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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Values.  We live by them and flourish by them.  Whether we acknowledge them or not, all of our choices are driven by what we value and what we don't value.

Our values exist in a prioritized system.  When we give a higher priority to one value than another, that value holds more weight in our decision making processes and  hence the choices we perceive and make.  Consider for example the values of family and the honesty.  Which is a higher priority to you?

Whichever you thought of in response to this question, consider this predicament: someone of authority (e.g., police) comes to your door looking for someone in your family.  That person is hiding in your house.  How do you respond?  Do you give them up or lie?  Is this consistent with how you answered the first question, re: which is a higher priority to you -- family or honesty?

So it would be beneficial to be able to explicitly identify the values that you hold and explicitly state their priority.  There are many books to help you do this, the best of which is What Matters Most: The Power of Living Your Values.

Another factor that relates to our values is character.  Our values are driven by our character.  Consider, if one stronger character strength is humor, we value laughter, we value teasing, we value seeing other people smile.

I am not sure if our values influence our character or if our character influences our values.  But they seem intrinsically tied together.  So knowing your character is an important factor in identifying your values and making better choices.

A few weeks ago I discovered the VIA Character Survey (  I was impressed with what I read about the survey and was most interested in confirming what I thought were my top 5 character strengths.  Be warned: the survey promises to do this for free and it does but then offers you the opportunity to purchase an 18-page detailed report at the end (well worth it I might add -- I indeed purchased my individual report). I was not surprised at some of my characteristics and surprised at others.  The assessment does require rigorous honesty -- the only person you "fake out" is yourself by not answering the questions how you really are but by how you want to be and how you want others to see you.  And the assessment is long -- like a little less than 300 questions long.  But your progress is saved incrementally so you don't have to answer all the questions in one sitting.

How well do you live by your values?  Do you just float through and make your choices based on what is below the surface and not what you explicitly know?   Or do you know your values?  Here is a test for you to take:  write down what your top 5 values are in rank priority on a sheet a paper.  Now ask your best friend (or spouse or children or all) to do the same to do the same -- don't show them your paper.  Now exchange sheets.  Where do they match up?  What does this tell you?


Monday, May 9, 2011

OK, I know I do a fair amount of blogging about personal development, but as a business coach, I am not just concerned with the health of the individual but the health of small business.

I know it is a dry subject (for many) but this is an important subject -- especially for the small business owner.

There is a lot of concern about how the Durbin Amendment will hurt banks and speculation that consumers will pay the price when this legislation goes into effect.

If you haven't heard about the Durbin Amendment, you should take note because it will create a cap of 7 to 12 cents on most debit card swipe fees. This is a decline of about 80% of what businesses had to pay when people paid with a debit card. Projections from analysts vary but say that the Durbin Amendment will cost banks anywhere from $3.6 to $9.1 billion. Either way you cut it that is a lot of money. Speculation has it that banks and credit unions will make up for this lost revenue by raising fees for services or doing away will debit cards all together. (You can learn more about the Durbin Amendment here:

One would expect that businesses would save money through this proposition and that this will eventually trickle down to the person buying a loaf of bread with their debit card. In theory (based on an assumption that business owners will pass this on to consumers).

But there is another assumption that you don't see in all the hoopla about the Durbin Amendment: in order for all of this to work, credit card processors (the intermediaries between businesses and their banks) need to pass this savings on to the businesses themselves (essentially their customers). Unfortunately, many credit card processors pocket the savings and present business owners with statements that are so complex you need a Ph.D. in accounting to even begin to figure them out. Heartland Payment Systems seems to be the only credit card intermediary that cares enough about businesses to not only be straight up with them about how much they are making on their service but cares enough to pass on savings they get to their customers (business owners) which in turn benefits us all.

So if you own a business, make sure you take a look at your statements in the coming months and see if your payment processor is being honest with you.

(A good way to test this is to apply, what Heartland Payment Systems calls, the "Truth Serum" to your credit card processor; it's a page of questions to ask you payment provider to get them to tell you what they really are charging you; email Todd Vreeland, a colleague I have great confidence in; he can get you a copy).

What do you think of the Durbin Amendment? As a business owner is it easy to know what you pay for processing fees?