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Great investment opportunities, right in your backyard

It’s the discussion that never gets old: How to find good investment opportunities. If you look online or speak to a financial advisor, you’ll likely hear about the most common and popular investment options. They all follow the same pattern of low return for low levels of risks and increasing returns with increasing risks. But there’s one risk-free investment opportunity that yields double-digit return—and most of us already have access to it. It’s repaying your own debt. Do you want to take a second to read that last sentence again? That’s right, you heard me, repaying debt is one of the best investment opportunities out there, if not the best.

Not losing money is like making money How can repaying debt be an investment? Well, not losing money is actually the same as making money. In both cases, you end up with more money at your disposal than if you’d done nothing. For debt repayment, it’s all about the interest rate; the higher it is, the more money you lose, which in turn makes paying down your debt an even better investment opportunity. I’ll save you the math on it, but repaying a 15 percent credit card debt will save you the same amount as you’d earn with a 12 percent return-on-investment (ROI) opportunity—and those types of opportunities don’t come by often.

There is no risk If you’re looking for a high ROI, chances are you’re willing to take on significant risk. But risky, high-gain investments don’t come with a safety net. That’s another great aspect of debt repayment; you’re making great returns with no risk at all as you know in advance what you’ll be paying and how much you’ll be making up front.

It depends on your situation Of course, debt repayment isn’t always the best choice; it depends on a number of factors and needs to be evaluated in light of your current situation and the other investment opportunities available to you. Personally, I think debt repayment should always be in the top list of investment opportunities you’re considering.

Interested in more ways to help improve your financial acumen? Be sure to watch my course Financial Literacy: Making Investment Decisions at lynda.com.

4 steps to help boost your business impact

Does every employee contribute to the business performance of the company? Or is it really just sales and marketing people who do? These are questions I get asked time and again and the answer to both is pretty straightforward: When it comes to business performance, everyone is contributing, whether consciously or not.

Of course, sales and marketing folks participate in a very obvious way by taking action every day to increase sales, but sales is just one of many ways to contribute to a company’s performance. Finance people, for example, contribute by making sure money is not squandered and can be used to get more salespeople in front of more customers to increase sales indirectly. Customer service personnel ensure that customers are happy and have good reason not to use the service of a competing company—therefore indirectly securing future sales with existing customers.

The same goes for every other role that in one way or another helps directly or indirectly to generate more sales. So, yes, everyone can make a positive business impact, if they know how their job relates to business performance.

Understand how your role impacts the company Companies sell products and services to customers—it’s really as simple as that. The key is figuring out how your role is connected to that simple concept. Either you enable sales with new customers or more sales with existing customers, or you make it easier for another team to make more sales. But in one way or another, there’s always a connection between your role and more sales. Sometimes it takes more than one step between your role and increased sales; perhaps your role is about saving money, which enables more investments, which in turn maximize sales. That’s fine, as long as you map it all out.

Identify the levers of business performance Next you need to identify the specific objectives, or levers, in your job that you need to deliver in order to make a significant business impact. Across your many responsibilities, determine the top three activities that influence business performance and write them down.

Set yourself a goal for this year For each of those levers, define a SMART objective. SMART means that you must define your objective in a very detailed and Specific way, Measure your progress, be able to Attain your objective within a certain timeframe, choose a goal that’s Relevant to the task at hand, and make sure that it’s Time-bound; in this case, you must be able to achieve it this year.

Track your performance Finally, you need to track your progress. This last point is possibly the most important one of them all. Since your objectives are measurable, you should be able to sit down once every month and see how you are faring against them. Take five minutes to see if you are on track, and if you then realize your objective was too ambitious or way too easy, revise it. You need to have something to reach for which actually takes a year to achieve. By the end of the year, you’ll most likely have helped impact your company’s business performance much more than you’d expect.

Want to learn more about boosting your business impact this year? Find out how to assess the financial health of your business and its competition with my lynda.com course Financial Literacy: Reading Financial Reports.