King Ranch

King RanchThe question was a simple one: How does a guy get ahead?

It was expressed with emotion and a twinge of frustration.

His eyes and body language were communicating the same, legitimate, curiosity about life. I realized he was serious and I was at a loss for words.

Sitting in front of me was a young man of twenty-three, who had accomplished more in the last two years than many get done in a lifetime.

Far beyond the six-figure salary that society uses to measure success, this young man is responsible for the lives of two dozen men, many who are more than twice his age. He manages millions of dollars of trucks and equipment for the production of billions of dollars of revenue.

Even more important, than the money and resources for which he is held accountable, is the character at his core. And, I guess that’s where words fell short of providing the best answer possible. All I could say in the moment, “Just keep on doing what you’re doing. You’re doing it right.”

We both knew that wasn’t the best response either one of us ever heard and, in time, there was apt to be more to the story. Two weeks later, I had a few more thoughts to share. This is the Rest of the Story.

At age twenty-three, empires are enticing. Courageous young men are determined to build one. And, that’s a good thing for them and all in their sphere of influence. The secret that awaits our crusaders is that the process of building is much more fun than the empire, itself.

The young empire builder and I have common knowledge of individuals sitting in the middle of wealth they did not earn. In this newly tuned conversation, I asked that we mentally separate those men from their inheritances. Then, we examined the individual ability to produce: those who appear to have it made vs. those who actually get-‘er-done.

The list is pretty dang long of the things this young man of twenty-three can do. Because of his humility, he was reluctant to begin taking inventory of his attributes. I gently reminded him, “It’s not bragging, if you can do it.”

Then, we considered what the “Born on third-base ~ Thought they hit a home-run” types can do. That didn’t take long: very, short list.

For a couple years now, I’ve been on this kick: All We Do Begins With A Thought. So, with time to think about his excellent question, I knew a better answer was possible. In fact, the answer was in the question, “How does a guy get ahead?!”


There it was: “A Head”: a noggin which is constantly thinking about splendid dreams. Thoughts without character are as dangerous as ships without rudders. And, that my friends, is when it dawned on me, that as much as my first response was adequate, the best answer recognizes the power of mind and heart.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

We are a combination of our heredity and environment. Undeniably, we slip into this world hard-wired a certain way and, then, parents bend our little twigs.

Communication is what the listener does. Stories provide food for thought.

As we were sitting in Red Robin, munching on our hamburgers and fries, I began a story about Volkswagens, Road-trips, and Ford Pickups that I had been rehearsing in my mind for two weeks.

My dad worked on ranches owned by others. He made $200, per month, cash wages, the equivalent of $2,000 in today’s dollars. Half a century ago, the tradition was for Moms to be homemakers. So, one household income provided funds for the daily necessities and a two-week trip in the fall to exotic destinations.

Well … for a kid who lived twelve miles from the nearest semblance of civilization the other fifty weeks of the year, places like Squaw Valley and Lake Tahoe, California, seemed like another world. From the prairies of Montana to the wonders of the Sierra Nevada, and beyond, miles of road stretched before us like ribbons around the best surprise.

The year was 1965 and my parents had just purchased a brand new VW Bug. Not the Super Beetle introduced in the mid-1970s, or the Daisy Mae sedan sporting a flower vase; this was the original bug: Pregnant Roller Skate in the vernacular. I was 10 and my little sister was 3.

Looking around Red Robin for a way to describe the cabin size of that classic automobile, my eyes measured the four-person booth at which we sat. Perfect; the size of the table top was approximately the same amount of space in that VW Bug for two little kids and luggage for a Family of four.

My dad had an eye for packing and a creative mind. By removing the backrest from the rear seat, he could stack suitcases and travel totes to create a wall of luggage and a replacement backrest for his passengers. Our little bottoms, somehow, fit on the eight inches of seat visible and available.

Off we went on our adventure. As an experienced truck driver, Dad knew to adjust his speed according to road conditions and the weight of his cargo. In September, the highways are absolutely perfect. Yet, we were heavy. I remember leaning over to peek between the front seats to see the speedometer needle stuck on 45.

With four on the floor (manual stick-shift transmission) and four in the rear (cylinders in the air-cooled engine) maybe that was top speed. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was an era before audio books and iPods. Lucky for us, though, we had the real deal and an iMom. She read books, lots of books, to us.

The first Interstate Highways were being constructed. They were wonderfully straight and smooth. Cars and trucks passed us as if we were standing still. On the narrow, two-lane, roads, we backed up traffic for miles. Two little kids, with noses pressed to side windows that didn’t open, witnessed many middle-finger salutes.

I closed my eyes and dreamed about fast cars.

Fast-forward to 1971 and we were living in the foreign country of East Texas. I was 16 and running a tractor and brush-cutter for a farmer. He let me use his newer model Ford pickup to haul diesel fuel out to the field for that little John Deere tractor. For some reason, I imagined him giving me that pickup.

I closed my eyes and dreamed about fast pickups.

Then, in the spring of 1972, Dad decided he missed the open country of the North. We were headed home to Montana, kind of. A job was available on a ranch near New Underwood, South Dakota. For the month that we lived there, I rode to school with the kids of the family who owned the ranch. They all drove newer model Ford pickups.

I closed my eyes and dreamed about a fancy Ford pickup of my own, someday.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life.

From the dream of many years ago to the reality of what I drive, now, a 2011 Ford Lariat King Ranch pickup, I told the story for the merit of the journey, not the destination. The value of the Builder is much more important than any Empire.

Rocky Mountain High

As I looked into the eyes of my lunch partner, he seemed to understand the moral of the story: To get ahead, the mind and heart are our greatest resources. Of all the men I know, if push came to shove, the one I want watching my back is this young man with great questions.

He has dreams of a ranch, cows, and horses.

His grandfather and I came down from setting roof trusses on the day this young dreamer brightened our world. As a Leo, he is a King and I believe a Ranch will be his, someday.

www.kimfoard.com

Long Rein

Long ReinThere are a plethora of benefits from a childhood spent horseback in a sea of cowhides.

On the open prairies under the big skies of Montana, one thing is quickly learned:

You are expected to come prepared and ready to work.

Generally, the most that is known about the daily adventure is the Time and Place.

In late spring and early summer, that’s Branding Season. A neighbor will call to ask for cowboys. The conversation is short, sweet, and to the point: Time and Place.

In the dark of night, long before breakfast, horses are saddled and equipped for the rendezvous.

As the first glimmer of dawn is visible on the horizon, the cowboys clink their way into a semi-circle around the ranch owner. Eyes follow the sweep of the herdsman’s hand to understand the sections (640 acres, each) to be gathered into the corrals where they stand.

Little is given in the way of instruction. Beginning with the end in mind is all that is required. From the hills to the corrals is the simple plan. Upon swinging into the saddle, each cowboy begins an individual effort for the benefit of many.

The unspoken is the language of the buckaroos. If the corrals are in the North, the first of several cowboys to mount might head to the South-West; the rest will know to cover the South-East corner of the pasture. As the corners are discerned, the groups will silently disperse into individuals surveying the Southern border for signs of livestock.

Eventually, the cowboys turn North and find themselves all alone, with a job to do. Horse and rider will be depending on each other; one with the brawn, the other with the brains. Thinking out in front of a cow and her calf is one thing; convincing her of a new idea is quite another.

Somewhere in the middle of the whole dang show will be an occasion for pause don’t you know. The ignorance of a single cow will be the catalyst for the cowboy to rethink and retool.

By drawing his horse to a stop, inhaling a long deep breath of that sage-saturated air and raising eyes to the horizon, that cowboy can gain a fresh perspective on the task at hand. In fact, he realizes that’s been the problem: a rein too short.

Wiggling himself down into the well-oiled leather of a saddle worn comfortable from many trips before, winking into the eyes of a horse thankful for the rest, and measuring a long rein to reach just the right balance, that cow is about to experience the Rest of the Story.

You see, the cowboy had lost touch with reality. He had let the natural instincts of a brute bovine beast get him off balance. The more unbalanced he became, the more he shortened his rein. The shorter his rein, the more off balance he became.

So, if you’re feeling a little off balance, the secret to arriving at the corrals with herd in hand is, simply, take a deep breath and a long rein to enjoy the moment and a prosperous reign.

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

Cutting-edge Generosity

Gift of TimeFifty years ago, on the Main Street of a little town in Lavina, Montana, an older gentleman gave a knife to a young child. Naturally, he wanted to teach a lesson; so, he presented it to me, handle, first. It was the most magnificent rubber knife that I ever enjoyed.

This was back in the day when everyone gave directions by using the Phone Booth, next to the little Post Office, as a reference point. Men of that generation were always building something; seems like Dad and I were in town to help pour a sidewalk in front of that new Post Office. It was my lucky day to be the beneficiary of Mr. J. C. “Jim” Jensen.

His generosity is the beginning of this story about the Jensen family.

Jimmy was always the most interested in my life story when the chapters were about bowling and building. As an inventor, he was interested in my construction techniques. He would take the good ones of mine and offer the best of his ideas to make it even better. Tangible to those he helped were the Sand-Points driven to provide water.  isible to the community was the lighted Ice-Windmill for the entertainment pleasure of all.

Carl was comprised of the material of which heroes are made: Handsome devil on the outside; borderline saint on the inside. The one thing that always interrupted my play with the rubber knife was when Carl and his college buddies came to help my Dad on the ranch. After lunch, they would play ball with me. Literally; I was the ball! Tossed from one to the other: sometimes, it was a full-body catch; other times, only the last-second grab of an arm, or leg, kept me from hurtling to the earth, below.

Through high school, Carl supported every cause that our senior class dreamed up. My first sale of Cutco knives, as a freshman in college, was made in his kitchen. After working the last two years of my college crusade for a CPA firm, I was asked if I wanted to “help” with the Ranch books. That was in the olden-days, when accounting was done in paper Journals and Ledgers.

With hind-sight, I now realize the “help” requested was for my benefit, not Carl’s. He was quite capable of doing the Books and had done so, successfully, for many years. His keen eye observed a young accountant, who needed to build confidence. I was offered that opportunity.

Then, he blazed new trails in the use of Excel spreadsheets on the first Personal Computers. As I might be struggling to make something work in the Land of DOS, I would think of that hero of mine leading the way. Weakness gave way to strength, as a path through the technological wilderness was found.

Speaking of strength, what does it take to stand firm in the belief that life is all about the people? If there is an episode in the annuals of Lavina history to provide the answer, it is the one of a new Library and Gymnasium. Having served on the School Board for many years, Carl understood the importance of education and community. In small towns, the School is the anchor keeping ships of families safe.

In the mind of J. C. (Carl) Jensen, the cost of a little Brick and Mortar was a small price to pay for the eternal dividends from that one investment. He gave what he had, personally and financially, to bring a dream into reality.

Supportive of these men of the Jensen family are women of toughness and tenderness. Theirs is a story of nurturing everyone through the hardships of Ranch life. From the outside looking in, the full measure of their generosity is unknown to many. From within the familial core, these Jensen women offer goodness to all and they continue to make sacrifices that will engender the greatest rewards.

As this chapter of the story about the gifts of the Jensen Family concludes, the question remains: “Why was I handed a knife?” Just, maybe, “Jim” Jensen knew that cutting-edge generosity was the secret to slicing through the thickets of resistance on our individual journeys of Building Bright Financial Futures.

Craig, Scott and Clint continue to live the Family traditions. They begin each conversation by honoring the gifts of the Past, respecting the opportunities of the Present, and dreaming big, big, thoughts as they consider the abundance of, very, bright Futures!

www.kimfoard.com

Tight Fences

Six Wire FenceIn Montana, we have an expression and a tradition: “Good fences make for good neighbors.”

Those individuals intent upon building a ranch empire will jest, “I don’t want to own the entire state; just what my neighbor has.”

Much more than keeping those types out, the focus of this article is about fencing ourselves in.

Fence me in?!

Literally, I can hear and feel the push-back. The idea of taking personal responsibility for ourselves is a novel thought. For several generations, we’ve had exposure to the 24/7 propaganda: “If it feels good, do it.”

As a result, our “fences” are in disarray; the wires are loose, staples are missing, posts are rotted, and we find ourselves trampling on each other.

There is a better way. It begins with us, individually, from the inside, out. We discover and define ourselves. Then, we build dynamic relationships with others. Regardless of the enterprise, life is all about the people.

Think about the best six-strand, barb-wire, fence you have ever seen. That was a “stretch.” Wasn’t it? There aren’t many six-wire fences. Many ranch managers will build five-wire fences. The hobby-farmers settle for four. And, the rhinestone-cowboys cheat with three. A six-wire fence is a little bit higher, with spaces between the wires narrower, and the boundaries a whole lot tighter!

Nothing goes over, through, or under a six-wire fence. Permission to pass is offered at the gates. With good braces at the corners and every opening, the gates are designed for ease of operation. In our great state of Montana, neighbors are few and far between. When they’re in the mood to visit, we want to graciously provide the way. We know they will respectfully close the gates upon passing through.

Pretty simple.

Yet, some might be wondering, “What do tight Montana fences have to do with life?”

Everything.

Forget about the neighbors for a minute. Let’s focus on ourselves. Harder to do; I know. It’s so much easier to see what others are doing “wrong” and mettle in their business. Since their affairs are beyond our control, let’s re-focus on what is within our sphere of influence. We will find that at the tips of our fingers and looking back at us from our favorite mirror.

Yep, there we are.

Now, ask these questions:

Who am I?

What do I believe?

Where am I going?

Why do I think the way I do?

When will I commit to the future I want?

How many of my friends will help me grow?

The answers to those questions will define YOU and your current condition. Capture that image vividly in your mind’s eye. Close your eyes and save it to the hard-disk of your mind. Open your eyes. Now, go, quickly, to build a six-wire fence around the wonderful creation of YOU.

Barb WireWipe the sweat from your brow, clean the blood from the cuts on your arms, and dab the tears from your eyes as you look (maybe, for the very first time) at YOU. For everyone who makes the effort to build that tight fence, we all see the same thing: Gardens of goodness and Patches of weeds.

After we tidy up the areas of neglect, we feel a sense of peace and tranquility. We thoroughly enjoy what is ours and we generously offer our best to others. In time, we realize that to serve more people in a better way, we must continue to grow.

Fenced PasturesThe best way to do that is to close our eyes, again, and dream: Big dreams, vivid dreams in full color, even those beyond our wildest imagination.

Anything is possible.

Forget the past; it doesn’t matter. Ignore the nagging worry about the future; right here, right now, it’s great to be alive. Position yourself in the center of that marvelous territory (the one protected by the new six-wire fenced boundary) of YOU — and, dream!

Are you there, yet? If so, write down what you just imagined. It’s much more than a fantasy, or a dream. If you can sketch the rough outline and, then, draw a detailed blueprint of that place to which you just went, it can be built.

By standing in the image of that new country of YOU, you will be able to see the steps to take ~ from where you are, to where you want to be!

www.kimfoard.com

SageTalk Trademark

SageTalk

“There are only two ways to make a lasting impression: Dazzle ’em with your Brilliance; or, Baffle ’em with your Bullsh#t.”

That was my response when a new friend asked, “What the heck is SageTalk?!”

The rest of the story is one of western adventure and philosophical musings. In fact, it is my story. It began on the sagebrush prairies of eastern Montana.

Cowboy Poet & Philadelphia Lawyer

My dad’s name is James and my mom thought Stuart James would be a cute name for their son, but dad could hear the nickname and didn’t want his son to be a heterogeneous mixture (stew). The folks wanted a name to go with Jim, but didn’t like Junior, Tim, Rim, Bim or Dim. So, they set the bar high with a name of English origin meaning noble and brave, Kim.

Dad had an eighth grade formal education and a PhD in common sense and relationships. Because of the expectations of our society, though, he found certain doors of opportunity locked without the key of higher education to open them. I encourage my children to manage those expectations while nurturing their individuality and creativity.

As I tell “my story”, you’ll see why Montana is home. Although my folks were married in Red Lodge 59 years ago, I’ve only lived here for six years. I have the best of both worlds; I’m in the country with a paved road up to the punchy-button garage door. My view through a set of French doors is a landscape of mountain meadows, trees and deer. This tranquil garden setting of evenings and weekends is the fuel for the passion of helping others from my office in Billings to build their dreams into reality.

My dad grew up on a homestead near Hardin, MT where his dad raised cows and hay. My mom grew up on a farm near Rosebud, MT where her dad raised sugar beets and sheep. I was born in Miles City, MT to this cow-boy and shepherd-girl. Dad was driving truck for Sweetheart Bread Company as a favor for an older brother. Mom had moved to Miles City for her senior year of high school to complete classes towards a career as a traveling secretary. One day her younger sister was visiting at the boarding house and spotted a cute cowboy from their window. Although mom claims she didn’t like cowboys, she was the one invited to go in the truck on those midnight runs.

When I was two, dad decided the City was no place to raise his son. Since he always nurtured a love for horses and cows, a ranch job at Ismay, MT was a logical choice. When I was four, we moved to a ranch at Lavina, MT. After several years of perusing and placing orders from the Sears mail-order catalog, a baby sister was delivered; the real live version was sure different than the picture.

I was almost seven when the new adventure of school beckoned. Within a month of starting first grade at Lavina, we were on the move to a ranch at Big Timber, MT. We were there for six years and then an excursion to the foreign country of East Texas for a four year stint of horizon broadening. My junior year of high school provided the opportunity to be the new kid on three different playgrounds: Long View, TX; New Underwood, SD and Lavina, MT. Because I graduated at Lavina, I can proudly proclaim that I started and finished school there.

After high school, I turned down scholarships to pursue my dream of being a cowboy. Fifteen months later, I knew I didn’t have the same love of cows and horses as my dad. Yet, all of those years living the notion, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” came in handy for a poor kid with a “new dream” of going to college. In the course of managing my fledgling business as a twenty-something 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!”

I had a childhood of unconditional love from my dad and unrelenting challenge from my mom. The days were spent horseback in a sea of cowhides with a Dad who knew the way to confidence was by doing what others said was impossible. The evenings were spent in epic tales of adventure with a Mom who knew the portal to opportunity was by learning from the stories of others. Although dad worked on ranches for $200 per month and we were poor of money, our little family of four was rich in love. I wanted the richness of family combined with greater resources.

My college years from the fall of 1975 to the spring of 1979 were invested at Eastern Montana College, now known as MSU-Billings. I worked my way through the first two years of college building houses and the last two working for a CPA firm. The last day of my junior year I finished two exams in the morning and began a marriage that afternoon.

After graduation from college, I worked for Husky Oil Company in Cody, WY for six months and realized I liked the rock-n-roll of public accounting better than the politics of a private company. The next year was focused on getting that onerous CPA exam passed and I’ll always remember 8/1/1981 as the day I opened the letter offering congratulations. December 1st of that year, a business checking account in Roundup, MT was opened to deposit the check from my first client.

Both of my children started kindergarten and graduated high school at Roundup. My 27 year old daughter is a May 2008 graduate of MSU-Havre, a Master Certified service advisor, and a wonderful combination of straight-line thinker and creative genius. My 24 year old son spent a year at Northwest College in Powell, invested a couple of years enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks, and is now working on an advanced degree in finance and mineral extraction.

Evidently, they took to heart the line from the movie Silverado, “The world is what you make of it friend; if it doesn’t fit, make alterations.” I’m quite proud of their diligent efforts to be true to their core beliefs while pursuing their individual dreams.

Moving all over creation in my childhood sparked the notion that having roots would be better. The tsunami of a divorce eight years ago brought clarity to my thoughts! Now, I live in the moment. Still building on the foundation of the past and anticipating the future; yet, more focused on enjoying each day!

The Tagline

The mental image of a “Cowboy Poet & Philadelphia Lawyer” is one of ostensible contradiction. Yet, these four words are a reminder to me that life is best experienced on a spectrum. Think of a sphere and then imagine the axis lines holding it symmetrical from the inside, out. Like the four points of a compass, as far as east is from the west, opposite ends of the axis lines are required for balance.

Growth occurs when we push the artificial limit of where the internal axis lines end at the edge of who we currently are. As we stretch the boundaries, the result is a greater sphere of influence for the benefit of many. These spectrums of life stretch to infinity, if we have the courage to let our minds become open to the vastness of the universe and the unlimited potential of each individual!

The cornerstones of my heritage are “Spurs” and “Books”. What rowels are to spurs; vowels are to words. They are the jingle of rhythm and points of meaning.

A Cowboy is a man of action and defender of principle. The introspection of a Poet tends to cast a soft and mellow hue. Philadelphia is symbolic of friendship and brotherly love. When those attributes are absent in a relationship, a Lawyer uses the rules of the game to discover the facts, and just the facts, ma’am!

The self-proclaimed label of “Cowboy Poet” is to honor the importance of heroes and the power of words. As a kid, I wore a fancy, tied down, two gun rig with which to deal with the bad guys. Now, I rely on the proverb, “Truly, the pen is mightier than the sword”.

The title of “Philadelphia Lawyer” was given by my dad when I was about ten years old. We were unloading sacks of cow salt out of the pickup into the granary one evening and I was doing my twenty-questions routine. Evidently, I lost track of the number and it had been a long day for dad. In exasperation and with a smile, he declared, “Kim, you ask so many questions, I’m sure you’re going to grow up to be a Philadelphia lawyer!”

He didn’t miss the mark by much. When it comes to putting together the conference room deals of our society, attorneys and CPAs are usually sitting side by side. The arena I step into each morning is defined by tax law, which when interpreted within all the statutes is a little bit of black, a little bit of white and a whole lot of gray.

Thus, the framed image, above, containing the SageTalk Trademark continues the tradition of “black, white and gray”.

As we consider the words at the trademark core of SageTalk: The first is representative of the wisdom from the Sages of the Ages; The second is an encouragement for us to, always, boldly Talk and Communicate our ideas, passions and vision for the future with others. The rainbow arc of the spectrum between the two words (Sage ~ Talk) is comprised of the colorful stories that we, all, must share with the Whole Wide World!

www.kimfoard.com

Offer & Acceptance

Offer & Acceptance

A friend remarked, “Ninety-plus percent of intimate personal relationships are based on nothing more than business transactions.”

At the time, I found her comment distasteful. Since then, I have taken off the rose-colored glasses and actually seen how couples behave in their relationships. Increasingly, I have noticed more of the quid pro quo inherent within what many fantasize to be a loving relationship.

As I listen closely to their words, the intent of their heart is expressed, “Yes, he is the leader of our family, because I say so.”

What?!

Recently, I have been able to weave the last few years of observation into a theorem, which proves my friend wrong in prognosis. The vast majority of personal relationships aren’t based on business principles. In fact, they don’t, even, rise to that level of common courtesies.

For those desirous of building dynamic relationships, consider this:

Give our Best
Pause to Rest

Guaranteed, this article is multifaceted. It will thoroughly thrill and consciously chill, you, with a wonderful blend of logic and emotion.

From the annals of history comes an accepted parable of wisdom, “Can two walk together unless they are agreed?”

The simple answer is: No.

By default, then, for two people to walk together, or do anything together, they must be in agreement.

The de minimis requirement for a valid business contract is agreement.

Contract law is based on the principle expressed in the Latin phrase pacta sunt servanda, which is usually translated “agreements to be kept” but more literally means “pacts must be kept”.

As a means of economic ordering, contract relies on the notion of consensual exchange and has been extensively discussed in broader economic, sociological, and anthropological terms. In American English, the term extends beyond the legal meaning to encompass a broader category of agreements.

Common Law jurisdictions recognize a high degree of freedom to contract, with the parties largely at liberty to set their own terms. In other words: Freedom of will to choose what is right for the individual. There is, only, one person who knows what that is: the individual.

The elements of a contract are mutual assent and consideration.

Mutual Assent

Mutual assent is typically reached through offer and acceptance; in other words, when an offer is met with an acceptance that is unqualified and does not change any of the terms. The result is a concurrence of wills or ad idem (meeting of the minds).

Consideration

Consideration is something of value given by a promissor to a promisee in exchange for something of value given by a promisee to a promissor. Typically, the thing of value is an act, or a forbearance to act when one is privileged to do so. The purpose of consideration is to ensure that there is a present bargain, that the promises of the parties are reciprocally induced.

In most systems of law, parties have freedom to choose whether or not they wish to enter into a contract, absent superseding duties. In American law, one early case exemplifying this proposition is Hurley v. Eddingfield (1901), in which the Supreme Court of Indiana ruled in favor of a physician who voluntarily decided not to help a patient whom the physician had treated on past occasions, despite the lack of other available medical assistance and the patient’s subsequent death.

Such a simple concept: Freedom to Choose.

We think nothing of claiming the right for ourselves. Do we graciously extend the same right to others? Or, do we make an offer and accept it for them? Laughable?!

Consider the last time you did something nice for another person and they rejected it. What was your reaction? Offended? Thinking, “How dare they?!” Here is the issue: Your definition of nice may not be the same as theirs.

The root of dysfunction in any relationship is the bad belief that we know what is best for another person. It is Our Bad to believe another person could, should, would (all of the ‘ould words denote an aura of judgment) accept what we are offering. That belief is bad, not the individual who says, “No, thanks.”

Give our Best
Pause to Rest

Let’s take a look at the ABC’s of building dynamic relationships.

Attitude

The foundation for success is an attitude of service to others.

Offer to fulfill a need, satisfy a desire, or fix a problem and a relationship is possible. This initial effort to give value begins the circular motion for acceptance to be received.

The sphere of benefit and influence will grow relative to the effectiveness of our communication. Crystal clear transmissions, static free receptions and a dedicated channel of feedback produce a synergy of unlimited potential.

Knowledge, wisdom and understanding are required as a prerequisite to valuable exchanges. We learn, grow and dream by focusing on Facts of the Past, Choices in the Present, and Vision for the Future.

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!

Boundaries

The walls of success are plumb and square because of a clear definition of ourselves and an understanding of others.

Until we clearly define and communicate what we want for the present and future, it is futile and even dangerous to pursue long-term relationships. Our individual commitment to a course of action is necessary before others can offer to help.

Definitive expectations allow another individual to make a judgment for themselves if they are able and willing to be a complement. We each have the right to say no to anyone, anytime, anyplace and for any reason.

Respect is only possible with clearly defined boundaries. The sovereignty of a country is defined by its border. As individuals, we are citizens of one.

Self-respect is everything that goes on within our boundaries. Respect for others happens at the border and according to mutually acceptable customs.

Profitable interactions occur through doors of opportunity that swing on the hinges of “No, thanks.” and “Yes, please!”

Commitment

The crowning glory of success is the courage to always do the right thing.

Until one is committed
There is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
Always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation),
There is one elementary truth,
The ignorance of which kills countless ideas
And splendid plans:
That the moment one definitely commits oneself,
Then Providence moves too.
All sorts of things occur to help one
That would never otherwise have occurred.
A whole stream of events issues from the decision
Raising in one’s favor all manner
Of unforeseen incidents and meetings
And material assistance,
Which no person could have dreamt
Would have come their way.

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

In the great state of Montana, we have an expression and tradition: “Good fences make for good neighbors.”

Those fences mark the boundary edges of ownership. They are the fine lines of distinction between what is mine and what is yours.

Now, consider the title of this article: Offer & Acceptance.

That little “&” sign is the difference between a healthy, vibrant, dynamic relationship and one that is dysfunctional. It is representative of a Montana fence and the fine lines we walk in life.

On the one side is my right to Offer; on the other is your right to Accept, or not. Depending on what I’m offering, your answer will be, either: “No, thanks.” Or, “Yes, please!”

One, or the other. Moment by moment; step by step; offer by acceptance: we choose to walk together, or not. One is not better than the other. What is important, though, is that we have an honest relationship.

Two mature individuals deciding what is best for ourselves, communicating that boldly and clearly, while mutually giving our best, and the freedom to choose, to our partner.

Give our Best
Pause to Rest

www.kimfoard.com

White Lines & PAWS

Dog Cat and White“Just keep your eyes on the white line, until you drive back into blue sky and sunshine.”

In some parts of the country, people drive for days to get out of the city. In Montana, we drive for hours to find one. Unless we’re driving at least 300 miles to do something, it’s probably just not that important!

It was Thanksgiving Day and Family was gathered 350 miles away. My first clue to a little excitement for that morning was at 3:30 AM, as I read the online Severe Weather Alert for blowing and drifting snow in an area known for high winds. The image that came to mind was of the log chain—that the community uses for a wind sock—popping links into snow drifts.

The reality was much different from the imagination. Before I even made it to the area of predicted severe weather, there was no hope in seeing anything on the side of the road. The road had disappeared into a white nothingness.

Blowing and drifting snow?! Who knew, or cared. The world had gone, white!

Visibility was zero. Now, wait. There was visibility. All white! White snow; white air; white road; and a few splotches of white lines were visible. We take them for granted most days: those solid white lines down the edge of a highway. That morning, they were the difference between moving forward and hibernation. A simple stripe of paint offered hope of progress.

It only took another 100 miles and 4 hours, until I drove into blue sky and sunshine.

Eventually, I drove right into the ranch yard and open arms of Family. A special Thanksgiving Day it was. In addition to the traditional fare of food and drink, this day included an opportunity to Meet the Parents. My daughter and her sweetie bravely hosted an event of Thanksgiving for their parents, who had yet to meet.

The meeting, and visiting, was made easier by George and Indie. You see, George is a big, old, grey cat; Indie is a small, young, red-heeler dog. Hence the expression, “Getting along like cats and dogs.” Oh, they get along just fine. Deep down, I do believe there is affection between the two. It’s the expression of the emotion that is comical.

Much more than the yelps and growls, it’s the PAWS which offer the love pats!

While we can learn much from two-legged folk, the lessons tutored by George and Indie made sense of my earlier morning experience of White.

Planning
Action
Will
Stories

Planning ~ You can see it in their eyes, as they think of the next episode of feline and canine adventure.

Action ~ They, literally, spring into it. Any doubts or reservations are pushed aside and they launch full-bore into the episode at hand.

Will ~ Fun will be obtained, by any means necessary to that end. Any resistance to great sport is overcome by sheer willpower.

Stories ~ We will remember, forever, the Day because it is wrapped in the ribbons and bows of the narrative.

My morning of Montana adventure contained all of the elements of PAWS. From the bag of winter survival gear to the full tank of fuel, planning and preparedness were the order of the day. Sitting beside the road in hopes of a kinder and gentler Mother Nature was forgone in exchange for moving forward, one mile at a time. Will-Power was my co-pilot, although, He was white-knuckled and wide-eyed, at times. Then, there are the tall tales—stories to tell the grandkids!

When given the opportunity of the impossible, let’s focus on the solutions available within our PAWS. By putting our hands to the task of finding joy by doing, and our feet to the path leading us to the discovery of an adventure, we find a priceless treasure that is ours, forever.

www.kimfoard.com

Two Farmers

Harvest

In the fertile valleys of Montana, harvest is almost complete. Malt barley is headed for the breweries, hard winter wheat is destined for the flourmills, soggy steer calves are trucked from the Red Lodge mountains to feedlots on the plains, sugar beets provide a poignant aroma to the air of Billings as they are processed into sweets for treats, and ear corn waits on the stalk to be picked.

The secrets to life can be found in the sixty miles from Red Lodge to Billings, Montana. This is a story of two farmers, Tom and Fred.

Their farms sit side-by-side, with a fence between them. Fred is a man of few words, while Tom likes to talk. Early morning, finds Fred at the kitchen table with a cup of dark, rich, coffee, as he plans his day. As dawn gives way to the first light, Fred is preparing his tractors for the circles they will make. Here comes Tom, with a little hair of the dog that bit him from the night before, to lean on the fence and begin his stories of high adventure.

Fred understands the benefit of crop rotation. If he wants to grow corn in one of his fields, he plants corn seed. For the sugar beet fields, he plants those little sugar beet seeds. In his wheat fields, he plants kernels of wheat.

As the spring rains stop, Fred is ready to start his irrigation to provide water for the crops. In early summer, the weeds are in competition with his crops; so, he cultivates. When the calves sneak through a hole in the pasture fence, he cowboys them back home and fixes the fence.

Tom watches Fred work. While continuing to lean on the fence day after day, Tom has all kinds of advice for how Fred should do his work. Fred just nods. In fact, Fred nods and waves as he puts his grain in the bin, steers on the truck, beets in the pile, and corn in the crib.

Then, one fall day while surveying his barren fields, Tom is in, especially, fine form. He walks up to his favorite leaning post and waves Fred over to the edge of the field. As Fred idles his new tractor down to a gentle purr and steps from the cab to learn what is on his neighbor’s mind, Tom says, “You’re sure lucky!” Fred just nods and says, “Yep.”

We harvest what we plant.

The shorter version of the story is the proverb: “Some sow their wild oats and then hope for a crop failure.” Those are the lucky ones. Lucky in the sense that less bad seed is blowing in the wind to cause harm for the neighbors. Un-lucky, since the real joys of life are discovered by doing, learning, and growing.

In this era of fantasy, when: work is spelled l-u-c-k; wrong is thought to be right; and, black and white are old-fashioned; how can we know good people from the bad ones?

Again, from agrarian principles, comes the answer.

You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.

… He taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers…

In returning to the story of our two neighbors, Tom is a Talker and Fred is the Farmer. Talk is easy. Work is hard. Or, is it?

Maybe, the moral of the story is: Easy is hard — and, Hard is easy.

As for me, I enjoy full bins!

www.kimfoardcpa.com

Price We Pay

The Magic FormulaBy eliminating variables, we arrive at one thing certain.

This is a story of three entrepreneurs: Eric the electrician, George the geek, and Lorna the landlord. The mystery for us to solve: Although unrelated by blood and marriage, how can they all have the same big sister, Iris, who requires their support?

Lucky for us; we have The Magic Formula as a guide to the answer. It is available by clicking the image above, or this Link. Much more than a guide, the Magic flows from an awareness of our resource choices: Time and Money.

Eric is an industrious fellow, who has a passion for service. He has completed years of formal training; has worked his way through the ranks of Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Electrician; and, now wants to live the dream of being his own Boss. Captain of his own ship, Master of his own destiny, a Servant of the people: taking care of his very own Customers.

Since Eric has all of the tools and seed money necessary for starting his Company, there is no need for a Banker, as a partner. Based on the household budget, he knows that his family needs $40,000 per year, after taxes.

As a self-employed individual, he will pay both halves (Employer plus Employee) of Social Security and Medicare taxes, for a combined rate of 15.3% on all net profit of his business. Much trickier are Federal and State income taxes, which are calculated on a progressive scale. At the lower brackets of income and with benefit of tax credits under current law, income taxes are of minimal concern. He anticipates an effective total tax rate of 20%.

In business, Overhead is a gracious way of saying: There is a price for Eric’s dream. Technically, Overhead is the delivery system of value from provider to consumer. For the joy of having that magnetic sign on the side of his truck and walking into his shop each morning to switch on the lights, at a minimum, Eric will pay $60,000 each year.

Now we’re ready to do 4th Grade math. We will simply Add, Subtract, Multiply and Divide.

Because taxes take 20% of Eric’s total Net Profit “pie”, his after tax $40,000 must be 80% of that same pie. Thus, we Divide $40,000 by .80 to know that Eric needs $50,000 of Net Income for the year. To prove that this target is accurate, we double-check the numbers: First, we Multiply $50,000 by .20 to find that, indeed, Taxes are $10,000; then, we Subtract $10,000 from $50,000 to breathe a sigh of relief in knowing Eric has $40,000 for his family.

Before Eric even gets to Net Profit, he must first make Sales to Customers of $60,000 each year, just to cover his Overhead and “keep his lights on”. Therefore, we Add the amount of Net Income ($50,000) to Overhead ($60,000); Eric knows exactly his sales target for the year, which is also a representative value of his time to provide quality services: $110,000.

Remember that needy sister, Iris? Your suspicion is right. Her nickname is IRS, the Internal Revenue Service; the one in need of that $10,000, above!

Now, the fun really begins, because we are to the point of this story: Who pays taxes? Is it, really, Companies and Businesses, as the Governor of the State of Montana believes? What happens when Big Sister decides she “needs” twice the amount of support and will use new tactics to take it?

Let’s answer these questions by reviewing the components of The Magic Formula. Does Eric need $40,000 for his family? Yes. Is the effective tax rate under current law approximately 20% for those in Eric’s income bracket? Yes. Does every business have expenses of Overhead in delivering value to the marketplace? Yes. Since these are all accurate variables, we find ourselves with the ultimate question: From where does the money come? Answer: Customers.

Who are customers? That would be: You and Me.

We pay Eric for the value he provides to us: the value of understanding the dynamics of electricity and how to bring it into our homes for the benefit of our families. He, in turn, shares portions of this Price with Vendors, Government and his Family.

At this point in our story, some may ask the question: “Why doesn’t Eric just keep on working for his current Employer?” For those individuals who are unemployed, the answer is obvious. For the ones still employed, the answer is two-part:

1.) Eric has discovered a better way to light up the lives of Customers, which his current employer is unwilling to accept.

2.) Because of the Universal Financial Principle above, Eric’s base compensation from any company is limited to, approximately, one-third of what he produces for an employer; Taxes and Overhead take the rest.

Prices are not arbitrarily set by businesses. Every business wants to be competitive in the marketplace and they know Price is one measurement of Value, subject to the perception and judgment of Customers.

Now, what happens when big sister, Iris, wants more? Not just a little more, a lot more!  In fact, she wants to double her consumption. Let’s do the math.

Eric still needs $40,000 for his Family and he still has Overhead to pay. So, by using the structure of The Magic Formula, we can solve for the amount of Taxes and the new Price his customers will pay. $40,000 divided by .60 is $66,666 (Net Income) multiplied by .40 is $26,666 (Taxes), which leaves $40,000 for Eric and his family. If all of Eric’s business expenses (Overhead) remain at the $60,000 amount, his Customers will need to pay $126,666 for the value of his services.

From $110,000 to $126,666, we (Customers) pay $16,666, more!

Remember the rest of our cast of characters: George and Lorna? George provides computer services to Eric; and, Lorna provides the building space for his shop. What do you think George and Lorna will be doing to the price of the value they offer to the marketplace?

If they want to stay in business, they will be doing what Eric was forced to do: raise their prices, too. George and Lorna are part of the $60,000 in Overhead that Eric needs to pay each year. When that $60,000 amount increases, who pays? Yes, once again, the answer is: We the People!

This is for certain: We pay a price for everything.

www.kimfoard.com