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Become A Confident Communicator

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What have tomato plants and corporate or business environments got in common?

It can take ONE thing to increase productivity and healthy growth, the trick is finding that ONE thing and then applying some positive action on a consistent basis.

A healthy plant/organisation versus on struggling to survive!

When I first learned to grow tomatoes I learned ONE thing, just ONE, that made a huge difference in me producing edible delicious cherry tomatoes.

Pruning the laterals!

Laterals: Nice leafy green bits of the plant that grow fast and in abundance but produce NO fruit!

When you don’t prune them……they end up choking the fruit producing parts of the plant, blocking sunlight, taking nutrients, sucking the LIFE out of the branches that need all that good stuff to be productive.

Once I learned this ONE thing, and watered my plant, I grew great tomatoes.

I have found this when working with large corporate organisations through to small and medium businesses, in these environments the laterals can represent many things that distract from or prevent healthy productivity and growth.

Laterals in an organisation:

Cluttered systems, outdated processes, people in poorly matched roles, culture and environment, double handling, micro managing and the list can go on…. Don’t just look at the ‘who’ but also the ‘what’ these things can be about people but also about systems and processes.

Until these things that clutter a person’s space, mind, and process of working are pruned the real fruit cannot thrive and reach its potential and like our tomato plant the fruit can rot and go mouldy when laterals are left to run wild.

When managers, leaders and business owners are trapped into ‘putting out the fires’ that these ‘laterals’ produce often daily, they cannot possibly focus on things that will gain a better long-term productivity profile.

The business or organisation goes into ‘survival mode’ and everyone just scrambles to get work off their desk, mostly feeling a sinking sense of overwhelm and claustrophobia that consumes any creativity or clarity to function well.

When we do prune the ‘laterals’:

  • Light gets in to the things that need it the most
  • Nutrients get to the branches that matter
  • There is room to grow, strong and healthy
  • The plant is productive and successful in producing fruit

What to do:

  1. Take a day out to examine and reflect, use a coach or mentor, the purpose is to see what laterals need ‘pruning’ to allow more light in, more nutrients in and encourage better productivity.
  2. Put a timeline in place with actions that will implement the changes
  3. Focus on what CAN be done right away, it is sometimes the smallest things that make the biggest difference.
  4. Prune regularly, schedule it in, with the tomato if I forget to do this for a few weeks, things get choked up again fast. It easier to prune a few a week rather than let it get overrun and take double the time to clear things again.

Happy pruning



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Multitasking – When it’s useful and when it’s not!

A peak into my world and 5 tips for singular focus when it counts

I was in my kitchen today after a full on day working, from my home office, the house was a buzz with activity, I had already dropped miss 8 at her dance lesson and offered to watch my 12-week old granddaughter while her mum ran an errand. It was 5pm….I was running bath for miss 7, had mister 14 playing with miss 12 weeks while I turned the sausages, boiled the pasta, put mountains of washing away….as I paused to turn another sausage It occurred to me that in this situation MULTITASKING is a skill to die for, one I am proud of, a skill that is USEFUL….as long as I stay focused….boy was I focussed.

PHEW are you exhausted just reading this!? In my domestic life multitasking is useful in most cases, I can get a lot done in a short period of time and usually without dropping ‘any balls’ from my juggle, possibly because many of the tasks are routine, don’t require much detailed thinking or focus. I can even add in a conversation with a husband or a child to the above and be quite engaged.

When multitasking is NOT useful – when tasks require more focus, more concentration and detail.

I learned a long time ago, multitasking like this doesn’t belong at work….almost EVER. In the work I do I have multiple roles, many ‘seasons’ in any one day, things are complex, strategic, and involve singular focus.

I have learned the importance of planning my work time, having lists, prioritising those lists, using ONE diary system that works well for me on all levels, and working in SPRINTS. My sustained sprint time is around 45 – 60 mins. If a task will take longer than that I will sometimes extend this time but usually will come back to the task after a break.

I  get up…. stop what I am doing get a drink and move my body. Then I can re focus again.

Working like this I get very productive, less stuff falls through cracks. Jobs get finished

I call this sharpening my AXE, a woodcutter will be more successful if he stops to sharpen his axe than the one who keeps hacking away with a blunt tool. Based on an old story I heard years ago.

My tips for singular focus and single tasking at work

  1. Plan your day – know what tasks, calls and emails you HAVE to get done that day, everything else is a bonus, if you have work that you get interrupted by phone calls, take small phone breaks where you put it on silent, switch if off or leave it in another room for a short period, NO ONE WILL DIE if they can’t get hold of you in a particular moment.
  2. Use time chunking, chunk blocks of time in your diary to do a task or a bunch of tasks.
  3. Work in healthy sprints, set a timer and focus on that ONE task for that time period when the timer goes off you stand up, walk away even just for 5 mins, get a drink, some food if you need and then come back re set the timer again.
  4. Plan NOT to multi-task, this means having only relevant tabs open, leaving social media, emails or other distracting tabs closed and notifications OFF
  5. Learn to be assertive (this is not the same as aggressive) try to say things like “sorry I will have to get back to you I am in the middle of something” and do just that, don’t allow people to steal your time with their emergencies unless you are completely responsible or someone will be injured. Find your own nice way to stay assertive

Either you run your day or your day runs you, is a favourite quote of mine and also is true for people and time – either you manage your time or have other people manage it according to their needs.

By all means be flexible when needed, but set boundaries, set work time, be assertive and learn to know when multitasking is useful and when it’s not.

Here’s to your singular focus


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Cutting Corners Can Cost You Your Brand Reputation Not Just Money

2 Key points to consider and 6 Questions to help assess risk involved in big decisions

What has building law and compliance got to do with brand reputation?

After a recent case in the news and conversations with those who’s job it is to ensure these rules are kept I have identified 2 key ways that choosing to cut corners on a business renovation, new build or building Health and Safety compliance could impact a business, brand and reputation in the community and market.

  1. Money
  2. BRAND and reputation

One is sometimes recoverable the other not so straight forward.

My background is in marketing, business development and brand management, and lately I have been reminded how cutting corners even in the building industry can impact more than just your bank account, it can also impact your brand and reputation in the community and market place.

The irony about the #1 impact, Money, which is often first looked at, is that usually, this is the primary reason for noncompliance in the first case, people wanting to SAVE money.

Let’s look at brand and reputation, a much more ‘sticky’ spot for any business to find themselves, I have chosen to pick on a recent case that was publicised in the papers. This is a big topic and I realise that not every case has the same history, details or reasons but overall I believe my principals around brand and reputation apply in all cases.

Considering the recent successful prosecution of the blueberry and ice-cream brand OOB, one of the largest publicised fines handed down for building noncompliance in a while, I got to thinking about the brand impact of those early decisions made by the business owners.

Business is successful, it grows it needs more space. Or new business needs a building or more space in an existing one. Decisions are made! Sometimes advice is sought and in all fairness not given well or with the right intentions, in some cases advice may be ignored to save the immediate costs.

Either way that series of decisions, whatever the journey to make them, has cost this business a hefty $26k fine plus legal costs in money but maybe more importantly what has it cost them in reputation.

Some consumers may not realise or think deeply about what it can mean to not comply to the government standards for safe buildings and carry on eating the ice-cream without a care. I would say this is a minority though and I would like to think that most consumers in NZ expect the companies we claim ownership of in our clean, green and proud nation are providing not only a quality product but also a safe working environment for the staff and visitors.

I opened my freezer this morning to discover that the brand of blueberries I was about to enjoy for breakfast is in fact OOB! Immediately, I thought “oh those are the silly beggars who didn’t think they needed to comply with the building laws in NZ” I ate the blueberries, but I must say that I will think twice before purchasing their brand again.

They may have taken advice that set them up for a fall, but all business owners must realise the BUCK stops with them, and so does the reputation of the brand and company, who’s picture was in the paper with the big write up? The owners.

WHY such a harsh line? I hear you say…. Well what else, let’s not sit by and wait until another building collapses in a serious earthquake or fire killing or injuring people before we realise that the building laws are there to protect us all, and our families. Bottom line is that building laws save lives, and a company or organisation that constantly ignores the safety of the people they have in their buildings gives out a deeper message to the market and community they run in, they are more concerned about profit, expense cutting and time-saving than people’s lives.

Strategically it is always good practice to think through decisions, if this is not someone’s skill set they should seek help from someone who has this ability, to think through future projections, risk factors and possible scenarios. Above all else, the person or people who the ‘buck stops with’ need to take full responsibility for understanding any laws that may apply and factor them in from the start.

6 questions a business/Organisation could go through when making expansion or moving decisions around buildings, office space, manufacturing spaces, retail spaces and more

  1. Do you (or your contractors) know what you can do in your building without building consent?
  2. With any consented work have you finished the projects with a CCC?
  3. What is the Gap assessment between what our building has now and current Code?
  4. If we have a BWOF in our building and are all our systems safely working?
  5. Do the right people in our organisation know what risks exist in our building and what we are doing to manage them in plain English
  6. Could anyone get hurt, anytime in the future because of these decisions?

From a business strategy perspective, a good old fashioned cost analysis of any project should always include building compliance laws, cost of any upgrades and getting council consent.

If the project can’t fit into the budget it is not time to cut corners and potentially risk limbs and lives, it is time to look at alternative venues, buildings, or options.

Here is to a safer NZ

Jen Tyson

Business strategy consultant and business development manager at Building Networks NZ

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5 things you can do through the Christmas ‘shut down’ period for small business.

When you are running a small or medium business, depending on your situation, it is not always possible to ‘shut down’ or ‘shut your doors’ and walk away for weeks on end, unless you have structured yourself in as an employee with full annual leave rights, or have a backup income that will fund your business and lifestyle in your absence.

Being self-employed often means if you don’t work you don’t make money and don’t get paid. This can cause stress for some, especially if they don’t know what to do about this.

Some business owners even resent the season because they find it harder to get clients, know there will be a ‘lull’ in business and also in the months leading up, a lot of people use the excuse “ I am too busy now, contact me next year”

Let me share few things I have learned after working for myself for most of 16 years:

  1. Planning is VITAL, even if you dislike it. I am not talking about doing a full business plan for the new year if that feels too big, but it is about planning a few things.

Cash-flow – Expenses – Buffer – Momentum

The reason I have love a bit of planning is because it means that when I do have ‘down time’ I am relaxed and not stressing about money or trying to work despite the holidays.

If you want a whole month off, make sure you can financially support that, this may mean slowly saving throughout the year, putting money aside into a separate account so it is there.

Planning also helps you to get more work in before Christmas and then set up some to go back to when you choose to return. This, I call the Momentum factor. If you have momentum coming up to December and through the month, you will more than likely have work spilling into the new year, use Dec to not just hop on the hamster wheel and run into Christmas like a crazy person, set some time aside to book in work for Jan – March.

  1. Keep in touch, how will you keep in touch with your customer base over the summer?

Send a Christmas card. Schedule some social media posts to give them some information etc or a newsletter that shares useful tips and ideas they can use, maybe schedule a couple of short ones. Use a VA (virtual assistant) if you need someone to ‘man’ your phone line and you are going to be away for more than the usual few weeks when everyone else is. Have someone handle inbound calls for that time, and fulfill orders if you need.

  1. Use an Autoresponder or Vacation reply so people KNOW you are away, they get a response, redirected to your website perhaps?

And say when you will be back on deck this is good manners – if you don’t want to say you are going away for security reasons, you can just say you are on leave.

  1. Say NO sometimes, we can’t be everything to everyone, or attend every social function.

If you are a social butterfly this may be harder than if you are not, but overloading your calendar at an already busy time of year ROBS you of energy, and precious time you could be spending getting your business to run smoothly over this time. I have also found that if I overload my diary I just get ‘over’ going to things, CHOOSE the things you like.

  1. Keep up your self-care, if you have a routine STICK to it like glue, your mind and body needs it even more at this time of year.

That way you head into your summer holiday feeling as healthy and fit as you can, if you don’t have one in place, DEC is a great time to start looking after yourself.

Remember, momentum can be LOST a lot faster than gained, so if you have some already, sit down and ask yourself:

  1. How can I keep some of this going and still have a break myself?
  2. Do my customers or clients want to hear from me over this Christmas period?
  3. If so what would they like to hear? Or know?
  4. What time do I want to have off completely and when do I want to return for what hours?

If you don’t have some momentum to carry you through, perhaps spending some of the time leading up to Christmas creating some, this involves networking for business, contacting your customers with an offer and other activities that can generate some activity.

In summary:

Plan to enjoy this season with family and friends by being prepared, financially, personally, customer care, and growth wise. You can finish this year WELL and Start the new year even better with a bit of the old planning that is for sure.


I hope by now you have downloaded my free basic business planning work-book, many are using it now and loving its simplicity yet thought-provoking questions. If you haven’t yet had a look, make some time to chip away at it. If you haven’t yet you will find it on my home page at the top.

I wish you a very happy and healthy Christmas and start to 2017!

Best wishes and blessings



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Embrace CHANGE – 5 things you can do

“ If you keep doing what you have always done, you will keep getting what you have always got”

A powerful quote we all hear, or see time and time again, and often nod, agree, and make private or spoken recognition of the change needed in our own lives at some level.

To get from where we are today, to where we want to be in the future, either long term or shorter term, there is a BRIDGE – That bridge is called CHANGE.
In business, this is just as true as in life. If we want to succeed in business we must learn to better embrace change.

Some are more comfortable and able to embrace change more than others, but even those who shout ‘Change? BRING it on!’ have a tipping point, a limit to where their avoidance of change would turn up.


On that bridge called change, there can be discomfort and for some this may mean PAIN, as human’s when faced with a choice to face discomfort or pain we can experience FEAR, or apprehension, especially if we cannot see an end ‘date’ or time frame, or even at times a perfect outcome. Which then can lead to avoidance.
At times, we have ventured courageously onto the bridge, but when it got too ‘hot’ – too uncomfortable, we turned back, retreating into old habits, and the comfort of what we knew.
An interesting observation I have made about the space called ‘where you are now’ – even if that space is not pleasant for many reasons and we KNOW we need to change, the FEAR of crossing that bridge is greater than the pain of staying where we are, the old saying “Better the devil you know, than the one you don’t” seems to fit well here.
We are HUMAN, and humans like comfort – no one likes to be uncomfortable for long, especially the concept of being uncomfortable for a period of time that seems to have no end in sight.
Going to the dentist, having a medical procedure, squishing into a small car for a short trip, standing on a bus to give someone your seat, are some examples of being uncomfortable for a short period of time where we see an end, we know it will be over in a set amount of time and so we tend to carry that off.
5 things you can do to embrace the changes needed to get to where you want to be:
1. Acknowledge where you are with a trusted mentor or coach, if you are really stuck to a good old fashioned ‘pros and cons’ list for staying there.
2. Make your goal, where you want to be, written and clear following the SMART model or something like that, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound – WRITTEN goals are 100 times more likely to become a reality, especially if shared with someone you trust who will keep you accountable and encourage you.
3. If the main goal or where you want to be is BIG and long term, then you need to get smaller shorter term goals, 6-12 months, that are milestones and pointing you in the direction of the bigger goal. For each of those you then need some ACTION steps to make sure you are doing something every month in the direction of where you want to be
4. NOW would be a good time to acknowledge any ‘failed attempts’ of crossing this bridge in the past and to notice the thoughts and beliefs you may have collected from that experience, these need to be dealt with in order to move forward – you may have got half way across and something happened, you made it mean something, retreated and made your mind up about the situation, the BEST way I know is to write down that thought, ask yourself “ is this useful to me crossing the bridge?” If not then you are at choice, you can re write this – BE your OWN COACH in your mind. Cheer yourself on with positive statements as you would if you were helping another.
5. CHANGE your mind about CHANGE – within in change there is incredible growth, with growth comes strength and sometimes new opportunities and confidence – your comfort zone expands, CHANGE is a good thing, and necessary in business and LIFE unless you want to stay in one place for the rest of your days.

‘LIFE and BUSINESS, is 10% about what happens to me, and around me, and 90% how I respond to it’
This is one of my favorite quotes of all time, it has inspired me over the years to look at how I am thinking about something and to make a positive change or keep on putting one foot in front of the other on that bridge.

Oh and what is with the other arrow going up half way across the bridge? This arrow shows that sometimes we have got half way across the bridge, things got painful, we got disillusioned and instead of retreating to where we were, we take a detour! Go down another path, because it seemed more comfortable, easier, but because that is a detour off our path of purpose, our bridge to OUR goal or future that burned in our belly, this other path often leads to its own set of discomfort and in fact can be a lot hard to come back onto the bridge from.

Now go cross that bridge!

To your beautiful journey of change


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Overwhelmed? Come up for air and breathe!

5 things you can do to get out from under the pile of ‘overwhelm’ – come up for air and breathe

The dictionary says this about the word ‘overwhelm’:

To bury or drown beneath a huge mass of something, especially water.

What to do when everything closes in – the dark place of ‘overwhelm

For some, this is a familiar place on a way too frequent basis, usually the symptom of entrepreneurs or working parents, but many others also suffer this unproductive and uncomfortable state, too often.

If you have ever felt confused, weighed down, stressed and grumpy by a never ending list of things to do, swimming around in your foggy head, chances are you have experienced what many call ‘overwhelm’.

For me and those around me this is not a good place for me to be in, mentally or physically. I forget things, don’t sleep well past 4am, find myself snappy and irritable, and in a constant state of stress. This space is usually very un-productive.

Here are 5 things I have found that can lift the fog and help re focus energy and time:

  1. TIME OUT: Take a morning off, ASAP, as soon as you recognise you are here, go for a walk, then sit down and make a massive list, categorise if you must but make a list of everything you need to do, everything that is in your head.
  •  Make sub lists from this list and put in categories of priority, personal, work and  other. Just this task of getting out of my head and on paper splits the stress literally in HALF, because now I can’t forget anything, it is all on paper.
  1. GET ‘YOU’ IN THE PICTURE: Re look at your diary, your schedule,  remove some things to make some space for you, and the things that ‘feed’ your mind, body and soul… At least 3-4 times a week. SMALL things count – I used to think I needed to get to a yoga class for 90 mins (plus travel) or the gym for an hour for it to count….then it just wouldn’t happen, when I discovered the scientific fact that 10 mins of walking somewhere pretty can change your brain chemistry completely, I started looking at this time differently. I make time 3-4 mornings a week to walk my dog, just 30 mins in our local park, I dance once a week, and I train in martial arts (my favourite sport) 1-2 times depending but a minimum of once. The park walks serve a few things, I love nature and how it soothes my soul, reminds me of my place on this earth, connects me to creation and also gives my body the movement it needs, it clears my mind, I solve problems among the trees.

NOTE: I used the words ‘make time’ ? We can all find time to fit in what we deem to be important, I realised that I am important, so cleared some things off my plate.

  1. TIME CHUNKING: Look at the way you schedule things in your diary, if you are self-employed you CAN choose your hours, set them on a calendar, and then schedule in what you do in that time, this is a discipline that takes time to implement if you have been a little loose on this. I use TIME CHUNKING, I put things in blocks of time I think they will take, for things like my walk, they REPEAT every week, on the odd occasion I have to move them but it is a choice and usually only once in any one week.
  1. SAY NO nicely: Learn to say no, if you have so much on your plate there is no room for you, look at what you can possibly take off. Ask yourself these questions on each thing that takes up your time. These are for things you have on your plate that you want to check in about:
  • Why am I involved in this?
  • Why did I say Yes?
  • Is this part of my overall purpose in life?
  • Does this energise me or drain me?
  • Why am I holding on to it?
  • If you choose to let it go, plan how you will say ‘no nicely’

What to consider BEFORE saying YES to new things:

What REAL time is involved in this? Do I have the time easily available? What will have to move off my diary in order to fit this in? (NOTE If is YOU time that needs to move, seriously consider saying NO) What is my motive for saying yes?

ALWAYS say you want to think about it, so you have time to process taking on new things, even this will give you freedom and less pressure. If they can’t give you time, then perhaps you just say NO right away.

  1. ASK for help: Or Delegate. What can someone else be doing for you? Giving jobs that don’t light you up, or asking others for help with children, chores or tasks can give others the opportunity to do something nice for you OR something they love doing! Instead of seeing it as weakness, see it as allowing others to work in their strengths.
  • You can pay people, barter time or ask a favour, depending on what it is there is always a way to get some help with the things that are on your plate that you can’t get rid of.
  • This frees you up to get on with the things that energise you and are part of your overall purpose in life.
  • I don’t like housework, I like getting help with this on a regular basis and giving chores to my kids, does this mean I never do it? NO, It all just doesn’t land on me and that feels good.

Final note: YOU are important, that is why they say in the flight emergency briefing put YOUR OWN oxygen mask on first before attending to children, WHY? Because if you stop breathing you are NO good to anyone.

You have stuff to do in this world that only you can do, and when you are living in balance to the best of your ability most of the time you are WAY more effective, productive, have better health, relationships and enjoy life rather than just get through each day.

Yours in freedom


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Why plan now for 2016 or at all?

Business planning – A VITAL ingredient to your unique recipe for success

I learned years ago that one of the biggest secrets to success is to find someone who is where you want to be and do what they did to get there. I found out that smart business owners have their plans for the following year, down on paper well before the Silly Season really sweeps them up. They can then rest up well and then HIT the ground RUNNING in the direction they want to go!

No matter which article you read on the ‘top reasons for business failure’, lack of planning is right up there in the top 3. Yes there are other factors involved of course, but surely if we know that this is something that can have a significant impact on our success we would make time to do it and do it with expert help….wouldn’t we?

I heard this quote for the first time around 13 years ago. “If you fail to plan you plan to fail” by Jim Rohn. I remember thinking, “wow that is harsh, who would actually plan to fail?” It took a while for this to make real sense for me, probably after a few attempts to just ‘go do’ my business. Being the sort of person who just loves to get involved, boots and all, learning this lesson was not instant or overnight. Learning to LOVE applying this planning process in my business has made a significant difference in my success, in creating a business that allows me to outwork my purpose and love what I do every day.

For a long time now I have been working one on one with clients, and group mentoring programs teaching exactly that, how to set up a workable business plan, put it into motion and follow it through. What I find fascinating is the number of people I come across in business who are just out there doing ‘it’ every day without a plan, whilst they are amazing at the service they provide, here are just some of the results I see:

  • Lack of clear direction, causing stress and confusion
  • Lack of control over time and finances, causing stress and overwhelm
  • Limited ability to measure growth, without that written benchmark
  • Not loving what they are creating, just on a treadmill of trading time for money
  • And sometimes lacking confidence and understanding in business basics

Business planning has been given a bit of a bad rap, sometimes it is associated with some giant, complex and tedious document you have to prepare for the bank to get money, leading people to think this is the only time you HAVE to…. or SHOULD do it.

In other cases people have paid a business coach, mentor or gone to a workshop to help them put down their goals, even creating a vision board, but with no clear, breakdown of ACTIONS to get from where they are to the bigger goals, so they shy away from the whole process thinking ‘it doesn’t work’.

My experience has shown me that the more we learn to embrace the planning side of our business, the more we can enjoy it. After all you are creating the business of your dreams. The more we see the results of that plan, feel the positive impact on our health, happiness and finances, we begin to understand that planning is not a necessary evil, it is a VITAL ingredient in the unique recipe that will make your business uniquely yours!

  • For 2016, get it done in November. Make it a habit each year to plan not only for the Dec/Jan period but also for what you want to achieve the next year.
  • Invest time and perhaps some money into it, and at least until you become comfortable with how to see a whole plan through. Get some expert help, find a business coach who you like, and trust (Going to a mentor because they are free or cheap doesn’t always mean they are they right person to help you) or join a solid/trusted business training program that has planning tools with education and mentoring.
  • Once you learn the skill, have the tools, schedule time in every month, quarter and year to revisit your plan, just to check in that you are heading in the direction you want to go, it is much easier to correct your direction if you have only been off track for a short time.

There are many different types of plans out there, I find simpler ones with the main components in them are easier to pick up, read, tweak and keep a part of my business evolution.

A good business plan doesn’t have to be LONG or overwhelming, it just needs to be a living document that guides your business decisions and becomes a measuring platform to keep you on the track you want to be on.

Here is to you creating your own amazing year in 2016.