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Selling from the Blind Side

By Paul Johnson

759 words. Abstract: Salespeople have a blind side, just like quarterbacks. A simple 3-step approach allows catastrophes to be avoided before your sales are sacked.

Are you prepared for what’s going to “get you” tomorrow? I’m not suggesting you live in fear or continually look over your shoulder. Yet I’m puzzled why people, especially salespeople, don’t invest in preparing for what they KNOW is bound to happen.

The movie The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock made people aware of the value of the left tackle. Most people might correctly assume that the quarterback would be the highest-paid member of a football team. What fewer people know is that the left tackle is often the second highest-paid member. Their job is to protect the right-handed quarterback from the rusher they know is coming from their left — their blind side. Football teams pay for protection — insurance, if you will — to prevent predictable problems before they happen. They know it pays to take the long view.

Tackle the Investment
Not taking a longer view is costly. You’ll waste important opportunities, and experience frustration, stress, and unneeded expense. Conversely, when you prepare to protect your blind side, you’ll gain confidence, make better use of your time, and enjoy more money and other rewards. You’ll find yourself long on success and short on failures.

Yet few people invest in protecting their blind side. Although they know specific problems will likely happen, they’re content to deal with them when they arrive. It’s hard not to fall into that mind-set today. Our fast-paced lifestyle makes it hard to do everything we know we should do, and fewer resources (“doing more with less”) further exacerbate these situations. Yet many times we erroneously choose to do the conveniently urgent instead of the strategically important work that will deliver consistently powerful performance.

If you’d like to avoid getting blindsided (again), consider using this three step approach.

I. Get Real
When you consider all of the places that problems can come from, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Gain some control by evaluating the threats; then you can focus on the ones with catastrophic consequences.

The odds are exceptionally high that the money you recently spent on your life insurance premium will be wasted today, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have invested in that payment because, if you did die today, the consequences could be catastrophic for your family.

While most of your business decisions don’t include death as a consequence, some are pretty serious. For instance:

  • Have you been selling to the “wrong” decision maker?
  • Does your new client really have the ability to pay you?
  • Will the objection you’re not prepared for tank your sale in the 11th hour?

Get real about your potential problems by evaluating their threat levels and then making sure you have prepared to pre-empt catastrophe.

II. Get Records
Once you’re aware of the potential catastrophes coming from your blind side, make plans in advance of them happening to avert them. By “get records”, I mean to write your plans down. Put every action plan into permanent media, a record of what will happen. Like records on a turntable, you want them to be repeatable and accessible. You want to be able to get your hands on the plans you want to use and the tactics you’ll employ at a moment’s notice.

III. Get Ready
Once you’ve evaluated potential threats and isolated the plans and tactics in the form of records that will help you avert them, it’s time to prepare. Review the records on a regular basis to ensure you’ll know how to foil impending catastrophe. Practice those tactics that will help you handle that objection you know is coming, or confirm you are indeed talking to the decision maker. Play your records over and over again so you don’t have to think about them.

Be Comfortable, Not Stupid
If you find yourself blindsided more often than you deem comfortable, you probably haven’t taken time to objectively assess impending threats. We all have too much to do, but don’t let that excuse doom you. When you take time to sit down and assess potential threats, you’ll discover that relatively few carry catastrophic consequences. Once you get clear on what those consequences are, you’ll find yourself motivated to address them… in advance.

If you want to be the highest-paid member of your sales team, you can’t do it if your blind side isn’t protected. Your company can’t hire you a left tackle, so you’ll need to put your own plans in place. If you’re ready to bring more power to your selling game, it’s time to Get Real, Get Records, and Get Ready.

The book called Top Dog Recession-Busting Sales Secrets

Click to learn more.

© 2010 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson is an expert on ConsultativeSelling and co-author of the new Top Dog Recession-Busting Sales Secrets; get it at http://tinyurl.com/recessionbust. Learn about Consultative Selling at http://consultativeselling.com

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When did your preparation pay off when a potential catastrophe came knocking on your door?

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Comments (1) Jun 01 2010

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Why Performance Improvement is an Uphill Battle

By Paul Johnson

1,190 words. Abstract: Performance improvement can be easy when you avoid your uphill battles. Get past the three myths that are thwarting the success of you and your team.

Who doesn’t get frustrated once in awhile? Either we’re disappointed with our own failure to achieve a goal, or with the failure of someone else we were counting on to perform.

  • We work hard and achieve a deadline, but we know the quality of our work has fallen short.
  • We’re counting on someone to hit their sales target, but revenues will fall short… again.
  • We’ve shown someone over and over how to do something new, but they just don’t “get it.”

Many of us are challenged with the performance improvement of someone, whether that someone is someone else or ourselves. If you’re frustrated in your efforts to reach goals, perhaps you need a better plan for achieving results.

While many factors affect performance improvement, one subtle aspect is often overlooked. By recognizing and managing this aspect, you have an opportunity to avoid the frustration and wasted effort that otherwise occurs. This may be your chance to avoid repeating the same failure-inducing mistake over and over again.

Stop Mything Out

Three myths stand in the way of recognizing and applying a solution. The first myth is the common promotion of the idea that education and skill-building results in success. While those factors are important, we need to accept that learning a topic does not mean you’re assured of applying it successfully, especially in a competitive environment. Going to a training class will help you gain additional skills, but at some point performance improvement plateaus regardless of how much training is received. Yes, education and training support success, but there is more.

The second myth is that hard work is necessary for success. Instead, I contend that most people work too hard but don’t practice enough. If the work is hard, I suggest you may be wasting your efforts on the wrong work. On the other hand, when you find work that is fun and easy for you, continual practice will lead to higher and higher levels of performance improvement. Your practice must be focused on work that is right for you. Work easy and practice hard.

The third myth is that people assume that people who succeed in one area know how to succeed in them all. We see this all the time when people get promoted. Those that fail to achieve in their new roles are scrutinized for their failures. We wonder what’s wrong with them, when there may be nothing wrong with them at all. It’s silly to assume anyone can be good at everything we ask of them. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it IS hard to say “no” when presented with an “opportunity.”

Picture the Perfect Pachyderm

One key insight can help us resolve all these myths and help us understand where and how performance improvement is truly possible. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but it really comes from nature. I guess we could call it a big idea, because I learned it from studying elephants.

These days you rarely hear the words “war” and “elephant” in the same sentence. Yet War Elephants were an important combat tool in Asia and the Mediterranean centuries ago. Armies would enlist elephants to participate in the charge against the enemy to instill fear and breakup their lines. And fearful the enemy should be. Unlike horses, elephants have no reservations about trampling humans. Their thick skins made them relatively difficult to wound with common weapons of the time, and their strength allowed them to carry armor to make that possibility even more remote. Then, to literally top things off, soldiers would strap a mini-fort, called a howdah, to the top of the elephant. Here, a handful of archers could reside with a birds-eye view of their opponents.

Many of us have heard of the Carthaginian general Hannibal. He is noted for taking his army over the Alps to attack the Roman Empire from the north in a surprise attack. In addition to 40,000 troops, Hannibal brought several dozen War Elephants to Europe to traverse the Alps. Unfortunately, Hannibal wasn’t aware of a significant shortcoming of elephants.

Find the Fate-ful Flaw

We can’t really blame Hannibal for this knowledge shortfall, because he never had a chance to meet Professor Fritz Vollrath from Oxford University. Professor Vollrath’s research team did a study on African elephants, using global positioning system (GPS) devices to track elephants crossing the savannas. They discovered that elephants “don’t do hills.” Elephants routinely avoid any types of slopes and hills, as even minor hills make them really hungry. Elephants only eat vegetation, and they need lots of it. Climbing hills requires a significant boost in calorie consumption and that means finding lots more to eat. The researchers reported, “Climbing 100 meters [@300 ft] would burn [2,500 calories] which would have to be either replenished by an extra half hour of foraging or paid for by using up body reserves.”

Now imagine you’re Hannibal, trying to get dozens of elephants over mountains not hundreds, but thousands of feet high. The elephants see the slopes and their instincts tell them not to climb them, but their human handlers drive them forward. Then they get hungry because there’s not enough food growing on the mountain slopes. And a ticked-off elephant has no reservations about trampling people. THAT must have been a fun journey. Sadly, all but a handful of elephants died crossing the Alps.

Role with the Flow

The lesson that elephants (and other animals) can teach us is this: humans are versatile, but no one is good at everything. Performance improvement comes easiest when a human who is “wired” to succeed in a specific endeavor is placed in that role.

  • We know Michael Jordan as a phenomenal performer in basketball, yet he was much less impressive in a baseball uniform no matter how much hard work and practice he was willing to perform.
  • We saw Susan Boyle become an “overnight success” at the age of 47 on the “Britain’s Got Talent” contest. She owned the stage once given the opportunity to demonstrate the gifts and abilities she has owned all her life.
  • I bet we can all name our own examples of people who have taken advantage of every education and training opportunity presented to them, yet are still identified with mediocre performance and lackluster results.

Hopefully that’s not you. Or maybe it is.

Don’t Do Hills

Your uphill battle may not be going literally uphill as it is for elephants. Yet we each face our own challenges. Some of these challenges we were never designed to overcome. When a task seems like an uphill battle to you, consider that maybe, just maybe, you were never intended to do it. Instead, find those tasks which come easy to you, where learning is easy and practice is fun. Aim for performance improvement in those areas where you are “wired” to do well.

We each have our own unique set of gifts, talents and abilities. It may be hard to find them in yourself and in other people but, when you do, results will come fast and success will be easy.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About the author
Paul Johnson is the keynote speaker who describes his approach to transformational leadership at http://TroubleBreaker.com. He enables companies to achieve breakthrough growth and team performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When did you say “Yes” to an “opportunity” when later you discovered you should have said “No, thanks”?

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Comments (0) Nov 01 2009

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Who is Cheating You Now?

By Paul Johnson

1,500 words. Abstract: Perhaps you’re frustrated because your hard work to create a better life seems thwarted at every turn. Use this approach to win against the people and problems blocking the paths to the results you desire.

Despite all our efforts at work, sometimes it seems we make little economic progress. Over the years, many metaphors have been used to describe our despair. “I am…

  • running in place.”
  • a hamster on a wheel.”
  • stuck on a treadmill.”

My favorite is, “I feel like a dog on linoleum.” When we’re not getting ahead, who is cheating us out of the rewards we deserve for our efforts? Many are potentially to blame:

  • Bosses that show favoritism at work.
  • Unfair labor practices.
  • Oppressive decisions inflicted as a result of greed, jealousy or ego.

While it may be true that these events cheat you out of rewards and opportunities you deserve, these events are not the ones you should worry about or even attempt to fix.

The Waste of Life
When we’re feeling stuck and not making the progress we want, frustration is often the symptom. We’re frustrated with our failure to achieve, our failure to earn, and our failure to attain a position of comfort and stability. By escaping the tyranny that is holding us back, our liberation will give us the ability to enjoy steady progress and enjoy more of the fruits of our labors.

My inspiration for this article came from Chris Anderson and his new book Free: The Future of a Radical Price (Chris is also author of the best seller, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, published in 2006). In Free, Chris Anderson explores the concept of waste. He points out that in the animal kingdom, mammals (including humans) have an unusual attitude toward waste. In short, we have an unhealthy aversion to it.

It’s actually bred into us because of our procreation patterns. He points out that the Bluefin tuna releases up to 10 million fertilized eggs in a single spawning season. Of those, maybe 10 will make it to adulthood. That means one in a million survives, and the rest are wasted. While the numbers are smaller, the story is pretty much the same for insects, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Only mammals attempt to preserve every life.

I was watching the Discovery Channel and learned that hundreds of sea turtles hatch from a single nest in the sand and then scamper down the beach into the ocean. The camera showed how one of them didn’t make it; a crab caught it and was going to eat it for dinner. Admit it; don’t you feel terrible about that? While we can rationalize that that’s the way nature is supposed to work, we still don’t like it. Our nature tells us not to waste anything, even the life of a single baby sea turtle.

Waste Not, Want More
This means that, deep down, we believe we live in a world of scarcity. Resources are limited. The number of jobs is finite. Energy is expensive. And for every problem, there is only one right solution.

That last statement is the myth that is cheating you out of the progress you desire. In our search for the perfect answer to our problem, we continually seek more information, spend more time, and consume more resources. Why? Because we want to find the perfect risk-free approach. Why does risk repulse us? Because we are genetically programmed to avoid waste.

Perhaps your progress has been limited because you’ve been trying to engineer the perfect risk-free solution to each of your problems. Perhaps you should start considering that there may be a million answers to your problem. Pick one. Try it. Repeat as necessary.

This simple approach allowed Thomas Edison to bring us the light bulb. He “wasted” 999 versions so he could produce the one that worked. None of us care about those 999, yet they were critical to the process that eventually produced success. Understand that none of your failed efforts are ever really wasted as long as you don’t neglect one little thing.

While this may seem like a simple concept to understand, overcoming millions of years of evolution is no easy task for us. Let’s break this down into three distinct components that can make this concept easier for you to internalize.

I. Choose to Waste
See? You’re already feeling guilty. Here we are, living in an age when we’re trying to preserve our planet and the daily news is filled with reports of our dwindling oil reserves, food shortages and unemployment statistics. Yet there are many things you could choose to waste with little consequence to you or anyone else.

  • Long-distance minutes.
  • Space on your hard drive.
  • The fuzzy leftovers in the back of your fridge.
  • The clothes in your closet you’re really never going to wear again.

Sometimes I waste air-conditioning. On days that are warm, but not too warm, I turn on the air conditioning in my car and roll down the windows. I want the fresh air, the breeze and the connection to the outside, but it’s a little too warm to rely on just a breeze to keep me comfortable. I decided that once the air conditioning is running, having the windows up or down has negligible impact on my fuel consumption but major impact on my comfort.

Choosing to waste like this makes it easier when it comes time to face a problem and you have to make a choice. More often than not, the choices available are not mutually exclusive. Just pick one and get going. As long as you don’t neglect to learn something from each attempt — like Edison did — none are really wasted.

II. Take a Second Chance
After you’ve made a choice and tried it, you’ll often find that it doesn’t work. Be kind to yourself and give yourself a second chance (and a third and fourth as well). I routinely try new things. When they work, I keep doing them. If they don’t work, I try something else. Thomas J. Watson, former president of IBM had this to say: “The way to succeed is to double your error rate.” He understood the value of learning from mistakes, and as a result built IBM into a huge business.

I’ve spent the better part of my career in sales, and have frequently needed to take a second chance. In one case, a customer got a little aggressive deep in the negotiation phase. When I wouldn’t acquiesce to his demands, he threw me out of his office. I never saw or spoke to him again. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t get the order. I took a second chance and figured out a different way to “close the deal” and earn the commission.

III. Let Possessions Flow
At an early age, we all learn the word, “Mine!” We tend to get attached to and protective of our possessions like our houses, cars, and the money in our bank account. Instead of being a collector of possessions, I’m suggesting you accept that they will ebb and flow during your life like the tides of the oceans. Sometimes you’ll have to give something up for the opportunity to make progress.

In baseball, base runners know that they have to take their foot off first base to have any hope of attaining second base. They are vulnerable to being called out whenever they are not safely standing on a base (the only totally risk-free way of attaining second base is by hitting an out-of-the-park home run). Letting go is the key to achieving more.

Unfortunately, letting go is another form of waste to us mammals. This innate behavior was supposedly used successfully to hunt monkeys. A hole was cut in a coconut just large enough for a monkey’s open hand to enter. The coconut would be tethered to a nearby tree, and then some nuts would be placed inside. A passing monkey would discover the nuts, reach in and grab them, but couldn’t remove their hand because their closed fist was too large to fit through the opening. There they remained, unwilling to let go of the nuts even as the hunters returned to kill them.

Let Go and Get Going
Sometimes we need to be willing to release what’s already in our grasp so we can move on to something better. When you’re feeling stuck and yet afraid to let go of the familiar, consider that the worst case scenario is seldom the most probable scenario. The things we most fear rarely materialize. You CAN work around the obstacles that are making it difficult for you to achieve the progress and gain the rewards you desire and deserve. Always begin by believing that there is more than one “right” answer to the problem you’d like to solve. Pick one and get going. Don’t cheat yourself out of the better life you’re searching for.

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson is the keynote speaker who gives teams the courage, motivation, and insight to overcome obstacles and create breakthrough growth opportunities at http://TroubleBreaker.com. Learn about business growth topics at http://Paul-Johnson.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: When has taking a second chance paid off for you?

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Comments (0) Sep 01 2009

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Crowdsourcing Challenged as a Performance Improvement Tool

This report on Crowdsourcing in BusinessWeek points out the difficulty in obtaining acceptance for this practice.

My definition of crowdsourcing is opening up the design of anything new to public input. Often the result is a better, faster and less expensive than when the traditional approach — a small, hand-picked team of domain “experts” — is used to accomplish the task.

As is often the case, those defending the traditional design and development approach complain that opening up the process to the masses will cause loss of wages and market chaos. Such is often the talk when a more efficient and creative way of getting things done (a business shortcut) comes into play.

If you have your doubts, read the book Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. It will convince you that being open to collaboration is key to maintaining competitive advantage in our evolving economy.

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You Can Make Money in a Recession

By Paul Johnson

1,383 words. Abstract: You can make good money even a recession. However, you can’t do that using the same approach and the same strategy as everyone else. Help people get the 3 things they focus on in a recession and you can prosper now.

Of course you can make money in a recession. That’s not really a question. You’ll most assuredly make SOME money. The real question is: Will it be enough? You’ll be happy with the answer to that question with the right approach and a solid strategy.

A Healthy Approach to Earning
If you are like most of us that are not independently wealthy yet, you need to find a way to keep on earning right through this down economy. Let’s first face the reality of a recession so we can adopt a healthy approach that will give us hope and help us deal proactively with our need to make money during this recession. This first step will help you avoid worry, hardship and sleepless nights.

Accept the reality that earnings in a recession, on average, are down about twenty percent. That means that companies and the people who work for them will secure — on average — only 80% of the dollars they could have earned before the recession for the same kind of effort.

If you’re out of a job, your earning are temporarily zero. If you still have the same job you had a couple years ago, you’re probably working 25% harder with the hope you can hang onto your paycheck. Of course, some folks are doing even better than they did a couple years ago. If you’re not among them, you have an opportunity to make a few changes and join these people who are making good money despite the recession.

A Plan to Earn More
If you can’t afford to lose your job, you probably can’t afford a 20% pay cut either. If you want to come out ahead during this down economy, you need a new plan for earning. I used this plan over 25 years ago when I was caught up in the last great recession. In 1980 the inflation rate was 13.58%, in 1981 mortgage rates were 16.63%, and in 1982 the unemployment rate was 9.71%. Yet I was buying new cars and new houses despite the fact that I was a working greenhorn in my early 20’s with a growing family. If you’ve never been through a down business cycle like this before, having hope means having a plan.

To do well in a down economy, reorient yourself to pay attention to the three things that people in a recession care about: Secure, Save, and Augment.

Secure: People will spend money in a down economy to hang on to what they already have. We work hard to acquire assets and our first priority is to protect them. In a recession people will gladly invest in firearms, security systems and The Club. They also prefer to spend their money on sure bets with near-zero risk of loss. While banks around the country were closing, Synovus Bank came up with a new plan that enabled large depositors to have their accounts insured for up to $7.75MM, far above the FDIC insurance cap of “just” $250,000. As a result, they saw their deposits mushroom by $1.4BB in just 6 months. Because Synovus Bank has a plan to make their customers feel secure about their money, their future through this recession is secure as well.

Save: After assets are secure, cutting costs becomes a top priority for many. The promise of saving money is a much-used selling strategy that becomes especially effective when buyers are short of cash. However, if all you do is lower your prices you’ll likely just make your situation worse. A more successful strategy is to come up with a way to offer a less expensive product or service in place of a more expensive one. Self-service car washes can replace full-service washes. In-home entertainment options can replace nights out on the town. Geico has aggressively gone after the car insurance market with the premise that, since you have to have car insurance anyway, you might as well replace your more expensive policy with a comparable Geico plan and save hundreds each year. Their offer to help us save is apparently working; as of January 2009, they report that their growth will enable them to add 870 employees in Q1 ’09 alone.

Augment: With revenues and income down an average of 20%, more people will be looking for ways to augment their earnings. If you’re a business, it means finding neglected markets to develop new sources of revenue. For individuals it might mean a part-time job or developing a business to run “on the side.” When the economy is down, people are not only more receptive to considering new ways of making money; they’re actually looking for it. Avon Products, Inc. reported that active representatives grew 7% from 2007 to 2008, resulting in record revenues for 2008, up 8% over 2007.

Your Personal Earnings Plan
For you to make more money in a recession, create your own plan to help OTHERS to Secure, Save and Augment. They will pay you to help them achieve their objectives in these 3 areas. Depending on your situation, you may have up to 3 different ways to develop and execute your own plan.

The first area is in your own job. If you are currently employed, your employer is eager to find ways to Secure, Save and Augment. Take the initiative and come up with ideas in these 3 areas. Can you find a way to help the company Secure existing paying customers? Do you see a way to replace a current process with a more productive one, resulting in Savings for your company? Could you pioneer a method for accessing new markets to Augment revenue for your company? Once you identify the idea, make the extra effort to execute it so that you are undeniably connected to the successful outcome. When you help your company succeed, keeping your job is often one of the rewards.

The second situation to consider for your earnings plan applies if you serve customers directly. Perhaps you are in sales, or you have your own company. In a recession you have to consider reworking your value proposition. Perhaps your previous success was connected to your innovation, quality or timely delivery. Now it’s time to reframe your offer to appeal to buyers who are looking for opportunities to Secure, Save or Augment. Don’t take the easy route and just offer your customers lower prices; all your competitors have already thought of that. Perhaps your quality enables you to offer a risk-free guarantee that will make buyers more Secure. Your innovations might enable customers to discover a new way to Save through using your product or service. You could offer your best customers an opportunity to augment their incomes by paying them for leads they refer to you. You’ll enjoy big payoffs for creativity in a recession.

Third, supplement your own income by offering a product or service that will help people Secure, Save or Augment. Those new Avon representatives were looking to Augment their own incomes by selling Avon products to others. However, Avon products do little to help others Secure, Save or Augment. While their customers may continue to buy cosmetics, cosmetics in general are not a significant growth market in a recession. Repair services become more popular during recessions; if you can sew, or fix shoes or appliances, you’ll be in demand. Perhaps you could offer a dog-sitting service so that others can take a part-time job to Augment their income. You could sell energy saving devices or do-it-yourself instructions. It all depends on your expertise, and everyone is a relative expert in something.

Focus There
Unless you’re willing to accept a drop in earnings of 80 percent — or more — you need a recession-ready plan that’s based on a realistic approach to what’s on peoples’ minds today. Cutting your own costs won’t be enough; you can’t save your way to prosperity. Instead of focusing on personal cost-cutting, focus on ways to help OTHERS Secure, Save and Augment. Do that with some creativity and you can join the folks who are making good money in spite of the recession. Then your question will be: should I spend it on a car, or a house?

© 2009 Paul Johnson. All rights reserved.

About The Author:
Paul Johnson of Shortcuts to Results LLC collects business shortcuts and shows people how to find and apply them for performance improvement at http://ShortcutsToResults.com. Learn how to become a niche marketing expert at http://NicheExpert.com.

Note: This article is available for reprint at no charge. We only ask that you include our copyright notice in your reprint, along with the About the Author information we provide at the end of the article.

A Question for your Comments: What are people doing to earn more that is working during the recession?

Posted: under Achieving Results (Production).

Comments (2) Feb 01 2009