How Your Home Can Help You ‘Renovateʼ Your Finances

A house is more than a place to live and raise your family.

Here are some ways the equity youʼve built up could help you pursue other important goals.
By Kathy Kristof

home investment resource

WHEN I TOLD MY 19-YEAR-OLD SON that Iʼd decided to sell the house heʼd grown up in, his usual tough-guy act evaporated. He and three friends sat in my kitchen and wiped away tears. If the near-acre of land on which our two-story home sat had been easier to maintain—or if there were kids still living in any of the four bedrooms—I might have had a change of heart then and there. Instead, I took a deep breath and asked them to trust me. Clearly, downsizing from my empty nest to a smaller, more affordable home was a smart financial decision. But it was also a very tough one emotionally. “People might know intellectually that their home is a financial asset, but they think of it in emotional terms—as the place where they raised their kids, where they want to grow old,” says Gao-Wen Shao, director of Retirement Solutions at Merrill Lynch. Still, Shao adds, ignoring an asset that may be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars would be a mistake. “Itʼs critical that you examine all the financial resources you can bring to bear when figuring out a plan for pursuing your goals,” agrees Lorna Sabbia, head of Retirement Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

 “Your home might end up being the biggest asset on your balance sheet.”—Matthew Diczok, Head of Fixed Income Strategy, Global Wealth and Investment Management, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and U.S. Trust Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

  • So what role should your home play in your overall financial picture?
  • And how can you take advantage of the home equity youʼve built up?

Is Home Ownership a Good Investment?

Thanks to the equity Iʼd built up, I ended up with a nice profit when I sold my home, but not everyone is so lucky. How much equity you have in your home is largely dependent on how long youʼve owned it, how large your initial down payment was and how high home prices are in your area at any given time.

Home appreciation is robust right now, but it tends to track the rate of inflation over time, says Michelle Meyer, head of U.S. Economics at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research. In fact, over the long term, the typical home only  appreciates 3% to 4% per year, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency.1 Stocks and bonds have traditionally returned considerably more, agrees Matthew Diczok, head of Fixed Income Strategy, Global Wealth and Investment Management, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management and U.S. Trust. But hereʼs the thing: Few of us invest 20% or 30% of our gross income in the stock market every month. 2 The typical  homeowner usually dedicates that much to his or her mortgage payment, and over the years those steady payments can really add up. Itʼs like enforced savings.

How Your Home Can Help You ‘Renovate’ Your Finances-CHART

Social Media Posting Clues for Business

 Using Social Media in Business

A poll conducted by found that:

  • 73% of Business Owners say that finding time to write quality material for social media is one of their top challenges.

There is good news for them though as Brad Semp, social media professor at Kennesaw State University of Georgia says:

  • Only 10-20% of your social media content should be your own promotional material.
  • 90% of your social media should be other people’s content.

Brad goes on to point out that you need to remember that when considering hiring a company to post for you, even the best of companies will have a difficult time replicating your voice and will not have the ability to engage with your audience as you do, answering questions and responding to content appropriately.

A Few Tips for Posting Social Media

  • Be sure to use at least one of your own keywords in each post.
  • People search for terms by hashtags. Make it easy for your audience to find your material by using them, i.e.: #Jazz or #Waffles.
  • When mentioning other people in Social Media, use the @ before their name, i.e.: @BradSemp. This tags their Social Profiles and connects your audience to them as well. And good news! When people see you are crediting their work, they are much more likely to return the favor!


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved

Using Amazon’s World Domination as a Small Business

In 2014 Amazon was the starting point for 44 percent of consumers searching for products and the trend is still growing.

growing-business woodstock ga

Amazon has invested heavily in advanced algorithmic recommendation capabilities which personalize everyone’s shopping experience.  The effect is a whopping 75 percent of consumers feel no other online retailer can personalize or offer convenient shopping experiences better than Amazon .

One of the biggest driving forces Amazon includes is its Prime subscription which offers unlimited two day shipping, video streaming, music streaming, unlimited photo storage and more for $99 a year. This breaks down to a measly $8.25 a month, making its services and platforms affordable to even the most cost conscious citizen.

Ever keen to sharpen its competitive edge, Amazon confidently continues to surge in this Digital Age. It is serious time for small business and proprietorships to begin to use and benefit by using the marketing giant to leverage their own niche in the market.

Ways to Use Amazon to Grow Your Small Business

  1. Sell Directly on Amazon
    • Either as an individual or as a “Pro Merchant” selling 40+ items a month.
    • Set up your own Amazon Web Store.
  2. Advertise on Amazon
    • Amazon offers “Product Ads” and “Display Ads” which are similar to Googles “Pay-Per-Click” program
  3. Use Amazon Payments
    • “Checkout By Amazon” is a payment option you can include for your customers either on your Amazon selling platform or on your own personal website.
  4. Amazon Fulfillment
    • “Fulfillment by Amazon” allows you to sell your products in mass from Amazon’s fulfillment center and comes complete with tracking and communication to you, whether you are using this service from Amazons site or your own personal website.
  5. Publish your own self authored literature and books on Amazon for a wider audience view.


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved


Learn From Everywhere and Everyone

Pivotal Performance of Woodstock Georgia. Article. Learn something from everyone.When I was young I remember asking my mom why she was constantly having me read and write.

Without hesitation she shot back, “Because reading allows you to learn anything anyone has ever written, and writing allows you to teach anything you learn.”

At the time I didn’t understand. I just knew I wasn’t winning this. The older I got the more I saw lessons all around me, what I learned in school, talking with my friends, ease dropping on conversations of my parents and their friends, books, articles,  music and TV.

That last one might come as a surprise to some, but I am a big believer in everyone knows something you don’t, (thank you mom and Maya Angelou), even if they are a fictional character. To that end there are two quotes that continue to inspire me, both from inspirational people although one of them is fictional:

“Success is not a goal, it’s a byproduct” – Coach Eric Taylor

“Happiness is not a goal, it’s a byproduct of a life well lived.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt


Written by: Philip Bellmoff, Director of Community Engagement, Pivotal Performance Processes, Woodstock, GA

Remote Employees, the Millennium Workforce Trend

FlexJobs estimates project that 50% of people will work remotely by 2020

workforce trends article. business advisers woodstock gaAs the world is changing, business trends for are anticipated to continue to cater and mold to the ideas of the new millennial led workforce, who according to Forbes, will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025, (only 8 years from now).

Remote work continues to soar as technologies, video conferencing for collaborating and cloud services make it easier and more efficient.

Since customer service, social media, programming and many other positions only require access to a computer and Internet, it’s a no brainer for talented and tech savvy millennials to be hired for these positions no matter where they live.

Adding to the rise of remote employees is startup companies evaluating the old brick and mortar building concept, which can lead to much higher startup costs, against virtual models that are accelerating in the global marketplace with success.

Interesting Stats about Remote Work

  1. 77% feel they are more productive than when they work in the office.
  2. 24% were willing to work longer hours than normal to accomplish more.
  3. 30% accomplished more in less time.
  4. 52% were less likely to take time off when working remotely.
  5. Offeringremote work options reduced employee turnover, and “job attrition rates fell by over 50 percent,” Stanford University
  6. Companies of all sizes report significant decreases in operating costs. Two examples from big companies: Aetna (where some 14,500 of 35,000 employees don’t have an “in-office” desk) shed 2.7 million square feet of office space, saving $78 million. American Express reported annual savings of $10 million to $15 million thanks to its remote work options.
  7. Remote workers are often more engaged with colleagues and supervisors than in-office workers, Harvard Business Review.


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved

Mobile Marketing Business Strategy for 2017

Well into 2017, this is a perfect time to review your small business current marketing strategies and renew your marketing efforts!

Whether you have all the time and money in the world or are stretched for time and on a shoe string budget, we have several marketing tactics you can implement to boost your marketing strategies!

Mobile Marketing

business marketing strategy woodstock gaStop and look around. At any given moment what do you see? Everyone has a smartphone or android in their hands, or at the very least, in their pockets. Most are not even talking on the phone…but texting.  Even the most dated phones can send and receive messages!

Forbes Magazine reports that JPMorgan Chase offered to eliminate voicemail for thousands of employees who don’t interact with clients directly.  65% took the offer which resulted in over $3 million in annual savings for the company. In a similar move, Coca Cola employees reported only 6% of their employees decided to keep their voicemail service.

Most workers under age 40 have long relied on email, texting, instant messaging and social media to communicate with others BOTH on the job AND in their personal lives.

This declining phone call exodus is led by millennials (usually defined as people born between 1981 and the early 2000’s), who according to The Wall Street Journal, feel phone calls are an interruption to production and prefer to only take scheduled calls. The new etiquette seems to state that calling someone to interrupt their day can make it seem as if you are prioritizing your own needs over theirs.

Usher in the new era of communication!

By including the option of text messaging with your customers you are incorporating the interface of the future and staying open to the new flow of trending customers.

Texting Statistics

Texting is the most widely and frequently used app on a smartphone.

Over 80% of American adults text, making it the most common cell phone activity.

90% of all text messages are read in less than 3 minutes of being received.

It takes the average person 90 minutes to respond to email, but only 90 seconds to respond to a text message. (CTIA)

79% of companies believe customers want SMS/text support. (ICMI)

80% of people are currently using texting for business. (eWeek)


Article researched and copy written by Laughing Fox Designs, which exists to provide web design and social media support to small businesses that need creative solutions.  ©2017 All Rights Reserved

Hurdles Aren’t Just For Track & Field

profit and loss balance sheetsA familiar trap for businesses to fall into occurs around profits. It’s a relatively simple metric – it even has its own financial statement devoted to it.

On top of that, many of the performance criteria for bonuses and pay raises are tied to it.

The trap comes when profits are not considered in relation to something on the balance sheet.

Companies will quite often have profit goals and look for increases in profit over prior years and possibly even look for increases in profits relative to sales.

Far too often increases in profits have been boosted by increases in capital deployed and although profits might go up, the efficiency at which additional capital is committed is decreasing and thereby reducing the competitiveness of the business.

When you really want to give yourself an operating hurdle (and you should) – always look for a metric combination that crosses between the P&L and the Balance Sheet.

How To Kill A Turnaround

death of a businessDo Not:

  1. Utilize the power of compounding – making steps, big and small, EVERYDAY
  2. Dissect the balance sheet to assign responsibility and targets (for accountability) for each section
  3. Review the shareholding structure and the manner in which shareholders should receive returns in exchange for the risk they have taken
  4. Make decisions based on the Decision Triangle (Tm)
  5. Utilize a weekly (possibly daily) cash flow forecast
  6. Set a daily target for sales, cash received, and expense reductions – and celebrate when all are achieved
  7. Develop a wish list and have some of the “extra” achieved (in the item above) utilized to pay for the items
  8. Spruce up the work environment
  9. Figure out how bad it can truly get
  10. Figure out how to finance the turnaround based on the truly bad version of results
  11. Figure out the why, how and what of the business
  12. Organize the business and accountability around where the business should be headed
  13. Figure out “where the puck is going” and what strengths and weaknesses the business, and it’s markets, have in meeting it
  14. Dissect the P&L to assign responsibility and targets (for accountability) for each section
  15. Remember – it’s about CASH FLOW – not profits
  16. Set minimum transaction amounts
  17. Constantly review pricing decisions
  18. Become aware of the risk, assets employed vs benefit to be received
  19. Have a functioning website
  20. Provide targets to sales reps and help them achieve those targets
  21. Pay your vendors on time or early
  22. Keep your financing (bank, factor, shareholders, suppliers, etc) aware of your situation
  23. Halt preferred dividends (see above though)
  24. Halt rent (see two steps above)
  25. Work out different payment terms with suppliers for a period of time (see three steps above)

The Second Most Important Four Letter Word In Business

Brett Ellington, Project Administrator of Pivotal Performance Processes of Woodstock, GALet’s continue our study of four letter words that have a significant impact on business. So what would the second most important four letter word be in business? Well, this particular word happens to be the most precious commodity that we have. It is precious because it is the only commodity that truly has a limited supply. And that commodity is our ‘time’. No matter how hard you work, no matter how well you plan, and no matter how efficient you are, there will still only be 24 hours in a day. And once those 24 hours are gone, you can never get them back. You can never put them to good use. So how should we use our time to make sure that we get the most benefit from it? Not just for our business, but for every area of our life.

First, we need to be intentional with the use of our time.

It needs to be our decision how we will use our time. (Granted there are things that we do not have control over.) Because if we do not decide, it will be decided for us. One of the greatest battles I face in life is to hold on to my time, because I am constantly being attacked from every side by people or situations that make demands on my time. And quite often, those demands do not line up with how I wanted to use my time that day. And so, before the attacks begin, we must decide what we want to do, and just as important, what we do not want to do, with the time we have each day. In fact, I just finished watching a video talking about one of the most important two letter words we need to use in life – NO! Many of us need to being saying ‘no’ a lot more than we are saying ‘yes’. And so, we need to make sure that we are carefully planning how we will use our time, and then we need to do whatever is necessary to protect our time.

Second, we need to be wise with the use of our time.

What is the best use of my time? What are the most important tasks that I need to accomplish? How will I get the most results from my time? What is wasting my time? Good questions! And the answer as to how to best use our time is not always obvious, nor does it always line up with how everybody else is using their time. One of my favorite quotes is by Abraham Lincoln. He states, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” I don’t know about you, but if I was given the assignment to chop down a tree, my first inclination would be to run, grab an axe, and start chopping. Let’s get this done and move on to something else! Maybe it would go faster if I did take some time to sharpen the axe first, but I am strong and I can still get it done. Well, I may indeed get the tree chopped down. But how much extra time did it take? And not only that, how much extra energy did I expend, and what other resources did I use more of than I should have, to get the job done? The answer to these questions may be ‘not much’. But what happens if I am given the assignment to chop down 100 trees? These losses will quickly add up. By making wise use of my time, I can not only accomplish the tasks that are necessary for today, but I can also help insure that I will have the resources to do the tasks assigned for tomorrow. I may, in fact, decide that chopping a tree down is not in my best interest and use that time to do something else – or let someone else chop down that tree. I need to make sure that I am not only thinking through how I should use my time, but I need to also carefully think through why that is the best use of my time.  And if I don’t get a good answer to the ‘why’, I need to make a change to the ‘what’.

And third, we need to be balanced with the use of our time.

How great would our business be if we spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week working on improving it? We probably would never know, because we would either wind up in the hospital or the grave. And even if it did prosper, how much opportunity would we have to enjoy the fruit of our labor? So while work is important, even hard work, so are ‘rest’ and ‘recreation’. But if you are like me, these activities don’t just make room for themselves. I have to be intentional in putting them in my schedule. And not just because our bodies need adequate rest and a chance to relax and be re-created. It is important to remember that the time we spend outside of work can actually increase our productivity and our creativity at work. If we are well rested, we can think more clearly and have more energy to accomplish the tasks at hand. And if our mind has had a break from work, or has spent some time doing other things or learning new information, we will be more creative when we are at work. We may even get a great idea from a totally unrelated activity that solves a problem that we have been trying to fix at work! So work hard; but also rest well and take the time to have some fun and expand your knowledge. That way, when you are at work, you will be able to bring the best that you have to offer.

Time. We get one shot at how we use each hour of each day. So let’s do what is necessary to insure that we get the greatest benefit from those precious hours – for the sake of your business, and for the sake of yourself!

Brett Ellington

Project Administrator

March 2016