Guest Blog by US based Aussie Gael McCarte

Ex-pat Aussie Gael McCarte is a journalist living in the USA. Her blogs are a great read.

Recently Gael interviewed me for her blog in www.blogher.com. Her article was reproduced in a number of other blogs so I thought it appropriate to add it here.

Enjoy the read!

 

Gael has written her own book, a novel  The Con.

 

It fictionalizes my (Gael’s) work with offenders in Perth, Western Australia. The reader has a front row seat to Aussie family life, the criminal mind, the elite schools in Perth, the upheavals caused by the mining and housing boom as tilers and carpenters now out earn physicians. It reveals bush life in Kalgoorlie the gold mining area, and the general Australian life style as it is really lived. The book has cultural and psychological integrity and is difficult to put down while the twist in the end is impossible to predict.

Also available as an ebook
Available in Australia at Seek Books

Women in a Masculine Industry

 

I’m in Mackay, North Queensland for a week of speaking engagements. What an amazing town! Mackay has grown from the sleepy country town I knew as a sales rep 20 years ago. Now it is bustling with activity as  the mining boom roars on!

It’s a rich, masculine town without a doubt, but the core strength of the community is made up of those who understand people.

A double standard is never equalised by lowering yours. Women might represent 20% of an industry but they have great influence. An industry can only benefit when women understand their true worth and carry themselves accordingly. Without being arrogant or pushy, your dignity and confidence commands respect. It’s not about being politically correct. It’s about self-respect, respecting those around you and expecting it in return.

In doing so, you will bring out the best in the men around you. They will rise to a higher standard of behaviour. They won’t be able to resist, because it’s what they were designed to grow into anyway.

Never underestimate the power of a woman’s influence in a masculine industry.

 

It’s Consumer Fraud Week

 

3 Kinds of Fraudsters

It is National Consumer Fraud week. It appears we are wising up. According to the ACCC scam reports have doubled from 2009 to 2010 but money reported lost has decreased slightly. This is good news. But that doesn’t mean other kinds of fraud have decreased.

You should report a suspected scam to scamwatch.

When we think of scams we usually think of smooth talking professional predators peddling investment schemes and stealing identities. Or we think of badly worded emails.

The truth is business fraud is most often committed by employees taking an opportunity. This can be by shoplifting, padding expense accounts, pocketing sales proceeds or stealing customer credit card numbers.

However, there is more to it.

I have identified 3 kinds of fraudsters:

1)      The Predator – who makes a career of taking your money dishonestly

2)      The Opportunist – generally an everyday person who will take advantage of an opportunity. It might be as “Australian” as offering or accepting “cash jobs,” it could be applying for flood relief when they were not really inconvenienced or could afford to replace their own perishables, they might discreetly remove the tip on a restaurant table before the waiter returns.

3)      The Cracked Egg – These are the people who are good, decent people but circumstances in their lives create pressure that causes them to compromise their values. These could be someone with a gambling addiction or drug habit. It could be a battered wife who has no resources. It’s often someone who sees no other way out.

Solutions

Be vigilant. Create or adopt systems and accountability in your business and in your personal life that protect you. People do not do what is expected, they do what is inspected.

Be aware of areas in your own life where you could be vulnerable to pressure or temptation. If you think you are immune, you are immediately vulnerable to either being ripped off or compromising your own ethics or morals.

Customer service is the best strategy against shoplifting. Knowing your employees is the best strategy against their ripping you off. Have a “care” program that supports them. It might be checking on them when they are “sick” or being flexible with single parent pressures. In a less formal light, get to know them as people, care about them so that you are aware of the pressures in their lives and can help. Maybe YOU will prevent them making a decision that ruins the rest of their lives!

If you would some direction in this area you can contact me.

More detailed keys in fraud prevention and recovery are in my book “Dangerous Wealth.” Purchase a physical book for $25 plus postage or save time and $ by ordering the eBook or audio book here for just $20.

If you would like me to talk to your group about Powerful Perspectives for Business and Life please visit my contact page.

Early days

Things are moving along!
Thank You for staying in touch or reconnecting after that big gap between “I’m working on this book about how to spot rip-offs” to “I’ve got the proof back!” Very exciting. It’s nice to have you on this journey. In a world of positive affirmations, high-fives and reaching for the sky, is there room for someone to whisper “have you checked the figures?”
Dreams are necessary for success but without reality checks, they easily turn into nightmares!

Welcome to new friends from:
*Meet up for Speakers
*Meet up for Brisbane Open Mic Nights
*B2BB network!
*Brisbane Woman
*Kingdom Advancers

It is a privilege to speak into people’s lives. I’ve been a presenter in most of my career roles but these days I speak on behalf of “Dangerous Wealth” to benefit you and your business! If just one point I offer saves someone making an expensive error, then it’s worth it!

Update
Dangerous Wealth book!
I have officially given the go-ahead for 100 advance copies to be printed!
These are for marketing in preparation for a 2011 book launch.
I have begun planning the launches so if anyone has some creative ideas or would like to help it will be greatly appreciated!

Audio book: I am currently creating an audio book version of “Dangerous Wealth” for those who like to listen – great for multi-taskers! It is quite time consuming as I’m editing as I go. Yes, it is my own voice and I’ve tried hard to ensure my Aussie accent is understandable. There is something more personal about hearing a story spoken by the actual author, don’t you think?

International interview: Woohoo! I spent an exciting hour being interviewed over the phone by the CEO of a Canadian company that equips women in business. We discussed warning signals of fraud, unhealthy influences, what makes us vulnerable and what to do about it!

N.b. The book may be for women but the fraud prevention message is important to anyone who cares about their finances. I am available for all kinds of groups. Talk to me.

Gold Coast talk:
Keynoting for the Kindom Advancers group was a moving experience. It’s not easy to tell successful people the most humiliating moments of your life but often those provide the best lessons, as mine have.

Coming up:Saturday November 20 I will be speaking to a group of property investors at Beenleigh.

Salesmanship or con?
Some years ago I went for a job interview in sales for a property development company. The interviewer explained that the company provideds independent valuations to the buyers.
“Doesn’t independent mean a valuation from a 3rd party? If you provide it, how is that independent?” I asked.
He blanched, “Well, our valuers understand the costs and effort we went to, whereas someone else might not take that into account…”
Hmmm. I didn’t get that job. I guess I wasn’t a good “cultural fit.”
Not all cons are as easy to spot . The properties may have been good value for money, but the little bit of misrepresentation could be a taste of more serious deception.

Fraud tip: I Google’d a businessman’s name+fraud and learned he had been given a 2 year suspended sentence. A couple of weeks later it was buried pages deeper. His “success” website is prominant on the first page though… Do you look for things like that before you hand over your money?

If you have any tips or advice you’d like to contribute please let me know.

Bye for now!

Wedding Plans? 11 Money Saving Tips

 

Would you pay $33,000 for your wedding? According to a survey on  www.i-do.com.au that is the average investment couples are making these days! 

That’s as much as you’d pay for a brand new family car or even a house deposit!

Planning a wedding is a wonderful, exciting time but excitement can blow your budget if you are not careful. Here are 11 strategies that will help you avoid spending too much or being taken advantage of.

 

1) Remember, the Number One Rule in investment or business applies to weddings as well…

 “Never invest more than you can afford to lose”

 

 2) Time frame. The earlier you plan, the better. Pencil in check-in dates with your providers to keep them on track. Last minute short-cuts create potential disasters such as dress seams coming apart.

Early planning gives you time to compare quotes so you don’t get overcharged. Remember, as soon as you say “Wedding” a premium is added to the price, even for a blow-wave!

 

3) Recommendations: Ask your friends, family and workmates about who they used for various services providers and were they happy? Often venues or providers will provide recommendations too.

 

4) Due-Diligence: How long have they been in operation? A “combined 10 years experience” means nothing if they have 6 people involved including their mother and the family pet. You want to know the experience of the actual person serving you.

Can you speak with previous clients? (Remember, they are not going to refer you to the unhappy ones)

See if they are listed on ASIC’s banned director’s list.

Google them for reviews.

A wedding planner can be a helpful resource because they usually have established, reliable providers. Of course the wedding planner could be dodgy too.

Ask for their resume or CV as well as examples of their work. Fly-by-nighters will not have these or wish to give them.

Remember, you are employing these people, even if only for 1 day.

Ask them to provide a statement of solvency from their accountant.

 

5) Budget. Don’t spend more than you can afford, but also don’t expect great quality from a budget provider. At the lower end, talent is a bonus. Deposits are usually non-refundable so choose carefully before committing. Do not pay in full until required.

Beware of utilizing Uncle Harry to save money, if it goes wrong it can cause a big family rift.

Don’t get carried away by smooth talking salespeople. It’s called up-selling. Sometimes they will offer something unrealistic as an up-sell. You pay and they cannot deliver. Some providers will say “yes we can do that!” just to get the business and hope they can pull it off.

Who is paying for what? Be clear about this if your family has promised to help out.

 

6)  Trust account: With weddings costing tens of thousands, it would be wise to utilize a solicitor’s trust account until the wedding. This can protect the provider too because they are often ripped off by couples who will leave a deposit and then run out of money.

A wedding or trust account is a good place to put money promised by family. If alcoholic Auntie Sue promises to “pay for the drinks”, get the money well before hand in case it’s not forthcoming when required.

Only ever pay providers a deposit to start with.

 

7)  Backup Plan: Ask the service provider what their back-up strategy is if something goes wrong.

Do they have insurance?

 

8 ) Get it in writing and read the fine print: Be very clear about what you are getting, what you are not getting and any optional extras.

For example, who will be the actual person serving you? Leading photographers sometimes send along underlings in their place. Read the contract, is the person named? What back up strategy do they have if the person leaves the company or otherwise cannot be there?

Is the provider contracting out the job? If so, consider where that leaves you if the secondary company does not perform?

Using a DJ? Choose the songs or check the list to make sure it’s compatible with your celebration.

 

9) Make-up and hair: Have a full make-up and hair rehearsal months earlier so you are happy with your look. If you are happy, get the contact details of the actual consultant in case they leave the salon. Require the salon to give a complimentary 2nd rehearsal if a replacement consultant is required.

 

10) Stick to your plan. If you must change your mind, put it in writing so the relevant provider is up to date with your latest whim. Dressmakers invest in material so if you change your mind or dramatically change your weight, expect to pay extra.

 

11) Be flexible: Not everything is going to go as planned. Have a sense of humour. Often our fondest memories are of things that go wrong. Who knows, you might have something worthy of Funniest Home Videos.

Romantic Due-Diligence

 

I knew a lady who needed to sell her house after a break up. She had been romanced by her divorce lawyer, someone she had come to see as her “knight in shining armour”.

He talked her into using the equity in an existing house to purchase a dream home that would be “theirs”. It was really handy that his personal debts of $40 odd thousand dollars could be scooped up into the loan as well.

Well, six months after they moved into their new “Dream Home,” he started acting like a single man again, spending money on himself and living a life without including her. They broke up. The house had to be sold at the best possible price or if not, her first home would have been sold as well. In the split of what was left, he was entitled to half of everything.

Ok, let’s back up a bit.

1st Warning signal: A man in his 40s with no assets of his own. This in itself is not unusual as people sometimes have adversities that mean they have to start over. However, it is more likely to indicate an inability to live responsibly. It is not unreasonable to expect a professional to have built some kind of net worth beside a “motorbike”. Has he not finished growing up?

2nd Warning signal: $40k in debts  – not asset debt and not business debt, plain old “stuff” debt. What does that say about his money management and ability to provide?

3rd Warning signal: Suggesting “they” use “her” equity for “their” house. This “fresh start” line might sound romantic but she is taking all the risk and actually putting her first house at mortgage risk. He likes new stuff, which is why his credit card is maxed out.

4th Warning Signal: He’s a lawyer…( does that really require an explanation?)  I told each of my daughters they can become a lawyer… but for goodness’ sake, don’t marry one! I’m kidding of course…theirs will be the age of pre-nups…

If you are looking for a mate, create a list of what you would like. Then decide on what you might be prepared to compromise on.  If their ability to provide is important to you, you will see someone’s inability to save as a warning.

After that, work on your own personal development so you will have the confidence to stand your ground where it matters and give generously when you have found someone worth it.

Deal Breaker VS Preference

Remember Jack and the Beenstalk? Jack spent the grocery money on what he believed were magic beans. He wanted them so badly he compromised everything to get them. It’s lucky for him things worked out but he went through some tough battles he didn’t expect before that happened.

Normally a motivational speaker would use this illustration to encourage you to chase your dream no matter what the cost. That’s fine if you live in a fairy-tale like Jack does. However truly successful people “count the cost”.

Successful people decide what the deal breaking aspects of a transaction are and what preferences they might be prepared to compromise on. Knowing which priorities fit where is essential. The only way to do that is to have enough passion for the deal to pursue it, but still keep a cool enough head that you don’t lose perspective.

When buying a property it is important to know what features you are looking for before investing your money. I cannot expect a three bed, 1 bath home on a small block to return the same rent as a larger home unless there were other features to compensate, such as location.

Know what you would like but be flexible. Make a list of qualities that are deal-breakers with another list of preferences. For example, “must have 4 bedroom” could be a deal breaker unless there is room to renovate or turn an office into another bedroom. A particular suburb could be a deal breaker and the individual block or street might be a preference within the essential suburb.

When we buy a house we have a checklist of features and a checklist of warning signals. For example, getting a building and pest inspection warns me of any hazards that I can choose to either A) ignore B) treat or C) exit the deal D) Renegotiate the contract.

Where we come unstuck is when an aspect of a house or deal is so attractive that we compromise too much on the preferences. Given time, what you thought was tolerable could make you miserable and become the reason you sell later. I know people who have fallen in love with the space an acreage property gives them and then sell within a short time because the upkeep was too demanding.

More common is the situation where people borrow to the maximum for their dream house and within 2 interest rate rises or the arrival of a baby, they can no longer afford the repayments.

A business deal or job requires the same delicate balance of essentials vs preferences. Don’t fall in love with one aspect so deeply that you later regret the ground you gave.

Anti-dating or smarter dating?

This week I was asked if my book was an “anti-dating” book because it contained warning signals for romance.

Far from it.

I hope people find great relationships.

Knowing some warning signals will, in fact, enhance your chances of happiness by helping you narrow the field.

He may not be an out and out fraud, but if you can eliminate a bad prospect before you hand over your heart, you will save yourself a lot of grief and be another step closer to Mr. Right!

10 Tips for smarter dating

1. For the first date, the issue is safety. Meet at a public place. Let someone know who he is and where you are.

2. Meet his friends in their natural habitat. He is more likely to be himself around them.

3. How do his friends treat their wives or girlfriends? He won’t be any different with you if they are his peers.

4. Watch how he treats his mother because that’s how he’ll eventually treat you!

5. Listen. What are his hobbies, financial views, prejudices.

6. Is he courteous? How does he treat the people who serve you?

7. What condition is his car in? This is a barometer measuring his regard for his guest.

8. Is he nosy about your assets?

9. Don’t jump into bed prematurely. It makes retreat more difficult and you compromise your ability to see him objectively.

10. Have fun! If he’s not Mr. Right, you could have found a great friend!