The absolute best ‘trick’ that no one really tells you in negotiations, sales, marketing, interviews, and even just good ol’ fashioned persuasion is that there is no trick. There’s no magical instant-win trump card nor a text-book catch-all approach. There really is no ‘trick’ to success, except good preparation.

The Absolute Best Trick In Negotiations & Sales: There Is No Trick

While there are many tricks, tips and strategies you can use to be good at negotiations and sales, there is only one real way to succeed: Be prepared.

It’s no secret and there is no trick to being prepared. All you have to do is be ready. Abraham Lincoln said: “I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” In Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote: “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” he’s talking about the basics of business, strategy and success.

From the HBR blog:

Ben Koeneker knew the odds were stacked against him. Then the head of business development for a midsize Midwest telecom company, he was trying to convince Siemens, the multibillion-dollar electronics conglomerate, to give his firm an exclusive distribution contract for a new business communications product. At the time, his $28 million company was known more for refurbishing than distribution. “We were tiny,” he says. “We were the ant shouting at the elephant.”

Koeneker did copious amounts of research prior to sitting down at the table. He researched Siemens products and why their current channels of distribution weren’t working well. He also made sure he knew that his own company could deliver on every level, preparing counterarguments for any doubts that might arise. “I knew we couldn’t pretend we could do something we couldn’t do,” he says.
When the negotiations began, he emphasized the pros of his company’s distribution model, rather than the cons he felt currently existed in Siemens’ current method. “If you spend too much time talking about the negatives, you’re basically telling them that they’re doing their business wrong.” He also pointed out that signing with his firm would free up money to devote to marketing, which he knew from his research was something that Siemens wanted.

A turning point came when a senior Siemens executive said that while he was impressed with the proposal, he wondered if Koeneker’s company could scale effectively if the product line took off. Two rivals to Koeneker’s firm, the executive said, were bigger and could more easily handle growth. “I turned to him and said, ‘Are those two companies interested in distributing your product at this time?’” Koeneker says. “I already knew the answer from my research that those companies had turned them down.” He followed up by adding that while his firm was small, it was better thought of as “boutique,” with the unique ability to focus completely on the Siemens brand.
Shortly after, they inked the contract.

A local business owner Don Bloom has a unique practice, one of the things he does is disaster preparation. Not in the form of building shelters or creating product, but in the form of what do we do if X happens to minimize the damage, what are the best things to do going forward to prevent XYZ issue from cropping up, and ‘ok, the shit has officially hit the fan: now what and how do we get back to work’? He and I were talking about the need for businesses to be prepared:

Don: Most businesses don’t have a plan on how to secure their data in the event of an emergency, nor even a way/process to make sure their data is always backed-up, safe and secure. What if there is a fire at their office which just happens to house their mission critical servers? Is there a backup? What’s the process for accessing and activating the backup? How fast can it be done? What are the steps? How about what if the very important company CEO who is the heart and soul of the company suddenly dies? Who will take over operations? Does the next person in line know how to access the important files and how to pick up where Mr. Old CEO left off?

Most people don’t think about such things in life, so how many businesses do you think really go through such proper preparations? Barely any.

Big companies have big instruction manuals (or at least they should have them) for a reason: to minimize liability and to make sure everyone can know what to do in every possible situation.

This applies to negations and sales because you can’t sell or negotiate properly if you don’t know (let a lot understand) your own company’s offerings and the buyer’s needs. For example: did you know that when purchasing a home you don’t need any downpayment, loan nor cash for closing?

Depending on who you’re talking to, you setup a deal where all you’re doing it taking over someone’s existing mortgage (if any) or if there is little/no mortgage you can have the seller directly finance the home purchase. That would mean no loan from a bank! You would then instead be paying the seller directly every month for the agreed amount. Not everyone will agree to something like that of course, but if you learn and find out that the seller really just needs money to cover monthly expenses and isn’t too interested on the lump sum (And the taxes that come with it) then it could be possible. But only if you did your homework beforehand!

When going to a job interview what’s better: to know about the company and people who will interview you or to show up ignorant? Same thing with you are the one selling to a client: the more you know about the client, their business and what their needs are the better you will be in the process.

There is no magic here. Just plain and simple preparedness.

Increasing revenue (and sales) in a restaurant business is more about psychology and social engineering than it is about food and presentation of the food. Here are some very subtle ways you can increase your revenue without ever changing a dish.

7 Ways To Increase Your Restaurants Sales & Revenue

The restaurant business can be tough, especially if you’re a small local shop. Though whether you’re big or small there are 7 ways to increase your restaurants sales and revenue without ever changing a recipe, dish layout or marketing budget. It’s all about the fair and moral psychological tactics you can use to subliminally get people to buy more … and they’ll love you for it.

We can thank science (and data analytics) for letting us know how to get people to spend more on our food:

  1. Don’t use dollar ($) signs. Just use the number by itself.
  2. Don’t use even/whole numbers. End your pricing in .95 (and not .99, as .95 seems to be an easier number for people to swallow).
  3. Use very descriptive descriptions and name-drop Brand’s where possible.
  4. If possible, add a family & homely name to the food (such as Grandma Chang’s Fried Noodles).
  5. If you’re food it culture based, use ‘authentic’ cultural names.
  6. For your best sellers (or favourites), put some visual cue to highlight and feature that item (such as a box, a star, or different background).
  7. Use more ‘eloquent’ music such as classical … it’ll subliminally make people think it’s higher class.

Further reading:

Many of my clients and business friends have asked my expert opinion on some “Facebook related thing” in their website logs. They were worried it might be a spammer, hacker or something with ill intent.

They say something like this in their web logs:

Agent: facebookexternalhit/1.1 (+

This is the Facebook’s website crawler. It’s safe!

Just like Google has a website crawler that scans your website for content, relavancy, images and all that fun stuff Facebook has the same thing that it uses in-order to make sure the links it posts are safe for users, so that it can get the preview image and the snippet text.

Do not block the Facebook web crawler.

It’s needed if you ever want Facebook to see your website as web safe and friendly.

This is what Facebook’s own documentation says about it:

Why does Facebook appear in my server logs?

Facebook allows its users to send links to interesting web content to other Facebook users. Part of how this works on the Facebook system involves the temporary display of certain images or details related to the web content, such as the title of the webpage or the embed tag of a video. Our system retrieves this information only after a user provides us with a link. You may have found this page because a Facebook user sent a link from your website to other Facebook users. If you have any questions or concerns about any links or content sent by one of our users, please contact us at

Taking equity in a company can be a great way to grow your investment portfolio, though it is also risky and if you take equity in lieu of cash payment it means you’re not getting money now. In these situations there are several things to think about (pro’s/con’s) and several creative ways to protect yourself.

How To Safely Accept Equity In A Start up In Lieu Of Payment

When you’re offered equity in a lieu of payment for a project it can be rather enticing to accept. What if you’re offered equity (stocks) in an existing (successful) company? What if it’s a start-up company instead? How about a small local business? What then?

You might be thinking that getting equity in a start-up is great, especially if it’s a funded start-up. If the company is already well sized and successful and offering you equity for your work, that sounds even better, right?! And that local restaurant you visit has offered you a piece of their pie if you help then, sounds great to help out a local business … of course it does.

Though I pose this question to you:

When will you actually get that money?

The downside of an equity deal (in-lieu of payment)

Start-ups and local businesses will generally not be cash rich, so it’s understandable that they’d want to limit their cash exposure. Though the trouble isn’t for them, it’s for you.

  • What if the business goes under?
  • Equity isn’t money, it’s only worth something when you cash out.
  • The majority of the time, your equity will be in the form of shares without voting rights.
  • You’re most likely getting a small equity share … very very small.
  • Equity ‘income’ is still taxable income in the eyes of the IRS.
  • The equity may be worth very little, even after it get’s funded.

Equity in an existing business (in-lieu of payment)

Let’s say the business is already formed, has clients, has a profit and is doing well enough to be in the growth stage. This already means they have money … so why are they not willing to part with it?

For an existing business to offer equity in-lieu of payment is a rather strange proposition. If you ask they why equity instead of cash, they might say:

Money is tight right now, so we have a very tight budget and we can’t afford your services via regular payment forms. That’s why we’re offering you equity instead.

Sounds rather innocent right? It’s understandable that a company that is investing a lot in it’s growth doesn’t have too much extra money to spend on other things.

Though that logic is flawed. If they are spending a lot of growth or at least actually growing that means they really do have that money but choose not to spend it on you. What does that say about what they think of your value to them?

I’d start asking a lot of questions about my stock rights, amount, cash value of stock and how fast you could get the stocks, and pretty much every other financial document the company has. I’d be rather weary of accepting a stock-only project because it’d be a very big risk on my part without me having any real control of the company’s direction and leadership.

You can start by asking the question in the questions section below.

Equity in a local business (in-lieu of payment)

Most local businesses aren’t very high profit. For that reason, most cannot even offer that because it would reduce their already low profits. For the sake of arguments, let’s say you’re approached by a local (active non-startup) local business and they offer you equity in their business in-lieu of paying you directly for your work.

First obvious question is: Why equity and not cash? The following questions would be similar to the questions in the corporate section above. What are the current finances, what’s the %, how much would they be worth when I sold them, when can I sell? ect ect…

Generally, it’s again a bad idea as you’d be hard pressed to ever get that money. If they don’t have money now to pay you at all, what are they chances you’d be able to cash you easily?

Equity in a start-up business (in-lieu of payment)

The most difficult question of all: “Should I accept equity in a start-up company instead of getting cash?” Well, it depends. This really depends on the team, the market and what the company is selling. It also of course depends on what they ask of you and what you’re willing to do.

Start-ups are a very unique beast. In a start-up, you usually have long(er) hours, more responsibilities and lots of expenses to cover even without having any profit (yet). The other issue is that IF the company isn’t profitable yet, or even getting any sales yet, how will they cover expenses for the project … especially your expenses.

I’m not trying to scare you away from getting stock in a start-up. It can be a very invigorating, extraordinary and learning experience as well as being extremely rewarding. One example is Mark Zukerburg and Facebook. Facebook was a start-up at one point.

VC firms are a great example of happily taking equity. Of course, the ‘resource’ they offer is their money (and network). Though on the other side: Dan Kennedy had this to say about accepting equity (not verbatim):

I’ve had many people offer me equity in their start-up instead of paying me my usual fee. I’ve turned down at least 200 offers. Though I’ve taken them up on it twice. Right now, I’m wishing I turned down 202 offers.

The problem with equity is two fold:

1) You’re not getting money now.
2) How & when will you get your money?

To make sure that we do get paid, eventually, we need to make sure we can control the situation as much as possible. I’m not saying that we want to be at a management level of a company, I’m just saying we want to control our side of the this deal and in one way or other make sure we’ll get paid. This is done by having a very well written agreement.

Things to consider when accepting an equity offer (in-lieu of payment)

Here are some things you should be asking yourself, and your prospect/client before accepting an equity only offer:

  • What percentage of the company will I own?
  • How much will be shares me worth as soon as I get them?
  • What’s the prediction for the value in the next 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 .. ect years?
  • How soon can I sell my stocks? (vesting)
  • What are the requirements for me to sell?
  • What happens if you sell the company?
  • Do I have any voting rights in the company or are these restricted stocks?
  • What are my options if I don’t like where this company is heading in the future?
  • What is the specific scope and timeframe of my work on this project/company?
  • What are my legal liabilities?
  • Are you currently funded by an investor/VC? If so, how much did they put it? How much stock did they get?
  • What if you or one of the other managing partners wants to leave the company and cash out? What level are my stocks on the pecking order (ie: who get’s paid first)?
  • What if I want to sell early?
  • What if I don’t want to sell at all when you sell the company?
  • How do I know / how can I trust that this company will grow enough & fast enough so that I can cash out?

There are more question, but that’s just to get you started on thinking on how to protect yourself.

Here are some ideas to help you protect yourself if you decide to move forward.

Protecting yourself in equity deals:

  • Set a date at which you can freely cash you at a specific cash value.
  • Set a valuation amount for the company, at which they will have to buy you out (eg. When the company hits a $10 million valuation (or greater), they’ll have to buy your shares for fair market value and you’ll get your cash).
  • If they company is being bought out, or merging, you have to be the first one to get cashed out of the company.
  • If any of the executives are cashing out, they have to cash you out before they can cash out themselves.
  • If the company is going under, they HAVE to sell assets in order to pay off your equity at X-minimum value first.
  • Payouts at set intervals.

Though, the best option would be to negotiate pay plus equity:

  • Cash payment + equity for performance bonuses
  • Salary + stock options (or gift) as an employee
  • Lower cash payment for voting shares or majority ownership

Some things to consider that would help equity by itself be ok:

  • the client pays for any and all expenses related to your work with them
  • your work scope, responsibilities and time requirement + your costs are very well laid out and set.

Extra reading material:

just random fun-27

Over the weekend I needed a nice stress relief, so I found this old-ish Japanese doll that I had on a shelf in my basement. It was originally encased in a glass case with a mirror back panel, though I took those off in-order to get these clear images.

The background is a off-black printed background (glossy). I used two studio lights with my Canon 70D using a 50mm 2.8F lens. Photo taken in RAW format. The important thing for this was focus. So I stuck the camera up on a tripod and used manual focus. For whatever reason the focusing on the 50mm isn’t as accurate as I wanted it to be … or maybe it’s the camera. Either way: I manually focused on the eyes/face and used 5F for this shot.

TLDR; Write for your own growth, for your development and to practice. Someone might read it later tonight, or tomorrow, or maybe the day after; keep at it, you’ll get there sooner or later. I’ve been asked by clients “Why should I blog if no one ever reads it?” The answer is because it’ll help you practice, get in the good habit of doing so and build your content base.

Why You Should Keep Writing Even If No One Reads It

Unless you are writing a marketing/PR piece, an advertisement or a school paper your writing isn’t about them its about you, the author. The side benefit of writing is eventually people will start reading it, eventually you’ll get followers and eventually you can use that to your advantage.

Writing should be:

  • Enjoyable
  • Fulfilling
  • Something you can be proud of

Getting lots of likes, replies and page views are the icing on the cake. If you get those, that’s great! But if not, that’s cool too. Really, it is. Why? Because you created / wrote something amazing and it’s something you should be proud of.

  • Proud you took that wrote something.
  • Proud that you put yourself ‘out there’ and moved forward.
  • Proud that you now have published material that you can use as part of your ever growing expert portfolio.
  • Proud you are taking the steps forward to better yourself, clear your mind and improve your communication skills.

Writing improves your communication skills

A good number of us disliked writing in school; the biggest reason we hated it was that we were forced to do it on topics that we weren’t interested in and on terms that we didn’t agree with. Now though, you have the freedom to write about anything you want, at any time you want, in whatever form you want. You’re even able to have a large creative license on the verbiage, syntax and imagery.

Professional athletes, exalted musicians and great thinkers weren’t born that way. They had to train day in and day out to become experts in their field. Through consistent use of your writer’s muscle you’ll get better and better and writing. Thus, you’ll also get better and better at communication.

As you continue to write you’ll get better at conveying your ideas as you’ll be more articulate, have a higher vocabulary (at least if you pick up new words here and there) and thus be what people call good speakers: “well spoken.”

Writing can be stress relieving, almost therapeutic

Not everyone wants to be well spoken though. For those of you who don’t want to or don’t care, it’s possible to use writing as a therapeutic device. Some people like to keep a daily journal. Call it a diary, a thought pad, journal or even a brain dumb coffee stains … doesn’t matter. Getting your thoughts out of your head and down on paper lets you:

  • organize ideas so that they aren’t jumbled in your head and interfering with other things up there.
  • Lift the weight off your stressed shoulders as you’ve then put the thoughts on paper (or in a computer) and now it’s like you’re ‘free’ of that burden.
  • track your progress and thoughts as you grow
  • work out issues by forcing you to think through them step by step as you write
  • work your brain on creative ideas and let is expand without limit by just writing whatever comes to mind, and letting it flow out. Many a great idea were had this way.

So don’t worry about page views, seo, likes: just write. Write for yourself. Write to make yourself proud, to relax, to relieve stress … simply write without worry. Good things will come.

Budgeting is one of the most important things to do for your personal life and for your business, though when you don’t have a stable (set) income per month/week/year it’s very tough set that budget! So how do you set a business budget even with an unstable and inconsistent income? First, this isn’t about setting a personal budget, this is all about the business only and will apply to start-ups, freelancers, entrepreneurial adventures and small & medium local businesses.

How To Set A Business Budget Even With Unstable (Freelancer) Income

A business budget can be daunting especially when you don’t know what the numbers are coming in (and going out). As a freelancer sometimes you might hit a good month and make an extra $6,000 or it might be zero. As a local business one month you might be rolling in the cash flow of a season and the next no one even comes in your door. So what do you do when the money coming in isn’t a set amount per month and thus making a budget seems impossible? It’s simple: you do the best you can with the information you have and you (realistically) fudge the rest. This is simple once I explain it to you, but it won’t be easy.

There are 3 things you need to look at first in a business budget in these scenarios:

  1. Business debts/expenses (current).
  2. Bare minimum you can afford to pay yourself each and every month regardless of company performance.
  3. Expected (future) business expenses.

You might be thinking that you need to look at the income/profit for the company, but since we don’t know what that’s going to be (yet) we’re working with what we do know! Let’s take those three items piece by piece.

The easiest way to keep track of all of this is not any complicated software, just use a simple spreadsheet (such as Google Docs Spreadsheets or MS Excel) and you’ll go very far with it. I outline how to setup the spreadsheet at the bottom on this article.

First: current business expenses and debts.

You need to know what your bare minimum operating costs are. This means knowing monthly service fees, salaries (such as contractors, freelancers and assistances you bring in to help out), any money you currently owe (as a business), rent/lease costs, utilities, product purchase costs (per month), transportation, credit card debts. If it’s a price your business is currently paying to stay open, list it here.

Second: your own pay.

Any business worth doing is worth doing right, and doing business right means you need to get paid. You don’t have to pull a huge salary at all though. But you need to start applying systems and consistency to the company, which starts with paying yourself first. If, for example, your business has $1,000 in the bank right now, and you may or may not get another $500 next month … to play it safe you can start paying yourself $100 per month in salary. $100 too much? Try $50, or even $10. Whatever the number, make it a number you can be happy and safe with. This means a number that you will still get paid even if there is no business income that month, or even the next. $0.00 is not an acceptable number.

Third: Expected expenses.

A business needs to grow, but in-order to do so you need to bring people into your shop and purchase something. That means you’ll either have to spend some time traveling, or purchasing ads, printing fryers, going to networking events, buying graphics, or you might even need to go to a trade show as a vendor (quick side note: a good idea is to start your own trade show organization / authority!). So what do you plan on spending money on? If you need to get to that trade show event in 3 months, then you better set the proper amount aside so that you can afford it! Write down what you plan to spend money on, as a business, for the upcoming year in one handy column. In the column next to the number write the date you’ll need that future money.

Got the data, time to setup budgeting tools!

Now you know exactly what you’re spending, how much you’re planning to spend and how much goes to you. With this data organized it’s time to make your first business budget, so open up a new spreadsheet with 3 columns:

  1. Expenses
  2. Self
  3. Profit

For the document title, I suggest using something that’s easy to follow (for you) and use. We use a simple dating method for our files:

– [Import business document name]

I’m writing this document in July, 2014 and it’s about our monthly profit and loss, so we make it something like: 1407 – Monthly P&L. That’s what works for us. For you it might be “2014 – July – Monthly Finances” or even “07-2014 P&L”. There are many ways, doesn’t matter which one you pick as long as you pick one and stick to it.

In the expenses column write your monthly expenses which does NOT include money you need to put away for future expenses (savings). In the self column write how much you’re going to pay yourself. In the profit column write how much money you had come in that month, or if it’s the beginning of the month leave that column blank for now and fill it in as you get business.

But this isn’t a budget, this is just a P&L statement!

That’s true, we haven’t created a budget yet! But now we have the tools to do so. First I’ll explain the simple budgeting plan, and then I’ll give you a few examples.

Simple business budget 101

You know what you’re going to spend at a bare minimum each month, this means you’ll have to keep at least this much in the account. What this really also means is that you CANNOT over spend. Though, we also know what you will have to spend to stay afloat and to expand business.

To start, you will pay the bare minimum to pay in business. Don’t plan to pay of debts quickly just yet. Anything above the bare minimum expenses goes towards two things: future expenses and self-pay.

It’s that simple. (using semi-stable income)

Here is a more practical example. You run a etsy shop on the side to sell custom made bracelets from cloth and metal. You have a website with an ecommerce store, though most of your stuff is on Etsy. Every month you need to pre-purchase various metals for the latches and solder and cloth for the bands. Needles and tools break easily so they must be replaced frequently too but you’re not exactly sure how long things last. Networking is huge for you since there are lot of children and crafty people in your area who love things like what you sell. You like your privacy so you also have a business phone line. There are also several trade show events that give you great exposure, so you want to get to those events this year.

Doing a rough breakdown of your current costs you find these costs:

  • Hosting, $15/m
  • Estimated merchant fees from both sites: 3% per sale.
  • Metal for products: you’ve averaged $600 each month.
  • Cloth per month: $300
  • Equipment: you estimate you go through 12 widgets a year and each widget costs you: $100 so you estimate $1200 per year which is $100 per month.
  • You use a hosted voip service that runs you: $20 per month.
  • Membership fees to local associations and trade guilds: $2353 per year which is roughly $200 a month

So monthly your total costs are around: $1300 (I’m rounding up), not including cost of sale. Including cost per sale if you sold 100 pieces you’d pay another 100 in fees (a complete estimated number) so you safely estimate $1400 per month in expenses.

You have $3000 in the corporate bank account. This means you’ll be safe with expenses for another two months and you can afford to pay yourself $100 per month and still be ‘ok’. (1400 + 1400 + 100 + 100 = 3000) And that’s assuming zero income for two months all while still purchasing material!

In this scenario, you won’t be able to budget much of anything for future expenses. At this point you’re taking care of the bare minimum and just getting buy. But let’s assume for a minute that assuming zero profits in a month is not realistic … there’s always something coming in. Let’s say you’ve noticed that at a minimum you have around $1800 in (net profit) sales a month. Great.

Going along with our previous example: the $1800 in profit means you can start using that $1800 to save bit by bit for the trade show in 6 months. But will you be able to have enough money for that? Let’s find out!

($1800 x 6) – ($1400 x 6) = ($400 x 6) = $2400

So if ALL the expenses for the trade show are less than $2400 you’ll be able to save for it at a bare minimum. And that’s assuming one of the worst case scenarios.

If you have no stable income at all:

If one month you make $10,000 and the next three months you make $0, then the following is the strategy for you:

  1. Cut any and all unnecessary expenses (I’ll tell you why in a minute).
  2. Pay only the bare minimums for everything and pay yourself something small too.
  3. Leave any extra monies in the account as a safety buffer.

Cutting out all luxury expenses will let you know what you need to do do to survive. This is your baseline. Now you’re working with just the bare essentials to get by. These are the numbers, similar to what we did in the above example, that you need to live by at a minimum no matter what. If you cannot afford these then you’re already in trouble, though if you’re ok with covering the minimums for a few months now you have room to create a good budget.

The minimums you’re paying, including paying yourself, come out of that buffer. The buffer is your safety zone, your cushion should something go wrong … it’s your lifeline.

So once you know the bare minimum to stay afloat put all money into ‘savings’.

Now out of THAT budget plan, you create your realistic budget. You know what you need to do to survive, so since you can cover that it’s time to plan out what nice things you can do in your business to improve things. Only after you have the basics covered, pick a realistic percentage number that will go into your corporate savings account (doesn’t have to be an actual account, it can just be a line in the spreadsheet) from every income you get.

For a quick realistic example: You need $200 in corporate money for the business to survive. In month one you make $1000. In month 2 and 3 you make nothing. That means at a bare minimum at month 3 you’ll have $400 left. But that’s ok. You’ve not spent your corporate money on needless things. You have your buffer going. On month 4 you make $2000. That leaves you with $2,200.

Now you know you have some wiggle room! So you set aside $300 a month for future expenses such a trade events, memberships and the like. In 2 months on the revised budget plan you’ll have $600 to use for business growth all the while still keeping money in the account for expenses.

It’s ok to re-adjust the budget every few months to account for new developments, cost changes and needs!

Jim Carrey is an amazing comedian, but he’s also a very well versed orator, a great thinker and very motivational. To top it all off he’s very down to earth, friendly and humble. In this video, Jim Carrey talks about what motivates people and how fear can lead you down the path to the dark side … or how love can help you achieve your dreams. Though, the path you take is your choice. Choose wisely.