Guest Blogger Kemener Whalen – It’s All About the Balance Sheet, Not the Benjamins

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The beauty of Adam Hergenrother Companies is the collaboration, the exchange of ideas, and our ability to challenge each other’s perspectives and thinking so that we all grow. Last week, BlackRock Construction’s VP of Development took over the blog, and this week, our CFO, Kemener Whalen, is chiming in with a few thoughts of his own on being rich vs. being wealthy. Take it away, Kem! 


Everyone wants to make money.  Most of us want to make a lot of it.  We say things like “I want to be rich” or “I want to be a millionaire (or billionaire)”, but how often do we think about what that means?  Most people probably don’t define what that means, and rarely give it any thought.  People recognize that to grow personally and professionally they must set goals.  Setting a goal of “being rich” without defining (or understanding) what that means is not goal setting – it is simply wishing to be rich.  As has been said many times “a goal without a plan is a wish”.  The same can be said of an undefined goal – it is nothing more than a wish – undefined and unachievable.  How many people say “I wish I was rich”?  At some point in our lives we have likely all said it – but those of us who define what that means, and make a plan to MAKE IT HAPPEN are the ones who get there.

Do we really understand what we are saying when we make a goal of being rich?  For most people that answer is “No”.  But not for me.  I DON’T WANT TO BE RICH. I want to be WEALTHY.  I know the difference – or at least have defined the difference for myself personally.  In order to set, strategize, execute, and ultimately achieve a goal we need to define for ourselves what that means.  Let’s explore what being rich vs. being wealthy means (to me).

Being Rich

There is nothing wrong with being rich, but it’s not my goal. It’s definable. It’s achievable.  It’s measurable.  Being rich provides the opportunity to live an amazing life.  Each of us has his/her own lifestyle choices.  But all of us want to do the things we like to do as frequently as we can.  Being rich means you can afford to live the life you want to lead.  You can write a check, use the AMEX black card, pull out a wad of $100s for anything.  Dinners, clothes, trips, jewelry – there is no limit.  This is how I define being rich – when you don’t have to worry about the cost of doing, eating, drinking, buying or wearing the things that you want. Your available cash does not restrict. In essence your personal Profit and Loss Statement (have I mentioned I am the CFO of one of the subsidiaries of Adam Hergenrother Companies?) is very robust.  Sounds pretty amazing, right? It is, without question. So why is it not my goal? Being rich means you are only as good as your last paycheck. Being rich means if the “music stops” – so does your lifestyle. Being rich means working hard for your money, instead of your money working hard for you. Being rich doesn’t give you freedom. Being rich restricts your freedom. You are tied to your work. Tied to your personal P&L. Tied to the performance of the industry you work. Tied to market forces beyond your control. You become a slave to your job, your team (if you own a business), or whoever it is that signs your paycheck (if you don’t own a business). You aren’t free. You can buy anything – the big house, the new car, but you end up working to pay for those things. It creates a perpetual cycle of needing to earn more to buy more (because your new car stops being new after a few years) – needing to work harder and longer. So while being rich provides for an amazing lifestyle, it does not provide the freedom from adverse outside impacts nor does it provide freedom and control over your time (time is one of the most underappreciated and undervalued assets – but that is a blog for the future). Being rich does not let you take a month off, it does not let you stop working – being rich ties your bank account to your job. Your bank account may be huge – but without your job or business where would that leave your bank account?

Being Wealthy

Being wealthy looks very much like being rich. You can buy anything, do anything, eat or drink anything, or travel anywhere. So what’s the difference? Being wealthy means you are not tied to your paycheck, commission check, or any other check you receive for working. You aren’t beholden to a boss, a team, clients or anyone else. You are free to use your time as you wish.  You are free to have the material items that being rich affords, but you are also free to enjoy them anytime (even all the time). When you are wealthy if the “music stopped” there would be no adverse impact on your lifestyle. Wealth isn’t measured by a personal P&L –  its measured by assets – your personal Balance Sheet (remember I’m a CFO). When you are rich your personal Balance Sheet has one account – your bank account.  When you are wealthy your personal balance sheet is robust, diversified, and healthy. In essence your balance sheet has non-cash assets. What does this mean? It means your cash is working for you, and will reward you over time. You worked hard to earn your cash – make sure it works as hard for you as you worked for it. Cash is great, but cash is not a great investment. Rather use your cash to invest to build your personal wealth. Use your cash to invest in passive income generators. Passive income is the secret to building wealth. Reinvest that passively earned income to earn even more. Wealth compounds. Cash gets spent. Wealth is generational; real estate assets, stocks, bonds, precious metals, and various alternative investment asset classes can (and should be passed on). Being rich you can live a massive life, but are you setting up your great-grand-kids for a head start?  Being wealthy gives you the ability to create a legacy. Being wealthy is freedom to control your time. Being wealthy breaks the ties to market risk, to time in your job, and to factors out of your control.

So what’s the difference?  Freedom.  Both allow you the freedom to spend.  But being wealthy allows you the freedom over your time. When you are rich you must give your time to clients, staff, vendors, business partners. When you are wealthy you are free to use your time as you wish. You are free to live your life when you want to live it – not just during down time at the office. Being rich gives you the freedom to buy things, being wealthy gives you that same privilege, but it also gives you the freedom of your time and the ability to create a legacy.  So, how do you do it? Read my next blog!


kem fishingABOUT KEMENER WHALEN

Kemener, CFO at BlackRock Construction, uses his passion, energy, and analytical mindset, to bring tremendous value to people, projects, and companies on a daily basis. He particularly enjoys helping people recognize and achieve their true potential. Kemener’s experiences in commercial finance, collaboratively working to grow and manage a nearly $100 million portfolio, serve as a tremendous asset for both investors and investments.

Kemener lives in Essex, Vermont with his beautiful wife and two children. When not furthering the vision of BlackRock Construction, he spends time with his family, as well as enjoys time on picturesque Lake Champlain.

 

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Guest Blogger Ben Avery – How To Live An Extraordinary Life TODAY!

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Lake Champlain Sunset (Photo by Ben Avery)

I’m so excited to have one of my employees and friends take over the blog this week! I’m proud of my team for stepping up and sharing their words of wisdom and even more proud of them for living a life by design. I love hearing their different perspectives about how to create a life and career that they love. Take it away Ben! 


An extraordinary life. What does that even mean? Is it about wealth? Is it about time? Is it about personal satisfaction? The answer is… YES! However, many people make the mistake of thinking it’s about one of these things and chase it exclusively (often times wealth), when in actuality, the magic is in the moderation and combination of all of them.

I am a very active social media user and enjoy recording and sharing my life with family and friends. Comments I get from others on a regular basis often surround being asked how do we do it? Specifically, how do we do it ALL? I am an executive at an Adam Hergenrother Companies subsidiary, my wife is the Vice President of a tech company and we have four kids (our entire existence is a “redline”), yet we always seem to be everywhere we want to be, all the time, and from a life experience standpoint, we leave nothing on the table!

Now don’t get me wrong, hard work and professional success is the foundation (in my opinion). Anyone who works for Adam can attest that leaning in at 120% is the standard and from that effort comes freedom – both financial freedom and freedom with our time. We’ve all hear the term “work hard play hard”, but many of us lose sight of the fact that the “play hard” part of that is supposed to be somewhat proportionate.

Let’s break down the three pillars of an extraordinary life:

Wealth —> This is often the one that I see people get wrong. Chasing a number is just that – most people who chase numbers never actually catch them. While blue sky thinking is critical to growth, it’s also just a fundamental reality that we can’t all be billionaires. Sure, we all sometimes put crazy stuff on our vision boards, but I would challenge you to rethink that goal or idea into one that you can strategize how to get (maybe instead of dreaming about the Gulfstream 650, you should prioritize your lessons and flight hours starting TODAY, while browsing the internet for the cost of a used Cessna 180). This thinking will help you actually get ON the path of your goal, while matching today’s budget. Oh yeah, and instead of talking about it, you will be DOING it (using the above example, any pilot will tell you, flying is flying).

Don’t get me wrong, you need to have financial goals and you need to make every effort required to meet them. I am just a proponent of matching those financial goals to realistic and executable dreams and ideas that can enrich your life today as well as tomorrow. Most financial advisers (and our CFO) would shoot me for even suggesting this, but if you look at spending 10% of your income on enriching your life TODAY (FYI you should be saving 10% or more for the future as well), you might find yourself doing the things you want to (scaled to income of course) and chipping away at your bucket list starting today, not 30 years from now. This can mean travel, athletics, boating, fishing, whatever! I do this and it has obviously grown over the years, but my wife and I consider it a cost of doing business, a baseline for extraordinary!

How do we cover that cost offset? Well, we make compromises in other parts of our life about what we really need and what is important. Probably the number one area to evaluate is shelter and transportation. Being “house poor” and or capping that decision with a brand-new Lexus can quickly eat up the ability to chase those extraordinary dreams. Unless of course your goals are to sit in that beautiful home while looking at the Lexus in the driveway, then you’re winning! For example, we have a beautiful home, that we have been in for 15 years and renovated (out of pocket) along the way. It’s not new, but the annual cost of it is less than 10% of our income. I still have the Mercedes, but did you know that when you buy one a few years old with 50,000 miles on it you get a roughly 70% discount? Moderation is the key… I could easily eat up my lifestyle budget with a bigger house and brand new car, neither of which I really need.

Time —> This one is critical! While many of us can create some kind of budget, few actually take the TIME to do the things they want to do. We spend a ton of professional time figuring our scheduling, allocation, prioritization and all of the things that go into effective time management. Then when we go home, what happens? Many people will procrastinate, make excuses, be lazy… if we did that at work we would be in trouble! Why are we willing to do it to ourselves? So many people I know will make up excuses of why they can’t do something on the weekend because of menial tasks (clean out the garage, a trip to Costco, etc…).  If you become purposeful about those tasks, you can create the time to get out in the world and experience the things that you truly want to do! Power through Costco on a Tuesday after work, make the garage a purposeful family task at 7am on a rainy Saturday, don’t waste the warm sunny weekend when you could be at the lake! Another big family excuse is kid’s sports. I can’t tell you how many times people let a 1 hour soccer game eat their day. I’m not saying quit soccer, I am saying be purposeful about how you approach the day and you might find that you can actually do brunch with friends, catch the game and make it for sunset on the boat all in the same day (trust me, accomplish that and your friends who haven’t figured this out will look at you like a hero). If budget allows, create time by hiring a housekeeper and/or a lawn service. The 4-6 hours a week that is freed up can be spent taking a hike, or a bike ride, or enjoying lazy afternoon cocktails with friends – anything. Those are just a few examples, but basically speaking, there is a “business” and a “pleasure” side to our personal lives, get purposeful about the business part!

Ok… So now you’ve created the time and budget, now how to execute. PULL THE TRIGGER!!! The concept here is to DO things, not think about them (that’s what you used to do). My wife is terrible about this, which is why I am the planner and I execute. Enter Google alerts for low price airfare, choose easy locations, actually USE the airline miles and hotel points as opposed to hoarding them, where can you drive to in under 5 hours? So much of what we chase is right at our fingertips, yet we don’t grab it. If you are coming from a place like Vermont, a long weekend at the beach is very good for your Vitamin D and your marriage, or a weekend in New York or Montreal can be an exciting adventure!

The long weekend is a magical thing. I have numerous friends that blow $5,000-$10,000 on a big summer vacation (I find the big vacation stressful, but that’s another blog post). For that budget I can take a long weekend every other month all year long! These little nuggets accomplish the goal of recharging your batteries without really having to disconnect from the rest of your world. My thing is Florida in the Winter. I book a 4:00pm flight on Wednesday then plan to work remotely from say 6am-10am Thursday and Friday mornings to keep things moving along professionally. Now I have really only lost a day of work (maybe) and I’m home late Sunday and back at it Monday morning. I’m not going to Disney or staying at the Delano, but wow do I feel relaxed and recharged! Another secret is the “staycation”. We are huge advocates of this, in part because you don’t lose travel days and it’s easy to control costs. In the summer it is endless days on our boat with family and friends and in the winter its condo rentals at our home mountain (we are avid skiers). Since we already have passes and we can hit Costco before checking in, our winter “ski” vacations are VERY economical, we split with another family and often have a 5 day rental for less than $500 on our end. Be creative, think local and don’t get caught up in the big complicated trip! The memories you make by maximizing the time will enhance the experience, especially for the kids!

Our rule of thumb is called the 50/50, 50 days a year on the ski slopes and 50 nights a year on the boat. Sounds crazy, but we almost always exceed that and our lives are so much richer for it. Vacation for us isn’t yearly, or even monthly… its WEEKLY! That is the goal… We make the time, we execute on the plans and subsequently, we are always where WE want to be!

 

Personal Satisfaction —> What would you do? How could your life be extraordinary? The engine for this is the byproduct of time and budget. But your dreams are the driver for how to shape those goals. Many people spend a disproportionate percentage of their time doing things they feel that they need to do. While that does bring some satisfaction, it’s not really the same as breaking through and focusing on the things that you WANT to do! The trick is to make decisions to balance that out.

It truly is different stroke for different folks. I work with one woman who just loves being in the office and working on smaller projects over the weekend. She derives a ton of pleasure from that and it is fulfilling for her, so go for it! As many of you know, Adam is a health and exercise master and pushes it to the limit, most recently as a successful Ironman competitor. His training time is his focus and those accomplishments bring him tremendous personal satisfaction. For me it’s the boat and the mountain. We are all different and what you must do is look inside and identify what it is that drives you, what gives you a complete sense of satisfaction and makes you smile. What is going to release those endorphins and how do you get started on it TODAY!

As I am writing this another team member poked his head in my office to ask me about skiing for his family (where is best to go, etc…). I gave him the best advice I had for his family of 7 (yikes!) as he is very excited about the idea of creating family memories on the slopes in the winter and exploring that lifestyle. As I am sure he will read this, I can honestly say his energy in TALKING about it was outstanding, I challenge him to EXECUTE!

My dad passed away when he was 57 and left a long bucket list behind. I was only 32, but it changed me in a way that took a while to articulate. While I am not advocating irresponsibility (Dad would not have liked that), I am advocating attacking life and identifying the things you really want to do on a scale that is manageable and can grow with your professional success. If you can find a way to live the life you want today, and everyday, then you will be living your dreams as opposed to chasing them!

You will get all of the rest you need when you’re gone. Get out there and make it count. My family and I have an extraordinary life (we really do!). Go get yours!


ben heliABOUT BEN AVERY 

As Vice President of Development, at BlackRock Construction, a division of Adam Hergenrother Companies, Ben manages the development and permitting teams for both internal and client based projects. Ben’s mission is the evaluation and creation of projects and opportunities for BlackRock Construction and its clients. Overseeing development projects from the initial negotiation through the permitting process, to construction start, while creating win-win situations for all stakeholders is his overall goal. Ben’s focus on these values makes him an asset to any type of project and an excellent advocate for our clients.

A native of Rochester, NY, Ben has resided in Vermont for the better part of the last 20 years. He has a strong entrepreneurial background including 15 years in food service including multi-unit management and franchise/wholesale ownership. For the past five years he has been a consultant to small to mid-sized businesses in the greater Burlington, VT area in the fields of general strategy, restructuring, and development. As a function of many of these roles, Ben has worked with clients in the areas of commercial investment, residential development and management, as well as redevelopment of underutilized assets. He takes an objective and fair approach to transactions and is very adept at negotiations on high value properties, permitting coordination, and complex transactions.

Ben lives in Williston, VT with his wife, Michelle, and their four children. Contact Ben at ben@blackrockus.com.

Get Obsessed With Making Others Filthy Rich

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I just finished Be Obsessed or Be Average by Grant Cardone. That dude is a little crazy and yet I felt like the guy was speaking to my soul. Forget the haters and forgive the naysayers. Mediocrity is just not in my DNA. And for those of you who, like me, have been told to slow down, stop working so hard, take a vacation, that you don’t need any more money, to just be satisfied with what you have… DO NOT LISTEN.

I find it fascinating that society as a whole is so obsessed with balance. Isn’t balance just another word for middle of the road or mediocre? I think so. And I think all of this stems from fear. Fear of not feeling good enough. So if Joe Schmo sees that I’m pushing, driving, striving, and accomplishing my big goals, then he better reign me back in and make sure that I stay down on his level. Some of the people closest to you are unintentionally stifling your obsession because they just don’t get it and are worried about you. They don’t want you to burn out or be stressed. Well, what they don’t realized is people like me, people like GC, get stressed by not producing and working and thinking and growing.

But here’s the misconception I want to dispel. Just because I’m obsessed with success doesn’t mean it’s only focused in one area. You hear obsessed and you think: okay, he’s obsessed with making money. Greedy bastard. Well, what if I told you that my obsession to make money is simply because I want to give as much as possible? What if I told you I’m obsessed with taking care of my health and training like an athlete (yes, that takes money)? What if I told you I’m obsessed with being a great father and husband? What if I told you I was obsessed with making other’s filthy rich? If people have a problem with that relentless drive towards excellence in multiple areas of my life, then they are just not my people.

The insatiable hunger to do more and be more doesn’t go away and why should it? What good does it do to try to cage the beast inside of you? You just have to learn how to direct that energy, that obsession, towards particular areas that will serve you. It would be just as easy for me to be obsessed about drinking or adventure races or silent retreats. But those don’t serve my ultimate goals of building a big business and a big world in order to make other’s filthy rich.

Entrepreneurs and business leaders understand what I’m talking about. If they weren’t obsessed about an idea they wouldn’t be taking the risk to build a business in the first place. But again, channeling that energy is the key. And for me, that key is making it about others. I will never succeed at the level I want to without getting into business with the best people on the planet and then getting obsessed about my team’s success. Sure, could I get obsessed about health or their time with their family? Of course. But what really gets me fired up is helping my people make a ton of money. Why? Because then they get to use their checkbooks as a weapon and make the best decisions for themselves and their families. When you’re not worried about money, hell when you are filthy rich, imagine what you could do – travel more, volunteer more with your favorite charity, give more money… be free. That is something I will always stand behind.

Money is only good for the good money can do. And I want to do a lot of good. Which means I better make a lot of money. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing my team members realize their dreams. Money is a tool. It is not money itself that I’m obsessed with. It is what it can do for my staff, my family, and the world at large. The secret to living is giving. It’s selfish not to want to make a lot of money, so get obsessed with being successful, so you can make others filthy rich.

The World Isn’t Going to Run Out of Success

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This week my team and I hosted an incredible two-day event with some of the top real estate business leaders in the country. We had people come in from Atlanta, St. Louis, Washington D.C., Maine, Virginia, Omaha, Connecticut, Phoenix, Boston, and more. Building a business is hard (no matter what industry you are in) and these attendees just got it. The conversations were at another level, the vulnerability was real and raw, and many of the connections will last a lifetime. What really struck me is that the room was packed with very successful people who were all hungry to learn more, do more, and be more. They are all competitive and they all wanted to be even more successful then they already are. Awesome. The world is not going to run out of success any time soon.

Refreshing to hear right? My success was not dependent on anyone else in the room being LESS successful. Success in life is abundant. It’s not a win-lose situation. If I win, if I’m successful, you can be too.

So drop your ego. Stop comparing yourself to others and really embrace other people’s successes and accomplishments. They can be yours too with enough hard work.

Imagine your friend from high school started an online business three years ago and just got featured in Success Magazine for their innovative approach to the client experience. Are you happy for them? Purely, unconditionally happy for them? Or, did you get excited for them and then quickly start running through all the reasons they landed on the page next to John Maxwell. They must know someone at the magazine. Their parents gave them money for the business. Their former professor helped them with the user interface. The article wasn’t that big anyway… Check yourself. Do you justify other’s success because in order for you to be successful, they can’t be? Or are you really, truly happy for them?

Here’s the cool thing. Success is a renewable resource. You just have to tap into it. You were successful five years ago and now you’re not? That’s okay. Get to work and you’ll find success again. Your coworker is successful today? No problem. You’ll be successful tomorrow.

The trick is mastering that inner voice that says you have to lesson someone else’s success (or somehow justify it) in order to shine. Think about kids. They are just so happy for other kids on the playground who are brave enough to go down the slide or even give praise to adults for the things they do (like making dinner when your wife is out of town). No ego. They see good they speak good. What a world we would live in if we could all do that!

Remember, embrace other’s successes. Tell them how great they are doing. Be truly happy for them. Unconditional joy for another is a gift we are really giving ourselves. Raising someone else up, acknowledging their accomplishments, giving them a shout-out for their success is inspiring to others and just feels damn good. Be hungry, but be humble.

“A candle loses none of its light by lighting another.” – Rumi

We live in an abundant world, especially when it comes to success. I guarantee the people at our conference the past two days know this. Actually, I believe that part of their success stems from the fact that they believe their success is dependent upon making other people successful. It’s one beautiful, virtuous cycle that you can be a part of if you check your ego (and limiting beliefs) at the door.