How Taking A Step Back Can Lead To Business Growth

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For most business owners, the saying “one step forward, two steps back” sounds miserable, but in many cases, taking a step backward can propel you forward and actually change your life for the better.

As an entrepreneur, you have responsibilities outside work. These might include providing for your family’s needs, teaching your children values and growing your relationships. It’s a lot to manage, especially when you’re bogged down fixing issues in your business or exhausted from overwork.

If your business demands so much time that it becomes the obstacle that keeps you from doing the things you’ve always said you wanted to do, it can leave you feeling defeated and depleted, no matter how “successful” you are.

Business owners who feel stuck in their business must first create systems. These systems not only benefit you and your family. They benefit the people in your business and can fuel the growth of your business like wildfire when implemented properly.

My company recently walked a client through this process. I hope following this process will be transformative for your business and life, as well. The client and his family lived a life that from the outside would seem normal. They would take a vacation once per year and go out to dinner once or twice per week.

They would spend as much time together as they could, but something was missing, causing him and his family to suffer because of it. As a business owner, you can likely relate to this story. Things are going well enough — but not great. It’s not what you envisioned your life looking or feeling like.

Our client was a reliable and diligent business owner. He showed up when he said he would. His attention to quality fed his business so he got most of his business through word of mouth. In fact, he would have to turn business away because he was too busy. So, where’s the problem?

The problem was that he was the business. He had a couple helpers working for him, but it was just one small crew. If he couldn’t schedule something on his personal calendar, it couldn’t get done. He came to us looking to outsource his accounting. It was his first step to buy time back.

Over a few calls, he opened up about how much he hated his current business situation, so I asked him, “Why don’t you do what you did with your accounting and unload more of the workload and responsibilities in other parts of your business?”

The first step is always the hardest, because oftentimes, it’s a step back. Most business owners know that if they can start delegating in more areas of their business, they will be able to do what they want. They can live a life of financial freedom and time freedom. They can create more memories with their family and take back control of their life.

After some review, I explained to our client that he would easily qualify for equipment financing with little upfront capital. This would mean he could hire another crew, doubling his ability to serve his customers.

The key to duplicating yourself is duplicating the systems and processes that allow for quality of work to remain high. For most, this is the biggest step back. You see margins drop and your time expenditure temporarily increases. It is predictably more chaotic and uncomfortable.

On the other side of that hard work, though, is a fully operating replica of your workmanship without you doing the work. For people like the client above, this means not having to turn down jobs or work overtime. You can then duplicate your craftsmanship as needed to service growing business inquiries.

To do so, there are a couple of steps you can take in your business to help ensure it stays healthy as you grow. First is ensuring you have a personal runway: Lower margins will mean less available money for you as the owner. Be ready for this with your own finances by not making any large personal purchases that will overextend you before scaling. This should be obvious but can get you into trouble if you’re expecting to be able to pay yourself more in the beginning of the scaling process.

If you’re financing equipment and hiring more crews, your monthly expenses will increase drastically. Be prepared for this by ensuring you have a full pipeline. Make sure you allocate some of your budget to ramp up your marketing, and pay attention to the number of projects you earn from word-of-mouth referrals so you can estimate how many leads you’ll get per project your first team accomplishes.

Also, ensuring you have a lead generation system in place that you can dial up or dial back is key. Not just relying on word of mouth but having an avenue of getting leads through paid ads and understanding how much those leads generally cost and how many convert to customers will also allow you to have more security in scaling. It will feel less risky and you’ll have a feeling of investing your money into your future instead of risking the future of your company trying to build it bigger.

Eventually, you will be able to fully step back and own the business instead of being owned by the business. But how? Create leaders from within your organization. Train them to take ownership of their work by incentivizing with bonuses tied to profit earned and created. Create bullet-proof standard operating procedures that allow high-quality work to be replicated on every job. Invest in your team members’ success so they’ll invest in yours.

What happened with our client? Within 18 months, he has four crews and only has to work 20 hours a week doing the creative stuff he prefers. The best part? It’s attainable for you, too, if you are willing to take the leap of stepping back to skyrocket your business growth.

Cofounder Easier Accounting & Real Business Owners. 20+ years of experience growing & running multiple businesses. Author & public speaker. Read Kale Goodman’s full executive profile here.

Source: How Taking A Step Back Can Lead To Business Growth

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Financial Freedom in Retirement Is All About Cash Flow

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If things you thought were true were actually wrong, when would you want to know? When I was a child, I recall my mother saying that drinking and driving was against the law. For many years after that, whenever I saw someone drinking a soda while driving, I assumed they were criminals. Years later, I figured out that my mother was talking about drinking alcohol while driving.

I can laugh at the absurdity of this today, but it is the perfect example of how easy it can be to carry around half-truths when you don’t know what you don’t know.

Many people go through life believing things without ever considering the possibility that those things are actually wrong. I see it every day in nearly every conversation I have with people: the misinterpretation of financial terms, the misapplication of various wealth strategies and confusion about how much risk they are actually taking.

Why does this happen? Well, the internet gives everyone instant access to unlimited amounts of information. Unfortunately, there is rarely any context, and we have a tendency as human beings to process information as true or false based on the source and a basic understanding of the topic. If Google says it, then it must be true! As a result, people end up with a false sense of confidence and a laundry list of beliefs that aren’t necessarily true.

Misconceptions come with costly consequences

Your financial future rests on your understanding of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and the consequences are real. Any misinterpretations you may have about money could potentially destroy your quality of life and reduce your chances of experiencing true financial freedom.

The biggest obstacle to unlearning something you have always thought was true is to accept the possibility of having inaccurate information. Once you do that, unlearning bad financial information is not as complicated as you may think.

The biggest misconception I see over and over again is the focus on accumulation. People tend to evaluate their progress or level of financial success based on how much money they accumulate. While having money in the bank is important, reliable cash flow should be the ultimate goal.

Think about it: You can survive without any money accumulated, but you cannot easily get by without cash flow. Cash flow can be generated in any number of ways: a paycheck from your job, a business you own or a passive-income source. Regardless of where it comes from, cash flow is like water – you simply cannot survive without it. (To see some strategies for increasing cash flow in retirement, check out my Cash Flow Guide (opens in new tab).)

How to know if your money is fulfilling its primary purpose

Money is obviously a big part of our lives, so we have a tendency to desire more of it. But how do you decide how much is enough?

What I find is that people often use arbitrary account balances and rates of return to assess how much progress they have made, but neither of these things actually indicates whether your money is fulfilling its primary purpose: income replacement, also known as cash flow.

While having money is, of course, part of the equation, it is the wrong measurement for success. A lot of people with plenty of money still struggle with not feeling financially free or confident, and that is a problem.

Achieving financial confidence starts with answering these two questions:

  • How much actual income do you have coming in right now that you don’t have to work to receive? I am talking about actual dollars being deposited into your checking account or brokerage account.
  • If you quit working tomorrow, how much money would you need to cover all of your expenses? This includes taxes, trips, lifestyle expenses, etc.

If you’re like most people, there is a gap between how much income you’re receiving and how much you need. (That is why you work, to fill that gap.) If you want to stop working, you’ll need to figure out how to close this gap with passive income.

How is financial security different from financial freedom?

So, how do you do that? Start by understanding the difference between financial security and financial freedom.

The idea of financial security cannot necessarily be defined by exact numbers or percentages and is often expressed as a feeling of safety. That’s why most people focus on reducing debt and accumulating money. They believe that spending less, paying less in interest and earning more on their investments is what will lead them to a successful retirement.

Having large sums of money brings a sense of financial security, but it does not create financial freedom. If you’re like most people, knowing creates more confidence than assuming, and a good way to know is to complete a Gap Report™. (Get your GAP Report™ here (opens in new tab).)

Security vs. independence vs. freedom

I speak with people every week who have millions of dollars saved but don’t feel financially free. They say things like, “I think I will be OK,” or “I feel OK with what I have,” but their word choices — “I think” and “I feel” — say it all: They are not confident.

In short, if you have large sums of money, but you are still working to support your income needs, worried about market returns or uncertain about the future… that is not freedom.

There is a middle ground where you have both financial security and lifestyle flexibility in the short term, which I refer to as “financial independence.” For instance, many business owners have companies or real estate that create a revenue stream. Their business runs without their full attention, allowing them flexibility to do what they want when they want, but they must still contribute at some level in order to maintain their income sources.

Rental properties are the perfect example of great cash flow machines that generate income to potentially support your lifestyle and help you achieve financial independence. It is obviously a good thing to have these assets growing and producing income, but it still takes time and effort.

You may have a pretty great life collecting rent from your tenants, but the simple fact that you must collect it is work, not to mention addressing repairs and upkeep, managing expenses and (worst of all) dealing with unhappy people.

There is nothing wrong with running a business to provide cash flow. For some people, their business is their passion, but it is difficult to achieve true financial freedom when the business income relies upon you showing up.

This is why many people who have considerable rental properties often cash out and move to sources of passive income — because they want true financial freedom.

A true source of passive income is one where you don’t have to do anything to generate it, including Social Security, pensions, annuities, private markets and royalties.

Now, we can argue about the definitions of financial security vs. independence vs. freedom, but that would be missing the point.

Passive income is the path to financial freedom

Failing to understand the differences comes with a cost. If the point is to have enough passive income to cover your cash flow needs, why would you spend thirty-plus years measuring your progress based on account balances and rates of return?

As you can see, words matter, and definitions are important. These conflicting ideas could be why so many people think that they are on the path toward achieving freedom but never seem to reach it. They fall short of the goal because they don’t truly understand what is needed to have financial freedom and are steadfast on accumulating assets.

To have financial freedom, you have to have passive income. If you have to have passive income, then focus on building reliable income sources. It is that simple.

Source: Financial Freedom in Retirement Is All About Cash Flow | Kiplinger

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Clearview AI Ordered To Delete All Facial Recognition Data Belonging To Australians

Controversial facial recognition firm Clearview AI has been ordered to destroy all images and facial templates belonging to individuals living in Australia by the country’s national privacy regulator.

Clearview, which claims to have scraped 10 billion images of people from social media sites in order to identify them in other photos, sells its technology to law enforcement agencies. It was trialled by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) between October 2019 and March 2020.

Now, following an investigation, Australia privacy regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), has found that the company breached citizens’ privacy. “The covert collection of this kind of sensitive information is unreasonably intrusive and unfair,” said OAIC privacy commissioner Angelene Falk in a press statement. “It carries significant risk of harm to individuals, including vulnerable groups such as children and victims of crime, whose images can be searched on Clearview AI’s database.”

Said Falk: “When Australians use social media or professional networking sites, they don’t expect their facial images to be collected without their consent by a commercial entity to create biometric templates for completely unrelated identification purposes. The indiscriminate scraping of people’s facial images, only a fraction of whom would ever be connected with law enforcement investigations, may adversely impact the personal freedoms of all Australians who perceive themselves to be under surveillance.”

The investigation into Clearview’s practices by the OAIC was carried out in conjunction with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). However, the ICO has yet to make a decision about the legality of Clearview’s work in the UK. The agency says it is “considering its next steps and any formal regulatory action that may be appropriate under the UK data protection laws.”

As reported by The Guardian, Clearview itself intends to appeal the decision. “Clearview AI operates legitimately according to the laws of its places of business,” Mark Love, a lawyer for the firm BAL Lawyers representing Clearview, told the publication. “Not only has the commissioner’s decision missed the mark on the manner of Clearview AI’s manner of operation, the commissioner lacks jurisdiction.”

Clearview argues that the images it collected were publicly available, so no breach of privacy occurred, and that they were published in the US, so Australian law does not apply.

Around the world, though, there is growing discontent with the spread of facial recognition systems, which threaten to eliminate anonymity in public spaces. Yesterday, Facebook parent company Meta announced it was shutting down the social platform’s facial recognition feature and deleting the facial templates it created for the system. The company cited “growing concerns about the use of this technology as a whole.” Meta also recently paid a $650 million settlement after the tech was found to have breached privacy laws in Illinois in the US.

Source: Clearview AI ordered to delete all facial recognition data belonging to Australians – The Verge

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New SEC Boss Wants More Crypto Oversight to Protect Investors

It’s become a parlor game in Washington, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley to figure out where U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Gary Gensler stands on cryptocurrencies. Industry lobbyists tune in when he testifies before Congress. Lawyers parse his speeches. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. wealth advisers recently boasted in a research report about looking for clues in 29 hours of the Blockchain and Money course he developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

That’s an arduous but perhaps not novel undertaking, since videos of the classes have garnered millions of views online, something that amazes even Gensler. In his first extensive interview about the digital money craze, Gensler signaled that his deep interest in the subject doesn’t mean he’s simpatico with the hands-off oversight approach that many enthusiasts would like to see.

Policymakers have struggled with how to respond to the mostly unregulated $1.6 trillion market, which has seen explosive growth and wild price swings. Gensler is contemplating a robust oversight regime, centered on establishing safeguards for the millions of investors who’ve been stocking their portfolios with tokens. “While I’m neutral on the technology, even intrigued—I spent three years teaching it, leaning into it—I’m not neutral about investor protection,” says Gensler, who on Tuesday will give a speech about crypto at the Aspen Security Forum.

“If somebody wants to speculate, that’s their choice, but we have a role as a nation to protect those investors against fraud.” Gensler has asked Congress to pass a law that could give the agency the legal authority to monitor crypto exchanges, but he says the SEC’s powers are already broad. There’s been much discussion over the years about which kinds of digital assets fall under the SEC’s purview.

Some such as Bitcoin that act like currencies are considered commodities, not securities. But there are thousands of other coins, and Gensler believes most are unregistered securities that must comply with SEC rules. Broadly he noted that technology has sparked economic progress throughout human history, and he sees a similar boost from digital assets. That may only come, however, with strong and thoughtful regulation.

As an analogy, he says the automobile industry didn’t fully take off until governments laid out driving rules. Speed limits and traffic lights provided public safety but also helped cars become mainstream. “It’s only with bringing things inside—and sort of clearly within our public policy goals—that a technology has a chance of broader adoption,” he says.

Hester Peirce, a Republican commissioner on the SEC known for her advocacy of light-touch regulation of digital assets, says she’s eager to work with Gensler. “A lot people just want more clarity,” she says. “I come from a perspective that people should have the maximum freedom to engage in transactions they want to engage in voluntarily. Society needs to have that discussion about what is the right regulatory framework.”

Gensler didn’t give a timeline for any SEC action. He has a to-do list that includes 49 non-crypto policy reviews that could slow progress on cryptocurrencies. Many are high-profile and time-consuming efforts, like responding to the GameStop Corp. trading frenzy and the blow-up of the Archegos family office. The SEC is also working to impose new rules that would require companies to disclose carbon emissions and other environmental risks, a Biden administration priority.

Nor would Gensler comment on the potential for approving a Bitcoin exchange-traded fund, a decision that many in the crypto world are eagerly awaiting, because it would provide an easy on-ramp for investors. A Bitcoin ETF would invest in the cryptocurrency and then trade its shares on the stock market. So far the SEC has balked at permitting such funds, citing concerns about the risk of fraud and manipulation in the Bitcoin market.

Gensler has spoken positively about the ETFs during his days at MIT, giving advocates hope that he’s a supporter. Peirce says it’s “high time” the SEC approved a crypto ETF. Behind the scenes, Gensler has pushed the agency’s staff members to take a look at an array of potential policy changes. He says there are at least seven SEC initiatives looking at different crypto issues: initial coin offerings, trading venues, lending platforms, decentralized finance, stable value coins, custody, and ETFs and other coin funds. “I’ve asked the staff to use all of our authorities anywhere we can,” he says.

Gensler says he thinks regulating crypto exchanges is perhaps the easiest way for the government to get a quick handle on digital token trading. But he’s also concerned about new ways people are getting into crypto, such as peer-to-peer lending on so-called decentralized finance, or DeFi, platforms. If firms are advertising a specific interest-rate return on a crypto asset, Gensler says, that could bring the loans under SEC oversight. Platforms that pool digital assets could be seen as akin to mutual funds, potentially allowing the SEC to regulate them.

Gensler was chair of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) during the Obama administration, where he was responsible for bringing federal oversight to the huge market for derivatives known as swaps after the financial crisis. Patrick McCarty, who teaches a class on cryptocurrencies at Georgetown University’s law school, says Gensler’s understanding of digital assets means he will give the industry a “fair hearing,” though he will likely disappoint many proponents.

“When the crypto people say they want legal certainty, they don’t mean that—they want to be unregulated,” McCarty says. “That’s never been Gary’s point of view.” Christine Trent Parker, who focuses on crypto assets as a law partner at Reed Smith in New York, says that although new SEC rules would bring more certainty to the industry, they also could divide the policing of the market more starkly—with the CFTC focused on markets linked to virtual currencies such as Bitcoin and the SEC handling much of the rest.

“Right now the lines are fuzzy because we have speeches and enforcement and court orders,” instead of bright-line regulation, she says. “If the SEC has sort of a broad framework that pulls in all of the other digital assets, then you have this bifurcated marketplace.” Others have argued that new token developers need some regulatory flexibility to encourage innovation.

Gensler also sits on the Treasury-led Financial Stability Oversight Council and the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, which recently held a meeting on the impact of stablecoins. These are crypto tokens that are supposed to be backed by traditional currencies such as the U.S. dollar, and they’ve become a huge part of the crypto trading system. Regulators worry about what could happen if some stablecoin didn’t turn out to be worth what it was supposed to be—prompting an exodus akin to a run on a bank or a money-market fund.

Gensler’s views on the panels carry weight, people who follow the issue note, because unlike, say, the Treasury secretary or Federal Reserve chairman, he has real crypto cred. His understanding of blockchain and digital assets comes largely from the several years he spent at MIT. Along with creating the cryptocurrency course, he’s been a frequent guest at industry conferences—sometimes speaking 30 to 50 times a year—mixing with deep thinkers and entrepreneurs.

He quotes writings of Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonymous creator of Bitcoin, from memory and knew some of the core developers of the digital currency. The 63-year-old former Goldman Sachs partner traveled an unlikely path to becoming one of the government’s foremost cryptocurrency experts. It started in 2017, when as chief financial officer of Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign he had the lonely job of closing up shop, paying off the final bills, and deciding what to do with the abandoned computers and office supplies.

Like many of his shell-shocked former colleagues, Gensler was looking for something to do—and somewhere to sit out Donald Trump’s presidency. The answer came from economist Simon Johnson, an MIT professor who encouraged Gensler to come to Cambridge, Mass., and teach. Looking to nurture a long-held interest in the intersection of technology and finance, Gensler jumped at the opportunity.

Although he didn’t know much about digital tokens, he connected with people who were part of the university’s burgeoning Digital Currency Initiative and even audited a course in crypto programming. When he suggested MIT teach more about finance and digital money, he was given the job. Little did he know that in a few years he’d have a chance to put his academic studies to real-world use. “Life sometimes is a bit of serendipity,’’ he says.

By: Robert Schmidt

Source: Will Government Regulate Crypto? SEC Chair Gary Gensler on Bitcoin and Oversight – Bloomberg

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