Best Apps to Make Your Life Easier

Hey everybody,

As someone who has always been interested in the tech space – I want to take a moment to talk about apps. They’re everywhere and it seems like more options are coming out every day. There are apps that manage finances, apps to manage social media, and even apps to manage your home.

As the saying goes, “there’s an app for that.” So today, I thought I’d share some of the best apps that I’ve been using recently. Maybe they can help you too.

Brave – a Peaceful Internet

I hate ads. They’re everywhere and advertisers never seem to run out of ways to annoy you with their increasingly intrusive targeting capabilities. If you feel the same way, you should check out Brave – it’s an internet browser that blocks pesky advertisements as soon as you start using it. Say goodbye to obnoxious popups, side panel display ads and questionnaires. It is also worth mentioning that the added bonus of this app is a dramatically improved battery life for your mobile device, as it will no longer be constantly pinging between trackers. If you want a faster, lighter internet experience, I highly recommend this app.

Soundcloud – a Better Way to Listen to Music

Have you ever wanted a way to download and listen to your music, podcasts, shows all in one place? If so, then you should download Soundcloud. This app has apparently been around for a while now, but it is new to me and I find myself using it all the time.

I use this app to catch up on news shows and to listen to some of my favorite music, anytime and anywhere. One of the reasons that I recommend using this app is because the sheer number of platforms and users it has. It has become so popular that anything you’d like to listen to is available through the app.

Nwsty – News Source from One Location

This is a fantastic app that I think everyone could use these days. Nwsty is an app that puts together the biggest headlines of the day and places them all in one location. With this app, you won’t have to go from one news outlet to the next. It’s all just right there, conveniently curated for your interests.

Not only does this make keeping up with current events easier, but it drastically reduces the amount of time that you use for browsing media content. As a news junkie myself, I know all too well how easy it is to get sucked into different news stories – this app keeps me informed, but in a way that doesn’t require a huge time commitment.

My Fitness Pal – Easy Nutritional Guide

This is an app that anyone into healthy lifestyles will enjoy. It’s a combination of a calorie tracker and a nutrition guide. The app comes with a library of nutritional information that stores and tracks your diet – giving you a complete view of how many calories you’ve consumed while also giving you the nutritional breakdown as well.

One of the neatest things about this app is the ability to scan barcodes, which retrieves information directly from their library and places it into your phone. This is a great app for anyone looking to mind their calories or anyone interested in learning about their nutritional habits.

Mint – Automated Finances

This app was recommended to me as a way to keep track of personal finances without having to spend too much time managing budgets. Most people sit down at the end of the month to gauge their spending and income; however, that can be a pain and very time consuming depending on how disorganized the month has been.

With Mint, the user simply syncs their accounts with their bank, and it will automatically keep track of everything for you. Mint automatically groups purchases and incomes into various categories and allows you to view how you are handling your finances. The only thing that is required on your part is to establish your budget and occasionally assign a category to a purchase here and there.

The creators of this app are the same people who made Quicken, so they are trustworthy and are sure to protect your information. The app also allows you to check your credit in real time and offers interesting charts and graphs to give you a visual level of your budget.

Venmo

Keeping in the same area of finance – Venmo is an app that you’ve always wanted but might not have heard about. It allows you to set up an account, link it with your bank information and then send/receive funds to and from other users. In an increasingly cashless society, it’s the digital equivalent of borrowing a dollar from a friend.

This app is a good tool to have in case you need to transfer funds to someone, but in a much faster and easier way than a wire transfer. You can even pay rent and utilities with the platform. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll use this app.

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Hopefully you found these apps interesting and maybe they will help make your life just a little bit easier. Do you have any that you recommend? If so – let me know in the comments.

Talk again soon,

~ Scott Asner Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

How to Make 2020 a Great Year

Hi folks –

At the start of every year, millions of us take the time to come up with New Year’s resolutions and think of ways to maximize the year ahead of us.

Now, it is very likely that these resolutions fall by the wayside early within the new year – in fact, it is estimated that around 80% of set resolutions fail. The simple reality is that it can be very difficult to make definite changes or accomplish specific goals in your life just by basing them on an arbitrary date.

So this year, how about just resolving to make it a GREAT year in general? I thought I would take today to share a few ways that you can make 2020 a great year – by taking a different approach.

Trying for Too Much, Too Quickly

When most people think about what they would like to achieve at the beginning of each year, they tend to set large, sweeping goals in many different categories. Filled with the motivation and cheer leftover by the holiday spirit, they might say things like, “I’d like to get healthier, make more money, spend more time with my family and learn a new language.”  And while these are great intentions to set, it may not be the best strategy to target so many different aspects of our lives at once and expect to make significant improvements by the end of a 365-day period.

By taking on too many goals and expecting too many results at the end of the year – you spread your focus too thin. It would be much more productive to set smaller goals in specific categories, then move on according to need.

Recognize that January 1st is just a date and focus on the single most critical category of your life that you would like to see changes in. Try breaking your life down into groups: health, finances, relationships, spirituality, etc. Then, take a step back to gauge which area you would like to improve most, and commit to tackling that aspect first.

Get a Hobby, Get a Life

It doesn’t matter who you are, or what kind of improvements you would like to make in your life – one sure way to making this coming year great is to get involved in a hobby. Hobbies are activities that you pursue simply out of curiosity and enjoyment, not because you want to “accomplish” something.

In many ways, finding a hobby can introduce a new, exciting and fulfilling aspect to your life. This is especially helpful to someone who may be living well and doesn’t feel a strong need to jump on the New Year’s resolution bandwagon. Even if you do stillwant to get a sense of making improvements to your life – you can use your hobbies as a tool for doing so.

For instance, you may wish to take up hiking, which is both a great way to explore and appreciate the natural world around you, while also giving you health benefits of exercise. Of course, there are other healthy hobbies to pursue, such as: picking up a sport, diving into culinary arts, or even taking dance lessons.

The great thing about hobbies is that they allow you to focus your attention and energy onto an activity that is both fun and productive. They’re a sure-fire way to enhance your life and make the year one to remember.

Practice Gratitude

Developing a strong sense of gratitude may be one of the most effective and easiest ways to make this a phenomenal year. Gratitude is a powerful way to instill a strong sense of appreciation for all aspects of our lives. It realigns our perspective to focus on the good things that we already have and enjoy.

Of course, striving for improvement is a natural instinct and reaching higher levels of success should be celebrated – but gratitude reminds us that we already have so many things to be thankful for and to celebrate.

By cultivating gratitude, you will find yourself happier, more optimistic, more inspired to tackle new challenges and with a stronger appreciation for friends and family. The simplest way to do this is by starting a gratitude journal and begin every morning by jotting down a few things that you are thankful for. Over time, you will begin to notice just how much you already have going for you, and it doesn’t cost anything other than a few moments every day.

Wishing you the best,

~ Scott Asner Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

Rewarding Things about Running a Business

Hey there – Scott Asner of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) here.

In a previous post, I laid out some of the things that business owners should know about running a business. Now, I’d like to touch on some of the most rewarding aspects of creating and running your very own business.

It is one of the most freeing and gratifying journeys that anyone can embark on, and despite the hard work, there is a lot that makes the risk worth the reward.

So with that, let’s dive in!

Escaping the Rat Race

Many people have the same fundamental dream – to escape the boring 9-5 in exchange for endless free time and the funds to make the most of it.

While some people play the lottery, business people play their own kind of lottery in creating their own company. The idea of any business is to generate income that exceeds the possibilities of a normal job and to eventually be able to spend their time as they’d like while still receiving passive income.

Some want to build a business and sell it off to the highest bidder for a quicker payout; some want to build a legacy to pass down to their children; others want to establish a stable passive income stream that lets them enjoy their life while also taking a check.

These are all valid strategies and good reasons to start your own business. Few things are more rewarding than having free time for yourself, and the funds to enjoy that free time.

You Are the Boss

Almost everybody at some point had a boss that they had a hard time with, and some people simply cannot work under the direction of other people. When you run your own business, you become your boss.

This is a great and rewarding aspect for people who are more independently minded and do not like the idea of their livelihood being left in the hands of someone other than themselves. It is a mindset that comes from self sustainability and a vision of only being held to your own standard.

Ultimately, when you are accountable to yourself for your own success, you feel empowered and satisfied they you are more in control of your life. It can be terrifying to truly think about at first, but there is a sense of great satisfaction that comes with calling your own shots, taking chances as you see fit and directing your professional life purely from your own point of view.

You Are Always Engaged

A lot of people stuck in the 9-5 work model are unhappy with their jobs. It has been stated that half of Americans do not feel engaged at work, and 16% say that they would go so far as to say that they are actively disengaged.

They don’t feel connected to the company, its mission, their role within the organization or what they are doing on a day-to-day basis. This can be a soul-crushing reality for so many people who feel stuck and lost – like they’re just killing time shuffling papers while they miss the world going by.

Well, creating your own business is a ticket to the action. When you create your own business, you have no choice but to be completely engaged with the vision that you’ve carved out for yourself – otherwise, it will all come falling down around you.

What’s more, creating a business opens the door to pursuing a hobby or field that someone is passionate about and gives them an ability to make a living in that area. Even if someone is not particularly “passionate” about a business venture that they have started purely for profit, passion actually builds up around their business once they begin to see a level of success.

The Life of Your Dreams

Building a business is a golden ticket to the life of your dreams. It certainly isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice – but it offers you a ticket to what people crave most in the human condition: freedom.

The freedom to be your own boss. The freedom to spend your time doing what you like most. The freedom to control your own destiny.

It is exhilarating and any business owner would tell you that they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until next time,

~ Scott Asner, Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

Things Potential Business Owners Should Know Before Getting Started

Greetings from Kansas City – Scott Asner of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) here.

As somewhat of a lifelong entrepreneur, I have never seen such an exciting time to start up a new business venture. The rest of the country seems to feel that way too – the enthusiasm is everywhere. We are always hearing about the “gig economy,” “startup culture,” and “hustle.”

Clearly more and more people are interested in creating their own business. So today, I wanted to share some helpful tips from my life that all prospective business owners should know about the realities of running their own business.

Understand Your Market, and Develop a Solid Business Model

It doesn’t matter how much startup capital you have, how great your idea may be or how little competition you may have out there – without a strong business model and a general grasp on the overall economy, your new business might be little more than a pipedream.

Before taking out a loan or ditching a solid income, it is vital to have all your ducks in a row and to be prepared for hard times ahead. It is said that 20% of all businesses fail within their first year, and 50% fail by the fifth year.

You have to understand the risks that you’re undertaking when stepping out into a new venture. To do this, you should know whatever field you’re hoping to get into, from inside and out. This includes networking and speaking to other businesses owners in your field, researching the industry and its current/future challenges, and staying up-to-date on trends. Any business owner will tell you that running a successful business is not something that you can set and forget once the clock strikes five – it requires serious consideration and understanding.

This also requires developing a fail-proof business model, especially for the first couple of years. You will need a product or service – something that you can offer the market – and then you need a way to provide it. Whether that means developing a sales funnel, working out operational logistics, or prepping for a lack of demand – you must have an answer for any challenge.

One helpful tip here is to work backwards from your goal and anticipate the worst case scenarios to plan for them for when disaster strikes.

Concentrate on Meeting a Demand

Some aspiring business owners get too carried away about “what could be” rather than considering the realities of the market. While it’s always great to dream big and to be ambitious with your business goals – the ultimate focus of a new business should be to meet the customer’s demands.

We have all seen novel ideas that were neat, but ultimately did not meet a substantial demand. These types of businesses tend to come and go because they simply did not have a market.

For instance, apps are a new market that a lot of younger people seem to want to explore. You may have heard the phrase, “there’s an app for that,” and there seems to be no limit to what people can package into a simple software platform – but for every wild success story of a new app, there are always the unknown ones that failed.

I am NOT saying that business owners should not pursue their dreams or off-beat business ideas – but ultimately, the customer is what matters most in business. Your idea should be marketable to their demands.

Having said that, sometimes novel ideas – to downright silly ones – can turn into huge money makers. Remember pet rocks? They swept the nation like wildfire and certainly made somebody a lot of money.

If you have an idea that can capture the interest of consumers – by all means, try to generate interest and capitalize off of it. But understand that profits might be short lived before trying to establish a larger business around a singular idea or gimmick.

Monitor Your Budget and Income

Sometimes when business opportunities explode, it can become quite a challenge to keep tabs on all of your financials. Once your business starts to really take off, you will want to have someone or a team in place to manage and analyze all of your income and expenses. Those who fail to do so can miss out on a mountain of profit and not even realize it.

Things can add up when you’re running a business: office equipment, software subscriptions, staffing and all of the overhead that comes with any organization. If you’re starting out – try to minimize these expenses as much as you possibly can or it may force you to scale back and stagnate, or go bust completely.

New business owners should keep a close eye on their expenses and maintain detailed ledgers of transactions. Make sure that every item and every purchase is kept on record so that you can balance your budget at the end of every week, month and quarter.

New business owners who experience explosive growth can easily lose track of factoring in all of their expenses, as they’re riding high on success. But they should understand that growth spurts also come with contractions, and they should be prepared accordingly.

Risk and Reward

With any business venture, there is an inherent risk that comes with it. Sometimes it requires the help of a loan from a bank or business partner; sometimes it takes giving up a sure thing to journey into the unknown. That is just a natural part of business.

Running a successful business is always worth the risk, but anyone thinking about jumping into the fray should consider everything that goes into the process. Hopefully these insights can help anyone seeking to make that jump.~ Scott Asner Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

Common Mistakes Business Owners Should Avoid

Hi there – it’s Scott Asner here, coming to you from Kansas City.

In an earlier blog, I went over some of the things that business owners should know about running their own business. Today, I wanted to go into some additional common mistakes that I’ve learned during my time in the business world.

Running a successful business is never as easy as it seems to the outside world, but here are some of the most common mistakes that people make when stepping onto the field.

Failing to Network

No matter how unique or unconventional your business idea or model may be – you are not as alone as you think. We’re all more alike than we would imagine, and chances are that there is a fellow businessperson out there who is going through similar challenges that you may be experiencing.

It would be an immense disservice to yourself to avoid seeking out or networking with other businesspeople who may be able to provide insight into your operation. Even if another business owner is in an entirely different field, you might still glean some insights that could translate into your own organization.

Networking is an extremely valuable skill set to learn in of itself, and it could even lead to new business. Relationships matter greatly in the business world and I cannot tell you the amount of times that establishing solid relationships has led to a beneficial situation.

It may even be a good idea to find an objective party to help mentor you. Try to seek out experienced, proven businesspeople who have been around long enough to help give you some wisdom on what worked, and what didn’t work for them. Also, join business organizations for people in your field. These are all people who share the same dream of operating their own business and they could become valuable resources as they tackle obstacles of their own.

Failing to Delegate

A common mistake that many new business owners will make is the failure to delegate tasks to other members of the organization. A lot of times, business owners who are expanding are so used to having to do everything on their own, that they forget that they can only do so much. Other times, they just have a hard time relinquishing control of their own organization – no matter how trivial the task may be.

And once they finally drop the habit of taking on everything themselves, they’ll still have to fight the urge of micromanaging other members of leadership or even lower-level employees. This process is natural, but it’s a massive time waster and productivity killer for the business owner.

When you grow a company – you must have faith in your partners and team members to help you make your business a success. Business owners should feel comfortable delegating tasks – even large ones – to people within the organization who they feel are capable. If not for efficiency, for sanity.

Failing to Branch Out into New Territory

A lot of times when a business becomes successful – the natural inclination is to continue doing what has already worked and to hopefully expand profits. While there’s nothing wrong with this line of thinking, it can cause business owners to be left out of expanding into newer territories.

Look at a modern-day giant like Netflix. Netflix started as a mail-in DVD rental business – but they looked at new market opportunities and turned to developing their streaming service. Now, they’ve branched out even further into developing their own original content with exclusive titles from legendary directors and headlining comedians. This same mentality is usually found in all highly successful organizations.

If your business is good, don’t just be good at one thing. Look into other areas where you can fill a market because if you don’t, somebody else will. And sometimes failing to adapt can be devastating to your survival (Blockbuster).

Final Thoughts

In the end, starting and running a successful business can be a difficult undertaking. There are a lot of variables to consider at any given time, and it is a constant process of learning and adapting to new circumstances.

These are just a few of the common mistakes that I’ve seen fellow businesspeople make over the years, and there are plenty more. I hope that these can help people from falling into some of the more common pitfalls.

All the best,

~ Scott Asner, Kansas City, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG)

Simple Ways to Stay Healthy Throughout the Workweek

Staying healthy and active all day in the office is a big challenge for all employees. Especially considering that most of our modern workday is comprised of sitting for eight hours in front of the computer.

And while this is the reality that we live in, it is absolutely terrible for your overall health. Everything from your posture, to eye strain, to neck tension – all of these problems can affect your health.

By following a few essential tips, you can stay healthy and active during your working hours. This will improve your productivity long-term and maintain your focus on important work tasks.

Here are some simple ways that help you to stay healthy throughout your workday.

Pack Your Lunch

The brain needs nourishment to perform well, especially if you are working longer hours. One of the healthiest things you can do to ensure you’re getting that vital nutrition is to bring your lunch from home.

Food prepared from home allows you to stay in control of what you’re eating and can give you the edge you need to get through the day. And however tempted a resident of Kansas City may be to visit one of our fine restaurants, packing your lunch helps you avoid the highly processed foods, and it also gives you the choice to pick your favorite foods throughout the day.

Just the act of planning and selecting your groceries with the workweek in mind will prompt you to make healthier choices about what you want to consume. This effect can then snowball into a routine that adds massive benefit to your life and overall health.

This is also a great tip for anyone minding their budget, as you will save a pile of money over time.

Get Up and Move

The act of sitting in a chair all day and staring at a computer screen is a slow killer. Some experts even compare the cumulative hours of sedentary life as being on par with smoking as a negative impact on your health.

It also makes you sluggish and dull.

To combat this and help keep yourself active and healthy, you must spend some time away from your desk or chair. It is essential to take small breaks and leave your chair or desk for a walk just to refresh your mind.

A mere 5-minute break could make a make a difference in your overall health. You can also couple your breaks away from your screen with other tasks that have to be completed – like running that report over to sales or attending that meeting in-person.

You could even incorporate little fitness breaks into your day. Stand up and stretch, look away from the screen, practice proper posture, meditate. Anything to break the habit of sitting in the same position for hours on end.

Keep in mind how much time you actually spend sitting down at your desk. You would be surprised how quickly those hours add up.

Watch Out for Snacks

Tying into nutrition, it is essential to mind how much convenient snacking that you are doing throughout the day. It can be very tempting to leave a bag of chips at your desk, but if you’re not careful, you will find yourself devouring the whole bag before the day is over.

And it’s not just chips that are common in the workplace. Candy bars, sodas from the vending machine, birthday cakes, and more are all normal snack foods that people bring to their desk.

Avoid doing this at all cost because the calories add up quickly and you may not even be aware of it. Combine snacking with the sedentary sitting of the average workday and you have yourself a recipe for terrible health.

One way to avoid unhealthy snacking is by replacing the normal junk food with fruits and calorie-light vegetables like carrots or celery sticks. This way, you still get to enjoy food at your desk, but you are using healthy options instead.

Control Your Caffeine Intake

Also be mindful of is just how much caffeine you consume on a daily basis. It is extremely common for people to begin every day with a cup or two of coffee. On top of the sheer amount of caffeine, there is also the cream and sugars that go into our favorite morning drink. I am also guilty of this, but it does not have to be a bad thing.

A cup of coffee is perfectly fine, but you should try to limit it to just one. You do not want to become reliant on caffeine to function at your best. And for those of you who cannot stand caffeine-free coffee – there are alternative options that you might enjoy.

Hot tea is a popular option, but so is plain old H2O. Our bodies are mostly made of water and most people do not get enough of it. In fact, once you start to feel the sensation of thirst, you are already hydrated to a certain extent. It is recommended that you get 6-8 glasses of water per day.

This is a good rule of thumb, as it will keep you hydrated, prevent afternoon caffeine crashes, and will prevent you from overeating throughout the day.

Conclusion

Your health is essential if you want to work efficiently and if you want to live an enjoyable life. Since we spend nearly a quarter of our lives at work, we have to find ways to use that time to improve or at least maintain our health.

These tips are not an excuse for avoiding rigorous exercise before/after work – but hopefully they give you starting point for how to incorporate healthy habits into your workweek.

~ Scott Asner Kansas City, Missouri

Tips for Being More Productive (Part 2)

Welcome back!

In a previous blog post we discussed some practical ways that people can manage time and hobbies that anyone could develop to improve productivity throughout their lives. Continuing in that same spirit, I would like to include a couple more ways that you may use to jumpstart your workweek and achieve even more success.

Some of these tips have helped turn Eighteen Capital Group from a Kansas City investment firm, into a nation-wide enterprise. Feel free to use them as you see fit!

1.) Get Out of Your Head

Sometimes the best thing we can do to remain productive is to take a break and come back with a new perspective. In our modern workplaces, it’s easy to get stuck sitting in front of a computer for hours at a time – incessantly clicking and typing away. And the more that we sit there, the more stressed and less efficient we become.

This is not how human beings were designed to live and work. It’s also not productive.

It’s advisable to break up hours of work with break periods, to keep you refreshed and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Some people even subscribe to the Pomodoro Technique – which is the act of timing out twenty-five minutes to focus purely on work, then switch to a less intense break period.

You do not have to follow this exact timetable, but it is important to mind how much time you’re sitting and staring at a computer screen. Every hour or so, stand up, stretch, maybe even go for a walk – just anything to break up the sitting.

This can be especially helpful when you feel stuck and need a new perspective on a problem you’re trying to tackle.

2.) Complete the Hardest Tasks First

It is often said that the most productive hours of the day are the ones before lunch. This does not mean that we should push our lunch break back to achieve all of our daily tasks. Instead, we should try to tackle our biggest challenges in the morning hours.

Even if you plan out your day and make a very detailed to-do list, you will inevitably be waylaid by unforeseen events or have to re-direct your time towards things that were not on the agenda. Knocking out the most difficult or most important tasks in the morning allows you to focus all of your energies into those tasks before the distractions start rolling in.

Once you’ve accomplished the heavy items for the day, you then have room to shift focus or take on the random things that pop-up in the afternoon. This strategy ensures that you stay on track as per your original plans, but even makes you more productive as you cross off additional items over the course of your week.

Another point to keep in mind is the post-lunch slump. Structuring your day to address the most important tasks of the day first will focus all of your momentum and energy into the things that matter before feeling tired.

3.) Periodic Brain Purge

No matter your role or industry, we can get overwhelmed with all of the different outstanding tasks and thoughts whizzing around in our heads. It may be difficult to sort out exactly what your priorities should be at any given moment. This is why it is extremely helpful to do a brain purge and regain a sense of control and direction.

The first step is to simply write down all of the thoughts floating through your mind, work-related and otherwise. Upcoming birthdays, upcoming bills, people you should call, things the kids need for school, things to pick up from the store – write it all down.

Just getting it all out of your head and down onto a single document can be a relief in of itself, but then it is time to group these items into categories and prioritize.

Separate each thought into categories according to their urgency and their importance. For example, it may be important to call your mother, but it is more urgent to close the loop on that presentation that is due next week. Responding to an HR survey may be urgent, but not as important as touching base with a client. Whatever your to-dos may be – categorize them in this way until each one is accounted for.

Now you have an immediate compass for tackling the outstanding tasks in your life, and you have a sense of which ones are most immediate and most critical to your success.

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Hopefully you’ve found these additional tips for improving productivity helpful and will be able to put them to use to get more out of your day.

It is now up to you to put them into practice. With the right mentality and know-how, there is no limit to what you can do.

~ Scott Asner Kansas City, Missouri