Sonoma County: News and Notes

 

We get a break from the rain today go get out and enjoy the sunshine! My take is that we are having a lot more rain than last year, but I can not find a good site with totals. If anybody has one, let me know.

Beyond water, one of the big issues in the North Bay Economy has been housing. The lack of inventory has led to rising house prices and rental costs. Rentals are very full and many rental properties are being sold by people to maximize their value. Because of this and other housing related issues, I spoke recently to Eric Taggesell of Summit Funding about what he is about and how he can help people.

Jim Sackman: Eric to start out, Mortgage Prices have been low for a long time now. With the changes at the Federal Reserve (aka The Fed), do we see movement coming in Mortgage Rates?
Eric Taggesell: Jim, I suspect that we will see increased rates over time. Mortgages are still pretty low, but I think that they will be somewhat higher by the end of the year.

JS: How will this impact your Business?
ET: Well, we have done quite well in refinancing loans and I think there is still a lot of business to be done there. Many people were living with bad mortgages and the rise in home valuations has allowed people to get into better mortgages. There seems to be still a supply of mortgages that need to be reworked.

JS: Anything people should know about this?
ET: In many ways, times have reverted to where things were some time ago. The documentation requirements are what I was used to prior to the Real Estate Bubble, so people that got their first mortgage at that time may be surprised.

JS: What makes you a person that people want to work with? I see your reviews on-line and folks have a lot of good things to say about you.
ET: To me this is all about knowledge. Buying a home is a huge transaction for almost everyone. Most people do not do it many times in their life. The process is complicated and there is a lot of information involved. This makes people face a set of choices without all the facts. I want them to have all the information that I can give them.

JS: Why is that?
ET: I saw what happened when the Real Estate Bubble popped. I found out that many people had loans that they did not understand. Because of that, they got themselves into financial trouble that did not need to happen. I think part of my job is to make sure that this does not happen to people. I want them to ask as many questions as they want. If a customer leaves unsure of what they are signing, then I have not done my job. That is my promise to people. Even if you have somebody that you think you want to work with, come talk to me and I will make sure that you have 100% of the information you need.

JS: You should probably offer a class.
ET: Well, it is funny that you ask. I DO offer a Home Buyers Class to help people with the process. Anyone can contact me at Summit Funding to find out when my next one is!

JS: Anything else that people should know?
ET: Yes, I want to help Veteran’s. VA mortgages are complicated and many people don’t want to deal with them. This is an area that is a specialty of mine and I would be happy to help any Veteran that I can.

So, there it is. Eric Taggesell will be happy to talk to you to make sure that you know about what you are getting when you get a mortgage. I would strongly recommend that you look him up if you are contemplating buying a home. Things have probably changed if you have not bought one in the last couple of years.

Have a great day, we will be coming up on Earnings soon!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

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Time and Focus

 

I did not post last week on Martin Luther King’s Birthday, but I want to go back to the series that I am working on Time as a critical factor in business success. If you remember, the first post I did contained a personal time mechanism for those who are stuck that I call the First Hour Method. I am going to move today to something less tangible in the business and that is Focus.

Now, Focus itself is clear in its meaning but it has a lot of context. Since we are at the start, we will start by understanding the term Focus in terms of Unique Value Proposition (UVP) and Ideal Client. These terms are especially challenging at the start of a business, but I find that many people continue to struggle with them throughout the Life of the Business. Since so much time is spent on how to create these for new businesses, I want to focus on an existing business that might struggle with Focus.

Once a business has been established and is up and running, there is a default what the UVP and Prospect base is. These are set by the actions that led the company to where it is today. If the business is at a steady state, then many people will be satisfied. If you go back to my series on Financial Statements, you need to have about 10% Revenue Growth to achieve steady profit growth. This is a generality and each business will have somewhat different numbers.

So, what happens when a business enters a steady state? It can be that the company has defined itself narrowly and the client base can not grow. It can be that the alignment of business and value is not good enough to capture a larger market share. There are many possibilities. But this is a point of danger for businesses and they need to go through an objective evaluation of what is going on. In particular, businesses should be looking at the competitive landscape and the changes in market conditions. As these external factors change the environment that the business works within, methods that work in the past do not translate into the future.

Let me give you an example from a prospect that I wanted to work with. I found them through a display ad in the Yellow Pages. This was a Civil Engineering firm, and I know how expensive these ads are. I talked to their marketing person who told me that they were focused on the Yellow Pages because they got their single largest contract through that channel. I asked more about this and found out that this happened in 1992. Well, business has changed dramatically since then especially in marketing and advertising. There are only a few businesses that will get a significant business uptick from the printed Yellow Pages, and there are many better ways to spend advertising for most businesses.

Now that is a really obvious example, but I can provide plenty of anecdotes where I ask simple questions to businesses and they have missed the forest from the trees. People get set in their methodologies and processes. Sometimes things need a shakeup. The right thing is to make sure that you have an objective evaluation that can help your business keep on track. If it is not me, then someone like me. So, find that objective observer who can ask uncomfortable questions and use them.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

Net Neutrality Friday

 

This week I posted on one of my favorite sites, LightReading. Their was analyst who was talking about how to define and encourage something called Open Access. I want to use this blog post to detail out a huge problem in telecommunications regulation and thought. It is basically the holding onto old ideas.

So, what is Open Access. As the analyst pointed out there is not a specific technical definition. However, the idea was that multiple service providers could provide service over a network. This is a version of what is called Structural Separation. By this, the company that physically brings service to your house would not necessarily be the same company that provided bits per second nor would it provide more advanced services. Now 10 years ago, this was a topic of great debate. In Utah, there was Project Utopia. This was a local community based Fiber to the Home provider. They allowed any company that wanted to to come to their serving office and provide services to their clients. Given that you have probably never heard of it, you can imagine it was not wildly successful.

So here we are in 2016. What I told the analyst was that Open Access was overcome by events. He just tried to go back to show me what Open Access was. The problem is that he missed the point of my entire post. Open Access has been replaced by Internet Service. When you buy Linear Pay TV (example Cable) it is what we call a “walled garden” service. You can only get it from the sole provider – the company that you get Access Service from. For me that is Comcast and Xfinity. The goal of Open Access wasn’t to compete with Comcast, but with Xfinity. The problem is that Over The Top (OTT) services are the new competition for long standing walled garden services. In Linear Pay TV, that includes Netflix, Hulu, Youtube and even things like Twitch TV.

Which is my point 1. The walled garden services are in decline from competition with OTT services. This has already started and is accelerating by all reports and studies that I have seen. So, why are we worried about competitive walled garden services when the real competition is OTT. It simply wastes time to worry about models that were great in 2005. We need to think about the way competition is going to be in 2025. Then the walled garden will be completely gone.

Which leads to point 2. This is a GREAT thing. Comcast uses a tiny fraction of its bandwidth in the Access to provide Broadband Services. If Comcast stopped doing Linear Pay TV, the amount of bandwidth available for OTT services would be dramatically increased. We are not there yet, but I think we can all see the day when very little if any of us have “Cable Service”. Just like I can see the day that Wireline POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). I have a phone jack on my cable box. I don’t own a phone that can plug into it. I just use my cell for everything. Young people are headed that way. So, why do we have Universal Phone Service still?

See what I mean with old ideas clogging up thinking about how we build the future?
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

Sonoma County: News and Notes

First, I hope you all had a great MLK day!

Well, we have been pounded by rain over the last few weeks and that is a good thing. I just hope we don’t lose focus on fixing our water infrastructure, but I will bet that this rain has greatly abated what is going to be spent on that front.

But one thing that happens with storms like this is property damage and leaks that you didn’t know you had come out of nowhere. For roof and gutter issues, I would recommend you call Letitia Hanke of ARS Roofing. If you need some quick repairs, try Jason Thomas of Super Services. If you have larger construction issues, try Jim Gemperline of C and J Property Services. If you have Electrical problems, try Bill Henry at B. Henry Quality Electric. If you have remediation work because of water, try Tyler Ramirez of Bravo Restoration. If you end up hating your Insurance, try Joerg Olsen at Sherzer and Associates. You can find them all at the Best Networkers in Town. Every one of them is part of my BNI team. I have used many of these folks myself and refer my BNI partners regularly. I get to hear weekly about the people that they have served and done quality work for.

Beyond meeting many great business people, this is one of the huge benefits of belonging to BNI. You end up being able to give your clients and friends connections to great business professionals. It is like you have this huge portfolio of things that you can call on to help people. This is a marketing expense, but businesses find that this type of referral marketing has a huge Return on Investment (ROI). You might think that this is only for small companies but I have been in referral groups like this with folks from Summit State Bank, Sonic.Net and even Wells-Fargo.

So, the only question is – Do you want to grow your Business Network AND your Business? If so, feel free to contact me or just come to our meeting at Legends on Friday at 6:45AM (we will get you out by 8:30AM). There is no costs for visitors and you get to meet about 50 Business Owners and Executives from Sonoma County. If you live somewhere else check out the BNI SF Bay Website for details on where you can find other chapters. There are 8 chapters in Santa Rosa alone and you will be able to find one that is right for you!

One other thing that is going on that I wanted to tell you about is an all day class being sponsored by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. This is called the 2016 Government Procurement Conference. The goal is to help small businesses understand how to qualify to sell to government agencies. There are set asides that the government makes to help small businesses with guaranteed business. Follow the LINK to learn more.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

Net Neutrality Friday

 

This week Alcatel-Lucent ceased operations as an independent company and is now part of Nokia. I competed for many years against Alcatel, especially their Broadband Access Unit. They were tough competition and worked very hard to keep AFC at arms length. Now Nokia is back to being the large carrier supplier of Access Gear in North America. I find it interesting that the companies that want to crack Verizon and AT&T never call any of us that beat Alcatel to help them do the same. Be that as it may, this transaction is yet another harbinger in the changes in the market. These changes have ramifications for consumers and we will talk about them here.

Both at AFC and at Tellabs, we were aware of this ongoing trend of consolidation both in the carrier business and in the equipment business. This has extended itself to the semiconductor business. I posted a bit about this but want to use Alcatel-Lucent as an example and give some views to what it means. The first thing is the change to price cap carriers from rate of return. When carrier pricing was based around rate of return, it made sense to gold plate the network. This would grow the “rate base” and thus the return allowed by price changes. In those days (even in 2000 this was a bit of an issue), the regulators (particularly at the State Level) were more interested in keeping prices down instead of encouraging investment. The whole way people thought about CAPEX was different than it is today. Let’s use Voice over IP services as an example. These products are slowly working their way into the Telephone companies. Essentially at the rate of retirement of older TDM switches. Why is that? Because the TDM switches are paid for and no equipment is cheaper than equipment that is already paid for. But the bigger impact is that once a spot in a network is filled, it is not rebid. In the old days, it was typical for network equipment to be rebid every 3 – 5 years. This means that there is no entry point for new players into existing markets. Once products are chosen, the book is closed and then things move on. This means investment in Systems products (and y extension Semiconductor products) has gone up in both risk and potential reward. Go big or go home, because their is no second place. Ask the former Motorola PON team about its experience in FiOS. They got 5% or so market share. Not enough to make any business out of.

The only reaction to this is vendor consolidation to limit the risks. Large institutions can have more swings and misses than smaller ones. We see that trend now with their being fewer and fewer firms. The firms that remain are also larger. When is the last time that a Communications Equipment startup went anywhere? Was it Juniper? This combined with the fewer new pieces of silicon means that the industry is headed to having all carriers offering the same things. The ideas of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) are supposed to be the new drivers based on creating new carrier products and services. I am highly skeptical about these. The reason is that I spent time in the Software as a Service (SaaS) world and saw how we thought about bandwidth. It was all the same and our customers needed generic IP access to our service. We built an overlay for our own needs (a private network on top of the layer 3 network that we had access to). Because of this flat view of the network and the availability of large scale Open Source Software, a handful of Software Engineers can make new things very quickly. They don’t even need to buy an infrastructure, as they can rent one from a player like Amazon Web Services (AWS). This means that there is a huge number of new and innovative services coming to market every day. This is where the innovation is and a big company like an ISP simply can’t keep up, nor should they try. They just need to enable these new providers.

Where does this bring us on Alcatel-Lucent? Well, they like other players were caught with some winners (Broadband Access and IP Networking) and a number of losers. It made sense to combine with a company with other winners and be stronger overall. If you want to see this play our in another market, take a look at the Commercial Aircraft Business. Where there were a dozen or so suppliers there are really now 2 major suppliers and a number of niche suppliers. Then compare it to the Communications Equipment Business. You will see many parallels!

Have a great weekend.
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

Sonoma County: News and Notes

 

The rain keeps coming and that makes me happy. We need the rain to help us with the current drought and help relieve pressure on our out of date water infrastructure. I guess we can thank El Nino.

Last week I spent time with Stephanie Sharp. Stephanie is a Hair Stylist who has been plying her trade for a long time in the East Bay and is now available for some appointments in the North Bay. She is working at Sharp Cuts 2 in Rohnert Park. This is located inside the Clubhouse at Oak View of Sonoma Hills off of Rohnert Park Boulevard. I talked to Stephanie about what is going to make Sharp Cuts 2 a great place.

Jim Sackman: So Stephanie, why the move to the North Bay?

Stephanie Sharp: Well Jim, I have been developing my skills and want to apply them in a particular way that makes sense to be in Sonoma County. To be specific that means I want to work with Women that are 55+.

JS: Sonoma County has a relatively high percentage of retirees, so that makes perfect sense.

SS: Absolutely. Older women have some special hair care needs, but really I consider myself a Hairapist.

JS: What is a Harapist?

SS: I want to be more than just the person that cuts Hair. One of the challenges for older women is that they often times feel alone or less connected than they did in the past. I get a chance to interact in a very personal way with these women. We get to share time and beauty together.

JS: Sort of like the old way men used to look at their bartenders?

SS: A bit. But I want to provide a chance foe older women to feel beautiful again. They often times feel ignored and I can help by being their listening to their needs.

JS: We all want a bit of attention.

SS: I was working with a woman the other day who had a specific hair style that she wanted. Previous stylists would not do that for her and I did. I listened to what she wanted and gave it to her. We both had a great time and she was very happy when I left. It made me feel like I was walking on clouds when I was done. That is why I have this specialty…for women like her!

Well, I want to thank Stephanie for sharing her passion with me. I love to talk to business owners about what they love to do and share it with all of you. If you know someone who has a business and wants to talk about it, just let me know.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

It’s All About Time

 

You know when I started Business Coaching, I thought I would spend a lot of time on Finance and Revenue. The truth is that the vast bulk of my clients want to talk about Time and Time Management. They don’t really ask about that but that is what is behind their issues.

My next series is going to explore Time in all of its forms. Some of them you won’t recognize as being about Time. But they are all going to relate to Time. So, if you have an issue with getting more done – then start here.

The first piece of advice is about E-mail. I worked for some time in the E-mail industry, but it turns out that people get lost in doing E-mail. So, if you really need to get something done then delay working on your E-mail when you first get to work. I call this my “First Hour Method” and it is a simple version of an issue uncovered by FocalPoint’s Founder, a man named Brian Tracy. He has written over 60 books and one of the most popular is called “Eat That Frog”. The idea in the book is to face the hardest things you need to do first, so that you will complete them. I have found that this technique works if people adopt it. I have come up with a way to get people to stick to a plan. Try my method for two weeks as you need that amount of time to create a habit. Once you are through the trial period, you should be able to see your results.

The goal is to make the First Hour of each Business day produce results for you. This plan involves 3 steps.

Step 1 – Read Your Affirmation. This is very specific. You need to have an Affirmation, it needs to be written down and you need to read it. The Affirmation is a message to yourself about why you are doing what you are doing and why you will succeed. This helps you get in the right frame of mind for the day!

Step 2 – Write Your Goal(s) for the day. You need to write down the Goal or Goals that you need to accomplish that day. The step of writing these goals is important so don’t’ skip it! These need to be things that MUST happen Today. You can other lists of things to get done but these are your Big Rocks for Today.

Step 3 – Do the Most Important thing for the rest of the First Hour. This should be about 45 minutes and for many Business Owners, this will be Prospecting. Many Business Owners don’t relish the notion of pushing their product. They wish people would just come to them. It doesn’t happen that way. You have to tell your prospects about yourself to make them customers. Once you start getting more customers you will find it easier to Prospect.

No matter what else happens you can see that you will have spent the First Hour of each day making sure that you are working on the right things! Once you have built a number of good habits you will see your business shine.
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!