Search This Blog

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

10 Great Tips for “The Art of SEO”

“The Art of SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) - this is a pretty funny term. There is no art to it, just a simple science that needs to be understood in order to drive people to your website. Let’s start with the basics.

1. Content. Content. Content.
Google gets the lion’s share of searches, so design your site with this in mind. Google is run by a slew of PhDs (many former NSA and DARPA employees) and they are all pretty darn smart. You can’t “beat the system” without consequences. As such, “content is king”.

2. Write with the reader or customer in mind.

3. Get as many people as possible to link to your site.
This will manifest the largest increase in your rankings. You can do this, too, by posting comments on other peoples’ sites and including a link to your site or Blog (called trackbacks).

4. Contribute something worthwhile on other sites and your comments will not be marked as spam.

5. Use a Google Adwords campaign to learn which keywords are popular.

6. Use the Wordtracker tool to learn which keywords are popular.

7. Publish content using the keywords you determine to be popular.

8. Collect email addresses and send out newsletters.

9. Make sure you pick an “SEO optimized” website or blog template.

10.Learn about the Google webmaster tools and use them.

Keep in mind that new sites are penalized because they do not have any “authority” in the eyes of the search engines (only time can change that).

I hope your efforts will drive many visitors to your websites.

JMK, The IT Entrepreneur

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pay Yourself First

When it comes to wealth accumulation, nothing will serve you better than the concept of "pay yourself first". I had been using this technique for years before actually reading about it in publications by investment gurus like Robert Kiyosaki and Donald Trump.

The concept is that when deciding how to slice up your income (or profits) you should always set aside your savings first, before paying anyone else, any other creditor, and possibly even The Taxman. This concept is difficult for Westerners to grasp, as we are taught at an early age that "a good person" always works hard and pays their debts. The problem with this is that it teaches everyone to be good employees, and to work hard for everyone else except themselves.

Most people I know work for their mortgage company, GMAC, Visa, etc. and not themselves. There is always an obligation to repay someone if you look hard enough, and there will never be money left for you if you adopt this philosophy. This is why most folks work paycheck-to-paycheck, and can never seem to save any significant amount of money.

I'm not suggesting to ignore your debts! To do so would ruin your credit or land you in the pokey. I'm saying to fund your savings vehicles, mutual funds, 401K plans, etc. first or automatically each month. Then, pay the bills that will assess you a service charge or late fee, or that could impact your credit score. Lastly, pay everyone else.

I also refuse to set up auto drafts out of my accounts. I decide when and how much to pay a creditor as the money flows into my life; they do not get that luxury.

If you live in the US, have a Happy Thanksgiving. If you do not, then best wishes as we enter into the Holiday Season and New Year.

JMK, The IT Entrepreneur

Monday, November 5, 2007

Corporate Layoff: a Convergence of IT & Real Estate

Last week, I received news that a former client (Bluelinx Corporation) had laid off many from their staff. I’ve heard that their target goal was pretty significant, but I don’t know exactly how many people have been let go.

This former division of Georgia Pacific is the US’ largest distributor of building supply products; the layoffs are no doubt tied directly to the problems in the US housing market and the slow down in new home starts.

I have several friends in the IT department there, and some of them are now contacting me as they start to network. Of course I wish them the best, and am diligently trying to help them with their search for new jobs.

My two points with this article are that:
1. No job is secure. Many of these folks had been with GP/Bluelinx for years, and were quite comfortable in their positions.
2. It is not a home builder’s or seller’s market, but one can infer that it is a buyer’s market.

Also, after years of observing companies like this who cut back to improve the bottom line, I know that all things are cyclical. One day, someone will realize that there is a ton of work to do and no one to do it, and resources will be hired. Contractors initially, then “permanent” employees. Of course we know that no one is truly permanent…

JMK, The IT Entrepreneur

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A rant to: Finding a Job in America

I often find myself in the position of explaining what I do (as an IT contractor) to Indian project managers, who will take that information back to India to bid on the backlog of tasks that I work on for various clients.

In the companies eyes, they can throw about three Indians at the project for less than they pay me to do it. Often, the US-based companies own stock in the offshore firms, or they are subsidiaries of the US-based company. This is their way of making the transaction invisible to its own employees. However, as a contractor for 12 years I can see through the facade.

While the consumer has the power to make purchases stamped "Made in America", he is blissfully unaware that off-shoring happens at many levels. My point is that the large corporations should be held accountable, or regulated, to curb the off-shoring of labor. You would be hard pressed to find a shirt or TV or cell phone that is actually made in America these days anyway...

Until something is done to curtail corporate behaviors, we as Americans will have to live with LEAD in our children's toys, ANTIFREEZE in our toothpaste and pet food, e-Coli in our vegetables, and vulnerabilities in our electronic systems (where are the servers housing your social security numbers?).

Unfortunately, both Democrats & Republicans make these issues political sticks with which to bash each other, but it's an American problem. If a child grows up mentally challenged because it chewed on an Elmo painted with lead, it is ultimately the corporations and politicians who are retarded.

Finding a Job in America

Yesterday, I received this email from a relative. My response to it will be the next post...

Joe Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock ( MADE IN JAPAN) for 6 AM. While his coffeepot (MADE IN CHINA) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor (MADE IN HONG KONG). He put on a dress shirt ( MADE IN SRI LANKA), designer jeans (MADE IN SINGAPORE) and tennis shoes ( MADE IN KOREA).

After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet (MADE IN INDIA) he sat down with his calculator ( MADE IN MEXICO ) to see how much he could spend today. After setting his watch (MADE IN TAIWAN ) to the radio (MADE IN INDIA ) he got in his car (MADE IN GERMANY) filled it with gas (from Saudi Arabia) and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB ...

At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his computer (Made In Malaysia ), Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals (MADE IN BRAZIL) poured himself a glass of wine (MADE IN FRANCE) and turned on his TV (MADE IN INDONESIA), and then wondered why he can't find a good paying job in A M E R I C A...

Saturday, October 6, 2007

How to win at Monopoly: Buy Houses, Charge Rent

Remember how to play Monopoly?

The object of the game is to purchase multiple properties, so when an opponent lands on your property, they have to pay you rent. This all time classic game is truly a mirror image of life. Controlling properties (homes, apartments, offices, etc.) gives YOU the upper hand in the game of life. After all, it will be you getting the rent check each month.

If you've done your homework, and bought your property below its market price, you will be cash flow positive. As an investor, you NEVER want to be cash flow negative. If you are cash flow positive on multiple properties, you will have a great second stream of income. This extra money can be put in savings, in the stock market, or into another property.

If you are "jonesing" for a new Lexus, first I would suggest a used Toyota, but if you must have that car because you've earned it, then pay for it with the extra income that you've managed to build. Avoid paying for it from your primary salary, and never ever lease!!! After all, who wants to rent? :)


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Starting a Business: Step 2

I changed the title of this tract from "Starting a Consultancy" to "Starting a Business" because the general principles are the same, and you might not want to be a consultant!

I have many friends with an IT background who have started everything from a flower shop to a cheerleader academy. Many of these entrepreneurs have more than one revenue stream, thus diversifying their incomes.

Step two in building your enterprise is to do your market research. This is the due diligence phase that requires you to step back from the intoxicating idea of your killer business and evaluate it from all angles. You need to know what your market saturation is, who your competition is and what they charge, how they source leads, where they get raw materials and so on. Ultimately, you need to know what you can charge for your products or services and be competitive while still earning a profit.

Creation of a business plan will be helpful, although it's a daunting exercise to go through, especially when using software to create it. I ran a consultancy for years without one; although in retrospect, it would have been helpful in understanding my business early on.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Starting a Consultancy: Step1

People often ask me how I started my consultancy (usually, because they want to step into contracting for themselves). My response is always "I prepared first, then took the first step". The first step is, of course, the hardest and is more of a leap of faith than a step. However, if properly prepared, anyone can thrive in their new endeavour.

Build a Network (of People, not Servers) :-)
I started networking years in advance before striking out on my own. I went to trade shows, joined users groups, volunteered time for organizations, and so on. My goal was to fill my palm pilot with contacts, and collect a binder full of business cards. I still have that same information to this day.

When starting my real estate LLC, I used the same formula because it worked for me the first time. Now I have a collection of painters, plumbers, carpenters, etc. to use on my real estate flips.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

It's a Buyer's Market for Home Investors

If you have been reluctant to buy an investment property but are really interested in doing so, now is the time. Folks who are risk averse tend to shy away from real estate, yet will fund their mutual funds, stocks, 401k plans, etc. with all their spare investment dollars because of a sense of security.

For this very reason, many people were not able to retire after the technology bubble burst around Y2K which hit tech heavy funds hard. A result of the correction that ensued caused many to shift their investment dollars to other areas, such as real estate, which itself is now correcting due to builder surplus and over zealous lending practices.

Everyone knows about the US real estate bubble, or market correction in the US housing sector. It is common knowledge that home foreclosures are through the roof (see
"Mortgages in foreclosure at record high") but the insightful see this as opportunity. If the market is flooded with a particular good, does it not become a buyer's market for that good? Economics 101.

While I believe that it is still possible to buy, renovate, and flip a property for a quick profit (even in this market), I personally feel that building a solid portfolio is wiser for many. After all, the properties I am acquiring now can be flipped for higher profit later when the pendulum swings the other way. The "trick" is buying at the right price so that a profit is made no matter when you sell.

A notable point:
the very first American millionaire, a German immigrant named John Jacob Astor, was a real estate investor (and landlord).

What's holding you back?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Neglected Properties = Big Bucks (a case study)

The signs of neglect like bad paint, stinky carpet, holes in the walls or (heaven forbid) termites will turn off 95% of prospective buyers. All of these inflictions on a once beautiful home are purely superficial, and if you have the foresight to see beyond them, you can build wealth fast in real estate.

Put in a few thousand dollars, and this house will be a beautiful home again; your investment will increase in appraised value many times more than what you put into the repairs. Unlike "reality TV" shows like Flip That House, this I know from personal experience. Trust me.

Have a look at the following example.

I purchased this house as a bank pre-foreclosure at $35,000 below market value. Many of the houses in this neighborhood are built as cottages, and I saw tremendous rental potential for the property once it was fixed up. I knew it would be a cute rental home for a small family or couple, especially given its proximity to employers, retail shopping and restaurants.

The "Before" Images:

Ugly baby blue walls, stained carpet, damp smelling.

Termite and water damage. Sunlight is actually visible through the wall.

Termite damage on an interior door going into utility closet.

The backdoor, with rot and termite damage.

The "after" images:

Looks (and smells) much better!

Is this the same corner? No more sunlight.

No more termites, or damage.

The backdoor, much improved...

BEHOLD! The finished product.
{Now equipped with a tenant.}

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Flipping Houses for Profit

My true love is real estate. While I have enjoyed working in IT for many years, nothing gives me thrills quite like real estate. Finding the right investment property is like winning at poker or blackjack, and the adrenaline rush is just the same.

I have bought and sold both residential and commercial properties, and I am constantly looking for the next "diamond in the rough". Most people when looking at houses are evaluating them based on if they would live there. BIG MISTAKE! You want to find a house in a good location with good curb appeal and structural layout, but one that has been horribly neglected. Find this house, and you will make thousands (in any real estate market). However, you must buy it at the right price to do so...

In my next few posts, I will focus on how to find undervalued homes and turn them into personal wealth.

Friday, August 17, 2007

We Don't Need no Stinkin' Corporation

If you are starting a business endeavor for the first time, or if you have started a company but have yet to incorporate, you need to consider the following. After getting into a debate with an acquaintance who has been working as an independent contractor for years, and who has never incorporated, I felt it necessary to share the reasons why you should.

A corporation is essentially a legal entity that is separate from its members. It can hold assets, hire employees or agents, it can sue (or be sued) and pass laws governing its own affairs (see wikipedia). The primary reasons for incorporating are limitations to your personal liabilities and tax advantages.

Reduced Liability
If you get sued for your business practices through the corporation, you are generally shielded from losing personal assets (like your home), provided you truly work as an agent of the corporation. Should you use your corporate checking account to pay personal bills like liposuction for your wife, this is known as "piercing the corporate veil". Doing so would compromise your protection from the corporation should it be proven in a court of law. However, certain personal expenses (like automobiles or cell phones) can sometimes be paid by the company. Check with an accountant and attorney in your area for specifics.

Reduced Taxes
Your goal with the new corporate structure should be to pay as many expenses as legally possible through the corporation, and to pay yourself a salary that is within reason for someone doing what you do. The amount paid to you by the corporation in addition to your salary is a dividend, and is taxed at a much lower rate (at least in the US).

There are advantages in most countries for forming a corporate structure, based on local laws. Of course, always consult a local expert. As for my colleague, I suppose he's not too concerned about building his personal wealth, or protecting it from lawsuits and The Taxman.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Great Deals for Small Business

Constantly on the lookout for great small business deals, I have recently discovered the following opportunities to make your money (and mine!) stretch even further:

The ING Direct Business Savings Account
This account links to your existing Business Checking Account (with any bank). You transfer money in and out of the ING account online as you need funds. This account earns 5% interest with no balance minimums, and no fees or service charges. Click "Open an Account", then "Orange for Business".

Vista Print's Sizzling Summer Deals
You may know that Vista Print offers great prices on printing (including basic business cards for free), but during their summer promotion, you can get:
  • 250 premium business cards for $1.99
  • 100 standard post cards for FREE
  • 50 over sized post cards for FREE
  • 25 brochures for FREE
  • 25 flyers for FREE
  • 25 small magnets for FREE

  • All items are in full color! Go to

    DELL PCs
    Need a new PC? Dell is discounting their new VOSTRO product line to get it into the marketplace.
    Get a Dell Tower PC with a 19 inch flat panel for $399 (Dell e-value code 65023-brpc2cw)
    Get a Dell notebook with Intel Duo Processor, Windows Vista, and 2 GB RAM for $649 (Dell e-value code 65023-BQPCJBC)


    $$$Wealth Tip:
    Always remember to "save-save" your money. If you budgeted $1000 for a notebook, take the $351 dollars "saved" and move it your 401K, IRA, or savings account!

    Wednesday, August 8, 2007

    The Top 10 Entrepreneurial Countries

    I recently discovered an article in Fortune Small Business (June 2007) discussing the most --and least-- entrepreneurial countries in the world. I found the top 10 particularly interesting, and thought that you might too.

    Rank Country
    1 New Zealand
    2 United States
    3 Canada
    4 Australia
    5 Singapore
    6 Hong Kong
    7 United Kingdom
    8 Ireland
    9 Denmark
    10 Iceland

    Iceland? Whaa? Are there a lot of opportunities in cold storage there?

    If anyone could share knowledge concerning Iceland's business contributions, I would be interested. I am only familiar with geo-thermal spring fed spas, and raving nightlife.

    Saturday, August 4, 2007

    Outsourcing: It's not YOUR job

    Any person who has worked in IT for very long is acutely aware of the term "outsourcing", or the act of contracting with another person or company to perform a particular task. This is often used synonymously with the term "off shoring", which means doing the same but in another country, typically where there are cheaper labor pools.

    This practice not only occurs in IT-related departments or industries, just look at what has happened to the US furniture industry. For that matter, check the label in the shirt that you are wearing at this moment.

    For many years, I was appalled at such a notion. How could a company sell out its employees by sending their jobs overseas? Then, I read a post on a discussion thread by a friend of mine in response to someone who had lost their job to an Indian firm.

    The poor former employee stated how he had been there for 15 years, was a loyal employee, had children to feed, and how shocked and outraged he was. My friend's response:
    "I'm sorry that you're unemployed now, but the job (position) was your company's job, not yours. It never was yours, and the company can give it to whomever it wants."

    The cold, hard truth hit like an iron fist, and my friend was booed and hissed at by other subscribers for his post and he was branded insensitive. A little insensitive? Maybe. Truthful? Definitely. His words could not have been more honest.

    If you take it a layer deeper, the reason for the former employees' misery was his own doing. He had grown complacent, and was not positioned for the sudden abruptness of his job loss. I'm sure he's working now, out of necessity if nothing else.

    The lesson here is to prepare oneself. Should this ever happen to you, I want you to be in a position to shrug it off as you look to your other sources of cash flow for support.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007

    Your J.O.B.

    Early on I mentioned the acronym "J.O.B." to represent one's job. I borrowed that term from some of my readings, I believe from "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" which is an excellent book to re-train your brain on how it thinks about wealth.

    J.O.B. stands for "Just Over Broke" and describes how most people tend to live paycheck to paycheck, no matter what they earn. With a job, most folks know exactly what their upcoming check will be and thus have already spent it.

    I'm no advocate of unemployment, but when working for yourself or your own corporation, the sky is the limit on your earnings. There is a direct correlation between the effort you put into your company, and what you yield for yourself (versus dividends for the stock holders of your employer).

    Monday, July 23, 2007

    The Plan

    Your Day Job
    Before you "quit your day job", and I do want you to, you need to perform quite a bit of due diligence. As with any great structure, your company needs a solid foundation. This post will illustrate the main items that need to be on your checklist. Do you need a business plan? No. Do you need customers? Absolutely. I would recommend testing the market in your spare time to develop an alternate income stream prior to devoting all of your time to the fledgling company. Eventually, try to start multiple streams of income so that all of your "eggs aren't in one basket." Your goal should be NOT to be dependent on any one revenue source.

    Business Plans
    Business Plans are a great idea, and many lenders and VC require them, but they are often overwhelming at first. If you are using software that builds the business plan, it will ask you a series of questions that will all but depress you. Who are your board members and officers? What is the amount of your cash reserves? Keep in mind, you can become a company, and actual corporation, with very few assets or resources. However, the planning will help you understand the nature of your business in ways you may not have thought about; just don't be discouraged by the process.

    It may seem like a no-brainer, but many people start a company with no existing customers. I call this the "if you build it, they will come" theory. Sometimes this actually works. The story of FedEx is a good example, where they had to build their entire infrastructure with not one customer on opening day. For FedEx, good research and knowing their potential market paid off. I would suggest that the average enterprise start off slowly and build customer momentum until the timing is right. Keep in mind that just because you think your business idea is great, your potential customers may not. Don't let pride and vanity get in the way of logic.

    Vendors and Suppliers
    Every business has vendors and suppliers, even if they have no customers initially. Have your fulfilment process in place before going live with the business. In the case of IT, it's a good idea to forge a VAR (Value Added Reseller) agreement with key software or hardware providers. I did this, and it proved to be a good side stream of income. It also adds instant credibility for you plus lead generation.

    Advisory Board
    A group of professionals and mentors that can give you candid, often blunt advice is crucial. It is best to solicit board members with whom you have professional relationships rather than personal ones. A friend is less likely to tell you that your ideas stink. :)

    Company Identity
    As you start penetrating your market, you will begin establishing your brand. A consistent look and feel is necessary for this, as well as to increase your customers' confidence. Pick a great logo (splurge on a graphics designer if necessary), develop a slogan or catch phrase, and use these items on everything you touch: letterhead, business cards, websites, email signatures, marketing materials, etc.

    Bank Account and Lines of Credit
    You must open a business bank account if you are incorporated in any form, or else you risk "piercing the corporate veil." More on this subject later. Next, your goal is to develop a rapport with a lender and borrow a small amount of money to establish initial company credit. You may have to secure the loan against an asset in the beginning; eventually, a signature and your books will suffice.

    Corporate Credit Card
    I find it helpful to carry a corporate credit card that can be paid off each month. This helps manage small expenses that come up, and gives insight into spending patterns.

    Partners (in Success): Accountants, Attorneys, Mentors, Lead Sources
    These people can also be part of your Advisory Board; they are the folks who want you to succeed because they have a vested interest in you. Spend a lot of time searching for and interviewing these people. Reward them for their time, and it will come back to you in truckloads.

    Take my accountant, for example. I respect her and her time, even though she's flexible and understanding when situations throw us off balance. One year cash was short when her yearly bill came, and it took a couple of months for me to pay her. Without her asking, I included two month's interest on the bill at 18% per annum. The results of my good faith actions like this mean that I have a loyal accountant who will travel to meet me anywhere I'm working in my home base of Atlanta, and on my schedule. There is no price for that!

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    Motivation: The First Step

    Hello my friend. You found this blog, so I assume that there is already some motivating factor in your life that is begging for attention. Layoff, outsourcing and downsizing are all great motivators. Maybe the boss is a jerk, or your team is mediocre at best. Perhaps you have great ideas, even a million dollar idea, but cannot commit to turning the idea into reality due to fear.

    It's okay to be afraid. Fear is a natural instinct that keeps us alive. However, fear can stifle your possibilities. The answer to fear is planning. Planning will get your company going, provide startup capital, and provide funding for your payroll and benefits (yes, now you need benefits that your employer once provided).

    Why do it then? Why risk your regular paycheck in exchange for fear? The answer is freedom, and the ability to control your own destiny. It will be a lot of hard work, particularly at first, but the rewards are worth it. I have benefits, 401K, insurance against every risk imaginable, and I can go fishing tomorrow if I so choose because I work for myself. You currently have fears anyway, don't you? Fear of a supervisor, fear of a layoff, fear of not updating that TPS Report, etc.

    Don't get me wrong about my views of the companies I work for. Some of them are really good enterprises; I’m just not a corporate person, and prefer my freedoms. They couldn't afford my salary anyway. ;)

    In the next entry, I will delve into planning, and hopefully illustrate some things that you may not have yet thought about.


    My Blog List

    • Dr. Vivek Murthy - We usually publish Remarkable People on Wednesday mornings, but we wanted to get this interview out before the elections. This episode's remarkable guest...
      11 months ago
    Blog Directory -