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How dominant belief systems affect our lives

I have been suffering from a series of painful boils since late December. Having tried several natural cures such as turmeric and tea tree oil, I finally gave in and went to the doctor this morning. An incredibly painful 15 minutes ensued, with the doctor giving me several shots to numb me and then going in and scraping out all of the infected tissue with a knife. When she was (finally!) done, there was a pile of bloody gauze pads next to me and I felt weak and dizzy. I am now on antibiotics and have another doctor’s appointment scheduled for tomorrow morning.

This entire health issue has led me to a deeper realization, which I wrote in an email to S this morning, and after some thought, decided to post here. This is what I wrote to him, verbatim (except that names have been shortened.) I hope that it will bring some of you to a deeper understanding as well.

As I understand it, we are not much more healthy than we were as a culture thousands of years ago. Sure, we may live longer, as a consequence mainly of better nutrition and recognition of certain cause->effect relationships (washing hands regularly->fewer contagions enter the body). But we are not, as a whole, healthier on a day-to-day basis.

There is a deeply ingrained belief system in our culture that we must go to a doctor (a professional) to cure all ills. You and I now know this to be just one of many paths. For instance, there are many ills that can be cured simply by realigning Self with Nature and Source. In particular, those “common” afflictions such as colds and infections can be cured without the need for a doctor.

Yet our culture, this one, the one that we live in now, insists to us that we must see a doctor to cure these common problems. We are constantly being reinforced by TV ads for medications, our own parents who have the same belief system, and by friends who think they are just telling us to “do the right thing” and go see a doctor to get “cured.”

I was not aware how deeply ingrained my belief system about doctors was until today.

There were several things I could have done to not make these boils as bad as they were. I needed to realign myself in even a deeper way than I had already tried to. I needed to ask for healing on a daily basis and receive it. I needed to do simple utilitarian chores like changing my sheets and washing my clothes. But none of this did I do until today, when I finally saw a doctor, and realized that subtle changes after the doctor visit had taken place. In particular, I felt that I was healed. This, more than anything else, will cure the boil.

Now you and I will recognize a very important lesson, albeit not without a significant amount of discomfort and pain that I have been through in the past several weeks: that those people who claim that alternative medicines do not work, who believe that the natural cures so well-researched and in use for thousands of years are lies, have such an ingrained dominant belief that doctors will cure them that truly, only doctors are able to cure them. The fact that I was not aware of this ingrained belief system in myself until today shows how far beneath the surface it lies; so far that most, when reading what I have just typed, will write me off as a quack.

This system was reinforced by my parents, who see doctors on a regular basis, by M, because his belief is so far dominant that he can’t even think of doing anything else, and even by you, L, and others who said “You might want to see a doctor about that.” And, in the mindset that I had and have, that is correct. It was the only thing that cured me.

I fought the doctor visit not for true root belief, but for fear of visiting the doctor, which is the wrong approach and an excellent way of treating myself to more misery when I finally did go to the doctor.

Now I have two choices: I can either wipe out the entire ingrained belief system that doctors will cure me, and I will not need to see them; or I can embrace my belief system, understand that it is a belief, but not a totally bad one, given the options, and go to the doctor quickly and get things cured instead of letting them sit around in me for weeks. No other path will work, because any other path is simply rejection of one of the two above paths.

It is an interesting dilemma, with each having its own rewards: the main reward of the first path being that I will feel more in control of myself and have more harmony, but will be difficult to fully embrace given our culture; or the second path, an acceptance of the primary belief system in our culture and tacit acknowledgment and nod to those who have created this culture. The second one will put me in better harmony with those I choose to help, since they are here in this culture; the first will put me more in tune with myself and better able to regain health quickly so I can help more people. The first, of course, is a much longer road than the second, because tearing down an ingrained belief and then rebuilding it from scratch, especially with the poor documentation of alternative cures that this society has, will be difficult and time-consuming.

This was an excellent realization for me and one, I hope, that I will not have to realize again in the way that I did this time around.

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Real Estate Bubble News, 2007 Edition

It’s almost time for the new year, and although I have several blog entries I’d like to write, I think it’s time to take a look back at the real estate industry, which I have been tracking as a hobby for 2 1/2 years now.

First of all, most of my predicted bubble headlines for 2007 are still making news. I don’t wish to change any of them, and I’m sticking with those predictions for now. A few more recent stories that jibe well with my predictions (and we’ll see more in 2007!)

  • Looks like Fannie Mae may take down KPMG with it, as this Titanic grasps at (sues) everything in its path before finally sinking. KPMG out of business? Maybe, maybe not…too close to call at this point. If I had to guess, I’d say the lawsuit will be thrown out and/or KPMG will emerge “victorious” — but battered.
  • Florida’s still shaping up to be a disaster. Despite a quiet 2006 hurricane season, Florida’s houses are dropping in value at an astonishing rate, and wind insurance is playing a huge factor in that decline. From the linked article: “Insurance companies dramatically raised premiums after Hurricane Katrina. Depending on where they live and their policies, Florida homeowners may pay as much as 10 times more for flood and wind insurance than last year; premiums can exceed $30,000 per year on mansions.” Woof.
  • Naples, FL seems to be “ground zero” for home price declines, taking the one of the largest YOY (year-over-year) price declines for a major market. From the article: “Median sales prices for homes dropped by 13 percent from $479,800 in November 2006 to $415,200 last month.” I’d hate to be someone who bought in 2005. Foreclosure, anyone?
  • Ah, yes, and speaking of foreclosures, that’s going to be a popular news item in 2007. Watch what’s happening in Denver now for a preview of what California will be like in 2007 and 2008. Bloomberg says “About 20 percent of sub-prime mortgages granted in the last two years will end in foreclosure as owners struggle to make payments and home prices stagnate.” A reminder that more than 60% of the loans granted in California in the last few years were “payment option” or “adjustable rate” mortgages — exactly the kind of loans that were offered most often to sub-prime borrowers. By 2010, 1 out of every 15 borrowers in California could lose their home to foreclosure. That means, if you live in California, you’ll likely know someone who was foreclosed. The really unfortunate part is that most of these borrowers have no equity in their homes, so there’s no good reason for them to try to hold onto their house. They’ll just give up the keys and walk away…and the “investors” who bought piles of subprime loans on Wall Street will take the hit.
  • Speaking of mortgage lenders…how are they doing these days? Well, if the last month is any indication, most of the subprime mortgage lenders will eventually either be sold at cut-rate prices or simply close their doors. OwnIt Mortgage Solutions became one of the first lenders to go out of business last month. That company provided thousands of loans to subprime borrowers in California. There will be more…many more.

I’m now going to go out on a limb and make a few bolder predictions not just encompassing 2007, but the rest of this decade. The oft-mentioned retirement of the Baby Boomers is almost upon us. By 2010, most of them will retire. Or will they?

You see, a lot of those Baby Boomers put all their wealth into dubious investments like overpriced real estate. I’ll use my landlord as an example, but there are millions more like him. In 2004, my landlord had a brilliant idea to buy a bunch of overpriced properties in the Bay Area and rent them out as his retirement strategy. Unfortunately for him, the fundamentals didn’t really make sense, and he’s been losing money on most of them. The rental prices he gets are break-even with his mortgage payments, but by the time he factors in repairs and property taxes ($6250/year on the place I’m living in!) he’s underwater by a significant margin. I assume he expects to sell for a profit (“real estate only goes up!”) to fund his retirement. He’d have to do that in the next 12 months, though, to make much of a profit (if any) and it looks to me like he’s planning to sit on them for a while longer.

Baby Boomers who bought into real estate (or, increasingly, even the stock market, which is fairly overvalued right now as well, though I don’t expect it to crash in 2007) to fund their retirement will be mostly out of luck when they decide to cash out in 2007-2011. That means that the much-vaunted “worker shortage” due to baby boomers retiring will most likely be nonexistent. Remember all those scary charts that projected a massive worker shortage by 2010? I don’t think you’ll see that as the case, with baby boomers going back to work (or not retiring in the first place) because they need so much money in order to survive. Unfortunately for them, most of the Boomers are very consumerist, meaning a “simple” lifestyle is not an option, and thus they will work well into their 70’s in order to continue to feed their lifestyles.

Speaking of “simple” lifestyles, as the economy tanks over the next few years (first real estate, then industries directly related to it like mortgage brokers and construction, then industries feeding the home industry like Home Depot and Lowe’s, then furniture stores, then service industries like plumbling, then businesses who sell to those businesses…creating a dramatic ripple effect through the economy), the “simple”/”frugal” lifestyle will start to come back into vogue. This is the time to take advantage of that trend and start a website, blog, or whatever else you want devoted to some niche of that lifestyle.

If you’re not the entrepreneurial type, I recommend holding off on major purchases and focusing on paying down debt as quickly as possible. Be long in cash and commodities and short in bonds/CDs (no reason to go long in bonds with the inverted yield curve.) Cash will be king once the stock market grinds to a halt (probably in late 2008-early 2009 or perhaps later…hard to forecast at this point.) Even now, there is not much to be made in mutual funds/stocks unless you trade (and trade well/do your research) instead of hold.

I’m also predicting that something major will happen to Lowe’s or one of the smaller home improvement chains. I believe a buyout/merger is imminent in that industry.

That’s a rap for 2006, and some guidelines on how to make money in the coming years. I’ll post more ideas as I have them (and I do have them!) Expect more blog posts from me in the New Year as I integrate blogging into my daily routine. Enjoy the rest of 2006!

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Eliminating high-fructose corn syrup

One of the toughest parts of my new diet is eliminating high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Sugar is fairly easy to spot and eliminate, but high-fructose corn syrup shows up in the strangest places — even in some supposedly “healthy” foods. Here is my (growing) list of foods that, surprisingly, contain high-fructose corn syrup:

  • Ritz crackers, Wheat Thins, and saltines. Strangely enough, several varieties of crackers contain high-fructose corn syrup. Also, watch out for it in breads, including some “healthy” wheat breads. Alternative foods: Find crackers/breads in a store near you that advertise “all-natural.” I found a line of Annie’s brand crackers that advertises itself as “totally natural” and does not contain HFCS. Other smaller brands typically do not contain HFCS.
  • Yoplait yogurt. Another bizarre place for HFCS to show up — not quite as unexpected as crackers, but strange for a product that bills itself as health food. Look for yogurts advertising “natural” or “organic.” I found Clover organic strawberry yogurt, which is about the same price as Yoplait. It’s definitely not as sweet, but it still tastes good and it does not contain sugar (except for the natural sugar found in the fruit) or HFCS.
  • Heinz ketchup. This one really stymied me. There are natural ketchups out there, but they do taste different and my body has adapted over the years to thinking Heinz=ketchup. For now, I’ve decided to stop eating ketchup — or to eat it in very small quantities when I do eat it. As I try out different ketchups, I’ll blog my results.

So why give up HFCS and sugar? Well, for me, it’s eliminated the crazy blood sugar highs and lows I had as a result of my hypoglycemia (as described in my previous blog entry.) Also, it’s forced me to really think about what I eat instead of just stuffing food into my mouth. As a result of my new diet, I have lost 3 pounds in the past month. Since I wasn’t overweight to begin with, 3 pounds was a significant change — people noticed and commented. I’m curious to know where a long-term application of this diet will put me in terms of weight.

I also feel I should point out that I do allow myself 1 dessert a week – typically on a weekend. It’s important to not feel completely deprived on a diet like this. I don’t want to develop a bitterness or a resentment toward how I eat. The 1 dessert a week allows me to reward myself when I want to, while keeping in mind that my overall strategy should be toward less sugar.

Here is a more complete list of foods containing high-fructose corn syrup. If you would like to remain healthy, I suggest you avoid these foods — particularly those where there is an easy substitute.

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Erica predicts your news headlines for 2007

It’s pretty interesting to me that the financial news sector has such a disconnect from the regular news sector. I read about many things in the financial news that most people have no clue about. These things will only make the regular news when they start to affect people, not just markets. Therefore, I’m stepping out on a limb to predict your news headlines for 2007 based on what the financial news sector is saying today. I firmly believe that all of these will become front-page news headlines (some for days and days, until you get sick of reading them) in 2007 — or possibly late 2006. Here we go:

The real estate boom is over. Toast. Dead. Done with. That’s already starting to hit the mainstream news. But the really interesting news is the shocking stories that will appear once the largest real estate bubble we’ve ever had turns into the largest real estate bust we’ve ever had, and it’s a bust that will likely send our country into a spiraling recession.

Let’s start with Florida. Florida will turn into a complete disaster area in the next year… if not by hurricanes, then by ridiculous overbuilding, oversupply, and glut of condos. That old joke, “Why are Florida condos like STDs? Because you are stuck with both for the rest of your life.” will resurface. The ridiculous price of hurricane/wind insurance (even inland!) will result in a lot of Florida condos (and some houses) that will not be able to be sold at any price.

Other markets that you’ll see break in 2007 include San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. All of these markets have been overbuilt so much that price declines of 50% or more by 2011 are likely. Here are some inventory numbers from Phoenix. Available homes for sale, May 2005: ~5,000. Available homes for sale, July 2006: ~55,000. Vegas is just as bad, with greedy developers snatching up everything within 5 miles of the strip to build condo towers on, and investors who will not be able to bail out of the condos they bought at overinflated prices. San Diego has 3,500+ condos that are being built right now. (Folks, $300,000 for a San Diego condo is soon going to seem as ridiculous as buying dot-com stock for hundreds of dollars a share. Bookmark these links for a good, hearty laugh in 5 years.)

The other thing you’ll start to see surface that is directly related to overbuilding of houses and condos is developer lawsuits. Pretty soon, some of the “investors” that bought condos at ridiculous prices and realize they can’t sell for even 70% of what they bought the condos for will start suing the developer. Claims? Anything from shoddy construction (oh, and you’ll find some nightmarishly bad construction on some of these condo units…they were slapped together at the peak of the market as quickly as they could be) to false promises regarding a return on investment that never materialized.

Let’s take a look at realtors, mortgage brokers, and the others who make their living in the real estate market. Did you know that 70% of the jobs created post-dot-com-boom in California are NOT in high tech, but in real estate? How about the fact that there is one Realtor(R) for every 55 people in California? At least half of these people will be out of work by 2011. Also, mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders will go out of business fairly quickly (perhaps aided by more lawsuits from angry buyers that were sold false promises.)

Here’s what may be the worst headline in 2007. Fannie Mae earned $10 BILLION less than they stated in their 2004 earnings report. What does that mean for us? Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are two of the largest holders of mortgages in the country. They are allowed to borrow money at interest rates lower than any private company due to the assumption that they will be bailed out by the U.S. government if they go under. The problem is that this implicit (NOT explicit — Fannie/Freddie loans do have a disclaimer stating that the government does not guarantee their loans) assumption has allowed corruption to reign supreme. Earnings were ridiculously overstated. Then the executive management paid themselves huge bonuses based on the fraudulent earnings. This has “Enron” written all over it.

If the government does end up needing to bail out Fannie or Freddie due to massive corruption imploding them, our U.S. dollar will tank relative to other currencies. The dollar has remained strong because foreign investors keep pumping their money into the American economy. If a real estate bust and/or a Fannie or Freddie bailout happens, foreign investors will seek other countries to increase investment in, further sending the dollar down. Note this recent article regarding the dollar, which has the following quote:

“The dollar will no longer enjoy the benefit of consistently rising interest rate yields and will now have to compete on U.S. economic performance alone.”

U.S. economic performance is likely going to be very poor over the next 5 years — and perhaps longer. If you want to make money on this, bet on the dollar to be weak and hold a long position. Buy currencies of countries you think investors will want to invest in. You will come out ahead.

Finally, let’s head back to the local real estate scene. Here in the Bay Area, inventory has increased, but prices have remained fairly steady. With 30% more homes on the market this year than last year, and houses taking longer and longer to sell, the next move is a price drop. And drop they will. Prices have been disconnected from fundamentals for years now. (Read that link for an excellent, in-depth description of why the current housing market in the Bay Area is unsustainable.) But if you want the quick run-down, here are a few facts:

  • Housing supply in the Bay Area, per person, is significantly larger now than it was in 1999. Normal laws of supply and demand state that prices should have gone down from their 1999 levels. They have not.
  • Developers are still building condos, condos, condos. Have you been to Emeryville lately? And they are building thousands more condos near Jack London Square in Oakland…a quick drive or BART ride to San Francisco.
  • Population has been decreasing here since 1999. One friend of mine is sure that San Francisco real estate prices will remain at their current bubbilicious levels due to population growth. It’s not his fault he’s been sucked into this myth; it’s the same line we’ve all been fed by Realtors(R) and others who make their living selling houses. I’m sorry to say that this is a myth. The population of San Francisco was larger in 1950 than it is now!
  • 1950 San Francisco population: 775,357
  • 2005 San Francisco population: 739,426
  • Uh-oh.

I predict at least a 35% decline in housing prices (overall, average) from 2005 prices for the Bay Area by 2011. The hardest-hit areas will be outlying areas that rely on commuters to make the numbers work. As commuters see gas prices go up, up, up, the advantages of paying less for a house decrease. Sacramento will be hit extremely hard due to too many single-family homes being built. Tracy will be hit hard. Places that will be hit less are places close to where people work and/or close to public transportation other than buses. For instance, houses close to BART stations should retain more value than those where you must drive a car to get anywhere.

Condos will be hit worse than houses. There are more condos being built right now, but more people desire single-family homes. Those looking to “move up” from a condo to a SFH (single-family home) may find themselves trapped in a condo that is worth less than when they bought it — if they bought it later than 2001.

So when does the real estate bust finally end? It’s hard to say, but you can use this guide as a rule of thumb. Take the rent that you would be paying for an equivalent place and multiply by 200. If the house you are looking at costs less than that, it’s probably a good deal. Doing the math on the place I live in now, we find the magic number to be $570,000. My landlord paid $625,000 for the place in 2004. It is now worth approximately $800,000 (if he could find someone to buy at that price — duplexes are not hugely popular here.) A 35% decline over the current “high-water” $800,000 price puts the duplex at roughly worth $520,000.

This duplex sold for $325,000 in 2000.

This is why 35% price declines are not unreasonable. $325,000 in 2000 to $520,000 in 2010 is a 62.5% price gain in 10 years, or 6.25% per year, which is still over the historical average for the Bay Area. That means by the time we overshoot the bottom in 2011 or 2012, it could well be that this duplex would be valued at only $450,000…or less.

And time goes inexorably on…

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Erica's three simple rules for starting a business

To be fair, this blog post is long overdue. I’ve been asked to write it many times. Obviously, being an entrepreneur and working with hundreds of startup companies and sole proprietorships (who are my primary customers), I’ve watched a lot of businesses start and fail, and some succeed. Most really struggle. And Simpli has its struggles too. I have really long days (I think 32 hours was my maximum working-and-not-sleeping-at-all period, and I hit that last month, with a 30-hour stretch about a year ago at this time as well.) It’s somewhere in the midst of all that exhaustion that I always wonder if it’s worth it to run my own business. And the answer, at least so far, and for me, has always been “Absolutely.”

As Simpli celebrates its fifth anniversary, and I celebrate having built this thing from practically nothing and marvel at how large it’s gotten (I can’t believe we’re about to book our millionth dollar of revenue!), I feel it’s time to start properly documenting the journey I’ve had and my rules for starting a successful business.

I’ll take a step back now and expand on a little bit about why I started Simpli and why the heck I went into web hosting instead of [insert other business here].

Interestingly enough, the signs usually tell you when it’s time to start your own business. I officially claim the “start date” of Simpli as July 27, 2001 — the day that I signed a colocation contract in San Francisco for a company I then called ShakaDesign.com. At that point I had a few friends hosted on a box at my house; I had colocated servers before and even charged for web hosting before, but that was the day when I decided to make it official and say “Hey, I’m actually going to run this as a business and have colocation expenses and whatnot.” The colo expenses were a little over $100 a month, and I figured that if I had enough profit to pay my cable modem bill every month, I’d be doing well.

I worked at Sun Microsystems at the time, having worked for Cobalt Networks (little blue boxes YAY!), which then got bought out by Sun. I loved Cobalt; in fact, Simpli’s first 4 servers were all RaQ4s. I hated working at the Sun monster. (I think I’ve blogged about that plenty… suffice it to say that a corporate culture built on negativity and a complete disdain for the simple-but-elegant Cobalt user interface forced me out of Sun pretty quickly.) I figured that my ticket out of Sun Micro would be web dev and consulting, which was my biggest passion back then. I was an expert PHP developer by that point, so in my free time I hung out in #php on openprojects.net (now freenode) and solicited web hosting clients there.

In May 2002 I finally found my way out of Sun for good, spurred on by one of Sun’s weird programs where they paid employees to leave (I took an option to leave and got paid severance, as I guess they figured giving people the option to leave was cheaper than forced layoffs. And I’m happy to say I QUIT!!!) I also took a web dev contract with a company that would pay me enough to survive the summer. And that’s how it went — Sun Micro was my last “working for the man” position, and I’ve been on my own ever since.

I really thought web dev would be my primary job for years to come and web hosting would continue to be a side job. I figured I’d just host my clients, make a few hundred extra bucks a month, and be happy with that. Except that my web hosting clients were growing… and they wanted to pay less for consulting, but more for web hosting. The beginning of 2004 came around and I did my financial wrap-up for 2003, and here’s what I found:

Income from Simpli: $22,744.00
Income from consulting: $21,447.58

I was taken aback. Here I was spending 70-80% of my time on consulting and only a tiny fraction of my time on hosting, and hosting was making more money. Of course, hosting had more expenses. But I quickly realized that even with more expenses, hosting was the right way to go. Within two months, I had informed all of my consulting clients that my consulting business was shutting its doors and I was going to make Simpli into a pure hosting play. By the end of 2004, I was 100% web hosting, and the company has grown significantly from there, with our first 7-figure year expected in 2007, and 4 full-time employees as of this writing. We have never taken a dime of outside investment — i.e. we have to be profitable every month to stay in business. You’d be surprised how good you get at financial discipline when that’s the case. 😉

So what are my three rules for starting a business? They’re pretty simple, actually, but you’d be surprised how many business owners ignore them. They are:

1) Do something you love. I’ve seen so many start businesses that they didn’t know anything about because they felt like it could make a lot of money, or because they felt like it was the “closest thing” to what they loved, or even because it was just better than the job they had. But the thing to remember is that this is not just a business. This will be your life for a minimum of 2-3 years. Are you absolutely 100% sure that you can wake up in the morning and love what you do? Are you ready and willing to put your heart, soul, passion, love, and work work work work work into this business? If you can commit to this business idea like you’ve never committed to anything in your life, you’ll be fine.

I’ve often heard starting a business being compared to having a child. I commented on this to one friend who is a business owner. He said “Yes, it is similar. But children sleep.

Businesses don’t sleep. Your clients can (and will, especially in the web hosting industry) call at 4AM. Your sleep will be really fragmented. Things will go wrong 24 hours a day. Sometimes you’ll feel like there is a never-ending shitstorm bearing down on you. And you gotta love that. Embrace it. And realize that it will work out, and someday you’ll be rewarded with multi-millions for all this crap you put up with. You must believe that the payoff is worth it.

Which brings me to point #2…

2) Make sure you have an exit strategy. What is your exit strategy? That was the problem I had with my PHP coding career, for instance. It had no exit strategy. It just had me, doing ever-more work for ever-less pay, as Indian outsourcing came into the picture. Yuck. That’s not the kind of life anyone wants to lead!

Build something that you can disentangle yourself from when the time is right. Don’t build something that you will be stuck with for the rest of your life. My father is 62 years old and still a practicing attorney. He says he’s going to work until the day he dies. He can’t retire because he and my mother require their large incomes (Mom runs a title company) to support their lifestyle. Do not put yourself in this position. Build something that you can eventually sell, or IPO with, or hire and train someone else to run. Build something that will be worth it. Remove yourself from the hours=wages shackles.

3) Love your clients. This is actually a bigger point than I can summarize quickly, but the main gist of it is “Don’t be afraid to shower your clients with love.” This is really, more than anything else, the secret to Simpli’s success. I go out there and I support my clients as much as I can. When things go wrong, I take responsibility and explain what we’re doing to correct the problem. When things go right, I get thank-you notes. I enforce with my staff (sometimes to the point where they say “I get it, I get it!”) communicate, communicate, communicate with clients. I am not afraid to say I love my clients. I am not afraid to show my passion for running my business and to let my clients know, over and over again, that I am fighting for them and their success with every hour of every day, and that my staff is there to back them up. Clients understand that things go wrong, and they’re willing to put up with an amazing amount of crap if they realize that you’re out there doing the absolute best you can, and they see that you’re putting everything you have into this, and it won’t happen again! Don’t be afraid to show the love. People notice, and they appreciate it much more than that stiff, formal crap you see from big companies. You are not a big company. You are you, and maybe a couple other people who work with you. Use that to its largest advantage.

I am a firm believer in people starting businesses. Most people don’t start because they are afraid. They see themselves failing and think they wouldn’t be able to handle that. But I’m different. I looked at it from the perspective of “What do I have to lose?” I was young, virtually debt-free, and I figured the absolute worst that would happen was that I’d move back to Indiana and live with my parents for a while. You should be different, too. Tell those people who bombard you with what-ifs to shove it; that you are doing what you love…so what if it fails? You’re going to do the absolute best you can. And if it fails, the great thing about living in America is that you can just go out and start another company. And maybe this one will stick. Look, no one comes out of the womb knowing what they want to do in life. Things change. People change. Do what you love, show the love, and have an exit strategy and you’ll do fine.

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