Never Stop Learning How To Build Your Team

As some of you may know this year I have committed to reading at least 20 books.

I am focused on finding those golden nuggets of information that will assist me drive x10 Profitability, Team Performance and Client Engagement. I know you are all busy growing your own businesses but think you would benefit from me providing a quick review and any golden nuggets I find.

“We don’t know what we don’t know! Never stop learning”Success Architect

The first book I would like to share with you is Topgrading by Bradford D Smart

Brad outlines a fantastic systemised approach to hiring new team members. We all know how important our team is to the success of our business. Since implementing these hiring processes and procedures I have hired two fantastic new team members that are 100% “A Players.”

These “A Players” joining Your Corner are high producers that have positively impacted the teams they joined, produce higher quality work then the people they replaced and are an absolute pleasure to work with. How many new team members would you like joining your business that have these attributes?

I am now hiring not only for technical knowledge but putting 80% of my focus on personality and attitude – its been a game changer for me and I hope you will garnish some benefit.

teamwork makes the dreamwork

How is Apple’s Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry, been improving the TEAM?

With over 60% of Apple’s employees working in these stores, she has chosen to focus on the “people side vs the product side.”

This Fortune article details why Tim Cook chose her; how she has spent her first year; and some of the routines (you might initiate) she’s added to the stores.

There are some excellent insights into hiring top execs and the mistakes to avoid in the article tat align with my the aforementioned book.

Notes Fortune:

One of the first things Ahrendts did was institute a now-weekly video communication in which she lays out the game plan. It may seem small, but every Apple store employee I spoke with cited it as a welcome change. The video is a combination pep rally and strategy session, with three key thoughts expressed in a few minutes.

In addition:

…to better understand retail staffers’ perspectives, Ahrendts launched Share Your Ideas, an internal app in which they can propose improvements or lodge complaints. (Apple had a process before, but it was mostly ad hoc and not widely used.) Ahrendts says she reads every comment, and within 48 hours someone from her team responds.

Ahrendts also brought the physical stores and online retail together under one team so there was a common customer experience. This article is worth the 3 minutes to pick up more tips on how a new executive makes an impact to an already successful store and brand.

Have a great day.

Yours In Success,

Matthew Brown

PS – What to read more but time constraints?  A great ‘HACK’ I discovered to increase reading speed by nearly 300% was too listen to the audio book whilst reading the eBook simultaneously. I use a combination of Kindle with Whispersync (BEST) on an iPad or Kindle and Audible, more difficult to synchronize.

When you are listening to the audio increase the speed to x1.5 or x2. You will be able to get through an entire book in 2-4 hours.

ECB to pump a trillion euros in 18 months into economy

Blog: ECB to pump a trillion euros in 18 months into economy  

Overnight, The European Central Bank (ECB) took the historic decision to launch a massive government bond-buying program that will inject hundreds of billions of euros into the economy over the next 18 months.

The program will incorporate the asset-backed securities purchase programme (ABSPP) and the covered bond purchase programme (CBPP3) that were launched late last year and combined the monthly purchases will amount to €60 billion ($A85 billion).

The bond buying program is expected to run until at least September 2016 and the Governing Council of the ECB, led by president Mario Draghi, believes the program will assist with its aim of achieving inflation rates close to 2% over the medium term.

Politically the ramifications are massive with Reuters[i] reporting that one euro zone central banking source said five policymakers opposed the expanded asset-purchase plan including the central bank chiefs of Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Estonia, along with Executive Board member Sabine Lautenschlaeger, a German. Guntram Wolff, head of the Bruegel think tank, told Reuters that the plan’s size was impressive. “But the ECB has given the signal … that its monetary policy is not a single one. That’s a bad signal to markets and a bad signal to everybody in the euro zone.”

To my way of thinking, it seemed pretty certain that the ECB had some big plans in mind, but €60 billion a month is an enormous injection. To put this announcement in context, in the US, its quantitative easing program exceeded $A8 trillion over a five year period.

It’s a case of what was good for the American goose, will hopefully be good for the European gander. QA seems to have helped the Americans back from the depths of the GFC. However with so many stakeholders involved, and the Germans notable dissenters, the ECB will have a job on its hands over the next 18 months to make this latest rescue plan work.

Matt Brown, CEO and Founder, Your Corner

[i] http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/22/us-ecb-policy-idUSKBN0KU2ST20150122

First Home Owner Grant

Government grants and concessions for first home buyers

There are a number of government grants and concessions offered to Australian home buyers, and they’re well worth checking out. For first home buyers, the main financial assistance available is the First Home Owner Grant (FHOG). Introduced in July 2000 to help offset the effect of the GST on home ownership, it’s a national scheme funded by the states and territories and administered under their own legislation.

For reasons of space we won’t go into all the variations to the FHOG, and the other grants and concessions that home buyers can receive throughout the nation – they do vary from state to state and territory, but to illustrate generally what is available, let’s look at what applies in NSW. (To find out the specifics of the grants and concessions available no matter where you live in Australia, talk to your broker, or visit the government website www.firsthome.gov.au)

First Home Owner Grant (New Homes) scheme

In NSW, eligible first home owners who are buying a new home or building a home can receive a $15,000 grant under the First Home Owner Grant (New Homes) scheme. (This grant will reduce to $10,000 on 1 January 2016).

For the purposes of his grant, the definition of a ‘new’ home includes one that has never been lived in nor sold before, however it can be a home that has been ‘substantially renovated’.

As for other eligibility provisions for the $15,000 grant, they include:

  • The value of the property must not exceed the First Home Owner Grant Cap of $750,000 for contracts dated on or after 1 July 2014.
  • You or your spouse (including de facto spouse) have never owned any Australian residential property. However, you may still be eligible if you or your spouse have owned residential property in Australia after 1 July 2000 but have not lived in that property for a continuous period of six months or more.

First Home – New Home scheme

In NSW, this scheme provides eligible purchasers with exemptions from transfer duty on new homes valued up to $550,000 and concessions for new homes valued between $550,000 and $650,000.

Eligible purchasers buying a vacant block of residential land to build their home on will pay no duty on vacant land valued up to $350,000 and will receive concessions for vacant land valued between $350,000 and $450,000.

Eligibility provisions include:

  • You and your partner have not previously owned any Australian residential property
  • At least one purchaser must occupy the home within 12 months and needs to live in the home for a continuous period of at least six months.

As noted above, not all the details of these schemes, including their eligibility provisions, are listed here so if you think you are in line for a first home grant or concession you need to investigate further – and given the significant benefits you could receive, it’s an exercise well worth undertaking.

Loans on offer

Loans on offer

Basic variable rate home loans – These are basic loans that may offer a lower interest rate than standard loans, however they can lack some of the features of standard loans. For example, they may not offer a ‘mortgage offset facility’, a feature which can enable you to lower your overall home loan interest costs if you also have a separate savings account. That said, basic home loans represent good value for money due to their generally lower interest rates. Interest rates are variable, which means they can fluctuate up or down according to market movements.

Standard (or ‘full featured’) variable rate loans – These are popular amongst borrowers and are the preferred home loan for many. They offer a range of features, such as the ability to make additional repayments which helps reduce your overall interest costs, and also to redraw those additional repayments if you need that money later. Interest rates are variable and move according to the market.

Standard fixed rate loan – These are home loans where the interest rate is fixed (it doesn’t change), for periods ranging from one to five years. They suit home buyers who want certainty in knowing what their mortgage repayments will be during the period in which their home loan is fixed. They also enable home buyers to lock in a low interest rate they like, especially if they think interest rates are likely to rise in the future. These days, you can generally make extra repayments into fixed rate loans at no cost, but check the conditions of the loan with your broker.

Split rate loans – These are loans with two parts: one at a variable interest rate and the other at a fixed interest rate. For example, 55% of the loan may be at a variable rate, the other 45% at a fixed rate. The ratio of fixed to variable within the loan is largely up to the borrower. These split loans suit borrowers who don’t want a variable or fixed rate loan only.

Line of credit loans – With these loans you have a credit limit you can draw up to against, secured by a mortgage over your property. You can draw money up to the credit limit whenever you need it, and there are generally no set minimum repayment amounts. These loans provide great flexibility, however interest rates (variable) are generally higher than standard loans. They also require discipline in how much you draw down, and how much, and when, you repay.

‘Low doc’ (low documentation) loans – These loans require less formal documentation from borrowers about their income to provide to lenders, however they are usually the highest interest rate home loans on offer. These loans are particularly suited to self-employed people who have difficulty providing documentary evidence of their income.

Home loan features

Home loan features

 Variable rate

If you take out a variable interest rate loan the interest rate can move up or down at any time, as determined by the lender. Normally, variable interest rates move in concert with changes to the official interest (cash) rate set by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Fixed rate

Fixed rate loans are just what they sound like – the interest rate is fixed (it doesn’t change) for a specified term, usually from one to five years. Fixed rate loans provide certainty to home buyers who want to know exactly what their repayments will be for a set period. They also appeal to borrowers who want protection from potentially rising interest rates. When a fixed rate loan expires it usually reverts to a variable rate loan.

Split rate

Split home loans have one part at a variable rate, the other part at a fixed rate. Within limits, the borrower can specify what proportion of each they want, for example, 60% variable and 40% fixed.

Principal and interest (P&I)

These are the most common types of home loans, where part of your regular repayment goes towards paying interest, and another part goes towards paying down the ‘principle’ (the amount you borrowed). In a P&I loan’s early years most of your regular repayments go towards paying the interest owed. P&I loans suit home buyers who intend to live in their property for the longer term.

Interest-only

Here, your regular repayments only go towards paying interest on the loan, with no payments going towards reducing the principle owed. This makes interest-only loan regular repayments less than P&I repayments, which can suit investors who want to minimise their expenses or who, in the not too distant future, intend to sell the property.

 

Advertised vs comparison rates

When you take out a home loan there are likely to be fees attached, which can include any combination of establishment fee, monthly fees, annual package fee, valuation fee and so on. The advertised interest rate does not take these fees into account. However, the comparison rate does, so you get a truer idea of what the loan really costs. Do note though, the comparison rate of a loan varies depending on its size and term, so treat the published comparison rate only as a guide.

Extra repayments

Loans with this feature allow you to make extra repayments whenever you like. Making extra repayments makes lots of sense – they will enable you to pay your loan off faster and reduce interest costs.

 

Redraw

If you need ready interest-free cash, a redraw facility enables you to draw back from your home loan any extra repayments you have put into it. Note that some loans charge a fee to redraw.

 

Offset facility

This enables you to save on home loan interest costs. With an offset facility, if you have a savings account (let’s say with $20,000 in it), and you have a $350,000 home loan, the value of the savings account is offset against (deducted from) your home loan balance – and you pay interest on that reduced home loan amount. So, in this example, with an offset facility you would pay home loan interest on $330, 000, not $350,000 ($350,000 – $20,000 = $330,000). The long term interest savings through an offset facility can be very substantial.

The benefits of getting a conditional pre-approved home loan

The benefits of getting a conditional pre-approved home loan

When we go to buy something, we normally work to a budget or an upper limit – and we have that amount in mind before we set out. The principle’s the same when we go searching for a home to buy – we have an upper price limit, and beyond that there’s no point in seriously looking.

But how can we be sure what our price limit realistically is? There are many factors to consider including what we earn, what savings and investments we have and what are debts are. The key question is, how much can we borrow and afford to repay? This is where getting a conditional pre-approved loan is so useful.

Getting conditional loan approval (also known as ‘approval in principle’) means that a financial institution agrees to lend you a certain amount of money, so long as your purchase, in this case a home, meets the conditions of the loan. This means you can look for a home with certainty, knowing that a bank or credit union will lend you up to say, $300,000 or $500,000 or whatever the pre-agreed limit is. It also means that when you find a place you like that ticks the right boxes, you can put an offer in on it without delay, before someone else does.

In addition, having this facility at hand is particularly useful at auctions, where you can bid confidentially up to a certain amount, knowing that financing is available. Conversely, bidding at auction without a pre-approved loan can be very problematic, as it’s harder to know at what price you should stop bidding – you may stop too early, or worse still, you may find yourself the buyer of a home you subsequently can’t get adequate financing for.

The documentation you need to produce to receive a conditional pre-approved home loan is much the same as what you’ll need to present for an unconditional (full) loan approval, the big difference being you present it to your broker or lender before you go home hunting, not after you have found a home to buy. The documentation you will need to get your conditional loan approval normally includes:

  • Evidence of your income
  • Tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Credit card statements
  • Superannuation statements
  • List of main assets
  • Current debts including personal loans

This list is general and not exhaustive – Your Broker can advise you on exactly what documentation you’ll need. The fact is though, arranging a conditional pre-approved home loan is not difficult and it make so much sense. It’s so much better looking for a home when you know exactly how much you’ve got to spend, and that the money’s available when you need it.

Get a conditional home loan pre-approval through Your Broker

Get a conditional home loan pre-approval through Your Broker

Going home hunting? Thinking of buying at auction? Not sure how much you will be able to borrow when you find a property you like – and what you can afford to repay? These are issues that can be made much easier by getting a conditional pre-approved home loan. They allow you to buy and bid on property up to a certain price in confidence, knowing that, so long as you meet the conditions of the approval, the money’s there when you need it.

Why not make an appointment with Your Broker today to apply for a conditional pre-approved loan? Most likely, you’ll be very pleased you did.

Contact Your Broker Now!

RBA Report

The RBA has left the official cash rate on hold at 2 percent for the fourth consecutive month; this decision was in line with market pricing and economists predictions.

Despite weary flat growth and a sharp fall in Australia’s terms of trade, the RBA is still reluctant to cut rate further. The weaker Aussie Dollar is preferred and accompanied by the low-cost investment credit available to investors fueling property investment.

Sydney and Melbourne house prices are at all time highs with some of the highest auction clearance rates seen in the last decade. The RBA is concerned that lowering the cash rate would further ignite these markets driving prices higher while affordability to owner occupied and the first home buyer would suffer.

Not a great start to September trading with the ASX S&P 200 dropped 2.12% today closing at 5,096.40, adding further pain to August nearly 9% decline.

A happy employee is a productive employee

The Importance of Fostering a Positive Work Environment

“Your number one customers are your people. Look after employees first and then customers last.”

* Ian Hutchinson, author of People Glue

We spend an average of 7.5 hours per day, 5 days a week at work. Hence, it’s only natural that we’d want a healthy and happy environment to work in. In fact, a 2012 study by Robert Half International Inc. supports that sentiment.

So how much impact can a positive work environment have on employee productivity, and in effect, on the growth of a company? In this article, we’ll explore how corporate atmosphere can foster or stunt employee engagement at work.

A happy employee is a productive employee

When employees feel safe, happy and valued in their workplace, they are more likely to engage at work, and this fosters healthy competition among colleagues. This positivity spreads out to the business’s bottom line! Happy employees are more productive and less likely to be tardy, take frequent leaves, and make mistakes that can be costly to the business.

Remember that your employees should be your biggest brand advocates. And if they’re happy to work with you, they’ll be more inspired to create innovations and ideas that will propel your business to success.

It only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch

Just as positivity can spill out to the whole organization, negativity, too, can cause an outbreak of pessimism among an entire corporation. It only takes the dissatisfaction of a small group of employees to create an environment of stress and distrust among the entire workforce.

Companies and organizations need to realize that employees are the lifeblood of the business. If they are not happy, they are less productive and more prone to slack off and produce mediocre results.

A negative work environment, too, can take its toll on your employees’ health and well-being. Stress-related illnesses account for the biggest bulk of employee absenteeism. Not only that, these illnesses could lead to other debilitating conditions, such as heart problems, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

The grass is always greener on the other side

According to the infographic published on a post by bitrebels.com, one in three workers has accepted or left a job due to the condition of their workplace. About 80% of employees, too, agree that the office environment has an impact on their perception of their employers.

These figures say a lot about the importance of championing workplace health to quell turnover rates.

A good work environment also fosters growth of future leaders

When Bill Gates once said that “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”, he was talking about how important it is for organizations to inspire their people to become leaders themselves. Fortunately, you don’t have to be Bill Gates to do all that.

By promoting a positive environment that not only minds your employees’ physical, emotional and mental well-being but also their career growth, you will not only earn your employees’ loyalty, but also making future leaders who will usher your company’s success.

It is also important that you share your company’s vision to your employees so they can do even more than they have done in the past.

What does a “happy” work environment look like?

A work environment doesn’t necessarily have to look like Googleplex to be considered a happy and positive one (although that may be a good idea to consider in the future). But there are telltale signs that indicate that you’re already doing a good job in fostering a positive working environment:

A calming and comfortable physical environment

Where your employees work will have a big impact on their productivity and work temperament. If your office is dark, untidy, and brings out the claustrophobic in everyone, it may be high time to redesign your office layout. Consider opening the windows to let natural light in. It not only gives everyone their daily dose of vitamin D’s, it also puts everyone in a great working mood.

Also, consider investing on workstations that give everyone enough leg room and make it comfortable for them to sit for long hours.

Incentives

Incentive schemes let your employees know that their hard work and dedication is greatly appreciated. If you don’t have one in place, it’s high time you do. It not only promotes healthy competition among colleagues, but also gives them a better reason to strive harder (not that they don’t already).

Opportunities for growth

A good working environment is also one that provides opportunities for your employees to grow and stay relevant in a world where technology and business is constantly changing. Hence, it is important that you have programs in place that will help them stay up to date with the latest trends in your industry, and train them to become future leaders in your organization as well.

Clear and fair office policies

Is your work policies designed to instill discipline among your employees, or are they created to oppress them? Review the company rules and regulations you or your HR department have drafted. Make sure

that they not only protect the best interests of the company, but also promote their welfare and rights as well.

that they not only protect the best interests of the company, but also promote their welfare and rights as well.

A culture of positivity can also build positive connections

Your company’s corporate culture is just as vital as your office environment. When your workplace nurtures a harmonious relationship between all coworkers, regardless of seniority, it promotes healthy work dynamics that are beneficial for the growth of your company.

Open and honest communication

How your employees interact with each other says a lot about your company’s environment and culture. If your workplace is so silent, you could hear a pin dropping, it could be a sign that your workplace is an unhappy one. A positive work environment should be one which fosters open (but respectful) communication among employees across different levels, where everyone’s opinions and ideas are welcomed. You’ll know open and honest communication when you see one: there’s a sense of warm and welcoming familiarity between employees that go beyond the office realm.

Gossip, too, is a sign there is a communication breakdown somewhere between the higher management and the down line.

China’s Share Market Crash

The Saga Continues: China’s Share Market Crash

China’s stock market is not getting any better. According to Bloomberg, as of August 31, China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.2% to 3,162.33 while the China 50 ETF declined at 2.9%.

Last August 26, its Shanghai Composite Index closed down 1.2% to 2,927. The stock market crash last August 24 was even referred to as “Black Monday” with Chinese equities down to 8.5% according to The Economist.

For five straight days of losses, the market experienced a 22% loss and the Chinese stocks have already lost 43% of their value since June.

According to Forbes, the loss brings to an end the worst month for stocks in China since August of 2009, when China was still reeling from a global financial panic and recession that caused massive losses in financial markets around the world.

It was stated in an earlier article that Shanghai Composite (SSEC) suffered a crash of 30%, a 1481.99-point loss, in the past months, and losing almost $29 trillion in value.

A few days into the month of August and the Chinese share market has seen no signs of change in its current state. The government is taking all necessary actions to alleviate this economic dilemma.

The effect on China and the U.S.

The said market drop was reported to have minimal effect on China’s citizens but is seen to have a major effect on the other countries, more specifically in the United States of America. This is because financial analysts project that the fall of China’s stock market might cause a wary effect on its investors. This then leads them to invest in a more stable market, ergo the United States – leading to the increase in the country’s bank reserves and a stronger dollar.

But how does having a stronger currency have a negative effect to the United States?

For one thing, a stronger dollar means bad news in the export market. This is because it raises the prices on goods that U.S. exporters sell abroad.

According to Time, even before this predicted rise in the dollar, the United States companies have been having some trouble at generating profit growth because of the already strong currency. As it rises in general in the past year or so, S&P 500 profit growth has slowed from a pace of around 10% last year to less than 1% this year.

If China’s stock market continues to drop, more and more investors, including the Chinese themselves, will shift to the U.S. for refuge.

And if that’s the case, it will be that much harder for the companies in the United States to boost their profits. This will ultimately be troublesome for the U.S. stocks.

When will this end?

The huge drop that caught many investors off guard, however, prompted regulators to once again vow their support for the market, one that is caught in a difficult situation.

Reuters reported that China’s securities regulator said it was ready to procure shares to calm the market and prevent systematic risks. It also said that proper authorities would deal with anyone engaged in the “malicious shorting of stocks”

Last July, the central bank used reverse-repurchase agreements to pump 50 billion yuan into the banking system. This is reported to be the largest amount of funds through open market operations since July 7. According to Reuters, it has been said that it would use various monetary tools to maintain appropriate levels of liquidity.

So far, the government’s attempt at increasing investor confidence has had only a short-lived effect.

Since the end of June, the Chinese government has stepped in with a number of ideas on how to rescue the falling stock marketing. These ideas range from monetary policy easing to a freeze on initial public offerings (IPOs).

Mark Eibel, the director of client investment strategies for Russell Investment, told CNBC, “To me it’s just another painful lesson that what goes straight up is not sustainable – [there are] lots of margin accounts [with] individuals holding them – that’s not a recipe that ends well”.

So, where do investors, like Mark Eibel, go from here?

For those who can handle volatility and is looking for a longer investment horizon, strategists recommend gaining exposure to H-shares, or Hong Kong-listed mainland stocks.

Chris Konstantinos, director of international portfolio management at Riverfront Investment Group, said “If you don’t mind trying to catch a falling knife, the H-share market valuations are starting to get down in the range where there’s long-term valuation support. That market is trading as sub-10 times [price-to-earnings]”.

“For the really risk-tolerant, watching the H-share market may be interesting,” he said.

Investors who plan to join in the bandwagon should keep in mind that trading in the Shanghai market tends to influence the performances of the Hong Kong-listed stocks.

“A lot of Chinese investors do hold Hong Kong stocks,” Andrew Sullivan, managing director for sales trading at Haitong International Securities, told CNBC. “Once the stocks hit 10 percent down in China, you can’t sell them. So if you can’t sell in Shanghai then you have to look in other markets where you can sell. That’s why Hong Kong got some of the flak.”