“It’s a Pyramid Scheme…”

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 8/2/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Direct Marketing, Multi-Level Marketing, Network Marketing, Opportunity, Small Business,

Source: Multi-level marketing has received a great deal of criticism throughout the years, being accused of scamming people out of their money while coaxing them with grand visions of financial independence and lavish lifestyles. Though the odds have not always been in favor of the average network marketer, we uncover the myths versus facts of network marketing business opportunities.

So why does multi-level marketing receive such negative press and opinion? Chances are, the majority of negative opinions were developed by individuals that tried to make a go at becoming successful in a multi-level marketing business venture, and failed to achieve the success that was originally advertised. The statistics are not pretty, however when you compare them to how many people start a traditional business and fail, or how many people try to become professional athletes and fall short of their desired success, the statistics are relative to other career aspirations that are not achieved.

According to a Report authored by Robert FitzPatrick in 2005, over ninety-nine percent of individuals that got involved with multi-level marketing business opportunities ended up losing all of their investment. Studies performed by third party consumer watchdog groups have proven that between 990 and 999 people out of 1000 that have signed up as network marketers have lost their entire financial investments; and for some, because they had dedicated so much time to their multi-level marketing businesses, were let go from their day jobs or lost out on other career opportunities. It will be interesting to see if these numbers change as the industry transforms.

It is difficult to decipher the true number of MLM profits, losses and sales revenue from retail customers versus the network marketer participant’s product purchases because most MLM companies historically have not disclosed the data that makes a clear distinction between sales revenue from their consumer-only audience versus sales revenue from their own network marketer participant audiences.  Because there has been little incentive to solely focus on consumer retail sales, and much of the focus in the industry’s business training has been directed to recruiting a “downline”, few network marketers have focused their sales efforts on establishing retail sales only.

The fact that most MLM parent companies’ total gross revenue is not in direct relationship to what each independent distributor earns creates a blur between the numbers, a truth often skewed when a MLM company is presenting an opportunity. If the math and the probability of success is not in favor of the network marketer, why do people still sign up to participate?

Some individuals join the networking side of the business because they enjoy the parent company’s products so much that they continue to purchase them, but desire to continue making their purchase commitments at a significant discount. In some cases, the consumer then becomes their own network marketer and tends to save enough on product discounts that their fee for joining is covered over time.

Some individuals are drawn to the social lifestyle and travel, the added value of education and training, and networking with other like-minded individuals; thus treating their distributorship more like education and/or a social club membership. In some cases, this training, networking and the connections made also benefit their other businesses or day jobs. Some individuals just enjoy the flexibility that the MLM opportunity provides, and want complete control over their own schedules. Sometimes these individuals might be involved with more than one MLM opportunity, where they may profit from cross pollination of their networks from one organization to the other (though most often frowned upon and against company policies).

Some individuals become network marketers because they believe that they (and their team) will defy the odds and strike it rich, hoping to find themselves at the top of the pyramid after the masses of other people quit. For some, the idea of “owning a business” or being “in the business” is attractive, and they will leverage that representation to recruit others into their organization.

In the legal sense, a network marketer does not own their own business (unless they have their own corporation or limited liability company that is in contract with the MLM parent); because the network marketer does not own any hard assets owned by the MLM parent organization. The Network marketer does not own the patents, intellectual property, physical property, inventory (in most cases), or other intangible business assets such as a website or domain name; nor can the distributor’s “business” be sold or acquired for a profit (in most cases).

Multi-level marketing companies have had their fair share of legal bouts. In the 1980’s, the Amway Company was met with much criticism and negative press. As of most recent, HerbaLife faced the wrath of the Federal Trade Commission. Yet network marketers that remain committed to multi-level marketing claim they have benefited from their involvement and have seen a return of investment after three to five years of dedicated efforts.

Skeptics, media, and government agencies focused on consumer protection argue that a multi-level marketing agency crosses over to a pyramid scheme when it pays more focus and monetary benefit for new network marketer recruitment than on product sales commissions, where the participant (the network marketer) can only make sales commissions on consumer retail sales if their downline is meeting mandated personal consumption inventory buys; and in order to earn either bonuses from recruitment or sales commissions, one is most often required to maintain an automatic shipment purchase of company products themselves that also may include a number of pre-requisite items such as tools, marketing materials, and training materials.

There are some multi-level marketing companies that do focus more on the products and services offered than on network marketing recruitment of new participants. Companies like Primerica and Pre-paid Legal focus on the sales of services, and encourage their network marketing representatives to be successful at selling these services before recruiting new people into their downline. These companies also have no required auto-ship.

Some companies have changed their business model to adapt business practices acceptable to watchdog groups and government agencies. Some have also eliminated the requirement for auto ship purchasing, and have increased compensation benefits to allow individuals who only desire to earn commissions on sales of products, to do so and see a return on investment within a reasonable time period.

The perspective of ‘being a product of the product” holds true in successful product promotion, and most people are drawn to specific MLM companies because they see the value and benefits of the products that the company offers. However, many folks who are introduced to these companies have limited financial resources and are already struggling to get by. Though they may like nothing more than to be able to personally enjoy the benefits of the company’s product lines every day, they may not initially have the means to purchase them monthly while doling out the expenses of building their business – such as tools, training and fuel. It is also important to keep in mind that it takes time and training to build the knowledge, skill sets and relationships necessary for success; and most often, little (if any) monetary earnings will be recognized for the first several months, especially for those who are new to the industry.

If you’re still intrigued and contemplating whether or not the MLM industry might be for you, your next step may be to research a few multi-level marketing companies, along with their products, culture, and compensation plans with a fine eye focused on detail and the fine print. Before joining a MLM organization, you have the right to research and ask for reports on the average payouts per year to new recruits, statistical and historical analysis on success/failure rates of network marketers within that organization, and for a review of consumer complaints related to the MLM parent company’s product offerings. Once you have found the MLM opportunity you are comfortable in working with, continue to move on with your new business opportunity with cautious optimism.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also the author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource, Water;” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.” 

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Tax Code Reform, So What Did We Get?

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter, and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 8/2/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business, Tax Policy

Source: With Tax Code Reform signed into law, there are a number of changes to be aware of. We review the biggest changes to the tax code that have been made since the last set of revisions that were made in 1986.

The largest reform to the current tax code since 1986 was enacted into law at the end of 2017. This reform has come with mixed reviews by skeptics, who sought more resolve to the existing tax code laws. Most of the adjustments to the tax code have been on the personal tax side of the books. Some of the most noticeable changes include:

  • The Child Tax Credit increasing from $1000 to $2000, so families can benefit from this adjustment, which leaves more of the wage earner’s money on the table at home.
  • A significant change to the Individual Tax Rate and Bracketing. Prior to the change, there were six specific brackets in which personal income tax was rated. The 2017 tax code reform has added additional brackets with adjustments to existing brackets. These changes were minimal, however for some wage earners, the changes can mean having a few extra dollars in their pockets for their families.
  • An increase in the standard deduction from $12,700 to $24k for married filing joint couples. The standard deduction has increased from $6350 to $12,000 for single filers. The head of household deduction has increased from $9350 to $18,000.
  • Good news for the small business owner. Small business owners that operate pass through income corporations (S Corps or LLC) were formally taxed at the individual tax brackets. These same pass through corporations now receive an added twenty percent deduction bonus. A benefit for C-Corporations has also been worked into the bill. C-Corporations will see a reduction from a thirty-five percent tax rate to twenty-one percent flat, giving corporations the largest adjustment to corporate tax in decades. In addition to a change in corporate tax rates, the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for corporations has been repealed.
  • Changes to personal exemption allowances. Formerly, the personal exemption allowance was up to $4050 per person, however since the new tax code is in place, this exemption has been eliminated. To compensate for this, an increase in the standard deduction has been implemented.
  • A cap in SALT (state and local tax) deductions. Some property owners may not fare well in the new tax code deal. State and local income tax was formerly deductible prior to tax code reform; however, in accordance with the new tax code, this deduction is now capped at $10,000 in total between both property and income taxes. Some say this hurts property owners who relied on the former allowance to offset the pain they felt when paying heavy burdens on their state and local property taxes.
  • Adjustments to the mortgage interest deduction. In 2017 it was allowable to deduct the interest up to $1 million dollars on your main residence. The new code drops this deduction to $750,000 for new loans that are generated in 2018 and forward.
  • Added benefit for individuals that have 401ks. Such investors have plenty to be happy about. As the new tax code specifies, the cap on employer-sponsored 401k programs has been increased by $500. This also allows for anyone over the age of 50 to contribute up to $24,500 into their 401k. On the other side of the coin, deductions for IRA’s will be phased out. However, some exemptions on this plan will still be allowed. Other adjustments and phase outs include Roth IRA exemptions and deductions.
  • An increase in Earned Income Tax Credit maximums. This tax code rule was increased to assist families with multiple children. Though the increase is not a landmark, the modest increase was made to help struggling families.
  • An unexpected surprise in the area of gifting. An individual can now provide a gift up to $15,000 to any one other person without the receiver having to deal with a tax liability.
  • An increase in the maximum Social Security taxable earnings amount, which affects employees, employers and the self-employed.

So which states benefited and which states were most affected by the new tax code reform? For low income families, the states that receive the least amount of benefit include Alabama, Pennsylvania, Montana, Wyoming, and Vermont.  States that received the most benefit for low income families include District of Columbia, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, and California.

As it relates to middle class family demographics, the states that received the most benefit include Alaska, Nevada, New Mexico, Delaware, and California. Middle class families on the other side of the spectrum in the states of Maine, Maryland, Connecticut, West Virginia, and Arizona lose out on this round of tax code reform.

For high income families, the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Wyoming, Arkansas, and Ohio gain the most from tax code reform. The wealthiest in the states of Mississippi, California, New Jersey, New York and Arizona stand to lose the most with the new tax code reform bill.

To find out how the tax code reform directly affects you, refer to your tax attorney or certified public accountant for additional information. This article was not intended to provide tax or financial advice, but to provide awareness by highlighting some of the most noticeable tax code changes.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

“It must be a Triangle Scheme…”

Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column, Published on 7/11/2018, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: American Free Enterprise, Business, Direct Marketing, Multi-Level Marketing, Network Marketing, Opportunity, Small Business, Sales

Source: One of the most common at-home business opportunities is the direct sales network marketing of products and services offered by a parent organization. Many of these network marketing companies utilize a multi-level marketing and compensation structure as their business model. Multi-level marketing has received a bad rap, where advocates and adversaries share their pros and cons about this popular and controversial business model. So what are some of the controversies of the industry?

In a recent discussion with an individual starting out their entrepreneurial career, they expressed the options of their future career pathway. Expressing their options, they said, “I am open to many types of business and career opportunities, as long as its not one of those triangle schemes.” Sounds familiar?

Chances are, you’ve experienced (at least once)… a friend, family member, or neighbor who approached you with “The opportunity of a life-time”… to get in on a business that has unlimited growth. What happens when the commentary sounds so convincing (or you just want to appease your friend), and you agree to view a video or attend a meeting where a presentation related to the product and opportunity are explained? The video, full of luxury lifestyle perks and energized individuals sharing their rags to riches stories, piques your interest and entices your human nature. Before you know it, you agree to get involved and become one of the network marketers for the parent company.

Then reality sets in. Months goes by of attending meeting after meeting with potential prospect after prospect; and you become discouraged and doubtful that the lavish lifestyle advertised could never be yours. You decide not to write one more check for an auto-ship product, marketing materials, or to attend any future events. After investing a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars, and your time, you decide to call it quits after the latest prospect says “no” to the product line up or to the business opportunity. Because “it” did not work out in the time frame of your personal expectation, you think it’s one of those “pyramid schemes.”

After a self-evaluation, you come to your own perceived conclusion that the multi-level marketing opportunity was nothing more than hype. It was the people at the top that were making all the money, and all of the flash and excitement was nothing more than showmanship to steal your hard-earned money, free labor, and network connections. But is this really true about most multi-level marketing business opportunities?

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, the legal definition of a pyramid scheme is a scam which is usually carried out on the general public, by making promises of high returns in a short period of time; a system that is based upon paying off the early investors first and the long term liabilities later on. Similar to a Ponzi scheme, one person recruits another person to “invest” into the scheme, then that new recruit duplicates with new recruits, and so on. Usually, each person pays a fee to join, and the only people to make money are the very first people to get involved. These schemes involve no product ownership, no defined compensation plan, and usually crumble under their own weight.

Many people, when hearing of multi-level marketing opportunities, think of the triangle or pyramid scheme, because there is usually an up-front cost or investment for the new recruit. What makes the multi-level marketing business opportunity unlike the pyramid scheme is that the new recruit’s initial membership fee is pledged toward an initial commitment to purchase the parent’s company’s products. At the end of paying the fee, the new recruit has product or service in their hand in exchange for money.

The perception that all multi-level marketing opportunities are pyramid schemes derives from the fact that many multi-level marketing companies focus most of their attention on having new network marketing recruits build out a “downline”, and when you review the downline behavioral organizational chart, they do, in fact, look like a pyramid. What many people don’t know, however, is that a recruit is often not required to build a downline. A recruit can choose to solely focus on product or service sales. Unlike Ponzi or pyramid schemes, whose recruits’ only hope in making anything is based on the recruitment of new investors, multi-level marketing provides earnings within the compensation plan via product sales commissions.

Another common belief is that only people at the top of the triangle in multi-level marketing make all of the money, leaving those at the bottom nothing for their financial investment, time, or labor. There are two sides to every multi-level marketing company. The executive-administrative side to the company is the parent organization that either developed, manufacturers, and/or distributes the product; and the sales development side to the company, or the multi-level marketing side of the business, promotes both the product lines and the business opportunity. The corporate side can be owned by one founder or by a group of founders; however this same principle would apply to any large or small business or corporation. And yes, for their hard work and investment, they would gain a return on all of the businesses positive gains.

The compensation plan written for the multi-level marketing side of the business is usually developed so that every person who enters the business has the same opportunity and the exact same compensation plan afforded to them as everyone else. In most cases, network marketers that have large downlines make more money than those with smaller downline organizations. This has not always been the result of the direct efforts or successes of an individual, but of the efforts and successes made by members in their downline organization.  In order to dispel this issue, many multi-level marketing firms have begun to cap how much benefit a network marketer can receive from their downline and/or cap how many levels deep compensation will be paid on. Within some multi-level marketing organizations, some of the very first network marketers to sign up in the company are now making less money, while others in their downline are earning more.

Many individuals also perceive that the parent company offering the product(s) and business opportunity abuses and uses people without compensating them for their efforts. However, many network marketing companies do have decent compensation plans in place. Network marketers are compensated for product sales, similar to other sales positions in traditional companies, minus receiving a “base salary” while building a customer base. Ultimately, a network marketer is confined to a compensation plan that only pays when sales are made and new distributors are recruited and assisted in reaching sales goals.

The outlook that multi-level marketing businesses do not work is a belief that is not in line with the financial results that have proven themselves over time. In 2015 alone, network marketing business opportunities grossed $36.12 billion dollars in retail sales just in the United States alone.

Multi-level marketing organizations have been viewed as cultish or a form of religion. The industry of multi-level marketing is far from a cult or religion; but, as many small businesses or large corporations do, most of these organizations do possess a strong sense of company culture, which is a reflection of their core beliefs, values, code of ethics, goals, mission, and vision.

If you are still skeptical of multi-level marketing business opportunities, then I encourage you to continue to perform additional research or to stay tuned for my follow-up article, “It’s a Pyramid Scheme.”

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

Who are the Voices for Small Business?

Written by: Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter And author of The Green Lane, a syndicated column Published on 6/2/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Small Business

Source: When the small business owner needs a voice, where do they go? We provide a host of some of the largest organizations that advocate for the small business community.

Small Businesses are the life blood of the US economy, and account for half of the total number of jobs and persons employed. Small businesses account for the majority of local economic engines. When Small Businesses need support or a voice to stand up for their concerns, there are a number of organizations they can rely on to advocate on their behalf. Here are a few organizations that have received positive rankings from small business owners:

Association of Washington Business: Since its formation in 1904, Washington’s oldest and largest business association continues to serve as the state’s chamber of commerce as well as the manufacturing and technology association. AWB advocates on behalf of businesses of all sizes and from all industries, working to unify and find solutions to issues facing Washington employers, their employees and communities. AWB is located at: 1414 Cherry St. SE, Olympia, WA 98501, toll free number: 800-521-9325, e-mail: members@awb.org. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.awb.org.

Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Founded in 1987, EO is a global business network that enables business owners to learn from each other by providing numerous resources to assist in educating and inspiring personal and professional growth. EO has international locations in Singapore, Belgium, Panama, and Canada, EO’s global headquarters is located at: 500 Montgomery Street, Suite 700, Alexandria, VA 22314, telephone: 1-703-519-6700. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.eonetwork.org.

Minority Business Development Agency: Minority Business Development Agency is an agency of the US Dept. of Commerce. Their focus is to assist in the development and growth of minority-owned businesses, utilizing private and public sector programs, policy, and research. Additional information can be found at: https://www.mbda.gov.

National Association for the Self-Employed: Since 1981, NASE – the National Association for the Self-Employed, has been the nation’s leading resource for entrepreneurs, utilizing publications, media relations and a foundation with which entrepreneurs and their small businesses can benefit from. It is the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan association of its kind in the US. NASE is located in Annapolis Junction, MD 20701-0241, telephone: (US) 1-800-649-6273 and (AK & HI) 1-800-232-6273. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.nase.org.

National Business Association: The National Business Association (NBA) has been working alongside small business owners for 35 years, providing resources and benefits needed for business owners to succeed. The NBA can be reached by telephone: 1-800-456-0440. Additional information can be found on their website: nationalbusiness.org.

National Federation of Independent Businesses: Founded in 1943, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), is the largest small business association in the US, working to defend the right of small business owners to own and operate their businesses without undue government interference. NFIB has offices in all 50 state capitals, including Washington, D.C., with its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee. They can be reached by calling: 1-800-NFIB-NOW, or 615-872-5800. Additional information can be found on their website: www.nfib.com.

National Minority Supplier Development Council: National Minority Supplier Development Council is a non-profit organization that advances business opportunities for certified minority business enterprises and connects them to corporate members, building long term strategic partnerships which encourage economic commerce between large corporate interests and locally developed small businesses owned by minority men and women. NMSDC also assists minority owned small businesses to obtain their certifications. NMSDC is located at 1359 Broadway, 10th Floor, Suite 1000, NY, NY 10018. You can also call NMSDC at (212)-944-2430 or through the NMSDC website: www.nmsdc.org

National Retail Federation: The National Retail Federation (NRF) is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing retailers from over 45 countries, including the US. Their mission is to use advocacy, communications and education with which to promote the best interests of the retail industry. The NRF is located at 1101 New York Ave. NW, Washington, DC, telephone: 1-800-673-4692, or 1-202-783-7971. Additional information can be found on their website: https://nrf.com.

National Small Business Association: Since 1990, the National Small Business Association, Inc. has provided small business owners, their employees, and retirees access to innovative services, resources, and benefits, such as collegiate scholarship awards to eligible NSBA members and their families. The NSBA is committed to small business advocacy and public awareness. Telephone: 1-888-800-3416, and email: contact@nsba.net. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.nsba.net.

Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association: Starting in 1973, the international Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association represents the interests of independent owner-operators and professional drivers on every issue affecting truckers in all 50 states and Canada. OOIDA seek to ensure that truckers are treated with equality and to ensure highway safety and responsibility among all highway users, as well as improve the business climate for all truck operators. Located at 1 NW OOIDA Drive, Grain Valley, MO 64029; telephone: 1-800-444-5791. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.ooida.com.

Small Business Administration: Founded on July 30, 1953, the US Small Business Administration focuses on four main venues with which it works: assistance to capital, entrepreneurial development, government contracting and advocacy for small business across the United States. The SBA provides millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and various other forms of resource and assistance to small businesses. The SBA has several key locations, with a toll-free number: 1-800-827-5722. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.sba.gov.

Small Business Association of America: Since 1964, The Small Business Association of America has provided insured benefits, discount benefit plans and services to its members, who included small business owners, those self-employed, individuals and families. Monthly dues are required. SBA is a non-profit organization located in Washington DC. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.sbaamerica.com.

Small Business International: Small Business International provides guidance and resources when a small business entertains the possibility of connecting with international partners, including matching products and services with over 80,000 other members. Business can find out more information about importing or exporting, trade laws and compliance, and more. Visit Small Business International at www.smallbusinessinternational.com

Small Business Owners & Professionals Association: Small Business Owners and Professionals Association of Canada is a non-profit organization founded with the mission to provide small business owners, their employees and retirees access to a wide variety of services, programs, information and benefits, such as sponsorship activities, networking opportunities, scholarships, and advocacy, all to aid in the success of their businesses. Additional information can be found on their website: http://sboapa.org.

United States Association for Small Business & Entrepreneurship:  The US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship is an organization that seeks to assist the entrepreneurship community through teaching, scholarship, and practice opportunities. The USASBE includes members who are teachers, researchers, program directors and practitioners. Located at: 1214 Hyland Hall, 800 W. Main St., Whitewater, WI 53190, telephone: 262-472-1449. Additional information can be found on their website: http://www.usasbe.org.

US Chamber of Commerce: Founded on April 22, 1912, The US Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business organization representing the interests of over 3 million businesses with 3 main areas of focus: advocacy, community, and leadership. Members include mom-and-pop shops, local chambers, large corporations and leading industry associations. The USCC is located at: 1615 H Street, NJ, Washington, DC 20062-2000, telephone: 1-800-638-6582. Additional information can be found on their website: https://www.uschamber.com.

Young Entrepreneurs Council: Young Entrepreneurs Council provides all the tools needed for its members to become successful business entrepreneurs. The YEC staff utilizes their extensive knowledge, networking opportunities, media exposure, and personal branding development to bring their members from novice to polished professional. YEC is located at: 745 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02110, email: info@yec.co. Additional information can be found at: https://yec.co.

Samuel K. Burlum is an Investigative Reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Samuel K. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur, who currently lends his expertise as a Consultant firm to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of “The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water,” and “Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses.”

 

The World’s Demand for Alternatives to Traditional Currency

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) Resized Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/5/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Small Business

Source: With technology ten steps ahead of the market, even more options for paying bills have become readily available for both the consumer and for the merchant. We explore the many options payment options a business may choose to accept.

Two factors have changed the way we conduct commerce and financial transactions in the world over the past fifty years. The leading factor is the faith that people now have in traditional currency. Many countries, their money supply is based on one factor: faith; the belief that the value of the piece of paper or coin is a true representative of the value of good and/or services they wish to purchase.

Prior to what is known as “fiat currency,” money supply that is backed by no hard good, commodity, or tangible asset, that is widely accepted as a mark of trade, such as precious metals like gold or silver; Most countries would back their value of their currency on tradable commodities which had a real market value.  In recent years, crude oil and petro chemical fuels were used to support currency, while these same currencies were used as the preferred measuring stick against oil. Such is not the case anymore, now that even tying the US Dollar to fossil fuels has become volatile.

With such conditions changing, more individuals are sharing their concern, vocalizing how they have less faith in a piece of paper, which is backed by nothing.

Another trend that is leading people to explore other currency options is the development of technology. Today there are more options on how to make a financial transaction for a good or service. Beyond credit and debit cards, e-wallet and electronic paying systems such as Pay Pal, Apple Pay, and Android Pay. Crypto-currencies are also on the rise. Bitcoin and One Coin have become the top ranked electronic currencies, and merchants are racing get their business into the fold into accepting these new forms of payment.

However one form of a financial transaction that is as old as men and trade itself, is also still on the rise. Barter is growing at a faster pace due to advancements in technology, organizational set ups, wide spread networking, and oversight from two leading barter-industry trade organizations.

With the improvements into accountability and infrastructure, barter has never been so much easier. Traditionally one business or individual would trade services or products with another party that may too have a product or service to offer in the actual exchange. This limited barter, because if one party did not need the other party’s offering, then the exchange could not take place. Today the use of a credit system has widened up the scope in the barter arena. Barter exchanges have made it easier to use barter for many business to business purchases.

Exchanges such as Badger Barter, located in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, Badger Barter offers a barter exchange that includes well over 600 business; range from auto repair to graphic design; from legal counsel and services to website creation. These types of exchanges have evolved over time to include many member benefits in which traditional barter did not offer.

As a small business, you should be exploring all payment options, in addition to traditional payments of debit, credit, cash, and check. Barter is a viable way to conduct business to business transactions and opens the door for new business relations to develop within barter exchange networks. Some retailers are now accepting Apple Pay, Android Pay, Pay Pal, Bitcoin, and Onecoin. However barter is considered one of the best options since most barter exchanges offer a credit system, allowing you to use the barter on a wider selection of products and/or services.

Barter is not only a form of payment; it is also a marketing tool. There are businesses that seek out other businesses that offer Barter payment options. You should notify your clients about all of the payment options you offer in multiple touch points. Including but not limited to a placard at the cash register/counter; logo of the barter exchange on your website, social media, and e-mail newsletters; logo on store front window, print advertising, business cards, invoices, and other forms signage a client may see at your establishment.

Bloomberg Business had researched and found that over $12 billion dollars in goods and services were traded without any currency changing hands in 2012. Research showed that not every transaction conducted was on business essentials however the barter was still utilized. Even when the most obscure product or service was offered, the bartered item eventually would find a relative home. Another part of the study revealed that Small Businesses mainly spent their barter in exchange for: marketing and advertising; legal and professional services; facilities maintenance; office supplies; and construction/renovation services; which are many of the same expenditures a small business might use proceeds from a working capital loan for.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

History of the Barter System

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) ResizedWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 3/2/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Barter, Business, Community, Currency, Economy, Finance, Free Enterprise, Healthy Living, Small Business

Source: As the world of commerce changes, and businesses look to keep up with the vast menu of developing electronic payment systems, one form of payment between small businesses has made a comeback; its called barter.

Barter has been around well before national or worldwide currencies. Prior to organized economic systems that instituted paper money as the representation of the value of one’s goods or services, under the control of banks and governments, there were only a few ways to purchase products. One of the most common practices of commerce exchange was to trade goods and services for ounces of gold, silver, copper, or precious gems. Not everyone had these commodities at their disposal, and so barter became very popular with the common man.

Barter is the exchange of a good or service directly for another good or service of that of equal or greater value, without using a formal method of organized exchange such as money. This simple process allowed for merchants, farmers, hunters, fur traders, transit providers, and traders along the ancient spice routes, to conduct business for items they needed yet could not afford with gold or silver. This exchange was extremely popular in trading for goods from Far East versus goods which were popular in the west, since the exchanges were immediate, and each party could then return to their respective homeland to sell their new rare commodities for more localized needs.

Barter has also assisted to keep economic trade afloat during times of financial crisis. When either money was valued as to low (deflated) or to high (inflated) individuals would trade product for product, depending on their own agreements between them. When currency was unstable, barter always became the preferred method exchange since goods and services were always available when money was not. In times of hyperinflation the commoner could not afford to keep a money supply in “savings” so barter became the best way to get the things you needed.

The earliest of barter was the “silent barter” which occurred between individuals from separate nations which did not speak each other’s native language. The silent barter where simple volumes of goods and services were used as the measuring stick for working out the value of the exchange. Eventually, language barriers were broken down via the consolidation and unification of lands, making barter even more effective and precise during the times of the “old world.”

Today, barter platforms and systems have become very sophisticated and offer much more variety then the days of the old world. During the era of the old world, one would have to search specifically for another individual whom had what you needed, and in turn, they would have to have a need for what good you had to offer. This made barter very limited since if you did not have some good or service that was high in demand, you were often left without an ability to purchase other goods and services.

Today’s barter platforms and systems have organized groups and genres of businesses, products, and services, assuring that one would have a high probability of barter exchange. Barter has one of the most comprehensive working models, a prime example of how trading services or products in an organized system can still be very highly effective in a world dominated by so many other choices of exchange, especially when it is an exchange between two businesses.

Barter is gaining in popularity since it is immediate upon the exchange. With faith in other national or electronic currency begins to dwindle, barter becomes a great alternative to exercise purchasing power.  With the help of modern exchanges for barter, your barter offering has the potential to reach a wider range of audience, a far cry from the old days of trading on the old spice roads in the old world.

According to the International Reciprocal Trade Association, more than over 450,000 businesses transacted near $10 billion dollars globally in 2008 based on barter. This continues to grow, as it was estimated that in 2010, over 450,000 businesses in the United States alone participated in barter trade, with an estimated 400 barter platforms and companies operating around the world.

If you’re a small business in search for a strategic business advantage, barter can provide options to share your businesses products or services without additional risk to your working capital.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

Comprehensive Tax Code Reform That Will Work

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Written by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and author, Published on 2/22/18, a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Banking, Business, Community, Economy, Finance, Government, Healthy Living, Small Business, Tax

Source: As the House, Senate, and Executive Branch of Government look to bring closure and pass a tax code reform into law; key areas of the tax code reform must be considered. With a system of piece meal laws layered over three decades, where does the government begin to streamline the tax code; simplify it; and remove burdens for most of its citizenship? We review some of the alternative answers to help shape up tax code reform.

Whenever government takes up the challenge of tax code reform; it becomes one of the most heated and contentious debates between the political parties; and between law makers and policy enforcement.

On one side of the aisle, Democrats say tax reform aimed at elevate burdens on corporations and business owners push the tax paying burden to the working class to have to pay more; leaving out those that have to pay more than their fair share; the wealthy.

Republicans are quick to respond with proposed policy that if you burden corporations and small business owners with the majority of the tax liability, they will be sure to cut jobs, which means a decrease in payroll and income tax contributions by both businesses and workers alike.

However, during the long drawn fight to parcel together a tax code reform bill; both sides miss many important targets that can have a drastic effect on how tax code reform can shape for the better.

One area of focus is when addressing CAFÉ and GHG standards; tax incentives and credits for fuel efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. Every consumer of a new vehicle pays a gas guzzler tax as part of the overall window sticker price of the vehicle. This fee is paid by the engine-vehicle manufactures themselves then is passed along to every new vehicle purchaser. In the past there was a designation for multiple tax credit set asides, allowing for a consumer or a business to make specific deductions for their purchase of a specific vehicle, or technology.

What has been proposed is a change in the way this tax credit is even awarded. Instead of being vehicle or technology specific; awarding only a few of the specially selected vehicles or technologies; is to make the tax credit performance based. Having this tax credit performance based means that instead of just a few special items allowed to fall under this exemption, more technologies and market solutions could be considered by the auto industry if the tax credit was given based on performance of the technology or vehicle achieved above and beyond current CAFÉ or GHG environmental standards. It has been proposed that one could structure a performance based credit could be awarded if a technology or vehicle product provided over 10%, 20%, or even 30% improvement in engine fuel efficiency, and in lowering harmful vehicle emissions beyond the current benchmarks. This would allow for more technological advancements to compete in the market place, give the auto industry to search out more grass roots ideas and concepts; and be a better deal for consumers.

Another area of tax code reform important for consideration is the Made in the USA tax credit. Until they have reached their economies of scale in their production, small to medium manufacturing businesses cannot compete against similar goods made for far less overseas which are imported and sold by big box retailers. This proposed tax credit would allow for more small to medium businesses to deduct start-up cost and ramp up cost; allowing these smaller domestic manufacturers to price their goods competitively against cheaper goods imported from outside the country and sold at large chain retailers. As a sidebar, reevaluating tariffs on foreign made goods and increasing tariffs on items that are made in the USA of better quality would allow for these small businesses and manufacturers the ability to have some domestic market advantage.

The Affordable Health Care Act; also known as Obama Care, has been a train wreck for many. Small businesses owners have seen their premiums and deductibles skyrocket; while seeing a decrease in the coverage they were once afforded. This expense, which was also passed along to small businesses as a way to make small business provide health care to their employees has done just the opposite. Many small business owners no longer can afford to offer health care benefits; which has resulted in some businesses losing some of their most qualified and productive employees to larger competitors who can afford the mandate.

This policy has also affected workers. Employees have found themselves paying more to health care insurance premiums, while receiving less benefit of coverage. The official poverty line, is anyone making less than $1005 per month ($12,060 per year). As the goal post moves for how much money it takes to support a family (including rent, utilities, food, transportation, education, and other necessities); families are forced to choose between food on the table or health care. In some cases, wage earners could not afford health care insurance prior to the Affordable Health Care Act. Now those same wage earners still cannot afford health care, and are penalized or taxed for not having health care insurance.

There are really only two alternatives in solving this issue…the first is to eliminate the AHCA all together and start over with a new slate that provides wage earners to either participate in a public system or to opt out for their own private policy and get health care on their own. In the event the wage earner wants neither, they could contribute to their own private health care savings account, setting aside a portion of their money each pay period for a rainy day. This savings account can travel with the wage earner just the same a 401k plan would when the wage earner switches jobs or careers. The other alternative is to create a single pay system, also known as universal health care, which many socialist and some free nations have employed.

Traditionally, there have been five income brackets for determining how much tax each wage earner must pay based on their income; which is a sliding scale ranging from 25% of your income (usually lower working class) to over 50% of your income (higher middle and wealthy class) must pay on their income. Granted there are a number of deductions and tax credits which have been adopted over time to help tax payers on all levels pay less; however to eliminate the debate of who is to pay their “fair share,” there is one singular solution that would solve this argument; the creation of one flat percentage income tax percentage rate. If everyone paid the same percentage on their income; each tax payer is equal in the eyes of the tax code, regardless of their social economic scale. This would also eliminate the need for special deductions by each constituency in order to posture their position.

A flat sales tax can also be implemented which could be shared between the states and the federal government. This tax and what is taxed could be standardized across state boarder. Usually those that have more income spend more, and as they spend more, they pay more to sales taxes on their purchases.

A reform suggestion to unemployment that would spur off the creation of jobs comes from across the Atlantic Ocean. In Italy, they have a program for wage earners who lost their job. If they and nine other people want to form a business, they can collectively withdraw their unemployment in a lump sum, and use that money to create a new entrepreneurial venture. Since each wage earner would own a piece of the business, the new business is driven by the performance of the group collectively; focusing their efforts on success instead of just doing enough to get by. Though in Italy, over half of these ventures fail; the other half that succeed, generate enough job opportunities to keep people from having to re-enroll for unemployment benefits.

The same program can be created here in the United States. A set aside can be created within the unemployment tax contribution; where employees are given the option to either collect unemployment over time; or take a lump sum and start a business with a group of other unemployed individuals that may have complimentary skill sets for a future business idea.

Ultimately, tax code reform means that the government needs to get its own house in order so it does not rely on more of its citizenship’s earnings to pay for government’s functions, but less of its own people’s money. Once government can control and lessen its spending to under its means ( in this case revenue from taxes) then real tax code can be considered, as tax code previsions can be eliminated, and allowing for the people to keep more of its own hard earned money.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

 

Who are the Eco-Warriors?

Sam-Burlum-logo3 (2) ResizedWritten by, Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative, Reporter And author Published on 1/30/18 a SamBurlum.com Exclusive

Tags: Business, Community, Economy, Farming, Finance, Government, Healthy Living, Small Business

Source: As there is more public awareness and public education about environmental concerns related to fresh drinking water supplies, air pollution, and what occurs on land, local advocacy continues to grow to protect our communities from these threats. So, who is fighting for the planet? We take a look at some of the non-profit groups that fight on the side of a cleaner environment.

We know they are out there.  Occasionally, one of their spokespersons are quoted for an article related to a battle with contributors to water, air, or soil pollution. They are photographed and filmed during their rallies and events, as the opposition to big energy, big oil, big industrial machine, and bad political policy. Their fight is beyond the newspaper headings and court rooms. They fight for the environment, for clean water, clean air, and land conservation. So, who are they? They are the Eco-Warriors, a category of organizations that from around the world stand up for environmental justice and the people whom which pollution affects.

The Sierra Club is one of the first environmental working groups ever established to tackle threats to our land, air, and water. Based in Oakland, California, the Sierra Club has extensions in every state. The Sierra Club was originally founded by the legendary conservationist John Muir in 1892. They are one of the largest of the Eco-Warrior Organizations, having a membership reaching over three million people. They lay claim to some of the most important environmental legislation including their assistance in the passing of The Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act. The Sierra Club is currently led by Executive Director Michael Brune, and his Executive Team.

Friends of the Earth are led by Erich Pica, President, who has been working on behalf of the environment for decades. Friends of the Earth utilizes a mix of strategies in their mission to fight on behalf of the environment, including advocacy campaigning, instigating lawsuits, rallies and events, and organizing members on the ground. Friends of the Earth have been around for almost fifty years. With offices in both Washington, D.C. and Berkeley, California, Friends of the Earth campaigns on local, state, and federal levels, on issues related to fossil fuel use reduction, standing up for the Rain Forest, advocating for organic and chemical free farming, and advocating for protection from corporate and industrial polluters.

When the political policy does not match the needs of the environment, the first in Washington, D.C. to take notice is the Natural Resources Defense Council, or the NRDC for short. The NRDC is on the front line of the environmental policy making debate. Combining the power of skilled and trained law professionals and its one million plus membership, the National Resources Defense Council leverages their knowledge, capital, relationships, and membership to speak up and act on behalf of the environment, clean water, clean air, and proper use of the ground under our feet. Since 1970, the NRDC has addressed concerns in the areas of climate change/global warming, clean air, energy and transportation, food and agriculture, health and environment, environmental justice, urban solutions, and sustainability, while also having an eye to the worldwide stage in international environmental battlefronts. Rhea Shu is currently the NRDC President.

Earth Justice headquartered in San Francisco, California, is led by Trip Van Noppen, the organization’s President. Earth Justice puts the tool of the law in the hands of its membership and advocacy groups; in challenging private, commercial, and government entities accountable to the law when they infringe on the rights of mother earth. They believe in standing up for the wild (animals and plants); healthy communities and the people within those communities; clean energy (including renewable energy sources) and a healthy climate. Earth Justice began their journey in 1965 when a group of attorneys, passionate about the environment, began to challenge the courts in the rights of the people for a clean and healthy environment. In many cases, Earth Justice will partner with other environmental working groups to address issues of coal ash, fracking, pesticides, salmon, and wolves. With over 400 cases on deck, Earth Justice is currently leading the way to bring justice to the planet

Water.org is the non-profit organization founded by Matt Damon and Gary White, who’s main purpose is to provide access to clean drinking water, sanitation and education for impoverished communities, villages, and in developing countries. Water.org partners with local organizers on the ground to establish new freshwater wells and provides education to communities on how to better manage their new-found resources. Based in Kansas City, Water.org has contributed to the improvement of lives of people around the globe including in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean Islands. Water.org has been able to provide over 9 million people with access to safe and clean water and sanitation, while helping communities institute practices that lessen their environmental impact. Water.org prides itself on the fact most of its work and impact is conducted and seen in the field where people need the most help.

The World Green Energy Symposium, directed by Professor Robert Gallagher, takes a different approach to solving environmental issues. The WGES gathers together many of brilliant minds together in one hall, including innovators, policy makers, financiers, community activists, educators, inventors, elected officials, green enthusiasts, and eco-warriors, to discuss the issues at stake and share solutions in mitigating problems related to mother earth. From energy generation and usage, to green tech innovation; from regulation and policy, to new ideas and rule-making, the World Green Energy Symposium has offered this cross-market dialog, resulting in real-time solutions being put to work in the field. Each year, the WGES honors one entity that stands out among the rest for their work, innovation, and achievements on behalf of the environment. The NOVA Award has been deemed the Oscar of the Green Community, and has been awarded to schools of thought, companies, and government agencies that have championed their ideas from concept to finished product in making a difference.

Clean Water Action, with chapters in over fourteen states, is one of the leading advocacy working groups in pitching for clean drinking water, and aims to protect natural water sources, land, and air. Since 1972, Clean Water Action has championed for the environment, cleaner communities, and regulation that puts mother earth back at the helm. In recent history, Clean Water Action has focused their efforts on fighting the practice of fracking for oil and gas, to keep toxic chemicals and pollutants out of waterways, lakes, streams, and rivers, and to build a future of clean energy and water usage. Clean Water Action has been aggressive and very vocal in the State of New Jersey, which is highest on the EPA’s list for having the most superfund or brownfield sites. Led by Robert Wendelgass, Clean Water Action has their main office in Washington, D.C.

Green America, based in Washington, D.C., is led by Alisa Gravitz, which has been on the side of the environment for decades. Green America’s mission is to harness economic power, the strength of the consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Green America focuses on climate change, food production, finance and green investments, labor, social justice, and green living. Green America has gotten some attention in the last six months, as Green America has brought to light the infringement of the Back Forty Mine, which is beginning to threaten the sacred Menominee River, a vital source of clean fresh drinking water to over 35 million people, as it feeds into the Great Lakes.

There are many more Eco-Warriors out there, which look to protect nature’s wildlife and national treasures, working on behalf of the planet. Remember, we only get one planet, so we must help mother earth win the fight.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

8 Ways to Improve Your Health and Wellness

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Published by Natural Awakenings Magazine-Central NJ, Natural Awakenings Magazine-North Central NJ, Written by Samuel K. Burlum, Investigative Reporter and Author, http://www.SamBurlum.com

There is no doubt that we are living in a fast-paced society. We can receive communications in seconds, order a meal in minutes, and travel cross-country in a matter of hours. However, we pay a price for this lifestyle full of modern conveniences: our health. In order to fulfill all of the day’s demands, we ignore our bodies and minds when they need our attention the most.

One common excuse for ignoring our health and wellness needs is a lack of money. Healthcare can be expensive and it may be that certain options seem out of reach. Another reason is lack of time, which many will relate to given that everyone seems busier than ever before. However, with commitment and a little creativity, there are some small steps that each person can take to reinvest in their own health.

Leave the car at home. If your destination is not too far away, elect to take a walk or ride a bike, and combine exercise with the handling of the day’s tasks. If you will normally walk a couple of blocks, stretch it to a mile.

Eat healthier on the go. Sometimes our schedule does not allow us the time to cook a healthy meal. Try instead to pack a bag of healthy snacks such as fruit or salad for those times that you will be traveling a lot. If you must stop for fast food, consider ordering a salad and water instead of a burger and soda. An increasing number of restaurants also offer organic food selections.

Drink more water. The human body consists of between 60 to 70 percent water, which needs to be replaced throughout the day. When we consume water, our body disposes of water that carries with it the toxic influences that we have ingested or absorbed. In addition to making the choice to drink more water, also pay attention to its quality, for not all options are the same.

Switch to non-toxic chemicals in the home. Many of us enjoy a clean environment free from dirt and grime, resulting in any number of chemical cleaners filling cabinets and closets. When we use these products to clean, the chemicals are also released into the air, so select non-toxic cleaners for maintaining your home. Reducing the number of chemicals used will result in fewer being inhaled.

Take time out from screens. People are exposed to digital screens all day, including phones, mobile devices, tablets, computers and televisions. They bombard our lives with news, information and advertisements. Take a break from screens in order to give the mind a few minutes of clarity. Choose instead to enjoy an activity outside, or pick up a book and read a chapter.

Commit to crushing bad habits. They say too much of anything can become a bad thing. Smoking is one the leading causes of lung disease and cancer, so look for alternatives to picking up a cigarette or tobacco product. Alcohol has also been connected to many health issues, so make an intention to reduce your consumption of it. Commit to having one less drink at the bar, reducing the alcohol you purchase for your home, or attending happier hour less frequently or for less time. To really pack a punch, replace a bad habit with a more productive or healthier one.

Slow down the clock. Many of us schedule every minute of every day with an activity, imposing additional burdens and stress on our minds and bodies. Instead of filling the day with activities, prioritize the day’s goals and focus on doing the best job you can for each task you perform. Slowing down will not only increase the quality of the outcomes achieved, it will decrease stress levels as well.

Take a rest. It is commonly believed that we need around eight hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period. Life gets in the way, and many of us do not get the sleep we need to allow our body to rejuvenate and heal itself. After lunch or mid-afternoon, take time out for a 20 to 30 minute nap, allowing your mind and body a break to refresh itself.

Many of these suggestions only require a bit of extra attention and time. These low- and no-cost practices may help encourage you towards better health and wellness practices for your body and mind. The first step is making a choice to commit to your own health, for no one can make that choice for you.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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