I have been in business since 1984 and in those many years, which ages me, I have owed several businesses at the same time. And looking back at how I handled the stress I have applied during this pandemic of a virus. So, what I am about to write and share with you is based on my own experience. The mental stress that we all have gone through has been heavy on our shoulders, not knowing what will happen, being under lockdown and shutting down businesses that created a panic and is creating even greater mental stress.
Being on the brink of losing everything that one has built is a cause created by government, not the virus. Mismanagement of states and local governments has created a situation where they are forcing businesses to close, with no help from the government to allow them to survive. The mental stress is huge for small business owners.
But the question is how are we dealing with it?
At one point in time I was handling several businesses at the same time. I had a large tax and business consulting practice in Los Angeles, a nursing review school in the Philippines, and a healthcare staffing firm in Los Angeles. To be honest I was juggling too many things at one time and I had to find a way to call my mind. So, what did I do?
First, I found someone I could talk to. My business partner at the time was busy with his clients, he was not available to talk to. So, I found a person who had been in business for way longer than me to talk to. He had been through it all before. I would talk with him about once a week for about an hour and I was given the experience and time of a person who had gone through everything I was going through. During this pandemic find a person you can talk to. It is vital for you to be able to talk with an individual, get things off your chest. Get some fresh ideas. We are social creatures, and we need that time with other humans to talk. Find a mentor, advisor, priest, member of the clergy, a friend, a business owner you can talk to. But find a voice so you can have a voice during a tough time.
Second, I decided to get up and do something different. Travel at that time was an outlet, mini vacations of one or two days just to put the phone down and get in the car and go. You would be surprised that my drives from Los Angeles to San Francisco up the coastline on the 101 was the best therapy ever. In the lockdown period we experienced I could not use the mini vacation therapy, so I decided to do something different. I learned how to cook and bake. I studied every single YouTube video I could watch on how to cook. That one hour a day that I spent in the kitchen turned off the news, the work, the stress, and I cooked. I found an outlet and it worked. I had the best lockdown ever and I handled the unknowns by focusing on what I needed to do and took the time off to get a breath of fresh stimulus (food and bread).
Third, I got involved in groups. You would be surprised at how many groups are out there on the world wide web taking on various issues in business. I found groups that were doing things in podcasting, writing, using social media for business. I heard their stories and we talked about various things to continue the focus on new things for our businesses. During the lockdown I wrote two books and got them on Amazon. I began working on my podcasts and its distribution.
Fourth, the most rewarding thing that I did during the pandemic and lockdowns worldwide was to talk to those hurting and confused. I found out that many overseas foreign workers that were working in Dubai were in real trouble. They needed someone to talk to. Nurses and healthcare staff were working in medical facilities that provided housing for them; however, they did not think how that affected the health safety of the staff all living together. They were coming into contact with patients that had tested positive for Corvid, but no one told the staff. Then the staff who had just worked with the infected staff would go home to their housing unit, an apartment with about four people in it, and would bring the infection into the apartment. This created a panic because they did not know which one of their housemates had been exposed. I worked with the healthcare staff and came up with a housing protocol that started outside the door of the apartment and into the apartment so that it would limit the contamination. I took their phone calls at night, heard their fears. Many had lost their salaries; they were working full time, but their pay was cut in half. Yet they were being exposed on a daily basis, so their fears and frustrations were running high. Several days I offered a service where they could zoom into me and we would talk for 30 minutes. They were provided an outlet to let all their stress and frustrations out.
So these four things I did reduced my stress because I kept myself busy doing new things in life that I had never done before. The same practice I had used when running so many businesses, learning new things, talking to professionals in business, joining different groups, and trying to outlets, reduced my stress in my business history and worked during this pandemic. The busier I made myself the more involved I became; my business stress was reduced. The business stress was there but I looked at it with a fresh mind and approach.
Everyone in business has to go through a crisis at some point in their business lives. Why? Because it tells us how well you will do in handling a business Now some of you have lost your businesses, but you can rebuild. Don't ever give up on your business ideas, keep going. You learned from the crisis and now you know what you have to do to survive the next one, and there will be a next one. I have been through a business crisis where I thought it would never end. Just remember, a crisis is just and event and all events end.
I hope that this helps some of you still dealing with the business stress. It worked for me, but we are all different. But the most important aspect is to find an outlet to talk to other people. Just that one simple act can get you through anything. As I have said before, we are these humans that need other humans. Let me know if you have any questions, you can text me at my office at 818.252.5682
Mental health is a growing issues in small businesses, but it can be managed by everyone working together. If you need to talk - let me know.
Let us start 2021 with a new mental picture of what we can do to do great things in our business and personal lives. Happy New Year!
For the last half, a year I have been preaching to you on my podcast that it is important to plan. We are about at the close of the year 2020 and I bet a lot of you have done no planning for your new year. Am I right?
In my podcasts I have told you how much I believe in journals and keeping one. 2021 is about here so what do you need to do in your journals? Let talk about it.
Call Your Tax Practitioner, listen there may be a few more things that you can do to reduce your tax liability, but you need to talk to your tax advisor. You do not have much more time here. Also, if you are a small business there have been tax changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic that may help you. Call your tax practitioner today. Over the course of 2020 I kept telling you on my podcast sit down with your tax advisor over the course of the year, or when there are changes in your tax status (Marriage, divorce, separation, etc.) Get it done.
Get a journal - Keep a journal, when you write down your finances and goals for the new year you will be able to plan better, it become personal. You take responsibility. You must look at it every day in your decision-making process. Get a journal, they are at every office supply store, Cary it with you, write down conversations, what was said in meetings or with family. Get a journal! Plan daily.
Create a budget, list all your projected income, all your living expenses (Including debt) and then minus your expenses against your income and see what you have left over. This will allow you to see what cash is available at the end of each month that you can either pay down your debt or save (retirement account or other venue). All of us are required to be good stewards of our financial affairs. If not, we are just fools. If you would like to have an excel version of a budget, I have made one for you - BUDGET
Wills and Trusts, Medical Directives, I was talking to a very long-time friend who are in their 60's. I asked them both if they had put together a will, trust, and medical directives? The answer, in their 60's was NO. In life death can happen at any time. Now I know you do not like to think about death, hear about death, or experience death. But it must be talked about and planned for. If you do not have a will, trust, or medical directive yet - get it done. Do it in the first quarter of 2021. No matter what age that you may be, get your life and financial affairs in order. Sit down with an attorney and get this done.
2021, As of this time none of us know what Biden will do as President about business and individual tax policies. All that he has said is that he will raise taxes. Our planning must be conservative in how we spend our money in 2021. Conservative spending and management are vital for 2021, no question about it. If you look at the small business confidence it has dropped 2% since November. That gives us a slight indication that even businesses are going to operate conservatively. The bigger corporations and investment hedge funds are moving their money and capital offshore to friendlier tax countries with lower tax rates. It happened with Obama and is now happening with Biden because we just do not know what is going to happen. When you do not know businesses go to friendlier places. Under the Obama administration businesses were put on pause because of the uncertainty. We just did not know. Easy decision - spend and act conservative in our financial affairs.
If you have any questions or would like to set up a 60-minute business advisory session please go to my online appointment center at: https://calendly.com/mlodge/60-minute-business-consultation
Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Nationally Certified Professional Mediator - www.lodge-co.com
All of us are using social media in some form or fashion. We use it to talk to our friends and relatives, and some of us are using it for our business and even for our political agendas. Political agendas have taken over all forms. In fact, social media has now started to censor people content and sometimes shutting off accounts because of political content. It has become a ruthless game by the social media giants and the freedom of speech, to outright lies and misinformation to support various political agendas.
In November of 2020 millions turned off Facebook and Twitter because of their censorship. A lot of people jumped over to Parler and MeWe and their membership grew by leaps and bounds. To be honest with you I hate censorship. The only words that should be eliminated are those of hate I was one that jumped from Twitter to Parler and it has been an interesting experience. It seems that once people have their freedom of speech, they think they can put out any content that is not true, rumors, or pure nonsense. This happened on Twitter also from all sides of left and right. However, on Parler it is mostly right leaning conservatives or far far right individuals. Even the known journalists have joined Parler and they are spouting off stuff with no backup or confirmation.
Good example, one fox news host made a statement that Chief Justice Roberts had made a statement to another judge that he would never allow President Trump to be President. However, the Fox host had no backup, proof, or statement from the person who heard the statement or their name, to back up what they wrote as their content on their page. I challenged the Fox person on where it came from - no response. There seems to be this feeling that once you have free speech it gives you the license to put out bad untruthful content.
I will defend free speech or anyone, no matter what you think politically, however if you are going to put out nonsense, I am going to challenge you on your content. In fact, that is part of free speech - to be challenged on the facts and truths of your content. If you have a challenge as evil, then you probably should not be on social media because everyone has the right to challenge the content you are putting out there. Check and balance is part of free speech. The social media giants should not be screening out content (unless pure hate), that is our jobs as people reading this stuff. Challenge the content if you feel it is not factual. It does not mean you have to be a bully or and ass, just challenge the content in an ethical way.
All of us must be ethical in our content and in our responses to content. There is always the question of what is right and wrong. If it is wrong - challenge it. Question it. Put the writer of the content on notice that you feel their content is misleading or untruthful, ask for facts. And when we write our content, we have got to be more thoughtful and fact checking of our own work. If you cannot prove what you are saying - do not say it. Have proof for everything.
We are responsible for our content to make sure it is honest, and we must challenge content that we feel is not honest. We can improve social media and hold people accountable for their content. The same goes for holding all media outlets responsible for their content and reporting. The age of the un-named source is over with. Once you hear the reporter is using an un-named source, they are probably spreading their own political agenda and now real news reporting. Hold them accountable.
2021 is going to be the start of a new type of content monitoring because it has to be you and me to challenge the content on social media and the mainstream media. Let us be honest in our content and hold others to be honest in their content.
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Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Nationally Certified Professional Mediator - www.lodge-co.com
Throughout this week I am writing and podcasting a series on ethics because it is time. All around us we see unethical behavior through many different venues. Media, politics, international issues, it is pounding on us through so many sources every day. Even though we see this unethical behavior it does not give us a license to act and behave unethically. It is our responsibility to be ethical.
Throughout my business life I have had people act unethical and have had to deal with unethical behavior. In our lives we have good periods of time that we live happily and then there are times when an ethical crisis blows everything out of the water. When someone creates a crisis, nothing to do with your professional work, the crises hurt everyone surrounding that individual. If you have never lived through a crisis you will get your turn. Be prepared for an ethical crisis, everyone must live through at least one. When a crisis involves unethical behavior, that unethical act gets associated with you, even though you did nothing wrong. People will point fingers, make assumptions, get angry and blame you, and the list goes on. But, if you are ethically sound, you will make it through anything. Ethics is a practice and not just a belief. You must work at it every single day of your life in all that you do.
We do not get a license to be unethical just because we see unethical people and governments being unethical. We must be ethically always thinking. The thought process is involved in every decision process we undertake, and it is a hard job to do. The temptations become too great that we yield and switch on unethical behavior. We make the wrong choices to often.
I love the quote from Henry Cabot Lodge, "It is never right to compromise with dishonesty". He is right on the money. Never compromise your ethics with unethical behavior, or those with unethical behavior. You keep yourself accountable for your own ethically thinking process and you challenge those that push an unethical agenda to benefit themselves.
Ethically Thinking, It's Not That Hard
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Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Nationally Certified Professional Mediator and Business Advisor - www.lodge-co.com
A lot of times when I am meeting people the question is always asked, "What do you do?" I tell them I am a mediator and they always respond; oh, you are a massage person. No, I am a mediator, I resolve disputes before they end up in court. Oh, I see. But a lot of people do know what a mediator is. But for the record let us go over it again.
A good definition of a Mediator is a person who attempts to make people involved in a conflict, dispute, come to an agreement. A mediator is the go-between. A third party not connected to the dispute but who can guide the two conflicting parties to a fair agreement.
There are many individuals who are attorneys that become mediators. But there are a lot of other professions that can and are mediators. Accountants, psychologists, businesspeople, financial people, marriage professionals, and the list go on. The regulations on mediation does not allow an attorney to be an attorney, they cannot guide you on the law or give you a legal opinion. They are not representing you in mediation. To practice law in mediation is malpractice. No one can give legal advice in mediation. If you want a legal opinion you need to talk to your attorney. Mediation is not the practice of law; it is the art of getting parties in a dispute to negotiate and resolve the issues on the table. It is the process of you telling your story of a dispute and then listening to the other sides story. Coming to the table with options and listening to options.
What is a conflict? It is a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one. A conflict in business or personal life. A dispute can be a little more hostile, a disagreement, argument, debate that can get heated and needs to be resolved. This can involve business relationships and contracts, vendor disagreements, partner issues, workplace conflicts, divorce, parenting plans for their children, and the list goes on. I have even done pet disputes when people are divorcing.
What types of mediation can be done? Many.
The best mediator is one who has some experience in the area that needs to be mediated. If it is a business dispute find a mediator that has a solid background in mediation. If the mediator has the experience in business, it is easy to grasp onto the issue and guide the parties to a resolution. That was as an example. But a good mediator should be able to mediate just about every subject matter of conflict, but it is based on experience. Interview the mediator. Do you due diligence.
In business there are many issues that needs to be resolved. The costliest is employment conflicts. Between employees, management, and partners. Conflict between two people can affect many in the department or company. Payroll doubles because people are not performing to the best of their ability because of a conflict between people. Just two people in conflict can affect many people. If you own a business or a manager in one, resolve workplace conflict quickly, or it will eat up time and money. Waste not, want not, so you mediate quickly.
Remember this fact. Mediation is a confidential process. Everything that you say to the mediator is confidential. The mediator only presents to the other party in the dispute what you give permission to be said. However, once you file for a legal action in the courts, that dispute is public record from the beginning to the end. Anyone can read what your conflict was and read the story line of the legal action through the documents filed with the court. TMZ have people that go through the new court records to see who is filing for divorce or suing each other. That is how they know with high profile clients file for divorce or in legal hot water by scanning the court documents and out it goes as press on personal matters before the court. Mediation is confidential and nothing gets said or publicized. Confidentiality is especially important in all issues.
If you have any question on mediation or need mediation, send me a text to 818.252.5682 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Michael Lodge, NCPM, CRTP - Nationally Certified Professional Mediator - Business Advisory - www.lodge-co.com
Today is December 1, 2020 and if you have not started to think about how you are going to end the year and start planning for the next year - 2021 - you are behind schedule. Business planning is constant and needs to be done daily. So, let us keep it simple for the small business. With everything going on, new President (maybe) and with COVID-19 creating a lockdown on businesses, we have to look at our business lives differently.
A lot of us were shut down, locked down, by government for too long. In fact, we should have never been put on lock down. So, the priority we must put in our mindset and business management is never let government lock us down again. Even to this day, those of you in states with crazy governors who are trying to lock you down again, do not let them, fight back. 60% of small businesses went out of business in this past lockdown across the country. So as businesses, we must ban together and fight back - lockdowns kill off too many businesses. Number one rule - no more lockdown!
It is now the end of 2020 and I would suggest that all of you start looking at your tax situation. Are you caught up on federal and state payroll taxes? Do you need to sit with your tax practitioner and make sure that you have paid enough taxes throughout the year or do you need to pay some in the last quarter, in December to cover taxes. Or have you had such a loss and you need to get some advice from your tax practitioner on how to handle the loss on your final financial statements and that is carried over to your tax return. Know the rules if there is an ability for any loss carryovers through your state or federal business taxes. Know what your financials are going to say for the year end of 2020, and then be prepared to tell the story as to why you are in the spot where you are now.
If you are or are shutting down your business, there are several things that you must do. Make sure you have successfully dissolved your business entity within the state you are operating in. Make sure all your taxes have been paid in full or worked out a payment plan with the state and federal. When you go to prepare your tax return make sure you tell your tax practitioner that this will be your final tax return for the company and that you have dissolved the business with your Secretary of State and provide him/her with the dissolution papers from the Secretary of State. I know this is hard to do but please stay in compliance so that more interest and penalties stop. If you are a sole proprietorship, make sure you tell your tax practitioner that this will be your last year filing a schedule C and if there is any item being depreciated how will you handle that on your personal tax return. Even though you are closing the business it is important to remain in compliance on how to shut down a business.
2021 needs planning. Your strategy on how to run your business must change. Plan for the worse and begin making the correct changes in staffing and reducing costs. However, I suspect that all small business has had to do that already because of the lockdown hit on businesses. You are already probably running mean and lean already. However, 2021 needs some decision making to make sure you make it through the new year. Here is my piece of advice - for the next four years, run your business as conservative as possible. It is political. If the United States Senate is controlled by the Democrats because the Republicans lost the senate from the runoff in Georgia and the loss of two Republican Senators, we have a tax issue. In 2025 all the tax incentives for personal and small business will expire. But if the Democrats take over the Senate those tax breaks will disappear fast because now Biden can push through the tax increases, he said he would do sooner. He will have control over the Congress and the Senate, and he can ram new taxes through the system and take away the Trump tax incentives. Yes, sometimes, a lot of times, what happens in Washington D.C. affects our businesses. As I have said, run your businesses conservative for the next four years as we sit in limbo waiting to see what will happen through the new administration. Be a financial conservative.
Every business, right now in the month of December 2020 should be taking out their journals and beginning putting your business strategy on paper, by hand. Explore what you can do to increase sales and at the same time keep operating costs level and lowering them. Talk to your people around you, study the market for your industry, but come up with some new ideas on how to grow your sales. A lot of people tell me that their expenses keep going up, but when we look at their financials the truth is that their income has dropped. So, the question should always be, how, what do I do to increase the sales. Also remember when you increase your sales it does not mean you have more money to spend. You should be building a cash contingency fund for emergencies. if there is a dip in the economy (suspected to be) plan for it so you have cash available for that type of emergency. Or if a machine breaks down you have the cash to repair it. Build up a cash emergency fund for the "Just in Case" issues that may pop up.
Start looking at the staff you have and who adds value to the business. And if you have someone that needs help can you mentor that individual to become better at their job instead of having to replace him or her. When you do hire that sole question to be asked is, does this person bring value to this company. Value added employees are vital for 2021. And then ask yourself, are you adding value?
One of the biggest expenses to a company is when there is conflict in the company. Conflict is awfully expensive. Conflict creates a situation where employees do not know what to do. They are caught in the middle and then their productivity reduces or even stops. Employees are unsure who to support, they lose focus on their responsibilities because the conflict creates a division. Conflict can be awfully expensive and if you do not get the conflict resolved it can cost you greatly. Not just financially but also the respect of those that see you as their leader. If you have conflict, hire a workplace mediator to come in and help resolve the issue. If you try and mediate it there may be a problem, but a third-party mediator who is independent can help resolve these expensive conflicts. The biggest expense in any business are the staffing costs and when conflicts are evident those staffing costs double because no one is being productive. Resolve conflicts quickly.
In the next few weeks, take your journals, begin planning. Without a plan you have nothing. When you do have the plan then tell your staff of the plan, so they are walking on the same business path as you. Communication in 2021 and asking for new ideas is going to be vital for any business. No, I should say to all businesses. I love my journal; I write in it every day. I change my weekly plans all the time because things happen throughout the year. But at the beginning of the year I always have a plan on how I am going to approach the year, my goals and expectations of the business, and the employees that I need to assign to new positions because their experience level is needed. I write in my journal daily about business, my conversations with clients and employees, and I review the day of writing at the end of the day. Write daily and record your decisions daily. The point is, plan for 2021 and write it down.
If you have any questions or need to talk about business, I provide a 60-minute business advice session to businesses. It is a 60-minute virtual time we spend together talking about business issues or even taxes. Go to www.lodge-co.com and book a 60-minute session with me.
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Michael Lodge is a Nationally Certified Professional Mediator specializing in business disputes, as well as family conflicts. He has written three books and hosts an international podcast on IHeartRadio and other podcast media stations.