Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Cards

A small project I've been working on this holiday. 

Click the link above to view this special holiday card.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quick Thought

Why are Gen Y and Millenials considered to be entreprenuerial?

I believe that it is because they are innovative and independent. Both of these trates breed entreprenurs.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Creating Return Customers

During my sophomore year in college I consulted a small mexican restaurant in Cleburne, TX. It was my first experience in creating a marketing strategy for a small business. Recently I came across this promotional card that we developed for the business in the hopes that it would encourage customers to return to the restaurant. 

The card successfully created return customers for some time. How would you create return customers?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

5 Lessons From the Beginning of A New Business Endeavor

Recently I had an idea for a product. This is not a unique occurrence. I often find myself coming up with new ideas while I am working. However, this time for some reason I have actually begun the process of making and distributing this item. I must say that thus far it has been an exciting and rewarding venture. Here are some lessons I have learned in the beginning stages of my new endeavor. 

1. Become a "do-er" rather then a "thinker": Like I previously mentioned I often think of new ideas. Most of the time they sit in my mind and never see the light of day. Make the change and reap the rewards. 

2. Stick to what you know: If you know how to paint then create a painting. If you aren't a painter and you set out to become an artist you will have a much harder time finishing your first piece of work. You may have to buy supplies, take courses, and spend hours working on your new skill. However if you are a painter then you probably have the tools you need and you have acquired the skills over time already.

3. Get your hands dirty: Although a business plan is important you should not start your product off by sitting behind a computer writing about it. In the past I became so discouraged while typing the business plan that I was out of energy when it was time to make the actual product. I suggest working on the physical product for some time and then type the business plan. 

4. Done is better then perfect: Sometimes seeing a finished product with flaws is better then having nothing completed at all. Often times we become so focused on creating it perfectly that it never even gets finished at all. There is always time to perfect a finished product. Sometimes you can even use feedback from your customers to continue to improve the product. 

5. Keep cost low: Don't spend extravagantly in the beginning on supplies and materials. Be sure that every cent that is spent can be justified. Cut costs by purchasing sale items and don't be afraid to search for the best deals. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

1st Annual Business Plan Competition for SWAU Students

Dear SIFE alumnus,

You are receiving this invitation because you played a vital role as a SIFE member at Southwestern Adventist University.

Lately in the news there has been a growing interest in student entrepreneurs. The President himself feels that changing the way student loans are paid will bolster small business creation. Which made me think, why can’t the next start-up come from a business student from SWAU?

Starting in the spring of 2011 we will be conducting a business plan competition for all the business students and SIFE members at Southwestern Adventist University. The goal will be to provide the winner with seed money for their new business that they have submitted as part of the competition.

If you are interested in sponsoring this project through a donation of your choosing please contact me via E-mail @ or through my personal Facebook page. If you are unable to make a donation but have time to be a judge for the competition please let me know.

Think of this as your opportunity to be part of the first business plan competition to take place at SWAU. But also your sponsorship, no matter how cliché it may sound, could make a young students dream of starting their own business come true.

Thank you,

Louis Cruz

Friday, November 4, 2011

Forget PowerPoint: How Storytelling Can Save Your Presentation

The following is a reflection I had on an article entitled “Storytelling that Moves People” by Robert McKee. Although the article is old the content seems to still be relevant today.

Boredom has become an epidemic in the classroom. Professors spit out facts, quotes and statistics to students that are daydreaming about their weekend activities. Instead of spicing up lectures with attention grabbing stories many professors have decided to continue with the same teaching format that has been used for years and watch the students slip into a stupor. Unfortunately it doesn’t get any better after the student graduates and is in the workplace. The newly hired student finds him or herself in a boardroom listening to their manager give a lecture about future growth in a Powerpoint presentation that is slide after slide of numbers and seemingly unimportant data. However, there is a simple cure to boredom in the classroom and the boardroom, storytelling.

Robert McKee, a screenwriting coach who lives and works in the Mecca of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles, California suggests that storytelling is the key to solving the lackluster boardroom atmosphere. McKee is known for lecturing students that have written, directed and produced award-winning films. Although it may seem a bit unconventional to take advice from a screenwriter about matters pertaining to the business world McKee offers many important insights that have helped executives from the entertainment industry as well a software development companies such as Microsoft. What both of these companies have in common is a need to develop presentation skills that allow them to stop relying on conventional rhetoric and embrace compelling storytelling techniques.

Replacing slide presentations with storytelling is a transition that, if done correctly, can be more effective in conveying a message. The explanation for the effectiveness can be attributed to the emotional connection that listeners have with a story. Once that relationship is formed the audience members find themselves drawn to the different elements that makeup the structure of the story itself. McKee reveals that every well-prepared story has a structure in which a character is trying to restore balance to a life that has been rocked by an inciting incident. The storyteller addresses how the protagonist deals with different obstacles in order to succeed. Through dealing with the many obstacles the character is forced to accept a reality that is riddled with imperfections. It is these imperfections, this cruel reality, which everyone in the audience can relate to in their own way.  The listeners can empathize with the struggle that the protagonist is forced to endure in order to achieve success. Creating these types of scenarios that evoke an emotional connection is the key to, not only motivating employees, but also persuading them.

These are some that would be quick to say that stories tend to be exaggerated and in some cases down right manipulative. These justifiable accusations raise the issue of telling stories within an ethical boundary. The popular screenwriter is quick to defend his position by stating that often times when executives give lectures the data presented is a complete fabrication. One may only look at Enron and WorldCom to seek evidence of such unethical behavior pertaining to the presentation of illegitimate accounting information. In fact in order to make a story even more compelling stating the problem the company is facing first and then showing how it can overcome that issue can energize employees to become part of the solution. In the case of telling stories honesty is the best policy and in the end pays off to every member of the company. Withholding problems or sugarcoating them in the story telling process will only cause more harm to the company in the future. In some cases repressing the problem can cause an ethical breakdown to occur in order to rationalize and relieve the pressures that surface as a result of dread.

It is from dealing with and overcoming dread that listeners often times find positive energy. There is something to be said about the journey of overcoming an obstacle that looms over each and every one of us at some point in our lives. McKee emphasizes that coming to terms with the dark reality of the world makes the final triumph so much more meaningful in the end. The navigation through dread is what keeps the attention of listeners and is what causes them to cheer the protagonist to the proverbial finish line. Once the protagonist has completed the journey what lies in the path behind is a series of decisions. These decisions allow the character to restore balance and satisfy the desire, which caused them to start the expedition in the first place.

Relating a good leader and a good storyteller is a task that actually does not take much thought for the screenwriter. McKee suggests that a good storyteller has many of the same qualities that a powerful and effective leader possesses. Storytellers have a very good understanding of human nature and often times that quality is very important to have when leading others. Those that communicate through telling a story are often creative and intelligent once again we see two qualities that are also found in good managers. McKee closes the interview by saying that all good storytellers have a certain awareness of their selves. This self-knowledge allows them to understand others in a different light. Managers and CEOs who have this level of awareness are able to be great leaders. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

10 Events in 2011 That We Can... Learn From/Help/Influence

1. Brazilian Flooding and Mudslide - How can we help get residence back on their feet?
2. Borders Group Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy - What lessons can we take from this company's closure?
3. Tsunami Slams Japanese Coast - Can we create a project to raise money for victims?
4. Rod Blagojevich Corruption Trial - What ethical lessons can we draw from this trial?
5. Tornado Strikes Joplin, MO – How can help small businesses and individuals who suffered?
6. Wildfires Across Central Texas – What can be done to help aid victims?
7. Obama's Job Package - Unemployment continues to be a problem in the United States. How can we influence this issue?
8. Occupy Wall Street – What are the ethical implications associated with this movement?
9. Bank of America Debit Card Fees Created and Canceled – What lessons can be taken away from this strategy?
10. Steve Jobs memoir released – What business can you start? What product can you start? How can you be a strong leader?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

3 Quick Tips: Your Morning Routine

1. Wake up before your alarm clock rings - your competition may have hit the snooze button.

2. Workout - Builds energy and creates positive feelings that can translate to new ideas and innovations.

3. Listen to your favorite song/singer while getting ready for the workday- Studies have shown that music often contributes to your emotional state.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How an entrepreneur thinks...

Wouldn’t it be cool if  ___________.

Doesn’t it suck that ___________.

How to Properly Manage Credit

Begin with only using one credit card: Typically first time credit card holders accumulate a wide variety of credit cards within their first couple of years using credit. Do not fall into this deconstructive habit. The more credit you have, the more you’ll end up using in reality. Learn how to be responsible with one credit card before you decide to even apply for any additional credit cards. When searching for new cards try to stay away from credit provided by department stores.

Charge only what you know you can afford to actually pay: When you are charging only what you can actually afford, it lets potential lenders and creditors know that you have the positive attributes of a responsible borrower. You’ll find that it will be easier to borrow money and have the opportunity to obtain new credit when you show that you know how to only borrow what you can pay back to lenders. Only charging what you know you can afford helps you steer clear of excessive debt.

Use a portion of the credit you are given: Maxing out your credit cards, or coming very close to doing so, is one of the most irresponsible ways of using credit. Chances are that you can’t afford to pay off a maxed out credit card balance. The lenders know that borrowers who completely max out their cards frequently have difficulty repaying what they’ve borrowed against. Stay below 50% of the credit limit you are given. It is highly suggested to even stay below 30% if possible.

Learn how to correctly carry a balance: Having a credit balance is not bad as long as you do it correctly. It is highly recommended that you make more than the minimum payment requested of you each month to pay off your balance as quickly as possible. At all costs avoid making late credit card payments and always keep your balance at a reasonable level. If you properly follow these steps, carrying a balance won’t hurt your credit.

Completely pay the balance on time: Responsibly paying off your balance each month shows that you’re capable of paying bills, something creditors and lenders want to see from its customers. Since a large part of your credit score includes timeliness of your payments, paying your balance on time improves your credit score.

Business Plan Template

1.0  Executive Summary
1.1  Objectives
1.2  Mission
1.3  Keys to Success
2.0  Company Summary
2.1  Company Ownership
2.2  Start-up Summary
2.2.1      Start-up (table: outline)
3.0  Products and Services
3.1  Products
3.2  Services
4.0  Market Analysis Summary
4.1  Market Segmentation
4.1.1      Market Analysis (table)
4.1.2      Market Analysis (pie)
4.2  Target Market Segment Strategy
4.3  Service Business Analysis
4.3.1      Competition and Buying Patterns
5.0  Strategy and Implementation
5.1  SWOT Analysis
5.1.1      Strengths
5.1.2      Weaknesses
5.1.3      Opportunities
5.1.4      Threats
5.2  Competitive Edge
5.3  Marketing Strategy
5.4  Sales Strategy
5.5  Milestones
5.5.1      Milestones (table)
5.5.2      Milestones (pie)
6.0  Management Summary
6.1  Personnel Plan
6.1.1      Personnel (table)
7.0  Financial Plan
7.1  Start-up Funding
7.1.1      Start-up Funding (table)
7.2  Important Assumptions
7.3  Break-even Analysis
7.3.1      Break-even Analysis (table)
7.3.2      Break-even Analysis (pie)
7.4  Projected Profit and Loss
7.4.1      Profit and Loss (table)
7.4.2      Profit Monthly (pie)
7.4.3      Profit Yearly (pie)
7.4.4      Gross Margin Monthly (pie)
7.4.5      Gross Margin Yearly (pie)
7.5  Projected Cash Flow
7.5.1      Cash Flow (table)
7.5.2      Cash Flow (pie)
7.6  Projected Balance Sheet
7.6.1      Balance Sheet (table)
7.7  Business Ratios
7.7.1      Ratios (table)
7.8  Long-term Plan

                  Sales Forecast
                  Profit and Loss
                  Cash Flow
                  Balance Sheet

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Resume Writing

Personal Information: Name, address, phone number, and E-mail address. Please note that the E-mail account title should be professional and not be inappropriate, political or offensive.

Summary: Consists of one powerful sentence that describes many of the qualities that the employer is looking for in its applicants. This one section can be what distinguishes each applicant.

Education: College attending, expected graduation date (month and year), and degree currently studying. If you find that you will lack professional experience you may want to list major projects and papers in this section as well.

Professional Experience: Typically will include start and end dates, the company/firm/business name, location, and three to four bullet points that describe roles and responsibilities completed. Bullet points should be short and concise and still be effective in communicating the applicant's skills. It is important to have thoroughly read over the qualifications and responsibilities posted by the company for which you will be applying since it will help provide key phrases and jargon that you can integrate into this section of your resume. Action words (past tense) should be used at the beginning of each description. Finally, it is important to use numbers whenever applicable especially if they convey a significant result.

Example of Actions Words: organized, developed, managed, implemented, presented, directed, and created.

Awards and Citations: Includes scholarships, special recognitions, merits and citations (certificates of competency).

Computer Skills: Any notable software proficiency, which can include Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite.

Other Notable Tips

  • If you have less then 10 years of experience, then keep your resume to one page
  • Don't be afraid to change the page margins, but remember to avoid clutter
  • Printing your resume on regular paper is acceptable but whenever possible use professional resume paper. Stay away from colored paper.
  • When attending a job fair be sure to put your resume in a professional folder or portfolio to make a good first impression
  • Always tell the truth on your resume. The lies can be researched and could cost you the interview.