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When did we stop prioritizing sleep?

I once overheard a manager giving a piece of advice to his team members.

“One easy way to impress a new client: send them an important email late at night. They’ll be impressed; they’ll know you’re hustling hard for them, even after work hours.”

It wasn’t the advice that was horrifying. It’s that I knew it would, in fact, impress many people I know. This is the society we’ve built, then. A professional culture that puts #TeamNoSleep on t-shirts; where all-nighters are accepted as part of startup life and we all compete to be visibly working at all hours of the day and night; where it’s normal to show up to work at 6 AM and stay past dinner.

Did you know that after 20 hours of being awake, you are as cognitively impaired as you are when you’re legally drunk? So why do we overvalue the employees that undervalue sleep?

In one of his recent podcasts, Kevin Rose interviews Professor Matthew Walker, Director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab. Walker discusses what he’s learned about sleep, explaining how we can connect its transformative power to fight disease and change our lives for the better.

Listening to this podcast terrified me – and empowered me. But it’s also a 90 minute podcast, and if you’re already not sleeping well, you definitely don’t have time for that – so let me fill you in on the high points.

The basics of sleep…

There are two critical stages of sleep. REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM. REM is defined as bizarre horizontal eye shift movements, whereas non-REM… well, you get it. Throughout the night these stages play out in a battle for brain domination, where the cerebral war will be won and lost every 90 minutes, and replayed again.

Non-REM consists of 4 stages – 1 & 2 being light sleep, and 3 & 4 being deep, slow wave sleep.

Remember this part: you can only have a deep sleep in non-REM.

Deep non-REM sleep is essential to help absorb new memories into the brain. It essentially functions like a save button. REM sleep, however, basically collides your memories into a hallucinogenic experience, connecting the pieces of information together. You need both, so your memories are both solidified and correctly associated with each other.

Bad sleep affects your whole body….

It’s not just about protecting your memories, or even your brain. Studies show that deep non-REM sleep helps recalibrate the cardiovascular system, reset hormone balance, regulate appetite, and refresh the immune system, among many other things. After just one 4-hour night of sleep, you can expect to see a 70% reduction in killer cells, which ultimately puts you in a state of immune deficiency and increases your chance by 4-5x to catch a cold. Another hard truth: if you are getting an average of 5-6 hours of sleep a night, you are 200% more likely to suffer from diabetes due to your consistently impaired glucose regulation.

But how do you know if you’re getting the proper amount – and kind – of sleep? There are many recommended wearables out there – the Whoop, Oura Ring, FitBit, and others. These devices will track your time of sleep, the length of your REM and non-REM cycles, and give you a detailed picture of your sleep quality. If you have an Apple Watch, apps like Pillow and AutoSleepTracker will do the trick.

You don’t really need technology to tell you how well you’re sleeping, though. Professor Walker has one question you should ask yourself: “If you didn’t set an alarm to wake up, would you sleep past it?”

If you answered yes, then you aren’t getting enough. And what most people don’t understand is that your brain cannot get back the amount of sleep it has lost.

Sure, there are sleeping medications – sedatives, really. But sedation is not the sleep that your body needs. Not to mention, sleeping drugs triple your risk for cancer. What usually happens with sleeping aids is that as soon as you stop taking them, your sleep is typically worse than it was before.

For better sleep, follow these hygiene tips…

Regularity: Wake up and go to sleep at the same times. Rule of thumb: it’s always better to go to bed earlier, than to sleep in later.

Temperature: Keep it cool – around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Your brain is required to drop its core temperature by 2-3 degrees to fall asleep.

Light: Melatonin rises with darkness. Dim down the lights in your last hour before bed and stay away from blue LED lights/screens. (On some of the newer electronics, you can choose to have those blue lights automatically lowered as you approach your “turn off time” – take advantage of this setting.)

Walk it out: If you’re in bed for 30 minutes and can’t fall asleep, don’t stay in bed. Your brain (similar to Pavlov’s condition) will quickly associate being in bed and being awake. Instead, walk around a little bit – but don’t pick up your phone.

I’m sure we don’t need to scare you with any more sleep statistics – but it only takes 1 hour of lost sleep to affect the human body. In recent studies circled around daylight savings time, they discovered that there was a 24% increase in heart attacks in the spring, with a 21% decrease in the fall. On top of that, your ability to concentrate and focus declines, you’re much more emotionally reactive, you become forgetful, and considerably less creative. In short: you suck when you don’t sleep.

What has been the biggest positive change you’ve made for a better night’s rest? Let me know in the comments or tweet me – I’d love to hear it.

Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here, and we’ll give them a call.

The post You Suck When You’re Not Sleeping appeared first on Far West Capital.

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Did you know your heart rate variability (HRV) is an indicator of your overall health? And that you can work on improving it? A wrist strap by the name of Whoop – a.k.a. “The First Product Engineered to Unlock Human Performance” – as well as this HeartMath Institute app are both great monitoring tools to help you keep track.

HRV monitoring with the Whoop bracelet helps you eliminate the guesswork. It’s being used by athletes to elevate their workouts and prevent overtraining. But it’s not just athletes getting a benefit; the Whoop can be used by anyone (cough-cough entrepreneurs) to manage and reduce stress and significantly improve their health.

Anyone considering lifestyle changes  will benefit from tracking their HRV daily.

Here’s how it works: a higher HRV suggests a relaxed, low-stress physiological setting, while a lower HRV indicates a need for recovery, rest, and sleep. The Whoop has five sensors that collect data 100 times per second, gathering 100 megabytes of data per user, per day. It doesn’t miss a beat.

Research from the HeartMath Institute shows that positive emotions can help change our stress-producing feelings and perceptions. As we take charge of our emotions, we can reduce and prevent much of the strain we experience. This positively affects both our emotional and physical levels, and shows up in a more consistent HRV. As we learn to counterbalance and transform our stress, we become mindful contributors to our own health, balance, and self-actualization.

Heart rate variability is a strong indicative marker for general health and resiliency. Bottom line: be in control of your physiology to perform at your best.

Have you tried either the Whoop bracelet or tracked your HRV? I’d love to hear from you.

Far West Capital is in the business of funding the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

The post Monitor Your Heart Rate & Your Stress With These New Tools appeared first on Far West Capital.

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“I’d like to buy the world a Coke….” – Coca-Cola commercial, 1971

Shauna Martin wants to get the world a green juice.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Shauna Martin would love the world to drink a green juice, every day.

Recovering from cancer, with juice

At 33 years old, Shauna was diagnosed with breast cancer – a head-spinning diagnosis for anyone, but especially a new mother at 33 who considered herself fairly healthy. Then came the draining, life-sapping chemo that would save her life but leave her feeling weak and malnourished.

Trying to detox and strengthen her body, Shauna started juicing at home – and found that it made an enormous difference in her day to drink a fresh pressed juice every day. She had more energy – and she felt better. But when she shared this with the group of young women she’d found who were going through similar cancer experiences, or her friends and family, the response she got was “This is hard. I don’t know if I can do this every day.”

And to be fair, juicing isn’t the easiest thing. There’s the ingredients – all that fresh produce, which doesn’t come cheap. There’s the time it takes – especially for young moms like Shauna, that time was needed. And then there’s the flavors – it might take you a dozen tries before you found the right combination for you.

The hustle begins

At the time, Shauna was a successful lawyer, working for a telecom company. But on her nights and weekends, she began making juice, working on flavors and bottling ones she liked to sell at the farmers’ market.

Soon, her tent was packed every weekend, and Shauna was thinking about leaving her law career behind.

“I just knew that if I could get everyone to drink a green juice – well, I’d seen it play out for me and my friends. Everything about their health situation got better, “ Shauna says. “They wouldn’t be deficient and malnourished. They’d eat better the rest of the day.”

The CPG industry can be incredibly tough to get into, but Shauna didn’t know any of that. All she knew was that she had a product people really liked. By the end of that first year, Whole Foods and HEB had added her juices to their stores.

“I didn’t want to start a juice bar. I wanted to get it out there everywhere. I wanted everyone to have access to it,” Shauna says.  “I think that I didn’t know how hard it was to crack into this industry, or I might not have done it.”

“Ignorance is bliss, you know?” Shauna laughs.

A changing world

Drink Daily Greens’ product line.

Drink Daily Greens launched at a fortuitous time, right as the market was changing – and customers were beginning to look for healthier options.

“When we started the company, a green juice was a luxury item for a yoga mom on the cutting edge,” Shauna says. “Now, our consumer work tells us that everybody in our customers’ families are drinking daily greens –  including the children.”

Shauna also realized that the existing products were full of sugars, and all fit a relatively narrow profile. So she developed unique flavors she knew her Texan friends would love – including her bestseller, Vitality, made of savory cucumber, kale, and cilantro, with a bit of pineapple, a touch of lime, and a dash of Himalayan pink salt – with a jalapeno kick at the end.

“I came up with that at a BBQ,” she says. “It still does very well in Texas.”

“There’s a lot of juice in our product category that’s really loaded up with sugar. People have a misconception that just because it’s the color green, it’s healthy. If it’s got more sugar in it than a Coke, it’s probably not healthy.” – Shauna Martin

Pricing is everything

It helps that her juice is remarkably cheap – $2.99 at Walmart for a 12-ounce bottle of cold-pressed fresh ingredients.

That was important to Shauna. She didn’t want Daily Greens to be a luxury product; she wanted it to be something you could find & afford, for less money than a Starbucks latte.

Eventually, as distribution deals from Whole Foods and Walmart would kick in, Shauna needed to find investment to scale her production. She found it from two angles – capital lending (aka, what we do) and equity investment from folks with CPG experience, adding industry expertise to her team.

“I think you have to have good investors – hopefully, you pick one that adds value. We have an amazing one – and we also have an amazing partner in Far West Capital, to even out our cashflow through time.”

Keeping up success

Today, they’re the 3rd biggest bottled juice in their category, and the only one still family-owned.

“It’s a David & Goliath situation… they can overspend us if they want to, and that’s been a challenge.”

But for Drink Daily Greens, big television advertisements aren’t necessary. They have a great story, and they can – and do – tell that story straight to their consumers via social media.

“People really like to connect with the brand that has a purpose and a why behind it,” Shauna says. “It’s not necessarily to make money – it’s to provide health and wellness to everyone.”

“Consumers actually care. They want to know: Who? What? Why? How?”

Shauna knows she had an unconventional journey to CPG success. Yet she believes it’s replicable – under one condition.

“I would tell them to believe in their product 100% in their heart and soul. The first year will be really hard, and they will want to give up, but if they just go to their “why” – that really good reason why they’re creating the product – that will get them through.”

Far West Capital is in the business of funding the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here, and we’ll give them a call.

The post A Juice A Day, For Everyone: The Story of Drink Daily Greens appeared first on Far West Capital.

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I’m from Lubbock, Texas, the Hub of the Plains. Growing up in Lubbock in the 80s, I heard a lot about two heroes: Jesus and Jack Daniels.

In West Texas, both are extensively studied. Let’s just say growing up in Lubbock grounds you in a conservative, practical, and no bullshit way of living.  Terms like “conscious leadership”, “meditation” or “higher purpose” weren’t really bandied about, at least in the practical business world.

I’m pretty sure that if a younger me had said “I’m embarking on a journey of exploration into Conscious Leadership,” I’d have gotten smacked.

We all understood and loved capitalism, and thought we knew all about it. As all good young budding capitalists do, I’d read Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, which mentions trust, care, and doing the right thing, and that America, this little 242-year experiment of economic, political and religious freedom, was all you needed to understand capitalism. All you’d need to understand as you go about conducting yourself in the world.

So, you can imagine that I was a bit skeptical when in 2011 – just a few years after I founded Far West Capital – I was invited by good friends to go to the Conscious Capitalism CEO conference.

I got lucky. It was so different than I could have ever imagined – not the hippie convention I was expecting, I suppose. Instead, it opened this Lubbock boy’s eyes. Suddenly, I was looking at my leadership role in an entirely different light. Things started making sense. I could connect everything I wanted Far West Capital to be, every goal we had for our clients, into an updated 21st-century model of capitalism.

I had to understand more about this. I bought books; I watched TED talks. I’ve been to every Conscious Capitalism conference since that first one, and met many great leaders – including John Mackey and Raj Sasodia, who wrote the seminal tome on this topic –  Conscious Capitalism. (You should also check out Raj’s TED Talk on the topic – it is an enthralling, fact-based endorsement of free-market capitalism and its positive effects on the world.)

For them, “conscious” thinking is capitalism’s next step – its higher calling, if you will. For me, it was a roadmap to a better, more conscious organization and self.

In the book,they describe the 4 Tenets of Conscious Capitalism:

  1. Conscious Leadership
  2. Stakeholder Orientation
  3. Conscious Culture
  4. Higher Purpose

As I started to apply what I was learning to my work at Far West Capital, I realized that the hardest one to achieve is the first –  “conscious leadership.” Without it, none of the others have a shot, no matter how hard you try to implement them at your organization, because it is the leader who sets the table for these possibilities. It’s on me.

“Only three things happen naturally in an organization, friction, confusion, and underperformance.  Everything else requires leadership”. ~ Peter Drucker

The following is a slide that Raj used in one of the presentations I attended…

I’m going to focus on just a couple of these that I consider sine qua non for being a conscious leader.  (I encourage you to pick up Conscious Capitalism Field Guide: Tools for Transforming your Organization, which comes out March 20 and will cover these topics in much more detail and with examples.)


The requirements for change are desire and coachability.  In other words, do you want to change?  Do you even think change is necessary? Do you have the desire to do the work? Will you follow the instructions?  Most people are fairly stuck in old patterns and it takes a lot to shake them from them, but can you choose to change? Can humans even evolve that dramatically?

The chart below is adapted from the classic book Power v. Force by Dr. David Hawkins M.D. Ph.D., where he calibrated human consciousness.  He demonstrates and proves that in general, the world did not evolve past “courage” until 1995. It is a truly fascinating read and gives you of idea how the world has progressed, with several examples along the way and a map of how to evolve yourself.

Before we get too “woo woo” here, don’t forget: job #1  of the Conscious Leader is to evolve and get better as a human being.  If you can’t be flexible enough to know you need to change (we all do) you can’t “be the change” – not without realizing that you must be flexible enough to change.

Emotional Intelligence – or “EQ”

I have met some super smart people – high IQ, photographic memories, you name it – over the years who, despite their smarts, failed to reach their goals. They were brilliant at books, but couldn’t understand the humans around them or even themselves at the same level they understood Einstein’s theories.

If we memorize, solve, exercise our brain to stay “smart”, why aren’t we also exercising our emotional smarts? Arguably, being able to understand yourself & others is a more valuable skill in life than, say, being able to reconstruct a Rubik’s cube.

It’s also key to conscious leadership. So once you have decided it is important to pursue a higher level of being and that you will do what is necessary, one way you do so is by developing your EQ.

Daniel Goleman, the undisputed godfather on the topic of EQ, breaks down the areas of fluency into four separate EQ “crucial competencies” – you can see them in the chart below.

If this is something you’re working on, these all make good guideposts for your self-evaluation. Need I say that this doesn’t happen overnight? You’re gonna screw it up – I sure do it regularly  – but the whole point is to learn each time.

So to sum up, being a “conscious leader” is not about floating around talking about the esoteric, meditating, or even yoga (although those are all great, if you ask me!). It is about the really hard work of facing yourself, understanding where you are, and working diligently and persistently to grow and change from the inside.

Today, business leaders hold sway over culture, politics and the future in a way that has never been true before. So as you think about your particular role (and we are all leaders), look into how you can take 100% responsibility for yourself and embrace the uncomfortable change that is necessary for your Conscious Leadership journey.

Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

The post How A Lubbock Boy Learned About Conscious Leadership appeared first on Far West Capital.

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Join us in a “Green Audit” in 2017

When you run a business, there’s a million things to keep an eye out for.

We have a recycling program. We offer paperless billing. We do an amazing job of staying digital and printing less. We’re proud of our Far Reaching Program that has partnered with EcoRise to empower students to create a sustainable business— one that makes money AND changes the planet for the better.
But we got honest with ourselves. We can do more, do things smarter, use less, waste less, and be better to our planet and our wallets. So we gave ourselves a challenge: Find 40 ways to be a greener business.

It certainly pays off in another kind of green: hospitals that reduce energy consumption and waste stand to save $15 billion over ten years. Companies that voluntarily adopt “green” practices have employees who are 16% more productive than average. And a Goldman Sachs study found that public companies who take the lead on environmental policies performed at least 25% better than the rest of the stock market.

So, join us as we take a walk around the office, and see what we can conserve this year.

Assess the situation – run through our quiz, below, to see how many of the 40 you might already be doing.

Make a plan. Here’s a couple guides to what an Environmental Management System plan might look like – that one’s better for large businesses – or, for smaller ones, follow this guide to writing a sustainability plan.
Get committed: It is relatively easy to enact green standards, but the hard part is maintaining momentum – after all, we all have to remember to toss our water bottles in the blue can, and habits are hard enough without getting a whole team to change theirs. Once you set your goals and plan, your next step should be to encourage employee participation – and find a way to engage them as active members of the process. Be sure to ask for suggestions and keep the dialogue open. When everyone is involved and in the loop about what is happening, it is easier to stay on track.

Stay inspired: Read up on how a few large companies stay green, and maintain that as part of their identity.


Remember, small changes could even add up to major tax credits. Here’s all 40 things to check off for a greener business. Do one pass through the list to figure out what you’re definitely doing already, then another pass to identify what you could tackle and change.

Lights and music…

  1. Use all LED lights and bulbs.
  2. Replace outdated appliances with Energy Star appliances.
  3. Get an energy audit and make simple changes around your office and house.
  4. Power your office with alternative energy.
  5. Use public transportation, drive an alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles, or bike to work. This has potential for an employee contest for participation!
  6. Add each person’s electronics on a powerstrip and turn it off after each workday.
  7. Set up a telework program. This could mean allowing employees to work from home, or setting up more teleconferences over traveling for meetings.
  8. Walk around the office an hour after regular business hours. How many screensavers do you see? Set those monitors to power off or go into sleep mode after the same amount of time – screensavers just waste energy.
  9. Eliminate your junk mail. Take a few steps to stop receiving junk mail.
  10. Send and receive all faxes via email.
  11. Upload employee manuals and forms online, rather than distributing print copies. This saves paper, but also makes it easier to keep up-to-date.
  12. Print in draft or “fast” mode whenever possible to save on ink.
  13. Go as paperless as possible and set printers to print double sided.
  14. Digitize files instead of printing and filing papers.
  15. Send contracts to be signed digitally.
  16. Utilize green web hosting.
  17. Examine your supply chain’s environmental practices.
  18. Do business with green vendors. Commit to Environmental Preferable Purchasing.
  19. Regularly change (or clean, if reusable) HVAC filters every month during peak cooling or heating seasons. Dirty filters overwork the equipment and result in lower indoor air quality.
  20. Install switch plate occupancy sensors to automatically turn off lighting when no one is present and back on when people return.
  21. Adjust lighting to your actual needs. Use free “daylight” during the day.
  22. Paint with light colors and high-gloss sheens. Daylight is more easily reflected off the walls, and less artificial light is necessary.
  23. Turn down your thermostat when you leave for work, or use a programmable thermostat to control your heating settings. This not only saves energy, but saves your office big bucks too.
  24. Fake the plates, buy less plastic, plant more trees.
  25. Eliminate plastic bottles. This is a great reason to gift all employees an awesome new company logoed stainless steel water bottle and ceramic mug.
  26. Switch to post-consumer waste (PCW) not just the paper with the (recycling symbol) on the box. PCW, is not only recyclable itself, is paper made from recyclable paper.
  27. When furnishing your office, consider purchasing used or vintage office furniture instead of brand new pieces.
  28. Recycle nonhazardous waste, and commit to a company-wide program.
  29. Start a company compost.
  30. Institute a program for recycling electronics. Check out Recycling for Charities.
  31. If your business has excess food that is otherwise wasted, take part in the Food Recovery Challenge.
  32. Fix all leaky faucets and toilets.
  33. Buy recycled ink cartridges. Each reused cartridge saves about 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic and about half a gallon of oil, all of which is wasted in the manufacturing process.
  34. Ensuring your mailing lists are up-to-date, thus saving the paper, printing, and postage.
  35. Set a business casual policy for the office. Not wearing suits means much less dry cleaning, which is better for the environment and your wallet.
  36. When landscaping, practice xeriscaping by using plants native to your climate that require minimal watering and have better pest resistance.
  37. Eliminate paper towels. Use cloth towels or hand dryers.
  38. Reduce the amount of water used per flush by putting a (rubber) brick in the tank.
  39. Instead of buying individual packets of coffee, creamer, sugar, etc. buy in bulk instead. Put it in some of those mason jars you once used for pickles, and you’re all set.
  40. Provide reusable dishes, silverware and glasses for your employees to use at work.
  41. Buy organic and local food for parties and other events.

What did you score?!

Want more? More links to get you on the right track:

The post Is Your Business EcoConscious? appeared first on Far West Capital.

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I don’t get up at 4:30am every morning to lift kettlebells (I prefer yoga) and I’m not into rubbing dirt on my face. But despite those recommendations, retired Navy SEALS Jocko Willink and Lief Babin’s new book “Extreme Ownership” totally resonated with me. 

Jocko Willink, retired Navy SEAL commander and best-selling author of “Extreme Ownership”.

Their key principle: you need to take 100% responsibility for everything that goes on your organization.

I had to let this book soak in a little. Once I’d reflected, I made a list of the practical things – the Navy SEAL ninja moves, if you will – that I see reflected in what Far West Capital has done best, and what we can do better in the future.

1. Take “extreme ownership” for your mission and ALL its results.

It all starts with the supposition that any results created – not just the good stuff! –  are your ultimate responsibility if you are in a leadership role.

In 2017, we totally revamped our operation – several times – after a couple of large hits that stung pretty good. As CEO, it would have been easy to blame others who were more directly involved in the breakdown. Trust me, I wanted to. But at the end of the day, I set up the systems. I hired the people. I set the goals. Ultimately, these failures lie directly at my feet.

In the book, Jocko describes a failure that makes my failure seem rather petty.  In 2012, in Iraq, Jocko was commanding a SEAL task unit that was under heavy gunfire. He thought it was the mujahadeen, but in fact it was friendly fire from another SEAL unit – and unfortunately, a soldier died.

Jocko was the ranking officer, and in his eyes there was only one option: take full responsibility and own it. By doing so, he saved his job.  His superiors understood that all leaders make mistakes, but only the good ones take responsibility for them.

Bottom line: You will never make progress offering “reasons” – aka excuses. If you do, everyone around you will do the same, and you will have an organization of blame, obfuscation and mistrust.  Not what you are looking for.

2. Execution of your mission depends on understanding its importance.

Why are we doing this?  

We have all seen Simon Sinek’s seminal talk on the topic by now, but if your team does not “get it” and clearly understand the purpose of your business – hell, if you are not a true believer yourself – the mission will be compromised.

We have spent many years refining this and the conversations continually evolve with the team. We wrote and defined a “core ideology stack” (you can read ours here) that includes…

  • Purpose Statement

  • Core Values
  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Manifesto

Lending millions of dollars a day across 33 states, with over 300 clients, we treat each relationship like it was our own business, knowing full well that our clients are trusting us with one of the most important aspects of their entire lives – their cash flow. It is very important that each team member understands the gravity of the decision making and that it is grounded in our “Why”:  to help each other and our clients to unleash their potential.

3. “Cover and Move” is essential for a successful mission.

Babin describes a situation in Ramadi, Iraq that could have been very costly in terms of lives; luckily, his team escaped unscathed, but he blames himself. He didn’t employ a basic tenet of the Seals – “Cover and Move” – which basically means work as a team.

Our Core Values start with team.  We emphasize open communication, and another of our core values, Transparency.  We utilize some very simple and effective communication tools such as workify.com, Slack.com, Trello.com and Salesforce.com to make sure everyone is up to speed and understands the score on a daily basis.  This sounds easy and pretty intuitive, but one rogue team member can mess up a lot of stuff, so you have to be brutal when it comes to hiring and firing around your core values.

4. When your mission is under pressure, “prioritize and execute.”

On a daily basis, we have many fires competing for attention. Sound familiar? To prioritize, we utilize a simple methodology – you may recognize it from Stagen Leadership.

 It is so easy to get overwhelmed; if you’re struggling with this with your own goals, read our piece on personal attention management to focus you on the important stuff.

“Relax. Look around. Make a call.”

– SEAL mantra

5. A successful mission mitigates risks in real time.

As a lending company, we know firsthand how important it is to think through the downsides and be prepared for the known risks. We follow the maxim “Risk is what you don’t know, not the thing you know.” Control the things you can – and remember it’s an ongoing process.

  • We created a set of non-negotiables that exist in every relationship we have on the books and we created a set of KPIs that are reported on weekly around those non-negotiables.
  • There are many things we can’t control in a lending relationship, but we can control these six things, so we focus on executing them flawlessly each week across the portfolio.

(Turns out, it is much easier said than done; see point 1 and the failures I mentioned.  If you are a lending nerd, call me and I will tell you the story.)

6. Your mission needs tight lines of communication, both up and down the chain of command.

Everyone at Far West Capital knows that I love data and information. It may sometimes seem like overkill, but without the right data, good decisions are impossible. We also utilize a system called Khorus.com that helps the team stay focused on our long term S.M.A.R.T. goals each week.

We practice transparency with the team, sharing detailed financial information, strategic plans, goals and tactics.  We are working to develop “Radical Transparency” a la hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio; we have a ways to go, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.

7.  Decentralize command of the mission for effective leadership.

If you are relying on heroics of “the guy” or using “hope” as a strategy, we call that “smoking hope-ium”. Do that, and you are going to vastly limit the potential of your team.  Success must come from the team, from others empowered to do their job and lead outcomes.

We make sure that nobody has more than 6 direct reports, and that each team clearly understands the goals of the organization and their own responsibilities.

So, to summarize: you have to own your mission, you have to understand and communicate its importance, you have to do it as a team, your actions must be prioritized, you must constantly be vigilant for unexpected risks, the team must be in tight communication, and you can’t take the full leadership load – you must delegate.

I’m looking for more books along these lines – if you’ve read one that inspired your leadership style, please tell me. You can tweet at me here – or just comment on this post.

Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

The post Lead Like A Navy SEAL: 7 Rules, No Excuses appeared first on Far West Capital.

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Ten years ago I sat down with my good friend, mentor, and successful businessman John Henry McDonald.  I had just started my business, and I needed help. “How did you do it?” I asked. “How did you keep your focus on the right things and ignore all the distractions?”

He opened up a journal, filled with writing and little drawings.

He said, “I’ve been writing in this journal every day since 1984. That’s your answer.”

It wasn’t as easy as it looks, let me tell ya. But ten years later, the habit is inviolable: I write every single morning. 

I looked back on those old journals recently, right after Far West Capital turned 10; it has definitely been a decade of change, transformation, failure, and success. The journals kept me on track.

Here’s what I wrote about the process for Forbes. I’d love to hear your journal process – please comment here and I’ll incorporate them into a future post.

Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

The post Looking Back on 10 Years of Daily Journals appeared first on Far West Capital.

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Greetings, fellow procrastinators.

How easy is it to get caught up in the day, caught up in busyness, and get to the end, only to realize you haven’t actually accomplished anything?

You may be looking at your phone right this second, procrastinating another task you might need to accomplish. Irony aside, let’s get to a simple way to keep you on track with your real priorities, get you off “the twitter”, and keep you focused in 2018.

On the top of my white board at the office, I keep a quote.

“Discipline is remembering what you want” ~ Unknown

But you don’t have to rely on your memory alone.

Here’s how I remember what I want.

Step 1: Get organized for the week.

I prefer Sunday mornings, when it is quiet and I can focus.

  • Gather and review my annual / monthly written goals (I use this MasterMind journal).
  • Gather and review both my personal and professional to-do lists (I use Trello).
Step 2: Plan your week.
  • Understand and sort my priorities into the following buckets as you see in this matrix…

Example of a 2×2 prioritization analysis (Credit: Stagen)

Step 3: Schedule meetings, tasks, intentions, and goals with some serious discrimination.

Ask yourself – and take notes! – on the following…

  • “Will this move me closer to my objectives?”
  • Am I doing this just to be busy?
  • What outcome do I intend from this task / meeting/ goal? (Write this down!)
  • Write in the affirmative, what you intend for each bucket of activities / meeting / task.  What outcomes are you intending?  
  • What priority is this task/ meeting/ goal?

Now, eat the frog: tackle the hardest thing first. Next, schedule time for Deep Work, and focus your time.

Step 4: Set a time to review each day and cross things off the list.  

It’ll reinforce your abilities to perform better and better, and help you drop the activities “you don’t have time for” or make time for the ones that are really important.

I have to thank my friend Rand Stagen at the Stagen Institute for helping me with the general framework of this simple and very effective system.

I’d love to hear yours. What’s your “attention framework”? What routines and systems have helped you focus effectively?

Comment on this post… or join our discussion on LinkedIn.

Cole Harmonson is the CEO of Far West Capital, a company that funds the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.

The post Prioritize Your Attention Better in 4 Steps appeared first on Far West Capital.

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When Nancy started helping kids & families in the court system, there was no other alternative.

Court-ordered counseling wasn’t a thing. There wasn’t a way for juveniles to avoid jail. There was just Nancy – and 3 employees she’d hired to their new agency, determined to make a difference.

They firmly believed that providing services to families in their home would be more effective; that they could meet these kids and these parents where their needs were. The goal: always, always to keep families intact, as much as possible. They became a one-stop shop, offering therapy services, home-based services, and supervision, as well as juvenile programs.

They do as much as they can. In their county, they are the largest agency sent families and juveniles by the courts; they take as many as staffing and scheduling allow. Occasionally they have to turn referrals away; with so many evening duties as part of the job, sometimes they run out of staff available to do another evening to get a supervised visitation done.

But the success is undeniable. In the last few years, a new program emerged for juvenile detention in their state. Kids who had committed a minor offense have a choice to go to an alternate program that Nancy’s agency supports. Every day, five days, 3 PM to 7PM, and Saturday for another five hours, they do community activities, cooking, and volunteering – all to keep them busy and get them acclimated to the community. “We’ve had quite a bit of success with that,” Nancy says with no small amount of pride.

Yet paperwork nearly shut them down a few years ago.

Nancy’s agency used to get paid by the county, on a per-patient basis. Some years ago, the state took over that duty – but everything got more complicated. They’d bill 100,000 hours and get 10 of them paid. Payroll was late, then later. Nancy tried to get a loan, but the banks she talked to weren’t interested.

Finally, frustrated beyond belief, Nancy asked her mom for help – and got a loan that kept her in business, but barely. Other agencies in the state weren’t so lucky; experiencing the same issues, many shut their doors.

It was her tax lawyer, helping her with bankruptcy, that told her about Far West Capital. Working with us, she was able to get the state to process invoices electronically and able to control her cashflow enough not to worry about payroll.

“It’s really been a blessing. It’s a great weight off my shoulders,” Nancy says.

These days, her agency needs the blessing. They’re facing a challenge that grows bigger every day: families that are involved in substance abuse. These families – often addicted to opioids – are often the ones with the least chance of reunification with their children, frustrating Nancy’s ability to help.

But they’re trying. Before Far West Capital stepped in, they had had to move – cramming the youth program and the young child programs in the same space. Basketball competed with kindergarten games; problems kept coming up with rambunctious teenagers in the same space as 4-year-olds.

A few weeks ago, with their cashflow stable, Nancy rented a warehouse. She’s excited – the warehouse has office space, but also a basketball goal, a pingpong table. Separate spaces for the teenagers and the little kids. There’s a kitchen they can use in cooking classes with the teenagers, a garden, and plenty of outside space.

The work Nancy does is never easy, and getting harder. 150 families depend on what they do every day. But she’s paid her mom back; she’s no longer worrying about how she’ll pay her employees, and the teenagers can play basketball safely. That, in Nancy’s book, is success.

Far West Capital is in the business of funding the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here, and we’ll give them a call.

The post Helping Families, Without Worrying About Payroll appeared first on Far West Capital.

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On Wednesday, December 20, Congress passed a sweeping tax reform bill. While it’s easy to find a calculator that shows the impact to individuals, the effects to small businesses are less clear. Here’s what we know so far – and what you should do as a business owner NOW at the end of 2017.

Disclaimer: We’re certainly not experts on this topic – consult your CPA for the best results. What did we miss?  We’d love to include your contributions – use the comments on this post or go over to LinkedIn to discuss. We’ll update this post and quote you by name, unless you tell us not to.

  1. “Pass-through” businesses get their taxable income reduced by 20 percent. This includes sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S Corporations. Not one of those? Time to convert, if you can – unless you’re a services business making over $315,000, you will benefit from this deduction immensely. (Note: This provision expires December 31, 2025.)
  2. If your employees deduct unreimbursed business expenses, tell them to do it NOW – any deductions they’re taking for home offices, depreciation on their personal computers, or duties to professional societies and journals go away starting in 2018. Get those paid now – you can claim this deduction in 2017, but not in 2018. (Here’s H&R Block’s guide on deducting business expenses.)
  3. It’s usually a good idea to accelerate your expenses and delay your income this time of year; this year, it’s an even better idea. Wait on sending your December invoices until January if you can.
  4. Are you a corporation that does business abroad? According to Inc, corporations that do business abroad will no longer be taxed by the U.S. on the profits they generate overseas.
  5. Do you have employees on salary? You need to start thinking about how you’ll adjust their paychecks in 2018. According to the Tax Foundation, “the standard tax deduction has doubled, while personal exemptions have been eliminated. Plus, as much as 28 percent of federal tax may be automatically withheld on any bonus, commission, or supplemental wages, up from the current 25 percent rate.” However, wait until the IRS releases updated guidance – the IRS is already saying they anticipate a late release of the 2018 federal withholding tables, Form W-4, and Publications 15, 15-A, and 15-B. Keep using the 2017 information until the 2018 versions are issued.
  6. Do you provide breakfast or lunch for your employees? You won’t be able to fully deduct those costs anymore. Starting in 2018, you may only deduct up to 50 percent of those costs. That provision lasts until 2025, after which you will no longer be able to deduct it at all.
  7. Deducting interest on bank loans? This lowers the available deductions of net interest expense to 30 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) for four years, and 30 percent of earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) thereafter.
  8. This is a big one: If you’re needing new equipment, start making plans to get it soon. The new bill allows full and immediate expensing of short-lived capital investments for five years and increases the section 179 expensing cap from $500,000 to $1 million.
  9. No more net operating loss carrybacks; and carryforwards are now limited to 80 percent of taxable income. Here’s a good explainer on what that used to mean – if this applies to you, best make sure it’s done before 2018.

Two great resources for more information: Inc Magazine on the final tax bill’s impact to businesses; and the Tax Foundation’s full analysis of impacts to individuals and businesses.

How will these impact you in 2018? Please let us know in the comments or on LinkedIn.

Far West Capital is in the business of funding the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call. 

The post Will Your Business Benefit from the New Tax Law? appeared first on Far West Capital.

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