Archive for January, 2012

Attitude And Selling

Business & entrepreneurship

Most people aren’t born to sell.  We’re not raised to sell either.  Growing up we’re taught modesty.  Moreover, most of us do not wish to sell.  We learned medicine, law, accounting, plumbing, teaching, etc.  Then we go out into the work force and realize that every job is selling.  If you’re a customer service representative you’re selling a brand image.  If you’re a teacher you’re selling your students on learning and the administration that you’re a good teacher.  If you’re a doctor you still need to find patients somehow.

In my recent business endeavor, I’ve found the generation of clients to be difficult.  Just getting the telephone to ring can be challenging.  Then there’s the matter of closing the deal.  I’ve learned that it’s important to have the proper attitude.  As the saying goes, if you don’t believe in your own product (or yourself), then nobody else will.

Different Styles

That’s not to say that everyone should try and become something their not.  I’m not a hard seller and I’m not that smooth.  My sales pitch is one of honesty.  But at the same time, I can’t undercut my business or my skills.  That kind of modesty can destroy opportunities.  At the same time, some people are turned off by salesmanship that seems too polished.

When You’ve Sealed the Deal, Shut Up

This is something that comes up in a lot of books on sales.  Once you’ve got the deal, shut up and get out of their before you mess it up.  It’s natural to want to shore up details, but perhaps that can wait until later.

Seek Help From Others

I recently had a business request a “sales proposal.”  As I didn’t go to business school I wasn’t even sure what he meant.  I told him I would get him a sales proposal within a few days and then called around to get some forms.  There’s no need to reinvent the wheel–particularly when you’re version of the wheel may not even be round.

Think Before You Speak

When a person is nervous, it’s only natural that they might say something they’ll regret.  Nerves increase word volume, verbosity, etc.  Nerves can get in the way of a sale.


From my reading, it seems that enthusiasm is almost always a good quality.  Whether you’re selling yourself at a job interview or trying to sell a prospect on your business, enthusiasm is a natural seller.  There’s a limit of course, but I always err on the side of being too enthusiastic provided it’s natural.

Take Something From It

If you don’t get the sale maybe you still keep the person as a contact and try and help them when you can.  Maybe it becomes an even bigger sale later on.  Maybe you offer to sell something smaller and work your way up from there.

Only Sell What You Can Deliver

Some people will say anything to seal a deal, but they are the ones who are going to find themselves miserable when they can’t perform.  As they say, you can only fool the public for so long.  It’s important to get the deal but also get the price you’re worth, the work load you can handle, and to set the parameters early on in the relationship.


The above are some of the common themes (and a few personal anecdotes) I’ve noticed while reading more than a few books on sales.  What would you add?




Traits of Success Based on Reading dozens of Presidential Biographies

Business & entrepreneurship

I’ve recently been attempting to read a biography of every United States President.  While like any country, we’ve had both good and bad leaders, it can’t be denied that each of these men have reached the pinnacle of their profession.  While being raised with “blue blood” and a lot of money helps (as does marrying well), there are still some lessons commoners such as myself can take from these CEO’s of politics.

Rising Early

Want to emulate the success of U.S. Presidents?  You can start by waking up while it’s still dark outside.

It seems like almost every biography I read about a President mentions how they: “Always rose early and often had more work done by lunch than most people would accomplish all day.”

Although Mark Twain once famously refuted this belief when he said:  ”Therefore, how is a man to grow healthier, and wealthier, and wiser by going to bed early and getting up early, when he fails to accomplish these things even when he does not go to bed at all?”  It appears that the majority of great achievers get an early start each morning.

Like Twain, this is not good news for me.  I am a natural night-owl, and remember even as a kid preferring to stay up late.

President Truman was known to be up by 5:30 a.m., each morning.  George Washington was also known to be an early bird.  This is not surprising due to each men’s background in farming.  Benjamin Franklin–although not a former president–was perhaps one of the biggest proponents of early rising, however, and he was a printer/writer.  You would think that if there is anyone who likely would prefer a late schedule it’s a writer/printer.

It appears that waking up early is a key to success in business/life.  I wish this wasn’t the case but it appears to be true.  It must allow you to focus more time during the morning/afternoon when work is being done and less time wasted at night when personal pursuits are more commonly pursued.  (such as watching television).

Dress the Part

Another, perhaps less surprising trait of great achievers is their placing a high importance on how they dress/appear.  As I am currently learning from the George Washington biography I am currently reading, Washington sometimes perhaps cared more about appearance than even the skill or ability of his men.  Besides being almost obsessed with his own appearance, he had a height requirement of “between 5-8 and 5-10? for his secret guard.  In other words, he sought guards who were very tall for the time–but not quite as tall as he.

President Truman, who prior to his presidency owned a haberdashery  boutique, was also often described as a “sharp dresser.”  One wonders if he would have achieved half of the political success that he did if he didn’t strive to “look the part.”

Take Risks

Most of the best presidents were daring.  Teddy Roosevelt moved by himself to North Dakota to try and start a ranch.  The ranch ended up being a failure but later pursuits proved more fruitful.  Most of the presidents have moved between private and public sector work.


Wake up early, take risks, and try to dress well—fair or not, those seem to be three reoccurring themes, and I suppose it makes sense: one has to wake up early enough to find time to “dress for success.”   Although these are pretty standard pieces of advice, I did find it interesting how they played such a large role in most of the president’s lives and personal success.

What are some other reoccurring traits of success?

Using Vlookup And Nested If In Excel For Golf Scoring

Excel spreadsheets (.xls)

I recently received a very interesting email from a retired member of the military asking some help with a golf scoring issue. Needless to say that on so many levels I was more than happy to help out. While this blog is about “Experiments in Finance, it’s fair to say that many finance lovers like to play golf as well. It’s not the easiest problem to explain but hopefully with his comment and a preview of his spreadsheet you will get the idea. Here we go:

“I need help with writing an “IF” formula in excell. Background: I run a local golf league with 40 to 70 golfers playing each week. Instead of using strokes and keeping up with the handicaps, I use a point system. Each week I have to manually calculate each man’s score, plus or minus, from his required points.

Example: For myself I currently am required to make 45 points. If I make within plus or minus 2 of the 45 points there is no change to my next weeks requirement. However, if I make minus 3 or more points, my score will drop 1 point(to 44). If on the other hand, I score 3 or 4 points above 45, my new point requirement increases by 1 point, if I score 5 or 6 points above, my requirement increases by 2 points, if I score 7 or more points, my requirement increases to 3 points. I currently use an excel spreadsheet, listing the players . I enter their that days point total and then manually do the math and enter their new point requirement. I can continue to do the math…but in this day and age I would like to work “smarter not harder””

Here is an example of his spreadsheet:

First off, the points that he discussed are not exactly the same as the ones in the spreadsheet but that is not a problem, we are looking for a flexible solution anyway.

I used the following method:

-There are 4 possible answers:
-a given range (in this case, between -1 and 5)
-lower than that range
-higher than that range

Basically, I will first use “if conditions” to check if any of the first 3 occur, and then refer to a range of results if it’s not the case.
The following formula looks more complicated than it really is:

=IF(C3=””,””,IF(C3=$V$4,B3+$W$4,IF(C3-B3>$V$5,B3+$W$5,IF(C3-B3<$V$6,B3+$W$6,B3+VLOOKUP(C3-B3,$V:$W,2,FALSE))))) basically, it checks if the previous score made is filled, if it the result is either "a", higher than the range, lower than the range and applies the adjustment depending on those. If none of those conditions are met, it simply checks the range. You can modify the range or values at any time by changing columns "U" and "V" You can also simply copy the blue cells to a new column "req". try copying from P3:P22 to R3:R22. Here is what the new spreadsheet looks like:

I also invite you to download the spreadsheet to see for yourself! As is always the case, please feel free to send me your own excel related issues, I’d love to help

Creating An Extra Column Is Often The Way To Go

Excel spreadsheets (.xls)

Obviously, as most of you can imagine, I do get a lot of different excel related questions and I do try to answer to as many of them as I can. Here is one that was posted in a comment at:

Please help. I have a very similar problem, but am not able to resolve it with COUNTIF, FREQUENCY, etc.

My problem is to count ALL such events when:
1) The value under Column-A is less than 0.5, the value under Column-B is less than 11.25;
2) Similarly, number of events when the value under Column-A is less than 1.5, and the value under Column-B is less than 11.25; and so on.

I have tried the following, but these are NOT working:



I rarely get this exact question but I do get several requests that can be resolved in the same way. Here is how I would resolve this. First, let’s take a look at a sample of data:

I understand that it would be very easy to have the entire condition verified through one simple formula. I don’t think it’s possible in this specific case. Perhaps it is but if there is no problem with adding a column (even if it means hiding it, putting it in another sheet, etc), then it will be much easier that way. Here is how it would look like:

Then, I will simply add “if” conditions to verify the arguments and count the number. I will add conditions one at a time so to start off:

=IF(A7<$C$5,1,0) Basically, if it fulfills the first argument I get “1”. If not, 0. Then, I simply want to make sure that if it fills criteria #1, it will also do the same for #2, so: =IF(A7<$C$5,IF(B7<$C$6,1,0),0) You see the new look here:

Then, I will simply sum the number of events here:

Easy enough right?

You can download the spreadsheet here

Using Dates In Excel Spreadsheets – It Can Be Tricky

Excel spreadsheets (.xls)

The other day, I got a question about using dates in excel spreadsheets. It’s very tricky to use both dates and numbers in Excel and certainly not as easy as it should be. Before getting started, I would love to invite you to ask us any questions that you might have. You can simply go to our contact page.

Back to our spreadsheet, many users email me every month with questions regarding dates in excel. The difficult part about writing posts is that almost every problem is a bit different compared to vlookup or sumif issues which are almost all similar. Today’s issue is a rather common one. First let’s take a look at the spreadsheet:

The objective is to fill out the last 2 columns. First off, we determine if the task is overdue. It’s quite simple to find out if it is, as we have today’s date. If the due date is further than today’s date, the number should be over 0. However, we cannot have “negative days”. Therefore, I will be using this function:


Then, the status should be either “Outstanding” or “Closed”. In this case, Outstanding means:

-There has not been a “response date”
-Overdue days are over 0

I will use the “Nested Excel And function” that I presented some time ago. Here is the formula that I will use:


I also added conditional formatting to make it look even more obvious when issues were “Outstanding”. This is what it looks like:

I also invite you to download the spreadsheet for additional information here:)