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What I Learned While Struggling

(Or “Some Things You Can Do to Make Sure You Never Suck As Bad at Entrepreneurship As I Did”)


That was the balance in my checking account when I finally got up the courage to check on my account balances one morning a long time ago. I may have had the absolute worst experience as a start-up entrepreneur in the real estate field as is possible. I mean, I was ridiculously horrible as a first-time-out business owner. Really, it was so bad that all I can do is laugh about it...now that my crying is in the past.

Anyway, at the height of it (the depths of it?), I turned to a close friend who was much more successful than I and just asked where I had gone wrong. It wasn’t a moment of self-pity. I had many moments of self-pity, but this was a time where I was honestly searching for an answer. What could I do to help make sure – to the best of my ability this time around – that I would never go that way again? I needed to know what to do differently if the Lord ever gave me the chance for a do-over in business and in life.

Here are some of the lessons that I learned. I’ve placed them all down on paper as best I can remember. They aren’t in any particular order.

1. Use as much leverage as you can. Other people’s money. Other people’s energies. Other people’s time. I had to get better at using money, systems, people and tools to multiply my effectiveness and profitability.

2. Never, ever, ever take your foot off the gas marketing-wise. The only marketing and sales strategy that is fool-proof is relentlessness. Whether you go small or large with your marketing almost doesn’t matter as much as consistency...never take time off from telling people your story.

3. Protect your confidence. Guard it closely. Even if you don’t have it, fake it. When people see you lose your confidence, you’re close to being done. There’s nothing an entrepreneur can do once his or her confidence is gone. You have to have it...so take it back and get back to work!

4. Your friends aren’t necessarily your friends. You have to be very careful about whom you keep around you. Not everyone is truly supportive. Some are quite destructive to your dreams and visions and will mask their detrimental statements and actions in the guise of being “realistic” and such fallacious euphemisms. Realistic people have never accomplished anything.

5. Get help. Let me rephrase. Get as much help as you can. Saying the words “I need help” can transform your life!

This is a short list because I’m still learning how to be more successful and how to achieve my goals. I have a lot to learn. However, I’m fairly confident that I will be better off if I can master just those five habits. We shall see. It can’t hurt, right?

To your success.

Mark Anthony McCray is Founder of "Live Big, Die Empty" a ministry and movement designed to help people live life more abundantly and walk in the purposes for which they were created. Write or call 832-566-2001 for more information and follow Mark on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/MARKMCCRAY or http://www.twitter.com/LiveBigDieEmpty

18 Very Personal and Candid Rules for #FinancialFitness

Money is not the most important thing in life.  I talk about this (and more) in my FREE eCourse called "9 Practical Paths to Prosperity" which you can begin by clicking HERE.

Now, having said that and depending upon who you are and your disposition, it may not even rank in your top ten priorities. The listing of one’s priorities is between a man and his God.  Frankly, however, there are myriads of books on the bookstore shelves that will suggest to you what things you ought to value and what things ought to be important to you. There are myriads more books to tell you how to pursue those objectives. I have taken a distinctly different approach: my focus is money in this Blog article.

Why this article?

This is a collection of advice that I was looking for when I was younger, thin on experience and had not a clue as to how to manage my financial affairs as a Christian, entrepreneur, husband, father and first time Chief Executive Officer of a start-up company. I was completely lost financially and felt almost without hope of things ever changing.  Hopefully, you, the reader, will benefit greatly from the challenges, pain and subsequent growth, freedom and joys I have experienced.

If you are like me and you’re serious about taking your finances from nothing to something to many things, I believe you’ll enjoy and benefit from this article greatly.

1. Pay God first. I believe that everything is the Lords, and so we honor Him by bringing Him back a portion of all of the increase with which we blesses us. I am a proud tither. I appreciate the chance to honor the Lord with my obedience in tithing. I can recall too many times wherein I didn’t have any income on which to tithe.

2. Pay yourself second. I believe in saving. I can’t allow myself to spend everything that I take in or I’ll never advance. Save as much as you can. Protect your backside with insurance and prepare for rainy days with savings. W. Clement Stone once said, "If you cannot save money, then the seeds of greatness are not in you.” There is a lot of truth in this statement for saving demonstrates the ability to control our emotions and our circumstances – to appreciate bounty, but not forget the lean times.

3. Then pay everyone else. Plan and budget. Don’t allow any dollar to be idle. Know where every dollar is supposed to go and what work it’s supposed to do for you before it shows up.

4. Sow bountifully. Give as much as you can. I believe in giving. I believe that my harvests increase as I sow more. I believe that the Lord promises me an increase in righteousness as I increase in my giving. There are countless encouragements throughout the word of God that we will receive multiplied blessings (harvests) as a result of our giving (sowing). If you aren’t prospering the way that you would like, perhaps you should examine your giving records? Maybe there is a blessing that God has for you that you haven’t obtained because it requires you to sow a seed in faith?

5. Always, always, always ask for the money. The sooner this lesson is learned, the better. As an entrepreneur, sales professional or any other professional whose compensation is based on performance, we have to become accustomed to ASKING for what we want. If I don’t ask, I don’t get. Be importune. Read Luke 11. That’s the model. I’ve been recently blessed to see this attitude in action. Ask! Ask! Ask! If you don’t ask, you don’t get and you’ll be surprised at how many good things will come into your life just because you opened your mouth to ask for them.

6. Be diligent. To quote my Pastor, Thaddeus Eastland, diligence is best defined as "thinking it through, then getting after it and then staying after it." Work as hard as you can. Respond to customers and opportunities quickly. The best ones don't wait for you. Diligence isn’t just about working hard, however. It’s about rising early and looking for every possible opportunity to achieve a goal – uncovering every rock. The Bible says that “the hand of the diligent makes rich” in Proverbs 10:4. This is just one of the many encouragements in the Bible towards diligence in all that we do.

7. Negotiate as much as you can. Negotiate everything. The price isn't always the price. Ask for a discount. If you don’t get a discount, ask for more at the same price. Here’s the thing...you won’t always get the answer that you want. However, my experience is that about half of the time, you’ll get what you’re asking for and sometimes you’ll get more. You’ve got nothing to lose and you just might find that it doesn’t take as much money to get ahead when you’re not paying full price!

8. Always keep cash on hand. A lot of opportunities are missed for lack of means to move quickly. Zig Ziglar made it a habit to leave home with at least $100 in his pocket every day. Who knows? Sometimes you’ll come across an opportunity to be a blessing to someone.

9. Pray as much as you can. Prayer changes things. God can and will give you guidance on the right money moves to make if you ask Him for wisdom. He can and will also give you favor, which is better than having money.

10. Never stop selling, promoting or telling your story. Market every day. Don’t miss a day. Don’t slack. Be relentless. Relentlessness is the one marketing strategy that never, ever fails. When you stop selling, you’re on the path downward financially. When you are relentless about selling, you’re moving up. Never stop marketing and selling. If you can’t do it personally each day, find some ways to use leverage to do it for you – email blasts, sales reps, print ads, etc. can leverage your time and money effectively.

11. Get up early and get after it. They say money never sleeps. It does. But it gets up early. This is closely related to the concept of diligence. A word study on diligence uncovers that it carries with it the idea of getting out of bed and getting started early. Personally, I know that my most productive days and “seasons” have been when I’ve been most intentional about rising and getting to work before everyone else. When I get up late, I often feel like the whole day is close to being wasted.

12. Communicate often and honestly to anyone to whom you owe a financial obligation. If you owe money to someone, talk to them about it. The absolute worst thing to do is to act like there’s no elephant in the room.

13. Don’t allow banks to take your money through fees. Never pay banking and financing charges. Pay bills early and get a discount. I hate giving people money for nothing with a passion! Get rid of your credit cards so that you’re no longer paying money for the convenience of them. If you plan ahead and save, you don’t need them anyway. You probably don't need your credit cards or the charges that come with them. Debit cards work fine for most purposes with some planning.

14. Talk to people. People still do business with people and sales are still based mostly on trust. When I get on the phone, when I take meetings, I make money. This means that I need to answer my phone, make meetings and return correspondence quickly. Plain and simple. If I not talking to people, I am getting broker. If I am talking to people, I’m getting richer.

15. Gratitude and Appreciation. It is hard to increase while despising what you do have. How can we expect the Lord to bless us when we aren’t appreciative of what He’s already done? How can we envy the successful and expect to join their ranks. Thoughts of anything less than thankfulness for our blessings and opportunities keep us out of position to receive more. Take stock of your benefits and not just of your deficits.

16. Simplify and delay gratification. Do you really need it? Do you really need it now? If you don't have it, you may not need it. This is related to the concept of saving. It’s not that we should plan to live lives “without” but that many of the things we want can be saved for and purchased later, cheaper and sometimes not at all after we’ve reflected on them a bit.

17. Use leverage. Leverage #1: Put money to work making more money. Leverage #2: Find ways to capitalize on the efforts of others. Look for business opportunities that allow you to make money while you sleep. It’s very difficult (nearly impossible?) to become wealthy solely off the efforts of your own hourly output. Leverage #3: Systematize your work so that it doesn’t take as much energy to accomplish the same outcomes. Leverage #4: Invest in tools that allow you to do more and do it more efficiently in less time. This is the very practical area that I believe separates middle class from upper class. Most of the wealthy people that I have known have been masters at using OPM, OPE and OPT (other people’s money, other people’s energies and other people’s time). This is also one area in which I believe I need to work on myself the most.

18. Earn as much as you can. Be relentless about your goals and creative about how to achieve them. Give yourself a raise. Raise your value to people and dare to be compensated for it. There is no virtue in earning less than you are able and gifted to earn – to being as productive as you can be with your time, talents and treasures. How do you know that your bounty isn’t designed to be a blessing to someone else? Doesn’t the Bible say that a good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children?

If you have a tendency towards becoming a money-hungry power broker, it is not my desire to encourage your love for money so that you walk away from God. However, I am heartsick over the false dichotomy with which a lot of Believers operate so that they are afraid to prosper. Many are afraid to prosper because they believe it is somehow holier to be impoverished. So they live well below their privilege and fail to use basic financial wisdom in stewardship.

There’s also the other extreme within Christendom whereby everything is about prosperity.

I hope to live with financial balance according to the guidance of Proverbs 30:8-9 whereby I am not so overtaken with poverty that I disgrace the name of the Lord. Neither do I want to be so overtaken by riches, that I feel like I don’t need Him. I hope that I’ve written something that helps you find greater financial wisdom and prosperity with proper spiritual perspective.

To your success.  Be sure to join "9 Practical Paths to Prosperity" if you want to walk through more lessons with me.

Mark Anthony McCray helps people live on PURPOSE, achieve higher PERFORMANCE and experience true PROSPERITY. Be sure to subscribe to this blog so you don't miss a thing and forward this to a friend if you found it helpful. All material © Copyright, Mark Anthony McCray unless otherwise noted!

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How to Become More Productive

"Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend." - Theophrastus

"Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else." - Peter F. Drucker

Here are some quick tips for my fellow entrepreneurs - reminders, if you will - for ways that you and I can increase our productivity within the limited time that we have. I've found that more and more of us are working at more than one business or have a job on the side. It's easy to get caught up in the routine of each day and forget to be aggressive, expansive, productive and efficient. Here are some good time-maximizing practices that you may have forgotten:

1. Practice and prepare your scripts, your language and your presentations before you get into meetings. Think about what you'll say when meeting someone for the first time. Think about how to handle objections. Don't allow yourself to be caught off-guard.

2. Do something every single day to try to generate new business and/or tell your story to a new prospect. This can be done a number of ways: pass someone a business card, send an email, write an article for an industry magazine or update your blog. You never know where you're going to find your next Client.

3. Follow up with old contacts and prospects - those who chose to do business with you and those who didn't. First, you never know how their situations may have changed since you last visited with them. Second, sometimes people really do lose your contact information.

4. Take excellent care of your current clients. Don't just provide customer service. Provide customer OVER-service. Don't just communicate. Over-communicate. In uncertain market conditions, they could use your reassurance.

5. Be coached. No one has accomplished anything really great without coaches, Pastors, leaders and mentors from whom they could learn and improve. If you don't have a good one, get one! Just make sure they are excelling in an a role in which you want to excel or improve.

6. Read good books and listen to great audio programs every day. Make it a habit to feed your mind and soul well so that your attitudes can be healthy. Fueling your mind well will help your bottom line tremendously. Allowing discouragement and dejection to seep in will kill your business.

7. Exercise. This speaks for itself, but it's absolutely critical that you keep your energy level up and your mindset healthy if you're going to succeed as an entrepreneur or sale professional of any kind. Also, the stresses can really drag you down if you don't find healthy ways to process them.

8. Follow a schedule. It helps to have anchored times in your daily routine even if you don't plan every moment. There ought to be some elements of your life that are regimented.

9. Systems can increase your power. Systems create leverage and help you do more with less. Just the same way that sharpening an axe allows you to chop wood faster, using systems and tools in your work (investment sometime required!) can multiply your effectiveness.

10. Have fun! The days go by faster if you remember to find enjoyment in everything you do...and the necessary work doesn't seem quite as taxing. "Whistle while you work" is what I think they used to say!