Monthly Archives: July 2012

How coaching can help you out of a rut in your corporate career

happy cat

happy cat


It’s amazing what a little time off can do for your attitude towards work. It’s why so many of us love to jet abroad for a week-long getaway each year: we come back feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready to tackle the weeks ahead. But if you don’t have a holiday planned in the imminent future, and would like to get that same energized enthusiasm for your career, there are other ways to do so. Coaching is an increasingly popular way to achieve this.
Although there are often negative connotations associated with the word ‘therapy,’ the two are not all that dissimilar. A good coach can listen neutrally to you, help assess your current situation and make positive changes in your life.

For those who feel like they are in a career lull, bored of the same everyday routine, a new challenge could be what awaits you – and don’t worry, even those with the most fulfilling careers can feel like this occasionally.

Here are 3 key areas that coaching can help you with, whilst helping you get out of that rut and enjoy working again:

1. Helps to build confidence.
If you have been in one position or industry for a long time, the thought of leaving that familiarity can be very daunting. Sometimes it can feel more secure to stay in your accustomed bubble. But, more often than not, all you need is a confidence boost to make the changes that you want in your career.  A coach can offer the encouragement required to believe in yourself- whether this is through interview techniques for a new position or the courage to speak with your superior and re-negotiate your current contract.

2. Become objective about yourself.
A coach can offer objectivity. It’s difficult to accurately review ourselves. Similarly, when a partner, friend or family member offers advice or an opinion, it is often biased in the hope of being supportive. But, to break old habits you will need tough love. Acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses can give you a new sense of direction, and an outsider is the best way to achieve this.
Not only can this new awareness help you differentiate between your desire for a new routine or a new lifestyle altogether, but it can mean you have the opportunity to make effective alterations to inject more happiness into your daily humdrum activities. We spend the majority of our days in the workplace so you may as well make the most of it.

3. Set achievable goals.
Experience with business clients gives coaches the knowledge to know what goals are feasible within a set time frame. Aiming to ‘turn your life around’ in a fortnight is not only unrealistic, but can leave you feeling deflated when it doesn’t happen – despite being impracticable in the first place.  Emotions can often overwhelm us and trigger impulsive decision but having an objective person for support can ensure that you don’t throw in the towel without a proper plan.

When you’re in a rut in your career, it’s always a good idea to evaluate your current situation, look at where you want to be, and what you’re capable of. Then it’s just about receiving the push to get it done. This is what coaching is ideal for. The renowned philosopher Albert Schweitzer famously said: “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

Finding what you love is half the battle. Learning how to implement it is the other. In this sense, life coaching may not be imperative for your career, but just like a sunny day, although it might not always be needed, it sure makes a different when it’s there.

Bev James is the managing director of The Coaching Academy who trains and mentors life coaches across the UK. Bev enjoys her life as a successful serial entrepreneur, coach, and business mentor.”

Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Ari Helminen

Seven Mistakes to Avoid when Choosing Life Insurance

question mark

question mark


Choosing life insurance can be an onerous task. It doesn’t just make you think about all the bad things that could happen to you and your family, it makes you think about it in detail. On top of that, you then have to decide what type of insurance you need, what level of cover is best, and which insurance provider to go for.

It can be enough to put you off altogether. But, try not to be discouraged. Here are a few guidelines on what not to do. After all, once you know what not to do, the rest should fall into place!

Don’t settle

As we said, it can be easy to get discouraged when you are looking for life insurance. There are so many options, so many insurance providers and so many insurance products. Wading through them can seem like a huge task. However, it’s never a good idea to settle. Don’t just go for the first half-decent option, just so you can stop looking. Taking some extra time should mean you get life insurance that actually suits you – and at a better price. If you’re hung up on where to start, you can begin with a quote from mainstream providers.

Don’t be uninformed

Knowledge is power, as they say. Knowledge is also the key to finding the best life insurance. Do some research to find out what type of life insurance products are out there, and try to find out more about each insurer. This should help you to find a product that suits you, any extras that need to be added on, with an insurer that is professional and offers the kind of service that benefits you.

Don’t be pushed

Once you know what you want, you will also know what you don’t want. While some insurers may try to convince you to buy certain products or extras, it may be the case that you don’t actually need them. As long as you know what you need, you won’t waste money on anything you don’t need.

Don’t be put off by prices

When you find out the price of the policy you’re interested in, there can be a certain amount of ‘sticker shock’. Try not to be put off by prices. As long as you take the time to find out what level of cover you need, as well as what’s on offer, then you know you will be getting the best deal for the type of cover that suits you. And remember, life insurance offers valuable protection – it’s not really something you want to scrimp on.

Don’t let someone else fill in the forms

There is often one person in the household that deals with the finances and paperwork. However, you must make sure that you are the one who answers any questions about you, when life insurance applications and paperwork are being completed. However well you and your partner know each other, it’s still possible that incorrect information could be given. This could lead to a void policy, or a claim being denied.

Don’t undervalue non-working partners

Non-working partners and partners that work part-time are often undervalued on life insurance policies. Often, we only pay attention to the actual paychecks that come into the household, and forget about all the work that goes on around the house. However, if you think how much it would cost if an outside party was brought in to do those tasks, the costs would really add up.

Don’t just forget about it

Unfortunately, you can’t just forget about your policy once you have purchased it. It’s more than likely that your life insurance will need to be updated over the years. Try to have a look over your policy every year or so, or when there is a life-changing event in your family. Update your policy as required, to be sure you are still covered for any lifestyle changes.

Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Bilal Kamoon

the only real sources of passive income

lazy cat

lazy cat

Years ago when I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad, the idea of passive income lit my brain on fire. I had never thought of making money for nothing.  I assumed that money was achieved only due to the hard-pressed exchange of time for money.  Kiyosaki, the author of RDPD, assured us that passive income was the key to wealth.

Where is the passive income?

I plunged into research. I identified rental income, investment income and even creating original content as “passive income.”  I had visions of checks flowing in, one after the other, landing in a pile on my desk.  But after time, I realized that the pursuit of passive income was nearly impossible through these routes.  How can you really make passive income?  Inquiring minds want to know.  These are the top 8 “real” ways to make passive income, but even they have a catch – all but the last one.
1.  Pick up spare change off the ground. You do have to bend over, but you probably do that at work every day, so you’ll at least be getting something out of this transaction.

2.  Marry someone rich. You’ll have to do some work, true, but if you aim high enough we’re talking about a huge return on investment here.

3.  Hook up with someone rich and desperate enough to pay to keep you around – the classic “sugar daddy/momma” scenario.   Granted, you may have to do some (unpleasant) work here… but I’ve seen this work out where surprisingly little effort is expected in return.

4.  Have someone else do the work for you; a nice trick if you can manage it.  Ask your buddy the web designer to create a website for you – for free.  Why would he do it?  The exposure?  The joy of being taken advantage of?  Don’t worry – you’re getting passive income!  This makes up about 90% of the “advertising” inquiries most bloggers get:  “hey, we’ve got a new service that’s just like only shinier!  Please write a post/link to us/give us free advertising because it’s great news for your readers!”

5.  Win an office lottery pool. OK, you risked a few dollars, but someone else went to the bodega, bought the ticket and checked the results.  You didn’t put much sweat into your share of the Mega Millions, did you?

6.  Gamble. There is, of course, a potential downside here.  But if sitting around sipping free martinis while playing a game and winning (that being the key component) isn’t as close to passive income as possible, I don’t know what is.

7.  Invest in dividend-paying stocks. This point is a cheat.  You have to earn the money that you use to buy the stock.  On the other hand, everything that happens after you buy it is gravy.  That income becomes close to truly passive – so the trick is to use windfalls (an economic stimulus check, for example) to invest in dividend-paying stocks.

8.  Be born rich. Yes, you have to be nice enough to great-aunt Milfred to avoid getting cut out of your trust fund, but let’s face it:  this is as close to passive income as you’ll see in this life.  It’s worked like gangbusters for many of our politicians.

Don’t think you’ll get rich without working for it.  Everything you can generate wealth from takes effort.  Writing a book is hard work.  It may create a wealthstream for years to come, but that’s what you should be aiming for:  wealthstreams, not passive income.  Don’t imagine that there’s a magical key to wealth that doesn’t involve either hard ongoing work or a good bit of upfront work.

Photo LicenseAttribution Some rights reserved by Public Domain Photos

money from the sky


In 1986 I was living in (then) West Germany as an exchange student. I was lucky enough to get a visa to visit (then) communist East Berlin with my German and American classmates. Exchange rules were very strict, and the amount of money (and type of currency) you were allowed to change were very tightly controlled. I changed a fair amount of Deutschmarks, not knowing how much I would need for a day trip. We had to return to West Berlin each night – presumably for security or because 16-year olds posed a threat to the regime.

mayakovsky moscow

So after paying the equivalent of $1.50 for a massive lunch and buying the few souvenirs we could find (I never did locate any good t-shirts with the logo “I went to a Warsaw Pact country and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”) I was left with a fair pile of change. Because of the currency exchange rules, it couldn’t be changed BACK into West German currency, so as we boarded the train our chaperone came around and told us we’d better not be holding any currency, because we’d get in trouble with the border guards. Since I had already endured one frightening yell-down from the East German guards while crossing back into West Berlin because of my (apparently banned) souvenirs, I decided to comply.

We hurriedly bought Fanta and assorted snacks but still had some change left. We then noticed that there was a throng of people shouting and gesturing at us on the end of the platform, yelling at the train. We noticed a shower of glittering coins flying out of the windows ahead of us. Assuming this was the thing to do, we chucked our coins out the window, too.

This was the first intimation I had, despite East Berlin’s immaculate, clean and very pleasant appearance that communism’s rosy presentation of economic stability might be a false front. Today, it also gives me pause when I reflect on the fate of one of the world’s mightiest, and shortest-lived, empires.

When I first returned from Russia I was invited to give a lecture on the Russian economy at a local university. At the time I was considered somewhat of an “expert” (please take careful note of the quotation marks) on the accounting theory surrounding foreign currency translation – particularly regarding the ruble – and the difficulty in making a true “translation” of Russian accounting information into Western accounting standards. For this class of beginning accounting students, I started with an anecdote: imagine if you walked into your local McDonald’s today and bought a Big Mac for $3. Your salary might be, say, $40,000 per year.

Now imagine you walk into that local McDonald’s a year later and a Big Mac now costs $200, but your company upped your salary to $2.6 million per year to keep pace with hyperinflation. You can still manage a Big Mac. Two months later your salary is still $2.6 million – the company’s not going to readjust monthly, only annually – but hyperinflation continues apace. Now a Big Mac costs $25,000. It has become an impossible luxury, almost 1% of your gross salary. That’s as if it cost $400 when you were making $40,000 per year. And your savings? Your lifetime savings of $2 million are now barely enough to pay for 80 Big Macs.

Does that sound ridiculous? Yes, but that’s exactly what happened in Russia in the early 90s. Prices changed daily, even hourly. Savings effectively disappeared. With private ownership of land impossible, all net worth other than STUFF disappeared. A good TV was a better investment than a savings account. A freezer could preserve more value than a bank. Banks were offering 100% interest rates or more and it wasn’t a good deal.

That can never happen in America, could it? Chances are it won’t. But if you think about it, the conditions that created hyperinflation are possible in the US. Don’t believe me? Imagine another oil embargo. How much will your food cost if the trucks that deliver it have to pay $12 per gallon for gas? What if a terrorist attack in a US port causes the US borders to be closed? Many of the fruits and vegetables in your local supermarket this time of year are imported from Latin or South America. How much will a tomato cost if the borders close? What happens if major institutions like Citigroup start collapsing? Do you think it’s impossible for the US to attack Mexico to gain access to its oil? I know you are picturing me wearing a tin foil hat, but bear with me.

This is the worst possible case. For the record, I don’t believe it will happen. But then I remember my friends in Russia, who grew up during the last years of the Soviet Union. When they were children the twin cancers of a bloated, inefficient and incompetent central government and a disastrous, expensive foreign war were eating away at the core of their nation. The Soviet Union was a country so powerful in the late 1960s that the United States felt it had to fight wars all over the globe, not to stop but just to slow its spread. The “evil empire” had gone from a backwards agrarian dictatorship to the second-most advanced military and technological power in human history in two generations; there was no reason for the average Soviet citizen to doubt that rate of advancement could last forever. They heard it on the news – calming words from the central government that it could avert a depression. The total collapse of their country in less than a decade caught every single person in the former Soviet Union (and in the world) by surprise. I don’t think even the most optimistic anti-Communist hoped for this in their fevered dreams. Today only the most rabid anti-American would hope for a collapse of the world’s largest economy, but now I think it is imaginable. I hope history will not repeat itself, but that hope has been futile since history began.

When I think of my friends in Russia and their hoarding of US dollars under mattresses and their almost complete and utter distrust of every single financial institution, I also remember that odd sensation in East Berlin in 1986. I remember throwing money out of the window, almost seeing it melt into nothing as it flew through the air. I hope I never see that again, but I particularly hope I never see it in my own country.

photo credit by me)

how companies miss the big picture


Years ago I was at a conference in Indonesia, of all places. I had dragged myself down there from Moscow, suffering (as I would later find out) from pneumonia.  The semi-tropical climate was nice, and I felt much better – but I was still suffering.  I knew that the 24+ hour return flight (Surabaya-Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur-Frankfurt) would be excruciating in my condition.  Traveling on Lufthansa on the way to the conference I had been placed in the smoking section, which was – as you can imagine – tortuous for someone suffering from a lung ailment.   I dreaded the return flight, and called the partner I was reporting to at my firm to prostrate myself via an international phone connection.

“Please let me upgrade to business class,” I asked.  “I am very sick and I’m headed to the doctor the second I get back.”

“It’s not in policy,” he responded.  I was a mere manager, and managers traveled coach, and didn’t get to complain when they were shoved in seat 76B of the smoking section.  “Take Monday off when you get back.  You’ll be fine.”

Of course I was tortured on the return trip by the wafting smoke throughout the plane. My pneumonia tripped and tra-la-la’d into double pneumonia and I passed out at work before being told by my doctor that I was in serious, serious health trouble.  The end result?  I packed it in, quit the firm and left Moscow.

I had an extremely good relationship with one of the clients of the firm; this client happened to be one of the biggest and most prestigious clients the firm had. They fired the firm soon after I left (not solely because of me, of course, but I’m sure it didn’t help). Other than that, of course, life continued on for both me and the firm.

Companies need to realize that it’s not always just about the “big things” like salary and titles. Little perks can make a big difference, and they aren’t always just perks. It doesn’t even have to be something like upgrading a sick business traveler from coach class. It can be small things like letting employees take time off for doctor’s appointments, or letting people come in a hour later and leave an hour later if that suits their lifestyle better. I think in today’s business world, the idea is that you can treat people like dogs (or worse than dogs – dogs have gourmet organic food these days). You can charge airlines passengers for tap water. And in my opinion soon you’ll see the final “perks” start to go as more and more companies decide that employees have built-in obsolescence: companies should simply squeeze employees as hard as they can for 2 or 3 years before they move on.

Treating people (employees OR customers) like this won’t be sustainable. The human spirit can only take so much abuse. People get tired of feeling like their company’s only recognition of them as human is the biweekly paycheck. Small things don’t cost companies much in comparison to the constant turnover of key employees (or loss of customers). Somehow it all became about the bottom line, but maximizing the bottom line is only going to go so far.

Photo Some rights reserved by Vox Efx

what is professional indemnity insurance?

Whether it is car, house, pet, possessions or life insurance, we all have insurance in the hope that we will never have to use it. However, this does not make insurance generally any less important to have.

Professional indemnity insurance is often a much forgotten insurance when it comes to business; however if you are a sole trader or in a partnership, you won’t be afforded the same protection as that of a limited company or limited partnership. If you are negligent or even make an innocent mistake which causes financial loss to a client/customer, then it is not just your business which will have to pay out for legal fees and compensation, but also your home if your business has insufficient assets to meet the costs. Professional indemnity insurance is absolutely crucial if you are a sole trader, or in a partnership where you are offering advice or other services whereby people rely on you for accurate information and a 100% accurate service.

In the present day and age of the ‘claim culture,’ you can almost guarantee that no matter how well you get on with your customers or clients, if you have not given them precisely what was promised, then you are highly likely to face a claim.

It is easy to go along with the day-to-day business matters and take a ‘cross that bridge when we come to it approach’, but seriously and honestly consider the following before you take this laid-back approach; how will you pay for legal costs in defending a claim made against you? How will you pay compensation for loss suffered by your client? How much money do you have set aside for dealing with potential claims? What would you do if your business has insufficient realisable assets to cover the financial costs?

If you are worried about adding another expense to your business with professional indemnity premiums, then think seriously about whether you should risk carrying on in business until you can afford to have such insurance. It is one thing risking your business, but quite another to risk your home and livelihood as well. If you are a sole trader, freelancer offering a service or in a partnership, you cannot really afford not to have professional indemnity insurance.