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Economy Bandwagon

With the economy apparently starting to recover from the recent failure of the banking industry; I have been looking back at my experiences and trying to figure out how to best achieve some success by learning from others mistakes.

Lesson One

I think the first lesson I will be taking home from this recession is that people who deal with money on a day to day basis really have no idea what they are doing.

I’m not trying to say that no-one has a clue about money, I’m saying that the professionals who are continuously pontificating what will be next and how bad everything is don’t have any better idea than the rest of us.  I have certainly lost personal respect for most of the money managers currently out there.  The signs of market collapse were out there quite some time ago and many non-professionals I know had their money out of the market and protected long before the world “ended”.

Lesson Two

The bandwagon is a powerful force.  I have seen the bandwagon effect everywhere.  Sports teams have to be one of the primary sources of bandwagon jumping.  Just a few weeks ago everyone I knew was cheering for our local sports teams and the moment they lost everyone was somewhere else.

Doing this with your money can be very dangerous.  The stock market performs very well over the long term and many studies have been performed to prove this.  I have personally checked the stats and if you are investing over periods of 10 or more years there has never (actually never) been a case where you did not perform well.  This even includes the 10 year periods with the Great Depression and the Dot Com Bubble.  Crazy I know.

Lesson Three

My third lesson is how very easy to watch everyone else loosing everything, until it happens to you.  I personally discovered how I was relying on an unsteady source of income as a stable source.  Once it dried up I certainly learned in a hurry how foolish I had been.  For now and into the future I will be ensuring that my monthly budget is designed for saving.  This way I will have a better buffer should an income source dry up.  I also intend to not spend unstable income for day to day needs.

I have learned other lessons over the past year, maybe I’ll cover those in a part 2.  What lessons did you learn?

Google’s Goats

goattitleIn what has to be the most awesome and yet insane thing I have read Google has decided to go totally natural and cut their lawn using goats.  Yes its not a misprint, goats.

According to the official Google blog:

This spring we decided to take a low-carbon approach: Instead of using noisy mowers that run on gasoline and pollute the air, we’ve rented some goats from California Grazing to do the job for us (we’re not “kidding”).

This is where you normally have a hearty laugh and check if the date is April 1.  Well it isn’t an April Fools joke and this is where the whole story gets even more interesting.  TechCrunch actually picked up on this story and decided to follow up.  They contacted PETA to get an official statement.

PETA has no problem with letting goats do what goats want to do (e.g., look cute and eat weeds), but we do have concerns about how the goats may be transported, whether they are provided with access to shelter during storms and shade as well as water during hot weather, where they are housed when they aren’t “working,� what kind of veterinary care they receive, and what becomes of old and/or excess goats. PETA has found over and over that whenever animals are used by a business to make money, corners are cut and animals often suffer as a result. And that really gets our goat, if you’ll pardon the pun.

PETA usually takes the “ethical” treatment part of their work a little bit too seriously and I usually ignore what they have to say pretty much ever time they say something.  This time though it was a little different, this isn’t some farmer just doing their job; this is Google, one of the largest companies on the face of the earth.  Fortunately Google takes PETA more seriously than I and they actually replied.

Google takes the wellness of our employees very seriously and we pride ourselves on having a responsive and adaptable culture. The lawn-mowing goats are not, of course, full-time Google employees – but we would certainly respond directly to any concerns about their treatment. I can confirm that during their time in Mountain View, like other Google employees, each goat is entitled to a free organic lunch.

Sometimes you just have to love Google.  Not only was their response just perfect the whole goat idea is awesome.  I think I might have to find myself an organic lunch as well, in honor of these wonderful goats.

Since goats are just so cute I’ve got some more pictures for your enjoyment, if these just aren’t enough you can check out this post for even more pictures (and a video).

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Ethics in Business

ethicsI was reading an wonderful opinion piece in The Star.  You can read it here if you like.  Its all about ethics in journalism and how in our current economy the journalists need to be more ethical.

Without ethics, there is no difference between being a journalist and posing as a journalist.

This has to be the truest phrase I have heard in a long time.  Its actually quite true for any profession and without ethics our entire society is nothing.

Recently, with the worldwide economy struggling I have been seeing society responding to their new situation with panic and, quite honestly, a lack of ethics.  This has been playing out everywhere but nowhere has it been more public than in the media.  Each media group rushing the news out to ensure they don’t get scooped.  Unfortunately this rush has been at the expense of accuracy and has caused much panic that was completely unnecessary.

This failure of ethics has filtered down throughout society and we are now finding it everywhere.  People arguing and backstabbing at work, lying and refusing to pay their bills, and walking away from their mortgages without a good reason.  People are behaving irrationally and without some rational thinking our society is going to crumble.

Tough times call for more ethics, not less.

Ethics in Business

With more than half of all people in North America employed by small businesses it is up to the business owners and managers to calm down and apply truth and ethics to their business dealings.  This, more than anything, should ensure stability and loyalty from both our employees as well as our customers.

As the owner of a small business I know that my word/reputation is the true commodity.  I live by my word and I will die by my word.  I cannot afford to destroy my reputation by failing with ethics, can you?

The First Rule of Business

moneyYou are all excited, finally you will be able to achieve financial independence and throw off the chains of your day job.  Things are going great you are making tons of money and life couldn’t be better.  Then along comes Big Brother Government to remind you that your big dreams come at a price.  A huge tax bill.

Taxes, one of the two things you are guaranteed to experience in life.  Unlike death, taxes gets to be experienced over and over until you die.  Fortunately there are a few things you can do to make sure your first tax bill doesn’t give you a heart attack and a chance at the other guarantee of life.

Planning

The number one way to make sure taxes doesn’t kill you is to prepare for it.  The government usually wants between 25 and 50% of your earnings.  This is basically the largest expense you will ever face, even a mortgage payment has a hard time getting close to the enormous amounts of money the government takes from your pockets.

So, how do you plan for taxes?  The first thing I try to do at the beginning of a new year is estimate how much money I think I might make this year.  I’ve never been that good at picking an accurate number but I have found that I usually over estimate my earnings which has been helpful in providing myself with an annual “refund” check from myself.  By having a hopefully accurate picture of how much you are going to make in course of a year you can start preparing for tax time when the government is going to try to make you part with a size-able chunk of that money.

The next step would be to open a secondary savings account or some type of guarenteed investment account so that you can start putting away the tax portion of your earnings.  Remember that this must be placed in a very secure account, nothing is worse than planning and prepairing for your taxes to have a little market bump wipe out the governments money.  The tax man just isn’t very forgiving.

After you have a secure account in which to store your taxes, you need to figure out how much you will be forced to part with.  This can usually be calculated quite easily online.  Just find an online tax calculator and enter in a few details to find out how much you will need to put away.

Now with all those steps complete you can relax and while the vast amount of money the government takes from your pockets will never really stop amazing you at least the risk of a heart attack is limited to your health and not a huge bill.

What are your opinions?  What other steps would you recommend a new business owner take to prepare themselves?

Tesla Model S

tesla1Tesla Motors has to be one of my favorite car companies of all time.  They came out a few years ago with their concept “supercar” the Tesla Roadster, one of the first (if not the first) all electric sports cars.  Now they are set to do it all again with the Tesla Model S.  A luxury sedan designed on to use an all electric engine.

This car is the first time I have seen a “green” car not have that ugly “I’m Special” look the major car companies have been adding to their hybrid cars.  Finally someone who cares that having a car is more about how the car looks and feels than it is about the environment.  It sure is nice to have a “green” car as well but not too many of us really care for an efficent car before we look at an awesome car.

I would have to say I’m impressed with this car.  Something that looks this good and is as powerful and fully loaded as they say is really impressive.  A 0-60 time in 5.6 seconds is nothing to snease at.  I’m not quite sure how you fit 7 people in this car, but they say it seats 7.  I’d have to say my favorite feature is the conveniently located storage, in both the front hood and the trunk.  Its not often that a car can boast that.

My only gripes with this car come from the fact that electric fueling stations don’t really exist yet which does limit this car to a local driving vehicle.  A range of up to 300 miles is pretty good but it certainly won’t work for a traveling salesman or the like.  I guess I actually have 2 gripes, it’s not out on the market yet.  They aren’t delivering this car until 2011 and that’s just sad (for me).

All told this has to be one of the best cars coming out in the next few years.  Sadly for the major North American car companies this isn’t one of their products.  Hopefully if they manage to survive bankrupcy they will start learning lessons from smart companies such as Tesla Motors.

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Thoughts about Business, Finance and all things interesting