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Integrity & Awareness by Paul Burnstein

Monday, April 30, 2007

Ultimate Driving Experience!

I have to share a great experience I had this weekend. Being a former BMW owner, and current enthusiast, I was invited to take part in BMW's "The Ultimate Driving Experience." I got to drive the all new BMW X5 (the V8 of course) on a closed track with a professional driver next to me coaching me on how to properly handle the turns and curves. Even better yet, BMW wanted us to compare other vehicles, so I also got to drive the Mercedes ML500 (not quite a BMW, but still a lot of fun!), the Volvo XC90 and the Lexus LX470 (the definite dog of the group). Including instruction, information on the vehicles and drive time, it was a good two hours; well worth my time on a Saturday!

As if that wasn't enough, the event was held in conjunction with a charity fundraiser that I had also participated in last year. The event was the Ultimate Drive® for Susan G. Komen for the Cure event. The event is a partnership between BMW and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. For every mile that I drove one of the available BMWs, BMW gave one dollar in my name to Susan G. Komen for the Cure. According to BMW's website, "Since the program’s inception in 1997, the event has raised over $10 million dollars for breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment programs."

The fifteen mile course was in Denver and included highway and street driving. I got to drive a Z4, 335i, 550i, 650i Convertible, x3, x5 and 750i! If you are interested in learning about any of the models, I recommend checking out; it is a great site with fantastic information on cars.

To learn more or register for either of the events, follow the links above; you will be able to see when they come to your area and how to register.

Not very business related today, but the awareness for today is to remember and enjoy yourself, I sure did this weekend!

Just for Fun

I am a sucker for a good promotion. This one sounded easy, so I have to enter. John Chow dot Com, a blog that helps you make money on the Internet, is giving away a Microsoft Zune. To enter, all you have to do is write about it. This is my entry. Now give me my Zune!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

E-Mail Enticement

Today's post is adapted from an e-mail that I sent to a client this morning who is looking for equity investors for his business. I have sent him interested parties and then it is his turn to respond to them with more information on his investment opportunity.

It is not reprinted verbatim, but rather I took the main points to share with my readers.

I have some tips I would like to share for when you respond to potential investors. I believe professionalism is quite important. When communication is carried out over e-mail, there is not the opportunity to wear a suit and portray one’s self as professional; instead it is shown through our writings.

Your first e-mail to a potential investor is important; this is their first impression of you. Part of what they are considering investing in (a major part) is you. Thank them for their interest, welcome any questions, provide your contact information in addition to your signature block, give them a bit more of the story, ask what they are looking for, ask what else you could provide for them, check the spelling in your e-mail and the subject line, etc.

I believe if you provide a good presentation in your e-mail, it will entice potential investors more than a “here is the information, do with it as you want” approach.

The awareness for today is to think about how you portray yourself in person and in written communication.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Networking Ice Breaker

I was thinking back about how difficult it can be for some of us to network. Some of us are naturally shy and would prefer to be approached rather than have to approach someone else.

I just wanted to share a fantastic ice-breaker to use when you want to speak to someone at your next networking event. It is an easy in, giving you a great opportunity to follow up with any topic you would like.

Remember that everyone, including you, is there to network and make new connections.

Are you ready? Here is the ice-breaker:

"Hi, my name is [your name]." It is really that simple.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Efficiency and Patience

I work very efficiently and I am proud of that fact. However, it generally leaves me waiting on others which can be quite frustrating. When working with a client, funder, associate or new contact, there are always a variety of forms and agreements that must be completed and signed. Some of these forms are Non-Circumvention, Non-Disclosure Agreements (NCNDA) which I mentioned in my post here, Fee Agreements, Co-Marketing Agreements and more.

Once I know which agreement is needed, I request any information I may need to complete it and then I create the agreement based on templates I already have in place. I then print it, sign it in color, scan it back into my computer and then e-mail it to the other party for countersigning. The process takes a bit of time, but not too much. I then wait on the signature from the other party.

Currently I have three agreement awaiting countersignatures. One from April 4th, one from April 11th and one from April 17th (this one is still considered current as opposed to overdue). Each of these was already discussed with the other party in advance, so there are no surprises in them. I will not move forward without these agreements in place.

I definitely understand that people are busy and working on many projects. However, these agreements are in place to help them. I know I need to just wait and move onto other projects in the meantime. I definitely have my own issues with impatience; perhaps I will discuss that another time.

The awareness for today is that if you have agreements that you agree with, countersign them and return them to the other party and get your projects/deals moving.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Elevator Speeches

I am constantly reminded of the importance of an elevator speech. All an elevator speech encompasses is enough information to share with someone about what you do for a living while you are riding in an elevator; it does not have to be in an elevator, but that is where the concept came from. It is useful to have multiple versions of your elevator speech for different events and opportunities. A fifteen second one is great for a quick introduction and there are benefits to having a thirty or forty five second speech as well.

All of us have heard someone stumble on the question when someone asks, "what do you do?" If you already have a concise and informative couple of sentences planned out, you will come across much more professional than if you simply "play it by ear" and explain what you do without putting any thought behind it.

The awareness for today is to think about your elevator speech(es) and please share them with me.
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Communicating Status Updates

Last night I received an update on a deal that I am working on. It was a very simple e-mail that acknowledged that the consultant and client would be discussing our engagement letter today and that they will "want to make a few changes, additions, clarifications, etc." and will update us as soon as they are done. They also eased some concerns by sharing that the changes were "nothing too serious."

This seems so simply and it actually is. It is also great communication. They acknowledged receipt of the engagement letter. They shared that they would be addressing it shortly. They confirmed that there were some changes, but only minor changes. It was a short e-mail but it provides us (myself and the investment bank I am working with) a basic status update so we know where things stands on the other side of the deal.

I very much appreciated receiving that e-mail.

The awareness for today is to think about how you can update people that are waiting on you, even if it is only to acknowledge that you are aware they are waiting on you and that you are working to get back to them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Saying the Same Thing

I am working on a deal with a new colleague of mine. I had sent him my non-circumvention, non-disclosure agreement (NCNDA) a little over a week ago, but had not heard back from him.

[The agreement is a pretty standard form that basically says we will each respect the others' contacts and not share any of their information with third parties, nor approach the other's contacts directly in the future.]

It turns out that his e-mail response had not made it back to me, so he tried to recap his e-mail to me. In his recap he spelled out essentially the same terms as were in my NCNDA, but was unwilling to sign my NCNDA.

I sent him back an e-mail explaining that he was the first person unwilling to sign my NCNDA and that I didn't understand this because the agreement was to protect both of us and was in alignment with the terms he requested regardless.

This morning I received an e-mail back from him and shortly thereafter, a fax of the signed NCNDA. He said that upon looking back he agreed that the NCNDA was the same as what he was asking for.

Wow, that seems a bit long-winded on my end to get to the point here. The point is that we often are saying the same things as others, but in different ways. When we stop to listen, we may learn that there is more than one way to say the same thing.

The awareness for today is to listen to what the other party is communicating in any situation and not hold too rigidly to the exact words that are being used.

Monday, April 16, 2007

If You are Unavailable, Don't Answer Your Cell Phone

I am going to rant a bit on cell phone use today. For some background information, please see my post from January 3, 2007 called More On (or Moron) Phone Use.

First off, let me say thank you to those people who answer their phones in case of emergency, but then explain (cordially) that they are busy and will call back when they can.

Today's post is for those other folks who are not so kind. I have made some calls recently where the person answering her mobile phone is almost at the point of lecturing me that she cannot speak because she is busy. That is completely, acceptable, but wouldn't it make more sense to simply not answer her phone? If you are at a seminar and unavailable to speak, don't answer your phone. If you are rehearsing for a stage production you are in, turn off your phone. If you are unavailable, don't answer your phone!

I even have someone (a relative nonetheless) who answers his phone and immediately hits the end call button if he is busy. By his doing that, I cannot even leave a voicemail message. He could hit the ignore button on his phone so that it goes straight to his voicemail, but nooooo, he answers it and then hangs up. I generally have to call back a couple of times before I can leave him a message. I find that frustrating.

I would like to raise some awareness around the fact that just because you have your mobile phone with you at all times, you do not always have to answer it. If you are truly unavailable, either turn off your phone (but then you can't see the calls you missed) or simply don't answer it until you are available to do so.

Have a great day and try to think about what non-verbal messages you are sending out to people with your actions.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Flexibility in Planning

"The best laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" (often paraphrased as "The best-laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry")
-Robert Burns, To A Mouse, 1785

I am a planner. I like to figure out plans in advance and map out my to do lists. I guess I can be spontaneous once in a while, but for the most part I prefer to plan.

Today I am reminded that things do not always go according to plan. Last night there was a ninety percent chance of snow, with three to five inches of snow expected here in Boulder. Today we were supposed to get another four to six inches on top of that. While it is not a beautify day today (look here), it did not snow over the night and the revised forecast for today is an accumulation of less than once inch of wet snow.

This does not shift my day or my plans, but it does serve as a reminder that we cannot always plan. Sometime we just need to go with the flow.

The only thing we know for certain in this world is that things change; impermanence.

The awareness for today is to recognize impermanence. Plan for what you can, but do not remain too rigid with those plans.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Purposeful Actions

Some people subscribe to the philosophy that if you throw enough crap on a wall, some will stick. These people use that method of thinking in their businesses, for marketing and advertising, joining groups, attending events, etc. It may work well for some, but for others it is better to limit your activities and have the ability to track what is and isn't working. I am not saying to put all of your eggs in one basket, but rather to not spread yourself so thin that you cannot follow up/through or track any of your activities.

This goes back to my post from a couple of days ago about cutting out some of the junk networking events from our lives. I have been conscious about which events I attend, who I am marketing to and how my time is being spent. This has given me a much better idea of what is and isn't working and I am then able to adjust my schedule and activities accordingly.

The awareness for today is to be purposeful in your actions. Pay attention to how your time is being spent and put your attention and efforts into those activities that provide you with a benefit. On a final note, do not give up on trying new things, but don't hold onto them if they are ineffective.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Junk Networking Events

I am sure that a lot of you out there spend a good amount of time at networking events. Whether they are in the morning, afternoon or evening, they take up time. Some of the networking events that I attend are incredibly valuable; many are not.

I am working on cutting out the junk networking events that are really just a waste of my time. If I am not making good connections and the event is not filled with high calibre attendees, then I am not going to attend the event. My time is too precious to waste. I recommend that you take stock of the events you attend on a regular basis and stop wasting your time if they are obviously not worthwhile.

Now, you may say that you have already cut out all of the fat. If you really have, then good for you. However, I know that many of us, myself included, have gotten used to certain networking events that we now attend habitually. That is great if you have the time and enjoy the event; perhaps you look at it more as a social event than a business networking event. It has been pointed out to me and I am recognizing that I could make better use of my time than attending some of the networking events that I have gotten used to.

So my awareness today, and I recommend that you address this as well, is to cut out the junk networking events and the feeling that we "should" attend them. If I can make better use of my time outside of the networking event and I already know that the businesses represented at the event are not in alignment with what I am looking for, then I am not going to attend.

Maybe I will see you at the next event, maybe I won't.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Awareness of Validation

I was at a good friend's wedding last night where I was the best man. It was definitely more work than I expected, but it was well worth it. I did my best to remove all worry from the family and handled any surprises and last minute decisions. I also gave the best man's speech. I had prepared the speech in advance and even practiced it a few times, but I still needed to read it. Bummer. I know it could have been better if I had memorized it and not looked down at the paper as much (I am my harshest critic!).

Regardless of all of the things I could have done differently, I received tremendous support, acknowledgement and validation from guests and both the bride and groom's family. It really feels great when you are validated by others; people loved my speech and thought that I did a great job keeping a handle on things. I am not trying to brag about what a wonderful job I did, but rather the fact that I appreciated that people noticed the work I did. Please note that is not the reason I worked hard, nor should validation be one's goal.

In the same vein, I would like to thank and acknowledge Raj and Tanya for helping me. They both jumped in and helped; Raj with videoing and music and Tanya with anything I needed plus dealing with the bridesmaids.

The awareness for today is to recognize personally what we can do to validate and acknowledge others. Those "others" are our family, friends, coworkers, employees, partners (both romantic and business), etc. Let those around you know that you appreciate the work they do. That may be the extra incentive they need to go that extra mile.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Cherokee Wisdom

My mother, who lives in Los Angeles, and I tend to forward each other e-mails. Most are jokes, but some are inspirational stories and the like. I really enjoyed this one that she sent me yesterday.

Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:
“Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I love the simplicity of the lesson. Your awareness for today is to pay attention to which “wolf” you feed inside of yourself.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Integrity in Life

Last night, on the first night of Passover, my family got together for a Seder (it is a traditional meal that accompanies Passover, and throughout it, the history of Passover is explained). I love that my family always includes people unfamiliar with Passover and gives them a great introduction to some very basic Jewish culture. That is not what I am writing about today though.

After an incredible dinner and dessert, we always play games. Last night we played a game called Mafia in which there are "secret killers" who "kill" other players when our eyes are closed. You can learn more about the game here. At one point in the game, my fifteen year old cousin brought up the topic of integrity while playing the game. The game is all about convincing others to conspire with you and possibly defending yourself so that people do not vote you out.

My cousin's father was convinced that I was a mafia hitman and he was so sure, he was willing to bet his daughter that he would shave his head if he lost. I was not the mafia hitman. When the game was over, my cousin felt that her dad should shave his head because he had bet her during the game. The whole group decided that what happens in the game, stays in the game and that he would not be held accountable. The reasoning behind this was that it is a game that is all about lying and deceit in order to win and there would be many grudges after the game if we took the game too seriously.

What I was so impressed with was my cousin's awareness of integrity and her desired application of it in all settings. We suspended reality while we were playing the game; none of us are really involved in organized crime or hitmen for that matter.

Think about what integrity means to you and how you apply it in your everyday life. Is it more important in business situations? With family? In social settings? Just being aware of what integrity means to you is an excellent start in raising the awareness and bringing it more fully into your daily life.