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Mastering Productivity


I must do the most productive thing possible at every given moment.

That is a quote given to Tom Hopkins when he was still a struggling salesman. As that quote was given to him after pursuing a successful businessman to have lunch with him. A quote that resonated so well with Tom and provided him the focus he was striving for. Without a pen to write this down, he remembered this and after finding great success, that phrase went into his books, to his readers, and to their listeners. I was one of those readers.

This was the exact mantra I needed. Adopting this ideology of prioritizing the most effective actions and planning those actions into my day has not only provided great dividends in my life, but in my decision making as well. An example of this can be when your company is struggling and everyone has a multitude of great ideas to bring in new revenue. If your company is struggling, should you be capitalizing  on new channels of revenue, or mastering your core competencies?

With 86,400 seconds in a day, taking just 300 of those to think and reflect on the past week’s tasks and the measure of their impact can be crucial. Is there any way you could improve the impact of your actions? Was there something else you could have done to bring better results?

Understand this applies to personal and family life as well. This can help you to understand what you’re spending your time on and if that is truly the best use of your time. Spending time with family to plan a vacation? Of course! Once the funds have been secured. Showing up for your Children’s special events? Absolutely. Both of these can be just as important if not more than many aspects of your work life. Productivity and balance go hand-in-hand. You must know which tasks will drive the most optimal results, and most effective use of your time. 

Blogging for Your Business

5 Ways to Determine your Target Markets & Drive More Relevant Traffic

Blogging for a business can be challenging. It’s the longest, most time consuming form of advertising that has a price for every consumer that comes across it. It’s not digestible in 5 seconds, and the information gathered entirely depends on the quality of your writing. Does that information properly translate the main point of your blog to the consumer? Knowing who you’re writing to is the difference between effective marketing and wasted effort. Let’s explore getting to know who you are writing for so that you can better understand how to effectively structure your content.

1. Who Buys From You?

Look at who is currently consuming your ideas, services, or products.  Why do they buy from you? Do they have similar interests or characteristics? If so, are there other potential customers like them? Do a quick analysis to determine who your most valued customers are. How can you best provide them with valuable information using written blog posts? What do they want to know about? 

2. How are your competitors writing?

Look at your competition. This is getting easier to do with social media. Look at who they are marketing to, and what their tactics and angles are. You might want to emulate them, or go a completely different route, sometimes the other direction can lead to revolutions!

3. Analyze your product(s) or service

As any good marketer would tell you, know your product. How is it used? And who would benefit or need it? You can target some of your blog posts to new markets by explaining the value of your product to them. A social media app company, for example, may find new opportunities to enter the real estate marketing field and serve real estate agents, or photography studios. Or a CRM that was built for solar energy, easily translated to another trade/service. 

4. List out demographics and psychographics of your target

Take your current customer base, your competitors’ customer base, or potential customers, and list out that target customer’s likes/dislikes, demographics and psychographics.

Examples of these include:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Education level
  • Marital or family status
  • Occupation
  • Ethnic background

List out psychographics such as:

  • Personality
  • Attitudes
  • Values
  • Interests/hobbies
  • Lifestyles
  • Behavior

You can take this one step further, and really get to know your market by creating a persona or two for particular blog themes you are writing. Such as an analytical, logical, or super emotionally expressive. This can create a much more intimate connection between your product blog and your consumer.

5. Define your market channels 

Once you have a comprehensive listing of your market, and who they are, define your market in channels. This will help when coming up with themes for your blog. For example, a business that sells art supplies to retailers might segment their market by geography, types of businesses or even how they sell to their consumers (online or offline).

Making a Great How-To Video


Have you ever come up with an excellent way to explain something? Are you good on camera and can boil down complicated things into simple solutions? One way to display this talent, whether on Youtube or your own personal blog, is to put whatever that quick-fix is into a video to share with whoever could benefit from your good idea.

You don’t have to be a professional videographer or verified influencer with 100,000 followers to put something out there worth watching. At the end of the day, it all comes down to presentation:

  1. Get the Script Right

For how-to videos, what you’re actually saying matters most. Get the script right. Figure out your audience and craft your message to who you’re speaking to. Who is your product or quick fix meant for? 

One rule of thumb is: if a third grader can’t understand what you’re saying, chances are you’re making it too complicated. Be concise, and cut out the fluff where you can. Whatever you’re putting forward should have some benefit, and don’t leave your viewers guessing what that is.

  1. Watch Your Tone

Be mindful of how you’re coming across. Remember, you’re the professional here- speak like one. Sounding too casual and unfocused can take away from your message. You don’t need to spend time convincing people you know what you’re doing, just tell them what they should be working on, it’s your video.

Also, audio quality and editing can make or break your video. If I can’t hear you, or if the background music competes with your voice, I’m going to lose attention pretty quickly.

  1. Save the Monologues for Shakespeare

If the entire video is a single run-on clip of you talking, with no transitions, visuals, or other editing techniques to add some variety, viewers struggle to stay engaged. Make it fun!

Transitions can help separate different points you’re making, visuals add context, and most editing softwares have more tools than you’ll ever need to slice and dice your footage into something that draws people in. Also, don’t forget about music and sound effects.

Getting the script and tone straight are half the battle; how you present those things are the other half.

  1. Have a Plan for What Comes Next

Often these videos have some type of marketing or business purpose behind what you’re putting out there. Maybe it’s some product you’re demo’ing, or using something in a way that hasn’t been done before. Whatever it is, make your call to action clear. 

How can viewers replicate what you’re doing as easily as possible? If your goal is to broaden your exposure, where can they find more of your content? To the people watching, the idea doesn’t stop simply when the video does. You have a say in how that continues

It’s not just about the content, but also how it fits into your bigger picture.

At the end of the day, what matters is that you put yourself out there. Be open to learning and study those with demonstrated success. The better you can articulate and present your thoughts, the greater impact you will have.

Crafting a Successful VC Pitch


Venture capital has long been a sought-out avenue of entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the next level- you have an idea, you’ve gotten it to work at some level, but you don’t yet have the financial means to get to that next stage of development. 

The good news is there’s an entire industry of investors and visionaries looking for the next big thing to be a part of- “unicorns,” as they are often referred to. The bad news: everyone, including you, wants their attention. How do you stand out?

Often, those seeking capital may only have a single opportunity to present their offering to a given investor, so you need a compelling pitch- something more memorable than just facts and numbers, a story that captures who your company is and where it’s going.

Here are 5 ways to make your pitch worthy of a deal:

  1. Make it clear what your company is aiming to be. You’re asking people with no relation to you to take a chance- not on what it currently is, but what you hope it will become. What’s that image in the future look like? How will their support help bring your vision for this venture to life? 
  1. There’s a real problem you’re trying to solve. Any company can have a good culture and treat their employees with nice perks, but why is it there to begin with? What challenge is it attempting to overcome? People appreciate a real struggle that has to be dealt with, whether it’s an annoying inconvenience or a bottleneck holding them back from greater potential, and they’ll be even happier to know that you can do something about it.
  1. Your big problem has an even bigger solution. At this point, you’ve established the challenge, now “wow” them with how you make it better. Be specific. What’s your offering, who is it for, and can you put it in a simple sentence or two that gets right to the point? Whatever product or service is being offered should directly and obviously make a difference to a target market who could benefit from it.
  1. Tie your vision together with investors’ involvement. This is where everything should line up: you have a problem, a way to do something about it, and a business who knows what it wants to become- how exactly do investors help make it a reality? This is also where specifics come in: business models, forecasts, industry trends, a quantitative sense that your idea works in the real world, and actually has the potential to continue evolving with their support.
  1. Make your “ask” and show them the happily-ever-after. Now that you’ve convinced your audience you have something real, what do you need from them to make it happen? Don’t just tell them a number, make sure they also know what to expect in return, and what milestones to expect in between. Investors should be clear on: 
    1. How much you’re asking for
    2. How those funds will progress your company further
    3. When and how much they can expect to make with respect to investment returns
    4. Lastly, what the company should look like down the road because of their involvement

Navigating venture capital is always a challenge, but telling the right story about your business can tremendously improve your fundraising prospects, and help bring its potential to life.

Opportunity Zones: Investments & Tax Benefits


Opportunity Zones, while not commonly known to the public, can serve as excellent investments to the communities they exist within, as well as to entrepreneurs looking for a long-term tax-savings strategy.

Many geographical areas with low-income communities are designated as Opportunity Zones, places where certain tax incentives may be provided to those who invest in them and remain for specified periods of time. There are over 8,764 across America. 

Why Should I Invest in an Opportunity Zone?

Simply put, the tax benefits. In an effort to bring in funding to improve the economic health of communities that need it, investments that qualify for Opportunity Zone benefits have some enticing features to look forward to.

Deferral of Recently Realized Capital Gains

  • Recently realized capital gains may be reinvested into a qualified Opportunity Zone project. The deferral will remain until the earlier of one’s exit from their Opportunity Zone investment, or December 31, 2026

Step-Up Cost Basis for Capital Gains Invested

  • Investing recent capital gains into an Opportunity Zone has another perk: the basis of those gains is increased by 10% if the investment in the Zone is held for at least 5 years. If it is held for at least 7 years, an additional 5% step-up is granted, for a total potential step-up of 15% in your cost basis

Permanent Exclusion of Capital Gains After 10 Years

  • For an investment held in an Opportunity Zone for at least 10 years, there is no taxable income associated with capital gains from the sale or exchange of it. Essentially, if you grow a successful business in one of these places and hold it there long enough, you might not pay a dime on the profit of its sale

How It Works

A Qualified Opportunity Zone Fund (QOF) is the investment vehicle that must first be set up, either as a partnership or corporation, to then provide capital for property and business inside the Qualified Opportunity Zone. From there, any type of equity investment can be made into your project.

The majority of activity (50%+) of the Qualified Opportunity Zone Business (QOZB) must come from the Opportunity Zone it serves in order to uphold this special status. Put another way, a substantial amount of business can be performed outside of the Opportunity Zone while still maintaining its distinction. As long as your business is primarily serving the community of the Zone, you can operate elsewhere at the same time.

To be clear, this majority rule of 50% activity applies to both revenue earned and wages paid.

What if you already have a functioning business and want the benefits of a QOZB? Just move it into one. The rules behind these designations allow for a business to relocate into an Opportunity Zone and receive the same benefits, assuming it adheres to the rules.

One last point, a QOZB is not required to own property in the Zone it’s operating in. This is a tremendous relief of capital burden that other programs tend to not be as flexible on. 

If you or a fellow entrepreneur is thinking about starting a business, consider doing so in an Opportunity Zone!

Tax Planning – Concepts and Strategies for Beginners

If you are already an adult, a part of adulting life is tax planning. You have to deal with taxation whether you like it or not. A significant part of tax planning is analyzing and arranging one’s financial situation to minimize tax liabilities and maximize tax breaks without breaking the law. Here are some tips for tax planning for any stage of life:

Understand your tax bracket

The tax bracket is the very first thing you need to know, as your bracket will depend on the amount of money you make. Those with higher taxable incomes have higher tax rates. To find out your taxable income, you have to subtract the tax deduction. The government will divide the taxable income into chunks and the corresponding rate. 

Know the difference between tax credits and tax deductions

These two terms are oftentimes used interchangeably, but they’re different. Tax deductions pertain to particular expenses that you can deduct from your taxable income, while tax credit gives you a monetary reduction in your tax bill. 

Standard deduction and itemizing

The choice between the two can have a huge impact on your tax bill. The standard deduction pertains to the flat-dollar tax deduction. Many taxpayers prefer the standard deduction because the tax preparation is quick. On the other hand, itemizing means, you itemize your tax return, which is a tedious process. The beauty of itemizing is that it works best for people who own a home, especially if you are dealing with mortgage interest and property taxes. 

Familiarize popular tax credits and deductions

The possible tax credits and deductions are hundreds, and each has a set of rules that should be followed. Some of them are the capital loss deduction, adoption credit, child and dependent care credit, home office expenses, property taxes, and child tax credit, to name a few. 

Know what tax records to keep

It is a must to keep a record of your tax returns and documents as there will come a time when an audit will be required. Keep the most recent ones for up to three years as the IRS has three years window period to audit your return. These documents are necessary, especially if you are going to file a claim or ask for a refund after filing the original tax return. 

Know the tax strategies that can cut your tax bill

Don’t you know that there are other tax planning strategies you can do to significantly reduce your tax? These include the following:

W-4 tweaking – It gives your employer information as to how much tax to withhold from your paycheck. To reduce the amount of money taken out of your pay, you have to put other salary details as allowance. 

Invest in 401(k) – It is the money you set aside for retirement. Your employer will offer this to you so you could have a tax break for the money you set aside for retirement. It is usually sponsored by employers, although self-employed individuals can opt to invest in 401(k).

Put money in IRA

Aside from the employer-sponsored plan, there are individual retirement accounts you can take advantage of. These are the traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. With a traditional IRA, it makes your contribution tax-deductible. Still, the exact deductible amount will depend on certain things, such as when a retirement plan at work covers you and your spouse. It also takes into consideration the amount of money you make.

On the other hand, the Roth IRA does not deduct tax from your retirement withdrawals. It asked you to pay the taxes upfront, so it will no longer deduct taxes from your contributions. The earnings that come from your investment will be tax-free.

Capital Investments

If you are a business owner, you may be able to make capital investments into equipment and other assets which generate depreciation. The depreciation becomes a tax deduction which reduces your overall taxable income.

Why pay high taxes when there are legal ways to minimize the amount of money you pay the government? You are working hard, and it is a must to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Best of luck on your taxes!

A Saving’s Guide for Teens

You need money; it’s the reality of life. If you want to make some, listen up. Here are 5 easy tips on how to ensure a financially stable future.

Hi, I’m Javier Carlos. I am an Arizona-native, small business owner, and active investor. I am in a secure place now with my finances, but they weren’t always that way. Back in eighth grade, upon establishing C West Entertainment, I never thought it would be a sustainable source of income. Here is how it all began:

My Backstory

Being an irresponsible kid, I burnt through every penny I earned. I splurged on Denny’s, Adidas Shoes, and Dutch Bro’s Coffee. Alerts constantly bombarded me that my bank was overdrawn, or my balance had fallen below $25. 

Things changed, one day when my grandma and I went to get a bite. I offered to pay. It was probably $10 at most when she hit me with the, “Are you sure you can afford this”?

Chills ran down my back. Frozen in place, I nodded yes and proceeded to pay. That’s when I realized that I needed to take my financing seriously.

Five Easy Tips For Saving

  1. Identify What You Can Save

This first tip should be anyone’s first step when they think about saving.

Think about it: How much can I put away each month?

You must think about your current financial situation and think about things like: Are you saving for your first car? What about College? Should I save or are my parents going to help me? Answering these questions can help you decide how.

I like to use a tool like this to see where I’m spending most of my money.

Keeping track of my spending clarifies how much money I’m spending. I see things like entertainment, clothes, and car payments. I didn’t realize how much money I was spending eating out until I did this!

After identifying what you’re spending a month, it’s best to set goals.

  1. Setting Goals

#goals, am I right? Kind of. 

The first goal is determining the target dollar amount you will spend per month.

Once you know your unavoidable expenses (car, insurance, fees), you need to decide exactly what you’re going to allow yourself to spend on other things.

This includes eating out, going places, and gas money! Let’s face it, without enough money, you can’t go out with your friends. I’ve learned that the hard way a few times…

  1. Start Saving Your Money!

This is by far the hardest step. Saving your money.

In reality, it’s pretty easy once you get started. What I found is that once I knew what I was saving, then I could pretend that it was already out of my bank account.

Let’s say that I have $500 each month from working part-time.

My expenses are $200 for my car, $50 for insurance, $50 for entertainment, and $50 for gas ($350 total). 

So, I know that I can comfortably set aside $200 each month to save.

But wait, that’s not realistic! I can’t set aside that much money!

You’re right. What most often comes about is that you don’t know how much little things can cost, especially when they come out of no-where. That’s why you need to set goals and expectations for yourself when you calculate your monthly expenses.

  1. Speak with a Financial Advisor

You could stop at step #3 and call it a day. 

But… if you want to maximize your savings, talking to a financial advisor can be your key.

Financial advisors are experts at savings, investments, and everything money. They’re there to help you be smart with your cash. 

In fact, without my financial advisor, I wouldn’t have thought about any of these tips myself! He showed me how I could turn $100 each month into HUGE savings for my retirement. 

Financial advisors sound scary, I get it. Almost like those scammy YouTube ads that pop up telling you about the next get-rich-scheme. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Most (if not all) advisors get paid when they earn more for you. That means they want YOU to succeed and earn more with your savings. 

The best way to find a financial adviser is to search your local area for professionals. Experts agree that going with a household name like Edward Jones or Fidelity are great because of their well-established track record.  

Ultimately, you should go with an advisor you feel most comfortable with and feel can get your best rate of return! 

Get started with your future. Like, now!

Understanding the Payroll Protection Program

In the response to the negative economic impact the Coronavirus has had on American business, the federal government implemented the Payroll Protection Program, a $349 billion component of the recent CARES Act to help small businesses through these difficult times. Applying is straightforward, the loan may be forgivable, and the purpose behind it is to help keep one’s employees paid and financially secure. 

What is It and How Does It Work?

The Payroll Protection Program offers loans to most United States businesses that have 500 or fewer employees, and have suffered from the slowdown of collective business activity. This direct assistance to business owners and sole proprietors aims to avoid layoffs and company closures through the incentive of allowing the loan to be forgivable if certain conditions are met.

Only available until June 30th of this year, it is highly recommended that any small business experiencing distress should apply as soon as possible to ensure they receive the funds they need in a timely manner. 

One can apply for the cost of one month’s average payroll multiplied by 2.5, or up to $10 million, whichever is less. You must be able to attest to your need for the loan and provide supporting documentation to the payroll figures that the loan amount is based on. Another generous feature is its 1% standard interest rate, with a six-month deferral on the first payment, and a loan term of four years to help make costs manageable.

The other component is based on the usage of the loan- you must apply at least 75% of the amount borrowed to payroll expenses. If this is not done, the terms of the loan still apply and it will need to be repaid. While the terms are certainly favorable, not doing so is missing the key incentive

Part of what makes the loan forgivable is if one continues to pay his or her employees for an eight-week period beginning from the time the loan is received. Businesses that rehire laid-off workers and raise wages to make up for salary reductions will still be considered eligible for forgiveness. 

How Can Small Business Owners Apply?

Reaching out to your current bank or other SBA-approved lenders is the best place to start. They will go over the guidelines of what information is required, and submit the application on your behalf. To learn more about the process, visit the link to the SBA’s website at the bottom of this article. 

The application itself is only a few pages long, but it is essential that the information submitted on it is as accurate as possible to ensure a timely release of funds. 

Several banking institutions have reportedly not been willing to process applicants that are recently new account holders at their bank, so please double check their policies. You will likely have a more expedient process at a bank you have an existing relationship with. 

Once submitted, businesses can expect relief to arrive usually within 10 calendar days. Programs like these don’t come around often, and if you or someone you know could benefit from this, it is strongly recommended you speak to your local banker or tax professional to begin to get that assistance on its way to you. 


2020 Tax Season- 6 Things to Remember


With the 2020 tax deadline of April 15th drawing near, now is a good time to organize essential forms, think about your filing choices, and set yourself up to avoid a last-minute rush to ensure your returns are submitted on time. Here are 6 things to keep in mind to help ensure a smooth and simpler filing:

1. Collect All Documents With Tax Implications

Anything that shows earned income, taxes withheld, interest paid, and any type of investment implication are of vital importance in preparing an accurate tax filing. Leaving any of them out could either leave you paying more than you should in taxes, or could inadvertently reduce the amount refunded back to you. Some of the most common examples include:

  • W-2s: reports income earned as an employee of a company
  • Form 1099: income earned as an independent contractor
  • Form 1099-B/1099-INT/1099-DIV: investment-related 
  • Form 1098: mortgage interest paid
  • Form 1098-E: student loan interest paid

2. Do Not Forget Traditional IRA and Health Savings Account (HSA) Contributions

These can easily be overlooked, especially if you make your contributions on an automatic basis, but doing so can leave you overstating your taxable income. Each of these contribution types, under the proper rules and guidelines, reduce your taxable income. While there are other tax advantages to each of these accounts, not reporting your contributions will omit what many tax professionals argue is the largest economic benefit they each provide.

The contribution limits for a traditional IRA are $6,000 for those under 50 years old, $7,000 for those 50 and older. The IRS requires that these contributions come from earned income.

For HSAs, the contribution limits for individuals are $3,550, and $7,100 for families.

It is essential to note that while HSAs do not have income limitations in allowing the deduction of the contribution, traditional IRAs do. A tax professional can provide guidance on this eligibility.

3. Already Filed Your Taxes and Realize a Mistake? Relax

A little known fact about the IRS is that filing your taxes on-time automatically grants individuals a filing extension, should they need to make an amendment or correction to what was already submitted. It is highly recommended that once a mistake is caught, work with a tax professional to ensure the proper steps are taken to correct it.

4. Used to Itemizing Your Deductions? Don’t Forget the New Standard Deduction

After the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated personal exemptions and numerous deductions in lieu of a higher standard deduction, many who itemize their deductions out of habit may not be saving as much as they could. With these changes, see what the new rules amount to in comparison to the revised standard deduction just to be sure you’re making the optimal choice. 

5. Claiming any Dependents? Make Sure to Include Their Social Security #s

When claiming dependents in your tax filings, the IRS will want to see their social security numbers referencing each one. Not doing so may prevent you from claiming these tax credits. 

6. When in Doubt, Talk to a Tax Professional

There is something to be said about self-efficiency and saving money, but when it comes to uncertainty in your tax filings, the costs of making a mistake quite often exceed what you would have spent to work with a tax advisor. Those with simple and straightforward filings will likely get by just fine without one, but the more complex one’s income stream and personal situation become, the greater the likelihood of making a mistake. 

Paying to work with a tax professional is really an investment in yourself, and there are several that can be found for rates that won’t break the bank. 

Book Recommendation: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, PH.D.

What if persuasion wasn’t just down to a person’s “natural charisma”? In Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, he goes over 6 principles of influence and how to use them. This book focuses on seeing persuasion as a skill rather than a natural attribute, thus making it possible for anyone to learn this skill.

The 6 Principles of Influence

  1. Reciprocity – Give what you want to receive
  2. Consistency – Active, public, and voluntary commitments
  3. Social Proof – People rely on and believe others similar to themselves
  4. Liking – People like those who like them
  5. Authority – Become an expert and establish your credibility
  6. Scarcity – As something become scarce, its value increases

The list above contains the 6 principles that are discussed in this book. Also, here is a link to another short summary of the book. I recommend this book especially to anyone involved in a sales funnel.

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