Thursday, January 31, 2008

Politics: More than Kissing Babies

One of the worst candidates I ever saw (that actually had a large number of supporters) ran for statewide office three times: as governor, US Senate, and governor. The state party chairman at the time decided that the man had a lot of money, so he made a perfect candidate. Because he would put in his own money? Well, no, he actually sapped all the resources that other candidates might have used. Well, he must have been an inspiring leader with great ideas of how to improve the state, right? Well, no, not really. He once went to a meeting of farmers and said, "So, is everyone here a farmer, or do you have real jobs?" Was he a man of high moral character that would attract people because of how well he demonstrated his values in life? No, he was on his fourth wife at the time - and the decision to run for office was apparently her idea.

I knew this man vicariously - my uncle had once worked for him. I had not heard much good about him. But I made up my mind in one simple moment. I was a teenager, but I certainly looked like I was of voting age (several people thought *I* was the candidate for office at political functions), and yet he walked right past me (and everyone else in a large group near the door) as if no one was there. Again, this was a large political meeting where a candidate comes to meet voters and garner support, and he was too busy to actually acknowledge the voters. That was, at least, until a camera turned on directly in front of me. He literally stopped, turned on a dime, and shot out a hand towards me, saying, "Hi, I'm [name omitted to avoid being sued by insanely wealthy jerk]."

I simply said, "I know who you are," and looked into his eyes. I saw no heart, no passion... I saw no soul. And instantly I knew, this man should never have run for office. I wouldn't elect a man with such a cold demeanor to county coroner. Yet this man gained the nomination in three separate elections - all of which he (obviously) lost. How did he manage to continue winning? Simple: the party leadership wanted him. I nearly quit the party over his candidacy, deciding politics was simply too disgusting to be involved in any more. Thankfully, I just took some time away from politics, thought long and hard about what was more important to me - my convictions or my disgust - and I decided to stick it out. I was definitely glad I did. It turned out that a large part of the party agreed with me, so they threw out the leaders that continued supporting the dead-eye never-winner, and replaced those leaders with men (and women) of vision. Four years after that last run for governor, the Republicans elected the first governor from their party since Reconstruction - the last Southern state to do so. Two years later, the State Senate became Republican. Two more years later, the State House became Republican, as did the Lieutenant Governor and the Secretary of State. They elected those representatives and senators despite the districts being structured by the Democrats to maximize Democratic areas and minimize Republican areas. They were so heinous in their attempts to gerrymander the districts, the districts got thrown out because they failed to follow the Civil Rights Act, requiring that all voters have equal say. The districts were changed only slightly from their gerrymandered form, though, and still the Democrats in this state lost. I was glad I stayed so I could help elect that governor, that lieutenant governor (first ever as a Republican), that Secretary of State, and the State Senator and Representative (in districts that were drawn to guarantee Democrats would win easily). I got to help the voice of the people of this state be heard. I even got quoted by the most well known Georgia political writer when I wrote a letter to the editor explaining that South Georgia would be where the governor was elected.

Atlanta - a History Lesson

I am from Atlanta. Before anyone reading this gets offended, I want everything I say to be understood as coming from the perspective of an Atlantan writing about my own place of birth. My mother was from Atlanta, as were her parents, so I am not just a transient son, but truly an Atlanta native.

Atlanta is not a Southern city. It has Southerners in it, but so does New York, Los Angeles, and practically every city in America. As they say, you can take the man out of the South, but you can't take the South out of the man. But Atlanta is not a Southern city. I truly believe if it were so very Southern, it would have served as the capital of the Confederacy in the Civil War. It was more strategically placed, more developed in infrastructure, and also a capital of one of the largest states in the Confederacy. But Atlanta was not trusted then. It was not trusted because it was founded by Northern railroad money as a depot (it's original name was Terminus). It was destroyed, and then it was rebuilt with Northern investors (among them, ironically, William Tecumseh Sherman, its destroyer). In recent years, it has been revitalized and renewed by money from all over the world. It is a city full of transients, and while (as I said before) many of them are Southerners, plenty of them are from everywhere else, too. Compare it to Savannah, Georgia, a beautiful genteel city full of Southern history, Southern ways, and Southerners (and not so much of anything else). Charlotte, North Carolina, is one of the largest Southern cities - it is still largely Southern in its makeup, and it even has rocking chairs in the airport. But to understand why Atlanta is not a Southern city, it is necessary to ask anyone from the "true South" (the rural South) if Atlanta is a Southern city. They will kindly oblige you with a "Heck No" if they're being respectful.

I actually had a roommate hating me within a few days of my moving in because I did not join him in trying to convince our NJ roommate that the South was perfect, and indeed Heaven on Earth. I simply asked him, "Have you ever been to South Georgia?" he asked me something rather crude that should not be repeated to basically inquire whether I was trying to prove my Southerness, to which I said "I just want to know if you've ever been to South Georgia." He informed me he had, once. For about an hour. To that I explained "Then you do not know what the South really is."

My point to him was that the South, wonderful as it is, definitely has its flaws. In the places outside Atlanta, there are farmers who struggle to get by, and people who think going off to college means attending the local community college, or if they are going a long way off, the small university an hour from home. Let me be perfectly clear in saying I do not look down on the very different mindset that I observe among Southerners as compared with the more cosmopolitan perspective of Atlantans. I just see them as very different. Again, one coversation with anyone from South Georgia makes it clear that Atlanta is not in the South. The common dividing line for the North and South historically is the Mason-Dixon line, but in South Georgia they tell people from Atlanta it's the "Macon-Dixie line" (Macon being a city an hour south of Atlanta). They just don't like those "city ways" or "them Atlanta Yankees" and don't mind telling anyone as much.

I love Atlanta. Ask my wife what she sees in my eyes every time we visit and I see that beautiful skyline. I do not write this post to attack where I grew up. I just know that Atlanta has as many roots from non-Southerners as Southerners. And that ain't so bad.

Amortization Chart, For Anyone Who Wants It

I have uploaded a generic interest calculator. There are some amounts already input for interest, loan balance, and escrow payment, but by changing those in the base cells, anyone can use these to determine what a different payment could do to change how fast a loan can be paid off.

To get the file, click on this link and the page will offer a chance to download the file. If this does not work, please let me know.

-- Robert

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Little Old Man

Writing about my involvement in politics reminded me of one of my earliest nicknames: the Little Old Man. When I was about ten, my mother's close friend heard me say something and responded with, "Robert, you are just a little old man. You need to quit trying to be an adult before your time."

A few years later, I was at a dinner bringing together a large number of executives, and I ended up having a lively conversation about politics, education, and economics with a man at my table. After an hour or more he asked, "So, where do you plan to go to college?" I told him I had plenty of time to decide that. He said, "Well, you're graduating this year, aren't you?"

I was twelve. He was shocked. He said I was far more mature than his son, who was already in college. He was sure I was seventeen.

The reason the politics reminded me of my "little old man" experiences, though, was because of my next experience. I was attending a function with my Dad, who was running for Labor Commissioner, and I had on the name badge my mother had gotten made at the same time as Dad's, which explained I was the son of the candidate. Granted, I was dressed in a suit with a name badge, so I can understand the exchange that followed. Well, I can understand it a little. Imagine the voice speaking to me was very Southern - thick country, and somewhat old and crotchety.

"So, what you runnin' for?" asked the gentleman.

"I'm not running for anything, sir," I replied.

"Oh, I thought you was the candidate," he told me.

"No, sir. I'm not old enough to vote yet."

"Well, I thought you was thirty-five years old!" I was sixteen.

My best friend and I decided to catch a movie. We mainly went to make fun of it because it was not exactly a blockbuster. The next day at work, my friend got asked by one of the waitresses (he worked in a restaurant), "So, did you go see [that movie]?"

"No," he lied. He liked doing that just to mess with people. Don't ask me why.

"Yes you did! I saw you there with your Dad!" she knew she had caught him in one of those lies.

"Umm, I was there with my friend... he's eighteen."

"Oh, I thought that guy was like forty or something."

In college, most of my friends admitted to me after we'd gotten to know each other that they when they first saw me, they wondered why the professor was sitting in the back. They thought I was playing a trick on my class. I graduated at twenty-one.

Soon after college, I started attending a church where I was told they had a young-adult Sunday School class. I asked one of the members if she knew where it was and she said, "Oh, yes. You should go to the Spares and Pairs class. They're you're age," and directed me to it. When I got there, I felt like maybe I had gone to the wrong place, but the name on the door was right. When I heard one of the class members talking about her son's experiences in college, I knew something wasn't right. A few days later I went back to the woman who sent me there and asked her how old she thought I was. "You're about thirty-four, right?" When I explained I was still just twenty-one, she sent me to the class I was originally seeking. I was still the youngest member of that class. By four years.

I dated an undergraduate just before going back to grad school myself. She was almost twenty-one, and I had just turned twenty-four. Her roommate told her that to check my license. She did not believe I was only twenty-four, but thought I was really a forty-something pervert cruising the college girls. When I showed her my license, she figured I had made a fake somehow.

So from the age of ten to twenty-four, I was a "little old man" even though I have not been "little" nor truly old. It comes in handy in places where a "kid" would not get respect, like when a man called to complain to me about the "young guy" at my office only to learn later I was that "young guy." My wife and I have even had a few laughs when her friends assumed I was her much older brother or (not sure they'd admit it crossed their mind) her Dad. I've never been bothered by it. Getting to talk to septuagenarians about "kids these days" when I was nineteen always made me laugh inside. I just thought I would share a funny story about how people see me.

-- Robert

Hump Day, When I First Got the "Disease"

When I was about twelve years old, my Dad invited me to go to the election night party for his friend who was hoping to become our next state Representative. Dad had been his official campaign chairman, but I had little knowledge of his involvement or what those sorts of things even meant. It sounded like a night that might bore most kids to death, but I had grown up going to various parties and functions with a lot of adults, so I was fine with going. Little did I know I would forever be fascinated by this thing we call "politics".

That night someone pointed out I was good with numbers, so they let me add all the voting tallies as they were called in from the courthouse. I felt like the most important person there, constantly having to explain what the numbers meant, and often being asked "So, does it look like he's going to win?" I was used to talking to adults, as I said, so I loved the chance to answer these questions. It probably sealed the deal when my Dad's friend won that night.

A short time later, my own father ran for an open seat to the United States Congress. He had left his job for unrelated reasons, and he felt he could do some good serving our district in the House. He was not the only one, though, as at least five Republicans ran. I was about to head to high school, but I decided I would rather help my father campaign than go to the summer camp for the football team. I spent long hours putting together signs with nails and staples, stuffing mailers, stamping mailers, and handing out literature as my father walked the strip malls of our district. A few days before the election, I helped make phone calls to invite people to come out and vote for my Dad. I was amazed (and often horrified) to hear what people would tell me, a fourteen year old, about my own father. I was cussed out, hung up on, and talked down to. Somehow, I still was not cured of my fascination with politics.

The Primary Day came, and we all gathered to watch the results come in. It was quickly apparent that Dad had not made the runoff. One of his opponents who had vilified him as "a wide-eye liberal" published (without asking) in our local paper an ad explaining how similar his views were to Dad's (Dad had won our county, but he lost badly everywhere else). The man won, and he is still the Congressman from that district today. I've never particularly cared for him, though.

Two years later, my Dad had started a business, but the chairman of the state party came calling. He recruited Dad to run for Labor Commissioner - a statewide office, and one rarely (if ever) held by someone in our party. He agreed only after the chairman promised to give him a certain amount of campaign funding. That promise was never fulfilled, but Dad never dropped out of the race. I had just gotten my license the year before, so I was able to drive him all over the state to interview with newspapers, almost always leaving one interview late for the next one. That summer I learned to speed. It was my job to read the map and decide how best to get from where we were to where we needed to be, so I learned a lot about maps, and about how big our state is. I also learned more about politics, as I watched people from within our own party threaten my Dad, telling him they could not support him if he didn't use "their people". He didn't, and it may well have cost him the election. My father, though, has always been a man of integrity, and he has not let is morals be swayed by expediency. I learned a lot about just how strong his moral compass is during that campaign. He lost by about eight percent, 54%-46%, and he said he was cured of his desire to ever run for public office again. I remember riding home in the car around 2:00 AM and listening to liberals call in to a local radio station, saying the world was coming to an end - the Republicans had just taken the House and Senate. My day might have been "lost" but the party had succeeded in its main goal.

In the years to come, I would work on more campaigns, and I Election Night was to my family what New Years Eve was to many - a big night to stay up and watch what happened. I learned a lot of valuable lessons, but most of all, I knew I had the disease called politics. Any time someone has asked me if I plan to run for office, I always say, "Only if I have to." I prefer to work to elect people I feel will do a good job, and I have come to see that one person really can make a difference in an election. It all goes back to that first night at an election party, counting votes.

Disclaimer: I have avoided politics on this blog because it is not part of the overall topic of our blog. I just thought this post went well with the theme of today's Hump Day (childhood memories) and with the times.

I liked the Hump Day Topic, look here to see what Hump day is and to read other people's Hump Day Posts:

-- Robert

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


To most people, the amortization chart of a loan is like reading Greek, in other words, it is completely foreign. Pick a given period and it tells you how the interest and principal of the loan are broken up and applied. It is always front-loaded with interest (more of the interest is paid up front instead of spread over time) to insure that banks make their money off the loan. What I bet most people do not know, though, is they can reproduce an entire amortization chart for a loan as long as they know the period of the loan, the interest rate, and the amount the total loan is for. By putting those three items into an Excel workbook with the financial formulas of "ipmt" and "ppmt", each of which also require the reference of which period (that is, which month is being calculated), an amortization chart can be generated. Listing out the entire 360 months of a loan might seem time consuming, but it is quite easy as long as a person understands how to make the cells copy and paste while still reference the necessary information (the ipmt and ppmt would need to follow the number of the period, for instance). I know all of that explanation sounds extremely complicated, especially to someone unfamiliar with Excel. So why would I share how to create an amortization chart in this space? By having a complete amortization chart, a person can know what an additional payment to principal will do to reduce the interest of a loan going forward. What do I mean? Here is an example:

If I have always paid only the required payment, but now want to pay an extra $100 a month, I can tell how much benefit I get from that extra $100 by looking down the amortization column for "principal payment" below my current period to where $100 more gets me. In other words, the extra money is somewhat like "skipping ahead" in my loan amortization - which is what people mean when they say they have knocked a certain number of months or years off their loan by paying extra.

I have built a very helpful Excel workbook that has a lot of these amortization charts in it that allow me to determine what an increased amount of interest will do to my payment, or what an increased amount of payment will do to move me forward in my loan. Using these charts has helped me plan my extra payments and understand what I am accomplishing with an extra payment or two a year.

-- Robert

Monday, January 28, 2008

Paying off Debt

In this day and age, debt seems as ever-present in our lives as taxes, and can be just as stress inducing as many illnesses. I regularly listen to Dave Ramsey's call in show and hear people describe how they are working to pay off large credit card debts, car payments, foreclosures, and others. In every case of someone calling who is still dealing with a problem, I can recognize a lot of anxiety and even guilt over the situation. In every case where people are calling to scream "We're debt free!" (he has a part of his Friday show dedicated to these calls) I can distinctly hear the relief in their voices. In short, debt weighs on my soul as much as it does on the bank account.

I have not personally read Dave Ramsey's books, nor have I taken one of his courses. I do know from observing friends and associates who have used his program that it works when it is followed. What his program entails, basically, is paying only minimum payments on everything while putting all the extra payments on the smallest amount of debt owed until it is paid off, then the next, and the next until the largest amount is paid off (or all that is left is a house payment). He calls this the Debt Snowball. Another strategy that makes sense to me is to focus on the highest interest debt until it is paid off, then the next highest interest, and so forth, the logic being that reducing the amount of interest owed faster will increase the amount of money going to principal and thereby to paying off the debt faster.

What does debt reduction have to do with "Making That Money"? By getting interest charges out of my life, I increase the amount of money I bring home to save, invest, or spend, which helps me make more of "that money". I also increase the emotional and spiritual capital in my life dramatically by getting the debt out of my life. Very soon my wife and I will only owe on our home, and I cannot begin to describe how good it feels to be looking forward to being rid of short-term debts. I personally dislike debt. I hate owing anyone anything. We'd also love to pay off our house as fast as possible and be trule debt free for that reason. Then I won't have to worry about a rebate check or a government bailout plan to feel secure in the knowledge that what is mine is truly mine, and I do not have to surrender it to anyone.

-- Robert

Saturday, January 26, 2008


To this point, I have avoided politics. I feel it necessary to write something about two issues being raised lately: the need to give a lot of people a check to stimulate the economy, and the need to let people out of contracts they signed. The people receiving checks are people who pay taxes, so what the government is doing is returning their own money - proving that the economy would be better off if people had more of their own wealth. So the misnomer to me is that the government is doing something positive by "giving people money" but instead they're proving they are guilty of holding back the economy by taking more dollars in taxes. The same is true of any plan to reduce corporate taxes. Corporations should not pay taxes, since their owners already pay taxes on their distributions. By taxing corporations, prices go up (read: inflation) and jobs are less available (read: unemployment). If the economy can be improved by lowering taxes, then why have higher taxes in the first place?

As for letting people out of adjustable rate mortgages because those loans might have reached their adjustable periods personally offends me. I have such a loan, and I had to ask to even get one when I got it. People have had the chance to prepare themselves for the increase in payment. Their failure to plan is not my fault, and I should not have to pay more taxes to help them out of their own mistakes. I think the Federal Reserve has done enough to ease the problems by dropping the Prime Rate and anything more from the government risks a repetition of the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980's. The government went beyond what they were legally obligated to in bailing the Savings and Loans out of bad loans, and the response from the owners of the Savings and Loans was to give away more bad loans with the knowledge they would never have to worry about those loans being repaid. The hole got deeper because of government intervention. ARM loans can actually be a wonderful way to get equity in a home faster, as I wrote here. According to research done in Canada on their loan market, ARM loans involve less total interest on average than standard fixed rate mortgages, which agrees with my post and my own research. Bailing people out of these loans because of poor planning is unfair to the rest of us. Calling them evil is just plain wrong.

What does any of this have to do with "Making That Money"? The government keeps wanting to take more and more of the money we make - income taxes, gas taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, and various forms of licensing fees - and then redistribute it in what ways they think make us feel good. I personally am for less government, more personal freedom, and more personal responsibility. That goes hand in hand with lower taxes, which means more of my money in my hands - more to invest, more to save, and more to spend as I see fit.

-- Robert

Friday, January 25, 2008

Design versus Execution

In my life, I have often dealt with people who want to just "get the job done." They prefer not to waste time determining how to do something faster repeatedly in favor of just finishing the job now and going on to other things. One example of taking the time to figure out how to be more efficient, I looked at a process of posting our daily numbers (sales, changes in cash and other balance sheet items, etc.) and saw it took at least two hours (my recollection was more like four, but that gets disputed by the person who took that long) to hand input them into four separate Excel workbooks. I saw two problems with how the job was done: it was error prone and highly inefficient. The errors could come because of keystroke errors from one sheet to the next, making the data somewhat less reliable. The inefficiency was because three of those sheets built on each other - the data from one was included in the next - and also relied on the same basic statement from our software. By implementing a software solution, that same two to four hour process takes five minutes. How? We now feed the data directly from Quickbooks to two Excel workbooks that then feed to a four page workbook (brought together from those four separate workbooks). Now instead of spending time recording data, we can examine our data and find real errors, or more importantly, look at our business activity and hopefully decide where we could improve. Data again became a tool instead of a chore. I preach to anyone who owns a small business how valuable a resource Quickbooks is on a day to day basis, especially thanks to its ability to feed reports to Excel (one of the most important pieces of software for any accountant). We generate reports on sales history, collections, customer contacts, and many other things all from a piece of software that costs a lot less than industry standard packages that have far less utility.

I have gotten somewhat off topic, so I will return to the importance of design. By taking a few hours once, I built those Excel workbooks into one workbook that used feeds and removed hours of work from ever day in the future. If I know I will be doing a task over and over, I take the time to look for the fastest way to do it accurately, and then improve my method as I learn over time. When I have worked for other businesses, I have received promotions (despite only having an internship for three months in one case) because I have demonstrated the willingness to find a better way instead of just getting the job done. By finding a faster way, I helped my summer employer cut temporary staff and better utilize their information room in their sales. I took a room where previously materials simply got dumped into drawers and organized it alphabetically, placing the most popular packets in a more noticeable location to help those seeking come in and get out quickly. I lost count of the number of compliments I got from people regarding that change. To me, it was obvious: organizing their materials would make everyone's life easier and shorten the time wasted and give more time to the sales staff to actually sell. I still look for ways to improve efficiency in anything I do.

Thanks again for turning my thoughts to the question of design versus execution, Melissa.

-- Robert

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Man Down

This year has not started out on such a stellar note. Around Christmas, the wife of one of my dispatchers fell down her stairs and badly broke her leg and some other body parts. She was given a recovery timeline of several months. Another wife had knee surgery a little before that, so she's been slowly recovering. The dispatcher whose wife had knee surgery was suffering from something akin to pneumonia and kept trying various treatments to get it to go away before finally being sent to the hospital. Turns out he had an 80% blockage in his heart, so they were going to put in a stint. Before they could, though, he had a stroke and possibly another. Now he's got a long recovery period ahead of him, as his speech is badly slurred and he's not completely able to walk or write with his hand (the stroke hit the side of the brain that controls the hand he writes with). My secretary's mother had an operation yesterday. My partner's been sick for a few weeks and been in and out of his office.

It's quite a list of woes to look at. I just needed to get that off my chest. Hopefully the rest of the year will make this first month seem like a distant memory soon.

-- Robert

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Office Layout and Design (Ergonomics)

A few years ago, I noticed something about my office. The copier (at the time we only had one) sat beside two men who used it about once a month, twenty or so feet away from the secretary who used it every day. As silly as it might sound, it had never occurred to anyone how ridiculous it was to have the copier there. As soon as the secretary had the copier closer to her desk, the time spent doing the daily invoicing was reduced dramatically. Later we replaced the copier with one that had a top-feeder, which allowed her to leave simple copy jobs running while she performed other tasks. The new copier also had a reducing function that allowed four copies to go onto one page. Suddenly, instead of boxing half a year's records in six boxes, the whole year could be boxed into four. With those three simple changes, the back office became so much more efficient that when two part-time employees left, we didn't have to hire anyone to replace them.

Sometimes a thing as simple as office layout can breed inefficiencies. Those inefficiencies can add up to hours, hours that cost money. I learned a lot about the importance of a good office layout in that process. We also removed walls that forced employees to walk a long way around a room to a door that was straight in front of them upon entry. Just recently we also reorganized our office to have a work flow layout on the billing desk, and to give the billing area a more private place to work without concern for people monitoring the process. Each of these improvements have made it possible to move billings through more rapidly than ever, helping us avoid overtime during the heaviest times of the year. A few technology investments along with the right design has helped more of our revenue get to the bottom line. Studying the ergonomics of an office - the workflow and its layout - is well worth the small amount of time it can take to analyze it and redesign it.

-- Robert

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sales Calls (continued)

"You're where? Oh, well, if you're out of hours, you're out of hours. I'll get someone to come move the truck, just give me a minute," the safety manager explained to his driver as we sat down. We found out the driver was literally parked in the driveway to the facility bringing in his empty truck and ran out of hours to drive (according to DOT regulations). He looked at us and said, "We run THAT legal."

I took that as an opportunity to highlight our safety policies and record, which hopefully put us in a positive light. We were, after all, visiting a potential customer who knew nothing about us and who we had never hauled from even through another broker. We had a great conversation that hopefully will turn into a good relationship with plenty of business between us.

On another day, just as we were leaving one of our largest customer's facility, we were able to see a new trucking company that had just started working for us. We got a chance to find out more about them and hopefully put together their trucks (which both had two driver teams) and a customer we were just trying to get back to working for. If it works out, it could be very lucrative for us, the shipper, and the truckers - a trifecta. The sales trip this past week went rather well, and we plan to make more of them in the future, especially if we get the results we expect.

-- Robert

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Setting Sales Goals (And Life Goals)

A salesman very often is given a budget at the start of a new year telling him what he is expected to generate in revenue. It might be based on growth expectations, salary justification, or any number of other reasons. Looking at a total figure can be daunting, though, especially if the salesman is expected to substantially increase his production. Imagine, for instance, the goal was to increase his sales from $1,000,000 to $1,500,000. A 50% increase looks huge, but can it be done?

By taking a large goal and breaking it down into incremental goals, the mountain can be climbed. Take the total goal and divide it by 50 - the number of weeks that will most likely be worked (or 48, if he gets that much vacation). That works out to $30,000/week. Dividing that by five (five working days) brings the number to $6000/day. With an average load paying $2000, that means the salesman (or dispatcher, as we call them in this industry) needs to get three loads a day to make his goal. Now the goal seems much more achievable than it might have by only looking at the total.

The process can also be reversed by examining what a higher average would do to the total. By averaging $8000/day, that's $40,000/week, or $2,000,000 in a year. By having a daily goal, the salesman can also track his progress on maintaining his overall progress. Any day he surpasses the daily goal, he knows he has added to his annual total, and any day he misses the average he's subtracted.

This same process can be a great way to get motivated to lose weight, train for a race, or save to buy a new TV/car/whatever. If I want to lose 50 pounds this year, it sounds really impossible until I consider that I just need to lose a pound a week to do it. A pound and a half means I could lose 75. And that's allowing me two weeks of holding pat (not gorging and gaining it all back, though).

Setting dailing and weekly goals can help motivation, reduce stress, and provide vision in taking on huge tasks. As a wise man explained when he was asked how he could possibly eat an elephant, he simply stated, "One bite at a time."

-- Robert

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sales Calls

This week my business partner came to town so we could see some of our bigger customers and talk to some others about expanding our sales with them. Before we left, we could have been disheartened by the first contact of the day.

"Hey [customer contact], I'm in town and we wanted to come by today," my partner explained.

"Oh, well, today wouldn't be good. It's pretty nasty out," she explained. It was raining, though that stopped about ten minutes after this call.

"Oh, we'll be out in it anyway, so we were just thinking we'd come by and talk about what we could do for you this year," he continued.

"We were hoping to let people go home early because of the weather."

"Well, maybe we'll just come by next week some time," he offerend.

"Well, actually, let me be frank with you. We're satisfied with the carriers we have working with us right now," she finally admitted. He had talked to her several times before to let her know he would be in town at this time. She waited until he was here to tell him he was wasting a trip if it was to see her.

All that said, we had several good contacts. We saw a long-term customer, a fairly new business, and a customer who had quit working with us. Getting to clear up why we were cut off made the whole trip worth it, since a few loads would pay for all our expenses. We ended our day by talking to a customer right in town that has a perfect season to match up with our down time. They're busy in the fall, while many of our customers are busy in the spring and early summer. Here's hoping 2008 is a great growth year for my business.

-- Robert

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Salute to a Great Man

This weekend, I went to a funeral for one of the nicest gentlemen I've ever known. He was a truck driver with my company for nearly ten years, and I never recall having cross words with him. He was always respectful, always helpful, and always well groomed. He learned he had cancer around Halloween and died from it very quickly. He will be greatly missed in this business and this world.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

ARM Loans

I started this post out talking about the holiday blues of credit card bills, so that topic serves as a preface to the subject actually listed here. My apologies for any confusion.

No, I'm not talking about the depression people feel after the holidays are over. I'm talking about the depression people feel when they open their credit card statements or bank statements and see what they owe or what they spent on Christmas. This year my family managed to spend a little less thanks to minimal travel, but we still had our fair share of bills to pay. That said, I think my wife and I will be in the best financial shape we've managed in years. We will only owe money on our house and current credit cards by the middle of next month according to my estimates. I won't pat myself on the back, though, since we haven't suffered what Dave Ramsey calls "rice and beans dieting" to manage our debt relief. We've just found a little hear and there to get ourselves in a good position to quit owing money. Once we've paid off our other short term debts, we plan to set aside the debt payments in an interest bearing account and pay down a large chunk of our home loan with it just before our Adjustable Rate kicks in next February.

When we bought our home, we got some good advice that made a lot of sense. We took an ARM loan instead of a fixed rate mortgage. By paying the same amount to the ARM that we would have paid to the fixed rate mortgage, we reduced our principal balance faster and then even a significantly higher interest rate would cost less overall thanks to the reduction in principal. The mechanics look something like this:

4.5% ARM rate versus 5.375% fixed

If our house payment would have been $1200 under the fixed 5.375% but are instead $1050 under the ARM, we get to put an extra $150 a month onto principal for the first six years, or in total dollars that is $10,800 more we have paid against our loan. Even if the rate goes up 2% each year (the maximum allowed, up to 6% more overall), that 6.5% (and later 8.5% and 10.5%) is on $10,800 less money. In the end, the loan can be paid off faster, or at least with lower total interest.

Any time more money can go to principal faster, a loan will get paid off faster. That sounds redundant, but it escapes many people. Where a lot of people have been hurt in the past with ARM loans (and interest only loans) is they do not overpay the required payment, and then the adjustment really hurts them. It makes sense for us to stick with this loan until just before the ARM rate adjustment, and then to refinance the lesser amount on a fixed rate, or possibly get another ARM loan for six more years of slightly lower interest.

This post has been poorly put together, but I'm posting it now just because I know it's been a while since I've posted.

-- Robert