Archive for June 2013

Avoid Condo Disasters

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Yes, Sir! This should have been my response when my dad advised me about my condo; however, I didn’t say that! I had lived in my condo for several years, and I loved it! As a result, I was reluctant to sell it. I owned a home 110 miles away; so, I was commuting on the weekends. When I accepted a position closer to my house, my dad advised me to sell my condo. I listened, but I didn’t act upon his advice. As I mentioned in my post, “When is it Smarter to Buy or Rent?,” it was the first time that I did not heed his advice! He has never led me astray, but I felt that I was making the right decision this time.

I wanted to hold onto the property for the following reasons: sentimental, weekend retreats, and potential investment. Unfortunately, things did not work out like I planned. Several problems occurred while I was away from the property, including a burst water pipe. I had insurance, but I had to replace several items. Furthermore, my new position allowed limited time for weekend retreats. Another issue that I dealt with was several increases in the monthly homeowners’ association fees.

The major problem was one that I never would have anticipated! The property purchased flood insurance, but my mortgage company insisted that I provide proof of flood insurance. I found out later that this is a common practice. After battling my mortgage company for months, I realized that I could not win! I should have sold my condo when my father advised me to sell it! Billy Wilder said, “Hindsight is always 20-20.” All is not lost! After my experience, I hope that I can help you avoid the following condo disasters:

  1. Find out about the master insurance policy and make sure you have the proper coverage.

  2. Make a decision. Weigh your options (mobility vs. money) and be realistic. Being indecisive is what caused me to lose the most money. Sometimes, it is better to sell than to hold on too long.

  3. Select a real estate agent. Since I had moved and lost touch with my previous realtor, I was reluctant to choose another one. That was a mistake, and I advise you to speak to other people for referrals if necessary. A real estate agent should help eliminate any remaining indecisiveness.

  4. Sell when you are ready to sell rather than waiting to sell at a certain time in the real estate market. Spring is the recommended time to sell condos; however, you must weigh what is best for you. Again, waiting too long to sell your condo can lead to a disaster!

How do you think a condo disaster would effect you? Please comment.

Entrepreneur of the Month-June (Series 4 of 4)

FredS3I’ve saved the best for last! This is the final installment of my “Entrepreneur of the Month” series for June. African-American Music Appreciation Month is observed this month; so, it has been my pleasure to feature Mr. Fred Stewart! I hope that you have been inspired by Mr. Stewart’s background, supporters, and motivations for becoming an entrepreneur. In this post, you will learn about one of his future ventures as well as gain insight from Mr. Stewart.

In the fall of 2013, Stewart Communications is scheduled to unveil Stewart Com Sports. This entity will serve as a platform to spotlight high school athletes. Do you want to know more? Here is an interview with Mr. Fred Stewart, Owner of Stewart Communications:

  1. What is the purpose of spotlighting high school athletes?
  2. The purpose of spotlighting these athletes is to expose them to colleges that wouldn’t normally look at them. The diamonds in the rough are often overlooked because they have no clue how to get exposure for themselves. I will always be looking for that player from a 1A school that hasn’t been exposed to Division 1 football camps. There are several reasons for this lack of exposure, including a lack of money and lack of knowledge about them.

  3. What advice would you give someone who is considering leaving college to pursue their dream?
  4. My advice would be to know this is what you’re supposed to do and to have a Plan A-C. Plan D should be to go back to college. Also, think about retirement from day! Too many people have made lots of money based on their dreams, but during the process they never invest in an IRA. If that dream loses steam, they may abort the dream 15 to 20 years later. They might have little or NOTHING to show for it and have to start saving at a much later age. Since we know the benefits of compounding interest and time, we know that it’s never too early to start.

  5. Many professional artists started out (and continue) producing jingles? Describe your experience.
  6. I kind of fell into doing jingles. I knew how to produce tracks, and I was great with engineering! I had the software and equipment; so, I tried to figure out a way to MAXIMIZE what I had. I started putting myself out there to radio people I already knew that had heard my work and offered them a free jingle. After that, they started to spread the word about my services.

  7. What are some common mistakes that independent artists make?
  8. One common mistake that independent artists make is believing the hometown hype. Many artists get stuck at home, bask in the local celebrity fame, and lose their way! Typically, there is no one there who will really critique the artist the way they should be critiqued. The artist’s craft never gets better (or just simply remains bad). Another mistake Indies make is NOT BUILDING THEIR FAN BASE. Indies make assumptions that just because their music has great quality that radio stations are automatically going to play it.

    Radio airplay is primarily based on the amount of people that would actually like to hear your song IF it gets played. Radio stations only have so much time in a day to play music. So, you have to ask yourself, “Why would they take (insert big name artist) off the air to play my song?” Major artists already have a stable fan base that the station can depend on to come there and listen to their music. If you don’t have a strong fan base or “buzz” about your song, any airplay you get will not be significant enough to make a difference in sales.

  9. What would you tell someone who wants to own a radio station?
  10. Get ready to spend the money and resources to make it work! Don’t be afraid to be different. The odds are against you; so, come out swinging very hard!

  11. Why do you feel that you have constantly challenged yourself to do more?
  12. I have a financial goal, and I want to achieve my financial goal in a way that God gets the glory. That usually means I have to get out of my comfort zone and do more. Every time I have tried to settle with doing one thing, God allowed something to happen to get me back on track.

How did it feel to get inside Fred Stewart’s entrepreneurial mind? Please comment.

The Unseen Dangers of Gambling

Did you watch “Lottery Ticket” on BET this weekend? Yes, it was on again! I guess the ratings are always high when viewers watch Kevin Carson (Bow Wow), a guy who lives in a housing project, win a lottery ticket worth $370 million. The 2010 comedy did well at the box office; however, it did not score as much as Kevin did in the film. Its domestic gross was more than $24 million, according to reports. Despite the movie’s success, the producer experienced the same problems that many lottery winners’ face.

Cube Vision, a production company owned by Ice Cube, has been sued twice for using two different individuals’ books to make the movie. Lawsuits are common for winners of large sums of money. The loss of money is not the only danger of winning the lottery, and the dangers are not exclusive to the lottery. While gambling is considered fun, it presents many dangers that are unseen. The lure of winning can become a hook (or addiction) before people realize it.

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Regardless of the activity (horse races, Bingo, coin flips, sports betting, etc.), the dangers of gambling should be considered. Here is a list of some of the unseen dangers of gambling:

  1. Grades Affected-The number of high school and college students who gamble (from shooting dice to betting online) continues to increase. Their grades are affected as a result, and some end up dropping out of school.

  2. Crime-In an effort to regain some of their losses, some gamblers resort to criminal activity.

  3. Loss of Jobs-Some people have become so engrossed while playing video poker during their lunch breaks that they continue to return to work late. Consequently, they have been relieved of their duties.

  4. Broken Relationships-Lying, borrowing money, and failing to be reliable due to problem gambling has damaged numerous friendships.

  5. Loss of Families-Arguments over gambling debts, loss of businesses, frequent unexplainable out of town trips, and irresponsible childcare have led to divorce.

  6. Health-Many senior citizens are on fixed incomes, and this means that they do not have a lot of extra money. Those who gamble have less to pay for their medication, which affects their health.

  7. Death-A number of murders, murders-for-hire, and shootings (as a result of arguments over video games) have increased in recent years.

Many studies show that problem gambling is higher in communities of color. If you or a family member needs help with gambling, call the National Problem Gambling Helpline Network (800-522-4700).

You Don’t Have to Be LeBron James to be a Winner!

Wow! As the first day of summer set in for residents in the Pacific and Mountain time zones, those who live in the Central and Eastern time zones had to wait for the Sun! We might have had to wait for the Sun to reach its farthest point north of the equator, but the Heat was on! I’m referring to the Miami Heat. Despite a close game early on, the team scorched the San Antonio Spurs! The Heat victory over the Spurs in the 2013 NBA Finals was amazing!

I was extremely impressed by LeBron James and his ability to lead his team! While scoring 37 points, LeBron grabbed 12 rebounds and added four assists. Three of his teammates combined to score 55 points, but neither Chris Bosh nor Ray Allen scored. Some people might not want to crown him, “King,” but he reigned supreme this season! By winning back-to-back Finals MVP and regular-season MVP awards, he also joined the ranks of Michael Jordan and Bill Russell.

I believe that his success on the court this season will continue to translate into success off the court. His signature sneakers already outsell (6-to-1) his competitors’ sneakers, and they earned Nike $300 million in U.S. retail sales last year-according to SportsOneSource. He also leads the NBA in endorsement deals with a reported $40 million. I am so inspired by LeBron, and I celebrate his ability to overcome numerous challenges to achieve his dreams!

Everyone can’t be LeBron James, but everyone can be a winner! Your success depends on what your goal is and what motivates you. Intrinsic motivation is critical, but inspiration can be extrinsic. I am inspired by reading about the accomplishments of others. I don’t need it, but it encourages me to overcome my obstacles. I accept that I will never be a basketball champion, but I am a winner! Even when it looked and felt like I lost, I still won! As a result, I want to keep winning in everything!

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Here are some ways that you, too, can be a winner:

  1. Be decisive. Know what you want and how you plan to accomplish it.
  2. Be determined. Don’t let anyone or anything get you off track.
  3. Be loyal. Faith, family, and friends keep you grounded.
  4. Be flexible. When things don’t work according to your plans, make adjustments.
  5. Be tolerant. Don’t discount the opinions of people who offer different perspectives.
  6. Be grateful. When you show appreciation, people won’t mind helping you.
  7. Be patient. Anything worth having takes time, and you will cherish it when you get it!

Do you consider yourself a winner? Please comment.

Entrepreneur of the Month-June (Series 3 of 4)

Last week, you learned about the people who have played important roles in Fred Stewart’s life. In this post, I hope you will be inspired by what motivated him to become an entrepreneur. After working on several independent projects, Fred said, “I decided to go all in!” Divine Music Productions was born on January 16, 2006. After building a few safety nets in 2008, he decided to leave Mississippi State University to pursue the production business full-time. He began a career in radio (producing jingles for radio shows, such as “Sherri in the Morning” and “The Cal Connection” on WGBN 1150 AM in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) in 2009.

After working in radio and with independent artists, he saw a gap between mainstream and “indie.” Fred noticed a need, and he made it his business to fulfill that need! He met with Wanda Patterson, President of the Florida Gospel Announcers Guild. Their discussions led to the creation of a syndicated show called “The Independent Showcase” in March 2010. It is a show dedicated to showcase the best independent gospel and Christian artists. The show crossed international waters when it was picked up by Spirit FM of Kampala, Uganda, and Radio Graaff-Reinet of Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Next, he joined forces with the owner of Connected 2 Calvary-a Christian apparel company. This collaborative effort has been remarkable! In conjunction with “Connected 2 Calvary” and “The Independent Showcase,” Divine Music Productions has produced 4 albums. These four albums have showcased the best independent artists at no cost to the public. Yes, they are all free and downloadable! These projects led him to expand into more ventures, which began the structure of Stewart Communications.

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In 2010, Fred invested in Praise FM 99.3 in the Caribbean Island of Nevis. He assumed the role as stakeholder and General Manager. He re-branded the station and helped pull in shows such as “Joyce Meyer Ministries.” In 2012, Stewart Communications became one of the featured sponsors of the “Gospel Blue M.I.C. Achievement Awards” held in Chesapeake, Virginia. After working with established businesses and developing a reputation as a builder, Fred expanded Stewart Communications into business consulting.

Next week, you will learn more about Fred Stewart (future endeavors, etc.). What do you think about his entrepreneurial spirit? Please comment.

When is it Smarter to Buy or Rent?

Options. This is one of my favorite words! I believe that having options improves learning and enhances decision-making skills. As a college student, I learned a lot about real estate and improved my decision-making skills. How? I experienced every living arrangement that was available! While living on campus, I had a private room as a freshman and a roommate later. I also shared an apartment with my sister, and I commuted when I was a senior.

When I graduated and started earning a salary, I wanted to build up my finances before moving out on my own. As a result, I stayed home and researched apartments as well as residential areas. I compared renting an apartment to buying a home because my parents always encouraged my siblings and me to become homeowners. I did not have enough for a down payment, but I could pay to rent an apartment. In addition, I did not want to take care of any repairs, maintain a lawn, etc.

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I was not sure about how long I would continue living in my hometown; so, I chose to rent an apartment. While living in an apartment, I saved enough money for a down payment. I also grew tired of the noise and other problems of apartment living; therefore, I asked myself the same question that many people are asking now: “When is it smarter to buy or rent?” Again, I believe the decision comes down to your options. I made my decision based on the following three considerations: money, preferences, and mobility.

I purchased my first home after saving enough money for a down payment, selecting an affordable home, and considering any additional costs. One thing that I overestimated was my mobility. Due to advancement opportunities, I sought employment in another city and commuted for several years. However, I am pleased with my decision to purchase a home despite the extra expenses. After all, homeownership is the key to building wealth.

Next week, I will post about the one time I did not listen to my father’s real estate advice. Have you struggled with the decision to buy or rent? Please comment.

Entrepreneur of the Month-June (Series 2 of 4)

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Fred Stewart was born on December 14th to a teenage mother in Canton, Mississippi. As a result, his grandmother and great-grandmother were very influential in raising him. They had a piano in their house, and he remembered hearing his mother play it. After he didn’t see anyone else playing it, he would get on it and “bang around on the keys.” Those early days may have provided a musical foundation. When he was 12-years-old, he learned how to play the drums. He began traveling with a quartet named, The Canton Southernaires.

The group let him grow and develop his talent until he was called upon to play for his church’s male choir at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. At 17-years-old, Fred learned how to play the keyboard and began to play for several churches/groups. Although he is an entrepreneur, he currently plays for The Word Full Gospel Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. He said, “I love playing! God blessed me; so, I will bless Him by giving back to Him.” He added that his early upbringing had a lot to do with the path that he has chosen because it introduced him to the world of music.

He also attributes his success to the important role that his coaches played. He said, “My coaches gave me structure at a time that I began to rebel against authority. I grew up without a father; so, it was very important for me to have strong male influences.” He added that he was very strong and very aggressive as a kid. Football was a great sport for him to express that aggression in a structured and legal manner. His coaches cared about his grades and his behavior (on and off the field). In addition, his coaches taught him the importance of building a firm foundation.

That firm foundation prepared him for a bright future. In 2003, Fred graduated from Northwest Rankin High School. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Mississippi State University and majored in political science. He began working at Grey Matter Music Studio during his sophomore year at MSU. After gaining experience as an audio engineer and session musician, he left Grey Matter in the summer of 2005. Fred worked on various projects for the remainder of 2005 under the name of “Smash Hit Productions.” Next week, you will learn more about Fred Stewart’s different business endeavors.

What do you think about the positive effects that his relatives, the quartet, his coaches, and/or his churches have had on Mr. Fred Stewart’s career? Please comment.

Giving, What It Can Do For You

Every Father’s Day, I am excited to share my time and money with my father! It is not a task for me; after all, he has given so much to me. First, my father created a culture of giving for our family. I witnessed my parents sharing with each other; they also encouraged my siblings and me to share with one another. He also worked untiringly with my mother (until she transitioned) to help many people. I am eternally grateful for a father and mother who taught us the principles of giving.

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Our parents didn’t simply share with us; they shared with anyone in need. They frequently gave food and clothes to different families. No, they would not give ragged or damaged items. They would often take people to the store and allow them to purchase what they needed. Although it is not a recommended practice, they co-signed loans and paid different bills for people. In several difficult situations, they also offered shelter to individuals who were in need.

My siblings and I have benefited greatly from growing up in a household where giving was commonplace. Not only did we learn a lot about finances, but it also prepared us for a life of giving. We learned to value everyone-regardless of their social status, religion, or race. We also learned not to take anything for granted. The importance of keeping your word was a lesson that we learned when my father told someone that he would help them. My parents’ ability to give and receive also reinforced biblical principles.

I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.-Maya Angelou

Here is what giving can do for you:
*It can make you feel better (emotionally and spiritually).
*It can reduce stress by taking the focus off of you, which improves your health.
*It can inspire you to do better.
*It can improve your outlook on life.
*It can open doors for you-to minister to others.
*It can serve as a witness to your lifestyle.
*It can develop a giving culture in your family.

Do you think giving can help you (as well as the receiver)? Please comment.

All You Need to Know about Time Management

“Work smarter not harder!” If you have not heard of this saying by Carl Banks, I would be surprised. It is commonly used, and it’s something that I frequently encourage my peers to do. I don’t like to do unnecessary tasks or to waste time. I am always looking for the best way to accomplish something! If something is not working, I believe that it is time to develop a better strategy.

Unfortunately, it has taken greater effort to be as effective in my personal life. Do you have this problem? I don’t know if it has something to do with less accountability or more distractions. Offers to go to the movies, weddings, visit relatives, etc. can be hard to turn down. TV shows, social media, books, and other things are also constantly vying for my attention!

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Once I decided to create a blog, I knew that I had to develop a better use of my time. With so many other responsibilities, posting on a regular basis required careful planning. First, I had to decide which days I would post. Next, I had to determine which social media I would use and how I would use it. Then, I implemented some time management tools. I will share the basics with you. Here is all you need to know about time management:

  1. Schedule all appointments on a Calendar app and check it every morning.
  2. Utilize the Memo app to record any ideas as well as to-do lists.
  3. Do not answer every phone call or email; set a time to respond to them.
  4. Distinguish between what is important and what is urgent.
  5. Set aside time to complete what is urgent.
  6. At night, look at to-do lists and reschedule anything that remains.

What time management tools do you use? Please comment.

Entrepreneur of the Month-June (Series 1 of 4)

Welcome to a new series that I plan to post each month! The media is fraught with negativity; so, I would like to counter some of the stereotypes with positive portrayals of people of color. If you are an entrepreneur who supports (hire, promote, etc.) people of color, you are also eligible because you are portraying positivity. The featured entrepreneurs will vary from industry to industry, and I hope that they will serve as inspiration to you. The first “Entrepreneur of the Month” is Mr. Fred Stewart.

In 2010, the Mississippi native founded Stewart Communications. It was initially Divine Music Productions, but after growth in other industries he changed the name. The name change reflects all of the services that his multi-media company now provides. If you need business consulting, broadcasting, and/or audio production, please contact Fred Stewart. His Website is www.stewartcom.net. I appreciate Fred Stewart for accepting my invitation to be “Entrepreneur of the Month” for June 2013.

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Next week, you will learn who has contributed to Mr. Stewart’s success. What do you think of this series? Please comment.