Archive for the ‘General financial services’ Category

Contributed by Charles Lamb, Director of Marketing, Central Bancorp

Whether you ar130327-pope-4a.380;380;7;70;0e or Catholic or not, following the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to the papacy has been nothing short of mesmerizing ever since he became Pope Francis I on March 13.

“Seriously, it’s Jorge Bergoglio,” said the new pontiff to the owner of a newspaper kiosk in his home country of Argentina as he called to cancel an old newspaper subscription. “I’m calling you from Rome.”  From personally paying his hotel bill, greeting some familiar priests before a Sunday audience, and foregoing the traditional papal red Prada shoes and throne, Pope Francis has so far—in just a few short weeks—put a new, more personable face on the Catholic Church. And, we could take from him many great public speaking cues that might help us better connect with our audiences.

If the Red Prada Shoes Don’t Fit, Don’t Wear Them: Pomp and circumstance are at the core of all things papal—and almost every second of a pope’s life is scripted right down to the color of his robes and, until now, the shoes he wore. However, Pope Francis has so far opted for a simple habit and his regular old pair of black shoes, instead of the more elaborate costuming and red Prada shoes popes traditionally wear.

The Lesson: Whether you are delivering a speech, responding publicly to an issue, or addressing a simple gathering, never put yourself in a situation that doesn’t suit you. If you are uncomfortable, your audience is going to be uncomfortable for you—and this is a huge barrier to overcome in being able to connect with your audience.

“Pray for Me:” Before the new Pope said anything substantive at all on the night of his election, he said a prayer, thanked his predecessor, and then broke with tradition and bowed to the 150,000 in Saint Peter’s Square and asked them to pray for him.

The Lesson: When Pope Francis stepped out onto the balcony, he approached the audience with the mindset that these were his people. They weren’t strangers, but family and friends. And, in a simple act of humility, he made his speech about them, not about him. Every public speaker who makes their speech or public address all about them, without providing a connection to the audience, is doomed to fail. When writing your speech, “good afternoon” should immediately be followed with a sentence that begins with “you” and not “me or I.”

Forget the Throne: Pope Francis has quickly become famous for setting his papal throne aside and addressing cardinals, bishops, priests, and the faithful down at their level. This other act of humility has enabled him to say, “We are brothers and sisters, standing on the same ground” in a very illustrative way, while increasing his stance greatly as leader of over 1 billion Catholics.

The Lesson: Don’t get lost in the intrigue of your title. You’ve certainly heard the idiom “We all put on our pants the same way each morning,” meaning that our similarities outweigh our differences. In order to connect with your audience and build the power and credibility you want, you first have to meet them at their level. Step from behind the podium, go out to your audience, and say hello, we are in this together. Then, your speech—and getting through it painlessly—becomes everyone’s job, not just yours.

Any of us who have stepped in front of an audience to speak know how difficult that task can be, especially when you’re in a position of power and have to persuade an audience to follow your directive. Before you deliver your next big speech, think about how the staging looks (is the podium way too big and elaborate to suit your style?), where the audience will be situated (close to you versus a football field away), know if you’ll have an opportunity to meet the audience and gain any knowledge or stories that you can begin with, and—most importantly—don’t think of your delivery as  “from me to them out there…” but, rather “we are all here together, and I am one of them.” Following these steps—as done so well by Pope Francis—will do you great service in tempering your fear and raising your credibility. Not to mention, you’ll be yourself and that will work wonders in making your delivery fun and not torturous.

Here’s the link to the night Pope Francis was elected.

If you’re interested in watching a few great speeches in American history, here are a few links to some of my favorites (always great to watch a few speeches before writing one to get you in the right mindset):

King Henry V

FDR Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation

Reagan “Evil Empire” (begins at about 1:30..great intro example)

A Beautiful Mind (John Nash Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech)


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ImageBy Steve Schneider, President, CB Insurance

It’s that time of year when new jewelry will be gifted and new artwork, antiques and other collectibles purchased. Every year, collections grow, yet new purchases are often never added to the insurance policy. 

So, here is a suggestion: Take out that new I-Phone and snap a picture of those purchases you wish to insure. Set up an electronic file with the picture, description of the item, any unique qualities to the stone, along with current valuations. New items will often come with such a description—or you can seek the guidance of a professional to assist you (see below).  Keep your file updated and set an annual “task” to review this list and to send any changes to your insurance advisor.  

And—speaking of appraisals—how does one go about finding an appropriate expert to establish a proper value for fine jewelry, artwork, and other important collections?  Chubb Insurance recently published helpful hints for hiring an appraiser, and this information is linked here for your review: https://www.chubb.com/personal/tipsAndTools_Valuables.jsp

A quick overview:

  • Obtain a recommendation from a trustworthy source, such as a reputable dealer or collector and look for professionals who are members of regarded professional organizations, such as the Appraisers Association of America, American Society of Appraisers, or the International Society of Appraisers
  • Evaluate the level of experience of each appraiser. Is this professional new, or well established in their field?
  • Ask for a professional resume and ask for references
  • Always confirm the fee structure upfront. Fees should be based on an hourly, daily, or set rate, and never based on the value of the appraised item

A little work completed before the claim can save you from tremendous headaches (and heartache) after the claim. 

Steve Schneider can be contacted at Steve.Schneider@CentralBancorp.com

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by Jill Johnson, Vice President, The Corundum Group

As 2012 rolls on, we continue to watch the economy with rapt attention. This election and the handling of the pending “fiscal cliff” will both be very telling as to where markets and the global economy will head in coming years.

Congress is operating in an almost continual state of gridlock, and one of the most severe impacts of the stalemate will be felt when and if a series of planned tax increases and spending cuts go into effect the first day of 2013.

Few would argue that the shock of going off this fiscal cliff, as it is being called, would be easy for our economy to absorb.  Among the changes are the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, the Obama payroll-tax holiday, emergency unemployment benefits, and the reversion of exemption levels for gift and estate taxes.  The New Year will also see the introduction of new taxes to support the recently passed healthcare law.  When you look at all these factors you can’t help but hope for teamwork in Washington. Election outcomes will impact this whole scene as well as the following chart shows.


The uncertainty around the fiscal cliff causes us to remain wary and has likely contributed to the sluggish pace of recovery we experienced during the second quarter.  According to a survey of small business leaders conducted by the US Chamber of Commerce, 90% are concerned about the impact the fiscal cliff will have on their business growth. Nearly three-fourths of the respondents believe the recent healthcare law makes it harder to hire more employees. Global factors are also contributing to a fear of the unknown, fueled by economic challenges that continue to impair most of Europe and a slowdown in China.

Chart Source: RBC Global Asset Management, CBO, GS, RenMac, BoAML, DB, Eurasia Group, ISI. Note: Figures and scenarios are rough estimates. * Bush tax cuts for households with <$250K in income, Alternative Minimum Tax patch, tax extenders package. ** Original targeted debt ceiling cuts, old stimulus expiration, overseas military draw-down.

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By Charles Lamb, Marketing Director, Central Bancorp

ImageAn article in the Colorado Springs Business Journal last month (Most Small Business Owners are Marketing Online) reminded local small business owners of key challenges they face in creating the right marketing mix to establish—and keep—their customer base, create awareness, and differentiate their product in the marketplace.

A marketing program to do all of the above is tough work, assuming most small business owners do not have their own marketing directors, graphic designers, web developers, and social media experts on hand to do the work it requires to bring in customers and build their business. So, most small business owners—as the article states—resort to marketing online. The reputation of online marketing is it’s inexpensive and easy, and that’s why small business owners rely on the internet and social media to market themselves. I have some thoughts on why this should not be your only strategy outlined below, but first there are several points within the article on which I agree:

Small businesses need to go where their audience is. This is especially important if you have just one location and where your e-presence can benefit your growth.

Participating, networking, and being found online is extremely important. How customers interact with you electronically is critical and could be a prospect’s first point of contact with you due to the growing utilization of mobile and electronic devices.

A majority of consumers use the internet to research products and services in their local area. A user-friendly and attractive website or mobile application will drive customers to your business.

What made me stop and think a minute while reading Monica Mendoza’s article—who is, by the way, a great local writer for the journal—is the second paragraph, which says that of the small business owners surveyed by Manta—an online site for small businesses—74 percent find networking online just as, if not more, important than networking in person. Yikes!

Sure, you might need a Facebook presence. And, you need a decent website. But, as a small business owner, it’s to your advantage to also invest in developing strategic alliances and partnerships out in the community. You can do this by networking and getting involved in the Colorado Springs non-profit and business communities—creating ambassadors for your brand, which will drive business through referrals. And, the good news is that you don’t need a dedicated marketing department to create decent volume of word-of-mouth marketing.

Online marketing would be your mass approach and building strategic alliances and networking would be your grassroots approach to building your customer base—and it could most definitely take both efforts to do the job of building your business. But, my point is that you cannot put all of your marketing eggs in one basket and ignore the other. All effective marketing programs have a mix of both.

For further discussion or questions, feel free to contact Charles Lamb at 719.228.1143 or Charles.Lamb@CentralBancorp.com.

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If you are a CB Insurance or Central Bancorp client affected by the Waldo Canyon fire, please call (719) 228-1070.

*** Updates: For City of Colorado Springs fire information, including available lodging CLICK HERE

        Chubb Wildfire Defense Resources: Evacuation Assistance Kit | Protecting Your Home from Wildfires ***

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our community members, public safety officials, and military who are impacted and fighting the Waldo Canyon fire.

We are actively reaching out to our clients who may have been affected by this disaster to ensure that their immediate needs are being met and that they understand the insurance claims process and their coverage. And, we would like to supply a few resources that might be helpful to the community below.

Your safety is top priority. CLICK HERE for a wild fire safety checklist from the American Red Cross.

– For an understanding of what to do if you incur an insured loss, we have put together a short downloadable guide.CLICK HERE

– To receive emergency notifications from the county and city, register your cell phone. CLICK HERE

– For a listing of Red Cross shelters, call (719) 632-3563 or CLICK HERE

– We are a community that pitches in. If you’d like to donate food, necessities, or volunteer please visit Care and Share and Goodwill online.

Items Care and Share Food Bank is requesting:

* Canned and boxed meals such as macaroni and cheese, beef stew, soups, ravioli, and cereal

* #10 cans of fruits and vegetables

* Personal care products: new towels and washcloths, lotion, deodorant, shavers, shaving creme, toothpaste, diapers

– Also, there is a community group sharing information and resources on Facebook. Search ‘Waldo Canyon Fire’ to join the discussion.

We will be sure to update this blog and our website with information and resources, please check back.

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Contributed by Steve Schneider, President, CB Insurance

ImageThe hail storm has passed…now what? It is difficult to determine from the ground whether roof damage has occurred. Most times, a professional roofing contractor is required to make that determination. The roofer will look for “bruising” of the asphalt shingle, granule loss or damage to the edges of the shingle, and actual penetration or holes. For tile and wood shake roofs, the contractor will look for splitting or cracks, and can often repair the individual shingles, rather than a full roof replacement. You may find shingles lying around your property, which is a good indicator that a more in-depth inspection is needed.

Damage to automobiles is easier to spot and—in many cases—easy to fix. Should you have damage to your car, contact your insurance agent to discuss the next steps. This will usually entail taking the vehicle to two or three reputable auto body repair facilities for estimates. Be patient, as your insurance carrier will be swamped with storm-related calls and may take up to 48 hours to contact you. Your agent should be there to assist you if your insurance carrier becomes unresponsive.

Finally, large hail storms will attract “storm chaser” roofing contractors. Be very careful here because most are not experienced roofers and will be very difficult to track down should their workmanship be poor. Most are uninsured, creating additional liability exposures for you as a homeowner. Always work with your agent and insurance carrier to find reputable roofing contractors.

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Contributed by Steve Schneider, President, CB Insurance

ImageEntrepreneurs invest their personal capital to start and build businesses. They write personal checks to make payroll, to fund equipment expenditures, and pay operating costs. They put their own money at risk in hopes of an acceptable return on their capital. Historically, investment risk taken by the successful entrepreneur has been rewarded by increased profits and a long-standing business venture. Those who opened businesses were lauded for their propensity and willingness to incur risk and for their commitment to community and growth.  

Not so much today. In this political season, entrepreneurs are painted as greedy or labeled as Wall Street “fat cats” In reality, most entrepreneurs across the USA are Main Streeters, like you and me. They sit across from friends and neighbors in local churches and restaurants. They get up each morning to work another day–to make a product or provide a service, train or manage staff, attempt to smartly grow a business, and to participate in and enrich a community. Each day across our country, entrepreneurs incur risk and employ others with no guaranty; only the hope of their own success.

On January 1, 2013, the financial success these entrepreneurs seek–the economic reward they pursue by putting personal capital at risk—will be severely diminished. Ordinary income tax rates for many small business owners in the highest tax bracket will increase by over 10%. A new 3.8% Medicare Tax (Obamacare) will be applied to certain investment income, such as dividends and interest income. Capital gains on investments will be taxed at a rate 30% higher than in 2012. Income derived from stock dividends will be taxed as ordinary income, rather than the current 15% tax rate – a whopping +400% increase for those in the highest tax bracket.  All this after the company itself has paid up to 35% of its income in corporate taxes. 

So what’s the big deal? Those doing well should “pay their fair share,” right? We can always debate whether tax rates of 40% income, 35% corporate, 23.8% capital gains, 40% dividend income, and 55% estate (death) are “fair.” The question today is: “Would you write a personal check to start a business, knowing that almost half of what you earn over time will go to the federal government in the form of taxes?”  Or stated another way, “Would you invest your own money to grow a business and employ more people and take more risk, knowing that upon the sale of your business the increased value derived from your investment and sweat equity will be substantially taxed, and, to add further insult, that upon your death more than half of the remaining value might also go to Washington, rather than to your heirs?” 

If you are curious why the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high, why GDP growth is anemic, and why many of our best and brightest college graduates remain unemployed, you need only put yourself in the position of an entrepreneur and ask – “Would I write that check?”

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