Tackling Napa Valley in one day

With so much to do in the bay area it is hard to dedicate an entire weekend to wine country but as always I am up for the challenge of checking out Napa Valley in just one day. With legendary weather and a phenomenal selection of wineries the challenge can seem quite ambitious, however, when you take quality over quantity you can get in for the win.  Here is my guide for making the most of your one day in Napa

 

Go early: Especially if you are not staying in Napa, Bay area traffic should be expected and planned for.  Give yourself an extra cushion to really enjoy a couple of different wineries factoring in not just the drive time to Napa but the drive time to the wineries.  Of course you get more bang for your time if you are strategic about the selection in making sure they are not too far apart.  With some wineries closing as early as 5 a late start could really limit not just what you taste but also how many wineries you can stop in at.

Pad in some time just to enjoy the beauty: It is really one of the most beautiful places I have seen, especially if you love nature.  From mountainous views to flower fields to incredible trees in the middle of the highway the opportunities to enjoy nature or take a great photo opt abound in Napa Valley.  While the wine is great the scenery is one of the most important things that Napa can offer if you give it just a bit of your time.

Start with a powerhouse.  Honestly you can’t truly predict how the day will go or how much you will drink.  So why try??? Start with the most important winery on your list.  Hopefully one that has marks as high for their food than they do for the wine because the true beauty of wine is the pairing of it with great food for me.  If you start with a winery that has a great reputation for food and wine, outstanding ambiance and a great wine selection you won’t be left beating yourself up if you run out of time.  I started with V. Sattui Winery which gave a great family vibe with their picnic tables and BBQ offerings.  I was having such a good time that time quickly got away from me and we had to scurry on to our next destinations.

Check out the winery memberships.  Now I know it may seem like a money trap as you can easily imagine wine piling up to no ends with each monthly shipment.  But the savings factor is a big one for members.  For most wineries the memberships comes with free tastings for you and 3 guests (which can easily be an $80 savings) as well as additional discounts on bottles and special invitations to events.  Once more with a flexible cancellation policy you may just be on the hook for one month if it does not end up working out.

Ask a local. Some of the true gems of the area won’t be found as top picks on Google or whatever review you are trusting.  People who live there and more important work in the wine industry will have their own opinion of go tos that may take you off the beaten path but right to some of the real gems of the area.  After a failed attempt to squeeze in Mumm winery we followed a suggestion to try JCB winery.  Not only was it open later than most other wineries, the ambiance was exquisite and the champs was pretty nice too..

Napa is such a beautiful destination so even if your time seems too short, it can great motivation in planning your NEXT wine country stop in.

Keys to naming your business

Your business is your baby so it deserves some time and energy when it comes to choosing a name. While it may seem easy at the onset there are a lot of important considerations when choosing a name for a business as it is the first line of communication on who your business is and what it does.  In my experience starting with a big list and winding it down is the best way to explore all possible name choices and set the pace for how you define your business.   Here are the steps I go through when naming a business:

1.Brainstorm with a list of who your business is. This is just words that you use to define your business. It could include things like your name but as you are just beginning so also include words that describe what you want to communicate about your business. If you are a plumber for instance you may have Johnson Plumbing in mind but should also write down words like experienced, professional, timely, or honest if that is important to your targeted client.  I find a great trick is to you the thesaurus to drum up other words that may be more unique or catch to add to your list.

2. Take a look at your competition. Chances are that whatever you want to do there is someone out there also doing it. Taking a look at your competition may give you some inspiration but it also gives you an idea of brands that are already out there as a way to make sure your brand is distinguished from the pack. It will also tell you if your idea is already taken.

3. Get input from those whose opinion you value. Finding a trusted business advisors is important to have a clean space to bounce ideas off of in a positive way. Try to find someone who you both trust and respect their business opinion. It can be a great way to find flaws in names you like that you did not previously consider and work through reworking names you previously discarded.

4. Take a pause and use your imagination. If it was easy everyone would do it. Your business is your baby so even if you start off with a name you want to consider and reconsider it to see if it will stand the test of time when it comes to operating your business.  This is one instance where rushing is a no-no in business as your marketing efforts will stem from your name so reselecting can hit you big in your pocket and your brand image.

5. Do your research. You have to put some energy into if your name is taken both on the World Wide Web and with the secretary of state when you file your name as an entity. The Secretary of State should allow you to search names to see if yours is taken for a minimum cost and even reserve the name if you want to hold it but are not ready to file for your entity. While you may have never heard of a company with the name you are interested in, it does not mean that it does not exist.  You can use any domain resource like GoDaddy to search domains for your name.  This quick search lets you know if the name you want is already taken and to see how much brand confusion would be caused if you used the same name.  Doing the work on the front end prevents you from falling in love with a name you cannot register or does not make sense from a branding perspective.

Preparing for opening your business banking account

Opening a bank account for your business entity is imperative to begin to establish a footprint and path to success for your business. While the state defines the birth of a legal entity with filing, you begin to give it life by acting in the name of the entity. So taking baby steps to define just who your business is often begins with establishing a bank account.  This is a great tool for you to begin to separate your personal finances from your business and to have an active record of the activities of your business.  This record can later be taken to banks and other businesses as proof of your profitability and cash flow.  It is a critical consideration when applying for loans, credit and even when bidding for projects that want to ensure the information you provide can be backed up by your numbers.  Financials will usually be square one in considering who your business is so getting in line with a great bank begins to lay a foundation for your business.  Here are the important things you want to gather up when preparing to go to a bank to start a business account.

Articles of Formation: This is essentially a receipt from the Secretary of State you filed with as to the formation of your entity, the start date, the important members and any other details provided when filing. Think of it as a birth certificate for your business and tells who the parents are and date of birth and who was in charge of what when initially formed.

Operating Agreement: The articles of formation do not have to provide detailed information on your business as the operating agreement gives more information on who is in charge of what. In this agreement you will provide who owns the business and in what percentage and who manages the business and in what capacity. This will be critical information for the bank as it also sets the guidelines on who can access the funds in the account and to what extent.

EIN: The Employer Identification Number is like the social security number for your business. It is filed with the IRS to give them an idea of who to expect a tax return from and provides basic information on the type of business and who will be in charge. If your business is an LLC it will also ask how you elect to file your taxes between the members.

Banking Resolution: For those who have opted for a Corporation a banking resolution will speak on behalf of the corporation to provide authority to a member of the board to start a bank account, for instance the President or Treasurer. As the owners of the corporation may or may not be involved in the day to day operations it works to provide definition to who should access what.

Gather all members. Frequently a bank signature card requires simultaneous signing so there is one easily accessible go to point to verify signatures at the bank. Even if you do not go to the same location it is possible you will have to coordinate a time to allow these wet signatures to happen all at the same time.

Don’t forget to shop around. Different banks offer different relationships. As access to capital will probably be a consideration at some point to allow your business to grow choosing a bank that prioritizes the type of business you have can give you an important leg up in accessing cash or credit. With fees, procedures and features being drastically different for each bank make sure you do some research to connect with the bank that will work best for your unique needs.

Girl Power: Super charging your business by teaming up

When you are an entrepreneur the thought of teaming up with someone else can seem pretty daunting. You have to open yourself and your business to criticism, change, new perspectives and new attitudes.  But in the ever changing world of business, and especially in our recent economy finding likeminded go getters to brainstorm ideas with and share some of the ways you have weathered the storm is one of the best ways to sharpen your business knife in preparation for the fights ahead.

So why are women not teaming up in drowns, trying to do the best to reinforce their business principals and ensure their business is on solid ground?

While some may say its pettiness, or competitiveness or part of a refusal to reach back I think the answer could be found in something as simple so people not knowing how. Where we first learn to work together begins in school but forced collaboration often ends in disappointment.  Especially for the type A personality you normally find in entrepreneurs.  While you press forward others lag behind forcing you to pull them in order to get the results you desire.  But in a grown up version, with likeminded peers the result can be much different.  You just have to be prepared to learn or relearn how successful collaboration works.

By no means is this easy. Whether this is someone in a similar business or someone where there is potential for business synergy you have to learn to put trust and active listening first.  This happens at its best when both parties realize there is a boundless field for potential and income when you are tuned into the needs of your audience and how you can best uniquely serve those needs.  Yes this simple fact means that for my business, although I am a business law attorney, I am not competing with another business law attorney I may choose to collaborate with.  While it seems like we are geared towards the same audience my true goal is to find clients that I can service best given my skills set.  So the old saying “you are your own competition” proves tried and true.  When both people accept this then the sharing can begin and that is where the power is.  Having someone similarly situated to bounce ideas, wins and losses off of can change the game for your business, assuring you that you are not alone in the fight for success and others are praying for and supporting your successes, not your downfalls.  It is a comforting breath of fresh air in the concrete jungle of entrepreneurialship.

Travel Tip of the Week: Fare Sale with United

Yearning to travel this spring or summer???? Well good news the fare sale competition is on and especially if international destinations are on your way now is the time to grab your tickets and get on your way.  From Barcelona to Venice and even parts of Africa the deals from New York are as low as $400.  To add icing on the cake it is a United fare sale so you don’t have to worry if you are flying the Greyhound of the air and focus your attention to planning the rest of what is sure to be a fantastic vacay!!

Here are just some of the deals you can find on Secret Flying and other websites:

Los Angeles to the Turks & Caicos for only $380 roundtrip

Many US cities to Hawaii (& vice versa) from only $395 roundtrip

Austin, Texas to Amsterdam, Netherlands for only $395 roundtrip

Detroit to Rome, Italy for only $430 roundtrip

 

Your operating agreement: Plotting out your business relationship

When it comes to starting a business entity there is a lot to decide and like any relationship the more people the more problems that come up in the birth of your business. Regardless of the type of entity you decide to form it is critical to start an open dialogue when it comes to deciding how the important business matters of your business will be handled.  Businesses ebb and flow so while every important matter may not be a priority for your operating agreement there are a couple that are key.

Money – Like it or not money will be a running theme in your business so deciding how it should be handled is crucial.  As you start off contributions take center stage.  While the state default is that your ownership rights are determined by your percentage of contribution you can decide to split it in different ways to reflect experience, sweat equity or other resources being donated by a partner.  It is also important to decide once money or losses begins to flow how it will be divided.  Again it can just be a reflection of initial contributions but it can also work to compensate members for management or even repay initial heavy contributions.

 

Management – Just because you start a business does not mean your main skill set will be to run the business.  In a partnership hopefully each partner will bring their own wining expertise to make your team as well rounded as possible.  So if one person is the money and one is the brains you want this discussed and to be reflected in your operating agreement. You can also decide that appointed managers will be responsible for managing the entity all together.  The decision you make early on can have important repercussions especially if changes is needed so discussing it early helps sort out problems before they start.

 

Changes down the road – If nothing else is guaranteed in business change definitely is.  How your business will roll with the punches called entrepreneurship is key to long term success.  Thinking about what happens if a partner gets sick, dies, or no longer wants to retain their shares in the business give everyone a leg up instead of having to fight in the case of disaster or discord.  Note that the default to some agreements is if that if one member rescinds the entity will cease to exist to read and proceed carefully when planning for the future.

Using Google Flights to find the perfect flight for your budget

Google Flights price tracking system is a great way to jump on great deals for your dream vacations.  Matching your budget for a flight the old fashion way could take hours of searches and daily follow ups just to make sure a great deal does not escape you.  In order to avoid the disappointment and near misses you can set up a flight alert on Google Flights to make sure if a deal pops up you will be the first to know.  While there are various sites offering the fare alert option, the ease and convenience of the Google option makes it one of my favorites.

First getting your fare stalking started is a breeze with google. One you have done a search for Google.com/flights you can flip a switch and turn on the ability to track prices. As it reflects your search criteria this is especially helpful if you have some restrictions in the time frame in which you can go.  It also gives great additional information like ways to save by altering your itinerary a day or two earlier or later.  These are great ways to get better bang for your buck while sticking close to the time frame you had in mind.

Secondly I like being able to restrict my options. I have fare alerts set up on other sites but mainly I only get flight deals for super budget airlines.  If you have an airline preference, Google Flights lets you specify that as well as stops preference.  Without that all that glitters definitely is not gold and while cheap you can end up with a really, really long flight on a really, really bad airline.  It may leaving you wishing you had just paid more and gotten what you wanted.

Lastly once the price tracker is turned on you not only get alerts you can easy rerun your search and have a quick graph of where the prices have gone. Knowing this gives you a good idea of when to pull the trigger and buy.  Especially if you are planning far in advance it allows you to get an idea of the trends of different airlines and for different times so you grab the best price possible, not just the best price at the time of your search.  You already use Google tons, why not let it work for you in putting together the flights for your dream vacay?

LLC vs. Corporations: How to start your business off on the best footing

Going into business for yourself can be a terrifying maze of decisions without much clarity on the impact these decisions will make further down the line. One of the earliest decisions people often make as they begin the journey is how to set their business up.  So with your $300 filing fee (in the State of Texas) and a little bit of time forming a completely separate entity for your business can easily be within your grasp.  With LLC’s and Corporations being some of the most common entity types making the decision between the two can assist in setting your business and the business owner up on the path to success so let’s talk about the positives, similarities and differences to the different entities.

The positives

The win for both forms is limited liability from your business liabilities to your personal accounts. This means that business related to the entity must first look to the entity for relieve.  Owning a business comes with its own risks and it gives business owners a lot of relief that their personal assets have protections from the things that transpire in their business.  Beware though that this separation holds up in court as long as you respect it in practice meaning keep accounting up and co-mingling down in your business

LLCs

The biggest selling point for LLCs as an entity choice is normally flexibility. From tax filings to management to reporting many of the decisions remain your choice as your company grows.  As a member of a LLC you have the choice to carry over your profits or losses directly to your personal tax returns or opt to file taxes for the company separately.  Additionally you can choice of members within the LLC will have the right to manage the company or if managers can be separately appointed.  With more relaxed requirements for meetings and recording this is often a good fit for those still working through the processes their business will utilize.

Corporations

While corporations may be more rigid, their formality can be a perfect fit for pulling together investors and managers in a more arm’s length transactions. With corporations taxes have to be filed for the entity as annual reports and recorded minutes.  On the plus side however raising income for a corporation can be very straightforward as shares can be easily sold and resold without jeopardizing other operating restrict for the company.

Pushing through the failures of 2017 to get to your best year ever!

2017 brought disappointments and failures and 2018 may seem like an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. So up goes the lists and vision boards of everything that will be brand new in 2018.  New work out goals, new boos, new focus, and new wins.  But somewhere in the midst of the excitement and plans for all things new we forget the valuable losses that are equally important as we head to a new year.  Yep I do mean failure and inside each and every one is a gem more valuable than all the new new you can load in your New Year’s cart.  Sometimes in trying to move on to something better we can purposefully forget the losses that can provide the true insight to get the things we desire.

The appeal of a new year is like a new present, often looking forward to something shiny with all the external trimmings and trappings. So we can all too quickly turn the page with the expectancy that suddenly everything will be different.  At the root of it, this option can be a lot easier than admitting the opportunity to start over not only comes every year, but with every rise and fall of the sun.  Yes the opportunity to start a new was there for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, indeed it is there every day of your life.  So where does the fulfilled promise of a new future really stand?  I think it lies in part in a collection of lessons from the past.  Taking the time to welcome and accept your failures so you can see the landscape for what it was.  Yes missed opportunities, yes to not working as hard as you could have or lacking the consistency to win.  In each of the sore spots from the last year can be a bright spot for your New Year and new life.

So how do you get back down to the lessons that the past year has brought you. For me it begins with a simple list.  Making a top ten list of the biggest failures from 2017 in all their ugly glory.  First give yourself and opportunity to let it all out.  Let it all out, who did you wrong, what opportunities did you miss, what relationships failed to nurture any positivity.  Next think of how you could have changed things. This means just you, not anyone else as you are all you can control.  If you could have been more proactive write it down, if you could have been more understanding then write that down too and if you just need to accept things and people better then there is also a line for that.  Finally In all these find a way that things could have both gone better and gone worst.  The key in this exercise is to tap into the power you have every day to see things different, do things differently and appreciate the crazy ride call life while you still have an opportunity to get in on the game.

A Vegas New Year’s that gave me everything I needed

With all the razzle and dazzle that Vegas represents, wouldn’t it seem like the perfect location to bring in your New Year’s? Well for me this year the answer was yes and no.  The trip was everything I did not expect Vegas but in the perfect way.  When I first thought of the idea of going to Vegas for New Year’s Eve of course you think of all the parties and fun there is to be had on a regular weekend in Vegas.  Surely on a holiday weekend the fun is amplified.  Unfortunately while that might be true so is the traffic and cost.  I learned the hard way after arriving in around 8:30 pm that Vegas shuts down the strip after 5:30 pm for New Year’s Eve.   This means a 15 minute ride to get from the airport becomes a harrowing tale of getting around blockades taking closer to two hours.  But once you hop out the Uber you are again feeling on top of the world.  We ran over to check only to find out that hotels are limiting guest to those staying on premises for New Year’s Eve.  Okay now that is a real delay but it goes to show that good times are not always planned.

The key to a successful New Year’s celebration for me then became about hotel choice and exploring some of the other fun things about Vegas. Room choice cannot be easily corrected, so lucky for me I made a wise choice with the Aria.  As one of the more recent hotels on the strip the rooms are new and still luxurious.  As with all Vegas hotels they have their share of clubs and restaurants, even if they are not home to some of the main events.  But with an hour left to New Year’s I got my first fill of New Year’s Eve jollies with the phenomenal fire work display blasting from the roof of the Aria.  It was a great way to just stop the rush and hurry to get to the next thing and just enjoy!  From there instead of big clubs, lounges and restaurants caught my eye as a great way to have some things that feel your belly and things that fill your soul, enjoying quality time with the important people in your life.  The champagne I brought in the airport did not hurt at all as soothing my disappointment that my New Year’s did not go as planned, but instead went exactly as it should have gone.  I ended my night with late night winning on the roulette table that put some padding in my pocket and the fun mix of people circulating the table made sure to put a smile on my face.

The rest of my short trip to Vegas was dedicated to something that is equally renowned when it comes to sin city…the food. I popped into the Wynn to get a taste of a jazz brunch that had eluded me in other trips.  The Country Club in the Wynn is a popular steakhouse with a brunch that is nothing short of phenomenal.  The buffet items were barre none and I have been to a lot of brunches!  From cauliflower salad, to crab legs, to too many meat variations to name and personalized waffles this buffet had it all.  With a bottomless mimosa/Bellini, Bloody Mary selections and views of the golf course that made you completely forget where you were the Country Club had it all.  Mix in a great live band and yes even more food as you have an entrée selection at your table there was nothing more I could want from a 36 hour trip to Vegas…to my surprise.

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