I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s classis literary autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings explores the famous poet’s early years growing up a Southern Black girl. The story begins with her moving to Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother, whom she affectionately called “Momma”, and concludes with the birth of her son at age 17 while living with her mother in San Francisco, California. The story begins around 1931 when Angelou was 3 years old. Her time in Stamps was marked by segregation of black and white society and by the underlying racism that required segregation. “In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn’t really absolutely know what whites looked like.” Despite the ongoing Depression, Momma was reasonably successful, running a general store in the black community. Much of Angelou’s interaction with whites occurred at the store, especially the “powhitetrash” children. Because of Momma’s success, she owned ...

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The Garden by Jon Gordon

Through a short “spiritual fable”, Jon Gordon addresses the battles that we all face in life – fear, anxiety, and stress. Some may be turned off by the spiritual nature of The Garden. But it works. Jon Gordon does a great job explaining the fall of mankind and its consequences. While some readers may not believe the story of the Garden of Eden, most will attest to the consequences. In life, there is a battle between good and evil, and we are in the middle of it. As Jon Gordon states, “If you don’t know you are in a battle but your enemy does, you will surely lose.” Don’t be a loser. Recognize the tools your enemy uses to defeat you: Doubt, Distort, Discourage, Distract, Divide. Learning how to face these tactics will help you become the person you were created to be. October 16 – 17, 2020

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Immigration. A highly partisan press. Virulent lies. Popular armed uprisings. Incivility and inaction in Congress. Power hungry politicians. A highly divided populace. Animosity. Pandemics. War. Sex Scandals. Riots. Racism. Court packing. Impeachment. Threats of succession. Familiar issues to everyone today. And yet our country faced these very same issues in its infancy. Which is what makes Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton such a compelling read today. Born an illegitimate child on a little speck of an island in the West Indies, Alexander Hamilton would rise to become a prominent figure in George Washington’s administration. Upon leaving his post as the first Treasury Secretary of the United States, Hamilton left behind a “sound federal government with a central bank, a funded debt, a high credit rating, a tax system, a customs service, a coast guard, a navy, and many other institutions that would guarantee the strength to preserve liberty.” And yet, Hamilton ...

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The Fight by Norman Mailer

They called it the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Muhammad Ali fighting George Foreman in Zaire for boxing’s heavyweight championship. And Norman Mailer perfectly captured the atmosphere and emotions surrounding the Rumble in the Jungle in his book, The Fight. Mailer chose to focus mostly on Ali’s training camp and the challenges that Ali faced in fighting Foreman. Most everyone in the boxing community fully expected Ali to lose spectacularly. Many said this would be his last fight. It would be the last hurrah of the former heavyweight champion. They were wrong. Ali won his second heavyweight championship that night. How he did it provides lessons that we can all learn in facing our own personal challenges in life. Have the right person in your corner Angelo Dundee was in Ali’s corner for most of his professional fights. He was there for the Rumble in the Jungle. Dundee knew that in ...

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Startups beware: be careful in structuring your ownership

Unequally Yoked Partnership

All businesses start with either a single owner or a plurality of owners. If you are considering starting your own company, chances are you have considered bringing in a partner or two who can provide something to your business that you are unable to provide yourself. The success of this potential partnership depends greatly on properly structuring the ownership of the partnership. Things may work fine during good years, but economic stress will expose the weakness of your business structure. A warning against being unequally yoked Over the past few weeks, I have written about a couple of different verses found in the Book of Proverbs. In that same vein, this article discusses a command found in the Old Testament. It is found in Deuteronomy 22:10, “Thou shalt not plow with an ox and an ass together.” The wisdom of the verse is simple. An ox and a donkey are ...

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Is a healthy marriage key to successful entrepreneurs?

Healthy Marriage

Last week, I wrote about debt and the implications of Proverbs 22:7. I would like to look at another proverb this week, one which I believe is important if you are to be successful in life. Proverbs 5:18, “Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.” Related: How much of your small business do you really own? Is this one of the secrets to success? What do the following men have in common: Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, and Jeff Bezos? If you answered that they were all highly successful entrepreneurs, then you would be correct. But did you know that, according to Wikipedia, all of these men are currently married to their first spouse? Now, maybe you can find just as many ultra-successful entrepreneurs who have had multiple marriages, or maybe have never been married. But something tells me that you won’t. You see, maintaining ...

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How much of your small business do you really own?

Debt to equity ratio

I have read through the Book of Proverbs a couple of times over the past 12 months. One proverb that always sticks with me is from Proverbs 22:7, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” While this proverb has meaningful applications for individuals, I want to discuss the application for small businesses. Related: Small business owners: take the 31-day reading challenge Business owners generally use debt as a way to grow their business at a faster pace than they are able to grow using only the cash generated by operations. Oftentimes, business owners will seek to rapidly grow their business. They forget about economic downturns, which always happen sooner or later. Businesses with high levels of debt generally have more trouble surviving than companies with low levels of debt. Looking at your balance sheet There are two sides to every balance sheet. On ...

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The truth about being a successful entrepreneur

Truth about entrepreneur

There are many business owners in the world today, but there are few entrepreneurs. What distinguishes the entrepreneur from other business owners? Simple. Entrepreneurs create. They build something out of nothing. Consider this. An entrepreneur creates an organization. In the beginning, the entrepreneur may be the only employee. As the organization grows, the entrepreneur will recruit other employees. As a blacksmith would forge a chain one link at a time, the successful entrepreneur grows their organization one employee at a time. Occasionally, the entrepreneur hires a bad employee. This cannot be helped. Therefore, the entrepreneur must always be on the lookout for these weak links. When a weak link is identified, the entrepreneur faces a dilemma: strengthen the link to greater effectiveness, eliminate the link, or ignore the problem. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link But ignoring the problem is never a real option. If a ...

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Small business owners: take the 31-day reading challenge

31-day Reading Challenge

Perry Marshall, author of seven business books including “Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords”, recently shared his must-read list of books for business owners on Entrepreneur.com. Now, I am sure everyone has seen similar lists before. So-and-so’s top [insert a number between 3 and 99] books that every such-and-such should read. Despite never being able to read all the books on my books-to-read list, I am always looking for new books to read. So I generally read articles such as these just to see what I may be missing as well as to see what books other readers view as interesting or important. I found the list to be quite eclectic. But one book stood out above all the others on the list: The Book of Proverbs. When I first saw the book on the list, I did a double-take. This could not be that Book of Proverbs. Some modern-day sage ...

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5 reasons why you should stop keeping your books by hand

Bookkeeping

Our firm is located in rural Eastern North Carolina. As such, we still have some clients that maintain a manual set of books for their business. Some use the long green ledger paper while others are still using Dome Books. These methods of bookkeeping have always seemed sufficient to some business owners. But I believe that it is time to move to a computerized bookkeeping system such as QuickBooks. Here are five reasons to move from keeping your business’s books by hand to using a computerized accounting system: Better Audit Evidence: Let’s face it, nobody wants to go through a tax audit. But if your business is audited, I can assure you that you will want to have computer printouts instead of manual documents. Why? Because in any tax audit situation, you want to present your financial information to the auditor in as concise and clear a manner as possible. ...

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Now is the time for all good businesses to be debt free

Be Debt Free

Benjamin Franklin once said that the only things in this world that were certain were death and taxes. And while we cannot be certain that he was the first to record this observation, generally most of us would agree with him. One item that seems fairly certain to occur sometime over the next 12 months or so is federal income tax reform legislation. While it is much too early in the process to discuss the details of any tax reform plan, there are a couple of items being discussed that, if passed, are certain to affect small businesses. These two items are the possible write off of all purchases except for land, and the non-deductibility of interest expense. Current legislative proposals regarding business debt Congress appears to be willing to offset the current year deduction for acquisitions of long-term assets with a disallowed interest expense deduction. While this may help ...

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Respect the legal organization of your small business

Pay attention to the details

I was approached by a new client last year to help him transition his successful small business to his children. What started out as a business succession plan quickly ballooned into a business reorganization. This was necessary because the business owner failed to honor the legal business structure that had been set up for the business. A typical small business success story Originally, the business operated as a sole proprietorship. The business had substantial real estate holdings, which were all owned by the business owner in his personal name. The business operated under an assumed name. As a sole proprietorship, the profits and losses of the business were subject to self-employment taxes. So, for every dollar in taxable income, the owner was paying income taxes and the full amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes. This created an effective tax rate for the business of 45% of taxable income. To ...

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Communication is the key to a successful family business transition

Open Communication

Imagine the following scenario. Dad and Son are the sole shareholders in a successful family business. Son-in-law is a key employee in the business. Dad never discussed his will or his estate plan with either Son or Daughter. Dad dies somewhat unexpectedly. Son inherits remaining interest in the family business, becoming the sole shareholder. Daughter inherits cash equal to what Dad thought his interest in the company was worth. Daughter does not exactly agree with Dad’s opinion of the value of the company. Son-in-law, who does not have a non-compete agreement with the family business, leaves company for a competitor. He takes a substantial amount of business with him. What is worse, Son and Daughter no longer speak to each other. Unfortunately, this scenario is not an unfamiliar situation for many family businesses. While the facts may be different, too often family businesses are harmed when the head of the ...

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Start With Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action

Book Review: Start With Why

Start With Why, How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action, was written by Simon Sinek in 2009. This is one of those books that come around once in a generation. It truly has the ability to point out a unique perspective on how to improve yourself or your business. Many books have been written on the subject, but Sinek is able to provide a twist on existing ideas throughout his book. What drives your business – price, product or service? Before getting into the book review, I’d like to tell you a little personal history. I have an undergraduate degree in history. Because history majors do not take business classes, I had to take several undergraduate business and accounting courses. These classes were required before I could begin working toward my Master’s in Accounting at NC State. While I worked on these classes, I worked as the store manager of ...

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Risky business: managing risk in the small business world

Does your bucket have a hole in it?

Once someone knows that you are a reader, they will ultimately ask you, “What’s your favorite book?” Now, this is never an easy question, and it seems that I always have to stop and think before giving an answer. And I usually lay-up by providing a list instead of a definitive title. This list is constantly evolving as I continue to read more books. But one book that always makes the list is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Charlotte’s Web is one of those classic books that requires rereading throughout life. It can be equally enjoyed by a small child and a grown adult. I remember reading this book aloud to my children before they were old enough to read for themselves. I am sure my daughter dreamed of being Fern, rescuing the runt pig from her heartless father. Meanwhile, I was thinking about John Arable, yielding to the pleas ...

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About David

About David

David is an accountant and adviser for small business owners. He also coaches clients on leadership and success. David is an avid reader. He blogs regularly on the books that he is currently reading.

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