504 Loan Blog: Curated by Mercantile Capital Corporation

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Changing of the Guard

With the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropping 504 points yesterday and me being the “504 Expert,” I thought it must be a sign to comment on that course of events. While Lehman’s bankruptcy, Merrill’s sale and AIG’s capital call are indeed worrisome, the sky isn’t falling for the American economy at-large. The financial markets may be reeling, but it’s always the worst when you’re smack in the middle of things . . . a little perspective is needed.

Lousy lending standards and excessive leverage stoked by ridiculously low interest rates are the roots of today’s financial crisis . . . but it’s largely confined to just the well-publicized, finance industry. The economy is not crumbling — it’s been growing at an average rate of 2.37% for the past 6 quarters. The non-housing portion of the economy (which comprises roughly 95% of total U.S. economic activity) is quite stable with the non-housing real GDP having grown at a 3.2% clip over the past three years. Productivity of the average U.S. worker has risen an average of 2.6% annually during the past 10 years (the largest gains in 40 years). For every dollar of U.S. economic output generated today, we burn less than half as much oil as 30 years ago — and the price of a barrel is now close to $95, almost $50 less than the high in July. Times are better than they appear… but it helps if you unplug the television and skip the “doom and gloom” headlines in every other media (this is also why you should have the courage to be buying currently discounted assets like commercial property right now). Obviously, this being an election year and politicians doing what politicians do best to get our attention, neither can sling quite enough mud at each other in their attempt to paint a picture of Armageddon in our minds . . . alleviated only if we vote for our “savior.”

As I’ve written previously, among the many roles a Chief Executive Officer has is that of “hope-purveyor,” of remaining calm, optimistic, and reasonable. Employees, business owners, and their advisors regularly look to me to gauge where things are headed. I always marvel a little at me being the “calm one,” but such is my place. I strive to be a “merchant of optimism.” So this blog post is as much for my employees and partners, as it is for our investors, Clients, prospective Clients, and the business community as a whole.

Today’s headlines suggest to me that we’re entering a New Era in our society — one where the venerable old names don’t really matter that much anymore. We’ve been headed in this direction for some time with the disruptive technologies the IT world has wrought everywhere. But now, the staid, conservative financial and banking communities are finally feeling the tremors (or should it be the “earthquakes”) of change. What Lehman, Merrill and AIG had in common was resting on their laurels too long, not adapting to change as quickly as they should have, and becoming victims of their own hubris. All of these actions left them distant from their customers… and if there’s one absolute fact in this New Era, it’s this: customers want to be closer to, not further away from, their service-providers. They want their service-providers to understand them. When you’re busy creating exotic financial instruments that hardly anyone really understands, just how exactly do you expect Clients to feel closer to you?

In this new world of constant communication, social-networking, and Web 2.0, people don’t just want “service-providers,” they want “Experience-providers.” They want their business relationships to be comprised of Experiences . . . service, alone, is not enough anymore. “Satisfaction” is merely expected. “Delightful experiences” are something to shoot for. I believe that’s what we’ve provided our Clients with from day one, and it’s a major contributor to our growth and successes. Contrary to what every pundit once said, the computer and other electronic gadgets have actually brought us closer together, not further apart . . . so if you’re hiding behind your email or voicemail, you’re making a MAJOR mistake by not engaging with your Clients and Prospective Clients. Of course, if you’re bloated with layer after layer of management and suffer “Big Dumb Company-itis” (as I call it), then getting close to your clients is pretty tough to do.

It strikes me as unreasonable to expect a Wall Street firm to still be around 160 years after its founding. It strikes me as odd to think the original DJIA should somehow match today’s DJIA. Change is the other member of the triumveriate of Constants: death and taxes being the other two, of course. Am I the only one who wasn’t exactly surprised by the “Old Guard” changing? I’m surprised it took this long.

What we witnessed yesterday — and it should be more apparent daily — is that Schumpeter’s “creative destructionism” is alive and well within our economy. The strongest survive, as they say, but to be strong these days requires being smart, swift and adaptive. Our firm is the personification of this trend — we probably couldn’t have started 15 or 20 years ago and actually thrived against the Giant banks in our industry . . . like we have. But today, being the cigarette boat instead of the supertanker is appreciated by the consumer . . . actually, it’s demanded by them. Old, established brands are doing everything they can to hold-off the oncoming wave of new entrants.

With us, it helps that the entrepreneurial spirit prevalent among our employees resonates with our target market of business owners and entrepreneurs… while we compete in a world filled with 20+ year employee veterans who have no comprehension of the risks, burdens and thrills our ideal Clients endure weekly. If you want your business to thrive in this New Era, then you’ve got to Stay Close to your Clients and Prospective, Ideal Clients. You’ve got to Give Them an Experience they can’t get anywhere else by anyone else. You’ve got to Delight Them, but also, you have to do the heavy-lifting of Creating the Next, New Thing. Anything less than these strategies and you’ll more than likely be working for a dinosaur. Surely, you remember what happened to them . . . they once roamed Wall Street, too.

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Are you an “arm-chair judge” like me?
  • Wednesday, August 13th, 2008 at 7:35 am

I have a confession to make: I haven’t watched much of this year’s Olympic Games at all. It’s not that I don’t want to — I’m HUGE fan of the Olympics. I love watching the world’s best athletes compete at the highest level of their sports.

I simply haven’t had time lately.

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the mortgage industry isn’t entirely in the dumps. We’re actually having our best year ever . . . and because we’re so busy, I’ve been watching the least amount of Olympic coverage ever. I suppose it’s a good problem to have.

However, when I DO get a chance to sit and watch a few minutes of gymnastics, or diving, or even trampoline, I tend to add my own commentary to the program. In fact, as my wife would tell you, I might as well mute the audio altogether. If the athletes do something that impresses me, I make it known. And when one performs so terribly that they might as well have stayed home and saved their airfare, everyone within earshot hears about it.

I’m what I like to call an “arm-chair judge” . . . and I often do a MUCH better job than the actual Olympic judges. At least I think so.

I know there are others like me, too. We recently did direct-mail campaign to some potential Clients, and we included a set of scorecards so folks can flash real numbers to show what they think about a gymnast’s dismount or a synchronized springboard dive. We thought it’d be a novelty that someone might chuckle at and discard, but we’ve gotten a lot of comments about them . . . and requests for more.

Lately, scoring for a lot of events (gymnastics, for example) has gotten ridiculously complex. You would need a slide-rule and a calculus professor to figure out how it all works. It’s MUCH easier to throw up some numbers, add them up and take the average. Whole families have started using our scorecards and are keeping their own scores to see how they compare with the medal results for a particular competition.

Anyway, since they’ve been so popular thus far, I thought I’d make these handy-dandy scorecards available to everyone. All you have to do is go to http://www.504experts.com/Armchair_Scorecard_Web.pdf and download the PDF. I have to warn you, though: some assembly is required. After you print them out, cut on the dotted lines. Just be careful with those scissors. (You can also print them double-sided to cut down on the number of cards you have to keep up with.)

I hope you have fun with your scorecards . . . and I hope I actually get to watch some of the Olympics before it’s too late!

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Some recognition for the 504

As you may know by now, MCC has become “famous” for being the first commercial lender to always lead with the SBA 504 loan (AKA our SmartChoice Commercial Loan). Well, it seems that the “softening” in the economy and craziness in the mortgage industry has caused other lenders to give this little-known and under-used financing option a second look.

I spoke with Colleen Debaise, a reporter with SmartMoney magazine (which has a circulation of 824,327), a couple days ago about this very phenomenon, and they’ve posted an article on their website. For us, it’s a no-brainer: the 504 loan provides such great benefits for our Clients that we MUST lead with it every time a deal qualifies. Many other lenders (the big banks) are finding that these loans are less risky for them, and they like that now. After all, we ARE in the middle of a “credit crunch.”

Regardless of lenders’ motivations, I’m truly glad that the 504 is getting some good press. Hopefully lots of business owners will benefit. It’s just a little sad that it’s taken “softer” economic times for some in the mortgage industry to realize what a “shining star” the 504 is for the SBA . . and for the business owners who benefit from it.

You can read the full article here, or I’ve posted it below for your convenience.
(Here’s the web address, in case the link doesn’t appear for you: http://www.smsmallbiz.com/capital/Business_Owners_Flock_to_SBA_504_Mortgages.html?cid=23.)

* * *

Businesses Find Cheap Capital in SBA Mortgages
July 30, 2008
By Colleen DeBaise

FOR YEARS, A LITTLE-KNOWN Small Business Administration lending program known as the 504 has stood in the shadows of the agency’s flagship loan program, the 7(a).

But now, as banks tighten their lending practices and commercial office space becomes cheaper in some markets, a growing number of business owners are turning to 504 loans. These loans can be used to purchase business real estate or fixed assets (such as heavy equipment or machinery). And, because 504s are backed by the government, they’re typically easier and cheaper to secure than conventional commercial mortgages.

Here’s how a 504 loan works. A small business decides to purchase, say, a commercial office building for $1 million, which includes renovation work plus “soft” costs such as permit and design fees. To finance the purchase through a 504, the borrower must put down at least 10%, while an SBA-certified nonprofit agency lends another 40% through a government-backed bond offering. Then, a commercial bank or other lender provides the remaining 50%. Typically, the money is loaned at below-market interest rates, for longer terms than most commercial mortgages (say, a 20-year term rather than a 15-year term), making it more affordable for the average small-business owner.

The 504 “is a product that has so many advantages that it sells itself,” says Roslyn Goldmacher, president of the nonprofit Greater New York Development Co., a Bethpage, N.Y., certified development company, or CDC, that specializes in 504 loans. “The biggest issue is awareness.” The 504 is more complex than most conventional loans and therefore isn’t well-marketed, she explains. And historically, many lenders have veered away from the 504 just to avoid all of the extra rules and steps (such as finding a partner CDC) involved.

But things are starting to change. “I would certainly say there’s a lot more players now then there were three years ago, [when] we were one of the only banks that were pursuing this aggressively,” says Laura Larson, SBA program manager with KeyBank in Cleveland. Now, with the economy unsteady, banks are more interested in making low-risk loans such as the 504, which is secured by the property and government bond, she says.

KeyBank recently worked with a number of small-business clients — including a boat-repair company, a printer and a heating/cooling company — that used 504 loans to buy buildings and equipment that they would have had to lease under other circumstances. Other big banks that provide 504 loans include Citibank (C), Bank of America (BAC) and Chase (JPM).

A number of private lenders are providing 504 loans, too. “Our business is having the best year we’ve ever had,” says Chris Hurn, founder of Mercantile Commercial Capital, an Altamonte Springs, Fla., mortgage lender that helps a broad range of clients — including hotels, restaurants, professional-services firms and even doggie day-care operators — secure 504 loans. “I’ve often said it’s the best-kept secret of the SBA.”

While the 504 program’s rules and restrictions might scare off some business owners, most businesses easily qualify, Hurn says. For example, because the 504 program is chiefly designed to encourage economic development, borrowers are expected to create or retain one job for every $50,000 provided by the SBA. A business that doesn’t meet that requirement, however, still might be able to qualify if it meets one of the program’s community development goals, say, if the business is owned by a woman, minority or veteran. For more on 504 program rules, click here.

And while a traditional commercial mortgage usually requires a business to put down a higher down payment (often, at least 20%) and pay soft costs out-of-pocket. The 504, on the other hand, provides for 90% financing of total costs. And thanks to lower rates and extended terms, “it’s the least expensive capital available to small to midsize business owners right now,” he says.

Another bonus: Unlike other SBA products, a business owner doesn’t have to prove they’ve been turned down by a bank in order to qualify for the 504, says KeyBank’s Larson. “Some savvy business owners who could be eligible for conventional financing might look at the 504 as a way to preserve cash,” she says.

Small-business owners interested in a 504 should contact their bank or private lender, or their local CDC (there are about 300 nationwide). Keep in mind, the most appropriate candidates aren’t start-ups, but rather businesses that are ready to buy commercial space because they “have weathered the cycles a bit,” Hurn says.

(end of article)

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SBTV.com “Featured Advisor”

I hope you made time to watch the video clips on SBTV.com I posted a little while ago (Finally, some GOOD news…). I’ve now been highlighted as one of their “Featured Advisors.” They’ve posted about 9 audio podcasts on my Featured Advisor page on their site, so be sure to visit SBTV.com again (or for the first time if you haven’t ever been there).

There are lots of great resources throughout the site (especially having to do with “The Best-Kept Secret in Commercial Real Estate“). Be sure to share this with a friend or colleague, and please post any comments, reactions or other thoughts here. Hopefully the podcasts will help start some conversation about our “soft” economy and the fact that it’s still possible for businesses to grow . . . even during a recession.


P.S. I’m also featured in Today’s Daily News segment on the SBTV.com homepage. Here’s the link to the newscast: http://www.sbtv.com/?DailyID=1004. Enjoy!

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What If There Was A Recession — But You Didn’t Attend? (Part 2)

Here’s the second half of my conversation with Dan Kennedy. Again, it’s a little long for a blog post, but I guarantee you’ll find it to be an interesting and enjoyable read. Feel free to print it out and read it later. Maybe over the long July 4th weekend, which I hope you safely enjoy . . .

ME: But, Dan, the question that pops, what about the recession? “Surely this isn’t the best time to be re-directing MY business at selling to an emerging affluent market” — that’s what people will think. That the timing is bad. Better to think about this when “things get better.”

DAN: 1000% wrong. To be brief, if there is a protracted recession, across a wide swath, or in segments; either way, I’ll prefer investing as much of my resources as possible in selling to those least and last affected by recession. And a number of business owners are already, quickly finding themselves in deep and worsening financial trouble by not being agile about this, by continuing to waste their resources selling to people with dwindling resources, easily and quickly affected by a rise in the price of gas and Starbucks, and easily and quickly scared silly. There’s no better time, and it is arguably an urgent time to move to where the money is in the hands of confident spenders.

I think my MARKETING TO THE AFFLUENT book is URGENT reading for most business owners. There is a fundamental path to progress, all progress, that looks like this: Step 1 – Awareness, Step 2 – Decision, Step 3 – Resources, Step 4 – Action. In the MARKETING TO THE AFFLUENT book, I provide a whole new, thoroughly documented and truly fascinating new Awareness of the mass-affluent, middle class millionaires, affluent and ultra-affluent populations, their psyches, their buying criteria and behavior, who they are, what they buy, why they buy, how they buy – plus an even broader awareness of why and how money moves from person to person and place to place. Step 2 – I guide you in making informed decisions about how you can best connect your business (products/services/practice) to the best segment of this affluent market for you. And I get you convinced, confident and motivated to do so. Step 3 – I hand you the resources. For example, specific instructions for finding and directly reaching out to the best affluent customers (clients/patients) for you, in your area. For example, a detailed, diagrammed, step-by-step “affluent entrapment system” for your marketing. Step 4 is then up to you. This can quickly change your fortunes. It can rescue you from and immunize you to recession. It can convert an ordinary business providing ordinary income to an extraordinary business providing exceptional income, spinning off extraordinary wealth. Within this context, incidentally, are very specific “price strategies” that have led to huge income breakthroughs. It’s all illustrated with real-life examples. And the book comes with an audio CD inside featuring highlights from my Price/Profit/Power Seminar, which cost $995.00 to attend, and was recently attended by more than 600 people. But to zero in: your key to changing your income for the better, even at a time when peers’ and competitors’ incomes are changing for the worse, is: changing the “who” you are deliberately attracting to do business with.

And further, Chris, you want your members/subscribers/students/readers to consider equity not just income. Income is what you make and take home today. Equity is the actual value of your business, represented in a number of ways, including its sustainability; its resistance to ups and downs, even to recession. In its ultimate exit-strategy value. Well, the value of your business is actually the aggregate total of the value of each of your customers. Amass low value, financially weak, fickle, easily discouraged customers; own a low value, fragile business.

ME: Seems hard to argue with all that. You make a convincing case. But people are still thinking: sounds great, but deliberately marketing to the affluent must be different and difficult. So, just how different is it, marketing to the affluent?

DAN: It IS different. First of all, there are profound – and in most ways, beneficial – psychological differences. These people think differently. That’s why they are affluent. So you have to be in sync, you have to connect with the way they think, with what appeals to them emotionally. You also have to acknowledge different hurdles; they are more thoughtful, critical, and in some ways, skeptical buyers, more demanding customers. Fair, because they are a lot more valuable. So you have to be customer focused not product focused to an even greater degree. I devote about half the book, about 200 of its 400+ pages to just who are these people? – where did they come from? – how do they buy, why do they buy? – even specific behaviors in different buying categories – such as health, investments, for grandkids, for pets, even B2B. Second, there are process differences. While direct marketing fundamentals, systems and system structures don’t change, application does. In the book I diagram and describe a complete marketing system as a template, from lead generation through to the sale and post-sale relationship, and it will be familiar to most of your members/subscribers/students/readers. But within the familiar structure, there are significant modifications unique to the buying behavior of the affluent. There are certain known pre-requisites before an affluent buyer will act, that must be understood and met. In the book, I support these with considerable research data and actual case histories. I would quickly point out that ANY and EVERY business can be “tweaked” or, if need be, reinvented to successfully meet these pre-requisites so as to appeal to and attract affluent clientele. Third, and last that I’ll mention now, is the issue of finding them, knowing where they are, so you can directly and efficiently reach out to them. The information about that in the book affects both offline and online marketing and media choices. In short, Chris, your members/subscribers/students/readers can cross-breed everything you provide them with my Marketing To The Affluent strategies and systems and they’ll find it all completely compatible. Further, it will open new doors for them, to better and less price (fee) sensitive customers, a better business, even a better business life almost immediately. This is a way to take all of your most effective tools and techniques and apply them more profitably, something akin to taking superior farming practices and genetically improved seeds and applying them to more fertile ground. Why wouldn’t you want to do that? Now, not later or someday?

ME: Okay, way back when, in this discussion, you said you were working with your clients on two big areas – this one, attracting more affluent customers, but also a second, managing for profit. And in that book title, you use the word ‘ruthless’, which has to rattle some people right off the bat. So, what’s that all about?

DAN: It connects two ways. First, affluent customers are less tolerant of unsatisfactory, even unimpressive sales and service practices. Second, the recently generous, forgiving economy tolerant, even indulgent of sloppy sales and service practices has turned grumpy, irritable, intolerant and punishing. Maybe as it should. And very frankly, a lot of business owners have been making their way across the lake everyday satisfactorily in very leaky boats. Those days are over. There are going to be a lot of fatalities, large and small, of poorly run businesses. There’s also going to be a golden-age for those businesses that provide start-to-finish and continuing exceptional experiences. As to the word ‘ruthless’, that’s to telegraph that this is NOT a warm ‘n fuzzy book with happy stories about such customer experiences, the equal of a smiley-face sticker. The shelves are full of those books. Fun to read. Maybe inspiring. But now what? Ruthless management is mandated by ruthless times. This is about setting and enforcing standards that yield the best customer (client/patient) experiences and the best attainable profits, by micro-managing the profit impact of every job, every employee and every step in the marketing, sales, delivery and service aspects of the business. It is about creating a winning Program and that having everybody get with The Program – or get gone. I call this book, first of all, the permission slip business owners have been waiting for, to manage their people and their businesses for maximum profit – without anxiety, guilt or squeamishness. It’s a liberating and empowering book. Then it has very specific, in-depth how-to strategies. I’m told people laugh out loud reading it, because of its unbelievably blunt and candid, and to some, outrageous and radical revelations. I’m glad people have fun with it. I put some very pointed, original cartoons in it for that very reason. But make no mistake — this is a very serious manifesto for serious business owners in serious times.

ME: I’ve, of course, read the book — several times, and I was struck by three things I’d like you to talk about, that I would call: process improvement, people improvement and profit improvement. Let’s touch on each one.

DAN: Chris, that’s a good way of putting it. It all starts with accurate measurement of what’s really happening versus having or establishing standards for what’s supposed to be happening. For three or four years, I was on a speaking tour, at seminars with 10,000 to as many as 35,000 people in the audiences, and I frequently followed – and got to know – General Norm Schwarzkopf. A line I wrote down from him is: shined shoes save lives. What he means is, being undisciplined, casual, sloppy about seemingly little things inevitably permeates to affect all things, and on the business battlefield where we operate just as on the actual battlefield, it’ll get you killed in tough times. So, you need standards for everything. And everybody. Number of rings before phone is answered. Number of referrals per customer per 90 days, a certain ‘under’ triggering a series of pre-planned actions. Etc. Etc. In other words, you have to measure to manage, and what you can’t or aren’t measuring, you can’t be managing. Face it. Get real about it. That’s foundational to all three opportunities for improvement you named: process, people, profits.

So, as an example, let’s take the sales process, which I write about extensively in the RUTHLESS MANAGEMENT book. I have a client with this process: leads are generated by advertising; leads are moved to the setting of appointments; salespeople make presentations at those appointments; some buy, many don’t. There are lots of things to be measured here. Conversions of visitors to the web site to requests for information; percentage of those sent info setting appointments; percentage of those setting then keeping appointments; and, of course, percentage buying vs. not buying. And there are many variables that can be worked on, to try and improve each of those results. If, for example, the percentage of appointments kept is 72% when they speak with Betty when they call in, but only 64% if they speak with Helen, we either find out what Betty’s saying or doing differently than Helen and keep training and coaching Helen until she gets her efficacy up to Betty’s, or we get Helen off the darn phones. We definitely measure both in real time, day to day; don’t keep the results a secret. If there’s a script getting Betty the 72% we insist that it be memorized, practiced and used by Helen….we “mystery shop” and record her calls….and if she won’t get with The Program within a reasonable probation period, we fire her. But here’s a big, hidden opportunity found in this business. The non-buyers, left to the salespeople for follow-up, were nearly worthless; fewer than 5% came back and bought within 60 days. Mostly because the salespeople believed them worthless and wouldn’t do – and lied about doing – the prescribed follow-up, let alone working earnestly on finding ways to improve the result. Taking that away from the salespeople and implementing a series of three follow-up letters over six weeks, we got 16% back to buy. That’s a gain of 11 buyers per 100 sales presentations. That’s big. This company had been doing “just fine” tolerating the 5% when 16% was available during the generous economy. They can’t afford it during the turned-grumpy-and-intolerant economy. They shouldn’t tolerate it at all. So, that’s process improvement. The Helen-Betty situation might be resolved by process improvement, a better script, training, better supervision. Or it might require people improvement. Now, given the 5% to 16% improvement created, this business can actually afford a dip in first presentation sales that might be caused by a price increase. Let’s play. As example, if their salespeople average 20% sold, plus 5% after the fact, at $1,000.00 each, that’s $25,000.00 per 100 people getting presentations…if at a 50% profit: $12,500.00 profit. If I raise the price to $1,500.00 (thus DOUBLING the profit from $500.00 to $1,000.00)….the percentage buying at presentation drops from 20% to 15%, and that 16% drops to 9%, I’m at 24% vs. the old 25% (down only 1%)…24 x $1,500.00 gross, $36,000.00 instead of $25,000.00, and more importantly $24,000.00 profit vs. $12,500.00 profit. That’s profit improvement. And, by the way, contrary to common fear, price increases do not necessarily cause significant drops in sales made. Then we can go back around the horn, to try to improve the at-presentation sales with better scripts, new answers to price objections, new financing options, sales training and/or new and better salespeople. And, of course, we could combine all this with deliberately seeking more affluent buyers. That’s what my RUTHLESS MANAGEMENT book is all about. In short, squeezing a lot more good juice out of each orange you have, so even if, temporarily, your tree produces fewer oranges – the recession effect, you still get more juice, not less.

And please don’t say: that example doesn’t apply to me because – because whatever. I don’t use that business model. I don’t have salespeople. Yada yada. You just have to be smarter than that. The principles apply everywhere. And ruthless management starts with ruthlessly managing yourself.

ME: We’ve been plugging your book, but I know you have blatant and crass commercial messages…

DAN: I’m willing to sing for my supper – but I want my supper. And I think I’ve done a lot of singing here, don’t you? So. First, the books; they are available at amazon.com, BN.com, Barnes & Noble, Borders, other booksellers, and free info about the entire No B.S. book series is perpetually up-dated at www.NoBSBooks.com. If you want bulk quantity discounts, if you’re buying dozens or hundreds of copies, try 1-800-CEO-BOOKS, or your local Barnes & Noble store has a corporate/business discount program. Both books have audio CD’s included right inside, plus online resources at web sites provided in the books. Second, your members/subscribers/students/readers can get a terrific Free Gift Collection of other recession-busting resources of mine including three webinars, my Income Explosion Guide, two months of my No B.s. Marketing Letter, and more, all FREE…at www.nobsfreegift.com/chrishurn. These are resources that can be of immediate and dramatic help. It is my firm belief based not on ‘positive thinking’ but on experience – mine and countless clients – that attending and being adversely affected by the economic storms of the moment, and likely well into or through 2009, is OPTIONAL. The antidote is: awareness, decision, resources and bold action. These two books are, I think, the most timely I’ve ever written. And, thanks for the opportunity to shamelessly push them on your members/subscribers/students/readers.

ME: My pleasure — because I really believe they will benefit. Now, Dan, any closing thoughts?

DAN: Kate Hepburn said: “Old age isn’t for sissies.” The older I get, the more I appreciate the remark. Business success, especially in difficult economic times, isn’t for sissies either. This is a time to ruthlessly hold yourself, your every process, every employee, entire business and its profits accountable. To have a zero tolerance approach to anything or anyone depressing profits. This is also a time for new thinking, new approaches, new initiatives, and bold action. And this is a time when it is more important than ever to be cautious of toxic influences of relentlessly negative pessimists, cry-babies, complainers as well as media mouths and politicians magnifying crisis and gloom for their own purposes – and to seek out and associate in every way possible with tough-minded, creative, innovative, forward-thinking people in your field, leaders of your field, as well as qualified, credible advisors outside your specific field who keep you focused on opportunity. That’s why participating in everything you offer, Chris, is so important at this time. Frankly, the tendency, the temptation thoughtlessly given into by so many is to cut back on that which should never be cut back on, drop out of what should never be dropped out of, to isolate. Whatever small savings comes of it, the true cost is infinitely higher. Conservation has its place, but never as substitute for investment.