The Paper Game: Keep vs. Toss

What is the shape of your filing system? Are your filing drawers stuffed so full that it’s nearly impossible to get another piece of paper into —or out of — them? Once a year, you should take time to review your files and purge as much as possible, leaving room for next year’s papers.


As you sort through papers, ask yourself: “When will I really need this again?” “Can it be easily recreated or retrieved elsewhere?” Don’t hang onto things unless you have a really good reason! Be ruthless. Remember: 80% of the things you file will never get referred to again.


?For rarely-used files that must be kept, archive them in an out-of-the-way area, such as a closet, basement, or off-site storage facility.


?Instruction manuals for products you no longer own, old research materials, paid utility bills, out-of-date magazines and articles, and receipts for items past their return date can be discarded.


It is imperative that you stock your safety deposit box or home safe with the following papers:

  • adoption and citizenship papers
  • passports
  • birth, death, and marriage certificates
  • deeds
  • divorce decrees
  • insurance policy papers
  • lease agreements and loan documents
  • mortgage papers
  • personal property appraisals (jewelry, collectibles)
  • Social Security cards
  • stock and bond certificates
  • vehicle titles
  • copies of wills
  • powers of attorney papers

And don’t forget to LOCK your home safe. It is NOT fireproof if the lock is not engaged.


Your accountant, attorney, or professional organizer can tell you which documents you should keep for legal purposes. There is some controversy among financial experts about what records to keep and for how long. The below retentions periods should be interpreted as general guidelines. You should consult your financial advisor for questions regarding your information.

  • Accident Reports/claims (settled cases) 7 Years
  • Bank Statements 3 Years, especially important to keep if you don’t receive cancelled checks
  • Cancelled Checks 3 Years
  • Car Records: title, receipts, servicing / mileage records Until car is sold or lease expires
  • Insurance Policies For the life of the policy
  • Legal Documents: Birth certificates, marriage certificates, will, etc. Forever. Storage should be a fire proof box or safety deposit box
  • Medical Bills 3-4 Years in case of insurance disputes: 6 years if tax related
  • Mortgages, Deeds, Leases 6 years beyond life of agreement. Storage should be a fire proof box or safety deposit box.
  • Patents, Trademarks, Registrations, Copyrights Forever
  • Pay Stubs Until reconciled with W-2
  • Property Records: Builder’s contracts, blueprints, home improvement receipts Until property is sold, 6 more years if tax related
  • Retirement and Pension Records Forever
  • Sales Receipts As long as store policy decrees if you think you may return the purchase; if purchase is under warranty, keep receipt for the life of the warranty: 6 years if tax-related
  • Stocks and Bond Records 6 years beyond selling them; Storage should be a fire proof box or safety deposit box
  • Tax Returns and any tax related items 6 years
  • Utility Bills 6 years if tax related, 1 year if you anticipate selling your home
  • Warranties and instruction booklets As long as you own the product. Staple receipt to warranty.
  • Other Bills Until payment is verified on next bill. 6 years if tax related.

(Credit for this compilation goes to NAPO Chicago)

Winter Is the Perfect Time To Clean Your Carpet Filter!

By Fred Gruber, On the Spot Carpet Care

Did you know that your carpet is the biggest filter, in your home or office. It can trap all type of pollutants like cooking grease, nicotine, pet dander and other allergens. Here are a some reasons why you need to clean your carpets, especially in the Winter months.


  1. Allergies: We tend to spend more times indoors, during the cold Winter month. A good deep cleaning will remove those pollutants, helping to bring you and you family, or co-workers, allergy relief.
  2. Germs: Spending more times indoors means that we are more likely to spread germs from cold viruses. Cleaning your carpets and upholstery will help to create a healthier indoor air environment.
  3. More traffic: Carpets and upholstery get more use during the Winter months. Regular cleaning will help you protect your investment.


The Sales Process: The Seven Steps You Need To Know

By Bob Sears.

Selling is all about determining how best you can serve your client. In order to serve them, you have to establish the highest and best need for your service with the client. To do that, you must go through a seven-step sales process.

First, you must establish rapport. We all know that people only buy from those they like and trust. This is understood by most salespeople. However, the greatest salespeople never break rapport once it is established, and if they do, they go right back to square one and start all over again. You must understand that this is not the only reason people buy from you, but it is about 40 percent of why they do buy. You need to realize that if rapport is broken for any reason you are not going to get a deal done, and you will not be able to continue to step two unless and until you have established rapport.

You must find the need. Do you really have something that will serve this client? Is it really best for you to move forward, or should the client be served by someone else? If you are truly going to serve the client’s needs, wants, and desires, you need to be true to them and yourself, and if you cannot help them, you need to help them in any way you can to find the best solution. That includes not doing business with you if your product or service does not help them or fix their problem. That would be contrary to what most people think, but what would you do for someone who actually just helped you in a way that was pure and not just about a sale. Do you think they would keep you in mind next time, and do you think they might send you referrals? You always need to think about their need up front, and you must listen intently on how to help them get it.

Once need has been established, you must now build value. Here is a key point. It is up to you to build value in your product or service, and you cannot assume the client will make the connection after you found their need. This should also show them directly how this will benefit them based on what was discovered after finding their need. If this is done correctly, you can now move forward in the sales process to step four.

You must now create desire. Again, this step is sometimes missed because a salesperson realizes the client now knows that they need the product or service, and they have already built the value of their specific product or service. Why do I need to create the desire? People know they should do things all the time, but do they do them all the time? The answer is no, right? So, you need to create the desire to move forward now because that is the best way to serve them. You need to help them make a decision that is right for them, and if you do not help them by creating that desire, they may not ever get the help they need.

At this point you may receive some objections, which are a necessary part of the sales cycle that most salespeople fear. You need to overcome objections during the sales process. This is a perfect opportunity to clarify need, build more value and create even more desire. But if this is done incorrectly, it is the perfect place to break rapport. In fact, this is where most salespeople crumble for many reasons. The main reason rapport is lost is for some simple reasons. The salesperson fails to recognize and acknowledge the objection, they fail to use the person’s name and they fail to address the objection. This breaks rapport because the client believes you are not listening, and you do not care about what they are saying. The average salesperson defends or debates the objection without following this formula. Objections should always be handled by first acknowledging the objection, using the client’s name and addressing it. This should be standard operating procedure. Here is an example:

“Absolutely, I understand that the price may seem high, John, so we should talk about that. Why do you believe the price is too high, and if we can agree on price, do you have any other concerns?”

This will not only make the client feel like you have heard him, but it will let you confirm and isolate the real objection. If it is the real objection, you need to address it. It might take asking more questions, and you might even have to start the process all over again. If price is an objection, you did not build enough value. That would put you back up at the top of the sales process. That means at the top, and you need to confirm that you have not lost rapport. You would need to confirm and ask better questions to make sure you have the right need. You must build value, create desire and find out if you have any other objections. If not, you can now close.

The close should be a natural progression of the sales cycle, and if everything was done right during the sale, the client will come to only one natural conclusion. They should recognize that it makes complete sense to do business with you. The main reason the close is difficult for many salespeople is that they have not completely delivered on each step of the sales process. If they have, the close is not only easy, but it must be done. If objections come up again at the close, you must acknowledge it, you must use their name, and you must address it by going back to the top of the cycle. The reason most salespeople lose during the close is because they go back to defending and breaking rapport. Once the close is achieved, you must now continue to the final (and what can be the most important) step once a sale is closed.

Once a sale is made, salespeople make the most egregious error possible: They do not follow up. How would you feel if you had a perfect date with someone, and they never called you again? That would not be a great feeling, so why do we do the same thing once we make a sale? We did not end a relationship by getting the sale; we started one. This is when the real work in the process begins, and you should now put in every effort to build an everlasting relationship with that client. You should want them to become your best friend in the future, and you should treat them that way. Do you think a friend would leave you for someone who offers them a lower price? Do you think you would get referrals from a friend? And do you think a friend might tell you when a competitor talks to them? You can solidify and create a very rewarding relationship with the client that will literally pay dividends for both of you in the future.

This process is a formula for success for any product or service that you are trying to sell. Although it might seem basic, the practice of utilizing this formula will create better results than you can imagine. I even recommend scripting this out for your specific industry, and I would suggest scripting out answers for possible objections that come up on a regular basis. The best way to deal with an objection is to bring it up during the sales process to deal with it up front. If you follow these recommendations, you will find yourself not only closing more, but you will have more fun doing it.

Bob Sears believes in people. In fact, he strongly believes that when people are happy, self confident and passionate about themselves and what they do, they not only make a differ- ence in themselves, they make a difference to the world. They get up each and every day with a conviction to make positive things happen, which means they have better relationships with people, and they grasp and are aware of greater opportunities. So his desire and purpose is to help people bridge the gap from that awareness of where they are now to really where they want to be. He does that by using his 23 years of experience acquired working for people like Tony Robbins, Chet Holmes and Gerry Robert. Those years have helped him become a sales leader and top producer, a sales manager and executive, an owner and entre- preneur. He created over $137,433,000 in business growth opportunities for his students and clients through his expertise, management, coaching and guidance as a trainer, coach, and presenter to help people and businesses truly achieve the results they desire.

Reprinted with permission from the author, Small Business Today News

Are Fashion-Conscious Consumers More Likely to Adopt Eco-Friendly Clothing

By Charles H. Seeman, CPA

We already know there are profitable markets for eco-friendly items such as food and cars but can eco-friendly clothing be sold profitably? Current research by (Hae, 2011) indicates that environmentally prudent [behavior] has not yet extended to apparel purchasing behavior (pp. 179). Consumers who have a high level of environmental concern and environmental consciousness influence their purchasing decision of other products such as food (because of direct health concerns) and forest-consuming products, do not feel the same need to allow environmental concerns to influence their purchase of apparel products (Hae, 2011). Some researchers believe that attitudes toward eco-friendly clothing purchases are different because consumers attitude about all clothing purchases are different. “Apparel has long been recognized as the most change-intense category of consumer products” (Hae, 2011, pp. 179). [Clothing purchases] “are influenced by the combination of fashion trends and seasonal changes. In addition, apparel not only satisfies a basic human need, but has a social component”. Also researchers have found that fashion-oriented consumers have a greater knowledge about the clothes they are purchasing and tend to enjoy shopping for clothing and shoppers that enjoy shopping have specific lifestyle, motivations and [strong] opinions related to shopping (Hae, 2011, pp. 179).

So what did the findings show?

This study found that consumers who enjoy shopping and like being well dressed have a higher willingness to purchase eco-friendly clothing in the future. This finding shows that marketing strategies for eco-friendly clothing should be similar to other apparel product marketing strategies. To appeal to consumers who enjoy shopping, eco-friendly clothing retailers should provide fashion services and promotional activities to encourage purchasing while attracting consumers who like to be well dressed by developing an attractive eco-friendly clothing merchandise selection. To develop attractive eco-friendly clothing merchandise, eco-friendly clothing retailers should identify their potential market segment and develop promotional and educational materials to specifically address the consumers needs (Hae, 2011, pp. 191).

Read entire article at Hae, J. G. (2011). Are fashion-conscious consumers more likely to adopt eco-friendly clothing? Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, 15(2), 178-193. doi:10.1108/13612021111132627

Advanced Funeral Planning 101

Photograph of David HeckelDavid Heckel,a licensed Funeral Director since 1995, has served hundreds of families from diverse cultural and religious traditions in St. Louis (MO), Denver and Boulder (CO) and Raleigh, NC.

Ben Franklin wrote that there are two certain things in this life: death and taxes. We all hope to live a long life, and we think we’ll have time to think about this often uncomfortable topic in the future. It is easy to put off. However, last minute funeral arrangements are the last thing you would wish for your family, right?

There are many good reasons to do it now and not one good reason to put it off. Receive peace of mind for yourself knowing it is done. Make arrangements together with your family and with a calm and rational state of mind rather than alone and under the anxiety of grief.

Avoid emotional overspending. Give your survivors peace of mind, knowing they are following your wishes. Also help your family avoid potential conflict at a difficult time by giving them a guide to follow. Help your family avoid additional unnecessary stress. Save money when you choose to pay in advance by locking in the cost of services and merchandise at current prices with an inflation-proof contract. Set money aside to cover other funeral related expenses.

Pre-arrangements or pre-need funeral planning can be made with any North Carolina funeral home. Pre-planning can be unfunded, or one can pay in advance. You can plan for yourself and for members of your family. When you pay in advance, you can pay in full, or you can arrange an affordable payment plan. (Most of my clients who pay over time select a three or five-year plan, although there are numerous options.)

There are a number of consumer protections provided by state law and the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule. The Funeral Rule states that a funeral services provider must give a copy of its General Price List to anyone who asks and any time he or she discusses funeral arrangements with a client or prospective client. North Carolina law requires that all pre-need funds be set aside in a bank trust or a life insurance policy until such time as services are rendered.

Only after services are provided can a funeral home collect these funds. Pre-arrangements are transferable to other funeral homes. Every pre-need funeral contract must be filed with the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service which guarantees its performance. If the funeral home which is party to the contract is unable to fulfill its obligation, the board will ensure your family will receive equivalent services and merchandise from another area provider. The current filing fee is $20.

Some people tell me they already have life insurance to pay for their funeral, but let’s consider that idea for a moment. First, the face value of most life insurance policies is static, and some even decrease at a certain age of the insured. Your policy will have the same payout to a beneficiary today as it will 20 years from now, but costs will surely continue to rise over time.

Historically, funeral costs have doubled every eight to ten years. The average price for a traditional funeral with a moderate casket and vault can easily average $10,000 in the Triangle region. Most funeral homes will expect full payment when services are provided.

Can your family readily absorb that expense until they can receive a certified copy of the death certificate and make a claim and wait for it to be paid? What other final expenses might be due from your estate at your passing? There could be doctor and hospital bills as well as the usual debts most of us carry throughout our lifetime like mortgage, loans, credit card debt, and others. Your existing life insurance may need to cover that debt. (I believe most of us purchase life insurance for the benefit of a family member.)

The motto, “Be prepared,” is not only good for the Boy Scouts of America. It is good for all of us. As a funeral director and with my own family’s experience, I’ve witnessed the difference between being prepared with plans in place and not. It is so much better to have a plan. I am happy to answer any of your funeral-related questions. E-mail me at or call me at Bryan-Lee Funeral Home, 919-772-8225.

Article reprinted with permission of the author from The Retirement Resource Guide

What Type of Clutterer Are You?

What constitutes clutter? Is it an excess of stuff, a collection of your favorite items, or little piles around the home? Is clutter in the eye of the beholder? Find out which type of clutterer you are.

The definition of clutter is:

  1. Untidy stuff – a messy collection of objects
  2. Disorganized mess – a condition of disorderliness or overcrowding


I have entered some homes and wondered why the homeowner even called me. Everything is in its place and orderly; that is, until they open the closet door or dresser drawer. Even though the clutter is hidden, in their mind they know the clutter exists. That’s enough to cause them to feel some anxiety. Once I get started organizing in a situation like this, I can understand the clients feelings. Often, there are items randomly placed in drawers that don’t make sense. This makes it difficult to find what you need when you need it and confusing when it is time to put back items.

The Peek-A-Boo Solution: The best way to approach this situation is to empty out the drawers or closet and sort items by category, purging anything that is not needed. Once you have finished sorting, take a look at what categories you have created and assign a home to them depending on where you will use them and the space that is needed.

THE LEAVE-NO-SURFACE-UNCLAIMED (a.k.a. The Museum Clutterer)?

Then you have the client that feels the need to fill in every space in their home, like a museum with everything on display. Each item tells a story and is carefully placed. However, there is no surface left untouched. To some, this may seem cluttered, but not to the person that gets enjoyment out of seeing the objects. If, however, every surface is full because items are left out for fear of forgetting about it or loosing it then soon those same items will be lost in a sea of clutter.

The Leave-No-Surface-Unclaimed Solution: Learn from your natural tendencies and keep your items in order by creating organizing systems where you tend to place them. Not everything can remain out in the open so create a home for those other items by thinking of “where would I look for this when I need it”. For all those loose items that don’t have a logical home, try creating a special drawer in your house and put all of them in this one place called “I don’t know where it belongs” or “it doesn’t have a home”. Then when you need it you only have to look in this one spot.


These people have so much clutter there is no place to sit. They save every newspaper and magazine, placing them in four foot stacks around the room making it difficult to navigate. The kitchen surfaces are buried under stacks of mail, groceries, and cooking items. They may be so use to the clutter being there that they actually don’t see it anymore and may even find comfort in their disorganization.

The Busting-at-the-Seams Solution: If you are a “busting at the seams” clutterer and feel that it has affected your quality of life, you may be chronically disorganized and can determine if you are by answering these questions. People that are chronically disorganized can benefit from working with a professional organizer, who will help them set up systems and establish routines to live a more organized life. The wonderful news is that organizing skills can be learned and professional organizers have the tools and strategies to help their clients be successful.

Whether you are a peek-a-boo clutterer or a busting at the seams clutterer or a leave-no-surface-unclaimed, it doesn’t matter the extent of the clutter- it is how you feel about it. If the clutter causes you to feel some anxiety or feelings of overwhelm, then it’s time to take action and address the issue. This can be done by reducing the amount of items in the home and organizing what is left. If you are they type of person that has the need to leave items out in order to not forget about them, then you may want to establish ways to do so in an organized fashion by using organizing products. Regardless of your type of clutter, a professional organizer can help.

Deborah Zechini, Professional Organizer & Certified Organizer Coach, Order in the House

Valuing Your Intellectual Property

by Jeff Davidson, MBA, CMC c 2012

Have you ever stopped to think that you have valuable property right on your hard drive? Undoubtedly, you have a variety of notes that you have taken over the years arranged in various categories. You have written scores of articles. In support of your clients or customers, you may have developed forms that enable them to easily transact business. You may also have a variety of presentations and slides such as those created with programs including PowerPoint, as well as charts, exhibits, graphs, and other items that constitute materials for participants at your presentations.

On top of all these items, it is likely that you have boiler plate material for contracts and agreements. There may be carefully worked boiler plate letters that you adapt based on the particular situation at hand, and other templates, rosters, and check lists that represent value, the likes of which you may not have recently, or ever, contemplated.

What about your data base? If you have 1,000 or 10,000 names, these represent intellectual property of sorts – marketing intelligence, in this case. Elsewhere on your hard drive, you may have proprietary photographs, files containing logos and/or trademark materials, as well as formulas, processes, even material that represents trade secrets. You may have data, notes, or material on specific industries, trend information, quotes, or collections.

Jeff’s Davidson is the Ghost with the Most® and provides information to clients through a network of websites:

Be sure to ask for a free copy of Jeff’s article: 10 Ways to Become a Mainstream Author.

Focus on Your Audience for Cost-Effective Marketing

by Barry and Ellen of Aim Group Two Promotional Products

Job #1 in communication is knowing WHO your audience is. And when you give someone a customized item to help promote your organization or spread the word about your message, you’re communicating!

Connect with Current & Prospective Buyers

Think about the people who buy what you sell. Some buy a lot, others buy a little… some buy higher-priced items, others shop your sales… Your first step before investing in any personalized promotional item is to define a few categories of audiences according to their buying behavior, value, needs or interests, being on the lookout for the areas of overlap.

[FYI: The broader the target audience, the more difficult it is to push an individual buyer’s hot button and prompt their action — that’s why “mass” efforts tend to be more about generating awareness or name recognition, and less about direct sales. Many of our customers start broad so they increase their name recognition, choosing notepads, magnets, pens or pencils to keep their name popping up repeatedly at a low cost per item (and even lower cost per “impression”). Make this personalized item promote you even more cost-effectively by adding your URL or phone number.]

1. Which customers contribute most to boosting your profits?

Think beyond clever trinkets — what would positively reinforce the impression they have of you? What will they enjoy using often — helping you with brand awareness?

One customer who had a consulting business determined that people who signed up for an annual package were the most profitable; after some discussion and research, she ended up selecting personalized keychain lights. She received many thank you’s from customers who liked the ease of opening their doors in the dark — and who also mentioned that seeing her logo reminded them that they had her “homework” to do!

This is one of the most important points in choosing a cost-effective promotional item: choose an item that people will want to keep and enjoy using.

2. What sorts of things do your biggest buyers buy first?

Consider promotional items that dovetail with the types of items they look for early on in their life cycle with you.

A car repair facility, for instance, noted that many people try them out for an oil change and then if they’re happy and comfortable come back for more-major repairs. In addition to great service at a fair price, and a peel-off sticker for their window that reminds them of when they should come back. They hand out a convenient “things to-do pad” customers can stick on their refrigerator — one that also has a magnet with his business card on it. After 50 notes, the magnet stays on the fridge… and it’s usually nearing time for the next oil change — or a tune-up!

3. How can you help “influencers” help you?

The people who prompt or guide buying decisions — e.g., networking referral partners, staffers who complain (oops: make requests) to the company buying agent, spouses who drop hints, or kids who plead with the persuasive persistence of future trial lawyers — may also play a role in your prospects’ buying cycle, so it often pays to invest in a promotional item that supports their efforts. You might want to keep it simple, like a magnet or notepad, or invest just a little more like giving calculators to accountants who are good referral partners, reusable shopping or tote bags for “consumer” businesses, or mugs (used effectively by a new local church so members can help spread the word). Every organization is a little different, so the best place to start for this audience is to think about whether you’ll be better off influencing them, or making it easier for them to influence someone else… or both.

For more ideas and tips on cost-effective marketing, visit of “like” our page on Facebook. []

Let a Sleeping Dog Lie

by Steve the Raleigh Dog Trainer

Dogs sure can sleep a lot. Especially those dogs that get their daily routine of structured exercise (leash walk) and play times. Realize dogs also dream a lot. We hear them whimper, cry, even growl during the day or night while they are sleeping. To avoid startling your sleeping beauty make sure you calmly say their name first, and then wait until they open their eyes before you touch them. Make sure your nose is nowhere near their nose. Startling even your own dog can result in the accidental bite.

The best advice is to let sleeping dog lie, but feel free to go right ahead and take a picture. Remember don’t yell when you can learn how to whisper. More tips just call or visit on the web.

“The Raleigh Dog Trainer”

Joe Green, Certified Life Coach

Success in business is not about getting breaks, being lucky, or having success handed to you. Success in business comes from forming a clear vision, developing a solid road map, and maintaining perseverance along the way. In other words, having success in business begins and ends with you.

Forming a Clear Vision

Developing a clear vision is the first step towards creating success in your business. You need a clear picture in your mind of what it is that you are directing your energy toward. What will your goal look like when it is reached? Many athletes use this mental visioning as a way to train for the actual event. They rehearse over and over in their mind a clear picture of performing each step with precision. They hear the crowds cheering as they push forward, see the other athletes they are pulling in front of and experience the emotions from crossing the finish line in first place. Envision already having reached your goal. Become clear in your mind what your life is like, what your business is like, and what the world around you is like when your goal is reached. Be specific and write it down. Train for this event by rehearsing it over and over in your mind.

Developing a Solid Road Map

When you set out for a cross country trip in your car, you don’t just jump in and begin driving. You first map out your trip and decide on the best routes to follow. As you travel, there may be obstacles along the way. These obstacles require you to make adjustments to your route and eventually you arrive at your planned destination. The same applies for fulfilling the vision for your business. Your vision is your planned destination and the goals and actions steps you develop are the routes you follow that eventually lead you to the realization of your vision. Setting weekly goals, identifying obstacles, and developing action steps to overcome those obstacles are viable ways to stay on track. The weekly goals and action steps become the road map that you use to build success in your business.

Maintaining Perseverance

The dictionary definition of perseverance is being steady, persistent, moving with purpose in spite of difficulties or obstacles. Anyone who has made their vision a reality in their life had to overcome various obstacles. The way you maintain your perseverance is through maintaining your mental preparedness. Your mental preparedness is the thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes you hold for yourself. Maintaining positive thinking, a strong belief in yourself, and an attitude of overcoming any challenge, allows you to move through any obstacle with confidence.

So, success in business does begin and end with you. Set a clear vision, develop a solid road map, and maintain your perseverance along the way. Get up every day with enthusiasm and excitement and do what is yours to do to move yourself closer to the realization of your vision.

Joe Green of Living Your Potential Life Coaching
919-810-5025 –

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