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Revisiting Greed is Good

Why greed is not good for BIGG SuccessGordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) is perhaps one of the most memorable villains in movie history. He is the tempter of Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), showing him a world of money and power, in the movie Wall Street.

Many people don’t view Gekko as evil. In fact, he’s a hero to some. That’s one of the reasons why one of his quotes – greed is good – got so much acclaim.

He’s at a meeting of the stockholders. They’re considering his offer to purchase all the outstanding stock of the company.

He stands up and grabs the microphone. He begins by addressing Cromwell (Richard Dysart), the CEO of the target company, Teldar Paper. You have to see the full quote to really understand the context.

“Well, I appreciate the opportunity you’re giving me Mr. Cromwell as the single largest shareholder in Teldar Paper, to speak. Well, ladies and gentlemen we’re not here to indulge in fantasy but in political and economic reality. America, America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. Now, in the days of the free market when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the stockholder. The Carnegies, the Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake. Today, management has no stake in the company! All together, these men sitting up here own less than three percent of the company. And where does Mr. Cromwell put his million-dollar salary? Not in Teldar stock; he owns less than one percent. You own the company. That’s right, you, the stockholder. And you are all being royally screwed over by these, these bureaucrats, with their luncheons, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes.

Cromwell retorts, “This is an outrage! You’re out of line Gekko!”

Gekko replies, “Teldar Paper, Mr. Cromwell, Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents each earning over 200 thousand dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can’t figure it out. [laughter] One thing I do know is that our paper company lost 110 million dollars last year, and I’ll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents. [laughter] The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. In the last seven deals that I’ve been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars. [applause] Thank you. I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much. [applause]”

A second rate power

The movie was set in the mid-1980s. Think of America then versus America now. But don’t stop there. What about other developed countries? How strong are they now compared to then? Perhaps Gekko was prescient.

From entrepreneurial capitalism to golden parachute capitalism

In days gone by, Wall Street was the place companies went to for growth capital. Wall Street worked with Main Street to build empires.

Wall Street served an essential purpose. It reduced the risk of investing in companies by creating a market for the ownership stake in them.

But the entrepreneurs behind these companies still held significant stakes. They benefitted with the shareholders, not at the expense of them.

Today, most companies are run by agents, not principals. Sure, the top executives may own a small stake. But they don’t have the same skin in the game required of the entrepreneurial executives of the past.

These executives share in the upside, but they don’t have any significant risk other than reputational risk. If they don’t perform, they still get a golden parachute.

The entrepreneurs of old lost wealth along with the shareholders. Now executives still gain financially even in the worst case.

Perhaps Gekko was on to something.

Greed is a misnomer

BIGG success is life on your own terms. Terms are very important.

And this is the point where we can all take away an important personal lesson. Because Gekko got this wrong.

He was close. But he used the wrong word.

Greed is excessive. Greed is never satisfied. Discontent is one thing; greed is another. We’ve talked before about why you should be happy, but not content. But greed pushes it to an unhealthy extreme.

Greed is selfish. A greedy person is largely only concerned about himself or herself. They only care about others unless their concern directly helps them out.

Greed is covetous. A greedy person wants what others have. They will stop at nothing to get it.

Greed has no principles. The acquisition of things is what matters. One cannot be concerned with moral or ethical boundaries in the pursuit of these objects of desire.

Zeal provides the crucial connection

We like the term “zeal”, rather than greed. Zeal implies the same degree of intensity but it offers the benefit of being grounded.

Zeal comes with an attachment to a higher cause. By keeping your pursuits connected with your principles, you don’t step over a line which causes turmoil and leaves you feeling empty in the end.

There is value in your pursuit because you keep your values intact!

So let’s look at Gekko’s quote again, paraphrasing it somewhat and substituting the word zeal:

“Zeal is good. Zeal is right, zeal works. Zeal clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Zeal, in all of its forms; zeal for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And zeal will save that malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”

We believe our best days are still ahead of us. But we need our leaders to create an environment where entrepreneurs can succeed.

And we need you to be zealous in your pursuit of prosperity. It leads to BIGG success!

Are you zealously pursuing a better, brighter future?

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Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover

clover Happy St. Patrick’s Day everybody! We hope you’re having a good one. We have to celebrate today with song!

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marylynn
Does that mean you’re going to sing, George?

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georgeI hope not. We want our audience to keep listening. I only put you through that torture, Mary-Lynn.

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We do like music here at Bigg Success as you may have noticed by all the songs and bands we talk about.

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marylynn
I’m more of a melody person and George is the lyrics guy.

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With it being St. Patrick’s Day, we started thinking about the song, I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover. What a happy little jingle, written all the way back in 1927 but, ironically, overlooked until Art Mooney popularized it in 1948.

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georgeThe song opens, “I’m looking over a four-leaf clover that I overlooked before.” And in the lyrics … see I am a lyrics guy … are three great lessons.

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Sunshine + Rain = Roses

The second part of the song goes, “One leaf is sunshine, the second is rain, Third is the roses that grow in the lane.”

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marylynnThis is the first lesson we see in this wonderful song and it seems particularly appropriate right now as we face tough times. Sometimes the sun shines. I just love sunny days. The sun represents the good times.

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Up until about a year or so ago, we were living in pretty good times, economically. We often aren’t thankful enough when we’re in the middle of them.

Then it rains. And we’re in the middle of a storm right now. But the thing is – if the sun was always shining, if it never rained – would we really appreciate the sunshine?

It’s the change of weather that makes weather more interesting. It’s the change in circumstances that makes life more interesting. And boy, are they interesting right now or what!

This part of the song wraps up talking about the roses that grow in the lane. And here’s where the lesson comes in. Without the sunshine and the rain, those roses wouldn’t grow. Without the rain, those roses wouldn’t bloom into their full beauty.

So it is with us. It takes sunshine and rain, good times and bad, for us to reach our full potential. Because in the down times, when the challenges may be the greatest, we gain wisdom, strength, and skills that we would never have otherwise. And those things carry us to greater heights than we could have ever imagined when the good times come. 

The fourth leaf

The song continues, “No need explaining, the one remaining is somebody I adore.” St. Patrick’s Day is all about luck. The fourth leaf of a four-leaf clover is often associated with luck. And how lucky we are if we have someone to adore! That’s the second lesson from this song.

Isn’t it interesting that the song doesn’t talk about having somebody who adores us? It’s showing us that to give our love, our adoration, is so very important. Because we can’t really love someone else fully unless we love ourselves enough to have some love to give, some extra capacity. Then we can experience the joy of giving love.

Let’s not overlook the third lesson

Believe it or not, that’s the whole song … it’s like the whole song is a chorus.

So you may be saying, “Wait a minute. They said there were three lessons in this song and so far they’ve only talked about two of them.”

Good catch. The third lesson is in the first part of the song. “I’m looking over a four-leaf clover that I overlooked before.”

Since we view four-leaf clovers as a sign of good luck to come, we wonder …

How often do we overlook the good luck that is right in front of our faces?

We have wonderful people in our lives. We have the basic necessities we need. We have so much and we often fail to stop and be thankful for it. Yes, today is a day to realize how lucky we are. Our stocks and the value of our houses may be down. But we shouldn’t overlook how fortunate we are.

We feel fortunate that you spent time with us today. Thank you so much. 

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If we don’t have enough of this one thing, we’ll fail. If we have too much of it, we’ll fail. Join us next time to find out what this one thing is … and exactly how much you need of it to succeed bigg. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

 

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Are You a Shopoholic?

shopping_mall There is a group that is suffering more than most during these tough economic times. Unfortunately, their agony is not covered much in the major media. They are all around us. Yet we seldom see the turmoil that they are experiencing. They have chosen to largely endure it on their own, not talking about it to anyone.

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Who are we talking about?

Shopoholics!

This economy has really made an impact on this group of people. There are a lot of people who claim to be shopoholics. But most people who call themselves shopoholics probably don’t really have a problem that borders on an obsession.

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georgeOne of my sisters can shop all day long and never buy anything. She just seems to love being in a shopping arena … she’s a gladiator among shoppers!

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marylynnBoy, I’m not one of those people. I like to get in and out. I have an aunt who likes to do all-day shopping ventures. It gives me a headache and makes me dizzy.

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Problems experienced by compulsive buyers

We’ve taken a light-hearted approach so far, but this problem is more serious than we realize. A recent study, conducted jointly by researchers at the University of Richmond and the University of Illinois, found that true shopoholics comprise a larger percentage of the population than is generally assumed.

About nine percent of the participants were found to be “compulsive buyers” according to this study. True shopoholics feel better when they buy things, tend to hide purchases, have more family arguments, and are more likely to have maxed out their credit cards.

Test yourself

Perhaps the most interesting item to come out of this research is the test they used to determine if someone is a shopoholic. The researchers asked participants to rate the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with these six statements.

They used a 7-point scale, which we haven’t seen but can imagine it looked something like this:

1 = Strongly disagree
2 = Disagree
3 = Somewhat disagree
4 = Neutral
5 = Somewhat agree
6 = Agree
7 = Strongly agree

See how you do:

  • My closet has unopened shopping bags in it.

  • Others might consider me a "shopaholic."

  • Much of my life centers around buying things.

  • I buy things I don’t need.

  • I buy things I did not plan to buy.

  • I consider myself an impulse purchaser.

Participants who scored 25 or more were considered compulsive buyers by the researchers. If your score places you in this group, you’re at the first step to overcoming it – you’re aware it is a problem. The next step is to get professional help.

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How ironic

This economy is really crimping the style of “casual” shoppers – people who really like to shop and spend money, but who aren’t really compulsive buyers.

And isn’t it ironic that many of us are being forced to cut back when everything seems to be on sale? From cars to electronics to travel, now is a great time to shop if you have the money.

But of course, that’s the reason these deals exist. People are saving their money at a higher rate now instead of spending it. We’ve learned some valuable lessons in the last few months.

Conspicuous consumption is out; frugality is in. So are we going to hear about “save-a-holics” in the coming years? That remains to be seen.

Well, we better wrap it up for now … it’s time to go shopping!

Thanks for reading our post today. Until next time, here’s to your bigg success!

 

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My Employer is Eliminating 401(k) Matches

retirement Companies are responding aggressively to the bad economic news. Layoffs, hiring freezes, and salary freezes have been some of the most common actions so far.

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Now, more and more employers are looking at eliminating the matching of 401(k) contributions. According to a survey by Watson Wyatt, the global human resources and financial services firm, things are changing quickly. In October, 2% of firms said they had already cut back on these matches and 4% said they planned to. Two months later, in December, 3% had already made the cut and 7% said they intended to.

And these are large companies. Established brands that we all know. Motorola, FedEx, Kodak, and Starbucks just to name a few.

They’re usually using the word “suspend” rather than “eliminate” when they announce these cuts. But it raises a question:

If my employer stops matching my contribution to my
401(k), should I still keep making contributions myself?

It forces us to save

This is perhaps the biggest reason to keep making contributions. Financial planners have said for years that we should pay ourselves first. Investing it before we get it, as we do with our 401(k), is the best way to make sure that happens.

Most people report that they don’t really miss the money. It’s like the taxes that are deducted from our paychecks – the government knows most of us won’t miss the money if we don’t see it.

Of course, there are ways to set up an automatic deduction from our checking or savings account for investments outside of a 401(k). That’s really close to having it deducted from our paycheck, but it’s not quite the same. That little variation can make a bigg difference for some people. You have to judge that for yourself.

Higher limits

The next best option to a 401(k) for most people would be an IRA because contributions may also be deductible. You should check with your financial advisor about the specifics of your situation.

Because you invest before paying taxes, it’s as if the government is making part of the contribution for you. For example, if you made a $1,000 contribution to one of these retirement plans and you’re in the 25% tax bracket, you would pay $250 less in taxes. So, in essence, you’re only out of pocket $750.

With either plan, you don’t pay taxes on the money you earn on your investments until you pull it out. Deductible and deferred – that’s a pretty powerful combination.

Where the 401(k) gains favor is that it has higher maximum limits – your contributions to your 401(k) can total up to $16,500 in 2009 ($22,000 if you’re over 50). You can’t contribute more than $5,000 to an IRA in most cases.

If my employer cuts or eliminates my 401(k) match, are there
reasons to fund my retirement through another vehicle?

A lot of 401(k) plans offer fairly limited investment options and you may pay lower fees in a plan that’s not a 401(k). 

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The bigger issue

It’s not like we don’t already have a sense of it. But recent months have reinforced this paradigm. We can’t count on anyone or anything for any part of our financial future. We must take full control of our own finances. We have to build our own safety nets to make sure we are financially secure.

How much will you have at retirement?

It really boils down to three factors:

  • how much we invest
  • how much we earn on our investment (after all fees and taxes)
  • how long it is invested

From these three factors, we see that we have three options if we don’t want to retire on less money:

1st – We can try to earn more on the money we invest.
That involves taking more risk and we don’t have much appetite for that right now. So this probably isn’t going to fly with most of us.

2nd – We can postpone our retirement.
This buys us more time. People who are really close to retirement right now may not have much of a choice. They may have to do this. But if you still have some time on your side, there may be a better way.

3rd – We can increase our contributions.
Look at your budget and see if there is any way you can make up for the investment your company was making.

If your employer reinstates matching contributions, you can stop contributing at the increased rate and enjoy the extra money in your budget … or …

… you can keep making your higher contributions to give your retirement a kick!

To all our readers in Australia, happy Australia Day! And we hope our friends in India enjoy Republic Day!

And thank you so much for spending time with us today. Join us next time when we discuss extreme multi-tasking. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

 

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Top Threats to Your Career and Finances in 2009

By Bigg Success Staff
12-17-08

caution

We’ve all heard plenty of bad news recently, but the bad news now is that there is more bad news to come. While we must think about the opportunities in front of us, it’s also important to consider the threats to our careers and our finances so we can prepare appropriately.

Recession

Consumers, businesses, non-profits, and governments, all over the developed world, are learning a hard lesson about leverage. We will climb our way out of this recession but it will take some time. Before it’s through, it will be one of the, if not the most, severe recession since the Great Depression. 

Layoffs will continue. In most recessions, layoffs occur mostly at the bottom of the earnings / education spectrum. Expect this recession to be more evenly distributed, if not hitting higher end jobs harder.

Outsourcing

Companies will continue outsourcing, but here’s the difference. Manufacturing jobs have been getting shipped overseas for some time now. As fuel prices rose, there actually seemed to be a resurgence in companies bringing manufacturing jobs back on shore.

Now more white-collar jobs are at risk thanks in part to technology that allows information to be shared instantly from any place in the world with internet access. We found a great article that discusses the characteristics of jobs that can now be easily outsourced and jobs that can’t. It also lists what you can do to make yourself less vulnerable and provides a list of jobs by their level of risk to offshoring.

Deflation

Expect deflation to continue as everybody keeps a tight lid on spending, the credit markets remain relatively tight, and inventories of everything from housing to cars remain comparatively high. The good news is lower prices will remain, but …

Inflation

Governments in the developed countries have poured money into the world economy at unprecedented rates. At some point, once the credit markets loosen up and demand returns, inflation could become a problem.

We’ve just witnessed prices on everything from gas to groceries rising quickly. We could see it again. It will take wise leadership to know when to slam on the brakes on economic stimulus without tightening so much that another recession ensues.

If this happens, that cash stash will quickly lose its value. Investments in hard assets have typically performed well in times of inflation.

Delayed retirement

A number of retirees are being forced to look for work after the freefall of their portfolios. Even more people who planned to retire soon are putting those plans on hold because they need to bulk up their assets again before they stop working. This will create even more competition in already tight job markets.

Benefits

Employers are under intense pressure to cut costs. It’s reasonable to expect them to cut benefits. Even if it’s promised now, don’t count on having health insurance provided to you as a retiree. Even while you’re working, expect to cover a greater share of the premiums.

Also don’t be surprised if your employer cuts back or eliminates the matches on your 401(k). These aren’t the only benefits at risk, but they’re two of the most significant ones.

Access to credit

It won’t show up on your personal balance sheet, but your credit score will be an incredible asset. Cash will be king as long as prices remain in a deflationary state. At some point, cash along with the ability to access credit will open doors for opportunities that most of us will never see again in our lifetimes. 

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5 Questions for Job Seekers in 2009

By Bigg Success Staff
12-15-08

2009

It would not be wise to base a career decision on a single year. However, if you’re looking for a job now or are considering a career change in 2009, you have to factor in the current conditions.
With that in mind, here are five questions to guide you through a career change now:

Is this career in an industry that is essential?

People will primarily spend money on necessities. Luxuries will be out the door for the most part. Even industries, that in past recessions have performed well, are predicting decreases in revenue. So think about what people have to buy.

For example, while there are reports of cutbacks by some healthcare institutions, most careers in health care should be relatively safe. New jobs in health care are driven by the aging population, and that will continue regardless of economic conditions.

Is it a cheaper substitute?

Consumers will be frugal in 2009 and perhaps beyond. So before you jump into an occupation, ask yourself if the service offers a cheaper substitute.

For instance, consumers will cut back on do-it-for-me and rely more on do-it-yourself. Finding a new job in a firm that helps consumers serve themselves may be more fruitful with most consumers pinching pennies.  

What’s the news?

When we think of 2008, words like “bailout”, “stock market crash”, and “credit crisis” come to mind. Think about the news this year for a hint of what will be hot next year.

As a case in point, careers that help individuals and companies wade through the financial and legal hurdles of their debt will likely be strong.

Is it a long-term trend?

Education is expected to remain strong, especially at the college level. In fact, enrollments are expected to rise, fueled by a large number of college-aged young people, increased desire to get a college degree, and more adults returning to school. Educational institutions are expected to hire to fill this demand by their patrons.

Expand your mind to the possibilities

You may be reading this article because you’re looking for a job right now. You may be considering a career change. In either case, before you do your own research, consider what the future holds.

We found a great article that discusses top careers in 2012. That’s not that far away, but some of these jobs sure do seem far out!

Oh, and now for the fifth question –

What career matches an opportunity with your passion and talents?

Some recommended reading on Bigg Success to help you find your passion and talents:

Your Personal SWOT Analysis (Part I)

Your Personal SWOT Analysis (Part 2)

Back to the Future: Visualizing the Life You Want (Part II)

Once you know the answer to this last question, you'll be on the right career track for you!

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25 Ways to Lead Your Organization Through Good Times and Bad

By Bigg Success Staff
05-14-08

Leadership Skills

twenty-five 

Leadership is challenging under any condition. In this article, we’ll offer some tips to survive the bad times and to let the good times keep rolling! We discuss five great tips from each of five great articles along with the links to the original articles themselves.

5 Tips to Keep Your Organization’s Knowledge in Your Organization

#1 – Don’t let your best people leave.

#2 – Establish a mentoring program for new employees.

#3 – Share best practices.

#4 – Share lessons learned.

#5 – Document, document, document.

This is a fantastic article on The Providers Edge site. Check out the entire article to learn how to reduce knowledge loss in your organization. *Note that this link will open a PDF file.


5 Key to Overcoming a Crisis

#1 – Keep in mind that business without risk is business without growth.

#2 – Work with the facts. Listen to the market, not your ego.

#3 – Act quickly and decisively. Delay makes things worse, not better.

#4 – Be a proactive leader and clearly communicate your decisions.

#5 – Be resilient and continue to innovate. Success is not forever, nor is failure.

These great tips come from Atsutoshi Nishida, CEO of Toshiba. He was discussing his company’s decision to pull the plug on HD DVD with Yukari Iwatani Kane of The Wall Street Journal. Check out the full interview for detail on overcoming a crisis in your organization.

 

5 Tips to Get the Best Results from Your Employee Training Programs

#1 – Remember that training is an investment.

#2 – Make sure the training is targeted and really needed.

#3 – Establish measurable returns.

#4 – Work with vendors that truly understand your needs.

#5 – Make sure the training is flexible and customized.

Chris Young wrote this excellent post on his Maximizing Possibility blog. You owe it to yourself to check out his complete explanation of his five tips for improving employee training and development during a recession or economic downturn.

… but we’re not done with training yet …


5 Pointers to Train Your People to Up sell / Cross sell

#1 – Tell your people what’s in it for them.

#2 – Give them clear objectives.

#3 – Create a non-threatening environment for role playing.

#4 – Assign them structured skill improvement activities.

#5 – Schedule a follow-up workshop about a month after the initial session.

This is an oldie, but a goody written by Brian J. Geery for BNET. He specifies it as sales training, but these tips are helpful for training for any human interaction. Read details of his five tips to ensure successful up selling / cross selling training.


5 Tips to Keep the Momentum Going

#1 – Reset greater challenges.

#2 – Review individual efforts.

#3 – Re-energize.

#4 – Rewind.

#5 – Recognize and reward.

Understanding these concepts is so important because momentum is such a precious thing. Check out the details on CareerBuilder’s top five tips for maintaining momentum.  

 

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Ask and You Shall Receive

By Bigg Success Staff
05-07-08

Bigg Success With Money

top_negotiator 

There are two pieces to building your nest egg: you need to have money to invest and you have to invest it wisely. In this article, we’ll explore the first one – finding the money to invest.

Other than winning the lottery or inheriting money, there are only two ways to get money to invest: make more or spend less of it. We’ll look at the first one – making more money.

Here’s one of the secrets to making more money … ask for it!

That’s right – negotiate for a better compensation package when you’re offered a job. Ask for a pay raise at your current job. Ask and you shall receive!

Or for certain, we can say that if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.

Women are much less likely than men to negotiate for a better deal. In fact, Linda C. Babcock, a Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon University and author of the book, Women Don’t Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide.

She found that about half of all men negotiate for higher pay when considering a job offer while only one in eight women do the same!

Now here’s something to consider, especially if your position involves negotiating deals of any kind for your employer. If you won’t ask for a better deal for yourself, how can your employer count on you to negotiate a better deal for the company?

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