EXCERPTS FROM WARREN BUFFET’S ANNUAL LETTER

Warren Buffet“Investment is most intelligent when it is most businesslike.” –Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor

This tale begins in Nebraska. From 1973 to 1981, the Midwest experienced an explosion in farm prices, caused by a widespread belief that runaway inflation was coming and fueled by the lending policies of small rural banks. Then the bubble burst, bringing price declines of 50% or more that devastated both leveraged farmers and their lenders. Five times as many Iowa and Nebraska banks failed in that bubble’s aftermath as in our recent Great Recession.

In 1986, I purchased a 400-acre farm, located 50 miles north of Omaha, from the FDIC. It cost me $280,000, considerably less than what a failed bank had lent against the farm a few years earlier. I knew nothing about operating a farm. But I have a son who loves farming, and I learned from him both how many bushels of corn and soybeans the farm would produce and what the operating expenses would be. From these estimates, I calculated the normalized return from the farm to then be about 10%. I also thought it was likely that productivity would improve over time and that crop prices would move higher as well. Both expectations proved out.

In 1993, I made another small investment. Larry Silverstein, Salomon’s landlord when I was the company’s CEO, told me about a New York retail property adjacent to New York University that the Resolution Trust Corp. was selling. Again, a bubble had popped — this one involving commercial real estate — and the RTC had been created to dispose of the assets of failed savings institutions whose optimistic lending practices had fueled the folly.

Here, too, the analysis was simple. As had been the case with the farm, the unleveraged current yield from the property was about 10%. But the property had been under-managed by the RTC, and its income would increase when several vacant stores were leased. Even more important, the largest tenant — who occupied around 20% of the project’s space — was paying rent of about $5 per foot, whereas other tenants averaged $70. The expiration of this bargain lease in nine years was certain to provide a major boost to earnings. The property’s location was also superb: NYU wasn’t going anywhere.

Fundamentals of Investing:

  • You don’t need to be an expert in order to achieve satisfactory investment returns. But if you aren’t, you must recognize your limitations and follow a course certain to work reasonably well. Keep things simple and don’t swing for the fences. When promised quick profits, respond with a quick “no.”
  • Focus on the future productivity of the asset you are considering. If you don’t feel comfortable making a rough estimate of the asset’s future earnings, just forget it and move on. No one has the ability to evaluate every investment possibility. But omniscience isn’t necessary; you only need to understand the actions you undertake.
  • If you instead focus on the prospective price change of a contemplated purchase, you are speculating. There is nothing improper about that. I know, however, that I am unable to speculate successfully, and I am skeptical of those who claim sustained success at doing so. Half of all coin-flippers will win their first toss; none of those winners has an expectation of profit if he continues to play the game. And the fact that a given asset has appreciated in the recent past is never a reason to buy it.
  • With my two small investments, I thought only of what the properties would produce and cared not at all about their daily valuations. Games are won by players who focus on the playing field — not by those whose eyes are glued to the scoreboard. If you can enjoy Saturdays and Sundays without looking at stock prices, give it a try on weekdays.
  • Forming macro opinions or listening to the macro or market predictions of others is a waste of time. Indeed, it is dangerous because it may blur your vision of the facts that are truly important. (When I hear TV commentators glibly opine on what the market will do next, I am reminded of Mickey Mantle’s scathing comment: “You don’t know how easy this game is until you get into that broadcasting booth.”)

During the extraordinary financial panic that occurred late in 2008, I never gave a thought to selling my farm or New York real estate, even though a severe recession was clearly brewing. And if I had owned 100% of a solid business with good long-term prospects, it would have been foolish for me to even consider dumping it. So why would I have sold my stocks that were small participations in wonderful businesses? True, any one of them might eventually disappoint, but as a group they were certain to do well. Could anyone really believe the earth was going to swallow up the incredible productive assets and unlimited human ingenuity existing in America?

Summary

When Charlie Munger and I buy stocks — which we think of as small portions of businesses — our analysis is very similar to that which we use in buying entire businesses. We first have to decide whether we can sensibly estimate an earnings range for five years out or more. If the answer is yes, we will buy the stock (or business) if it sells at a reasonable price in relation to the bottom boundary of our estimate. If, however, we lack the ability to estimate future earnings — which is usually the case — we simply move on to other prospects. In the 54 years we have worked together, we have never forgone an attractive purchase because of the macro or political environment, or the views of other people. In fact, these subjects never come up when we make decisions.

LEARN FROM PRIVATE EQUITY FIRMS

Equity firmsExisting leadership teams can become too attached to decisions that were made in the past, particularly if the existing leaders were involved in making those decisions. If a Private Equity firm (or other external investor) were to take a financial stake in your company tomorrow, what changes do you think they would want to make?

You don’t have to wait for someone to invest in your company to experience the benefits of seeing your business from an “outside in” perspective. Here is my take on an article from Booz & Co on the key lessons the world’s best performing Private Equity firms can teach business leaders.

Cash is King

If a Private Equity firm were to acquire your company, they often use debt financing to fund the purchase. This creates a real urgency to optimize the cash flows of your company to help repay the debt. To do this, they would aim to tightly manage your accounts receivables, streamline and optimize your inventories, and scrutinize all discretionary expenses.

Put yourself in their shoes. Imagine you have just invested in your business. Examine every expense item and categorize them into three buckets.

1. “Must have” (required to keep the lights on)

2. “Smart to have” (creates a future strategic advantage)

3. “Nice to have” (everything else).

The next step is to eliminate as many of the “Nice to Have” expenses as you can.

Core vs. Non-Core?

Optimizing cash is all very well, but building the long-term value of your company means going beyond financial engineering and cost cutting. In order for a Private Equity firm to successfully exit their investment they need to convince future buyers that they have positioned your company for long-term growth and profitability.

It seems counter intuitive, but as management thought leader Peter Drucker said, “The first step in a growth policy is not to decide where and how to grow. It is to decide what to abandon. In order to grow, a business must have a systematic policy to get rid of the outgrown, the obsolete, and the unproductive.

This usually means analyzing your product lines, service offerings, and office locations to assess their future profitability and growth potential. Some activities might be “Core” to your business right now, but they may not be the right activities for you to be investing resources in going forward.

I often say to clients, “You must continually pull the weeds to create a beautiful lawn”. It takes real courage to make these strategic decisions, but when you do, it frees up resources to focus them on the right “Core Activities” that will drive your long-term success.

Get it Done

In the first one hundred days of ownership, Private Equity firms have little appetite for socialization and consensus building. They feel a sense of urgency to implement the strategic changes they have identified.

Business leaders can learn a lot from the Private Equity firm’s need for speed. Yes, getting consensus and alignment about these changes is ideal, but you can’t please everyone, and waiting too long to implement the necessary strategic changes can profoundly impact your company’s future outcomes.

Right Management in The Right Bus, Going The Right Direction

Private Equity firms know that a strong management team is critical to business execution and the ultimately the success of their investment. Sometimes they invest in a company based on the strength of its management talent. Otherwise they will act swiftly to put the right management team in place. Research has shown that middle managers are the key to successful business execution.

As RESULTS.com CEO Ben Ridler says, “As a CEO, getting the right front line managers in place is critical to success. You have two jobs. Either you are coaching and developing these managers, or you’re looking for their replacement.”

Align Incentives

Private Equity firms pay modest base salaries, but add incentives to align everyone’s interests so that the staff share in the upside. They also share in the downside. Private Equity firms will reduce or even eliminate incentive payments if the company fails to achieve the agreed targets. Often time’s staff are given real “skin in the game” in the form of equity in the company. Because this equity is essentially locked up until the Private Equity firm sells your company, or lists it on the stock market, it aligns everyone’s long-term interests.

Make Performance Visible

Private Equity firms pay rigorous attention to a carefully chosen set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will drive the success of your business model. They make this performance visible, and to keep the managers and their teams focused on the most important metrics and projects that will move the business forward. Radical transparency drives business results.

Conclusion

Take a few minutes today to imagine yourself in the shoes of an outside investor who is performing due diligence on your company with the intention of investing in you. What would they identify that needs to change about the activities your company is currently performing, or how it is currently managed?

KEYS TO EFFECTIVE COACHING

helpBusiness coaching has gone from fad to fundamental. Leaders and organizations have come to understand how valuable it can be, and they’re adding “the ability to coach and develop others” to the ever-growing list of skills they require in all their managers. In theory, this means more employee development, more efficiently conducted. But in reality, few managers know how to make coaching work.

According to the 2010 Executive Coaching Survey, conducted by the Conference Board, 63% of organizations use some form of internal coaching, and half of the rest plan to. Yet coaching is a small part of the job description for most managers. Nearly half spend less than 10% of their time coaching others.

With such limited time devoted to coaching, organizations need to be sure their managers know how to do it right. To improve the quality and impact of your coaching efforts, start by giving your individual managers tangible information about how to coach their direct reports. Typically, managers meet their coaching obligations by giving reviews, holding occasional meetings and offering advice. For coaching to be effective, they need to understand why they are coaching and what specific actions they need to take.

Coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.

Broadly speaking, the purpose is to increase effectiveness, broaden thinking, identify strengths and development needs and set and achieve challenging goals. Research has boiled down the skills managers need to coach others into five categories:

1. Building the relationship.

It’s easier to learn from someone you trust. Coaches must effectively establish boundaries and build trust by being clear about the learning and development objectives they set, showing good judgment, being patient and following through on any promises and agreements they make.

2. Providing assessment.

Where are you now and where do you want to go? Helping others to gain self-awareness and insight is a key job for a coach. You provide timely feedback and help clarify the behaviors that an employee would like to change. Assessment often focuses on gaps or inconsistencies, on current performance vs. desired performance, words vs. actions and intention vs. impact.

3. Challenging thinking and assumptions.

Thinking about thinking is an important part of the coaching process. Coaches ask open-ended questions, push for alternative solutions to problems and encourage reasonable risk-taking.

4. Supporting and encouraging.

As partners in learning, coaches listen carefully, are open to the perspectives of others and allow employees to vent emotions without judgment. They encourage employees to make progress toward their goals, and they recognize their successes.

5. Driving results.

What can you show for it? Effective coaching is about achieving goals. The coach helps the employee set meaningful ones and identify specific behaviors or steps for meeting them. The coach helps to clarify milestones or measures of success and holds the employee accountable for them.

You should seed your organization with coaching role models. All managers need some guidance on the whys and hows of coaching, but most organizations can’t afford to train them on a large scale, so the least you can do is make an effort to create a culture of coaching. The key is to create a pool of manager-coaches who can be role models, supporters and sustainers of a coaching mindset.

When you select the right people and invest in their development and position them as coaching advocates, you plant the seeds for expanding coaching well beyond the individual manager-direct report relationship. Your role models demonstrate effective coaching both formally and informally, and they help motivate others to use and improve their own coaching capabilities.

Always link the purpose and results of coaching to the business. Managers have to know the business case for coaching and developing others if they’re to value it and use it effectively. Where is the business headed? What leadership skills are needed to get us there? How should coaches work with direct reports to provide the feedback, information and experiences they need to build those needed skills? Set strategic coaching goals, tactics and measures for the organization as well as including coaching as an individual metric.

Conclusion:

Finally, give it time. It’s not surprising that managers feel they don’t have enough time for coaching. Even if you make learning and coaching explicit priorities, time is tight for everyone. But as your coaching processes and goals become more consistent and more highly valued, in-house coaching will take root. Your managers will have a new way to develop and motivate their direct reports. Individuals and groups will strive to build new skills and achieve goals. And your business will be on track to a more efficient, comprehensive system of developing people.

NOT SUCCESSFUL AS YOU SHOULD BE . . .

Success 2So with January behind you, how are those 2014 Goals coming along? Feeling down about your business these days? Is the broken economy hurting your sales and keeping you up at night? Need some motivation and tough love to help you stop pitying yourself? Well, here you go, here are 13 reasons you might have in your head about why you’re not as successful as you should be.

#1 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – LAZINESS!!

I don’t think there’s an easy way to put this. I have to assume that you’re lazy. Every single successful person works their butts off to get where they are. It’s ok to be lazy. Just admit it. But don’t whine about not being rich and successful, Ok?

#2 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – ENTITLEMENT!!

Only a few people in the world are part of the lucky ‘Reproduction Club’, neither You and me. We have to work to get what we want. Quit thinking you are owed something. You’re not. Get to work Now!

#3 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – FEAR!!

You are afraid, plain and simple and afraid of looking silly. Afraid of what your friends and family will say. Are you afraid of everything? Look, you’re either going to stop being afraid, or you’re not. Nobody can convince you to stop. Imagine though… what awaits you when you stop with the fear excuses?

#4 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – NEGATVITY!!

You may not realize it, but the people you associate with might be negative. They could be soul-sucking beings who don’t want anyone to be successful. Get rid of them, now! Surround yourself with successful people. People you want to be like.

#5 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – STOP THINKING, START DOING!!

How much do you want to bet you have Analysis Paralysis? You think way too much about what you could or should do. Doers get what they want, and everyone else gets what they get. Stop Analyzing and start Doing.

#6 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – NO GOALS!!

You plan nothing. You believe that someway, somehow, everything you always wanted will just magically happen. So you “play it by ear” and wait. You need goals to shoot for. Otherwise, you’re just treading water.

#7 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – “THEY”!!

There’s no “They”. There’s no secret group of people who controls your success or failure. You’ve made that up to make you feel better about yourself. The truth is you, and you alone, control your success in life/business/everything. It’s easy to blame “Them” though, isn’t it? Don’t be Weak.

#8 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – THERE IS NO “X” FACTOR!!

You can’t do it because you’re not pretty or smart enough. Or don’t have a strong personality? You don’t have the “X” factor? Wow, what an unbelievably lame excuse. The truth is that even jerks, idiots and boring people can be just as successful as anyone else. Your problem is you don’t believe it yet.

#9 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – ARE YOU A TIME WASTER?

You’re a classic time-waster. You spend hours and hours every day working on not-working. You do things that aren’t productive. How are you ever going to get anything done, or reach any goal if you keep wasting time? You’re not. So you might as well give up now if you’re going to keep this path.

#10 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – SOCIAL MEDIA IS B.S.!!

You spend way too much time in social media land.  You waste probably about 50% of your productive hours of the day doing this. The sad part is, you know it, but you can’t Stop. So, you can’t get anything done that matters.

#11 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU ARE THINKING TOO SMALL!!

You think way too small. You are constantly looking only a day or a week ahead instead of years ahead. Because of this, you never get anywhere, and you never lead; you always follow.

#12 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU DON’T WANT IT BAD ENOUGH!!

You don’t really want to be successful. Sure, you like to dream about it like everyone else. But in your heart you are afraid of what might happen if you really get it. That’s B.S. fear your brain is feeding you. Success is change, and it feels really, really good. Tell your brain to shut the [foolishness] up.

#13 Reason You Are Not As Successful As You Should Be – YOU DON’T BELIEVE!!

You never believed that it’s possible. Society taught you that only a few “exceptional” people get what they want. Everyone else should just settle. If you really want to believe that, go ahead. The rest of us will be at the front of the line because we believe.

Jim Kukral latest book is Business Around a Lifestyle Volume 2.

PRIDE

PrideAs John Maxwell writes, that when you think of the word pride, does it strike you as positive or negative? There are certainly many positive types of pride. It’s good to “take pride in our work.” We like it when someone tells us, “I’m proud of you.” And nearly everyone wants to live in a neighborhood where people display “pride of ownership.” All of these expressions communicate a positive kind of pride: dignity, respect and honor, traits that we all can embrace.

But pride isn’t always positive. Pride can also mean conceit, arrogance, or superiority. This kind of pride is based on self-centeredness, and it’s destructive.

Selfish pride is especially destructive to relationships. That’s because the opposite of loving others is not hating them but rather being self-centered. The great writer and apologist C.S. Lewis had this to say about pride:

“The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with everyone else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise…. Now what you want to get clear is that Pride is essentially competitive, is competitive by its very nature, while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident.”

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good looking, there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.

So how do we solve the problem of pride? I believe there are several steps we can take to counteract our tendency toward self-centeredness.

1. Recognize and Admit Your Pride.

C.S. Lewis said about acknowledging pride: “If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, you are very conceited indeed.” You will not solve a problem that you don’t know exists.

2. Express Your Gratitude.

Henry Ward Beecher said, “A proud man is seldom a grateful man, for he never thinks he gets as much as he deserves.” There is something about saying “thank you” that takes our eyes off of ourselves and puts them back on the blessings we’ve received and the people who’ve blessed us.

3. Practice Servanthood.

A person who is truly great is always willing to be little. But pride fights against servanthood, because a proud person demands to be served. Serving others requires us to focus on their needs rather than our own, and this also reminds us of how we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

4. Laugh at Yourself.

There’s an old saying, “Blessed are they that laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be entertained.” Once you begin to look for the humor in your behavior and situation, you find it everywhere. Prideful people take themselves way too seriously. By laughing at yourself, you begin to see how absurd we can all be sometimes.

If your pride pushes you toward performing with excellence, doing your best, and finding joy in the accomplishments of others, it’s probably helping you become a better leader. But if there’s even a hint of competition or self-promotion in it, it’s probably having a negative effect on your relationships. That can hurt both your life and your leadership. If that’s true, do what I try to do: shift my focus onto others and follow the tips above.

SUCCESSFUL PARTNERSHIPS

PartnersMany of our clients are in business with partners. They include: husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, people who’ve been best friends since elementary school or associates who went into business because they happened to have their entrepreneurial moment together.

A successful partnership boils down to three things: communication, structure and the best person in the right job. Communication must be regular, open, non-assumptive, listening-based communication in order to maintain a foundation of respect and collaboration. Equally important is creating a mutually agreeable structure so that all partners understand their roles.  Lastly, is to identify the specific talents of the each partner and put them in the best position to leverage these talents.

Communication

Success lies in staying aligned and not falling into the non-communicative trap, is usually the first critical error that destroys partnerships. Communication continues to be one of the biggest obstacles for all business partners.

You probably ‘talk’ to your partner, however you might feel that you talk to them without address those critical issues, because you just don’t want to start a problem. But that doesn’t mean you’re communicating. True communication involves active listening; it’s about being open and non-assumptive. It’s essential that you hear your partner and understand his/her point of view on the business.

As partners, you should meet regularly with a clear agenda and defined objectives. If you have a board of directors, you include them. Either way, this regular meeting should be a coming together with the purpose of discussing vision, strategy, execution, implementation and plans.  From the ownership perspective, a regular meeting like this creates trust and unity. It also creates an environment to have deep discussions and sometimes confrontation in a safe environment with the partners and key persons involved. You emerge with a clear set of shared goals, values and direction for the company. This ownership meeting is a place to practice authentic regard for your partner and acknowledge each other’s contribution. Like most people partners need validation and appreciation and the best way to receive it is to create an environment to facilitate correct air of sharing and growing.

Structure, Structure, Structure

Next to lack of communication, the lack of structure is the second biggest obstacle facing business partners. By creating a structure this allows a regular venue to communicate as owners out of the business.  Furthermore, you define specific roles in the organizational structure so that you know who does what and who reports to whom.

The “owner” is not a position in an organization. Sure, you can get by with calling yourself that with your first or second employee, but as you grow — and particularly when you have a partner — getting organization and ownership clarity is critical. When you’ve defined responsibilities, each of you is freed to excel with purpose and direction.

You both can’t be CEO

Co-CEO’s just don’t work. But, there’s always an exception to the rule – but it is not recommended. It seldom works and you can avoid a lot of difficulty by accepting it. Someone has to take on the chief leadership role and the other partner or partners need to report to them to replicate the proper structure.  Do you have a formalized system to identify the ‘best’ person with the ‘best’ talents to assume the role of the CEO?

Being in a business partnership presents challenges, especially when you add the emotional aspects of a family or friend relationship business logic seems to evaporate from the conversation.  But if you share similar values and vision, if you meet regularly as owners, create a united leadership and have clarity and agreement in your organizational structure, you’ll have a very strong foundation from which to grow your business.

What is your Exit Strategy?

When does your Exit Planning start?  Answer: The day you start your business.

Attorneys practicing Business Law have large billable hours from unhappy business partnerships that fail to properly plan for selling, transitioning or exiting the partnership.  Statistics prove that the majority of businesses fail to survive past five years, so why not have an Exit Strategy plan in place to make allowances for this provision?

Have a plan or strategy in place for the “5-D’s” in Exit Planning:

  • Death
  • Disability
  • Divorce- Personal
  • Divorce- Business
  • Departure (or retirement)

It is also recommended that you sit down with your Financial Advisor, your Attorney, your CPA and your Business Coach annually. This annual review includes scrutiny of your:  Partnerships Agreement, Wills, Key Person Insurance, Buy-Sell Agreement, Exit Plan, Directors and Officers Insurance, Differed Compensation Plan, Long Term Disability, and Retirement Plan.

So, when was the last time you updated YOUR Plan, and make the provisions for “What If . . . .”

VISION, DON’T BE SHORT-SIDED

This is a perfect example of the ‘Art of Negotiations’.

In 2007, ABC/ESPN and TNT agreed to pay the National Basketball Association a combined $7.4 billion for the right to broadcast games on their television stations for eight years. Every month, the NBA takes this money and divvies it up by sending out 31 checks to team owners around the country (and one in Canada). But wait, there are only 30 NBA teams. Why is the NBA cutting 31 checks? That extra check goes to a pair of obscenely lucky brothers named Ozzie and Daniel Silna. Technically the brothers’ combined income was enough to make them the 7th highest paid people in the entire league last year. Together they earned roughly $2 million more in salary than superstars Kevin Durant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul and even LeBron James.

Daniel and Ozzie Silna

But there’s just one problem. Ozzie and Daniel Silna are not professional basketball players or current franchise owners. Neither of them have ever played a single minute in the NBA and, in fact, they are universally despised by executives at the NBA. So how are they earning so much money? Ozzie and Daniel Silna are the former owners of an American Basketball Association (ABA) team called the Spirits of St. Louis. Back when the ABA folded in 1976, the Silna brothers agreed to dissolve their team in exchange for what seemed like a meaningless concession involving a tiny percentage of future NBA broadcast revenues. At the time, no one ever could have ever imagined that this would accidentally turn out to be the greatest sports business deal of all time. A deal that the NBA woefully regrets every season to this day, and has made the Silna brothers, extraordinarily wealthy.

The NBA’s Big Regret

Ozzie and Daniel Silna were born in 1933 and 1944, respectively, to a pair of Latvian immigrants who had settled in New Jersey in the 1930s. Their father ran a small textile business which both brothers took over until the company was sold in the early 1960s. Soon after, Ozzie and Dan launched their own knitting business that eventually grew into one of the largest manufacturers of polyester just as disco fever swept the nation in the 1970s. Dan Silna, a lifelong basketball super fan, suggested that they use some of their newfound wealth to acquire an NBA franchise. They attempted to purchase the Detroit Pistons for $5 million, but their offer was rejected.

As strange as it sounds, at the time there were actually two professional basketball leagues operating in the United States, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the American Basketball Association (ABA). The ABA was founded in 1967 as an attempt to chip away at the NBA’s monopoly on professional basketball. And there was absolutely a time when the ABA posed a significant challenge to the NBA’s dominance. ABA owners started an all-out salary war by offering young players much larger contracts than their NBA counterparts could afford. The ABA also introduced exciting new concepts like the three-point line and the All Star Game dunk contest. Future NBA legends Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Connie Hawkins and Larry Brown all got their start in the ABA.

Julius Erving ABA Game

When the Silna brothers’ attempt to purchase an NBA franchise came up short, they did the next best thing and went shopping for an ABA team. In 1973 they stuck a deal to purchase the ABA’s struggling Carolina Cougars for $1 million. Almost immediately, the brothers decided to move the team to St. Louis where they hoped to reach a larger contingent of basketball fans. They poured $3 million of their own money into the newly named “Spirits of St. Louis” signing hot young players and upgrading the team’s facilities. They also hired a young announcer fresh out of Syracuse broadcasting school by the name of Bob Costas to do the team’s play-by-play commentary.

The 1974 Spirits of St. Louis

In their first season, The Spirits of St. Louis made the playoffs where they defeated the ABA defending champion New York Nets before losing to the eventual winning team, the Kentucky Colonels. Unfortunately, that was the high point for the Spirits. A year later in 1976, the American Basketball Association went belly up. As part of a dismantling agreement, the four most viable ABA teams would become full-fledged NBA franchises. Those four lucky teams were the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and New York Nets (today’s Brooklyn Nets). Of the three remaining ABA teams, the Virginia Squires went bankrupt before any financial compensation agreement could be made with the NBA. That left the Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits of St. Louis. As part of the dismantling agreement, both teams needed to approve the merger for the deal to go through. The Kentucky Colonels’ owner (who was the president and largest shareholder of Kentucky Fried Chicken) accepted a $3.3 million buyout offer and then went on to successfully run for Governor. Having just poured their hearts and souls into their beloved Spirits, the Silna brothers were much more reluctant to accept a quick buyout and disappear from basketball forever. They did eventually agree to accept a $2.2 million lump sum in exchange for their former players who were successfully drafted into the NBA. But that wasn’t quite enough to make them satisfied.

At the time, NBA television viewership was barely a blip on the ratings radar. Even an NBA championship series would be shown on tape delay after the 11pm news. So, for NBA executives it seemed like a very meaningless and inconsequential concession to offer the Silnas a small percentage of “Visual Media” (television) revenues to make them go away. They didn’t even offer a small percentage of all NBA revenues, their offer was 1/7 of any revenues earned by the four ABA teams that were being absorbed. In other words, the Silna’s agreed to give up their ABA franchise in exchange for 1/7 of the television revenues generated by the Spurs, Nuggets, Nets and Pacers. And here’s the kicker: The 1/7th ownership stake would last in perpetuity. Meaning, forever, or as long as the NBA exists as an viable entity. Specifically the contract reads “The right to receive such revenues shall continue for as long as the NBA or its successors continues in its existence.” Their attorney who negotiated the deal, would get a 10% cut of the Silna’s royalties.

For the first years, between 1976 and 1978, the Silnas did not earn a dime from the NBA and the league looked like it had negotiated a brilliant deal. In 1979 however, the Silna’s received their first royalty check in the amount of $200,000. For the 1980-81 season, the Silnas earned $521,749. Then, between 1980 and 1995, the NBA’s popularity exploded thanks to players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and later Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal. And with that explosion in popularity came several very large television contracts.

Magic and Jordan

The first mega contract that the NBA struck happened in 1997 when NBC and Turner agreed to pay $2.7 billion to broadcast games on television. Five years later, ABC/ESPN/TNT agreed to pay a combined $4.6 billion. In 2007, ABC/ESPN/TNT signed an eight year deal for $7.4 billion. Every time a new deal was stuck, the Silna brothers cashed in. During the 2010-2011 season, the Silna’s earned a royalty of $17.45 million. For 2011-12, they earned $18.5 million. For the most recent NBA season, 2012-2013, the Silna brother’s share of TV revenues was just over $19 million. In total, since that original 1976 agreement was stuck, Ozzie and Daniel Silna have earned a whopping $300 million in NBA television royalties. And if that’s not crazy enough, they are expecting to receive an additional $95 million over the next five years! But wait, it gets better…

Because the language in their original contract covers all “visual media” revenues, last year the Silna’s took the NBA to court over money earned from sources that were unimaginable back in 1976. For example, international broadcasts, internet rights and the NBA TV cable network. Recently, a Federal judge sided with the brothers and ruled that the NBA must pay them to cover incremental revenues from the last few years, and increase future royalties from now on! Oh, and by the way, in 1982 the NBA offered to buy the brothers out of their contract for $5 million paid over 5 years. The Silna’s rejected that offer and countered with $8 million over 8 years. The NBA declined.

By: Brian Warner

LIFE LESSONS FOR 2014

Sam Headshot cropped1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short enjoy it.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye, but don’t worry, God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It’s never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive (and don’t forget to Forgive Yourself)

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time, time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.

35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative of dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have, not what you need

42. The best is yet to come…

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a “gift”

46. Lastly and one of my favorites, from Jim Valvano,“To me there are three things everyone should do EVERY day. Number one is LAUGH. Number two is THINK — spend some time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to TEARS. If you LAUGH, THINK and CRY, THAT’S A HECK OF A DAY”

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS DON’T WORK . . .

So let me ask you, have you made your “New Year’s Resolutions”?  I have a recommendation for you– STOP IT.  But why, for you make new resolutions every year.  There is part of the problem, it becomes a vicious cycle. So stop making New Year’s Resolutions that just don’t work.

A former client that owned several health club facilities said that he sells more memberships in the months of December and January than the rest of the year.  Why is this?  This is due to our human desire to get in shape and change our body image.  He said is that you will find his facility packed to capacity during the month of January and February- with long lines at the machines and the classes full of people.  But, wait until March or April– 70% of the people that started working-out in January just QUIT!!

The problem with making New Year’s Resolution is that it sets you up for failure.  The best test for you is to determine if have S.M.A.R.T goals.  S.M.A.R.T. refers to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Framed.

Specific: Goals need to be specific. Often we set goals that are so loose, therefore it’s nearly impossible to judge whether you achieve these goals or not. For example, a statement like “I wish I will lose weight” is too vague. How will you know if and when you’ve reached your goal? Setting a goal like, “I will lose two pounds each and every week for this year”, is more specific. At the end of each week and month it will be a simple matter of weights and measures: take your measurements and get on the scale.

Measurable: Goals need to be measurable. For example, many of us want to increase our number of contacts. But, “meeting new clients” is an ambiguous statement. A clearer objective is “I will meet three new prospects each week, and at least one of each of these prospects will become a client.”  It’s a simple, concrete goal. This makes it easy to see if you hit your target.

Achievable: Goals need to be reasonable and achievable. Nearly everyone has tried to drop a few pounds at one time or another. Often their success or failure depends on setting practical goals. Losing 15 pounds in 30 days is unrealistic (unless you’re planning a medical procedure). Losing two pounds per week is reasonable and achievable. So in order to lose just two pounds per week, you decrease your caloric intake by 7000 calories per week (a reduction of 3500 calories equals one pound of weigh loss) and you can do this by reducing your daily intake by just 1000 calories and increasing your activity. Make it easy, enjoyable, and achievable; however don’t set yourself up for failure by setting goals that are out of reach.

Realistic: Goals need to be realistic. Guess what, we are not 18 years old anymore, so stop thinking you can still do everything as you once did. As adults, we learn that while we can achieve a great deal, you can’t have it all at once– the point here is to reasonably pace yourself.  It’s important to honestly assess yourself and your personal and physical limitations. Also, do you have the ability and commitment to make your dream come true?  For example, you may love to play tennis, but do you have the time, ability, talent and commitment to become a pro? So be honest with yourself.

Time Framed (and Tested): Goals need to have a specific time frame. Having a set amount of time will give your goals structure. For example, many of us want to find a new job or start their own business. Some people spend a lot of time talking about what they want to do, someday. But, without a specific goal and date there is no sense of urgency, no reason to take any action today. Having a specific time frame gives you the motivation to start today.  It also helps you monitor your progress during the process.

I devised a quick and simple 2014 Personal Goal Setting Exercise . . . .

1-  Write down your ‘magical’ and memorable moments for the past year.  Identify those moments that will live with you the rest of your life.  It may be something simple as having a ‘belly laugh’ with an old friend.  For example, seeing your newborn grandson or granddaughter for the first time.  It might be getting that promotion you worked so hard the past 5 years. ______________________________________________________________________

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2-   So what didn’t work in 2012?  Now this is a tough one.  What will you do differently?  What will you NEVER do again?  What do you need to change? ______________________________________________________________________

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3-   So what are you committed to changing this year?  This is a tough one.  You need to get very specific and detailed- remember these must be S.M.A.R.T. goals.   The bigger the goal, the more commitment and measurement needs to take place.  So, break these goals into smaller manageable goals, or KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).  But also clearly identify the consequences if you don’t achieve your goal and ultimate cost in your life?  Put these goals in front of your ‘nose’, so they are seen on a daily basis.  One client puts the S.M.A.R.T. goals above the bathroom toilet, so they are seen each and every day. ______________________________________________________________________

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4-   Set up a Daily Ritual.  An example of a Daily Ritual is, “When I wake up every morning, the first thing I will do is go for a 45 minute run”.  Another might be, “I set 5 hours every weekend that I can read one book per week”.  What you need to do is clearly identify what you need to change, and make the change.  Changes start with Your Daily Ritual.  ______________________________________________________________________

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5-   Make a list of every person that you will share your S.M.A.R.T. goals with, including key persons within your organization, your spouse or partner, your friends, and your Business Mentor.  Keep in mind that your ’accountability partner’ will agree to hold you to the goal, and ask that you supply regular accountability, and also keep you accountable to making the necessary changes in your life or business to attain these  S.M.A.R.T. goals ______________________________________________________________________

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WHAT THE RICH DO . . .

Are rich people just good with money or is there something a little deeper contributing to their success? Most people would agree that certain lifestyle choices and daily habits are as valuable in the quest for wealth as a sound understanding of finances.

A recent study indicated that a whopping 21 percent of Americans see winning the lottery as an important wealth-building strategy. A similar study of Canadians showed that about 12 percent were counting on winning a big lottery so they could have enough retirement income to retire in style.

There are many things you should never do if financial security is one of your main goals.  So what do the rich do every day that the poor don’t do?  Tom Corley, RichHabitsInstitute.com, outlines a few of the differences between the habits of the rich and the poor.

  1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day.
  2. 23% of wealthy gamble versus 52% of poor people.
  3. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing a single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.
  4. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. Only 23% of the poor exercise.
  5. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work versus 5% of poor people.
  6. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list versus 19% of poor.
  7. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month versus 3% of poor.
  8. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month versus 3% of poor
  9. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls versus 11% of poor.
  10. 67% of wealthy write down their goals versus 17% of poor.
  11. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons versus 2% of poor.
  12. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind versus 69% of poor. (Are you a Victim or Victor?)13.
  13. 79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month versus 16% of poor.
  14. 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day versus 23% of poor.
  15. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV versus 78% of poor.
  16. 44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts versus 3% of poor.
  17. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children versus 1% of poor.
  18. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity versus 4% of poor.
  19. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck versus 9% of poor.
  20. 86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement versus 5% of poor.
  21. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.

SUMMARY

  1. EAT RIGHT
  2. KEEP YOUR CARDS CLOSE TO YOUR CHEST
  3. SET GOALS
  4. KEEP FIT
  5. BE ORGANISED
  6. READ
  7. RING GRANDMA
  8. DON’T WATCH BIG BROTHER
  9. DON’T PUNT
  10. RUN YOUR OWN RACE
  11. AND ONE LAST THOUGHT . . .

There is a firm belief that a lot of poor people are simply too busy or disadvantaged one way or another to change their situation. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to pick themselves up. This is best explained from Dave Ramsey’s blog “Poornomore”:  “I was born poor, raised in poverty and watched my parents die that way. I worked hard, eliminated my bad habits, started doing what the wealthy did. Mostly, I stopped blaming others for my lack of wealth. Now I am wealthy, and help others who want to be helped.”