will be signed by the borrower.  The note will include the terms of the loan including the origination date, the amount of the loan, the interest rate, the maturity date, and the collateral. • Security documents include all those documents required to be signed and filed with various governmental entities to perfect a lien on the collateral for the lender. • Insurance documents include those with which the lender insures the title

to property, insures collateral, insures the lives and ability to work of the borrowers, etc. • Various SBA documents will include a complete SBA loan application package with the lender’s underwriting and the borrower’s authorization for background and credit checks. • Reports from third party professionals such as environmental assessment engineers, governmental permits, and real estate, business, and equipment appraisers, etc. Depending upon how long the lender is waiting for third party reports, the closing process can usually be accomplished in one to three weeks.  You can learn more about SBA lending and small business finance on Bruce’s blog at  For more information about SBA real estate loans for small businesses, contact Bruce Hurta, Business Lending Manager at Members Choice Credit Union, at 281-384-2595 or by email at bhurta@


Rewriting the Rebel’s Manifesto:

13 New Rules for Business By Aimee Woodall


s my agency turns five this year (I know, you guys, where did the time go?), I’ve been consciously reflecting on the people, places, and experiences that have helped shape me along the way. From happy hours to networking to hours spent trolling the World Wide Web, I’ve taken bits and pieces away from everything I’ve encountered while on this wild ride. In fact, I remember reading a popular Internet image that made its rounds several years ago — the Rebel’s Manifesto. Its thirteen rules resonated in a deep, personal way at the time, and I passionately clung to its decrees for several years after it made its initial appearance. After all, my agency was brash and rebellious, and this image’s stick-to-your-bones kind of logic was refreshing; it was tough, meaty, and reverberating in all the right places.   But, like several things you learn along the way, what resonated five years ago simply doesn’t have the same “oomph” today. After five years of owning a business — five years of trials, tribulations, tiny victories and time for reflection — what was once “rebellious” seems pretty matter-offact and commonplace. After re-reading the Rebel’s Manifesto, I found it no longer spoke to me in an evocative manner — through no fault of its own, of course. I had grown; I had learned; I had experienced. Five years was enough time for me to realize that someone else’s words weren’t what I needed to make an impact.  

So what I needed to do, of course, was write my own Rebel’s Manifesto.

And, with no further ado, here’s MY version of the Rebel’s Manifesto, with five years’ worth of ups, downs, highs, lows, ex-

In fact, I remember reading a popular Internet image that made its rounds several years ago — the Rebel’s Manifesto. Its thirteen rules resonated in a deep, personal way at the time, and I passionately clung to its decrees for several years after it made its initial appearance. perience, and tenacious grit thrown in for good measure. 1.   Be creative and use what you were taught in school. A creative type using algebra? That will surprise people! (And surprising people is always good fun.) 2.     Stop not caring.Turn opinions around. Show people what they should care about. Shift thinking. Change minds. Teach them what you’ve learned. Not caring isn’t good enough. 3.   Commit to whatever it is you want to do. Learn from those who came before you in other spaces. JUMP and FIGURE IT OUT on the way down. 4.   Watch the competition. Don’t do what they do, but learn from their mistakes. Watch their work and make better work. 5.   If it scares you, do it. These are the BEST things.There is no other option. 6.  Cleaning up messes is often more memorable than making them. Do more of this. Solve problems. Address issues. Help create change. 7.    If someone asks to pick your brain, SAY NO. Stop letting people ask you to do free work. 8.    Exercise your BODY. Move away from the desk. It’s possible to take care of


yourself and achieve your dreams. And you’ll probably do better work if your brain is getting oxygen. 9.    Stop being so darn busy — being busy isn’t cool. 10. Jump on a lot of trampolines. Draw. Stand on your head. Learn how to do new things. Talk to strangers. Get out of your comfort zone on a regular basis. 11. Get the answers you’re looking for. Argue your point. Stand up for the things you believe in. And, if you don’t know what you believe in, sit down and decide then stand up again, and find a way to make your work intersect those things. 12. SAY NO. Saying no to the things you don’t want to do opens up space for the things you want to do. 13. Have a heart. Do more. Give back. Leave a legacy. Right now, you’re doing something amazing. It’s not good enough. You can, and SHOULD, do more. Aimee Woodall is the owner of the Black Sheep Agency, a Houston-based creative agency specializing in non-traditional public relations, social media, and experiential marketing. Contact Amy by phone at 832-9717725, by email at, or visit the website at


Too Much By N. D. Brown

There is just too much.


emember the scene in “Moscow on the Hudson” when Robin Williams, a newly defected Russian émigré, walks down a grocery aisle completely mesmerized. He is so overwhelmed he actually keels over in a dead faint. We live in a land where plenty is an understatement. Your neighborhood grocer stocks over 250 types of breakfast cereal.  250!  An entire aisle devoted to one product. It would take all day to read all the boxes to make a decision which one fits what you want. Yet your customers and the ones you want to be customers wade through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of choices every day. You think whatever you are selling is so distinct it sells itself. I wish I had a buck for every time I’ve heard that phrase. Even a few coins! You and your company are probably at the bottom of that purchase chain. How do you get noticed? How do you make the phone ring, the website click, and mouths say the right words that send customers your way? Advertising is but one answer to help the customers find their way through this self-inflicted maze of too much. Advertising helps the decision process make at least a partial answer before the customer ever gets to the selection process.  And think about this.  How many decisions do shoppers have to make before

they even get to the brand selection decision? They have to decide if they even want what you are selling. Then they have to decide if they have the money to afford it or if they can arrange the financing.  Next, they have to decide when they are going to buy it and where they are going to go to buy it from. Are they going on the internet? Are they driving to a brick and mortar location? Or are they picking up the phone?

You think whatever you are selling is so distinct it sells itself. I wish I had a buck for every time I’ve heard that phrase. Even a few coins! Your eyes are probably getting tired reading this, so imagine how the customer feels. I have spent a long and successful career helping marketers lead customers through this complicated maze. After my many years of making ads, it is no surprise I think it a critical part of any marketing plan. I know advertising is not cheap and I know it has to be result driven. Research has clearly shown there are tight windows of opportunity for each of the decision points a customer will evaluate. If the customer you want has not been exposed to your message or explained the reason why your stuff is the better choice then, poof, you just lost.


On top of the myriad of complicated choices the customer you want has to wade through, research shows that people are exposed to 2,000 or more messages on a daily basis.Talk about too much! No wonder people say they hate advertising.

Here are some tips:

•     Set aside an advertising budget. Look at your competition. Spend at least what they are spending and if you are a start-up, think of it is an investment so budget a little bit more. Spending less than you should is as bad as not spending at all. No matter what it is, it will NOT sell itself. •    Every dollar you spend has to have a return so discuss with media sales people what kind of return you should expect and measure the result. •      Talk to your customers to learn what they are seeing and hearing about your messages. •    Test and learn As you develop your advertising message, keep in mind that your advertising is not in the entertainment business, it is in the selling business. Customers want information. They are looking for reasons to buy. They are NOT looking for reasons not to buy.

N. D. Brown is a Principal of brownchild ltd inc, 3754 Sunset, Houston, TX 77005. You can reach him by phone at 713-807-9000 or cell 713-822-8370, by email at, or visit the web at


3, 2, 1 -

How to Be Your Best on Video! By Pilar Ortiz


ou lead a successful business and daily meeting with your sales team, participate in teleconferences and networking events, make important decisions, and attend board meetings. Suddenly, you’re called to do a TV interview or your social media manager insists you record and post videos online to grow your presence on the Web. It is time. The camera light flashes red and your mind draws a blank. Everything you planned to say leaves you or doesn’t come out sounding and looking natural. You feel and appear like a frightened deer standing in the middle of the road with headlights quickly approaching. You read and speak but how effective is your interaction during the interview? Do you appear natural? Do you connect with your interviewer? Does the image and presence you project on camera leave the impression that you are an expert CEO and successful executive? Or, do you appear nervous? Do your eyes wander? Do you speak in circles and take forever to get to the point, and what’s worse, all with a faceless expression? The question here is, “How can one connect with the audience when facing a cold, expressionless, intimidating lens?” Of utmost importance, in spite of the technology, one must always keep in mind that it’s the person that matters most. The secret is to imagine one is speaking directly to the person who they want to share the message with. You are an expert on projections, figures, and numbers, so you must also shine as the expert you know that you are in front of the camera. To record an effective and natural interview knowing your message is insufficient. Even if you know your content, once you’re in front of the

Be authentic. But how to achieve this when you feel uncomfortable in front of the camera? Start by practicing in front of the mirror and practice maintaining a visual connection through eye contact. camera you must wield other basic talents involving body movement and voice techniques. One simple way to linger in the minds of TV viewers is by telling your story.You can share your beginnings, your challenges, the origins of your company, the most recent success report, and the questions your clients are always asking. In your responses during the interview, use key words and keep your anecdotes short. It’s important to practice this strategy of getting to the point and not talking in circles. Be authentic. But how to achieve this when you feel uncomfortable in front of the camera? Start by practicing in front of the mirror and practice maintaining a visual connection through eye contact. Perfect the “smiley eyes” technique that allows your eyes to look expressive and natural. When responding to interview questions on camera avoid -- at all costs -- looking devoid, expressionless. Keep in mind that your audience is neither the interviewer nor the reporter. Think of that client you want to reach. Imagine. Visualizing the client helps you to


use words that speak to that person. Being in front of the camera could be a bit uncomfortable because, for most people, it’s simply not a natural phenomenon. For this reason, one must be specific and use simple language in front of the camera. One must provide short answers and in “sound bites.” Even during a pre-recording, try to recreate the adrenaline of a live interview. This will project you in the best light as someone who appears focused and confident. The important objective is to be your self and not to look like an expressionless cardboard cutout. You must connect with the camera with ease while telling your story -- the story that makes you unique, authentic, and easy to remember. It’s not easy overcoming the fear of being on camera. I will never forget the fear I had when I was first starting my career as a TV journalist and had to report on the death of a drug-trafficking lord, Pablo Escobar, in Colombia (1993). Somehow, the terror I felt at being live on the air with millions of TV viewers watching me was not visible on my face. Thankfully, my legs were the only things shaking and no one could see them. Whether you’re a woman or a man, don’t forget to wear make-up so that your face doesn’t appear shiny. Also, if you are bald or have a thinning hairline, use a translucent powder to eliminate the shine. Keep hairspray with you to control stray and rebellious hair. It is preferable to wear clothes with solid, primary, or pastel colors. Avoid prints, especially ones with stripes and other patterns that give the allusion of movement on camera.

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Four Common and Avoidable Mistakes

Small Businesses Make By Chris Sloan


mall businesses, particularly in the early stages and during periods of high growth, face a number of common legal concerns. With some planning and good advice from experienced counsel, these issues can be easily addressed. If they are ignored, some of these issues can quickly turn into problems that are often more expensive and difficult to resolve later. Here are some of the most common legal mistakes and how to avoid them:

No Vesting Restrictions on Founders

Each founder of a small business typically has the expectation that the other founders will actively work to build and grow the company. Sometimes, though, a founder leaves the company. It could happen for a variety of reasons: some good (a great job opportunity); some bad (the founders no longer get along); and some tragic (a founder dies). What happens to the departing founder’s equity? If a specific agreement is absent, the answer is nothing! Legally, that founder keeps all of their equity which can also create problems and concerns for future investors and employees. Some companies have failed because of problems caused by this issue.

To avoid this problem, co-founders should enter into reciprocal vesting agreements that cause their equity to vest over time. To avoid this problem, co-founders should enter into reciprocal vesting agreements that cause their equity to vest over time. If a founder leaves, they keep what is vested and forfeit the rest.This is very similar to the vesting restriction that startups often impose on stock options or restricted stock issued to employees as incentives and creates a strong incentive for the founders to stick with the company. More importantly, it creates an alignment of interests and expectations among the founders and a pre-agreed mechanism for handling a founder who leaves.

Choosing the Wrong Entity

Should you become an LLC or a corporation? In what state should the company be formed? These are all important questions that can have lasting consequences. Broadly speaking, if a company is “VC or bust,” it is best to be a C-corporation formed in Delaware. Most venture capital funds will not invest in LLCs and Delaware has the most respected and widely-known body of corporate law in the U.S. So, a Delaware corporation establishes a familiar and highly-in-

vestable corporate structure for potential investors. However, if venture funding is not a likely growth strategy, start as an LLC in the state in which the business is located. It is almost always possible to convert later to a corporation if the need arises. It is also usually much easier to convert from an LLC into a corporation than the other way around.

Not Protecting IP

One of the most common mistakes high-growth companies make is failing to take steps early enough to protect intellectual property. When dealing with something potentially patentable, waiting can be costly, especially with the recent changes to patent law.The key is to have a plan and decide what the company needs to protect and when to do it. Put another way, if the company fails to decide, the decision might be made for it. The “work made for hire” doctrine under copyright law is often misunderstood. People usually assume that when they pay for a work product

such as software, they will own it. However, that is usually not the case except for work that is done by an employee who is acting within the scope of their employment. Most of the time, without an express, written assignment of copyrights, the outside developer will own the work product in spite of what both parties may have originally intended. So, get an assignment and get it in writing.

Poor Contract Practices

Get your deals in writing. Make sure that if something is important to the business, it is written into the agreement. Always read carefully and apply the “law of common sense.” Lastly, keep your agreements simple! When a businessperson reads a contract that is written clearly and concisely, there is a greater chance of getting that contract signed without extensive legal review. Consult a business lawyer to determine exactly which provisions really add value, streamline the rest, and you may be surprised at how much more effective it will be.

Chris Sloan is a shareholder and cochair of Baker Donelson’s Emerging Companies Group. You can contact Chris by email at

[ MAY 2014 ] 29


Financial Astrology for May 2014 By Christi Ruiz

ARIES – The Sun, Mercury, and Venus are in your earnings zone this month and will give you many opportunities to bring in money. Due to Mercury and the Sun opposing frugal Saturn on the 2nd and 10th, you will feel indebted to creditors or those whom you owe. The only way out is to pay off what you owe and live debtfree. TAURUS – After months of tilling, sowing, and plowing, the harvest season begins. Both the Sun and Mercury will be lighting up your earnings zone. With the New Moon in your income zone on the 28th, many new opportunities open up to increase your income. Unfortunately, this is *Squaring Neptune so your worries of the costs of social expenditures are still not over.The Moon *Trines dynamic Mars in your work zone while *Sextiling Uranus in your zone of hidden dreams, so cultivate your goals. GEMINI – It’s time to start rebuilding burnt bridges of the past. Hardhearted Saturn is in your work zone but the Full Moon nears Saturn on the 14th. This will form part of the *Grand Trine that will make you sentimental and compassionate. Chiron is in your career zone and beneficent Jupiter is in your earnings zone (a good thing). Healing from rifts with colleagues and former bosses can lead to significant income opportunities. CANCER – Charming Venus *Conjuncts a jackpot. Uranus enters your house of career success on the 15th. Unleash your charismatic magnetism; it will work miracles on all who surround you. 30 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE [ MAY 2014 ]

Be on the lookout for influential people to impress, especially when cunning Mercury *Sextiles Uranus.Your deepest dreams could come true. Network like you’ve never done before. LEO – The New Moon will be in your working zone on the 28th and *Trines Mars. This will impact your communications and will give you emotional support from others.The Moon is *Squaring Neptune in your finance zone. Caution with economic investments. VIRGO – Mars is retrograde in your sector of earned income and has put a monetary paralysis on it. Venus opposes Mars on the 11th but a miracle cure is on the horizon. When Mars turns direct on the 19th, owed payments will start to come in and you can discover new sources of income that will help you get your accounts squared away. LIBRA – Mercury and the Sun are transiting your shared resources zone this month. The Sun makes harmonious *Aspects to Pluto and Jupiter on the 3rd and 6th.This will allow for financial support from family members in the form of a loan or mortgage. The Full Moon near Saturn retrograde will be in your earnings zone till the 14th. SCORPIO – Your best strategy for achieving an economic edge is to focus on your charm. Mercury enters your financial zone *Sextiles disarming Uranus and super-charming Venus on the 15th. By toning down your normally abrasive ways, you

can turn up your chances for monetary success. SAGITTARIUS – Bountiful Jupiter enters your financial zone and will be sending out two very powerful, harmonious, rare *Trines to a negative Chiron in your home zone. When Saturn’s influence comes in on the 14th and 24th, you will have great opportunities for real estate for ownership or investment. CAPRICORN – Mar’s retrograde motion is in your career zone of success. So things have been very slow and Mars finally goes direct on the 19th. You then will reach new heights of professional potential. It will take willpower, ambition, and determination which are all attributes you already have. The New Moon will be in your work zone in *Trine with Mars on the 28th allowing you to reach your goals. AQUARIUS – The Full moon will be in your zone of professional success on the 14th.You have a temporary block with Saturn that has been in your prosperity zone. The Moon will be creating a *Grand Trine with regenerative Chiron in your earnings zone and bountiful Jupiter will be in your work zone.This means plenty of work and more income! PISCES – If you want to influence relatives, buy their loyalty.The New Moon is in your family zone and *Trines Mars in your sector of shared resources on the 28th. When dealing with family, think of it as a fair transaction - You help them out financially and you will gain their trust. This will bring you more abundance in the future.

*Astrological Definition of Terms: Aspects - An Aspect is the precise distance between any two points in a horoscope and is used to establish how the planets combine to stimulate and moderate each other’s influence. Aspects are divided into two categories, Major or Minor and Harmonious or Tense. Generally, Major Aspects are much more powerful than the Minor. There are five Major Aspects in common use: Conjunction, Opposition,Trine, and Sextile.

Conjunction is the most powerful Aspect and combines two planets in a single force. Opposition is extremely powerful and places the planets in conflict with each other producing difficulties but increasing the range of possibilities open to the individual. Trine is the most powerful Harmonious Aspect bringing the planets together in an easy combination. Square is strong but less powerful than Opposition and creates friction between planets. Sextile is a strong Harmonious Aspect but less powerful than the Trine.

Christi Ruiz is an expert in spiritual and intuitive sciences and she can use them to assist with one’s success in real estate, business, and personal matters. Christi’s many years of experience working for banks and mortgage companies gives her an extra edge in understanding the world of finance. You can contact Christi by phone at 713-773-0333-O or at 281-9042658-C. Her website is and her email address is

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»Continued From Page 12

behavior. Never! Introduce your clients to others in the office which is a show of respect and manners. Always saying simple Plus One statements like, “We are so appreciative that you have chosen our company for your ___ needs” and “Thank you for your busiOur customers are coming to our business with their stress. ness” is a must. These are simple commands. Next time you are They need our products and are willing to compensate us for the customer, please check to see if you get these courtesies. them and all we need to do is give them good service. Even if the customer is exhibiting a bad attitude, we don’t have the luxury of On the internet or via email, the way you write your notes, allowing the customer’s attitude to affect our Plus One attitude. the speed of your reply, and the clarity of your delivery tells the The Plus One attitude means we take great care to fulfill the customer how important they are to your business. Never use customer’s order and then do something extra for the customer.  all caps on a reply. It comes across you are yelling. Always use   spell check. Don’t use abbreviations in business correspondence. A recent example in my business occurred when an agent These are only a few examples of how our business is perceived from another state talked to our Champions career counselor by others through electronic delivery. and wanted to know how to transfer his out of state hours to   obtain a Texas broker’s license. After she told him the procedure, Plus One can be achieved through personal and e-delivery she went to the other state’s website and pulled off their form methods. The way you acknowledge, reply, and take action for this customer needed and handed it to him to take with him and your customer’s benefit will correspond to the degree and height fill out. The customer could have done the process after leaving of your success. her office. He could have gone online and printed the form but she did a Plus One and he was very appreciative. Rita Santamaria is the owner of Champions School of Real Estate (established in   and the Champions School of Professional Development.  Rita’s accolades Here are some simple acts of consideration which I consider 1983) include:  2013 Texas Women’s Chamber of Commerce Top Business Woman of the Plus Ones:When visiting with a customer in person, offer the cus- Year, 2013 Top 100 Small Businesses by the Houston Business Journal, and Top tomer water, coffee, or a soft drink. Have a play area, toys, crayons, 50 Most Recognized Women in Houston in 2011.  For more information, visit her etc. for the children. Never show any anxiety over the children’s company website at  



»Continued From Page 19

Why Organizational Culture Is Important The other primary function of culture is that it determines how the organization meets goals and deals with outsiders. The right cultural values can help the organization respond rapidly to customer needs or the moves of the competitor.  Culture can encourage employee commitment to the core purpose of the organization, its specific goals, and the basic means used to accomplish goals.  The culture should embody the values and assumptions needed for the organization to succeed in its environment.  If the external environment requires extraordinary customer service, for example, the culture should encourage good service.    Strong cultures are important because they bind the employees together, making the organization a community rather than just a collection of individuals with no shared values and ways of thinking and acting.  A positive organizational culture emphasizes building on employee strengths, rewards more than it punishes, and emphasizes vitality and growth.  All employees, not just leaders and managers, shape the culture of an organization and create a positive work environment.  You can do as much to shape your organizational culture as the culture of the organization shapes you.

Aaron Kaplan, Founder/Director of the Kaplan Project LLC, can be reached by phone at 832-831-9451, by email at, or visit his website at

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Getting Organized: Why Bother? You don’t have to get organized if you don’t see the benefit or payoff.  As a normal part of your business, you should always be assessing what’s working for you and what’s not.  You should also recognize the costs – ALL the Costs – of how you act in your business life every day and make decisions about which costs you’re willing to pay and which you’re not.  If you’re willing to pay all the costs associated with being disorganized then you don’t need to change a thing.

Office Organizers, founded in 1993 by Holly Uverity, is The Entrepreneur’s Organizer. They work with business people to create solutions for their organizational challenges.  Contact them at 281-655-5022,, or


»Continued From Page 21 Inventory... Should it Be Included or Excluded When Buying or Selling a Business? In the event the purchase and delivery lead time requires inventory levels to be greater than one month, the average monthly inventory will need to be adjusted for the number of weeks or months needed to support the lead time.   Weight Average Monthly Inventory – The concept of this method is to weight each month’s inventory based on its proportion to total inventory.  This method works well when the monthly inventory significantly varies throughout the year.           Industry Ratios - Use of Industry Ratios is yet another way of determining normalized inventory.  RMAs financial ratios report inventory turnover ratios for most industries.  This ratio can be utilized by dividing Cost of Sales by the Inventory Turnover Ratio.    No one wants surprises at closing due to the miscalculation of the inventory amount needed to operate the business.  The above methods of determining the normalized amount of inventory to be included in the price of a business can be effectively used in conjunction with an analysis of the company’s financial statements, consultation with the owners, and input from their financial advisors.  Additional adjustments to the inventory may be needed to account for damaged, non-salable, outdated, or excess inventory. Jeff Jones is the President of Certified Appraisers, Inc. and Advanced Business Brokers, Inc. located at 10500 Northwest Frwy., Suite 200, Houston, TX  77092.  He can be contacted by email at Visit his website at www.

»Continued From Page 28 3, 2, 1 - How to Be Your Best on Video!   Never wear a white jacket.  Wearing white, in general, makes you appear ten pounds heavier on camera.  You also need to be aware if there will be a green screen behind you when you are filming; if so, you can not wear green because it won’t show up on camera. If at all possible, it is a good idea to get an approval in advance about what you are wearing from whoever is in charge of production. Whenever you are asked a question on camera, carefully take time to think out the answer for each one of your responses.  Don’t become distracted in anticipation of the next questions. Remain calm, because, above all, it’s vital that during every interview or when recording a product that the TV viewer identify with you, like you, and trust in the message you are sharing. Pilar Ortiz, President of Pilar Ortiz Enterprises, is a TV & Video coach, bilingual speaker, & on camera talent.  She is can be contacted by phone at 727-557-5656, by email at, or visit her website at


Aaron Kaplan-The Kaplan Project, LLC

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