Latest Headlines

Integrity & Awareness by Paul Burnstein

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Path of Least Resistance

Today's post is short and sweet.

Do you ever notice that there is usually an easy and a difficult way to accomplish things? We often make things more difficult than we need to.

The awareness for today is to simply pay attention and accomplish that which you need to get done in the easiest way possible. Simplify.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Tale of Good Customer Service

I was speaking with someone today that I had referred to a health insurance agent. The agent had helped to pick out a great HSA plan for her. The woman was happy with the plan, but when she set up an appointment for an annual exam, she was told that she would have to pay for it out of pocket.

She spoke with the insurance agent and because he had given her inaccurate information, he offered to cover the cost of the appointment himself. Wow! Talk about stepping up to the plate! Additionally, he found a better plan that would include annual check ups for the future and the woman even rescheduled her appointment far enough out that her new plan would be in place by then and the insurance agent would not have to pay for her appointment.

That is good customer service and a customer who is willing to accept that people make long as they clean up their mess.

The awareness for today is to not only go out of your way to provide excellent customer service, but to also be aware of times when you can show some empathy for those helping you.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Real Estate Investing

I had a great time up in Winter Park, CO this weekend. On Sunday, we did a nice hike and at about the halfway mark, we ended up near a new development that was hosting an open house. The townhomes were beautiful and it really got me thinking about real estate investment properties.

I have been looking at some numbers to go into a deal with a friend/colleague and I am thoroughly enjoying the process. I know very little about real estate, so this has been quite educational. The most fun part is that I am learning something new that will benefit me in the future.

The awareness for today is to challenge yourself to learn something new and to continue to grow.

Friday, May 25, 2007

I Love Long Weekends!

I am heading up to Winter Park, Colorado for the weekend with some friends of mine who own a house out there. It should be a lot of fun. I love long weekends! It is great to have a Monday off.

With that all being said, my friend mentioned that they have wireless access. I immediately responded that would be great since I cannot live without my laptop. It is true, I can't. As many of you know, when you own your own business, it is hard to completely step away from it. I know that I need to check my e-mail at least once a day and if something comes through that is time sensitive, I will have to deal with it. I am okay with this and will gladly accept it since working for myself also allows me to get out of town early on a Friday.

The awareness for today is to simply enjoy your time this Memorial Day weekend. If you have to work a bit, then work a bit, but when you can, take time for yourself; this can include time for your family, friends, etc., but focus on yourself.

I also have to send a very happy birthday wish to my father, Big Pete, who's birthday is on Sunday. Happy Birthday Dad!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Time, or Lack Thereof

One would think that to write a short blog on a daily basis is simple. That is not the case. We are all busy people and I am no exception to that. I have really noticed that it is not so easy to always fit in the time for everything we would like to do. I often have to push some of my tasks from the current day to the next day. I make sure and look at the priority of my tasks and items that cannot be moved, but, yes, I cannot always accomplish everything that I would like to in one day.

I do wish my blog could be more frequent, but I am doing what I can with the time I have. Now, when we move to a 30 hour day, I should be able to get more done. [I know of no plans to move to a 30 hour day, just trying to infuse some humor in my blog.]

The awareness for today is to recognize that you cannot do everything. Prioritize your to do list and do the best you can to complete tasks.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Digital Data

I am currently working on a deal where an associate of mine only had paper copies of the financial statements to share with me. This complicated the situation only in the time it takes to get things moving. Once I look over the information and make sure there are no red flags, I send it on to potential funding sources. I knew that this specific deal would be sent on to a private investment bank that I work with in the UK if it appeared strong enough.

I shared from the beginning, with the associate that brought me the deal, that it would be much easier if the info were scanned in and then sent via e-mail. I recommended going to a local copier's or if a local business were not an option, then Kinko's. He did, and although it took three e-mails to send me the information, once I had received it and felt it was the right type of deal to look at, I was able to forward it on to my UK contact the same day.

The awareness for today is to let technology help you save some time when it can. Going paperless is great for the environment as well!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Real Paul

This week I have been described as both a hard-ass and a charmer. What a different impression I make on different people. I react to situations accordingly. Depending on the situation, I use different tools to engage, negotiate or blend in.

I am always the authentic Paul, but I adapt to any situation I am in. I am sure that I have been called better and worse things and will continue to be described by different people, from different situations accordingly.

The awareness for today is look at yourself and see if you adapt to your environment.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Data Security

As I mentioned yesterday, today I would like to briefly discuss data security. It is not that difficult to protect your computer. The different ways to do this include antivirus, anti-spam and anti-spyware software. The three together help keep a lot of junk off your computer and also make one's digital work environment safe for use as well as sharing with others; you do not want to be the one who sent a virus to everyone you know.

Viruses, spam and spyware can cause a lot of damage to your computer and also use up your systems resources. There is no reason that you would want to have them on your computer.

While there are packages out there for all of these, a quick freeware program that I recommend is AVG's free Anti-Virus software. It is the bare minimum that you should have on your computer. You can also pay AVG a few bucks and get an integrated package that includes anti-spyware and anti-spam, but at that point I recommend also checking out Symantec/Norton and McAfee.
~The awareness for today is to look at your computing environment and do a simple assesment of what software would help you protect your computer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Data Storage

I was just discussing data storage and security with a client this morning. They are both very important for most businesses. I know many people that never back up their data and I am also surprised at how many people do not use any form of antivirus protection.

It is incredibly important to back up your data to a secondary source beyond your own hard drive. If your system were to crash, how would you recover your data if you did not have it backed up in another location? What if you were to lose all of your customers' data? It is not that difficult to do. Send me a note if you need help figuring out your situation and I will connect you to companies that can help.

Security will be my next topic.

The awareness for today is to look at your data storage situation and make a change if you need to.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I have been quite aware recently when I have gotten myself into situations where I have no bargaining power. It is a frustrating place to be.

In previous posts I have discussed arranging any fee agreements in advance. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. There are times, when I work with different contacts of mine, that there is no room for negotiation and I don't know the full fee situation until the the deal is wrapping up. These situations only work for me because I know and trust the other parties (famous last words!). I have learned that it is better to get the deal to go through than to spend too much time haggling and not see the deal close at all.

I do believe that I have always been treated fairly in these situations, but as I wrote above, it is difficult to not have any bargaining power.

The awareness for today is to look at your own situation and see where you can increase or let go of some of your own bargaining chips.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Google Cheat Sheet

Today I am offering some help on navigating the Internet and specifically Google.

If you do not already know about it, check out Google's Cheat Sheet. It is filled with tips and tricks for finding the information you need. Some of it is quite basic and many of you probably already know a fair amount about limiting your searches, but did you know that you can use Google's search engine as a calculator?

It also provides a list of Google's other services. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Business with Heart

I WANT to be able to help anyone that needs help securing funding. Unfortunately, what I want and I what I can actually offer, are not one and the same.

I have recently been approached by a few small businesses looking for funding; I say recently because a few have stuck in my mind, but I am regularly approached by business that are too small for me to be able to help. I look over the information they provide me with and my heart sinks. With some of these deals, I immediately share that I would like to help but they do not fall within the parameters of my funders. With others, I try to push them in the right direction (if I know it).

Currently I am looking at a deal for a company based in Mexico. The financial statements I looked at were in pesos and the conversion to dollars did not look very appealing. The company did have something going for it in the form of potential contracts so I sent it to a mortgage loan correspondent that I work with who may be interested. I am pretty sure that he is going to pass on it, but I wanted to try rather than just assume.

I spoke with an entrepreneur last week who was looking for some sizable funds simply for research and development of a prototype. He needs angel investors interested in buying into his idea and helping to shepherd it through the prototype and to the next step of fundraising. This is not what I do, but I did try to talk it out with him and gave him some leads to follow up on.

Obviously, we need to create a balance of not trying to help everyone if we know that we cannot. With that being said, it also takes a lot of integrity and heart to try to help those who need our help. If it is just taking a phone call, or maybe a quick coffee meeting, then I try to help people on the right path if I can.

The awareness for today is to help when you can. Do not disregard your own business, but if a small amount of your available time can help someone else, then I say do it. We can all remember a time in our lives when we needed the help of others and someone helped us. Let us now help others in return.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Investing in Your Own Business

The idea of investing in one's own business has come up a lot recently. While it is great to use OPM (other people's money), one needs to believe in her own venture. When I am working with clients looking for debt financing, it is generally a requirement that they have put in cash equity themselves into their business. This shows potential lenders that the owners believe in what they are doing and also that they are taking on risk just as the potential investor would be.

I am not saying that you should use up all of your savings on your business, but I do remember a class in business school discussing using up all of your credit on credit cards and loans to get a business going if you are an entrepreneur who believes in his own business.

The awareness for today is to pay attention to whether you are putting as much money (or time or anything else) into your business as you are asking for or expecting of others.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Long-term Networking

Okay, so I got some private responses regarding my post debating dropping my Chamber membership from people reminding me that associations like the Chamber of Commerce are not about immediate connections, but rather about building relationships over time. I agree. The Boulder Chamber of Commerce has been great for building relationships; many of them have turned into friendships as well.

After a couple of years (hopefully less, but sometimes more), you should get a pretty good feeling about what does and doesn't work for your business. I am very happy with the relationships that I have made through the Chamber, but I am also quite aware that the majority of them are not even potential clients.

My plan is not to stop networking completely, but rather to target events, groups and organizations that are more in alignment with my services and goals.

The awareness for today is to put your energy towards the "right" events, groups or organizations, rather than the convenient ones.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Dropping My Chamber Membership?

I am currently an ambassador for the Boulder Chamber of Commerce and have have been since 2005. I have always liked the Chamber and felt that it was one of those organizations you join in any community you may live.

Recently, however, I have been internally debating whether or not I want to renew my membership. Regardless of how financially flush I may feel, $325 is still $325 and if I am not getting anything out of it, then perhaps it is not the best use of my money.

As an ambassador I have attended many, many events over the years. I really like helping connect people to local resources and I enjoy the networking. As I wrote in a previous post titled "Junk Networking Events," I have been cutting out events that do not benefit me or my business. I have gotten very little business out of the Chamber, always feeling that it was more about establishing myself in the community rather than building a good referral network.

In discussions with others recently I have learned that I am not the only one considering stepping away from the Chamber; others also believe the value is just not there.

I would love to hear opinions from my readers; either comment directly on the blog or send me a private note through my contact option on the right.

The awareness for today is to simply be aware and live life with integrity.