Initials

CPA CITP

Society has adopted as truth this funny notion that there are no differences from one person to another.

Then, it diligently goes about labeling each to differentiate the homogeneous mixture.

Recent attendance at a Scaling New Heights conference was a gentle reminder of this Universal Principle: regardless of how alike a group of people may be, the individual differences are worthy of consideration.

In fact, the uniqueness of the individuals is what creates synergy for the group. In other words, the sum of the whole is greater than its parts. Yet, the value of the group is dependent upon the integrity of the individual members.

As attendees of the Conference, we were provided an assortment of materials and a name Badge. Since the Conference was conducted in cooperation with Intuit®, the maker of QuickBooks, one early announcement was the availability of lapel Pins to note our levels of achievement.

Caught up in the pompousness of the moment, I went by the Intuit® booth and claimed my awards. In observing others with the Pins affixed to their Badges, I did the same — for about an hour.

Then, I was struck with the absurdity: we were all the same, as ProAdvisor attendees.

The real distinction was in the passion at the core of who we are, as individuals.

Our value to one another and the Customers we serve is not in the awards, certifications, or degrees accumulated in appendages to our name. Value is the reality of a perception. Reputation is what others think about us. Character is who we really are.

A couple of years ago, my character was tested by a potential new Customer. By being too eager to please, I gave the best of me to the son-in-law, who asked for help. Although purporting to have authority to purchase, son-in-law was subordinate to Father-In-Law.

Once that was understood, I took the game from my office to their place of business. Oh, the fun of beginning again with the one who controlled funding authority. All was going relatively well, until I decided to take a short-cut.

Rather than build Trust and provide the opportunity for Respect to be earned and given, I thought my credentials were pretty dang impressive and decided to share them.

Since we were standing right there next to a computer, what better way to close the deal than to have this potential new Customer see Testimonials from old Clients? As the CFO son-in-law (under my direction) wiggled the mouse and tickled the keyboard to navigate onto a Site of Distinction, CEO Father-In-Law grew increasingly amused.

Thinking that I had thoroughly impressed him, his lesson in humility haunts me to this day, “So, how much did you have to pay those people to say that?”

In defense of my honor, I assured him that those were actual Clients and they paid a Price for Value. My whining didn’t impress Father-In-Law in the least. He was a proud man, who could make his own judgment to my worth. He didn’t need my help.

So close to being a mutually beneficial relationship and I messed it up by wanting to brag.

If only I had remembered:

Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—
a stranger, not your own lips.

The collection of Business Cards accompanying me home from the Conference was the perfect reminder of how hard we work to achieve distinction in the eyes of the governing bodies. Yet, all that really matters in life and business is the effort we make, individually, to serve those in our sphere of influence.

Initials behind our names are, simply, mile-markers on our journey of growth. The danger is in believing they are an announcement of greatness. They are not.

The dictionary definition of Initial: Of, relating to, or occurring at the beginning; first.

That’s all Initials are, the opportunity to begin a relationship with another person.

www.kimfoard.com

Free Advice

FreeThrough the years, I’ve given lots of free advice. I’m beginning to realize that’s been a very bad character trait.

Advice: the wise don’t need it and fools won’t heed it.

Free: the perception of something worth nothing.

So, this week, when I said “No, thanks” to an opportunity of continuing in my tradition of offering free advice, the response was enlightening. Well, I was enlightened. The person making the request was shocked. They were shocked that I would, could, should, and did say, “No.”

Engaging in a mutually beneficial relationship (two-way street of offering and receiving) is different from demanding a response (one-way street of taking).

We get what we allow. For years, my immaturity was assuaged by giving free advice. The act of giving appeared noble and it made me feel like a hero. After all, Trusted Business Advisor is the moniker of the CPA profession.

There is a very fine line, though, between an act of commerce and codependency. Commerce recognizes “Yes and No” as the two sides of the same coin. Codependency is defined as doing for others what they could, should, and would do for themselves, if we simply said “No.”

In fact, this most recent request for free advice was related to purely business matters. The resources for the answers to this new series of questions had already been given in response to an earlier request.

While my earlier gift of free advice was taken with no expression of appreciation, my offer to provide Advisory Services for a fee was berated and ignored.

Never give advice. The wise don’t need it and fools won’t heed it.

The individual asking for advice has every right to express their choice to do nothing by saying, “No, thanks.” Freely offered and freely rejected. That’s the way commerce works. Change nothing; nothing changes.

However, a price is paid for everything. To choose This, we forego That. Every thought and every action involves some measure of time, or money. Asking anything of anybody involves either an act of commerce (exchange of money), or sacrifice (offering of time).

Regardless of the relationship, giving respect to the person responding to our request is a valuable courtesy, and currency.

Asking is more than OK; it is our responsibility to ASK. The issue: There is a price to be paid. Are we willing to participate in the payment of the price (commerce), or do we expect something for nothing (sacrifice)?

As for me, I’ll continue to engage in commerce and sacrifice. I will choose, though, which it is.

www.kimfoard.com

Simply Complex

Diamond 3-D BrillianceArtisans give new life to the old perspective by capturing the essence of a single focal point.

The complexity and chaos of the ordinary is simplified into an expression of the divine.

The masterpieces of great art forms are discernible by one simple test. They appear magnificent: at close-up and from far-away.

By broad stroke and precise finish, tangible raw material is transformed into a reflection of the intangible thought, conveyed from the artist to the beholder.

What once was crude and unrefined becomes beautiful and polished.

Such is the journey of a diamond.

Formed in the center of the earth at high-pressure, high-temperature conditions and forced to the surface by a volcanic eruption, an ordinary rock in appearance becomes a priceless treasure.

The name diamond is derived from the ancient Greek αδάμας (adámas), “proper”, “unalterable”, “unbreakable”, “untamed”, from ἀ- (a-), “un-” + δαμάω (damáō), “I overpower”, “I tame”.

Diamond is the hardest known natural material on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. This has been known since antiquity and is the source of its name. Somewhat related to hardness is another mechanical property: toughness, which is a material’s ability to resist breakage from forceful impact.

Diamond is renowned as a material with superlative physical qualities, most of which originate from the strong covalent bonding between its atoms into an inflexible three-dimensional lattice, protecting it from contamination. Diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material.

Diamond has remarkable optical characteristics. Combined with wide transparency, this results in the clear, colorless appearance of most natural diamonds. Diamond also has relatively high optical dispersion (ability to disperse light of different colors), which results in its characteristic luster.

At the beginning of this thirty year adventure as a CPA entrepreneur, I was sitting in a Continuing Education Seminar and the presenter asked us to do the following: Draw a Triangle at the top of a page; underneath that, draw a Square; underneath that, draw a Rectangle; underneath that, draw a Circle; and, finally, underneath that, draw a Wavy Line.

Then, he asked us to place a Checkmark next to the image which best reflected our personality.

After a brief pause, he continued. The wavy lines are the Free-spirits. The circles are the Friendlies. The rectangles are the Worker-bees. The squares are Upper-management. The triangles are …

In his words: There are a few of you leaning back in your chair, with your arms folded across your chest, thinking, “I could do that. In fact, I could do that better.” They are the innovators, leaders and visionaries.

I laughed, because he had just described my posture and read my mind. And, my Checkmark was pointing at the pinnacle of the Triangle.

Do we come hard-wired into this world? Or, is our twig bent, in the formative years, to produce the fruits of our efforts, today? I don’t know.

From the comments of Family and Friends, this is what I do know:

“Kim, you ask so many questions, I’m sure you’re going to grow up to be a Philadelphia lawyer!”

“Kim, your problem is not that you were born poor. Your problem is that you were born with ambition. Many are born poor and stay that way. You want something else.”

“It’s rare to get cowboy poetry from a CPA, so thanks again Kim for making our day. More importantly, congratulations to you for having an open mind, looking for a better way, and contributing to the dignity of our profession by doing the right thing for your customers.”

Average is not a way of thinking, or behaving, for me. I respect and honor the right of others to be a commodity. My frustration will be on display for those who think that I should accept Average as my standard. Never have; never will.

With the belief that each individual is a priceless gem, my choice of stone is the Diamond: proper, unalterable, unbreakable, untamed, hard, tough, inflexibly three-dimensional, thermally conducive, widely transparent, optically dispersible, predictably exhibiting trigons of positive and negative relief.

This is the 100th Blog Post Anniversary Edition of SageTalk ~ Building Dynamic Relationships. What began as a forum for sharing thought has become a journal of adventure. Rough on the outside, rich on the inside; treasure awaits for those souls who will cut and polish the core of these messages.

We all have a unique perspective.

Mine is simply complex.

www.kimfoard.com

Passionate and Vulnerable

Royal FlushAfter thirty years engaged in the business of success and relationships, I am beginning to understand certain Universal Principles.

Success can breed the twin evil sisters of Arrogance and Pride. Steve Jobs taught us to stay Hungry and Foolish.

Idealism can breed the twin evil brothers of Bitterness and Reluctance. My encouragement is for us to remain Passionate and Vulnerable.

What do the concepts of friends, price, and value have to do with car salesmen, unrealistic expectations, and the encouragements, above?

Everything.

This is my experience from last week.

As a preface to this story, I’ll ‘fess up. These are the lessons that I learned. There is absolutely no fault attributed to the cast of other characters. At the point of: “Oh, my bad,” all was well. We pay dearly for our education. I was invested in a refresher course on the merits of gamesmanship.

You see, I had let “magical thinking” get in the way of a perfectly good deal.

This story comes together over the span of the last year. Because of my patronage of The Dealership over a lifetime, two of the car salesmen were beneficiaries of watching me do business. So, when they had questions relative to new investment opportunities, I was honored to provide answers.

They were not Clients and probably never will be. Yet, for the last twelve months, by phone and in person, they asked questions and I gave them answers. First mistake: Free advice is received for what it is; worthless. With no established price, the perceived value is zero.

What begins twisted, ends twisted. With hindsight, I can freely admit that I got what I allowed. I chose not to charge these guys and let them think there was no value in my “priceless” advice. That same advice to established business relationships is priced at $2,500.

Now, I get teased a lot about the condition of my vehicles. At this season of life, with no young children and no rambunctious pets, the only “wear and tear” is on the driver’s seat. With an occupation of CPA and mostly highway miles to reach my favorite people, my 2009 Ford Lariat was in showroom condition; a new pickup, with 82,500 miles.

So, with the unrealistic expectation that I had banked $2,500 worth of goodwill with my car salesmen friends, I waltzed into The Dealership. Second and Third mistakes: Gifts are offered and Friends are chosen.

Preconceived notions are always dangerous. For me to unreasonably believe that the car salesmen were friends and that the relationship was enhanced by my generosity, the stage was set for a wreck.

Imagine my surprise to learn that they believed it fair to dock me twice for my “high miles” to arrive at an average Auction value for my beloved pickup. My feelings were hurt. “How dare they? The dirty rascals,” were my thoughts.

Standing in the way of a perfectly good new 2011 Ford Lariat pickup and the future of a relationship with these two guys was $2,500. Exactly, the amount of their second deduction for high miles and the amount of free advice they had received.

Silly me.

Two years ago, I thought I had learned this lesson. At that time, a Family situation had me asking the same question, “How dare they?!” In one of those life defining moments of clarity, I found the answer: iiWii (It Is What It Is).

OK, now, back to the pickup deal. Same song, second and third verses: taWta (They Are Who They Are) and iaWia (I Am Who I Am).

So, very, tired of the nonsense, I walked away. That’s just good advice for any deal; make a decision the next morning. After a good night’s rest, I woke to the realization, “They have every right to make their choices and I have the right to make mine.”

I will continue to generously give of my best with no expectation of anything in return.

Then, I remembered the inherent inspiration in a verse from my first tome, A Dance To Love:

Since life is the hand of cards to which we awake each morning, I admire those who play theirs with grace and poise. Strength of will and courage combined with the flexibility of thoughtfulness and humility results in a softness that trumps bitterness every time. As the windows to the soul, the eyes can be beacons of hope and the sparkling oasis of plenty.

With head high and eyes bright, I accepted their final offer and left an extra $1,500 on the table.

They have what was important to them, a little extra profit. I am the richer man for having the experience of valuable lessons and the opportunity to acknowledge my mistakes.

These two beliefs remain:

I am passionate.

“Friends deserve the best in everything. No sacrifice is too big, or task too small, when friendship is being nurtured. I have noticed that only my friends do business with me; so, probably in a selfish vein, I take very seriously the relationships with which I have been entrusted.”

I am vulnerable.

“Purpose in life is discovered by acknowledging a power greater than ourselves; delivery of value is possible by being a conduit for timeless and priceless gifts. The greatest gift is a chosen, purposeful effort, often done in the face of fear, to nurture our own growth and the growth of others!”

Stay passionate; Stay vulnerable.

www.kimfoard.com

Good Directions

Good DirectionsImagine your favorite action movie. The ground is crumbling behind our heroes and heroines as they run toward the only escape available to them. Our heart is in our throat, as we encourage them to go, quickly, forward.

Life is just like that. There is no standing still; there is no going back. The only direction to safety is forward.

This last week, I lost a dear friend of twenty-plus years because he has made a choice to be comfortable in a rut. The definition of a rut is: grave with the ends kicked out. Yes, it’s dark, damp, and depressing down there. My friend exploded upon being reminded of the only two choices we have: Grow, or Die.

He assured me in no uncertain terms that he was not depressed. (The fellow doth protest too much, methinks.)

As recently as five years ago, November 15, 2006, this is the complete text of the Testimonial he offered when asked to document our business relationship of Client and Certified Public Accountant.

While reflecting on the past years of business growth … the ups and downs; the trials and tests; the hard work; and, never ending commitment to push forward … I come to realize that you have been a vital part of that growth. You have been with us all the way.

The accounting profession has truly been honored by your steadfast commitment to serve, to advise … to help direct my thoughts in the financial decisions of our company. It has made my job as CEO much easier.

We are in our 15th year and looking forward to working with you in the years to come.

Fast forward to September 14, 2011, and this is my goodbye to a business relationship, which was enjoyed with that friend, who (at one time) was closer than any brother.

The purpose of this letter is to document the essence of our phone conversation, yesterday.

At the end of that conversation, you wondered if your message was adequately communicated by asking, “Is that clear?!” My response, “Perfectly.”

It is crystal clear that there is a difference in core philosophies.

You believe and have stated quite clearly, numerous times over the last few months, that you and your Company are at the mercy of the Hand of Fate. In essence, you are tethered to a fixed set of practices, which have brought you success in the Past, and are frustrated that the Present is less than accepting.

I believe life is what we make of it, friend; if it doesn’t fit, make alterations. My purpose in business is summarized in four words: Building Bright Financial Futures. I have gone to great lengths to promote this idea to the world via every digital means possible. I have clearly communicated this core belief to you via an email conversation thread from May 17th to July 20th.

My last email request of you was for one hour of your time to discern how we might build a dynamic business relationship. Having heard absolutely nothing from you, I called yesterday with an offer for year-end planning. In the past, you welcomed the opportunity for us to talk about your Company.

You chose to refuse my offer. You have that right. I also have the right to choose.

As of today, we no longer have a business relationship. You are encouraged to engage other professionals to provide services for your financial fiscal year (and, payroll calendar quarter) ended September 30th. Documents in your Client File Portal will be available to you and your representatives until December 31st.

What happened between November 15, 2006, and September 14, 2011?

We will never know. To be judgmental toward my friend and all he has experienced in the last five years is the wrong thing to do. I can, though, tell my story. In the past, I have first-hand knowledge and experience of what it’s like to be stuck in a rut. It is dark, damp and depressing.

This is my story and I’ll tell it my way.

The darkest times in my life began, at the moment, when I started to think that I had arrived. Thinking that I had reached my destination and could quit; or, coast; or, savor the rewards; or, otherwise think I had, really, become somebody. You see, the focus had shifted to thinking, believing, and acting as if, the world revolved around me.

In the simplest of analogies, my life had gone off a cliff. The ground was, literally, crumbling beneath my feet as I tumbled into the chasm of darkness.

Recovery from the pit was only possible by acknowledging, “There but for the grace of God go I” … further down into the abyss. At that moment, there was a Rock on which to cling and a view of the hard work necessary to climb from the rubble into the brightness of opportunity, once again.

There is nothing new under the sun.

There’s a story of a guy walking on water. His name was Peter and he was a cocky fellow, with relatives from Missouri (the Show Me state). He enjoyed the companionship of a friend, who cared deeply about the growth of others.

So, one day Peter challenged his friend with, “If you’re really as good as you claim, ask me to walk on water.” Guys being guys, the friend accepted the challenge and said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water. But, when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink.

Moral of this story: Don’t look down.

In fact, don’t look back, either. The ground is crumbling behind us. There is only one safe path: Forward.

There’s another story of a guy pondering the progression of life. His name was Paul and one of his many attributes was that of a Philosopher. He observed, “When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child. I had the understanding of a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Moral of this story: Children grow up.

At this point in my story, there is at least one person just aching to challenge this thesis of: Forward motion being the best direction and Growth being a prerequisite to a rich life. They will posit that “going back” has its merits.

As in:

We miss a turn at the intersection and need to go back.

We forget something when leaving on vacation and need to go back.

We neglect to learn a lesson and need to go back (for another dose).

We ignore an opportunity, which is good for us, and need to go back.

I agree. There are legitimate times for us to go back and recover from frailties of the human condition. “Thank God for Good Directions and turnip greens!” (by Billy Currington and his album Doin’ Somethin’ Right) Turn up your speakers and enjoy this tune.

For the astute scholars among us, I will acknowledge their point that we are encouraged by the Good Book to go back. As we examine this riddle to the very essence of life, the answer is simple. We are encouraged to be childlike, not childish. There is a difference.

So… at the moment, when there is the temptation to think we have arrived and can stop growing: Look up, think forward, and really focus on the hard work to take the next step.

Go ahead; do it. Now, that we are big kids, older and wiser, with all of our education and experience, hurts and betrayals, safely archived in the memory banks, do it. Be innocent, be sweet, be open, be humble, be accepting, be trusting, and believe that we can experience heaven, here on earth.

All we need to do is to take that next step, often into the unknown, forward, to grow.

www.kimfoard.com

View From The Top

View From The TopEarly in the treacherous course of managing my fledgling business as a twenty-something CPA entrepreneur, the counsel of an older client friend cut short my whining as he said, “Kim, your problem is not that you were born poor. Your problem is that you were born with ambition. Many are born poor and stay that way. You want something else.”

About that same time, the message was being broadcast in stereo. Zig Ziglar pierced my consciousness with, “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” It was the era of cassette tapes and I was enamored with his stories. They all contained this consistent theme of inherent goodness. Then, I discovered Zig had captured his encouragements into a book titled, See You At The Top.

Thirty years after reading that book, I can still picture the Stairway to Tomorrow in my mind. To give honor where credit is due, I just now purchased the Kindle 25th Anniversary Edition to properly reference one of the greatest motivational books of all time. Those six Steps on the staircase are defined as: Image of Self, Relationship with Others, Goals, Attitude, Work, and Desire.

In Zig’s words:

As you start on your stairway to the top, your first step will be the development of a healthy self-image. The second step is the recognition of the worth and ability of other people, as well as the necessity of effectively living and working with them. The third step is a strong goal orientation. You need a plan to build a house. To build a life, it is even more important to have a plan or goal. The fourth and fifth steps are that you must have the right mental attitude and be willing to work. The sixth step is that you must also have a burning desire to excel.

If possible to summarize a book into one sentence, the Mission and Value might be captured in this statement from Zig Ziglar, “The foundation stones of honesty, character, faith, integrity, love, and loyalty are necessary for a balanced success that includes health, wealth, and happiness.

In other words, the Intangibles matter far more than the Tangibles. In fact, the latter flow from the former. Success is, simply, the abundant harvest enjoyed as a result of planting and nurturing little seeds of goodness, daily.

The day was August 1, 1981, when I stopped at the little Post Office at Lavina, Montana, and received the letter announcing that I had, finally, passed the CPA exam.

The day was August 1, 2011, when I was driving in the desert north of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and received a phone call from a new client, with an old problem.

The tumblers of a lock had not, yet, fallen into place to open the door in his mind to an understanding of what it takes to “Wow!” customers. Sitting there on a wide spot in the road, under an itty bitty shade tree, 5 Steps to Success poured from my heart into the microphone of the Motorola Droid to encourage my friend to Build Something, special.

After thirty years of preaching and practicing the individual Universal Principles, that was a first to capture them all in one place, at the same time, for the benefit of another person. Even more surprising was the realization that each and every Step is important. They must be done in order: Step 1 ~ Establish a Fair Price; Step 2 ~ Ask for Acceptance; Step 3 ~ Plan the Work; Step 4 ~ Deliver on the Promises; and, Step 5 ~ Enjoy the Celebration.  All of them are necessary for a successful journey!

Last week, as I was enjoying a favorite salad at a favorite place for lunch, a Blast from the Past pushed into my life, once again.

He was a young Entrepreneur and I was the young CPA with the ambition problem. Regardless of the semantics, I was a young man on a mission, to serve. My intent was to help others get everything they wanted so I could get what was important to me. (Note to Everyone: many mistakes have been made and lessons learned!)

At one time, the young Entrepreneur and I held a similar worldview: Implement the Intangibles for the benefit of receiving the Tangibles of health, wealth, and happiness. In essence, we each understood the need to take all of the steps on Zig’s Stairway to Tomorrow. After a few years, the Entrepreneur arrived.

He won a national award from the Small Business Administration. Politicians wanted their picture taken with him. In fact, he became a media darling and the poster boy for minority businesses.

Through the years, I always celebrated each of his successes and felt honored to believe that I was an integral part of his team. At the pinnacle of his newly anointed recognition, this old accountant wasn’t good enough to associate with his new crowd of friends. He wanted a real CPA firm worthy of his eminence.

After a few years of that and upon hearing about the misfortune of my divorce, he approached with an idea: I could be his Chief Financial Officer. Because of my funky attitude at the time and (as Zig teases) “Stinkin’ Thinkin’, rumors were rampant that I was considering a departure from the service of Public accounting, for something else.

The “something else” idea and offer was interesting; so, we negotiated mutually beneficial terms for a hired-gun CFO position and I accepted. That lasted about a month and we both knew I needed to go, away. Our worldviews were different and, as a result, the paths of our journeys were diverging. Two can walk together, only, if they agree.

In the course of making pleasantries, the (now) older Entrepreneur sat down at his lunch table a few feet away from mine. Sincerely interested, I asked about him and his Company. He proudly announced the expanding influence of his business activities in Montana and the projects they were doing in multiple other States. Once again, I congratulated him and celebrated his largess.

To return the favor, I shared information about the new location of my office in the heart of the Wall Street of the Rockies. Since that bit of news was received without notice, or response, I went on to mention, “It’s true what they say. The view is better from the top!”

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. This is what I heard in retort, “Well, watch out, because there will be someone trying to knock you off!”

The eyes are the window to the soul. Ours were speaking volumes to the other about the core of our beliefs. After a few moments of this silent conversation, I just smiled, bowed my head, and resumed the enjoyment of my salad.

My belief is that The Top is a spiritual level, physically unobtainable, encapsulated in the exhortation, “You are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Great idea. Ain’t gonna happen in this life, folks!

Yet, the joy of Life is discovered within the journey, not the destination. When we actually arrive, friends and family will be digging a hole to plant our physical remains. The ripple from the wake of our deeds and how we touched others will be our legacy.

Some people are willing to scratch and claw their way to the top of the heap, using the dead and injured for their next step. It is true; once they arrive, there will be a bigger, meaner, and tougher gorilla coming along behind to use them as the next step in becoming the new king of the hill.

This difference in worldviews can be fully understood by imagining a finite and very small pointed space at the top of a pyramid and then comparing that to an infinite mountain of opportunity.

At the top of a pyramid is room for one. The rugged face of the mountain before us, which ascends into the clouds of heaven, provides many routes of accession. The Tops visible to us, as mere mortals, are really just plateaus for many to rest before beginning the next climb.

If we will climb with the intent to bring along others, we will find ourselves in the company of kindred spirits. We will enjoy lifting them past the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. When we slip and are dangling in the nothingness of our despair, our climbing friends will be there to shout words of encouragement and pull us back to the face of our Rock.

Indeed, I believe it is a worthy endeavor, for all of us, to enjoy the view from the top!

www.kimfoard.com

Sexy Math

Sexy MathAs I was walking down the sidewalk on my way to lunch, two women passed by.

Subject of their conversation:
Men and Money

A man had misbehaved over $45 worth of flowers.

When people say money is not important, they will lie about other things, too.

My grandfather was right when he opined, “Figures can lie and liars can figure.” For the last couple of decades, we’ve experienced that in spades. Speaking of cards and the games people play, let’s take a look at the strategy of playing our hand with grace and poise.

There is another four-letter word on the minds of many — Jobs. The debate rages on and on about who creates them and why they disappear. While fingers are pointed and waved at the other guy, the real solution is left waiting for someone to do the Sexy Math of discovery for the answer — Work.

We don’t need Jobs. We simply need people to take their gifts to the marketplace, in the old-fashioned way of providing value. In the vernacular, that delivery process is known as Work.

And — here begins the Sexy Math of the Entrepreneur.

For the sake of conversation, let’s say you need $40,000 for your Family. 40 hours per week for 50 weeks, with a 2 week Family vacation, is a bank of 2,000 productive hours (40 hours times 50 weeks). You’re a talented individual, quite gifted, and extremely intelligent. There is something you can do that has value to others at a minimum rate of $20 per hour ($40,000 divided by 2,000 hours).

Wait ~ There’s more to know about this — before you launch your first business. There is Overhead, which is the price to be paid for the joy of having your very own Company. Again, for the sake of continuing our conversation, let’s acknowledge this amount to be $60,000 — everything from Advertising, Dues, Fees, Insurance, Rent, and Utilities, to the multitude of other costs necessary for your Company.

You still need $40,000 for your Family and this Sexy Math example still has 2,000 Productive hours in a year. What is your minimum target rate to Customers, now, in consideration of Overhead? Answer: $50. Wow — from $20 to $50 in the blink of an eye.

We better pause for a moment to check for any dishonesty in our figures, or presentation. $40,000 (for Family) plus $60,000 (for Overhead) equals $100,000, which, when divided by 2,000 (Productive hours), equals a minimum target rate per hour of $50.

Taxes ~ As model Citizens, we believe in supporting the greater good of all Society. Through the ages, a tithe — 10% — was acknowledged to be adequate for the support of orphans and widows. For the modern builder of dreams into reality (YOU the Entrepreneur) the rates are quite different.

We have a 15.3% Self-employment Tax, a 15% Federal Income Tax, and at least a 5% State Income Tax. That’s a total Tax Rate north of 30%. (Does anyone else see the irony? God asks for 10% and Government demands a minimum of 30%.)

We still need $40,000 for our Families and $60,000 to keep the lights on. Now, what?! How do we do the Sexy Math to determine our Price in the marketplace? CPAs are professionals — trained to do these calculations in a controlled and regulated environment — yet, I want you to practice this at home.

The $40,000 needed for our Families is, now — at best — a 70% slice of the whole pie, because Government helped themselves to a 30% chunk. $40,000 divided by 70% equals $57,143, which, when added to the $60,000 equals $117,143. This is the amount Customers must pay. For those who think by the hour, $58.57 is the new target rate.

Once more, we will pause to check the veracity of our facts and calculations. $117,143 (Customer Price) minus $60,000 (Overhead) equals $57,143, which when multiplied by 30% equals $17,143 (Taxes). This leaves $40,000 for our Family — and, the minimum Rate per Hour for us to provide Value to our Customers has gone from $20 to near $60.

Is anyone brave enough to do the Math (sexy is long gone at this point) for a total Tax Rate above 30%? Even under current law, the unwary Entrepreneur will pay close to 55%. This is comprised of the 15.3% Self-employment Tax (a combination of Social Security and Medicare tax rates) plus 33% Federal Income Tax, plus 7% State Income Tax.

Solution: $40,000 divided by 45% (Our percentage remaining after Government takes 55%) equals $88,888 (Yes, we’re really behind the 8 Ball, now.) which, when added to the $60,000 of support from Vendors equals $148,888. This is the new price, which Customers must pay, to keep us in business and provide for our Families.

For the benefit of any Doubting Thomas (and, my late Grandfather) here’s the Proof: $148,888 (Customer Price) minus $60,000 (Overhead) equals $88,888, which, when multiplied by 55% equals $48,888 (Taxes). This leaves $40,000 for our Family — and, the minimum Rate per Hour for us to provide Value to our Customers has gone from near $60 to about $75 ($148,888 divided by 2,000 Productive Hours).

Every household budget will be different — $40,000 will be adequate for some, not enough for others. The point, though, is that the needs for every Family are real. You pick the amount for yours. It is factual and a fixed amount in the calculations, above. Productive Units (hours in the examples, above) are also relatively fixed. In a stable economy, the amount of Overhead will be relatively fixed, too.

The variable in all of this are Tax Rates. As they increase, so do the Prices on everything. The result of higher prices is that we need a greater amount of money for our Families — and, Vendors need an increasingly larger amount to stay in business. Ultimately, the Price for everything goes Up.

As Pogo so eloquently expresses, “We have seen the enemy and it is US.” Companies don’t pay Taxes. People do. You and I — as Customers — we all pay more for the “free” lunches so generously offered by our Government to those who refuse to Work.

Now, that we’ve done the Math, we can focus on the Sexy part of this equation:

S ~ Success is the most powerful of aphrodisiacs. Much more than the opportunities that money can buy, it is the sense of accomplishment and the desire to share sustenance with another person.

E ~ Enlightenment, Empowerment, and Encouragement can move us to Excellence in all that we do. In the marketplace of Life, those in pursuit of creativity and innovation will always offer a boutique display.

X ~ Marks the spot of opportunity in every direction. Go ahead — do it — mark an X on the ground . Stand right in the center of the intersecting lines and tell me how far you can see in the direction of each line.

Y ~ We’re at the fork in the road. Indecision is not an option. There is no Maybe, or Try, to it. Left — or, Right — is the choice. The decisions we make today will determine the brightness of our tomorrows.

Now that you’ve done the Sexy Math necessary to provide for your Family, please, share this novel idea with others. A category in desperate need of this information is the one of our Politicians. If true that we get the Government we deserve, then, we need to start asking for real Leadership to inspire every one of us to offer our, very, best to others.

The time has come for all of us to — just — do it!

Sexy Math, that is.

www.kimfoard.com

Fancy Footwork

West Coast Swing

Much more amusing than a CPA Blogger is a CPA Dancer.

Each week, fingers tickle this keyboard in hopes of reaching your funny-bone.

A recent sashay into the world of West Coast Swing has been enlightening, empowering and encouraging.

The most entertaining element of the experience is how Life follows Dance.

From the dance floor to the canvas of life, these are the Bold and artful lessons that were either reinforced, or learned for the very first time!

Be Open to Opportunities

This saga begins at a community fundraiser event with a live band and a plywood dance floor in a horse barn. Now, really, what are the odds of anything out of the ordinary occurring?!

As I’m standing there enjoying Billy Waldo and the Flying Grizzlies, an older lady taps me on the shoulder and says something to the effect, “I want you to save me a dance tonight. Sometimes, you are hogged by the other women and I don’t get a turn.”

All I could do was blush and say, “You’re sweet!” and “OK.”

Now, the truth of the matter is: Yes, I love music. As a result, I have decent rhythm. My dancing skills are limited to self-taught moves practiced a couple times any given evening when attending an event.

Yet, sure enough, we danced what I knew: a Jitterbug and my “modified” Box-step. She called it a Three-step. Once we had a better name for it, we danced it some more. Then, it got shortened to a Two-step, which usually isn’t my favorite. My favorite, though, is the Waltz; the music changed to three-four time and we danced it, too.

Right in the middle of the whole dang show was a little conversation, wouldn’t you know!

“There’s a workshop in Denver next weekend called Swingtime in the Rockies,” she said.

Always clever with my responses, I said, “Really!?”

The Want To

There is one rule of the Universe that refuses to acquiesce: Change will be met with Resistance. Ruts are graves with the ends kicked out; yet, we are comfortable in them. Decide to do something about the situation and all of creation will test our resolve. The little negative voices in our heads will catch a gear and do double-time in their efforts to talk us out of a new idea. They know, for a fact, “All We Do Begins With A Thought.”

Start At the Beginning

As part of the opening activities of Swingtime in the Rockies, a workshop was offered that first evening. I went; big mistake! Thinking that it might be for beginners, I took the dance floor. A few minutes into the lesson taught by a nationally acclaimed dancer and instructor, I left the dance floor. Sitting there, all alone, on the fringe while everyone else danced, it felt right to leave the ballroom. And, I must confess, the temptation was strong to leave the hotel and go back …

Wait! Go back?! Quit? Never!

Skin in the Game

Some refer to it as Commitment. That night, and the next three nights, of my hotel room were already paid; part of the deal for making reservations at the last moment during tourist season. Maybe it was the Scotch-Irish of my ancestry, or my accountant training, the realization was vivid that I needed to look for the dividends from my investment. And, I wanted to learn how to dance the West Coast Swing, too!

Ugly Mistakes

There are no words to describe the sensation of screwing up on the dance floor. Right there, in front of God and the whole wide world, with video cameras everywhere, a partner is left standing, wondering, “What was that?!”

Laughter

Humor covers a multitude of sins. Plain and simple, when the ego has been beaten to a bloody pulp, the only saving grace is to acknowledge the beauty in a second chance. With a quick apology, wink, and a smile, that opportunity was given every single time over the course of four days!

Communication

Evidently, the instructors of the workshops had previous life experiences of first-hand embarrassments, or being the object of them. They graciously and generously had us dance with different partners throughout the hour of each workshop. One of the social graces of dance is to make an introduction to the new partner. Feeling obliged to give fair warning to the unsuspecting, mine morphed into, “Hi. I’m Dangerous!”

Beauty on the Inside

Since the natural principle is Like attracts Like, seldom in nature do we see Beauty and the Beast. On the dance floor, I got lucky. Or, so I thought; lucky to dance with beautiful women. Quickly, I was reminded of another ageless principle, “Never judge a book by the cover.” The most memorable and insightful encounters of the weekend were with the women of radiant inner beauty.

Thank You

Two simple little words. Regardless of my performance, or lack thereof, all was well at the end of the dance movement by acknowledging the bravado of my partner. Body language is a wonderful medium for expressing feelings of the heart. The fear inherent in keeping sandaled bare toes out of the way of my cowboy boots displayed itself on many faces. An expressive, “Thank you,” always garnered a smile!

Right Here, Right Now

Mindfulness, or living in the present moment, is a given on the workshop dance floor. There is no time to have regrets about the last Ugly Mistake, or to be worried about the next requested Uncertain Movement. Daily growth occurred by focusing on, “Right here, right now, it’s great to be alive,” or if the pain of the current lesson made that thought borderline untruthful, to accept that “This too shall pass!”

My Steps to Leadership

In the moments of learning to lead, there were absolutely no thoughts about what my partner “should” be doing to follow. The point was well made by an experienced dancer, who was enduring my deer-in-the-headlights look and feet-in-the-quicksand hook, in her comment, “I don’t know what you’re supposed to do. I just follow!” (Note to Self: “Oh, darlin’, just wait until next year!”)

Understanding and Appreciation

One, Two, Three and Four, Five and Six. That’s the count. The question for me was: Is all of that done in a four-beat measure, or what?! Sure enough, I finally found the count and the beat. Then, the evenings of watching the Social Dances went from: “Sure is pretty; wonder what they’re doing.” To: “That’s a Sugar-Push. There’s an Inside-Turn. That’s a Right-Side-Pass. Wow; there’s a Whip!”

Step by Step

Day by day, the pieces to the dance puzzle fell into place until the whole picture made more sense. That first beat and step back for the guys was (and continues to be) the hardest thing to remember. Then, there is the issue of arm height and appropriate moments of elasticity with a partner. Add to that the basic moves, musicality, and interpretation, until many steps were taken over four days on the journey of learning West Coast Swing.

Show Up

Each day had scheduled times for the workshops. Good thing, too! Because, without those appointments to keep, the natural inclination was to find something easier and more comfortable to do than stepping onto that dance floor, one more time.

Courage

It is a three-letter word: YES. Our greatest fears are related to the preservation of who we are. Sticks and stones can break our bones; and, words can injure even more severely. It’s a fine line: to grow, we must change; yet, it must be our choice. To preserve the best of who we are as unique creations, while stretching to become better individuals, requires strength of will and fortitude of disposition.

Up to Me

If it is to be, it is up to me. Partners can be wonderful cheerleaders, of our efforts. If I want to dance, it is up to me, to learn. My thoughts, my feelings, and my feet must all engage together to accomplish what is important, to me. Doesn’t matter what others think, feel, or do, about my efforts to dance. All that matters is my love of music and movement!

Ask

In those moments, when I was out of my league in a workshop and totally confused as to the next step to take, a simple request of a partner, “Please, show me,” always took us beyond frustration to a successful result. Maybe, it wasn’t a perfect performance on my part; yet, it was a movement beyond inertia.

Profound Desire to Share

This is the inherent beauty of humans: we all want and need to offer the best of who we are to another. Some of us have earned the reputation as ministers, because we are full of it and freely offer to any and all. Others are more subdued in approach; yet, when asked, are equally able and willing to share their inherent gifts.

Higher Levels

From novice, to intermediate, to advanced, to all-stars, there is a progression of accomplishment and confidence. Each level provides opportunities to see even greater challenges. At the beginning, we don’t know what we don’t know. As we advance, we come to fully understand that we will never achieve a full understanding of what is possible!

Inconsistency creates Consistency

“Say, what?!” I thought, when the instructor first said it. Then, he reminded us of the imperfect human condition: we can never do the same thing, the same way, every time, perfectly. Variety is the spice of life. Our choice: Be frustrated; or, Wrap our minds and arms around the excitement of something new and different, every time. Our ability and willingness to be flexible in our response will provide a sense of stability.

Connection and Release

It takes both. In the realm of West Coast Swing, connection is strongest just before the release. It is the tension of the connection which produces the pleasure of the release. All tight, all the time, is no better than all loose, all the time. It is the ebb and flow, the up and down, the yin and yang, which creates the harmony of the universe and enhances our interactions with another person.

Partnerships

Every wonderful experience happens because of a connection with another person. In dance, the connection is real: Physical, Emotional, Mental, and Spiritual. Our being is flooded with the sensation of connection. Yet, even with the separation of time and distance, our relationships motivate us into uncharted waters of discovery, all because of the influence of another person.

Smile

Each partner brings something good and something less than. For four days, I was the beneficiary of a new experience. Smiles were offered when the answer was, “Yes!” Smiles were freely given when the answer was, “No.” Smiles were everywhere! The most moving experience was the emotion flowing from the expression of a cancer survivor, when she said, with a smile, “Always say yes when asked to dance. It might just be your last one.”

More Action

The most appropriate mantra for a student of dance just might be, “A little less talk and a lot more action!” Books are good, videos are insightful, explanations are fine, and the Fun is in the Doing. The only way to learn anything is to do it!

In much the same vein as “The Mind Remembers What The Hands Learn” is “The Soul Experiences What The Feet Teach”. In other words, actions speak louder than words.  In fact, Thoughts become our Words, Words become our Actions, Actions become our Habits, Habits become our Character, and Character becomes our Destiny.

Let’s dance!

www.kimfoard.com

Different Levels

Different LevelsArriving home from school, the little girl was deep in thought. The frustration with the day was written all over her face.

As she found a listening ear, the story began to unfold. One of her 4th Grade classmates had an opposing view on an important subject. By explaining the two beliefs, the little girl seemed to find the answer to her dilemma.

With acceptance in her voice, she understood and announced, “People are just on different levels!”

All natural growth occurs through levels of maturation. Whether children into adults, seedlings into plants, or entrepreneurs into companies, there is a logical order: from the bottom, up; and, from the inside, out.

This hierarchy of levels begins with a foundation. All that follows is supported from that beginning.

After thirty years in business and within a span of seven days, I was reminded of the “Levels”.

Two stories, two story-tellers, two very different views, about one CPA:

Level 1:

“A bit of constructive criticism for future successful customer interaction: Don’t assume that your potential clients know exactly what your product is.

You are good at forwarding prepared documents. Might I suggest a single page with bullet points of the steps and actions that your products entail. I wouldn’t purchase a floor machine unless I knew what the pad pressure delivered to the scrubbing pads is, as the wrong machine may deliver undesired results or reduce productivity.

I would want to see a specifications sheet, just as I asked many time from you of your products.”

Level 2:

“I am a young man who has decided to come back to my hometown to manage and run our family ranch. I worked as a counselor for the last 4 years and was very content with my life and career.

As life happens, due to circumstances, I was brought back to my childhood roots and knew that my family needed me. I was not key on the idea at first but then I was introduced to our family’s accountant and he helped me look at the country life in a whole different way.

Since I have known Kim the last four years he has helped me and my family rebuild our financial status. We have purchased more efficient machinery, doubled our commercial Angus line of beef, and in the works is a pivot sprinkler system.

I remember when I met Kim he told me “You Dream it I will help bring your dream to reality”. He has been so helpful in every aspect a person could imagine, very knowledgeable, very dependable and you can access him anytime.

Kim has helped me grow into a business orientated person. He has the tools if you have the ambition and drive. Thanks Kim..”

How can two views about one person be so different?!

Answer: The young man at Level 1 has a Product based view; the young entrepreneur at Level 2 has a Service based view.

The mentality of some people is so limited that they are Product bound; unless they can understand the “tangible”, any inherent benefit is limited. Other people think at higher levels; they acknowledge and want the perceived value from the “intangible” of quality Service.

Gravity, for example, is a very powerful and valuable intangible. It is a real force to the extent of its Cause-and-Effect results. We have a choice to recognize its value by living within the reality of its influence. Depending on the height of the object on which they stand, those who choose to ignore this intangible presence might only get to do so once.

Individually, we are unique. As individuals, we will always perceive the world differently. The secret to success is beyond the labels of levels. It is discovered by enlightening, empowering, and encouraging the desires of People to grow and build.

We learn by doing and the fun is in the doing. As we, individually, choose our next step on the journey to a higher level, let’s have fun learning!

www.kimfoard.com

Open Minds

Open MindsA few days after a delightful evening dinner, she strolled into my office and announced, “No one can close me on the first attempt.”

I smiled, because nine months earlier, as I was settling into my new office location, it was she who had bounced in with an idea for me, and my money.

Appreciative of the exuberance of youth and enamored with the idea of being a good neighbor, I said, “Yes.”

Agreement was reached on a time for her to make the short trip across the hall from her Life Insurance Company to my CPA Company. As a Shooting Star of her prominent business organization, she was given the opportunity to enter my boutique world of the Hired Gun.

For thirty years, I have focused on the bulls-eye of the targets set by those business people, and my friends, who are intent upon achieving success. Interested by what I might learn from this Quick-draw Artist, my time was offered to her. The, only, caveat (quid pro quo, if you will) was that she and her husband join me for dinner, some evening in the future.

With the benefit of education and experience in running the numbers, I was genuinely curious about what I might have overlooked in regards to the odds of betting against ourselves. Life insurance is, really, Death insurance. As a financial tool, it has its place in the box.

Having built a little empire in my youth and given it away in middle-age, the idea of buying protection against the capricious hand of fate was laughable. Yet, I was intrigued by the enthusiasm of this young woman on a mission.

Consistent with the beginning, at the end of our two hours together, I politely declined her sale of Life Insurance. For the months that followed, I graciously reminded her of my offer. Then, right in the middle of Tax Season, I must have been looking a little frazzled. My young, Insurance Agent, neighbor bounced in again to ask if I might consider Long-term Care Insurance. Again, I laughed and said, “No.”

Imagine my surprise when, after months of avoiding my offer for dinner, she bounces in, once again, with Calendar in hand to schedule a date! She had just come from a successful excursion of selling to one of my biggest fans. Some combination of the adrenalin rush of a Contract Closing and Colorful Conversation, emanating from a discovery of this mutual Client Connection, was the catalyst for her new-found want and need to accept my offer.

So, we went to dinner. The three of us: Insurance Agent, Successful Entrepreneur (her husband), and Certified Public Accountant. A pleasant evening it was.

A few days after that time together is when I heard, “No one can close me on the first attempt.”

With the smile, mentioned at the beginning of this story, I responded, “Yes, anything of importance needs time to be decided.”

Later in the week, during an early morning shower, it dawned on me: My passion for “Building Bright Financial Futures” and “Building Dynamic Relationships” can be perceived as Salesmanship. To be blunt: It ain’t!

My purpose is not to Close. It is to Open!

In fact, I believe and practice a recently self-minted mantra of the Three-E Formula, which is to: Enlighten, Empower, and Encourage.

My goal is to broaden horizons, share stories, and provide feedback, for the express purpose of guiding others on the paths of their choice. Because each of our world views is different, I am very respectful of the unique choices that we, as individuals, make.

I have, absolutely, no desire to “close” anyone, or anything. At this point in my life’s journey, I refer and give away more projects than I accept. In fact, the Projects are of secondary importance. My passion is, all, about the People!

Many have heard me say, many times, “Never let anyone talk you into, or out of, anything. Hold firmly to your beliefs, until you choose to change them.”

That, my dear friends, is another of those fine lines. We fiercely maintain the boundaries of who we are and what we believe, while being open to new ideas. We walk the high-wire between these two realities: we perceive, only, what we believe and infinite learning waits for us.

This tightrope walk is made between the separate philosophies of Selling and Offering. One is competitively pushing customers to a closing; the other is compassionately guiding friends to an opening. One thinks business is about selling; the other believes life is about choices and providing others the opportunity to acquire what is right for themselves.

There is only one thing worthy of being “closed” and that is the Past. I’m passionate about the Present; right here, right now, it’s great to be alive. I believe the brightest Future is possible when we focus on using our financial resources to build dynamic relationships!

www.kimfoard.com