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Integrity & Awareness by Paul Burnstein

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Explain Yourself

Yesterday, a colleague sent me some attachments for a new deal with a blank e-mail; I later learned that she had written an introduction, but for some reason, that had not made it with the e-mail. I responded yesterday asking for more narrative on the deal to get a better understanding of what was being requested and she replied with the information that I needed.

It is much more effective when e-mailing someone for information or services to provide an introduction of what one is looking for and why. The recipient should not have to respond to an e-mail and ask, "why was this sent to me?"

The awareness for today is to be thorough in our business practices and clear about what we are asking for and offering.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Benefits to Online Networking

I would like to respond to a comment yesterday from energygirl. Her comment was, "Words of wisdom for this dinosaur. What has been your experience of the value in networking online/having an online networking presence? I'd like to learn more."

I have been using LinkedIn for a about seven months. My profile is here. I contacted former colleagues and college friends and linked up with them. I was also contacted by quite a few of them on their own. It is great to be able to see what people are up to, follow their careers and see who they are connected with.

I have asked for introductions from my connections to their contacts that I would like to meet and have made new contacts this way. I have seen very little business come through this effort, but I am still looking at the long term possibilities that can come of it.

I have also used MySpace, but that has been purely for social networking; catching up with college friends, friends who have moved away and even friends from high school. It is fun, but not at all business related.

The awareness for today is to try something new. Set up an account on LinkedIn (it is free), post your work and education history and begin catching up with old colleagues. It cannot hurt and maybe one of those old colleagues happens to have a need that you can fill and the timing may work out perfectly. Let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Keeping Up with Social Networks

I am pretty tech-savvy and while definitely not an IT professional, I can get around hardware and software pretty well. I enjoy technology and use it to simplify my life whenever I can. These days there are loads of social networking sites that allow you to share your information with the world and to connect to people while doing so.

There is MySpace for social networking, LinkedIn for business networking, and Facebook for a little of both with a lot of pictures. I do like LinkedIn and have my profile here; I have reconnected with people from my past and connected with current colleagues. I recommend checking out these sites if you would like to have an online presence to connect with others; many people will have no interest in doing this.

The awareness for today is to establish yourself online if you want to connect with people from throughout your life. If you do not want to do online networking, then stick to your website for people to find you, that is fine, but it is a bit behind in the times.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Entrepreneurial Thinking

I am currently working on a fantastic project with an entrepreneur. The potential for this to be an innovative new business is great. The hard part is that the entrepreneur holds a lot of the information in his head.

My goal this week is to get that information onto paper and shared with his staff. Everyone needs to be aware of the big picture that he is working on. Once everyone is on the same page, it will be more clear to see the goal that is being worked towards.

The awareness for today is get the full story from those you may work with. Communicate openly and honestly and allow others to work with you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Excitement of a New City

I have been in Portland, Oregon for almost three weeks now. I have been networking to get to know businesses and business people in the area. I have to admit that it is very exciting and fun to get to know the city. Portland is a great city and the people here have been incredibly welcoming. Everyone that I have spoken with has given me more names to speak with, so my circle of contacts is growing quite rapidly.

I had a meeting on Thursday evening where the people I met with were quite impressed with the number of contacts that I had already made and who those contacts were. It always feels good to be validated by others, but we should not expect it.

The awareness for today is that while our cocoon can be very comfortable, sometimes shaking things up a bit can add new energy into our lives.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Changing It Up

Sometimes, when I am stressed or aggravated, I find it helpful to shake up my schedule. Today I got up early and went for a walk before sitting down at the computer to deal with e-mail. What a change that walk made! I got to stretch out and breathe in the fresh air. I came back feeling energized and ready to go.

The awareness for today is to recognize when you are stressed, aggravated or frustrated and to work on creating a change from your patterns in order to bring new energy into your routine.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Time Management

I find that I know many people who just can't seem to get everything done during the day that they would like. I definitely hit those frustrating days when I just have too much to do. However, I generally keep myself on track by creating a task list and giving priority to specific items that MUST be completed that day. I accomplish as much as I can and then items that do not have to be completed that day can be pushed.

Now we must be careful not to keep pushing items too far off, but we all know there are non-essential items that sometimes get in the way of priority items; if you say you will get back to someone, that should be a priority.

The awareness for today is to look at what must be completed on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis and arrange your schedule to make it happen. I am always available to help clients create more efficiency in their organizations.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Following Up After a Request for Information

I am an accredited executive associate of the Institute for Independent Business International. The Institute is an international accreditation body for senior executives. We are on a closed e-mail system and can therefore send mass e-mails to all accredited associates. I often use this to share my sources with associates, but also to receive continuous requests for funding.

Once I receive a mass e-mail that requests funding, I check with my various sources and if there is interest, I reply with a request for the additional information I will need to assist; I try to do this within 24 hours, but I am sometimes held up by my funding sources. If I do not receive a response from an associate that sent the request, I send a follow up e-mail one week later. 80% of the time I receive a response, but I do not understand why the other 20% don't even respond or acknowledge my offer of assistance.

To me it is common courtesy to reply even if the need has been filled. I find it very helpful to be notified that a deal no longer needs funding and then I close it out of my pending projects.

The awareness for today is to be conscious and courteous if you are looking for information. If someone replies back to you after you have already received the information you were looking for, simply express that and thank them for their time; it will definitely keep the relationship open for the future.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Work/Life Balance

I was talking with an entrepreneur the other day and he brought up the fact that with owning his own businesses, he is always working. His cell phone keeps him connected even when he is not in the office; I actually know that he accomplishes quite a bit of work on his commutes as well.

I agree that when you own your own business, you need to be more available than if you were an employee. However, it is important to maintain a life outside of your work as well. Obviously it depends on the type of business you are in, but for me I love working for myself and being able to take time when I need it. There are times when I need to be on a conference call on a weekend, return e-mails or work on projects, but there are the other times when I can take a three day weekend, start my day early or end my day late.

I like to work for myself in order to create the lifestyle that I want to live. We each need to find that for ourselves.

The awareness for today is to make sure that we are comfortable with our work/life balance. If you are not, then look at boundaries you can create for yourself around work and make time for yourself and those you care about.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Our Best Work at All Times

There are so many times throughout our days when we just want to get a task out off the way. Sometimes, it is easier to do the bare minimum and then let someone else deal with it. That is not working with integrity and I know I have been guilty of this as well.

The attitude that I try to take on is that I want to feel proud of the work I accomplish. If I am working with others and the project will be passed on to someone else, I want to ensure that it leaves my hands as complete and professional as possible. I do not want someone else to have to clean up my mess, but rather I want to feel confident that I did all that I could before letting someone else complete their portion of a project.

The awareness for today is to stand behind our work and do our best to accomplish that which we set out to do. I know that I do not want to give other people work that I should be doing myself and hope that you will endeavor to do the same.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Availability of Information

Yesterday I began working with a client on a marketing plan. It is amazing how easy it is to find annual corporate reports and quick facts and figures on other companies or even demographics in general.

The Internet has made research much easier; it takes a lot longer to track down and call companies for corporate reports without using the Internet.

The awareness for today is that there is loads of research available at our fingertips. Sometimes we have to wade through junk to get to it, but it is there and easily accessible.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Conference Calls

Today I am dealing with the frustration of setting up a conference call between London and both the East and West coasts. I think it will work out fine, but trying to get every one's schedule to work together is a bit tricky.

The awareness for today is that we need to take the needs and schedules of others into consideration if we do not want to work alone. Beyond that, even if we want to work alone, there are times that we need to work with others.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Building Trust

As I meet with more and more people, it appears that over time, every one has been burned by someone else. I know some people do not want to work with large banks because of their bureaucracy or some do not want to work with investment banks because they have been charged upfront fees and promises were never delivered. Whatever the case may be, building trust is important.

What we say and what we do need to match up. I do not make promises that I cannot keep. It is important for me to build trust with my clients and colleagues, so if I do not have an answer to a question I am asked, I feel quite comfortable saying, "I do not know, but I will find out." This is a much better approach than trying to provide a response that may not be accurate and then trying to clean that up later.

The awareness for today is to not make idle promises, but instead to do our best to offer our services with integrity.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Networking in Foreign Locations

While I am in Portland, Oregon (or if I were in any other foreign location to me, domestic or abroad) I am quite aware of the fact that I do not know the area. When it comes time to set up networking meetings, I am more than open to letting the other party set the location and then finding my way there (with my GPS of course, as I mentioned here).

I do not have my favorite spots to meet, nor can I generally even choose the location because of my lack of knowledge of the area. Luckily, I have always been fortunate to meet people who are willing to be the "hosts" of their city.

The awareness for today is to simply appreciate our familiarity with our own surroundings and be grateful for those who help us when we are out of our normal regions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

When Seeking Funding

I often receive requests for funding, as debt financing is what I focus on. Sometimes the request I receive is along these lines, "I have a client that needs $X to grow their business. Can you help?" I often can, but I definitely need more information. I request a one-sheet summary and a business plan including past and projected financials just to really see if the deal is something that my funding sources would be interested in. If I am not interested in the deal or do not believe in it, then my sources do not want to see it; they want me to act as their first line of defense against deals that may waste their time.

The next step is the interesting one. Sometimes I receive a reply with more basic information, but no business plan. If someone is looking for money, they need to know what they are asking for and be able to support why they are asking for the money/how it will be used as well as show how they will have the resources to pay it back (to cover their debt service).

The one-sheet summary (often an executive summary will cover this) is incredibly helpful for me to share with my funding sources to simply see whether there is interest or not. If the business plan is not too technical, I can create the one-sheet summary to share. However, if the business plan is very technical, I am quick to acknowledge that I am not an expert on their business and I request that they create the summary for me to share so that all of the pertinent information is included.

I like to point out that I do not charge any fees, but instead take a success fee only if the funding is successful, so there is no cost to using my help for their funding needs; this is all arranged in advance.

The awareness for today is if you are looking for any form of financing, it will take work on your end. You cannot just say you need money (from less than $50K to more than $500M) without supporting your case. Put in the time to "make your case."

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Benefits of Technology

I am currently in Portland, Oregon checking out new potential home base locations. While I am here, I am going to networking meetings and new business meetings. I would not be able to get around Portland without my GPS (Global Positioning System). My GPS (with an English woman's voice directions) tells me when to turn and even how long until my arrival at my destination.

I think the biggest help is when I try to not use the GPS and get lost. The GPS will tell me how to get back on track (even if I make a wrong turn, it will reprogram the trip from my new location). It really has been a lifesaver.

The awareness for today is that, while technology may complicate life at times, there are numerous times where the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Great Comments on Retaining E-Mail!

I received this comment from a reader (and friend), "Jennie" on my blog Retaining E-Mail. She wrote:

I save all mine too. I know it is pack-ratty, but I found that there have been times when I needed to go back and track something down and I've got it.

I find that it is also helpful when I do have phone conversations or face-to-face meetings where decisions are made to follow up with an email "I enjoyed speaking with you earlier where we decided xyz." or "In the meeting today I understood that the new policy is abc. If this is not correct, please let me know." This has been very helpful, particularly when working with people who only communicate orally and won't put things in writing.

Thank you Jennie for your comments. You are right, using e-mail to confirm conversation and agreements is a great follow-up activity. We are given the opportunity to receive confirmation as to the way we understood the meeting or conversation.

The awareness for today is to learn from others and do our best to pick up little tricks that can benefit us.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Acting with Integrity

I do my best to always make sure my that anyone who I may work with is happy. I believe that people on both sides of any deal should always walk away satisfied from a closed deal.

The problem is that you cannot please everyone. Sometimes it is personality conflicts, other times people just do not want to be content.

The awareness for today is to recognize that not all people will be happy with you. It is your job to act with integrity and do all that you can, but not everyone will be receptive...that is okay.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Defining Your Own Level of Professionalism

As I have discussed before, I can be a bit rigid in my thought process. I like to make sure everything is in order and I pride myself on my professionalism and efficiency. I recently did a deal with a new contact who expressed how much she thoroughly appreciated my professionalism and keeping on her to complete her end of the agreement.

Not everyone will appreciate it. Last week I stopped working with a recent connection because he wanted to be, what I would consider, sloppy; he did not care about faxes that were not readable nor having agreements signed in advance.

The awareness for today is to find the your own boundaries and learn where you are flexible and where you are rigid. Sometimes you may have to learn by simply trying and there could be costs involved, but, hey, that is part of the learning curve we all go through.