Archive for March, 2013

Death to the Boring Business Card

As 2012 nears its demise, so has the bland, boring business card.  Why deliver an ordinary, average cheap first impression when you can hand someone a classy, innovative, yet, at the same time, professional card.  Your smile and greeting are the first impressions you deliver.  Your professional business card is the lasting impression you leave behind. Your business card should be distinctive and has to represent the quality image of your business that they will retain and refer to frequently.


Value in the Marketplace


It is now so easy to get inspiration in designing your business card online. There are tons of articles, even websites, celebrating creative business cards. As tempting as it is to go crazy in designing a unique business card, focus first on the primary purpose of a business card.  Your business card is not only supposed to be unforgettable but should, more importantly, be representative of your brand and the services you offer. There are plenty of printers online, like, who provide design inspiration, downloadable business card templates and cheap printing prices for business cards and assist their customers in creating the look and feel they prefer to make their business cards stand out from the plethora of other cards on the market.


And when it comes to standing out, Richard Moross, CEO of says that “nothing has yet matched the power and simplicity of handing over a well-designed card–it starts a conversation.”


Granted there is a unique factor in the origami, concrete, wood, rubber, metal, sponge and hinged cards, but how can you conveniently carry them in your wallet?  They serve as a grin at the moment of impact and land in a drawer rarely, if ever, to again see the light of day.  Have you ever attempted to fit any of those specialty material cards in a card case on your desk?  If you are having difficulty carrying and displaying them, how do you expect your prospect to use them?


How Can You Stand Out from the Masses?

Here are some tips on what to include and not to include on your business card.



  • An attention-generating image.  Don’t be afraid to be visual.  Keep it relevant to your business:  a product, service, caricature, or graphic design.


  • A fun, curiosity- inspiring sloganA one liner to entice a smile and a desire to follow up with you to learn more about what you do.  Giving the impression that you enjoy what you do attracts others.  Remember the old adage “catch on fire with enthusiasm and the world will come for miles to watch you burn.”  Your business card can help you convey that message.


  •  Contact information – Include the basics: phone, email and a link to your online world.  Use a QR code, a link to your social media site or a link to a fun video; select a blog page, free offer page or an entertaining site.  Critical – test the link to be certain it functions with a variety of smart phone apps. 


  • White space – Sometimes less is more.  You card is a call to action.  Keep it clear, crisp, open and inviting. 


Avoid clutter

  • Avoid including your birth certificate, family history, a map to your business and every conceivable way to contact you.  Including too much information wastes valuable space on the card.

 envelope card

  • Printing your entire 30 second elevator pitch.  Keep it brief. You card is an invitation to connect with you to learn more, not the entire sales presentation.


  • Avoid linking to a tidal wave of information page.  The confused or overwhelmed mind does nothing.  Avoid too much blah, blah, blah.



Be Creative, Classy and Unique


  • Use top quality paper – Avoid the “this card is a free service of”  Use a 14pt cover gloss 2 sides, gloss one side or uncoated card.  My preference is gloss for the front and uncoated for the back to allow for writing notes. 


  • Select vibrant attractive cards. Colored paper or at least color on the face of the card adds appeal.  Be certain the print is clear and not so small you need a microscope to read the sq business cardwords.  Printing which is too small or very difficult to read results in a throw-away card.


  • Die-cut cards – stand out from the crowd.  (A die cut is created by using a sharp steel blade formed into a specific shape, then cut through the paper. Think about how a steel cookie cutter would work; just substitute the dough with paper. The shapes for die cutting are nearly limitless—circles, squares, holes, curves, stair-stepped, rounded corners, sharp points, just to name a few.)  Fun shapes and designs help you stand out from the crowd.


  • Fold over cards – Affordable and different from the average and yet they still fit in the standard business card holders.  Increase your creativity and display space.

  • 4 Color printing – Express yourself in your company colors.  Make your images come to life.


  • Unique sizes and shapes – Round the corners, die-cut unique shapes.  Express your individuality.



Here are some designs to kick-start your creativity in coming up with the best business card for your business.

Dollar on its Deathbed?


gold2Washington is squabbling.  The Fed is printing money as fast as the presses will roll just in order to pay our debt.  Unfortunately, the only thing saving the United States from a debt collapse is our ability to continue printing money to pay our debt.  As long as the dollar remains as the default world currency, the crisis will be postponed.  The Fed’s only exit is debt and currency devaluation via gold.


Let’s be realistic, as more and more paper dollars flood the economy, the dollar is devaluing.

United States is living beyond its means.  The Economist says, “A big deficit means a country relies on the ‘kindness of strangers’ to provide financing.  Should the foreigners lose confidence for whatever reason, a crisis can ensue.”  China is already divesting itself of dollars and other countries are following suit. Five countries are now in trouble; they will not be buying our debt.


Your Dollar is shrinking


What’s a smart investor to do?  Do the same thing that Germany is doing; Germany is repatriating their gold.  Other countries are quietly but steadily divesting themselves of dollars and moving toward other currency.  China is already divesting itself of dollars.


China, Japan, Russia and France met in a secret meeting with the Gulf Co-operation Council without inviting the United States.  Any Fool knows that the meeting was not designed to praise the United States or the dollar.  The meeting declared a move to end dollar dealings for oil.  Even the IMF (International Monetary Fund) is replacing the U.S. dollar with SDRs (special drawing rights – supplementary foreign exchange reserve assets.)


Pick your expert.  James Turk of, Mike Maloney of, Chuck Butler of the Daily Pfenning, and Porter Stansberry all agree that the dollar is in trouble and gold is the answer.  Gregg Greenberg said “Gold Remains a Life Raft.”


With so many respected and proven authorities all delivering the same message, it would be foolish indeed to ignore the fact that the dollar is on its death bed and the hospice crew or maybe the vultures are standing by.


What is the Answer?  Gold


The question is the best way to purchase and hold the gold.  The good news is that at this moment, thank you to the Fed’s manipulation tactics, gold is down.  Will it stay down?


This Fool does not think so.  Central Banks are buying more gold, Yen and Renmibi.  Their holdings have increased to more than $12 trillion.


Peter Stansberry has predicted, and we know how accurate he was with his 2005 predictions, that gold will hit $2000 possibly in the next three months.  It came close to that mark on a recent spike.  James Turk of is so bold as to predict that gold will hit $11,000.  I’m optimistic but maybe not quite THAT optimistic. (disclosure – my portfolio contains gold coins)


Now that your bank account is salivating, the decision is the best way to purchase and hold gold.


Gold stocks such as GOLD, MDW or AUY or ETFs such as GLD are all top contenders.  The purchase of physical gold from is also a popular choice; it is my personal favorite. 


Yamana Gold Inc. (AUY: NYSE) makes an acceptable showing with less volatility than some of its compatriots in the market.   The company is an intermediate gold producer delving in acquisition, exploration and development in Brazil, Argentina, Honduras and Nicaragua.



Randfold Resources Limited (GOLD:NASDAQ) specializes in gold mining and exploration in West and Central Africa.  As of the end of the year 2011 they held proven and probable reserves of 16.28 million ounces of gold.  With 460 million is cash and 1.22 billion is sales, Randfold Resources Limited is “probably the best pure play gold stock you can buy.”  At the moment it is down which is an excellent opportunity to purchase.


The Street rated both GOLD and AUY with a Buy.  Ford Equity listed both with a Hold.  Market Edge gave and Avoid and Jayhawk Consensus rated both with a Hold.


Midway Gold Corp (MDW: NYSE MKT LLC) is a penny stock, but one to watch.  Interestingly enough, its rankings were similar to GOLD and AUY.  Ford Equity listed MDW with a Hold and Jayhawk Consensus recommended the stock be sold.


There is absolutely no question that when the dollar tanks, and make no mistake it is not headed in a healthy direction, that gold will increase.  The United States economy is pretending to recover with Bernanke bragging that unemployment is down and real estate prices are up.  Personal opinion is that the these figures have a significant probability of having been manipulated.


With strong data from numerous credible sources to support the probability of dollar devaluation and the absolute certainty that the dollar is in trouble, the only question is how will you purchase and hold your gold as a hedge against the coming dollar devaluation crisis.

Unconsciously Harming Our Families

We are unconsciously harming our families.  Almost a decade ago I met Deanna Latson,  Pronounce that carefully.  Deanna speaks on college campuses and organizations throughout the world.  Her focus is eating healthy and living in a healthy environment.


Even though I knew she was right and made minor changes to my diet: eliminating my daily diet Pepsi, cutting back on dairy (She advocates eliminating cheese; I’ve cut back considerably, but not totally eliminated cheese.), and eliminating as many processed foods as possible.  Even though my diet was healthy and my exercise routine was extensive, these changes improved my quality of life.


The major impact hit when my small grandson was diagnosed with Celiac.  Now the toxins in life became personal.  Even though it had been around me, I had not noticed how many of my friends and their family members suffered from various allergies and diseases – all of which were intensified by using harmful household products.


New awareness awakened the information Deanna had presented years earlier and increased my desire to locate a source of healthy household products which were convenient to purchase and economical without sacrificing quality.  After about six months of searching, the answer finally appeared.


Amazing how something can be in front of you for years, but it has to become personal before the total impact hits.  If you have listened to the Tread Climber commercial, you heard, “You could have changed your life way earlier.” I feel the same way about the toxins.


My life has improved, my grandson’s life has improved and the lives of so many of my friends have improved.  All because of a wake-up call and taking action.  To my delight, the cost is actually less than the harmful products.  Who knew?  If I can help you by sharing my research, please contact me.

Fabulous 5 Daily Activities

Taxes are going up.  ObamaCare continues to roll out more complications, contingencies and costs.  The

Push past emotional blocks

Push past emotional blocks

dollar is losing its former high status in the world economy.  Our national debt is rising.  Is all the news doom and gloom?  No.  As entrepreneurs, we still have a business to run; ideally running that business at a profit.  What can we do?


Running Your Business? 


How many times have you reached a point in your business when you experienced a bit of a slump in profits?  What did you do about it?


During the initial growth days of Mountain Castles, I was focused from morning until night calling on Realtors, devising new ways to attract clients and servicing the clients already under contract.  The business of running the business soon consumed all of the time and active personal marketing dwindled.


We know what happens when marketing decreases.


What Worked Before?


Go back to the basics.  What activities were you doing when your business worked the best?  Chances are that you were doing one or more of the “Fabulous 5” Daily Activities.


  1. 1.      Daily action plan


At least the night before write out the most important tasks to be accomplished the next day and exactly what time you would dedicate to each activity.  Follow through.  (My preference is to lay out my entire week on Sunday for the upcoming week.  Each primary activity has its time slot.   Non-business emails and phone calls are ignored during that time.  Turn your phone off and minimize your email program.)


  1. 2.      Prioritize Activities According to Goals


If the activity will advance you toward the achievement of your goals, do it.   If the activity takes you away from your primary goal, eliminate it.


Are your goals written?  Thoughts about goals rather than written goals are merely wishes.


Goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely).


Specific Goal – weigh 120# by June 30, 2013


Measurable – scales do not lie (no fair standing with one foot on the floor or in the air.)


Attainable – if the current weight is 130, a reduction of 10 pounds in 105 days is certainly attainable.  If the current weight is 230, that goal would not be attainable without surgery.


One or two pounds reduction per week would certainly be within reason.  Gradual weight reduction is more likely to stay off.  Note, I did not say lose weight; if you lose it, you may find it again.


Relevant – A goal to weigh less at precisely the time you open a chocolate shop would be a conflict.


Timely – The specific goal included a completion date.  Setting checkpoints along the route is advisable.  In the example above, the weight reduction was one pound every ten days; specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.


Analyze each of your goals according to this formula.  Since it is difficult to go in multiple directions at the same time, it is recommended to set a maximum of three main goals with every minor goal tying directly to one of the three major goals.  In the weight loss example, it could be exercising three times per week.


  1. 3.      Income Producing Activity


Lead generation and following up on leads fills the sales funnel.  It is a simple progression – marketing – leads – follow up with leads – sales – delivery of goods or services – customer service – profit – repeat orders.


Regardless of the marketing method: paid online marketing, social media, printed marketing, or personal contact marketing, leads must be generated.  Income producing activities are critical every day.


  1. 4.       Personal Development


Customers always relate to you first and the product second.  Unless you are the only possible source for the product and they desperately have to have the product, buyers purchase from the salesperson who emotionally connects with them.  Patricia Fripp, first female president of the National Speakers Association said, “You only have to connect with your audience emotionally if you want them to remember you and what you said.”


Personal development is knowing yourself.  Celebrate what is going well in your life and constantly strive to improve other elements one by one.  Personal development is key to a peaceful and productive life.


Journaling, meditating, listening to educational/inspirational/thought-provoking material, reading books and magazines with informative content and attending motivational seminars all enhance the opportunity for personal development.  Invest in yourself by completing the exercises in Emotional Ice Water.  The best information in the world will not help you unless you take action and apply it to your life.


  1. 5.      Cultivate an Attitude of Success


When you believe in yourself, believe the best in others, associate with positive minded leaders, and take action on those constructive thoughts, you will progress.  Bob Moawad said, “You can’t make footprints in the sands of time if you are sitting on your butt.”


Think positive, take action and achieve your goals.

Good Things Still Happen

Good Things still happen…

to all dog lovers———-

We  don’t know who replied, but there is a beautiful soul  working in the dead letter office.                       
    Our  14-year-old dog Abbey died last month.
The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey.
She asked if we  could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven,  God would recognize her. 
    I told her that I thought  we could so, and she dictated these  words:

Dear  God,

Will  you please take care of my dog?
She died  yesterday and is with you in heaven.
I  miss her very much.
I ‘m happy that you  let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I  hope you will play with her.
She likes to  swim and play with balls.
I am sending a  picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is  my dog.
I really miss  her.

Love,  Meredith

We  put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey &  Meredith , addressed it to God/Heaven.   We put our  return address on it.   Meredith pasted several  stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would  take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven.  That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post  office.   A few days later, she asked if God had  gotten the letter yet.   I told her that I thought  He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold  paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an  unfamiliar hand.
Meredith opened  it.   Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When  a Pet Dies.’   Taped to the inside front cover was  the letter we had written to God in its opened  envelope.   On the opposite page was the picture of  Abbey & Meredith and this  note:

Dear  Meredith,

Abbey  arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help  and I recognized her right away.  Abbey isn’t sick  anymore.   Her spirit is here with me just like it  stays in your heart.   Abbey loved being your  dog.  Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t  have any pockets to keep your picture in so I’m sending it  back to you in this little book for you to keep and have  something to remember Abbey by.  Thank you for the  beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write  it and sending it to me.
What a wonderful  mother you have.   I picked her especially for  you.   I send my blessings every day and remember  that I love you very much.   By the way, I’m easy to  find.   I am wherever there is  love.


Criteria to Consider when Starting a New Business

A friend of mine recently laid down a $1000 bet with a network marketer from another company.  They were sitting in the patio area of Panera Bread.  Christy said, “I’ll bet you $1000 that I can get more new customers in the next thirty minutes here than you can.”  He responded,” That’s not fair.  I have a high end skin care product and you have consumables.”  Christy responded, “That’s right, my company offers over 400 products people need and use every day.”  “Which one of us do you think will make more money?”  He swallowed hard and replied, “You will.”


Major Criteria


  1.  How much do you believe in the product?  Far too many people have started small businesses with visions of dollar signs in their eyes.  Blinded by the green and gold lights (money and gold), they plunked down their cash and plunged into business.


After a few rejections, there will be rejections in every business, they were discouraged.  “This doesn’t work.  They lied to me.”  Consider that it may not be the business, but the reason for starting it which caused the problem


Believe in the product you are promoting.  Focusing on the money alone will not take you through the rough spots.  EVERY successful entrepreneur as well as every unsuccessful one will attest to the fact that there are rough spots.  There will be bad days.  There will be “sure fire deals” that go south.


  1.  What problem does the product solve?  If you are basing your entire future on a “pet rock,” you may want to reconsider.  It could be a fun fad for a short time, but little or no market duration.  There are probably some of you reading this who don’t know that a “pet rock” product actually existed for a very short time span.  Case in point – it didn’t last.  It was fun but did not really solve any problem.  In tight economic times, consumers choose food instead of pet rocks.


  1.  How large is the market segment which has that specific problem and is willing to pay for a solution?  There are a tremendous number of terrible speakers promoting themselves; we receive requests every week at our local Rotary club.  Some have an important message, but their presentation skill is so terribly lacking that the message is lost by boring the audience.  Do they need a presentation coach?  Yes desperately.  Will they pay for a professional coach?  Some believe they do not need a coach.  Others believe that asking their mother how they are doing is good enough.  Still others say the price is too high for their budget.  A small percentage invest in themselves and improve.


Look carefully at your target market.  You will not contract with everyone who needs your service.  Will you reach a sufficient number on a consistent basis to meet your income needs and goals?


  1. Consistency is important.  Refer to the opening $1000 bet.  Repeat orders are important.  When you have a product consumers need to repeatedly order, you will make more money.  If your only product was a central vacuum system for your home, one purchase and you are seeking a new customer.  Granted, you receive a nice commission for that one sale.


High dollar network marketing companies promote the $1000, $5,000 and $10,000 commissions; remember those green and gold lights?  The catch is continuing to find a steady stream of purchasers who are willing to spend $2,000 to $20,000.  Most high dollar network marketing companies also build in a residual component; everything hinges on the steady stream of purchasers.  Unfortunately, statistics show that only three percent of high dollar network marketers achieve success; only a small percentage of those earn the “big bucks” for more than a few months.  Look carefully at yourself and your product to determine if you believe you will produce a sufficient income over a sustained period of time.


In our example of the $1000 bet, consumers will continue to purchase shampoo, cleaning products, toothpaste etc. regardless of the economy.


  1. Compensation Plan.  You probably did not start a business just to fill time; your goal was to make money.  How easy is the compensation plan to understand?  One company I reviewed had such a complicated plan with variations and intricacies that few understood it and even fewer could explain it.  Look for a clear plan which you understand, you can explain and you will earn commensurate with the time and effort you expend.


Back in the early days of pay-per-click advertising, the money was flowing out as fast as or faster for the marketing than it was flowing in from sales.  Look seriously at your compensation.  You are in business to make a profit.


Other factors also exist such as the ethics and integrity of the company owners and leaders, knowing you are helping people as well as making money and feeling that you are proud to attach your name to your motivation as well as your results.  Do you have or can you acquire the expertise to effectively present the company and its products?


Red Flags


How long has the company been in existence?  What is the growth rate of the company; if people are leaving in similar numbers as new people are arriving, that is a red flag.


How often has the compensation plan changed?


No company will please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Read the complaints on the internet; what is the percentage in comparison to the size of the company?


Before succumbing to the green and gold lights, look carefully at the product, the problem solved, the market size, the market sustainability, and the net compensation (income after expenses).  Find a company which meets your criteria for success.


For guidance in selecting the best company to fit your goals, talent and time, contact me at  I’m happy to help

Failure was not an Option

As a single mother with two young boys, earning a living was not optional.  There had to be a better way than working

Small Business Marketing Outlook

Small Business Marketing Outlook

from 11 pm until 7 pm seven days a week making donuts.  Bakeries, hair salons or bars tend to stimulate conversations.  Tourists, enthralled with the charming ski resort atmosphere, verbalized their desire to purchase a vacation home in the picturesque valley.  Realtors were certainly anxious to accommodate the potential purchasers.  The stumbling block was the lack of property management for single family homes.  Ski resorts not only have significant snowfall but that was the winter with 40 and 50 degree below zero temperatures.  Would you leave a half million dollar investment vacant for most of the year in those conditions?  Neither would they.


Idea Formation


The idea of starting a property management company specializing in single family homes kept nudging at the edge of my mind.  “Elaine, you don’t know anything about property management.  You don’t have the money to start a company like that.  You’ll need vehicles, equipment, and a real estate broker’s license.”  As if my own negative self-talk wasn’t enough discouragement, the comments from friends, family and business associates ranged from “That’s a dumb idea” to “You’ll go broke.”


Start-up Requirements


Call it naive, call it reckless, or call it desperate to sleep at night instead of work all night.  I sold the bakery at the end of ski season and enrolled in Colorado Real Estate Institute in Denver.  After six weeks of attending classes all day and studying all night and weekend, I passed the all-day test.  It felt so good to go home and retrieve my sons from the babysitter.


There was $4,537.32 to cover all start-up costs including school, purchasing a Jeep Cherokee to transport maintenance and housekeeping equipment and tourists.  Talk about a l-e-a-n start-up.  Failure was not an option.  The boys and I were “all chips in.”




Now the work began.  Technical book knowledge helps, but the practical application is quite different.  Reading about how to ride a bicycle and actually doing it are quite different.


My first reservation was March.  Looking back, it was foolish to agree to receive payment upon check- in.  All of the preparations were ready.  The guest didn’t show.   I never made that mistake again.  Going forward, everything had to be paid at least thirty days prior to arrival.


The other property management companies also listed and sold real estate.  Presentations were made to each real estate company promising not to sell but strictly manage; in exchange they agreed to send referrals to me.




Confidence soared with each new rental or property owner prospect and plummeted when a long dry spell ensued between new clients.  Creating a successful start-up on a tissue paper thin budget has its emotional as well as financial challenges.


The discouraging remarks of “It’s a dumb idea.  You’ll go broke” continued to pour in from all sides.  Each remark chipped a notch in my confidence but failure was not an option.


One day the Federal Marshalls called, “Elaine, the property you manage on Elk Ridge Lane now belongs to us.  Officer Tafoya will be out tomorrow.”  The owners appeared to be successful venture capitalists operating a car rental agency in Florida; there were no clues about their other venture.   The property went from successful rental to zero in an instant.




Eventually Mountain Castles outgrew the tiny dark office in my home and acquired an attractive office building location and employees.  The strategic plan was that the management fees for the homes and the commission from long term renters would cover all overhead.  Once overhead was secure and a financial cushion was tucked away, it was time to expand  into vacation rentals.  This venture required an entirely new target market for tourists and vacation rental homes, significant additional procedures including housekeeping and a complete reservation system.  The highest profit was in vacation rentals but also the highest risk and highest personnel requirement.  Welcome back the skittish nerves, but failure was not an option.


Remember when I foolishly thought that property management would be less hours?  No one locks themselves out between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday; it is always in the middle of the night.  The record was four times in one night by the same man; beverages were involved.


A solopreneur start-up was hard on my sons.  We did not have one uninterrupted holiday together in over fifteen years.  An owner or renter always needed something.  Rather than asking employees to work on holidays, the boys and I covered.




Have you ever been at the crossroads where your business needed to grow or go?  That point came in 1994.  Competition was intense.  Going back to college thirty years after graduation brought its own set of doubts and fears.  Working full time, attending classes in the evening once a week for three years, and studying consumed my life.  There was a buzz in the air about the internet and email.  The idea occurred to design a web page and advertise reservations for property management on the internet.  A friend designed the page; it was the first web page in Routt County.  Thirteen weeks and many tweaks later, it generated its first reservation.  My master’s thesis, published in 1997, had three years of Mountain Castles history in it detailing the project of marketing reservations on the internet.  That crazy idea earned Mountain Castles the First Resort International “Innovator of the Year” award.


If self-doubts or the discouraging words of others had been allowed to stop Mountain Castles, that award would not have been received.  Failure is not an option.

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”Elaine spoke to our top leaders from 8 states, she gave us new and positive ways to connect with people
which is EXACTLY what we wanted. Thanks Elaine”
-Tom Fajardo, State Farm