Hello and Happy Summer!

As many of you may know, I have a serious creative side! I grew up as a performer on stage doing singing, acting and dancing in local community and regional theaters. I wrote poetry, short stories, and kept a journal since I was 8 years old. So creativity in general, and writing specifically, has been a big part of my life for many years.

And don’t even get me started on reading! I am a voracious reader across many genres. Last year, I read over 80 books and this year, I am already up to 32. I not only love to read, I love to review books. So that has become a fun hobby of mine.

In 2010, I wrote a non-fiction book called “The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life,” which was published by Peter Pauper Press in 2011. It sold out after a limited print run, so is now out of print, but can still be found as a used book through select bookseller sites. (If any of you have read it and loved it, please consider posting a review on Goodreads and/or Amazon. Great reviews help an author with their future books. And as I’m busy writing more works in progress that I want to publish in the future, my reviews will be important for an agent and a publisher to look at. So thank you, thank you, thank you!)

Now, I am trying something completely exciting and different… writing fiction! I am learning so much by taking online and in-person classes and workshops on craft, dialogue, description, character development, plotting, story telling and more. To that end, I attended the San Francisco Writers Conference in February, which was an amazing 3-day experience. I have also joined the Women Fiction Writers Association and will be attending their retreat in New Mexico this fall. And I am loving every minute of this creative journey!!

Through my business, I have had the pleasure of speaking to audiences across the U.S. (and around the world!), as well as coaching with private clients, about the concept of life-work balance. And what I hear from most people is that they want to pursue their passion projects, enjoy their hobbies and interests, and be able to live full lives while enjoying their work.

So I am sharing this passion project with you so you can see life-work balance in action. The new LisaMontanaroWrites.com website is an example of life-work balance. This is a side project for me, a hobby I have to make time for when not working on my business, with private clients, or traveling to and from speaking engagements. I love my business and the work I get to do, but I also love my writing. And creating this website is a chance for me to give my writing (and reading and book reviewing!) the place that it deserves.

So without further adieu… I invite you to visit LisaMontanaroWrites.com. I want the website and blog to be a place to spark creativity, including writing, reading, and story telling. It is my creative playground! And I hope you will join me there.

Grab a cup of coffee or tea (or even better, a glass of vino!) and poke around.

Read some blog posts (and while you’re there, subscribe to the blog so you can get updates). Enjoy some book reviews. Share your favorite books while I share mine.

Pass the site onto others. Interact, comment, and stay awhile.

I hope you like it. But more importantly, I hope it inspires and motivates you on your own creative journey, whatever that entails. Make time for your own passion projects! And when you do, share them with me as I want to see YOUR life-work balance in action.

Lisa Montanaro will move and manage Warwick firm from West Coast, thanks to technology

WARWICK — When Warwick resident Lisa Montanaro, a productivity consultant, success coach, business strategist, speaker and author, moves to California, she will not only continue to manage the business she established here, she will expand it.

In 2002, Montanaro founded LM Organizing Solutions, LLC, which offered a variety of services including organizing, business and life coaching and motivational speaking. The company prospered as it drew on her skills as a lawyer, educator, mediator and performer. Today that Warwick company is the organizing division of Lisa Montanaro Global Enterprises.

Montanaro is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the National Speakers Association (NSA). She has presented professionally to audiences throughout the United States and has been interviewed by many television and radio hosts. And her written content has been widely published online and in print. She is the author of “The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life,” published by Peter Pauper Press.

For the past decade Montanaro has lived in Warwick with her husband, Sean, a veterinarian.

This July, the couple and their two dogs, Dublin and Jerry, will move to Northern California. The relocation was prompted when her husband secured a prestigious three-year residency in veterinary internal medicine at the University of California at Davis.

But with modern communications technology, Montanaro, who was already traveling and serving clients throughout the nation and beyond, can simply expand her client base while continuing to conduct business as usual for those back East.

Headed in this direction
In the past few years, Montanaro has achieved success with expanding her business model and services, publishing a book and doing national speaking engagements. This path has allowed her to realize that she can live anywhere while her husband pursues his specialization in the field of veterinary internal medicine.

 

“I have been moving in the direction of a more global/virtual business model for years with coaching, consulting, speaking and online programs, and this has surely forced me to really change over,” she said. “But I am keeping the business open here and making my business bi-coastal. I plan to come back to this area every few months to do speaking engagements and book time servicing my clients in the New York area.”

Montanaro has a residential organizing associate, Camille O’Connor, and other team members that assist her as needed so even if she is not physically here, people who want to get organized can still do so under her business umbrella. And for those who want to work with Montanaro one-on-one, they can get on a wait list for the next time she returns or they can work with her virtually by phone, Skype and e-mail. For coaching, consulting and speaking, distance and geography are no longer a factor.

“Many of my clients and I have never met in person,” she explained, “and yet we have successfully co-created their business ventures, career transitions and life changes together. And I already travel for national speaking engagements, so the only thing that will change is the airport I use.”

As much as she is excited about this new venture, Montanaro admits she will miss Warwick.

“It will always hold a special place in my heart,” she said. “I have lived here for 10 years, and it has been an awesome decade that I will cherish. I chose to live here for the beauty and open space, but now realize that it’s true beauty is the people.”

Essential information
Lisa Montanaro Global Enterprises can be contacted by calling 845-988-0183 in New York or 530-302-5306 in California. Visit www.LisaMontanaro.com.

By Roger Gavan

Is the Threat of a Lawsuit a Real Fear?

As a small business owner, you may be one of the 48% concerned about frivolous or unfair lawsuits.  According to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, actual lawsuits and the fear of lawsuits cost U.S. small businesses $98 million in 2005.  That figure may seem large because it includes money spent on damage awards, settlements, legal costs, liability insurance premiums, and costs incurred by insurance companies on behalf of policyholders.  Is the fear of lawsuits a real fear?  Unfortunately, yes.  Anybody can sue anybody over anything at any time.  In reality, 46% of small business owners have been threatened with a lawsuit, 34% have been sued in the past 10 years, and 62% have made business decisions to avoid lawsuits.  Indeed, small businesses bear 69% of the total cost of the tort system to all U.S. businesses.

What is the Best Course of Action?

What’s a small business owner to do?  For starters, realize that the best defense is a great offense.  While most small business owners fear the law, it is much wiser to use the law as a protective shield.  There are many business and legal components that contribute to creating the strongest shield possible – business entities (the type of structure that governs your business), insurance, and intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent, and trade secrets) to name a few.

As a former full-time practicing attorney and now a small business owner, I have been on both sides of the fence when it comes to the legal issues a business owner may face.  It is imperative that organizers understand the basics of the legal side of running an organizing business, and how to use the law as a shield to protect yourself and your business.

Creating a Shield Through Business Structure

The first item an organizing business owner should consider is the structure of the business.  There are 4 basic types of business entities: sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and limited liability company.  A common misconception of small business owners is that the business entity itself always creates a legal shield.  In some instances (a corporation, or limited liability company, for example), this is generally true.  However, if you are a sole proprietor (and, if so, you are not alone, as 78% of all small businesses in the U.S. are sole proprietorships), then you essentially have no shield.  As a sole proprietor, you are personally liable for all business debts and other obligations.  Fortunately, the law is not the only means to create a shield to protect your business.  If the business entity itself does not provide a shield, then you can create one by acquiring appropriate and adequate insurance coverage.  Thus, a sole proprietorship that is adequately protected by insurance may have an effective shield.

In the case of partnerships, another misconception is that the partnership is a distinct legal entity that provides a shield.  A partnership is essentially a sole proprietorship run by two or more individuals.  Thus, the structure itself provides no shield.  Again, insurance can be used to fill in the gap, and/or a different business entity can be chosen.  For example, did you know that you can create a corporation and the same two people that would have created a partnership will now be shareholders?  What about a limited liability company with more than one member?  There are many ways for two or more individuals to own a business together.  Carefully consider which makes the most sense, not only from an operations and decision-making standpoint, but to garner the most legal protection for the owners involved.

Even with corporations and limited liability companies, there are limits to the force of the shield.  Simply creating a business entity is not enough.  The business must be operated as a distinct legal entity, including refraining from co-mingling of personal and business funds, keeping personal guarantees on behalf of the company to a minimum, maintaining corporate/business records, and paying business-related taxes.  If the business entity is a sham or the owner does not follow the rules in terms of keeping the business shield up, the legal doctrine of “piercing the corporate veil” may be applied by a court if the business is sued.  Piercing the corporate veil allows a litigant to pierce the business structure and reach the owner personally.  Granted, piercing the corporate veil is only applied in very limited situations, but it should be used as a reminder to keep that shield up at all times when it comes to operating your organizing business as a distinct legal entity.

Creating a Shield Through a Written Client Agreement

As an organizer, when you agree to perform services for a client, and the client agrees to pay you for such services, you and your client have entered into a legal contract.  The terms of the contract, however, are difficult to recall and prove unless in writing.  A written contract is pivotal as it puts clients on notice of business policies and terms, sets a professional tone, promotes consistency of policies, and is legally enforceable in court (the decision whether to sue a client to enforce a contract is, of course, a business decision, as well as a legal one, and should be carefully considered).  The contract, thus, helps to prevent misunderstandings and clearly defines the expectations of the parties.

Some organizers choose not to use contracts for fear that a written agreement may be too formal or legal in nature and, thus, may scare a client away.  Again, this is a business decision that should be given consideration, and you should determine if this is a real or imagined fear by communicating with your clients to test the waters.  You can also use a “letter agreement,” which may be less intimidating for residential clients.  In the corporate organizing arena, a written contract is generally expected.  Another disadvantage of using a written contract is the cost of creating and advising if you use an attorney.  While there are standardized contract forms available online and in books, be careful not to accept such standardized forms carte blanche.  I often see small business owners fail to adapt contracts appropriately, which causes embarrassing typos, inappropriate clauses, and general confusion.  Not only does this look unprofessional, but in extreme cases it can also result in unenforceability of the contract in court.  Therefore, it is a good idea to have a business lawyer review the agreement to make sure it adequately protects you, contains the relevant terms, and fulfills the goals you want to accomplish.  It is an expense worth paying for to secure adequate protection in the long term.

A word of caution: stay away from “legalese.”  Use plain English so that the agreement is easy to understand and helps, rather than hinders, the understanding between you and your clients.  If you do use a client agreement, here is a list of sample clauses you should consider including:

  • Definition of the parties (define your status as an independent contractor if the contract is for corporate organizing);
  • Services to be performed;
  • Code of ethics;
  • Confidentiality;
  • Pricing and payment policies (pricing structure, retainer guidelines, travel time or expense, shopping charges, cancellation policy, when payment is due, fee for bounced check, credit card acceptance, payment of expenses, etc.);
  • Provision of materials, equipment, and office space;
  • Assurance of insurance coverage;
  • State law governance;
  • Permission to take and use photos;
  • Term of agreement/termination of relationship.

Now, go forth with shields raised!

The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered.  For a comprehensive overview of legal issues involved in running an organizing business, refer to the CD “Navigating the Legal Landmines of an Organizing Business”  from the 2008 NAPO Conference in Reno, NV. 

Contact Lisa Montanaro by visiting www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com, by email at , or by phone at
(845) 988-0183.

This article originally appeared in NAPO News, Volume 23, Number 4, September 2008
Copyright © 2008 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2008. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

Creating an Organized Home for Your Prized Possessions

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add,
but when there is nothing left to take away.”

~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

When conducting an organizing presentation or teleclass, I often mention the idea of creating a Memory Box for each family member.  Many participants share that the Memory Box tip is their favorite, and one they cannot wait to act on. (See, for example, this blog post by June Bisel of BusinessCardContacts.com).

A Memory Box is a container in which each family member can store his or her most treasured possessions. The size should be big enough to fit the prized possessions, but small enough to grab and carry out of the house, in case of an emergency. The actual container can be a no-nonsense functional type, like a plastic bin, or it can be a lovely decorated stylish box, bin, or basket. My personal Memory Box is an old trunk that has handles on the side to carry it in the event of an emergency evacuation.

The location for storing the Memory Box is also a personal decision. Often, because of the confidential or personal nature of the items in the box, it makes the most sense to store each person’s Memory Box in his or her room, at the top or bottom of a closet, under the bed, etc. But some choose to store all of the Memory Boxes for the family in a basement or attic, so that they do not take up precious space in the living areas of the home, and can be grabbed easily in one fell swoop if need be.

I would not recommend storing vital documents such as your will, birth certificate, etc. in the Memory Box. Those items should either be stored in a safe deposit box at the bank, or at home in a fire resistant box (remember, there is no such thing as a fireproof box for the home!). Some people store their vital documents in a regular file folder in their filing cabinet, and keep copies (or the originals) in a separate location. In the event that an emergency causes a very quick evacuation, the people and pets go out first, followed by the vital documents, and then the Memory Boxes.

What goes in a Memory Box? Well, that is up to you, of course. But here are some ideas.

  • Start a Memory Box for your children’s prized artwork, sentimental childhood possessions, schoolwork, etc.  They can decide, with you, what goes in it.  You can have a master Memory Box, and one for the current school year.  At the end of the school year, your child, with your help, can revisit the year, purging any items that are not vital enough to go in the master Memory Box.
  • If you have a few sentimental favorite articles of clothing that you just can’t part with, but don’t wear, store them in your Memory Box.
  • Want to revisit your love life? Store old love letters, poems, your corsage or boutonniere from your high school prom, a playbill from the first date with your spouse, etc.
  • If you plan to store documents or photographs in your Memory Box, consider getting an archival quality document or photo box to insert the paper and photos in, and then store the document or photo box inside the larger Memory Box. This will ensure paper and photos do not get destroyed over time.
  • If an item is much too large to fit into the Memory Box, and you can bear to part with it, take a photo of the item, and store the photo with a description of the item in the box. This works well for items that you are merely keeping out of obligation. For example, that hideous painting your aunt made for you that you will never hang up! Take a photo, write a note saying, “Aunt Gertrude meant well” and donate the painting to someone who will appreciate its unrecognized beauty.

People are often surprised to hear that I have a Memory Box. “You, a professional organizer?” Yes! Organizing is about decluttering your life of the stuff that does not serve your goals, and letting the cream rise to the top. It is about giving your favorite possessions a place of value in your home and life. My personal Memory Box includes select sentimental items, including my handwritten journals, my baton (yes, I was a baton twirler – don’t laugh!), my middle school graduation dress (loved it!), love letters from my husband from before we were married, letters and cards from friends and family members that are precious to me, and poems that I wrote growing up.

Ms. Bisel shares that her new Memory Box will contain her kid’s baby books, drawings from elementary school, some treasured photos, and other memories from her kids’ childhood. She says that her kids love looking through the stuff, and it would be great to have it all in one place. Before she attended my workshop, the items were scattered around the house, and now they will be stored conveniently together, in a place of distinction.

So, what’s in your Memory Box?

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

While “green” and organizing may sound unrelated, promoting green consciousness is a natural extension of the organizing process.  Professional organizers enter homes and businesses on a regular basis, and armed with proper knowledge, a professional organizer can assist clients in becoming more Earth-friendly.  As the Chair of my Town’s Earth Day Clean Sweep for the past five years, I am well aware of the importance of reducing and recycling, and relish the opportunity to influence clients and the general public in this regard.

What can you do to get better organized in a “green-friendly” way?  Here are some tips.

  • Think Before You Buy – Try to transform your buying habits so that you are not accumulating too many items in the first place.  Most of the environmental damage is done in the manufacturing stage, so the less consumerism, the better.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans produced 254.1 million tons of household trash in the year 2007 alone.  In 2008, however, as a result of the economic recession and the resulting decrease in disposable incomes, landfills reported a 30% decline in waste levels.
  • Pay bills Online – According to Javelin Strategy & Research, 53% of Americans currently use online banking services, rising to an estimated 67% by 2012.  The report also estimates that Americans could prevent the logging of 16.5 million trees every year if all Americans switched from paper bills to Internet banking.
  • Repurpose and Reuse – Consider repurposing or reusing existing items in creative ways to avoid buying more and to give new life to forgotten items that are just taking up space.
  • Recycle – Throughout the sorting, purging, and organizing process, think of the benefits of recycling.  Often times, a person is unaware of the recycling guidelines in his or her particular area, or whether a particular item can be recycled at all.  For a list of lesser-known recycling programs, visit the Donation and Recycling Resources page of my website at https://www.lisamontanaro.com/donations.html.  Get educated so you can stop adding to landfills and recycle more.  Consider setting up an organized recycling center in your home or business to make it as easy as possible to recycle.
  • Donate – Remember, recycling includes donating items that you no longer love, need, or use often to those who could truly put those items to good use.  Adopt a charity, or even a particular family to donate to (check out www.TangibleKarma.com).  If you just want to unload items for free, consider giving them away on Freecycle (www.Freecycle.org).

Think “green” when organizing.  You will not only be able to reduce your clutter and find things more easily, you will be helping the Earth in the process.

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .

The 80/20 Rule

The Secret to a Successful Relationship?

Earlier this week, I wrote about the Pareto Principle, aka the 80/20 Rule. Little did I know at that time that the 80/20 Rule would surface in the most unlikely of places a few days later – during a wedding ceremony.

My brother’s wedding was this past Friday evening. Friends and family were all gathered in a lovely setting for the ceremony. The minister started talking about what makes a good marriage. He then proceeded to introduce the 80/20 Rule, and described how it applies to marriage.

He said that when we fall in love, we fall in love with 80% of our partner’s personality, and that the other 20% makes up the flaws and personality quirks that we would like to change. He then advised that the most successful relationships are ones in which the partners focus on the 80% they love about each other, and consciously try to ignore, or at least tolerate, the 20% they don’t.

As the minister was giving his sermon, I couldn’t help thinking how this is just another way that the 80/20 Rule manifests itself in our daily lives. It truly pops up in the most interesting ways and situations. I also started to realize that if the 80/20 Rule can be applied to marriage in this way — focus on the positive and ignore the negative — then, by extension, it applies to relationships of all kinds.

Think about it. In every relationship – romantic couples, family, friends, co-workers, business associates, etc. — there exists some form of the 80/20 ratio. There are always going to be aspects of the relationship that are better than others. In good relationships, the positive aspects clearly outweigh the negative ones. And, perhaps, the best relationships are the ones in which the parties make a conscious effort to try to avoid focusing on the 20% that is negative.  It’s sort of like applying the ”glass is half full” attitude to relationships.

So, whether in marriage or any other relationship, think 80/20 and chances are, it will be a more fulfilling partnership!

Copyright © 2009 Lisa Montanaro of LM Organizing Solutions, LLC.

Want to Use This Article in Your E-zine or Website?

You can, as long as you use this complete statement:

Copyright 2009. Lisa Montanaro is a Productivity Consultant, Success Coach, Business Strategist, Speaker and Author who helps people live successful and passionate lives, and operate productive and profitable businesses. Lisa publishes the monthly “DECIDE® to be Organized” e-zine for success-minded individuals, and “Next Level Business Success” e-zine for entrepreneurs. Subscribe today at www.LMOrganizingSolutions.com. Lisa is the author of The Ultimate Life Organizer: An Interactive Guide to a Simpler, Less Stressful & More Organized Life, published by Peter Pauper Press. Lisa also publishes the DECIDE® to be Organized blog at www.DecideToBeOrganized.com. Through her work, Lisa helps people deal with the issues that block personal and professional change and growth. To explore how Lisa can help take your business to the next level, contact Lisa at (845) 988-0183 or by e-mail at .