March 24, 2007

Secrets to Billionaire Success

I'm sick to death of seeing things
From tight-lipped, condescending,
mama's little chauvinists
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth now
--- John Lennon (Just Gimme Some Truth)
(Live from the Real Estate & Wealth Expo)
So many sales pitches. My brain is getting numb. And it's only the afternoon of the first day. I need a refresher. So I head to a session with a billionaire: Bill Bartmann. The topic? Secrets to Billionaire Success. Great, I think. No sales pitch this time :)

Lots of presenters have the same basic story: humble beginnings, modest successes, big failures, successful again now, desire to educate others. Bartmann was no exception.

One secret is using other people's money. He explained how to write a loan proposal. The lender has a pool of money that will be lent. There are others who want that money too. Your proposal must be better than theirs. There are 12 steps, most of which I didn't know. So there were good points.

The slides were difficult to see because of the room layout (using bottom of screen, not top). The PowerPoint used a standard template. There was a typo in "profesional", which even the PowerPoint spell checker would catch.

The content was good but far from the printed agenda, which promised

  • hidden keys to a successful business
  • negotiation tactics and strengths
  • leadership and vision

Bartmann is speaking at 100 high schools. He's back in May to talk to 50,000 students at the Rogers Centre about self-esteem and drugs. That's wonderful. Here's hoping he stays on topic.

The last 5 minutes were the biggest disappointment. There was a pitch for a two day seminar. The cost? An astounding $13,000! That's good in the sense that he normally charges $100,000 per day for consulting.

The price dropped to $6,500 then $3,250 and finally $1,995.

So there was a sales pitch after all :(

By the way, there's a reality show coming this fall: Billionaire Quest. I don't understand this fascination of having a show on TV, but I'm not a billionaire.
On to another session ...

March 19, 2007


If something looks too good to be true ...

Toronto is being deluged advertising for a Real Estate & Wealth Expo this weekend from The Leaning Annex. There are
  • billboards showing Donald i-never-smile Trump
  • a junk mail insert
  • newspaper ads
and today, a direct mail glossy. There are probably radio and tv ads too.

The Life-Changing Opportunity

"Our Real Estate & Wealth Expo will change your money-making life forever"--- William Zanker, President & Founder of The Learning Annex
How can you resist such an opportunity?

Live keynote speakers include
  • Donald Trump, billionaire
  • Tony Robbins, success coach
  • George Foreman, former heavyweight champion
  • Richard Branson, chairman & founder of Virgin Group
  • David Bach, author of Start Late, Finish Rich
  • Harry Stinson. local real estate developer
When do they speak? That's a surprise because they don't announce the times in advance for "scheduling issues and security issues". That makes planning a challenge.
There are 72 other wealth experts, bonuses and probably surprises. There are "True Success Stories" from happy, attractive people. It really does look like "One Weekend Can Make You a Millionaire!"
Here's proof: Trump is getting paid $1.5 million to appear, which he's donating to charity. I'm guessing that's for all 8 cities, not just Toronto. Regardless, this event is big business.
Plus there's a money back guarantee, no questions asked. There's nothing to lose.

The Fine Print
Being an actuary, I read the small print using a magnifying glass I keep for this purpose. Here it is, verbatim:
  • Individual performance depends on individual skills, time availability, and dedication of each student in the training program
  • Testimonials may not represent typical results
  • Unique experiences and past performances do not guarantee future results
Since there's nothing to lose (except two full days), I'll go on your behalf if tickets are still available.
If something looks too good to be true ... it must be true!

March 18, 2007


Here's an insightful poem from motivator Zig Ziglar. If you know the poet (assuming it's not Zig), please post a comment so credit can be given. For more Zig, visit Spark Insight.

The Bride of White Hair

The bride white of hair,
stooped over her chair,
her legs uncertain beneath her.
Across the church aisle,
with a big toothless smile,
the groom in his wheelchair came riding.
Who is this couple to be wed?
You'll find if you closely explore it,
that this is that rare,
most conservative pair,
who waited till they could afford it.

March 14, 2007

Waiting: Physical Products vs Financial Products

All desires have been denied to put me in this state of mind
Another year older and what have I done
My aspirations have shriveled in the sun
I'm crippled by guilt, blinded by science
I've been waiting for tomorrow all of my life.
--- The The (1983)
Around us, products keep improving but prices don't increase much, if at all. So waiting to make a purchase is a great idea. For proof, look at irons, lawn mowers, cars, computers and high definition TVs. By waiting, you get
  • a better product for roughly the same price
  • a lower price for the same product
Toyota is known for kaizen, which means continuous improvement. Their Cambridge, Ontario facility received 10,000 employee suggestions last year and implemented an astounding 9,500. You benefit from this "Relentless or Passionate Pursuit of Perfection".
For more details, see my review Comparing Factory Tours for GM, Ford and Toyota
Paralyzed by Waiting
It's easy to wait and wait for better and better. There's a trade off between having something good now and waiting forever.

Computers are a good example. New models are launched continually and the computer we have still works. More or less. Then less and less. Finally, we realize we've waited too long and buy. My solution is to get a new high quality computer every two years, cascade the older machine to eager family members and donate the oldest computer. That's a win all around.

A fixed schedule doesn't work for every purchase (or every budget). Do you buy a new house on a fixed schedule? Do you lease your cars or keep them forever? A compelling argument would be needed for us to replace our fridge.

Life and Health Insurance
While life and health insurance products usually improve, you'll probably end up paying more
  • you're older
  • your health may be worse
Both of these factors increase the prices. Your credit rating probably improves with time. Your insurability rating does not. You may not qualify for insurance in the future, even if you have the money. That can be a tough blow.

If your goal is to save for retirement, waiting works against you because your investments have fewer years to grow.

With insurance, now is better than later. Safe is better than sorry.

March 10, 2007

The Ease of Doing Business

A ship in the harbour is safe, but that's not what ships are made for.
--- Unknown

You want to deal with someone who makes business easy.

It's 5:45pm on a bright but chilly winter day. I'm with my 12 year old son outside a building near Yonge & Eglington, a major Toronto intersection. We're here for a medical appointment. We follow a man reeking of cigarettes into the building and a woman follows us. The elevator button doesn't work. The man explains that you need an access card after 5:30pm, which he has. He uses his card to press the 5th floor button. I press the button for 4, but nothing happens. He won't help us. We three must look like a serious security threat. At least he was brave to let us into the elevator.

He's just following the rules, you see. We'll need to exit the building and someone will have to come down and let us in. The lady also wants to go to the 4th. He exits on the 5th floor and we return to Ground, the only floor that's accessible without a button.

We all exit the building into the frozen street and I buzz our doctor. His nurse comes down. A few minutes later, we're inside. While we wait, two women stand just inside the doors. They won't let us in. It's safer to leave us outside to freeze. Maybe chilly temperatures subdue a potential assailant/thief. Or enrage them.

Closing the Barn Door
What's going on? The building has introduced new security measures. Before, after hour visitors could be buzzed in, as in apartment buildings. No more. Now we need a physical chaperone. There were break ins between Christmas and New Year's Day two years ago. This year, the building was locked down during that period. That meant all businesses had to shut down too.

The result is inconvenience for tenants and visitors. What if another break in takes place? Maybe security will be heightened. Or moderated.

The Safest Solution
The biggest result from the extra security is fear. Fear of breaking rules in the elevator. Fear of opening the building door to strangers during daylight hours.

Ultimate safety comes from barring patients altogether ;)