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Integrity & Awareness by Paul Burnstein

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Surrounding Yourself with Experts

No one person can be an expert at everything. There are people who think they are, but they are probably lacking in social skills if that is the case.

One can be good at many things, but it is important to surround ourselves with people who can compliment and supplement our own skills. Whether we need to contract with a financial consultant or a business advisor or simply hire a marketing or sales expert fulltime, it allows us to focus on our own areas of expertise and let others handle the parts of the business where we may personally struggle.

Another option is to make sure we have mentors and coaches around us who we can turn to for bouncing off ideas. Sometimes it is simply helpful to have a sounding board so that we are not holding our ideas inside, but rather letting them out to grow.

The awareness for today is to recognize we are not the best at everything, but we can surround ourselves with those that create a team (formal or informal) who can help us accomplish our goals.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Past to Present

I just got off of the phone with an old college friend. We hadn't spoken in about twelve years and I found out last week that my mother and his wife work at the same school in Los Angeles. He and I played phone tag for the past week and then had the chance to finally speak today. Our conversation was only about ten minutes long, but it was great to catch up with someone from my past, learn about his current life and share a bit about mine.

We all live such busy lives and rarely take the time to catch up with people from our distant past, but when we do it can be quite refreshing. Personally, I love hearing about old friends' successes and even struggles. It helps to put my own life into perspective.

The awareness for today is to embrace the opportunity to catch up with old friends, classmates or colleagues. I am not saying you should track them all down, but when the opportunity presents itself, it can be helpful to see the paths that others have taken. Some easy places to find people from your past are MySpace, LinkedIn, Facebook and alumni directories.

Monday, February 18, 2008


While change can be scary, it can also be exciting. I am currently going through a number of transitions and they all feel quite positive; I will try to go into more detail at another time. When we are feeling good, everything around us seem to fall into place. When we are happy with ourselves and the direction we are taking, we notice and focus on the positives and this greatly improves our general outlook on life.

The awareness for today is to be open to change and transitions in our lives. If we hold on tight and struggle against them, we may miss out on tremendous opportunities.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Extreme Efficiency

I just returned to Portland last night from a quick trip to Los Angeles. While in LA, I received a call from my brother asking me to send him some business and tax software; nothing pirated, it was his software that I had been checking out. We played some voicemail tag and I had asked him to please remind me as I was out of town and had other things on my mind. My brother often gets busy with his own work and family and he did not get around to reminding me. No big deal...even without prompting, I still remembered and upon returning home last night, I put together the package he needed (and even burned him a couple of CDs that I thought he would enjoy). This afternoon, I even had the chance to get it to the Post Office.

I called him after leaving the post office to let him know that I had gotten it out and he was quite appreciative. He even asked if I could come to Minnesota and help him and his wife get out their wedding gift thank you notes with, as he put it, my "go-get-it-ness." (My brother got married last October, but has a two and a half year old who he happily allows to occupy his "free" time.)

I have blogged about this before...I work quite efficiently and can accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. This is just how my mind works. I do not fault others for not being as speedy as me, but it does allow me to complete many projects throughout a day.

The awareness for today is to recognize that we do not all function at the same speed, but we can create schedules and tasks to compensate for our natural work habits.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Accepting Mediocrity

I am quite disappointed to observe that many people are satisfied with mediocrity. Just getting by is enough for a lot of people I speak with. I don't simply mean financially, but with their work and even career and life goals. I have always been quite ambitious and if I am going to do something, I want to do it to the best of my ability. I want to feel proud of the work I accomplish, the goals I set for myself and my personal achievements.

Too often do I see people just skating by and figuring that is enough for them. When did people stop caring about being the best they can be? Did they ever or have I lived with a false belief that people want to excel?

I guess that is enough to write least it is something. (That is a joke for those of you who don't know me well.)

The awareness for today is to be the kind or person who strives for the gold, not just to simply finish the race without trying.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Paranoia is a funny thing. I end up with people sending me direct comments, e-mailing or even calling me to find out if a specific blog I posted was about them. More than often it is not, but I think what is fascinating is how we can all relate to some basic topics and in turn learn from others.

I know my own paranoia sets in when I hear or read something that could possibly relate to me and it is a relief when I learn that it is not about me, however, I try to take away new knowledge from the lesson; if I didn't act or respond a certain way, I would not be paranoid on that specific subject.

The awareness for today is to learn from our, as well as others', mistakes and even if we are not responsible for something, we should always be working to improve ourselves.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Panic Situations

Today I was involved in a situation that appeared to need immediate action. After discussing it with various advisors, I was ready to jump into action. That action would have created a much more tense and dramatic situation than was needed. Before I did jump, I spoke with one more advisor who cooled me down and in a very rational way helped me to look at the situation from a different perspective.

After that discussion, I went back to the drawing board and decided to not function from a place of panic, but rather measure the situation and give it some time to self correct before jumping into action. The situation still needs to be dealt with, but it can be held off for a short bit and handled from a place of stability rather than panic.

The awareness for today is to breathe when necessary and gather as much information as possible before making drastic decisions.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Length Does Matter

I have been paying attention to other people's blogs and e-mails and I have to admit, I like my own...I might be a bit biased.

The issue that I am really referring to is length. Some blogs are just too long. I try to keep mine short and sweet and if there is more to write about on a specific subject, then I will break it up into parts. It is one thing to keep readers coming back often to read a couple of paragraphs, but when it turns into pages and pages, I just tune out or stop reading altogether. This is the same for e-mails. A quick concise e-mail is great, but when someone writes a tome it ends up only being quickly scanned because there is just not enough time to read it word for word.

The awareness for today is to not write a page if a paragraph will do. If a paragraph will not do, then break it up into manageable parts. Your readers will appreciate it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Professionalism Above All

Not all people get along...plain and simple. We all have different personalities and approaches. I often tend to be very straightforward and that does not sit well with some. I am okay with that. I am a business professional and when I am working with people, we are working together for business purposes. Not everyone needs to be my buddy. The important thing is that we all act like professionals and treat each other with respect.

There are times when we do connect and relationships move beyond business towards friendships. However, that is not a requirement of my business relationships.

The awareness for today is to be, above all, professional in your business relationships and recognize that not everyone you work with will have the same personality or interests as yourself. Business relationships can be friendly without being friendships. Just remember to have respect for those who you work with.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

More on Internal Customers

A frequent reader and commenter, Jennie, responded to my post Internal Customers here.

Jennie wrote:
"Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been on this soapbox for a long, long time at my workplace. Employee satisfaction is directly linked to how they perform on the job and how they relate to external clients. Unhappy, unsatisfied, unappreciated employees will leak out their negative feelings which could have small impact, or very large impact. Those employees won't stick around. What costs more, the amount of time and money it takes to advertise for a position, do a search and train a person or the time and expense of express appreciation, improve communication and increase morale?"

I really appreciate that Jennie took the time to respond, but she also brings up some good points that I neglected to mention. If your employees are not satisfied, it will show in their work which can have a ripple effect out to your external customers and their satisfaction with your products or services. There hits a point where the dissatisfied employees will either quit on their own or possibly become such a problem employee (dragging the business down with them) that they will need to be let go.

As Jennie points out, it is much more expensive to replace an employee than it is to ensure their work satisfaction.

The awareness for today is to pay attention to employees (and yourself) and look for ways to improve the work environment. If you cannot come up with any ideas on your own...why not try asking your employees directly?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Requesting and Providing Information

I often get e-mails from associates that simply ask, "can you help get funding for my client?" Hopefully I can, but I can't even guess if I do not have more information.

When you request information from someone, ask for what you need. To follow up with my example question, I would expect someone to write me saying that they need US$12 million to consolidate debt and fund the expansion of a widget factory in China. I would then ask that they share some basic financial information for the past few years as well as pro forma figures for the future. I would also like to know if there is equity in the company and if the principals have put in any money themselves.

To put it in more general terms, ask for what you need, why you need it, how you will use it and what you are offering for it.

The awareness for today is to be thorough in our requests for help from others. Let's be specific about our needs and wants and then we can better manage our expectations.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Internal Customers

Today I wanted to bring up our internal customers...our employees and different departments that we have to work with within our businesses. Often people take for granted their employees. These same people have the attitude that if they are paying people to do the job, it will get done. Hopefully the job will get done, but just paying your employees is not enough.

Your employees need to be kept happy just as your external customers. You want your employees to be happy to come to work and provide that same positive experience for your external customers who are actually spending money with you. Don't fool yourself, your internal customers may not be spending money with you, but they sure can cost you money. Some important things to think about with your employees is making sure that there is meaning for them in their work; job satisfaction ranked higher than pay on a survey of important work factors for employees. Empowering employees and keeping them informed helps to build that relationship.

The awareness for today is to remember to treat your internal customers, your employees, happy with the work they are doing and if they are not, find ways to improve the situation.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Your attitude can make a big difference towards how you are perceived by clients and customers. If you want their business and act like you want it, that will be recognized. However, if you want their business, but act as though you could care less, that will be noticed as well and most likely they will not be interested in doing business with you.

One needs to work (that is why it is not called play) in order to build relationships, maintain and grow them. Do not take your clients or customers for granted, but rather recognize that without them, you would not have a business.

The awareness for today is to put the extra effort in to let your clients and customers know that you appreciate their business and will do whatever you can to help foster that relationship.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Good and Bad Busy

I haven't had the time to blog for a few days which is both a good and bad thing. Good because I have been busy with work, bad because I have had an incredible amount of technical difficulties recently; I have been without my laptop and my loaner was fine until the external hard drive where I had backed up all of my data stopped working and the scanner and printer were both acting up.

I was able to move the external drive to a new enclosure and solved that problem and I fiddled with the printer/scanner enough to get them working again. I spent far too much time on fixing my technology when I had work that needed to be accomplished. I still have a list of e-mails to look at with deal notes from different sources.

I have written before about the frustrations of technology...when it works, it can save us a lot of time, but when it doesn't work, it costs us a lot more time!

The awareness for today is to make sure you back up your digital information and also that you pay attention to where your time is spent; it can be worthwhile to spend time fixing something if it then enables you to be more productive and efficient.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Honest Budgeting

Recently, while working with a client, I was helping to develop a budget for spending. It was simple enough...I had the client collect past information so that we could then figure out what his monthly crunch was. He listed all of the expenses he believed he had on a monthly basis and then I pushed him for a few more that I believed he had left off of the list; I even asked him for confirmation that there was nothing else he had not mentioned. From there, we came up with a number that he needed to meet on a monthly basis. Sounds easy.

A couple of weeks later, I learned of some new expenses that were not listed in the budget and yet were quite important for him to cover. The client had known about them all along, but he had been in denial of the need to account for them on a monthly basis. By not being honest with himself, he put himself in a sticky situation where the budget we had created was outdated from the start.

The awareness for today is to be honest with yourself. There is no shame in the is simply that, the truth. By trying to hide things (like expenses), we put ourselves into much more precarious situations than need be. If we are honest from the beginning, then we are truly aware of the big picture.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Growth versus Change

The New Year always brings about change. Someone recently said to me that we should be open to all changes. I cannot fully agree with that. Obviously change is inevitable, but not all change is good. I think growth is a better word to use in this situation. Change can be both positive or negative, but growth suggests positive change...being more than before.

When looking at business, it is important to work towards growth; growth of sales, growth of revenue, growth of customer base, etc. Not all change will be positive, but we must be flexible enough to compensate for any negative changes that occur from outside of our control (yes, it is true, we cannot control everything).

The awareness for today is to focus on changing through growth and building your business or personal life through positive means. Take the negative changes and adapt to them by looking at what positive actions you can take to compensate for the negative.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Responding Whether Positive or Negative

The year is starting out quickly with looking at deals for debt financing. I have worked with people in the past who do not feel it is important to return phone calls in a timely manner or even at all. These people feel that if they are interested in working with you, they will call you back, but otherwise they will not.

I strongly believe in courtesy calls and if I cannot help someone fund a deal, I will let them know that. I am always happy to look at any deal that someone sends me; as I wrote, if I can help connect them to funding, great, I will let them know...if I cannot help connect them to funding, too bad, but I will still let them know.

For me, it is important to close out a project and know when it is dead or funded, without having to chase down other people.

The awareness for today is to think about how you would like to be treated by others and ensure that you offer that same amount of respect; if you want to be sure that people respond to you, make sure and respond to others.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Don't Panic, Paul!

My laptop no longer appears to be recognizing my battery. Bummer. I do have an extended warranty that I bought with my computer from CompUSA. CompUSA is going out of business and will no longer accept warranty work in their stores. So, I have the warranty company mailing me a box and then I have to send in my entire computer. This is not an easy thing for me to do as I rely quite a bit on my laptop and use it for both business and personal use.

When I first learned that I would be losing my laptop for one to two weeks, I was panicked. What was I going to do???

Then I breathed. I started looking into my options and spoke with some computer guys I know. The solution for me is to back everything up (which one should do regardless) and then I will run my hard drive as an external drive on a friend's laptop that I am lucky enough to be able to borrow. What a great solution. It will take me some time to back up and ensure that I have everything I need, but it is doable.

The awareness for today is to not panic when face with situation to that alarm us. Breathe in and out and then look at the situation as you would anything step at a time.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Starting with a Bang

Only partially listening to my own advice of last week that said to not expect to accomplish everything at once, I am already a bit frustrated with myself that I have not yet completed all the goals that I set for myself for 2008. Come on, it is already January 7th! :-)

I know this is ridiculous, yet I continuously create more stress for myself by maintaining unreasonable expectations. I hope that you do not do the same. When I finally do take the time to breathe (which is very important!), I calm myself down and recognize the absurdity of my expectations. From this place of calmness, I refocus on my goals and also work to remember the location so that I can find the calmness more readily.

The awareness for today is to keep up on your goals for the year, but know that they are for the entire year, not just this month, week or day. Track your progress, but do not be discouraged if your accomplishments are not accumulating as quickly as you would like...simply appreciate them for accomplishments.

Friday, January 4, 2008

There is No Future! Relax, it is Okay.

I was speaking with a friend the other night regarding concerns for the future and he shared some thoughts from Chogam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987). Basically he said that there is no future...and there never has been a future. That stuck with me so profoundly! I do my best to remain in the present and focus on the here and now, but recognizing that the future does not and never has existed helps me to pay attention to where I am now and what I need to deal with today.

Now let me say that this does not mean one should not plan for the future, but we cannot hold too tightly to our future "plans."

The awareness for today is to recognize there never has been a future and that we live in the present. I remember an analogy that I used while in graduate school to describe "being present." Being present is like driving on a dark highway with only your headlights lighting the way shortly in front and behind you; as you keep moving, your lighting (your present) is right there with you.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The New Year - 2008 is Here!

Now the new year has begun and it is time to turn all of those good intentions into actions. I know this can be overwhelming and the common question I hear from people is how to even begin. There is a great quote from the Tao Te Ching that says "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." How profound! The point is that we must start somewhere and every little bit that we do will help overall.

Whether your goals and intentions for the new year are personal, business, lifestyle or project oriented, there is a beginning to each of them. Begin taking small steps in the right direction. Be easy on yourself; if your goal is to grow your business, you mostly will not have increased sales by the end of this week...but, you can complete your new sales plan by Friday.

The awareness for today is to enter 2008 with a fresh attitude and begin taking care of yourself and your needs one step at a time.