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Is Digital Clutter Killing Your Productivity?

June 11th, 2018

Experts blame our overly cluttered environments for everything from unhappiness and lack of productivity to physical health issues and depression. Bottom line: clutter is debilitating in one form or another. Now clutter has migrated from our physical environment to our digital worlds, compounding its impact on our well-being.

Many of us spend the majority of our days in front of one kind of screen or another. This activity has shifted our focus from collecting physical stuff to collecting digital stuff. The same thought process that leads us to our over-jammed closets, stuffed attics and unusable garages, has now moved into our computers, tablets and phones. The “I might need this sometime” mindset has shifted from a box of glasses from college, clothes we might fit into someday, and CDs we haven’t listened to in 5 years to blogs we need to read, apps to help us monitor our exercise, and free e-books that will tell us how to start home-brewing beer.

True, computers and digital devices save us a lot of time, and programs and apps help us capture and organize all sorts of information, but if you’re finding yourself with an email inbox of hundreds of emails and device storage at its max, perhaps it’s time for some digital decluttering!

Email Inbox

An inbox full of (unanswered) emails can give you the same feeling of anxiety and overwhelm as a pile of unopened bills on your counter. To be productive, and reduce your anxiety, you need to be able to locate an email just as quickly as you need to be able to put your fingers on an important bill or receipt. The key is to have a system, use it consistently, and work toward a zeroed-out inbox.

How to keep a Zeroed-Out Inbox:

  • Deal with every email immediately – respond and file it or delete it
  • Create folders by topic and/or life area and move emails into folders immediately
  • Delete unnecessary subscriptions
  • Schedule time to go through your pending folders to respond, follow up or delete

Tempting freebies and “Learn More” links leave us all with unnecessary and useless subscriptions clogging our inboxes. Use a free service such as unroll.me to get rid of unwanted email subscriptions.

Where to start? It is well worth the time to schedule one hour per day or an afternoon to go through your inbox and do this organizing. The time you will save on the other end will come back to you tenfold.

Social Media Accounts

Social media can be very informative and useful for many people that need to keep us with certain industry trends or markets, but we all know what a time-sucker it is. Take a hard line on what social platforms really impact your life in a meaningful and positive way, and what ones you really need to be current on for your work. Get rid of the rest.

How to be more Social Savvy:

  • Get rid of accounts and delete social media apps that you do not use regularly
  • Reduce your Facebook Friends to those that you really care about having in your life now
  • Avoid the urge to Like and/or comment on posts that you really don’t care about or do not impact your life in any meaningful way
  • Join fewer groups, play fewer games, poke fewer people

Apps

Who doesn’t love a free app that is going to organize your life, help you meditate or manage your to do list?! The problem is, apps are like shiny shells – they all look good and to really check them out, we have to download them. Soon, we find they aren’t really all that and we move on, forgetting about them and their little icons on our phone. Apps have become what free pens are in our junk drawers. The problem is, all those apps take up memory space, clutter up our screens when we are looking for something we actually need, and slow our devices down.

How to Clean Out Your App Clutter:

  • Delete all the apps you don’t use. Can’t remember? Delete it.
  • Hide apps you use less frequently.
  • Create folders to organize apps of similar uses (fitness, photo editing)
  • Keep your Home screen minimal with only apps you use daily.

Other Smart Moves

  1. Clean up your computer desktop, deleting anything unnecessary. This includes folders and files, programs, images, and apps. Create folders to move items to for easy locating and to remove multiple items off your desktop so it is streamlined to only the highest priority items.
  2. Clean up your tablet and/or smart phone screen, deleting apps you never use and/or put apps in files to keep your screen less cluttered. While you’re at it, turn off notifications in your settings so they aren’t popping up on your screen all the time, these are a huge distraction!
  3. Unfollow any feeds that don’t help right now or uplift you.
  4. Delete, delete, delete.
  5. Create systems for organizing your accounts, programs and apps and stick to it!

Still struggling with how to choose?

Professor and author Cal Newport, well-known for his work on productivity, suggests a way to choose the best tool for the job and get rid of the others. It’s easy to argue why we need every social media platform on our phone because they each serve different purposes, but the problem is that we rarely take the time to actually learn them all effectively and therefore get the best use out of them. Newport recommends thinking about your values – what is important to you? What do you want to achieve from how you spend your time? When you know what your values are, you can then pare down the programs and apps to those that provide the best tools to help you support your values.

Digital clutter is a real thing and it contributes to distraction and anxiety. When we are distracted and stressed, we are less productive and our time is not used efficiently. And we all can agree we need more time!

Best Business Practices – What Should Your Income Statement Look Like?

May 9th, 2018

 

When looking at your income statement, always ask – “Is this significant to my business?” Unless you discover someone is walking out with crates of coffee, focusing on the number of K-Cups you’re using every year (or any other tiny detail) only distracts from running the business. Keep your focus on the Material issues with a few tweaks to your chart of accounts.

Here are some rules of thumb:

  • DO: Make it clear where each Expense should be classified

Talk it over with all parties involved in assigning expenses to Accounts; make sure there is historical consistency. Try to eliminate redundant accounts so there is a logical place for each expense.

 

  • DO: Hide or nest expenses that account for less than .5% of your Revenue

You don’t need to see ‘Coffee’ and ‘Fax’ and ‘Paper’, you just need to see ‘Office Supplies’. Is ‘Office Supplies’ way out of line? Then start looking for the differences.

 

  • DON’T: Be too specific when creating an Account

The more specific your accounts, the more convoluted the data process entry, and the less year-to-year consistency. If you put an expense in “AT&T” one year, and “Verizon” the next, they will be on two different lines. Call it “Communications” and you can see if changing from one to the other was a good idea!

 

  • DON’T: Let your Income Statement roll beyond two pages

 One page is even better; simplicity is clear, concise, and elegant. It’s a Table of Contents that summarizes the beginning, middle, and end; the Income Statement shouldn’t be the whole book.

 

Billion-dollar companies perform with an Income Statement that fits on a single page – this allows for an efficient review of the business performance, side-by-side against budget & against prior year (the two benchmarks every business should use regularly). Once you’ve glanced over these reports, you can quickly focus in on the questions (“Why are we over budget?” “Why is this Expense better / worse than last year?”) and drill down to answer the material questions.

Once your system is in place, it should take you no more than an hour every month to check the scoreboard, see where you’re winning or losing, and make the adjustments to stay on course.

 

Special thanks to Raynor Large for contributing this blog article.

Broker on the Move: Ed Larochelle Brings Valuable Real-Life Experience to Business Brokerage

April 19th, 2018

Every once in a while, we like to stop the action for a moment and highlight one of our brokers so you can get to know them better. In our continuing Broker on the Move series, we recently sat down with Business Broker Ed Larochelle and asked him to give us the inside scoop on where his work takes him.

How long have you been a CREB, how did you get started?

I’ve been a Business Broker for 25 years. After many years owning and operating my own businesses, I was in the process of selling one of them. As part of that transaction, I was introduced to a Business Broker. Our conversations regularly turned to discussions of business operations, business valuation and management, and she said to me, “You should really be a business broker!” I was ready for a new challenge, and I had a lot of business development experience under my belt and felt I could be helpful to others, so I pursued it. I continued to own and operate my own businesses, and joined a business brokerage firm at the same time. As I got going, and really enjoyed it, I decided to get out of business ownership and pursue brokerage full time.

I was in Florida at that time, where business brokerage and commercial real estate were not comingled, so coming to Maine 7 years ago, that was a big change. When I came to Maine and joined Magnusson Balfour, we had agents who were both commercial real estate brokers, as well as business brokers. It makes great sense to have both professions in the same office since they have such overlapping, or at least complimentary, roles in many cases.

What type of car do you drive? What items are in your car?

Honda Accord. I love Honda’s reliability and the great gas mileage. I always have with me different types of measuring tapes, my camera, and a flashlight, and I have the usual tools that a prepared vehicle owner keeps in the car.

What paperwork do you have with you at all times?

I always have with me several copies of all of our agreements – Listing, Purchase and Sale, Buyer – I find it beneficial to have the paper document on hand to go over with clients, the visual is helpful.

I also have packets I have put together of marketing materials for myself and Magnusson Balfour, so that when I am on the road and I see a business I think would be good to connect to, I have something tangible to drop off.

How many business cards do you hand out in the course of a week?

It varies greatly, of course, but I probably hand out 25-50 cards per week, especially if I am visiting a networking event.

Do you attend formal networking events? How do you get out and build your business?

I am a member of Think Local, a networking group with chapters that meet throughout the state, and I attend their Saco group on a weekly basis. I try to attend at least one to two other group activities a month, sometimes other Think Local groups, in the York and Cumberland county area so I can meet and talk to new folks all the time.

What technology could you not live without? Do you have a favorite App that helps you with your business?

Obviously, my smart phone! You have to be able to respond quickly to people these days, and through a variety of communication methods. I really like the Microsoft Office Suite, and it’s great that we can now have it on our smart phones. The OneDrive app allows me to access all my files and documents when I am away from my computer because they are stored in the Cloud, so that is very handy when I’m out of the office.

How many miles do you travel in your car in a week? What is the farthest you have traveled listing/showing a property?

I average around 150-200 miles a week. I try to limit how far I will go because I want to be sure I can offer the best support to all my clients, and if I am over 60-75 miles away that just isn’t possible. Beyond that, I would likely refer someone to a qualified colleague that is closer to them.

How many phone calls, emails and text messages do you receive daily?

Somewhere around 30 a day is average, and it’s a balance between phone calls, emails and texts. I use whatever a client prefers, but I like the personal connection and communication that happens with a person to person conversation, so I tend to make a phone call when I can.

What’s your area of specialty or expertise, geographic territory, and why did you choose it?

My territory is primarily the southern border of Maine to about 30 miles north of Portland. I’ve certainly traveled to Augusta and farther Downeast to the Midcoast when it makes sense.

My expertise is business brokerage. Financials are my specialty, it’s what I have the training and education in, and the experience and expertise from owning my own small businesses for so long. I owned primarily retail operations and startups for the first 20 years of my professional life, so I feel I have a lot of hands-on, real world experience to share with others.

What is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your career?

I’d say self-starter and perseverance. I just do not hesitate to pursue something. I have been an entrepreneur a long time, I learned you just don’t give up if there is something that can be done, and to get creative in solutions. If a client receives discouraging news, or gets frustrated with the process in some way, I always encourage them, make suggestions for alternatives, and look for ways to keep moving in the direction of their goals. My clients seem to appreciate that type of support and tenacity, I am determined to make things work out one way or another. Owning my own businesses taught me that!

What are you most excited about in relation to your career this year?

I love a new year! Every year is a new adventure, I have new goals for my business with regard to the number and average values of my listings. Like any entrepreneur, I have aspirations to increase my income, and my listings are key to that.

What is a professional development goal you have for this year?

I think we are always learning. I’m emphasizing being more aware of my time management, saying no to distractions, and focus on existing commitments. I want to work on limiting reacting in the moment, and be aware of where my time is going and planning ahead.

What’s the greatest bit of advice a parent or mentor has given you?

To do the right thing. There may always be options and choices, some more beneficial to you personally, but if you do the right thing you will never regret it. Always make the decision that will leave you feeling good about it and yourself. Never do something that could hurt someone else for your own benefit.

How do you prefer to relax after a tough day in business brokerage?

I like to catch up with the TV news, and I like to end the day with humor and comedy, so I’m likely to watch something funny whether it’s a late-night show, or something I’ve recorded. I like to go to bed in a good mood!

6 Ways Spring Cleaning Your Office Saves BIG Bucks

April 12th, 2018

We know there are few things any of us dread more than cleaning! However, even if you have your business and offices professionally cleaned, that is only hitting the surface (so to speak), so it’s a good idea to do a deep cleaning once a year. Keeping your business truly clean needs to go beyond having your desk dusted and the carpet vacuumed. Deep cleaning ensures a healthy and productive work environment, and is a great opportunity to do some much needed organizing. Let’s face it – we are all buried under stacks of papers and clutter!

A clean office saves money!

  • When you know where things are you waste less time looking and have better productivity.
  • Visual overwhelm leads to poor mental attitudes and bad morale.
  • You could be missing out on valuable deductions and write-offs if all your receipts and reminders are buried in a pile somewhere and never make it to the bookkeeper.
  • Dirt and grime break down surfaces and create additional wear on moving parts, which makes things break faster and require replacement sooner.
  • Knowing what supplies you have on hand means you do not waste money ordering and reordering things you do not need.
  • Having confidential or sensitive data and customer information laying around is dangerous to your reputation and your customer’s security. Security breaches are very expensive to correct!

Make a Plan

Organize room by room so you stay focused. If there are more than one of you, have every person take a room, and then also be responsible for their own personal space. Spring cleaning can be a great group exercise – plan an afternoon, have your employees wear comfortable clothing, put on some music if appropriate, and get to work as a team. Order pizza in or plan to take everyone out for happy hour afterwards so there is fun and reward built into the project.

Get it Done

Make a visual clean sweep as a first pass. What is laying around that is truly just junk and clutter? Go through each room and get rid of old newspapers and magazines, wayward trinkets, plants that have seen better days, and all those freebies collected at last year’s conference. Coffee mugs and window scrapers are not décor for bookcases.

The most efficient office has like-things together, and experts recommend organizing your office space into zones. Keep your materials, files, and office supplies all together for that zone – the customer files, printing area, data research. For individual work spaces your computer/work space, your research and library area, and your files should be all together in their own area (zone) so you can organize and find things easily.

The only items that should be on top of desks and at arm’s reach are things that you are using right now, and things you need immediately, everything else should be filed or stored away accordingly. Get rid of the clutter by putting things away when they are not in use, and trashing the junk like stacks of business cards, free coffee cups and other distractions. Legitimate paperwork and supplies should be kept in the respective zone you established. Get rid of the junk drawer! Get some drawer organizers, and sort things accordingly.

Tip – Feel badly getting rid of freebies like mugs and pens? Schools and other non-profits such as shelters are often in need of such items, and your favorite waitstaff will greatly appreciate the “gift” of a bag of pens!

Personal items such as coats and bags look messy sprawled around the office. Install some good hooks and storage units to keep things tidy and visually attractive.

Don’t forget your storage areas and the employee kitchen/lounge area. Storage areas are often overlooked because they are out of sight, out of mind. People tend to go into a storage area on a mission – to find archived information or get office supplies – so they get disheveled quickly. The very nature of a storage area is to house items so you can find and use them in the future (because you stored them versus throwing them away), so keep them organized by category and type, and files alphabetical or by a numerical system. Employee lounge and kitchen areas quickly get out of control when no one assumes responsibility for them. If you do not have a refrigerator cleaning protocol in place, create one! Perishable items should be cleaned from the refrigerator once per month, and a full cleaning should take place at least once a year. Go through cupboards and bins for old, out of date items and toss them in recycling and garbage. Resist the urge to keep something “just in case” – no hoarding allowed!

Get Yourself Prepped for Cleaning:

  • All-purpose cleaners & disinfectants
  • Paper towels & microfiber cloths
  • Shredder & Recycle Bins
  • Storage (plastic is best) Boxes
  • Folders, Hanging Files, Labels
  • Label Maker (to KEEP things organized)

Establish these systems and set limits for how messy and disorganized you will allow your spaces to become in the future. Long-term upkeep of all your hard work this spring will make next year a breeze!

Understanding Cash Flow Impacts Your Business Success

March 13th, 2018

 

Your business’ cash flow statement is one of the most important financial documents you utilize as a business owner. Cash flow statements report the cash generated (income) and used (expenses) during a given time period, and categorizes those expenses as operating expenses, investing activities, and financing activities. Because it is a true indicator of a business’ cash inflow and outflow, your cash flow statement provides the best gauge of whether your business is financially healthy or headed for trouble. Either way, knowing is much better than not knowing, and with a timely cash flow statement in hand, a business owner can make the decisions required to course correct when necessary.

“Financial reports are the GPS for your business. The successful business owners I have dealt with are ones who stay on top of their numbers”, says Magnusson Balfour Business Broker, Ed Larochelle. “A strong business owner is going to have financial goals for the year, some parameters for expenses, and be conducting regular reviews of their cash flow statement. How can you know how your business is doing unless you have timely financial information that you actually look at?!”

Successful businesses:

  • Set annual financial goals;
  • Stay on top of business cash flow with timely reports;
  • React quickly to financial changes; and
  • Understand the difference between cash flow and taxable income.

From a business broker’s point of view, a business’ cash flow statement plays a critical role in business valuation. It’s a warning sign when a business owner is asked for the financial information, and their response is to hand over three years of tax returns in unopened envelopes from their accountant, and they’ve never asked to receive interim cash flow statements that they review. This scenario is an example of a business that is running the owner, not an owner running their business. When your business is running you, all you can do is hope for the best and react. When you are running your business, you can plan. In order to have planned responses to financial changes – to be able to recalculate, reposition, track your margins, and know your expenses are not out of hand – you must get timely financial reports and review them carefully.

Not every business owner understands the importance of staying on track and having clear financial goals. Having all your bills paid up and a balance in your bank account is not staying on top of your business’ financial health. An owner who knows their numbers is always more successful than the owner who is just going through the motions, reacting when needed. That owner is not really in charge. It’s like riding a toboggan down a hill and hoping you don’t run into a rock, versus getting in a car and steering yourself where you want to go and around the rocks!

A successful business owner can say at any given time, “I have a goal of increasing my business 10% a year in both gross revenue and cash flow, here are my monthly reports of where we are, and here are the adjustments I have made to keep us on track to meet our goals.”

Set measurable annual goals.

Having clear, annual goals are the foundation of business success. Before the start of a new year, it makes sense to look at last year to see how your business has been doing. Look at areas that need improvement, what expenses can be reduced. Maybe the business is growing and will need the added expense of additional staff or new equipment. A goal might be paying yourself more (“I want to make a six-figure income”), so what do you need to do to get there? What do you want to do revenue-wise, what do you want to do income-wise, is expansion desired? Are there major investments in the business necessary? You can’t pick numbers out of the air, so you need timely financial reports to show you where your money went over the last year.

Throughout the year, preferably monthly but certainly quarterly, carefully review the financials via the cash flow statement, and compare them to the goals that are set and make course corrections as necessary. This makes things so much easier – you may not be on target, but you will eliminate more costly expenses from burying your head in the sand!

Monthly financial reports save time and money.

People get overwhelmed with financial management, leaving everything to someone else because they don’t like dealing with it, or perhaps they don’t really understand it so it’s human nature to avoid these things. However, if we break it down, business financials are a lot simpler than they may look at the outset. A simple spreadsheet detailing income and expenses can go a long way to organizing money in and money going out, and software programs like QuickBooks are affordable and handy because you just need to plug your numbers in and the reports auto-generate for you at the touch of a button.

Having the information delivered to you by some mechanism on a month to month basis, gives you what you need to know as a business owner, and will keep the business on track and alert the need to make changes before things get worse. When you know up to the minute (or as timely as you post information) how your business is doing, compared to your goals, you can figure out where you are doing well or going in the wrong direction. When revenue and expenses can be monitored easily, and you know what your budget is and where it stands currently, the power is in your hands and you are running your business proactively. Perhaps you need to raise your prices, look for better supplier agreements, or maybe there is money to purchase new equipment now and start making money with it in this fiscal year. Cash flow statements show you in detail the performance of your business so you can run it effectively.

Tax returns are misleading.

Tax returns have a totally different purpose in the financial picture of a business. Tax returns don’t tell you what the business is actually doing on a weekly/monthly basis, nor do they provide an accurate picture of a business’ performance. The level of financial detail doesn’t show the impact of individual expenses, or how they relate to the budget. Because we are always looking for ways to reduce our taxable income in a business, adjustments such as depreciation, non-cash paper transactions, and perks and benefits to owners are used to reduce taxable income and consequently the tax burden. As you can see, these adjustments skew the picture of actual cash flow.

Cash flow is not income.

There is a distinct difference between income and cash flow. Income (taxable income) has been adjusted to reflect the benefits and compensation to owner, depreciation, interest expenses, perks in lieu of compensation, and non-recurring expenses. Debt service impacts the cash flow statement in two different ways: the interest shows as an expense, but the principle repayment amount is not considered an actual expense on a financial statement; however, it is considered when evaluating the actual cash flow requirements for the business when considering profitability and value. Cash flow is determined after all these adjustments have been made, hence showing the real performance and cash flow requirements of the business. Clearly understanding the difference between income and cash flow is of great benefit to owners and financial management, another reason that a tax return is not the best report to use.

When a business broker is determining the value of a business, it is critical to be using accurate cash flow rather than looking only at the tax returns or business income. The only way to really know how a business is performing and what it is worth, is to use an accurate cash flow statement where those adjustments have not been made to the bottom line. That is how we compare your business accurately to other businesses as well, a key component in determining valuation.

The only way to figure out what’s what is to stop and get your numbers in front of you. It’s the only way to gain some control over the future of the business. You either react and become a victim of the numbers, or with preparation and planning you minimize financial surprises. Which sounds better?

Run your business – don’t let your business run you!

Special thanks to Magnusson Balfour Broker Ed Larochelle for his valuable input into this article!

Broker on the Move: Dennis Wheelock Can Relate to the Needs of Small Businesses in Maine

March 5th, 2018

Magnusson Balfour Broker, Dennis Wheelock, has been a business owner and member of the Gardiner community for most of his adult life. Owning Dennis’ Pizza in Gardiner for 30 years, Dennis connects on a personal level with the small business owners and entrepreneurs he works with because he has lived it. He understands what it takes to run a business, the struggles business owners face, and what it takes to develop an exit strategy. He greatly enjoys the guidance and help he can give to entrepreneurs looking to start a business, owners expanding their businesses, and those ready to sell.

How long have you been a CREB, how did you get started?

I’ve been a full time Commercial real estate and business broker for five years. I have an accounting background, graduating from Bentley College, and am very detail-oriented. When I knew I was ready to transition out of owning such a demanding business as Dennis’ Pizza, I got my appraiser’s license as it was something I could do part-time on my own schedule while still running Dennis’. Along the way I met Scott Balfour. When I was ready to sell Dennis’ I listed it with him, and it was a very smooth, professional transaction. I was impressed, and he encouraged me to get my real estate license. The rest is history!

What type of car do you drive?

A 2015 4-door Chevy Truck

What items are in your car?

Living where I do, preparation is everything! I always carry a flashlight, rain gear, and my camera. I also keep a 100-ft tape measure, screw gun, stakes, and extra signs and sign riders with me.

What paperwork do you have with you at all times?

My briefcase is always with me which has all the required disclosure forms, listing agreements, as well as my business cards, and a bio sheet for more info about me.

How many business cards do you hand out in the course of a week?

Less than I used to as so much business is just done electronically these days, but I still hand out 10 or so every week.

Do you attend formal networking events? How do you get out and build your business?

I do. I think it’s really important to get out into the community and talk to people. How else do you really know what’s going on with businesses? I attend monthly Business After Hours events, and I’m a member of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Gardiner Maine Street program.

What technology could you not live without? Do you have a favorite App that helps you with your business?

My smart phone! It really does everything I need by way of communication, paperwork, and research when I’m out of the office. One of my favorite apps is Trello. I use it to keep listings and projects organized with my office assistant, Trent, so we know what each other is doing at any time, no matter where I am.

How many miles do you travel in your car in a week? What is the farthest you have travelled to list or show a property?

I put a good 400 – 500 miles a week on my truck, last year I recorded 20,000 miles. I’ve gone to the Rangeley area a few times, and although I’m in the Gardiner/Central Maine area, I travel to Portland at least once a week to be at the main office.

How many phone calls, emails and text messages do you receive daily?

You have to stay in communication constantly in this business, so between clients, other brokers, and the other professionals involved in transactions, I have 30-40 phone calls a day, and about the same number of emails and texts. It’s a busy business!

What’s your area of specialty or expertise, geographic territory, and why did you choose it?

My area of expertise is the Central Maine market, particularly the Augusta-Gardiner area. Having lived in the area so long, raised my family here, owned a local business for 30 years, I know so many business people in the area, as well members of the community. It’s great to work close to home, where I know the area and the needs of businesses so well.

What is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your job?

As they say, it takes a long time to build a reputation, and only a short time to lose it. I believe I bring honesty, sincerity, and integrity to my relationships with all the people I work with. I’ve had a lot of clients say to me, “thank you for being so honest with me”, and I take that as a big compliment. I want what is best for them, and I won’t just go along with them to sell something.

After being a business owner and entrepreneur for so many years, I don’t think of myself as just a broker, or just a salesperson, because I’ve faced the same challenges. Whether it’s staffing, or cashflow, or how to go about selling a business. I just feel I can have discussions at a different level with clients. We speak the same language because I’ve been where they are.

What are you most excited about in relation to your job this year?

I’m a Tier 3 Broker at MB, and I’ve been asked to be on the Leadership Team. I greatly enjoy being part of helping the company move forward, setting growth strategy, team building, mentoring newer brokers. I enjoy looking at the bigger picture, not just my own listings, but what is on the horizon for Magnusson Balfour.

What’s the greatest bit of advice a parent or mentor has given you?

My parents were my first mentors, and they always told me to follow the ‘golden rule’ – be honest, work hard, stand by your word and do what you say you are going to do. That’s still good advice in my mind.

What is a professional development goal you have for this year?

I consistently take courses on investing, business turnaround strategies, and courses from the International Business Brokers Association. I’m getting ready to advance my license to full Broker designation as well.

How do you prefer to relax after a tough day in real estate?

I love being home with my family. My boys are grown, but my wife and I enjoy relaxing together, taking walks with our dog, Bella, and I love to be in the outdoors hunting and fishing.

Where are They Now? Client Spotlight on Justin Zandan, Gelinas HVAC

February 21st, 2018

At Magnusson Balfour, one of our top priorities is client relationships and that doesn’t end when a transaction is complete. In fact, many of our past clients continue synergistic relationships with us well into the future. Recently, we visited with a former client, Justin Zandan, owner of Gelinas HVAC Services. Magnusson Balfour worked with Justin two years ago on his vision to own his own small business in Southern Maine, and we are so happy to learn that he and his new company are experiencing much success through the transition!

Justin Zandan, Owner Gelinas HVAC Services

How did you come to work with Magnusson Balfour?

I was just getting burned out from the corporate culture, and knew I was ready to own something of my own, control my own work. I had 15 years’ experience as a mechanical engineer in the power plant industry, with a lot of hands-on project work as well as serving on management teams, but I wasn’t necessarily looking for a technical business. I really wasn’t sure what type of business I wanted, to be honest, I knew some industries I wasn’t interested in for one reason or another, but I was pretty open to what kind of business I wanted. I knew I needed some professional advice from someone who really got it, and a colleague mentioned to me that a business broker could really advise me best.

I was referred to Craig Church at Magnusson Balfour, and early in 2016, I met with Craig to discuss my desire to purchase a business. We had great rapport right away, I just liked his style. He was clearly very knowledgeable about his business, the local real estate market, and he is also a business owner himself, so I felt he had the perfect professional mix to help me. What really appealed to me was that Craig is both a business broker, as well as a commercial real estate broker, so his knowledge of consulting and advising could transition easily to helping me find and purchase a business. I was so open and all over the place in the beginning, but Craig never seemed impatient, I felt listened to, and we just worked as a team together looking at different businesses. He had all the business brokerage tools to guide me through the process, and he has a wealth of professional knowledge and resources that were invaluable too. The ability to discuss different business models, and what different industries involve to operate was extremely helpful, and that is his experience and expertise – he clearly has a real passion for what he does. I still consider Craig a great sounding board today!

What made you decide to purchase a business?

In a nutshell, I had a dream to own my own business, and Craig worked patiently and diligently with me over many months, as we explored various business investment opportunities throughout Southern Maine. I did know that I wanted to purchase an established business with a reputable brand, something I could build on. After a few deals didn’t work out, we took a look at Gelinas HVAC. I knew my experience in engineering, understanding heating and cooling systems well, would fit nicely into the business. The principals had similar values to mine, treating employees like they matter, putting customer service up front, and delivering great service, so that was a fit right away. It’s been challenging, of course, but a great decision for me and my family!

You’re 1 ½ years in now, how is it going?

My first focus has been on internal processes and improvements. We’ve transitioned from a traditional whiteboard scheduling routine, and a lot of dependency on the office, to automating our work order and customer information with a software program. Now our technicians carry an iPad, and can see immediately not only what they are going to a jobsite to do, but how long the customer has been with Gelinas, what other services they have had, if they are in our Loyalty Program. It really sets our technicians up for success before they even walk through the door to have this depth of information. Customers know they are a top priority when technicians are well informed.

Strategic Marketing

Marketing a small business is always tricky, things can be feast or famine, and so marketing becomes a just-in-time reaction. I prefer to think ahead whenever possible, and marketing needs someone paying attention to it so it isn’t just sell, sell, sell. I have professionals I work with to outsource some of our marketing so that we are making ongoing and consistent efforts to build our brand. We have done a whole new website that can assist customers, and offer helpful information about their heating and cooling systems, energy efficiency options, information on new products and programs, etc. We’ll continue to expand our marketing communication efforts as we go, and all the online marketing avenues offer a lot of exciting possibilities for us going forward.

The Value in Human Resources

I feel very strongly about the quality of our workforce, and I believe a business achieves that by being a great place to work. As well a competitive wages, good benefits, and work environment, we offer full tuition reimbursement to our staff, we’ve brought vendors on-site to provide hands-on demonstration of new products, and we always have new technicians shadow our experienced techs in the field until we know they are ready for working on their own. We have worked to partner with the area trade schools, serving on the advisory board of NTI, and speaking regularly at SMCC, NTI and MEMA in Brunswick. We want to help new technicians have a successful experience in their first interviews and jobs, and we have hired several apprentices to begin their career at Gelinas from these programs. We don’t want to just get people to work for us, we want to build an environment where people want to stay at Gelinas and build a career with us. The quality of people’s work lives is very important to me.

Mindful Growth

Growth can be great, or a disaster, and so smart scaling is a top priority. I want our growth to be organic, to grow in the best way to serve our customers and employees. We’ve worked over the last year to clearly define what our different organizational positions are, how training and development will support everyone in their roles, and how our workforce will evolve over the coming years. I want a good foundation for our growth, and to be thoughtful about how we grow the company.

What are your big goals going forward?

I’m very passionate about this business, so I’m always interested in organizational improvements, new products, new opportunities to serve our customers better. I’m pretty happy with our direction, and much of it is still a work in progress since it’s not even two years yet! I want to continue to improve our work-flow processes, streamline our procedures, and keep paying attention to how and why we do things. We’ll continue to build on customer communications, and our marketing efforts.

This is not just a business for me to lead until I want to retire. My hope is that Gelinas will become a family business, and that our employees will continue to take larger roles in the success of the business.

 

Small business owners & entrepreneurial veterans, meet their match!

February 7th, 2018
AUBURN, Maine– Today, Matt Leonard, CEO of Military Talent Source, LLC, announced details of the upcoming event, Maine Small Business Exchange being held at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch, 14 Great Falls Plaza, Auburn, ME, February 16 & 17, 2018.
 
The Maine Small Business Exchange is a first of its kind event that looks to match separating entrepreneurial veterans with small business owners looking to sell or transfer out of their successful small business. Qualified veterans have multiple funding resources available to them to assist in acquiring businesses.
 
Maine has an overall aging demographic and consequently many small business owners are and will continue to look to sell or transfer their successful businesses in the near future. This is the perfect opportunity for small business owners to connect with veterans ready to transition.
 
“I spend a great deal of time traveling around the country talking with veterans separating from service. Many of them want to either start or buy a business. Combine that with the demographics of Maine and importance of small business in Maine, that we frequently hear about, and you can quickly see how an event such as this could be a tremendous opportunity for all involved.” – Matt Leonard
 
The event will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch on February 16th and 17th with the bulk of the event being on Saturday the 17th.
 
“Friday, February 16th we are holding a welcome social for those individuals traveling from out of state. The main event will take place Saturday, February 17th and will feature numerous guest speakers on various business topics as well as our keynote speaker, Chris Tyll, prominent business owner and former Navy Seal” said Leonard.
 
The event is open to the public and non-veterans are welcome.
 
Tickets may be purchased here.  

The Ballard Center: A Former Hospital is Repurposed

January 30th, 2018

 

The Ballard Center, in the heart of Augusta, is a welcoming, newly renovated historical property, that has been thoughtfully restored and repurposed to provide much needed quality commercial space to local businesses and organizations. Already bustling with activity, this Class A building is well-located, professionally managed, and centrally located to provide easy access and care for local residents. Formerly an iconic hospital for over a century, the Ballard Center was sitting vacant since Maine General Medical Center moved to its new facility several years ago. Dirigo Capital Advisors, who specializes in revitalizing older buildings for new use, purchased the East Chestnut Street property in 2013. With plans to repurpose the historical facilities into much needed commercial facilities for the City of Augusta, this multi-purpose commercial complex is now home to several local businesses, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations.

While so many buildings sit vacant throughout the state, to see a large complex such as this be refashioned into one of the most coveted commercial spaces in Kennebec County is a testament to committed developers such as Dirigo Capital Advisors. Commercial real estate broker, Dennis Wheelock, who represent the property, says “This property fills a vital need for high-quality office space in Central Maine. The Ballard Center will keep necessary community businesses and services local for residents, and is a phenomenal representation of what can be done when there is a vision for an otherwise vacant building.”

The complex consists of over 300,000 square feet, housed in five floors of newly renovated spaces, and offers sunny office suites and offices of all sizes. The Class A development project is built of the highest quality and energy efficient materials, with the attention to detail you would expect in a project of this kind. Additional amenities include a fitness center, comfortable common spaces, a café, security, and plenty of free parking. The Ballard Center provides a modern, state-of-the-art facility, competitive with metropolitan areas of Maine.

Dirigo Capital Advisors President, Kevin Mattson, believes repurposing our vacant, historic buildings versus building new is essential when considering new development. His passion for projects such as the Ballard Center is clear. “Our hope for the future of the Ballard Center is to build on the past, because this structure has been a staple in the community for over 100 years, and now to create a future for it as an integral part of the fabric of the community for the next 100 years.”

Magnusson Balfour is delighted to be part of the exceptional real estate offerings at the Ballard Center. Multi-purpose, commercial office space is currently available for lease, and the developer will build space to suit your specific needs. Please contact Dennis Wheelock  for more information.

For additional property data and leasing details, you may download the brochure here.

Broker on the Move: Raynor Large has a Passion for Learning

January 17th, 2018

How long have you been a CREB, how did you get started?

I’ve been in commercial real estate for a little over 3 years. I also work part-time for a financial analysis and turnaround company in Auburn, Point to Point Business Specialists, where we help startups, transitions, explosive growth, and turnaround management for businesses. A few years ago, we brought in Craig Church at Magnusson Balfour to assist us on a project. I really enjoyed the process, the perspective Craig brought to the conversation, and decided to get my real estate license.

What type of car do you drive?

A Honda HRV. It’s a smaller sized SUV, it’s roomy, comfortable, and great in all conditions.

What items are in your car?

I rely primarily on my phone, it really has about everything I could need, including a flashlight, and of course the camera and recorder. I do carry a briefcase with me everywhere, and each Friday I go through my current client list and make sure I have their files with me in that briefcase so that I can be ready for the coming week, whenever and wherever I happen to be. I also always have a phone charger, pen and paper, and alternative clothing with me. On the personal side of working on the road a lot, I also carry stuff for the gym, and my dog’s necessities.

What paperwork do you have with you at all times?

I always have our brochure and my business cards. Form 3, the Brokerage Relationships form, of course, that you have to present to everyone. I keep graph paper on hand in case I want to sketch out a floor plan, and a few flash drives so that when I need a company’s paperwork like spreadsheets or QuickBooks files, I can grab them without having to worry about emailing or copying them.

How many business cards do you hand out in the course of a week?

Around 10 per week, unless I’m at a trade show or large event.

Do you attend formal networking events? How do you get out and build your business?

I’m a member of the Lewiston-Auburn Chamber of Commerce and I attend their events. I’m on the Androscoggin County Land Trust Board where I interact with numerous people in the community. I just finished the Chamber’s Androscoggin Leadership Development Institute’s course which is a 60-hour course on developing business leadership skills. It was not only a terrific program, but I met a lot of great business people in the community.

What technology could you not live without? Do you have a favorite App that helps you with your business?

My phone is a crucial part of business during every day. My three email addresses come right into my phone, and my calendar and task lists are at my fingertips, which is so important when juggling clients’ needs.

For apps, I love that the Microsoft Office Suite is now available to operate easily on the phone, and I use a task management app that works really well to maintain my to-do’s.

How many miles do you travel in your car in a week? What is the farthest you have travelled listing/showing a property?

I travel 275 miles on average. I spend most of my time in the Lewiston-Auburn area, but I have clients from Rangeley to Bangor to Portland. With our main office in Portland, I’m there a couple times a week for meetings.

How many phone calls, emails and text messages do you receive daily?

I have 5-10 phone calls, and 20-30 emails on an average day. I don’t generally text, as I prefer more professional communications like email or speaking directly, and the nature of my rural business isn’t conducive to texting with the reception issues.

What’s your area of specialty or expertise, geographic territory, and why did you choose it?

I grew up in Lewiston-Auburn, so I’m most familiar with that community, but I rarely turn anyone away based on their geographic area. I had a client in Rockport last year, and consequently they have referred me to several people in that area. I’m doing some work in the Rangeley area, which is such a beautiful location with a lovely Main Street.

I’m primarily a business broker, and I work with any of the greater Androscoggin area businesses. There are many strong, family-owned businesses needing help with putting a value on their business and either marketing it or transitioning it effectively to a family member or perhaps a key staff member. I love the challenge of this type of work, and helping a business continue on to the next generation.

What is the most important personal attribute that you bring to your job?

I think curiosity has gotten me where I am today – I keep asking questions, keep digging down until I can really understand what is unique about a particular business. Every business has the same key elements in terms of wanting to be profitable and other financial pieces, but every business is also very exceptional. The ability to understand the ways it is different, and how to best serve its needs is very rewarding.

I also have a dual-career since I work for Point to Point doing financial analysis, as well as being a commercial and business broker. I feel this is a great value added to clients because I can help on a larger scale.

What are you most excited about in relation to your job this year?

There is a lot of exciting growth going on in Lewiston-Auburn, a real downtown renaissance. There’s a lot of new construction and restoration going on that hasn’t been happening in a long time, and it’s exciting to be a part of from a real estate perspective. I’ve been taking several real estate broker courses too, and the more I learn the fine art of commercial real estate, the more excited I get about being involved and learning from others. I like to bring as much to the table as I can, I’m very passionate about learning.

What’s the greatest bit of advice a parent or mentor has given you?

There are two pieces of advice that my boss in Auburn repeats to me all the time. The first is, “if you can do it today, you should have done it yesterday.” Meaning, everything in business brokerage is urgent and there’s no room for postponing, so there’s no better time to do something than right now.

The second is, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” When challenges arise, you need to draw on your experience, and have the tenacity to keep pushing forward and figure things out.

What is a professional development goal you have for this year?

To continue to take more Business Brokerage courses to build that knowledge, and to continue writing. I wrote about six articles last year for Magnusson Balfour’s newsletter and I’d like to continue doing that. I really like explaining topics and helping people understand what is involved in running businesses, how to achieve the greatest value in your business, and other ways to improve your life through business.

How do you prefer to relax after a tough day in real estate?

I love to be outside and go running, it’s so cathartic, and is my relaxation and rejuvenation. Running lets me put the day behind me, and just exist in the moment. I do a lot of trail running at Blackstrap Hill Preserve which is right near my house. My dog is just a year old, but soon she’ll be old enough to start increasing her mileage so she can run with me. My wife and I are also expecting our first child soon, so I expect I’ll be excited to get home to our new baby when that time comes!

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