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Chris LoCurto

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December 31, 2010

Nanny update #3

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We can’t thank you guys enough for your prayers and incredible comments. The only change is that they have completely taken her off of sedation. Now we’re just waiting for her to wake up. Please continue to pray!

Chris LoCurto

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December 31, 2010

Is That Your Wallet Vibrating…

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Tomorrow is a brand spankin’ new year! And with each new year, comes resolutions. In our business, we have two New Year’s: one at the beginning of each year, and one when the kids go back to school. Both times of year people decide that they are going to get their finances in order. It’s a funny phenomena. It’s like people wake up one day and think, “Oh crud! My finances are whack!” Or something like that. Then they seek out any possible way to try and get back on track, as if they were on the tracks to start with. There’s a lot of midnight cable watching, brother-in-law asking, get rich scheme talkin’ goin’ on. But for a select percentage of the population, they actually get on a plan that changes how they handle their finances for life: our plan! (Insert guy with pearly white teeth and a single “DING” sound.)

But let’s go back to the other FANTASTIC ideas that will help people stop their horrid spending habits and get focused on the things that will truly make them rich. Like the three wallets that fine folks at M.I.T. came up with. As Michael Koretzky reported, they developed some wallets to combat “our consumer impulses.”

  • The Bumblebee – which vibrates whenever your bank registers a transaction.
  • The Mother Bear – which has a hinge that gets tougher to open as your account gets smaller.
  • The Peacock – which inflates or deflates as your account gets cash flush or cash poor.

As I read this I couldn’t help but think, “These are some great novelty items.” That’s right, novelty. “But Chris, wouldn’t that stop my over-spending? Wouldn’t that keep my bank account full? Wouldn’t that get me on the path to financial freedom?” Uhhhhhh, no. It really wouldn’t. Disciplining yourself to be on a budget that allows you to spend for what you need AND (here it comes) want, will get you on the path. Yes you can actually budget the things that you want as well as need. Actually having a plan of how to live on less than you make will get you on that path. A trick wallet that tells you how dumb you’ve been lately isn’t the thing that’ll do it. Pretty soon you’ll just get tired of the wallet telling you what you can and cannot do, and you’ll toss it for the one that was more spender friendly.

Please…pleeeeeeease start your year off right and get on a plan. It’s really not that hard to do, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

Chris LoCurto

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December 30, 2010

Nanny update #2

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Not a lot has happened since yesterday. They turned her sedation down and she’s not as agitated with all of the equipment as she has been. They say that this is a good sign. It means that she can tolerate her injury with almost no sedation. They also sat her up for a while and her breathing was good with minimal use of the ventilator.

We’ve received a lot of messages about you guys praying. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate and feel that! We’ll take as much prayer as we can get.

Chris LoCurto

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December 30, 2010

Southwest Airlines

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Southwest Airlines is my favorite airline! In the past ten years I have been on somewhere around four hundred Southwest planes. One year I was on one hundred planes in a one year period, so they sent me a companion pass. That meant that someone could fly anywhere with me for free anywhere I went. Pretty cool! In all of those flights, I have had maybe a dozen flights that I would consider to be late ones, more than a few minutes. And of those, only a few really late. For the most part, the Southwest team always treated me well. A couple of people have had some bad days, but compare that to the other airlines that I’ve been on, and you would see why I love Southwest!

Yesterday I posted about my Mother-in-law’s accident to keep a bunch of you up to date. We found out about it while we were on the slopes back in my hometown in Tahoe. Needless to say, we were in a bind. We really didn’t have much info, and we needed to get home quickly. Now imagine this: we are in Tahoe, needing to fly out of Reno, two days before Christmas, with six people. We had seven, but one of them, Anna Watkins, had to go home early and was actually at the airport at that time with a canceled flight due to freezing rain. She said that the airport was a mess with canceled flights.

Debbie got on the phone and called Southwest and explained the situation. They told her about how bad it was in Reno, but that they would see what they could do. A few minutes later, all six of us were booked on a flight leaving in three hours and they said they weren’t going to charge us the fees that are attached to a flight change like that. YOU’RE KIDDING ME!!! We rushed to get packed, changed out of all of our ski clothes and equipment, loaded into a transport, and headed for Reno.

Now, there’s no doubt that God was watching out for us! But it’s great when His kids work out the process. They totally didn’t have to do that. We would have understood that it was a crazy time to make a request like that. That getting us on plane that we hadn’t booked, during Christmas, in freezing rain, is one of those impossible situations for companies to help with. But this is Southwest Airlines, and they laugh at impossible! (And they love my bags!)

As a leader, your reflection is in the actions and reactions of every team member working for you. If you have a team that takes care of customers like Southwest, then you get loyal customers like Chris LoCurto. (That’s me) It is a sad day when I’m going somewhere that they don’t have the flights or schedules that I need, (like OKC from BNA!) ’cause that means I am flying a different airline with a track record of letting me down. Can Southwest take care of every issue that comes up with the tens of thousands of people who fly them every day? Heck yeah! Okay, of course not. But they sure were there when it counted for my family! That’s the true meaning of customer service! Try it today with your customers…your team members…your family! See what happens.

Chris LoCurto

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December 29, 2010

Nanny

December 29, 2010 | By | 3 Comments">3 Comments

A lot of you may know my Mother in law Dorothy Wood…Dot…Nanny. If you haven’t heard yet, she had a terrible accident last Thursday and I would like for you to know and pray for her. She was going out to her car that morning when one of three things happened: she had a heart attack, her blood sugar caused her to faint, or she just fell. Either way she fell, hit her head, and fractured her skull. She was taken to the hospital and was sedated. There was a lot of bleeding on her brain and some swelling as well. Since then it has been kind of a crazy waiting game. At least once a day they take her off of the sedation to see if she will wake up and respond to commands. So far she hasn’t. We haven’t received a lot of information, but today I asked the Neurosurgeon to tell us something. He shared that this is normal. That the brain will heal to a certain level of what she was before the accident, and that it only heals one percent a day for the first ninety days. Obviously, we’re hopeful and prayerful.

If you don’t know Nanny, let me say that she is an amazingly beautiful woman of God. Her heart is as big as the sky, and as full as the ocean. She loves….boy does she love; her family, her friends, strangers, and above all her God! To see her without a smile is a rare occasion. She has a way of saying the right thing at the right time, as well as a way of always messing up analogies. My favorite to quote is when she once said, “Well that’s where the rubber meets the……..sole!” Both her and her mother could hug you and pat….slap you on that soft spot above your kidneys until you had to let go. I never could understand how women so small could bring my side so much pain. :-) I still don’t fully understand how a woman so small could give me so much love!

She taught at Christ Church Nashville for over fifty years. It is always a treat to hear people talk about how much they loved being in Mrs. Dot’s class. And the stories of how when Donnie and Debbie were messin’ around in church how her hand would go up and a single snap of her thumb and middle finger could be heard all the way in Kentucky. Of course Pastor just thought she was praisin’ the LORD.

She also has an affinity for coins. Yes, it wasn’t uncommon to take her purse while helping her up some stairs and wonder what in the world weighed so much. It was usually about ten rolls of quarters. Everybody thinks she just loved quarters, I think it was her first line of defense. LORD knows she once laid out her brother Raymond with a piece of firewood to the head. Which he then blackmailed her for weeks and made her do all of his chores.

The recovery process is slow. We…I feel it’s still pretty vague. We do ask that you join us in praying for Nanny. We would love to see her better than she’s ever been. It’s in His hands.

Chris LoCurto

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December 24, 2010

Away In A Manger

December 24, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

"The Manger", photograph by Gertrude...

Image via Wikipedia

I love Christmas. Love it!! It truly is my favorite time of the year. I love the decorations, the fellowship, the food, the running around the mall at the last-minute trying to find something since I waited too stinkin’ long! You know. And like many people, the day after Thanksgiving is when the Christmas music playlist in my iTunes is fired up. Yep, from that point on it’s on like Donkey Kong! No really, I play Donkey Kong the whole time too.

In the playlist are all the favorites: Mariah, Nat King Cole, recently added the cast of Glee, and the incredibly outrageous Straight No Chaser. It is music that makes me happy. But there’s one song that has always caught my subconscious attention. (Can that even happen?) It’s the song “Away in a Manger”. More specifically the line: “The cattle are lowing, the poor Baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying He makes…” I guess it hits me funny because…why wouldn’t He cry? He was a baby. I mean, was Jesus a cryless baby? Was there something about His Deity that He kinda just lay there with a smile on His face the whole time? I just don’t think so.

A couple of weeks ago, my favorite orator on the planet, Stan Mitchell, did our devotional here at the office. He talked about how God robed Himself in flesh so that, as the writer of Hebrews wrote, He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. Now, I don’t have enough characters to explain all of that in this one post. But let me say that I believe as Stan that it was so He could experience life as we do. So that He could “mediate” between us and Himself on the throne. He humbled Himself, He gave up the right of His Deity, and became a baby. One that wasn’t able to take care of Himself. One that messed on Himself. One that needed to be fed, and burped, and held, and sang to, and taught. One that would experience ALL….ALL that we experience so that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. And He became sin, and stretched out His arms on a cross, and took from me the only thing I have ever deserved, crucifixion. When He took from me the only thing I ever deserved, He gave me the only thing I could never earn…life. Life everlasting! Life, that if I admit that I’m a sinner, believe that He died for my sins, and call on Him to be my Savior, would eventually…eventually be a life in Heaven without the screw-ups. Life without the pain. Life full of Love!

So as I listen to this song I can’t help but think that the writer might have been thinking something I don’t understand. When I see the depictions of Christ on the cross with the crown of thorns, and He has a pitiful look on His face with a couple of streams of blood, I think the painter must not understand that my God took a beating so bad that His own mother wouldn’t recognize Him. All because He loves me so much that He would remove Himself from His throne to say to me…”I got this, love of Mine!”

Merry Christmas

Chris LoCurto

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December 23, 2010

I’m Sorry, Did I Pay For That?

December 23, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

Christ Ascending into Heaven

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr

Okay LORD, what’s the deal with sinus junk! Why did you bring me to this land overflowing with mold and…hay fever? (It was the only ‘h’ word I could think of. You know, milk and honey reference.) I never had a sinus issue in my life until I moved to Nashville. Due to the blessing of sinusitis, I had the opportunity to visit Dr. Bradley Rudge at the Walk In Medical Clinic today. We’re like old buddies now since I see him like 3 times a year to get rid of this crud. And I’m sorry to say, but I’m a terrible sick guy. I just get mad, and later…emotional. Then I need my b’ankey!

Anyway, as we were discussing the medicinal prospects to aid in my recovery, he asked where I wanted them sent. I told him which pharmacy I usually use, but I could go to the one next to him. He said, “Oh, you don’t want to go over there. There as slow as Christmas and then mean to you about it.” To which I said, “Isn’t that amazing, it’s like, ‘Aren’t I paying you?'” We laughed for a second and he said, “Yeah, aren’t we in the service business?” I replied like I do, “No doubt!” (Apparently I respond too much with this reply depending on who you ask.) I told him he gave me something to blog about. It was then that he said something that would change my day…and hopefully, my life.

He said that he lost his mother earlier this year. She went in for a routine gallbladder complication, and fifty-five hours later she was gone. Now picture this with me for a second, this is a medical professional who went to the hospital to watch his mother move on to Glory in the hands of other medical professionals. He was like, “This isn’t supposed to happen!” I sat there with my jaw on the floor not knowing what to say, except the old standby, “I’m so sorry! He said that during the fifty-five hours, she would grab his hand and say, “Help me Bradley! Help me Bradley!” but there was nothing he could do.

Come to find out, it wasn’t just a gallbladder issue. She had another problem that caused her to be septic and pass on. But then he said, “You know, I realized that that’s what people are asking of me, to help them. It’s my job. So I decided that I was going to put what my mother said to me in the hospital inside above the patient room doors where only I can see it, as a reminder of why I’m here.” I got up from the table and put my jacket back on and said the only thing I could…”Thanks!…And thanks for sharing the story!” He smiled.

I hope that I never forget that! Now that it is in writing, I hope you never do either. It’s almost Christmas, and all I can think is that my God, My LORD, my Savior heard His people calling out to Him, “Help me God! Help me God!” and He did what only He could do, He served! Not like a waitress serves coffee. Not like a cashier takes money at the store in the mall. He became flesh, He took on the sin of the world, MY SIN, and He made it so I could live forever with Him in Heaven. The funny thing is in return, He asks us to love Him with all our heart…and to love the rest of His children! So as you go through this Christmas season, and you see the opportunity to serve someone, don’t think of it as service, think of it as love. Love that was given so freely to us!

Merry Christmas!

Chris LoCurto

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December 22, 2010

That’s Just Silly

December 22, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

We’ve known Dave Ramsey for a long time. A really long time. And while I would charge the gates of hell with him, side by side with nothing but water pistols, I do have to say that I have had…oooooh…moments of doubt. I know, I know, it’s crazy, but you have to realize that until ten years ago, we….dare I say it…weren’t following the plan. We were friends with Dave and Sharon, but didn’t realize how stupid we were being. So when we started the plan, a little tool popped up for us to use: the Envelope System. To which I said, “That’s just silly. I’m not carrying that around.”

In case you don’t know, the purpose of the envelope system is to take the budget that you should have done, spending money on paper before the month begins, and filling  the envelope with cash for the budget categories that you don’t just write checks for, like bills. Examples would be groceries, eating out, entertainment, clothing, etc. (In one guys case he had a pot envelope. Yes, pot. When he realized how much he was spending a month on pot, he quit smoking.) So if you budget $100 for entertainment, that’s all you end up spending. When the envelope is empty, you go home and count the number of ketchup packets you have in the fridge for entertainment instead.

And me in all of my brilliance, thought that I had a better way. But we did something that I thought was pretty smart. We collected receipts on things that we bought for a couple of weeks. It was just something that I wanted to see out of curiosity. When I saw how much money was being spent at the BP on just sodas and junk food, I became a huge proponent of the envelope system. It was ridiculous! We quickly decided that Dave was right….’cause Dave was right, and we began making giant steps towards getting control of our finances, and getting out of debt.

We hit it hard for a year and got completely out of debt except for the house. We went on a work trip, where we tagged a couple of vacation days on, and I forgot to get the budget done and the money for the envelope system. But I thought, “It’s no big deal, I’ll just use my debit card and keep track in my head what we’ve spent. I won’t go over.” Well, I’m sure you know what happened next.

So next time you see something that seems a little silly, maybe spend a few minutes actually learning what its purpose really is. It just might save you some trouble.

Now I know those of you reading this have had a similar experience. Comment about it.

Chris LoCurto

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December 21, 2010

I’m Just Not Doing That – Part 2

December 21, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

No Way for the Sky

Image by Margnac via Flickr

So, in Part 1, I talked about making some large purchases from some suppliers that were having a hard time giving deep discounts on a product that wasn’t moving well. (Please read it first if you haven’t for context.) As I said in that post there were two things I was negotiating, unit price and shipping price, thus Part 2.

I was doing really well with both negotiations. Until I talked with this one supplier who agreed to discount the price, but not the shipping. In fact, he is who the phrase “I’m just not doing that” came from. I explained that if he discounted the shipping, I would buy more. He shook his head and said, “nope, nope, I’m not doing it!”

When I asked why, he told me that he took a look at it last year and saw that they were losing money. Now, please understand, if I’m able to get all of the other suppliers to discount their shipping deeply, it’s because they have such huge margins on the product price. Thus the phrase “losing money” is extremely relative. If I bought your stuff at cost of goods, then yeah, I’m with you. But that’s not even close to what was happening.

I continued to remind him that if he would reconsider, I would give him more of the little green things that end up in his paycheck. He still didn’t get it. So, I didn’t spend as much money with him. With that said, we had the same situation with our Publishing department a few years ago. They did a special and gave free shipping on every purchase.

That sent sales through the roof! Literally, we had to patch the roof later. So in the month of the sale, revenues were incredible. The trip up came the next month when the shipping bill hit. That caused some of the folks in the department to panic and say that the sale was a disaster since the shipping bill was four times higher than normal.

But the leader was fast on his feet to point out that the expense was not a fixed expense, it was a variable. As a sale was made, the expense was made. When you compare the margin of net profit to total expense, they still won. In other words, DO IT AGAIN!

It takes someone not being so focused on the individual problem for them to see the bigger picture. This applies in basically any problem you have. Try and get outside of it and look at all of the puzzle pieces. When you do, you can find a better way of putting it together.

Have you ever dealt with this type of situation? Share it with me.

Chris LoCurto

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December 20, 2010

I’m Just Not Doing That – Part 1

December 20, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

NO WAY!

Image by tim ellis via Flickr

There are times in business when I see other business peeps make decisions that make me go, “seriously?” Now, I am absolutely positive other people say that about me. Let’s be honest….they probably don’t say that about me….more than 4 times a day.

Anyway, there’s no way that leaders are going to do everything right. But when faced with a push back on a decision you have made, one should at least listen and think through the challenge. What does it hurt? Your pride? Your ego? Okay, don’t listen then.

I was recently making a purchase of something that I was buying in bulk. I was buying it in bulk from multiple suppliers. A product that is not moving like it was before the economic crisis. Because of the current economic situation, I negotiated some serious rates to take the product off of the suppliers hands.

Not only did I negotiate the price, but I negotiated the shipping. Every time I proposed a price that I wanted, I was told that they just don’t do that price for anyone. When I asked how many cases would it take to get to that price, still the same thing. Being me, I asked again, and in frustration they would throw out a number that was well below my upper limit. I, with glee, accepted! (Not the cast. Although that would have rocked if they sung “Wrap It Up I’ll Take It” as my reply!) There are two issues that I had with this approach from the suppliers, and all of them did it.

  • First, you’re in a situation where people aren’t buying your product like they used to. DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT! Don’t just sit there wondering when things are going to get better. If someone comes to you with an offer that includes, “what would it take to get to…” then think! What would it take? If you can give me a number in frustration, how much faster can you give it to me happy? If you say no, and there was a case point where you would have done the deal, but I walk out, you lose! Technically so do I, that’s why I’m stubborn and keep asking.
  • Second, why aren’t you trying to get me to buy more by offering deep discounts. Don’t just sit there and hope I buy one or two pieces, make me an offer I can’t refuse. (That was for all of my Sicilian brethren.) You might be blown away at how many more sales you get by this approach, as opposed to sitting on your thumbs waiting for the day to end.  Okay, maybe that was a little harsh….mmmmm, nah!

If you’re the owner of this business, do you have the same drab approach? If not, what are you doing to empower your team to look at it from a different side?

In part deux, I will talk about what one of them said about…well, you’ll find out. (Crazy cliff hanger, right?)

What are some situations like this that you have experienced?

Chris LoCurto

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December 17, 2010

Let Me Tell You Something

December 17, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

There’s always “that guy” who wants to tell you how your thing needs improvement. How you could have done it better. Why you should change what it is that you’re doing. Okay, it can be “that girl” as well. Whether it be a brother-in-law, a grandmother, a co-worker, a client, or the guy at the end of church service who waits for everyone to leave, so he can correct the pastor on his sermon. No matter who it is, most of us will grit our teeth, or bite our tongue, and say, “Wow, thanks. I really appreciate that!” Okay, maybe there’s one person out there who genuinely likes that time of criticism. Me, not so much!

However, I have discovered in all of my years of leadership, and studying personality styles, that more than not that person is trying to help. I know, you’re like, WHATEVER! But again, most of the time it’s true. They just don’t know how to express it correctly. Okay, maybe correctly is a selfish term. How about, in a way that works for the recipient?

They usually are a high task and detail kind of person who processes differently than most people. The important thing to realize is that if you learn to communicate with this person, you would be amazed at how much they have to offer. In fact, handled correctly, you can build a relationship where they feel needed, and you have someone to give great input into things you might be missing. “Well that just sounds like you’re using them.” It is, if you don’t actually have a heart and care about that person. The truth is, they LOVE to make you look good. They get pleasure out of serving. It’s just that nobody has taken the time to understand them, how they think, how they process, or why they approach situations and opportunities the way they do.

So the next time you come across this person, instead of shooting daggers from your eyes into their skull, take the time to sit down and talk out their suggestion(s) with them. How did they come to it? Why do they see it that way? What other options do they have for solutions? And then ask them if there is anything else they want to share. You will start to see this person in a whole new light. You’ll begin to see an ally instead of an enemy. Trust me…just ask them about it. :)

Have you ever had that person in your life? How did you react?

Chris LoCurto

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December 16, 2010

Don’t Touch That!

December 16, 2010 | By | 2 Comments">2 Comments

Theif caught in the act

Image by GollyGforce – on a new quest via Flickr

Ann Brenoff posted a couple of months ago about an armored truck in Indianapolis that dropped a few boxes of cash on the street. People slammed on their brakes, leaped from their cars, and grabbed as much money as they could. Then they took off with their new-found blessing. At least that must be the way they saw it. I’m a little shocked, although I probably shouldn’t be, that people would not see that as stealing. It took a guy picking what was left up, putting it in his car, and waiting for the police for people to stop taking the money. Ann feels that this is a sign of the economical times hitting people so hard that they would be willing to steal. Hmmmm.

We were on vacation in Orlando sitting out at the pool waiting to watch one of the Harry Potter movies on a big screen they put out there. The movie is so not important to this story, but it was pretty cool to watch a movie on a big screen at a pool. Anyway, we were working on our iPads when a couple from England sat down next to us. The husband immediately made a comment about our iPads and shared how they both have them. He then ran back to his room, grabbed his iPad, ran back, and began to show us how to “jailbreak” it and get whatever applications you want. He then made the comment, “why not, they’ve been stickin’ it to us for years!” I can’t help but wonder who they are. Where do you find “they”? Should there be a www.they.com that you could blame for all of your hardships in life? To the best of my knowledge, most of the they’s are people or small business that created an application that make my life either easier or more fun. I’m not really sure how they have “stuck” it to me for so long. Maybe I’m ignorant about how I’m being taken advantage of by the guy who created iThoughts, which makes my life so much easier, and he only charged me $9.99 for it. Hmmmm.

While I think the issue of stealing is deeper than just hard economic times, (I’m Christian you see) I do know that when you follow God’s principles for handling money, you don’t need to steal. In fact, you have no desire to steal. Crazy thing is that when you come to the realization who it actually belongs to, a natural result is you becoming more of a giver. Does that mean you won’t fall on hard times, heck no! It just means your dependency becomes less on survival like wild animals, and more on trust that He will provide for you every day. “Well that’s easy to say sitting where you are now, on the other side of this kind of stuff!” Ha! I laugh at you! (Which is really me since I’m writing this) If that’s what you’re thinking, they you’re definitely someone who doesn’t know my history personally. More importantly, if you feel that way, then you’re most likely in the situation I’m talking about. Try something different. Try changing. Try spending time on your knees asking for help. You’ll be amazed at the outcome.

I would love to hear your comments on either of these two situations, or some that you have experienced. I may just put a post out of those comments in response to this post. Let’s see.

Chris LoCurto

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December 15, 2010

No Trust For The Church

December 15, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

Dollar Coins

The place that we should trust the most is becoming the place that some people trust less and less. At least when it comes to the area of handling money. A group of us were brainstorming the other day on ways to help churches get out of debt. During the meeting we were spending some time on why people don’t give when one of the guys in the group said, “people don’t trust the church with their money!” It hit me like a ton of bricks…or feathers…either way it was heavy. I’ve been working to help people with their finances for over ten years. For that same amount of time I’ve been helping churches. And while there are many reasons as to why people don’t give, (not understanding why God has them to give is what we hear more than anything) trust is definitely one of the problems. I’ve known it for years, but it took somebody saying it out loud for it to hit home.

We spend our time trying to teach people how to live on a plan. Spend money on purpose, get out of debt, save, invest, give like mad! The problem with that last one comes in when people turn to their church to see that the church isn’t doing the other things. They watch churches going deep into to debt, putting up a buildings they can’t afford, and then cutting ministry out like crazy because they don’t have the money for the debt that they’ve acquired. In Why The Church Is Broke! I talked about how there is no difference in how God wants people to handle His finances, and how He wants the church to as well.

The incredible thing that we have seen lately is, when a church starts to follow God’s plan in the area of money, the people rally behind the church like warriors! They don’t just get behind the church, they take up a sword and run into the battle. In Momentum we have testimony after testimony of churches bragging on how their people accelerated the debt payoff by giving more when the church stood up and took responsibility for doing it the wrong way.

Again, trust isn’t the number one reason people don’t give, it’s just another one. The goal needs to be removing all obstacles that are in the way of keeping people from seeing God’s will for their life.

Comment on how you feel, or have felt about the church handling money.

Chris LoCurto

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December 14, 2010

Be Quiet

December 14, 2010 | By | 2 Comments">2 Comments

Shhh...

Image by Move The Clouds via Flickr

Occasional random thought. There are so many times in this life that the hardest thing in the world to do is to be quiet. Even when we’re all by ourselves, the super highway of thoughts never seem to stop. When I get away from the chatter of people, all I hear is the chatter of my own mind going a thousand miles an hour. Being a high D, that’s just how my mind works. Did I make the right decisions today? Was I rude to the cashier at lunch? Why does my dog love me so much? I really need to call my parents! I need to call my Uncle Benito in Italy! I so wish I had a new pair of jeans that fit!! Anyone else feel that way? Especially about the jeans? (I know, it’s a weight thing.)

It’s during these times that I also have a tendency to doubt that everything in my life is going the way I think it should. That I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. I allow things to creep into to my brain that tell me I should be worried, I should panic, I should make some drastic changes. And although I am so not the kind of guy who normally asks God why something is the way it is, but I have done it…once. :-) I still don’t have the much-needed answer on that one thing, but it’s not always for me to know God’s ways. No matter how frustrating, no matter how painful, sometimes He just doesn’t clue me in. Or perhaps, I just don’t get quiet enough to hear the answer. As a dear friend of mine Ron Cook reminded me, God never stops talking to us, we just have to learn what His voice sounds like! The problem, I believe, is sometimes we’re not actually listening.

There is one scripture I have…clung to in times like this. Psalms 62:5, “My soul, wait silently on God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” It took me a long time to figure out what that actually meant, and I’m sure I still only understand part of it. What I have learned is that I have to quiet the craziness that is inside of my head. I need to calm my soul down and allow God to do His thing. Sometimes, in those moments, I’m actually able to hear what He’s trying to say. The things I couldn’t hear over me! If I will trust what Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”, then I can trust that He will show me the answers that I need. That He will make a way for the things that He wants in my life. What’s the worst that could happen? I spend some time focused on Him instead of me, and at least it should be calming to the super highway in my head. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll even get that pair of jeans I want so badly.

Chris LoCurto

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December 13, 2010

The Red Mist

December 13, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

There are two types of racing that I love: alpine skiing and formula car, both of which I continue to participated in. Growing up in Tahoe we tore teams apart on a regular basis. We were a bunch of misfits, kinda like the Bad News Bears. Some of the kids were from broken homes and some from broke families, but put us in the gates and step back. There were times that we would go to a ski hill and the team there would have matching jackets, pants, hats, everything. They would make fun of us for a while, but that only added fuel to the fire for us. When we got to the awards ceremony we were the ones with big grins. To this day whenever I go skiing I have to find a place with a race course and crash the gates.

Over the past few years I have been racing formula cars. I started in a Formula 2000 and worked my way up to a Formula 3 (pic above). The funny thing is that you never lose that desire to blow everybody away. From the moment I got in the car, all I’ve wanted to do is win…and have fun…but mainly win. Which I did my first race at Sears Point in Sonoma. So it came as no surprise to me what happened at Mid Ohio. I was racing way out of my league with guys who have raced several years longer than me. I was working my qualifying laps just trying to put down some good times and not worrying about the better drivers. I had a bad exit out of one of the turns, so I was passed by two cars going into the next turn. And that’s when everything changed.

I totally forgot about my times and completely focused on running down those two cars. I caught one six turns later and dove really hot into a hair pin. I made it but got really loose, lost the back-end but caught it in time. This cost me momentum, and all I could think about was catching the other guy. In that moment I made a decision that would…thwart my plans. I short shifted in a corner taking away all power to the wheels that were holding me like glue on the track. It was a stupid mistake that I KNEW not to do, but I did it. I lost the back-end, headed for the concrete wall. I worked that steering wheel back and forth like Miles Davis and John Coltrane trading solos! (If you don’t know them, shame on you! Look up their competitions.) By the grace of God I caught pavement, whipped it in the other direction, and went off the side of the track with the gravel trap.

When I was in the pits explaining it to another driver he said, “ahhhh, you saw the red mist!” It’s an old road racing term that means you’ve become so focused on something that you begin to make bad judgments. All you see is a red mist. That was me!

I think some of us have a tendency to do that in life from time to time. As sales people we want to beat every salesperson around us. As leaders we want to be smarter and have better ideas than other leaders. As administrative people we want to serve more, better, and faster than others. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s when it becomes the driving force, and all we see is winning no matter what the cost. That’s when we make fatal errors.

What are some ways that you have experienced red mist?

Chris LoCurto

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December 10, 2010

You Should Retire

December 10, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

Retirement

Image by The Rocketeer via Flickr

Well, maybe not this minute, but someday. Okay, I actually can’t see myself ever really retiring. If you can do something you love, and you’re called to, why would you stop doing it? According to Rabbi Daniel Lapin there isn’t a word in the Hebrew for retire. It’s an understanding to the Jewish people that you work until God calls you Home. Lapin also explains that worship actually derives from us honoring God with our work. That we are to worship God in our work. Check out Colossians 3:23-24. Therefore, they believe retirement is in Heaven. Now there’s nothing wrong with retiring from a specific job and moving onto what God has for you, but do yourself a favor and save like you’re going to retire for good.

With that said, Jewish people do believe that the wise store up for the future. That you should have so much that you can leave an inheritance to your children’s children. Baby, that’s a lot! That means you have to be saving for a long time so that you have enough to take care of generations. But today, that seems almost impossible to do the way we’re spending everything we have.

Some parents are concerned about just paying for college, much less leaving an inheritance. Sandra Block pointed out in her column a survey from “How America Saves for College” that shows nearly 25% of parents are using a retirement account for their kids college. Folks….seriously? First off, you’re cheating yourself in so many ways. You’ll lose out on the growth, you’ll increase your taxable income in the year you withdraw the money, and you won’t have that money at retirement, which is the biggest issue. And second, the truth is that your kids can actually do something that I mentioned in Stiffed Again!, work. Yes, they can actually hold down a job and go to school at the same time.

My daughter Chelsea worked her way through college. She worked some nights, some weekends, and through the summer. Was she tired? Heck yeah, but she graduated without any debt! She’s been teaching for a year and a half and she has something most teachers don’t have…money in the bank. I was so proud of a young man I met in Vegas after I was speaking at Canyon Ridge. He came up to me and asked if he was doing the right thing by working through school and not taking out any loans. YES MY BOY!!! When I explained to him where he would be after college compared to his friends, he got this huge smile and chuckled. Then I explained where he could be when he was at retirement age and he was shocked!

The greatest thing is that young man has a plan. How about you? Is your goal to keep working like crazy, spend everything you have, and wonder why you have no options later on? I suggest changing that plan. Stop spending everything you have and start saving for the future. It doesn’t take much, just the decision to stop living the way you have been.

What are your thoughts on saving for the future?

Chris LoCurto

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December 9, 2010

Stiffed Again!

December 9, 2010 | By | No Comments">No Comments

I’m a big tipper! That is just a fact. And it comes from having been a server. It’s my belief that all teenagers should be required to do two things before entering the rest of their life:

  • Work on a farm and actually come to an understanding of what hard work looks like. I don’t know a single person who has, that didn’t have an incredible work ethic!
  • Work as a waiter/waitress in a restaurant and learn what it means to serve.

Now, I understand the farm one is a little difficult due to the actual numbers of farms and the need for workers. BUT RESTAURANTS ARE EVERYWHERE! The need to serve is laid out before us. The call from on high, “Go forth ye and serve!” In my mind there’s no better way to serve than to wait on someone who’s paying for food. You would be amazed at how many jerks there are in your city. (If you’re offended by that statement…guess what, it’s you.) That’s why I always start out with a 20% tip, and you really have to screw up for me to drop that. Even then I try to convince myself you’re just having a bad day due to somebody being mean before I got there.

With that said, I do want to bring up a situation that happened recently with a colleague of mine. Now, as I get to the end you’ll see that it was just a misunderstanding, but the greater issue for me is what you as a business person should be concerned with. What happened is he called ahead and put in two HUGE orders with a coffee-house chain that equaled 150 drinks over two days. Afterward he sent over a thank you card with a very large tip. Somehow the tip didn’t get to the manager. A week later that person made a comment about how this guys company didn’t tip and they were surprised about it. Now, let’s stop there so I can tell you that the manager brought in extra help and they all worked their butts off to get the orders done. And to understand more, the manager has a heart towards the team members as I believe they only make minimum wage, so tips are a fantastic thing for them. From my point of view, if you’re ordering tons of drinks like that and you don’t tip, you’re a dork!

Here’s what I don’t want us to miss in business. If my average customer buys 1 item from me, and you come in and in 2 days order 150, I’m a pretty happy person! Crud, how do I get you to do that again? How do I get you to do that multiple times a year? A month? How do we miss out on the fact that due to you spending money with me, I get to pay people who get to take that money home and better their lives? This is a crazy good leadership moment to come along side the team members to show them how they need to use this opportunity to thank the customer for choosing them to provide their coffee needs. It’s also a great time to teach them that, due to their efforts, 150 are about to have a much better day. If a tip comes in, celebrate it! But still do the others. If you’re not helping people to see that their job is bigger than them, then what are you doing to energize them? Look for every opportunity possible to show them that the work they do matters! It changes lives! Especially if what you do is wake up the country’s workforce each day.

What are your thoughts?

Chris LoCurto

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December 8, 2010

The Secrets We Keep

December 8, 2010 | By | One Comment">One Comment

"LIES"

Image by Toban Black via Flickr

I used to date a girl whose mom handled the finances for their house. There’s nothing wrong with that, except for the fact that she would also handle spending all of the finances for the house as well. As for her husband…clueless! He would bring her check home…hahaha…his check home and give it to her. (Interesting slip of the tongue.) Since they are supposed to be one in marriage, let me say their check. Anywho, she would cash the check and burn through it faster than a cement torch. She also happened to be a rep for a multi-level product line, so she was constantly purchasing stuff that she wasn’t able to completely sell. She would then give away the leftover so it didn’t look like they were spending money on something that wasn’t working. On top of that, she had run up a BUNCH of credit card debt that he didn’t know about. The whole time he was oblivious to what was going on. She would give him his $20 allowance a week and he would be on his way. It was no surprise that her daughter, my girlfriend, had completely destroyed her finances after watching her mother do this to theirs. I didn’t stick around to find out what the outcome was, but I hope they got some help.

Come to find out this kind of thinking isn’t foreign. There was a time when a bunch of people from our office (Dave Ramsey office) went to support a friend of one of our team members by attending her “in home party to sell you kitchen stuff” party. Now, I have no problem with the company that does that, we own probably everything they have since we have supported so many friends as they sold it to help get out of debt. Great idea! The problem came in at this one ladies party when she dropped a bomb. After doing a fantastic job explaining all that they had to make our lives in the kitchen easier, she began to explain the payment processes. (Keep in mind who’s in the audience.) She said, “…and ladies, you can put it on your credit card so your husband won’t know.” Seriously? That’s your sales pitch? Lie to your husband! Great, I’ll take two of everything then!!

The amazing thing is this really isn’t that uncommon. As a matter of fact, men and women have been lying to each other over purchases for all too long. CNNMoney.com did an article highlighting 6 men and women who apparently are so ashamed of it, that they did an interview for A NATIONAL NEWS OUTLET! The genius of it all!! Not only will I hide my spending from my spouse, but I’ll tell everyone who’s willing to read about it.

I do believe you need to have an amount that you agree on that is okay to spend without approval from your spouse. Past that, if you’re having an issue discussing what you’re spending, then you have a much bigger problem than buying too many shoes. There’s a lack of trust in the relationship, and that should scare you more than if they find out you spent too much on prime sirloin. That’s why you MUST be working on your budget together. It’s okay if one person puts it together, but both need to be going over the numbers and agreeing to only spend what’s in the budget. When you spend the next month’s money on paper before the month begins, if there’s a discrepancy it won’t be hard to find. Thus holding everyone accountable. Then you can brag to the world on how well you’ve done NOT lying to your spouse.

Without naming names, do you know of someone who’s done this?

Chris LoCurto

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December 7, 2010

Hiding the Truth

December 7, 2010 | By | 5 Comments">5 Comments

Something that everybody close to me knows is that I love babies. LOVE THEM! I’m the guy who gets the mean look from a mom when she’s trying to feed carrot mush to her child in a restaurant, but can’t because I have the little blessing of God laughing at me making funny faces at the other table. (Sorry to all you moms. I’m working on it.) One of my favorite games is when you play peek-a-boo by covering your eyes, not theirs, and they still wonder where you went. Every time you remove your hands from your face it’s like you just reappeared out of nowhere, like New Kids On The Block. The funny thing is that you were there the whole time.

Sometimes as business leaders we can play the same game with the realities we don’t want to face. One of those areas that I see from time to time when I’m working with companies is the hiding of expenses or adding of revenues to their Profit & Loss statements. (P & L’s are taking your revenues less your expenses to show you your net profit.) What I mean by that is, many times to really see if something is being successful you should put it on what is called a sub P & L. That’s where you assign all of its own expenses, income, and fair share of overhead to a single P & L. Now, if you make one widget, only sell that one widget, and never plan on doing anything but that widget…then keep reading anyway ’cause you might change your mind someday. But, if you have at least two different revenue producing items then, it’s not a bad idea to separate them to see how successful, or tragically failing they are on their own. As you get more and more items, it becomes almost necessary to do so. This is a great measuring stick to see how a product is doing.

The problem comes in when an owner/leader is either too busy, or is already doing a bad job with the accounting as is, or they are afraid to see the truth about what is going on. I’ve seen both. I understand the busy thing, it’s wrong, but I get it. The one that bothers me most is when someone is unwilling to see what’s going on. I can’t tell you how many times the team members of a company will tell me how the whole company knows that they have divisions that are dying and bleeding money, but the owner refuses to look at the numbers individually since they are all lumped together. As long as they see a bottom line that’s in the black they feel that everything is working flawlessly. This is a tragic mistake. Not only is it a waste of money/time/resources but it’s also demoralizing to the team members who see it. The converse of this is the number of times I’ve seen a leader collapse sub P & L’s into one to hide what they’ve already found out. Once again this is ridiculous.

Fix the problem! If the problem is that you’re too busy, get someone who can do it. If the problem is your inability to handle the truth, don’t worry, it will eventually reveal itself to you. Let’s just hope that at that time you haven’t lost your team, your bottom line, and your company. Take your hands away from your eyes and get in the game!

Have you experienced this in business? What about personal finances?

Chris LoCurto

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December 3, 2010

Why Credit Cards Are Like Taxes!

December 3, 2010 | By | 2 Comments">2 Comments

How in the world are you going to tie those two together. Well, it’s actually quite easy and I get to use the wisdom of the Federal Government. wink wink. Stephen Moore and Richard Vedder have done some incredible research about raising taxes in the U.S.

In an article they posted in The Wall Street Journal, thank you Marsha Blackburn, they show that post World War II through to 2009 for every $1.00 of new tax revenue raised politicians spent $1.17. As they put it, “Politicians spend the money as fast as it comes in—and a little bit more.” If you are a proponent for higher taxes because bureaucrats say we need them…WAKE UP!

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, what does that have to do with credit cards? Well, the average person has a tendency to think the same way as the government when it comes to spending with credit cards. If I have it, I can spend it…and then some. I remember when I was eighteen years old, in one week I got a Visa, MasterCard, and an American Express.

I was on cloud nine. I could buy anything I wanted, that I couldn’t afford at eighteen, and all I had to do was pay the minimum payment! Uhhhhh, except on that last one. Nobody told me that you had to pay off the Amex balance every month. So I didn’t. Then one day while I was in a video store renting a VHS movie (some of you may have to Google what VHS tapes and video stores were, uh, are) it was taken from me. THE HORROR! THE EMBARRASSMENT! I couldn’t believe what had happened, and with people around me watching. But I’m the dummy who for a few months spent way more than I actually had, and when I saw the statement, I just sent in what I felt was doable.

The great thing was that I still had two cards that only required me to pay the minimums. I continued to spend like I actually had the money, and ended up in trouble down the road. Does it sound familiar to how our government handles taxes? But there’s a way for you to actually reduce your “deficit.” It’s called living on less than you make!

I know, it’s edgy, but it actually works. “But Chris you don’t understand my situation!” Really? I bet it’s you who doesn’t truly understand your situation. Here’s what I know, every time you don’t go into debt, you don’t have to pay any debt off! Every time you don’t spend everything you make it leaves you with this funny thing called cash.

Say it with me, C…ASH, C..ASH CAASSHHH. See, that wasn’t so hard. So here’s an idea, get serious about getting rid of the debt that you have. Get on a plan of spending with cash, and don’t spend everything you have! Then you can truly begin to enjoy life without the stress of not having money. It gives you more room to stress about the way Government spends.