The 7″ Snowfall

As the weather channel updates shouted, “the snow is coming,” most were thinking, “so run to the grocery store, drive home quickly, squeeze in those last minute errands, get outside and shovel that snow, salt the sidewalk,” right? Well, actually no was the answer for me this snowfall. Yes, I said, “No!”

Stayed Inside. The snow arrived on a Saturday morning and snowed all day. I purposefully made the decision to stay inside. This decision allowed me to get some tax prep done, sort thru some piles on my desk, watch some NFL playoffs, get on the treadmill for over an hour, catch up on my Linked In connections, and just be/do nothing. I lit candles, had the fire burning all day.

Plenty of Food. We looked at all the food in the frig (removed some items that were dated “best used by 2017 and 2018”) and kitchen cabinets, and realized we had plenty of food for 4-5 days. Plenty! Even had time to make soup, rice, bean salad, omelettes, whole wheat pancakes, and protein shakes. Sorted thru and organized the canned goods, and noticed that we are truly executing on the Mediterranean diet: very little meat, lots of beans, fruits and veggies, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, some dairy, and yes, some red wine.

Write and Read. Staying inside, enjoying the views of the snow while sitting by the fire just simply allowed me to slow down. I read. I wrote. I refined my 2019 goals a bit more. I talked to some friends and family. I slept over 9 hours!

Leverage Others. One of our contractors came by with a snowplow on his truck, and he plowed my drive quite easily. Thus, zero back pain for me. When I went thru my grocery list, I ordered groceries with an online app, and after the snowstorm had subsided for more than 24 hours, I easily drove on clear streets to pick up my groceries curbside. These both were huge time savers, and that’s interesting during a weekend that I was choosing to spend time in the home, on me and friends/family.

How do you say “NO?” When do you say “NO?” It’s a decision that only YOU can make. I feel refreshed as I head in to my Sunday evening. How you manage YOUR time is YOUR decision. My recommendation is to maybe more thoroughly enjoy the 7″ snowfall, instead of getting caught up in the craziness. If you choose to “Stay Outside”, then go sledding. Play. Make a snow angel. Enjoy the 7″ snowfall.

Perfect Pancakes & Leadership

How could anyone ever correlate making Perfect Pancakes and Leadership? I have used this metaphor many times over the last couple years, especially when a leader may need to practice their key messages, or talk through key topics prior to having a critical conversation, or prep before they introduce a new product launch.

This Sunday morning, I whipped up some pancake batter and grabbed the Nutella spread from the kitchen cupboard. My mouth was salivating, thinking back just one year ago as we enjoyed our time in Cantania, Sicily, Italy, savoring all kinds of chocolate croissants, espresso and cappuccino. However, my first two pancakes didn’t turn out so well. Why did that happen, when I had such a great visualization going on in my head?

Because, I hadn’t made pancakes in a while. With no recent practice, I burnt the pancakes because the temperature in the pan was just too hot. Yes, I over cooked those first two pancakes. Torched them! The third and fourth pancakes turned out much better, and I quickly spread the Nutella on them and devoured them. And I am encouraged and now ready to make even more pancakes on New Years Eve and New Year Day mornings.

In our coaching work, I continue to be amazed at how some colleagues hardly practice for those huge, critical conversations, or for that presentation to the key prospect that might help make your yearend numbers look brilliant, or on how to deliver a new message or product to current clientele. As a former college athlete, I recommend to practice. In fact, I recommend it too frequently. Too many colleagues just are not practicing, and so when they don’t get the results they intended, they are frustrated and surprised. As a coach, I recommend practicing your messaging in your car, in front of a mirror, on a walk with a trusted mentor, and even with your spouse or partner.

Let’s don’t over-complicate how to execute better as a leader. Most leaders are former athletes. Do what you used to do, all the time: Practice! When on a team, the coach held more practices than games you played. Many more practices than games. Athletes become good because they learn how to execute under pressure due to their countless hours of practice, and yes, winning some games along the way.

As a leader, are you practicing? Are you learning from other leaders? Are you practicing on simplifying your messaging with great clarity? Are you taking time to develop personnel? Are you prepping for those critical conversations that can change the trajectory of you and your colleague’s professional relationship? Like making the perfect pancake, it takes a few before the good pancakes are eaten. Practice makes better pancakes, and it makes better leaders, too. Practice!

Start A Business at 49? Yes

My great grandmother (GG Kate) immigrated here in the early 1900’s, when she jumped on a ship and landed in the USA from Lithuania.  As a teenager, she had the courage of a lion, to leave her family and country, and go abroad. She lived in East Chicago and bought apartments one by one, and then bought the entire building(s).  During the early 1970’s when our family traveled to Daytona Beach, FL, we visited my great grandmother.  She was a woman entrepreneur,  living near the beach, and a  good story of immigration done right.

Fast forward approximately 100 years from when she fled Lithuania. It’s now 2013. When you’re 49 years old,  and you want to start a real estate business, well, you just do it.  You courageously, just like your GG Kate, buy some properties, evaluate, buy and sell more, and now five years later, you have a profitable business that serves others in a very desirable community. And serves my bucket list of travel, enjoying life, and helping others.

Here are some TIPS on what TO DO as you start a business, and what NOT TO DO:

  1. Prep: Walk, think, look, inspect, read, listen. Before I bought my first three homes in the same week in June 2013, I walked the streets of downtown Carmel, looking at traffic flow, understanding prices, learning about infrastructure, asking other landlords how to be landlords, etc. for 18 months. NOT DO: buy properties based on emotion.  Instead, make business decisions.
  2. Draft: While in bed one evening in April 2013, I hand-wrote a business plan on one piece of paper. It was short, to the point, and gave me great clarity.  In short, it stated, “Provide homes with incredible walk-ability to shops, schools or restaurants. Be able to walk or jog to these homes. Focus on ranch homes for the safety of families and older clientele. Ensure that 10% gross income is achieved annually on your initial investment.” This draft helped me start my business and invest in homes the following 60 days. NOT DO: wing it, with nothing written down.  Instead, do the prep, plan, and then execute.
  3. Team of Advisors: Call an attorney familiar with establishing LLC’s, especially a law firm that understand real estate laws.  Not only did they help get the LLC going, but they provided me with a detailed and fair lease. Get a CPA who has other clients like you.  Align with a good realtor.  Find ethical and reliable contractors, and then pay them quickly. Establish a very strong relationship with at least two bankers.  Understand your own financial plan with your financial advisor.  NOT DO: Not willing to pay or slow to pay for advice and help. Instead, realize there is always risk with any business and pay for guidance, help and advice. Build your team by sharing your vision and business plan.
  4. Work: On a downright yucky/rainy/cool Sunday in Spring 2013, I walked the streets of downtown Carmel.  When open houses were cancelling that day, I was out there working.  In the next week, my realtor helped me on offers, buy and close on three homes within 1/2 mile of each other. NOT DO: Rest, assume others will find the homes and do the work.  Instead, YOU do the work.
  5. Adjust: Of the 3 homes, the first home was rented quickly. The 2nd home was a ranch, but it was dated and had two bedrooms downstairs in a dark basement. The 3rd home was my personal home.  Adjusting quickly, I sold the 2nd home to a realtor and cleared a few thousand dollars, thank the Lord.  And I sold the 3rd one, my own home, after I remodeled it and captured a nice gain 2.5 years later. NOT DO: Move slowly. Instead, when it’s the wrong decision, quickly own it and fix it. Learn from it.
  6. Care: Once you have a client (tenant), take good care of them.  Your first client should help you quickly learn what’s important to them/future clients. If a client needs something and it’s a reasonable request, do it quickly.  NOT DO: Ignore your clients.  Instead, remember they are paying you, providing revenue, so be thankful and aware of what feedback they are providing.
  7. Ask: The first home that I bought had a nice home next to it. So I asked the owner if he would be willing to sell it.  Timing was everything.  I got it bought before he put it on the market.  And then I asked my realtor about buying the messy/skinny/wooded lot on the other side of the first home.  Within a few months, I had 3 properties next to each other, directly on The Monon in downtown Carmel. Location, location, location. NOT DO: Wait. Instead, you will make the difference in your business. You are in charge of the decisions. No one else.
  8. Track: Once the business starts, track every single expense and revenue.  I set up a spreadsheet, put it in the cloud, and can view the status of all the homes from anywhere.  And I can share this easily with my accountant to assist with tax prep. Created folders for every home, for every receipt, for every year.  NOT DO: Fall behind in tracking expenses.  Instead, to be profitable, you need to know your revenues and expenses.
  9. Grow. Let others/neighbors/tenants/realtors know that you are a local business owner, looking to grow the business, wanting to buy more homes, etc. Good people will help you.  Be opportunistic, and buy distressed assets. And update your assets AND your business plan regularly. NOT DO: Get lazy.  Instead, keep learning, sharing, and growing.
  10. Buy Low, Sell High. Seems simple, but the lower priced homes with nice remodels or updates are the ones that are most liked by our clients and most profitable.  Sell them when you are comfortable with the gain.  NOT DO: Sell Low, Buy High.  Instead, be wise. Have a goal for your profits and then execute.

Since my grandmother came to America in the early 1900’s, she grew, learned, moved, and leveraged advisors.  GG Kate owned multiple properties, and even had a will in place when she passed.  Her daughter (my grandmother Bernice) and my paternal grandfather George owned real estate. And my mom and dad own land, as well. So one might say that I have a natural gene that’s called, “the love of real estate.” What’s YOUR plan to start YOUR business? Don’t let age, or being a woman, or fear stop you.  Instead, be courageous like a lion, execute with a plan, and make YOUR dream a reality, just like GG Kate did in moving to America. And then truly becoming an entrepreneur.

 

It’s Time For Fun, Isn’t It?

On a cool, rainy evening in October 2018, Hoosier Park was hosting the “Super Night” of Indiana’s best in harness racing.  And a long-shot named “It’s Time for Fun” was in 6th place as the horses came down the stretch. But then “Fun” hit a faster gear and sprinted past them all and won easily.  Friends and four generations of the breeder and owner got to the winner’s circle just in time for the celebration and fun. And that owner shined a grin and said, “It takes a team!”

Who is the owner and breeder of “It’s Time for Fun”? My dad, Lynn Wilfong, 79 years young. I intentionally used the word “young”, as he sure loves his phrase that he shares regularly: “Have someone to love.  Love what you do. Have something to look forward to.” And he has also been heard to say, “I will die with my boots on.”

Love. Four generations showed up to see “It’s Time For Fun” win the 3 Year Old Filly Indiana Sires Stakes: his wife, Barbara, of 58 years; his three adult children & their spouses; and some of the grand children and a great grandchild.

Work. Lynn has been working with harness horses since he was a young boy.  And he continues to be patient with them, even after 6-7 decades of being around these large and loving creatures.

Look Forward. Although my dad has suffered some losses and also some health challenges in the last couple decades, he sure studies his own health and how to improve it just like he studies harness horse breeding and racing. He is looking at ways to find the right mixture of breeding to win at the value that he is willing to pay, and still bring a return to his harness racing business.

How does he do this and also leverage his team? He has a vision, and that is to keep winning, especially in Indiana and Illinois. He and mom, along with my brother and his wife (Brett and Candy), truly have defined roles.  Dad studies and recommends breeding, and helps ensure the mares have healthy foals.  He and Brett raise and haul them, and Brett trains them.  My nephew, Kyle (Brett’s son, who is 4th generation in the harness racing business now) is the driver.  Kyle’s girlfriend, Nicole, is the caretaker (groom) of the horses that are being raced and trained, and she is growing and now a trainer.  And the revenue and expenses are tracked by Barbara and Candy.  For decades, Barbara leads the effort to ensure all of the horses are named and registered.  Very clear roles, with a goal of winning in Indiana and Illinois with well cared for horses.  They also leverage vets, blacksmiths, and feed companies. All of these roles are very specific, and they rarely duplicate work.  The goal for everyone is to be accountable to helping the horse(s) be as healthy as possible so that it can professionally perform in nearly any condition (rain, heat, sleet, wind and cold weather).

With a clear Vision, clear Roles, and clear Goals for each person on your team, you will most likely continue to succeed even as you approach your 8th decade.  In my coaching work, I can sense dysfunction or lack of accountability quickly.  It typically is because something is NOT clear with the Vision, or the Roles, or the Goals.  If all three are clear, you can most likely expect good results.  And good results just might lead to “It’s Time for Fun”.

 

 

Keep Moving.

Keep Moving.  It’s a healthy thing to do considering the amount of time we are sitting.  But, HOW do I squeeze that in during my busy days and evenings?

Have a walking meeting with a colleague at work (instead of sitting in an office or conference room).

Meet a friend and go for a walk (instead of sitting for a cup of coffee or dinner).

When going to the store or work, park away from the front door or elevator (instead of squeezing into to a close spot, and getting a door ding).

After dinner at home, slide those walking shoes on for a 15 minute walk or jump on the bike for a quick spin of the neighborhood (instead of sliding in to your recliner).

Walk the dog, or the neighbor’s dog, or pet sit.  Dogs will get you up regularly and look forward to walks & being with their humans in nature.

When waiting in the airport, simply go for a couple strolls up and down the concourse (instead of sitting in the uncomfortable and hard seats at the gate).

When in an elevator by yourself, do some toe raises.  Or better yet, take the stairs if they are well lit and provide a sense of safety (instead of just standing).

During the ads on TV shows, stand up. Do a few squats. Squeeze in 10 push-ups (instead of just sitting).

Blue Zones research indicates that people who move naturally live longer.  I am trying to find ways to move naturally during moments throughout the day. What will inspire you to do the same thing?

Overwhelmed? Open up, Own it, Organize, Outsource and Get Orderly

Since I have been coaching women and emerging leaders, I am hearing a common concern: “Jen, I am overwhelmed. I just can’t say ‘no.’ Sometimes I don’t know where to start.”

When a coach hears her client truly open up, we are encouraged because we know the client is becoming introspective. As coach, it is my role to help the client reach a comfort level where she is able to open up and pull from her what is causing her to be overwhelmed. Once that difficult first step is clarified and we both have a common understanding of the current state, then we move to step two. We brainstorm and identify what the client can do to become more able to own the cause and get organized. Nearly every time, the client has great ideas and answers.

It is the third step that is most difficult: which idea(s) will the client implement to help reduce this overwhelming feeling? For example, recently, a woman leader that I am coaching implemented and owned her plan by making a handful of adjustments. She had an open conversation with her husband and they both agreed to outsource a few low priority areas of their lives that were frustrating them both. She also began saying “no” to trivial requests. With more time available to work on higher priority opportunities, she noticed her business began to thrive and she was starting to achieve the audacious goals she had set in Jan. 2012.

My client no longer feels guilty about saying “no.” At the beginning of her work day, she implements a daily task lists. She even prioritizes her early mornings, with a wellness/fitness/nutrition plan to get her rolling.

The upshot? If you are overwhelmed, open up, own the situation, get organized, utilize outsourcing, and get orderly. You’ll soon become less overwhelmed and ready to face whatever challenges and opportunities that come your way.